Lord Byron's Poems

Political career

Byron first took his seat in the House of Lords 13 March 1809,[89] but left London on 11 June 1809 for the Continent.[90] A strong advocate of social reform, he received particular praise as one of the few Parliamentary defenders of the Luddites: specifically, he was against a death penalty for Luddite "frame breakers" in Nottinghamshire, who destroyed textile machines that were putting them out of work. His first speech before the Lords, on 27 February 1812, was loaded with sarcastic references to the "benefits" of automation, which he saw as producing inferior material as well as putting people out of work, and concluded the proposed law was only missing two things to be effective: "Twelve Butchers for a Jury and a Jeffries for a Judge!". Byron's speech was officially recorded and printed in Hansard.[91] He said later that he "spoke very violent sentences with a sort of modest impudence", and thought he came across as "a bit theatrical".[92] The full text of the speech, which he had previously written out, was presented to Dallas in manuscript form and he quotes it in his work.[93]

Two months later, Byron made another impassioned speech before the House of Lords in support of Catholic emancipation.[94] Byron expressed opposition to the established religion because it was unfair to people of other faiths.[95]

These experiences inspired Byron to write political poems such as Song for the Luddites (1816) and The Landlords' Interest, Canto XIV of The Age of Bronze.[96] Examples of poems in which he attacked his political opponents include Wellington: The Best of the Cut-Throats (1819); and The Intellectual Eunuch Castlereagh (1818).


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