Of all the poets from the Romantic period, it could be easily argued that Lord Byron would be one of the most recognisable names to a great many people. However, the life of this world-famous literary figure is one that is relatively misconstrued and overlooked, and it is here in Byron that David Ellis provides a concise and distinct review of Byron’s life and works.
Born in 1788, Ellis highlights’ that Byron’s life was never going to be as straightforward as many others during his, somewhat short, lifetime by discussing his (possible) early sexual encounters while still in school and his relationship with his half-sister, Augusta, a potential scandal which followed him throughout his life. Yet it is Byron’s travel and extraordinary works that he is most certainly famous for, from his Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage which follows his travels through Portugal through to Turkey where he witnessed not only the splendour of the Mediterranean but also the political situation of the Greeks, who were at that time under the rule of Turkey. His most famous work, Don Juan, portrays a satirical realism for which many of his works became renowned, but sadly unfinished due to his death in 1824.
Although Byron lived in many respects as, what some may describe, as a Libertine, and he was certainly ruled by his passions his life was one of fulfilment and generosity to those with whom he befriended, in particular the poet Percy Shelley and his young wife Mary Shelley whose eventual fame with her creation Frankenstein has, arguably, become more famous than her male compatriots.
Detailing Byron’s complex life is certainly no straightforward task, yet David Ellis approaches the subject with expertise, utilising a variety of well-placed sources, understanding and good humour to create a vivid and unbiased portrayal of one of history’s most celebrated poets.
- Byron by David Ellis is out now and published by Reaktion Books (£12.99). To order a copy go to reaktionbooks.co.uk