That’s how Caroline Lamb described Lord Byron – although she could have been described that way herself. Lamb, married to Viscount Melbourne at the time, carried on an affair with him until he tired of her, but she wasn’t having that. She’d show up at his house uninvited, sometimes dressed as a page boy, but Byron had already moved on to Lamb’s cousin Anne Milbanke, whom he did eventually marry.
Byron was 24 at the time of the Lamb affair and already a man with a reputation, but not just for his love life. He was a published poet and the author of Childe Harold, a hit when the first two cantos appeared. Later he said, “I awoke one morning and found myself famous.”
Then, when The Corsair appeared on February 1 in 1814, the ladies of London were lined up to buy it – the entire press run of 10,000 copies sold out.
The next year, Byron and Milbanke were married. They had one child – Augusta Ada Byron – but not surprisingly, Byron wasn’t much of a husband and by 1816 they had separated. Byron left for Switzerland and it turned out that he had left England forever. He moved on to Italy, where he lived for six years, before joining the Greeks in their war for independence against the Turks.
He died at Messolonghi in 1824 and is still considered a national hero by the Greeks. His body was embalmed for return to England, but his heart was removed at the request of the Greeks and kept in Messolonghi. (Kept in an urn, it was later lost when the city was sacked.)
There is much more to be said of Byron: was he the best of the three great Romantic poets – Keats, Shelley and himself – or was he just the most notorious? (Though he died at 36, he was the longest-lived of the three.) Why did his publisher burn the manuscript of his autobiography a month after he died? Was his half-sister Aurora Leigh’s daughter Medora his child? Was he actually the founder of the vampire genre?
But most important is this question – was it Byron’s daughter Ada who invented the computer?
Alas, time is fleeting. More tomorrow.