But I have lived, and have not lived in vain:
My mind may lose its force, my blood its fire,
And my frame perish even in conquering pain;
But there is that within me which shall tire
Torture and Time, and breathe when I expire;
Something unearthly, which they deem not of,
Like the remember’d tone of a mute lyre,
Shall on their soften’d spirits sink, and move
In hearts all rocky now the late remorse of love.
– Lord George Gordon Byron
Every now and then I find myself in a “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” kind of situation on Wikipedia. I bounce from link to link, until awareness catches up with me and I realize I’ve gone from Viking, to Pirate, to Naval strategy, to Napoleon, to the French Revolution, to Jean Paul Marat, and arrived at an entry regarding the Marquis De Sade.
This particular hunt began after watching Bright Star, a movie about the life of John Keats and a woman who inspired him during one of his most productive periods of writing. After making the jump from Bright Star to Keats, I found Byron mentioned as another key figure of the romantic movement. His name was already slightly familiar to me, as the Byronic hero bears his name. In addition, I’d heard him referenced as a kind of vampiric archetype once or twice, and probably read a few of his poems back in high school. However, I didn’t really know that much about the man himself, so I made the next jump.
Lord George Gordon Byron. It still blows me away, how much history can be intertwined around just a few lives. An incredibly interesting character, even by today’s standards of misbehavior, and probably one of the first celebrities. Characterized by Lady Caroline Lamb as “mad, bad, and dangerous to know,” she since went on to have an affair with Byron and famously stalk him after he broke it off. Women were said to faint when he entered the room, and were warned against looking him directly in the eye. He kept a bear as a pet at college in defiance of their rules disallowing dogs, his social life was plagued by scandal, yet he also wrote some of the most beautiful poetry of his era, and died a greek national hero. His daughter, Ada, is recognized to be the first computer programmer for her work with Charles Babbage on the Analytical Engine. We might know even more about his life, but his memoirs were burned by his friends for fear of them destroying what remained of his reputation at home.
I could go on and on, but there’s really too much to tell and I’m not an expert on Byron. However, these people are, so take a look.