Last week marked the 188th anniversary of Lord Byron‘s death on April 19, 1824, in Missolonghi, Greece.

Byron had sailed to Greece to lend his support to the fight for Greek independence. Byron used some of his own funds for the rebel forces and even assumed command of part of the rebel army even though he had no military experience. Before the expedition could sail for the Turkish-held fortress of Lepanto, Byron fell ill. He was treated with bloodletting, as was the treatment of the day, and he probably contracted sepsis from the unsterilized equipment. On this date he died of a violent fever.

One wonders why Byron embarked on this trip to Greece in the first place. Did he fancy himself a rebel hero, able to lead armies to victory? Was it ego? Or was it a genuine desire to help, like Sean Penn in Haiti or George Clooney in the Sudan, Angelina Jolie and Ben Affleck for the Congo?

After Byron’s death his friends commissioned a statue which they wanted to place in Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey. The Abbey refused it, due to Byron’s notorious reputation, as did the British Museum and other places. The statue finally found a place in Trinity College’s Wren Library where it stands today.

I think of Byron as the first superstar. In 1814 his poem, The Corsair, sold ten thousand copies on the first day; twenty-five thousand in the first month and this was without the internet!!!! He received hundreds of letters from women fans, including some that invited sexual encounters. Just like fans today, the women rhapsodized about his portrait as well as his poems.

I think my 19th century ink drawing (shown here) is of Byron and I like to fancy that a lovesick fan drew it.

Many of Byron’s fan letters allude to understanding his wounded soul. A man with a dark side greatly in need of reforming became known as a Byronic hero. We still adore such heroes in our romance novels today, don’t we?

No matter what one might think of his character, Byron was a great poet, deserving of the lasting fame his work has achieved.
An example:

So We’ll Go No More A-roving
By Lord Byron

So, We’ll go no more a-roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,
And the moon be still as bright.

For the sword outwears its sheath,
And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have a rest.

Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,
Yet we’ll go no more a-roving
By the light of the moon.

If you had been a young Regency lady, do you think you would have been one of Byron’s swooning fans? Do you have a favorite Byron poem or a favorite line from a Byron poem?

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