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            Lord Byron


            Lord Byron seemed destined from birth to tragedy. His father was the handsome but feckless Captain John "Mad Jack" Byron and his mother the Scottish heiress Catherine Gordon, the only child of the Laird of Gight.

            Captain Byron abandoned his wife and child leaving Catherine to bring up young Byron on her own. A harsh and dependent parent, Catherine was just the wrong sort of person to raise a sensitive child, clinging to him one moment, and the next denouncing Byron as a "lame brat." Born with a club foot, Byron (no-one ever called him George) was kept separated from peers and his elder half-sister, Augusta, by his over-protective mother. At fourteen he fell in love with a neighbor, Mary Chaworth, and wrote love poetry to her. Byron was heartbroken, however, when he overheard Mary callously call him "that little lame boy" while talking to a friend.

            Always deeply sensitive about his deformity, he finally received adequate medical care in his teens which corrected the problem. A hedonist in school, Byron was popular and outgoing, though by his own admission he did very little schoolwork. The publication of his poem, "Childe Harold", prompted Byron to remark famously, "I awoke one day to find myself famous." When a distant cousin died, Byron unexpectedly found himself heir to the baronetcy, at which point he became the 6th Baron Byron. The most popular person in Regency London, he wrote more poetry and carried on illicit affairs, most notably with Lady Caroline Lamb, who inspired one of his best and shortest poems: "Caro Lamb, Goddamn."

            After the spectacular flaming disintegration of his relationship with Caroline, a woman stepped into his life who would become his greatest love and the cause of his eventual downfall -- his half-sister, Augusta. Augusta occupied the central place in his heart, and he wrote many passionate poems in her honor.

            On April 15th, 1814, Augusta gave birth to Elizabeth Medora Leigh. Byron was ecstatic over the birth of the girl, who was nicknamed "Libby". The child bore the name Leigh, and Augusta's husband, her cousin Colonel George Leigh, apparently had no suspicions regarding her paternity. Libby herself claimed in her autobiography she was always a favorite of the Colonel's.

            Augusta herself pressured her brother Byron to wed, in order to avert a scandal. He reluctantly chose the intelligent and confident Annabella Milbanke, a cousin of his old flame Caroline Lamb. Enamoured with her handsome husband, Annabella even became friendly with Augusta, but it was not long before her marriage began to fall apart. Byron treated her coldly, and was very disappointed when their only child, Ada Byron, was not a boy.

            Byron went into self-imposed exile in Italy, though he remained in contact with Augusta. Byron befriended fellow rogue poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who had shocked the world by running away and living in sin with Mary Wollenstonecraft Godwin (better known as Mary Shelley, author of "Frankenstein"). Percy and Mary joined Byron for the summer at Geneva, accompanied by Mary's stepsister, Claire Clairmont. Byron and Claire had a brief romance, which resulted in daughter Allegra, who Byron raised himself. Allegra saw little of her mother, and referred to Byron's Italian mistress as "mamma". When Allegra died at the age of six in 1822, Claire was enraged and refused to have anything to do with Byron ever again. Depressed by both his daughter's death and the drowning of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Byron took up a new cause - that of Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire. Summoning support, he arrived in Greece with weapons and supplies, but before he could join the fight, went down with a deadly fever. He died in 1824, and his last words were, "My daughter! My sister!"