Thursday, June 23, 2011

Screaming Lord Byron

English Lit class senior year in high school.  Romantic poetry.  My eyes were starting to glaze over when Miss M mentioned that the poet we'd be studying next was a Jeopardy question the night before: "Poet who created the denim jacket."  I was wearing my trusty covered-in-John-Taylor-buttons denim at that moment, I could totally empathize.  Okay, maybe this guy wouldn't put me to sleep.

Byron is not boring.  I mean, really, even the bits of his life we learned that were edited for seniors in high school in small town USA in the late 80s were pretty salacious.  Then there's the writing.  He's the only writer that I get a really strong mental image of when I read his work:  giggling maniacally, scratching something, giggling again, pouring another for himself and his muse and then passing out.  Or maybe that's Mozart.  At any rate, he must have been a kick to have a drink with.

What truly fascinates me about him, though, is that he remains fascinating almost 200 years after his death.  The first book written about him -- Glenarvon by Crazy Ex-Lover Who Burned Him In Effigy Lady Caroline Lamb -- appeared when he was 28 and since then there've been...well, there've been a lot.  Some are fiction, some are non, some are somewhere in the middle.  There've been movies, an opera, role playing games and he's appeared as a character in "The Highlander," "Star Trek:Voyager" and "Ghosts of Albion," an animated web series. 

Even his hand in the creation of the modern celebrity has been covered extensively, from books to art exhibitions.  He kept his fan letters and had the occasional assignation with their writers, though Clarie Clairmont is the only one we can say that of for certain (having a baby will do that).  And Glenarvon was not the only tell-all.  Later there was Lady Byron Vindicated by Harriet Beecher Stowe, detailing Lady B's side of the marriage.  While the equation

(Wronged wife + Crusading Journalist) x (Accusation made by CE-LWBHIE)= KABOOM!

might seem obvious to us on this side of Mommy Dearest it was taken seriously at the time. I fully admit that I'm pretty cynical but wow.  Stowe at one point, in a discussion of the Third Canto of Childe Harald's Pilgimage, says "[to these charges]...the wife replied nothing.  'As a lamb before her shearers is dumb, so she opened not her mouth.'"  Wow.

So, the question is...what historical figure do you squee over?  Fictional characters do not count, no matter how great they look in a cravat with cotton flying around them.  Comments are open.


  1. Well, things have been quiet here so...

    Wow, "squee over?" I'm always been of the "not without a heater and some serious smelling salts" school of thought on that.

    The way Sharon Kay Penman presents many of the male figures of the Plantagenet era, you'd think Britain was seriously populated by hotties. (Oh, wait...)

    And there are figures I have a great deal of respect for and am interested in. Love or hate his policies (and you can do both) Teddy Roosevelt is a fascinating figure, probably the most intelligent man to sit in the oval office. not necessarily the wisest, but arguably the smartest. Philip Augustus (Richard the Lionheart's contemporary) is a very interesting character. Really born about 400 years too early, which is how he was able to out-think the Plantagenets yet never get the personal respect of the chivalrous society he was born into. Also orally fixated. One gets the impression from the number of time he is mentioned chewing on a twig or a staw that had cigarettes been around, he would have been chaining those puppies (especially on the 3rd Crusade). And his almost comedic marital problems.

    There are a lot of figures like that, but I can't say that there has been one, on his own, that I have been fascinated with quite like you describe.

  2. Have you ever seen "The Wind and the Lion" with Sean Connery, Brian Keith and Candace Bergen? Keith is Roosevelt, Connery is a Bedouin and Bergen is a wealthy American. It's interesting, but, wow, Connery's accent. The gang over at think that Teddy is the most badass president ever, you should check it out.

  3. I had a thing for awhile for explorers. I think this was touched off by watching the miniseries of Shogun in the early 1980s with Richard Chamberlain. I found out that that character was based on a real historical figure and definitely wanted to be his woman in the Shogun miniseries ("Mariko").

    Great blog, by the way.


  4. Welcome, Kurbiss, and thanks for the comment. Explorers are definitely a breed apart, aren't they?


Thanks for commenting!