Lord Byron's Poems

Legacy and influence

Byron is considered to be the first modern-style celebrity. His image as the personification of the Byronic hero fascinated the public,[37] and his wife Annabella coined the term "Byromania" to refer to the commotion surrounding him.[37] His self-awareness and personal promotion are seen as a beginning to what would become the modern rock star; he would instruct artists painting portraits of him not to paint him with pen or book in hand, but as a "man of action."[37] While Byron first welcomed fame, he later turned from it by going into voluntary exile from Britain.[26]

The burning of Byron's memoir in the offices of his publisher John Murray a month after his death, and the suppression of details of Byron's bisexuality by subsequent heads of the firm (which held the richest Byron archive), distorted biographies. As late as the 1950s, scholar Leslie Marchard was expressly forbidden by the Murray company to reveal details of Byron's same-sex passions.[144]

The re-founding of the Byron Society in 1971 reflected the fascination that many people had with Byron and his work.[145] This society became very active, publishing an annual journal. Thirty-six Byron Societies function throughout the world, and an International Conference takes place annually.

Byron exercised a marked influence on Continental literature and art, and his reputation as a poet is higher in many European countries than in Britain or America, although not as high as in his time, when he was widely thought to be the greatest poet in the world.[26] Byron's writings also inspired many composers. Over forty operas have been based on his works, in addition to three operas about Byron himself (including Virgil Thomson's Lord Byron). His poetry was set to music by many Romantic composers, including Beethoven, Schubert, Rossini, Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Carl Loewe. Among his greatest admirers was Hector Berlioz, whose operas and Mémoires reveal Byron's influence.[146]

Byronic hero

The figure of the Byronic hero pervades much of his work, and Byron himself is considered to epitomise many of the characteristics of this literary figure.[37] Scholars have traced the literary history of the Byronic hero from John Milton, and many authors and artists of the Romantic movement show Byron's influence during the 19th century and beyond, including the Brontë sisters.[37][147] His philosophy was more durably influential in continental Europe than in England; Friedrich Nietzsche admired him, and the Byronic hero was echoed in Nietzsche's superman.[148]

The Byronic hero presents an idealised, but flawed character whose attributes include: great talent; great passion; a distaste for society and social institutions; a lack of respect for rank and privilege (although possessing both); being thwarted in love by social constraint or death; rebellion; exile; an unsavory secret past; arrogance; overconfidence or lack of foresight; and, ultimately, a self-destructive manner. These types of characters have since become ubiquitous in literature and politics.

In popular culture

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