The Byronic Hero

Lord Byron in Albanian dress, by Thomas Phillips (National Portrait Gallery)

Lord Byron, taking the Romantic pathos to the next level:

From my youth upwards
My spirit walk’d not with the souls of men,
Nor look’d upon the earth with human eyes;
The thirst of their ambition was not mine,
The aim of their existence was not mine;
My joys, my griefs, my passions, and my powers
Made me a stranger; though I wore the form,
I had no sympathy with breathing flesh (1)

By the way, I have to recommend the book from that adventurer and perhaps fabulator of Edward John Trelawny (The Recollections of the Last Days of Shelley and Byron). Very entertaining indeed. His unsympathetic view of Byron (as opposed to his unconditional admiration for Shelley) only serves to increase Byron’s legend as the archetypical “poète maudit”. Take for instance the day (if I remember it correctly) when him and Byron find Shelley’s dead body after a shipwreck: According to Trelawny, Byron wanted to keep the skull, so he could drink from it. It does seem that Byron was, after all, “mad, bad and dangerous to know” as Lady Caroline Lamb would put it.

(1) Manfred, Act II, Scene II


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