We talk here often of the merits of positive secular learning, but we must reiterate that it should be done with caution. Even the revered poets may have sketchy backgrounds. Consider the English poet Lord Byron for example.
In 1805 Byron entered Trinity College, Cambridge, where he piled up debts at an alarming rate and indulged in the conventional vices of undergraduates there. The signs of his incipient sexual ambivalence became more pronounced in what he later described as “a violent, though pure, love and passion” for a young chorister, John Edleston. Alongside Byron’s strong attachment to boys, often idealized as in the case of Edleston, his attachment to women throughout his life is an indication of the strength of his heterosexual drive.
During the summer of 1813, Byron apparently entered into intimate relations with his half sister Augusta, now married to Colonel George Leigh. He then carried on a flirtation with Lady Frances Webster as a diversion from this dangerous liaison. The agitations of these two love affairs and the sense of mingled guilt and exultation they aroused in Byron are reflected in the series of gloomy and remorseful Oriental verse tales he wrote at this time: The Giaour (1813); The Bride of Abydos (1813); The Corsair (1814), which sold 10,000 copies on the day of publication; and Lara (1814).
Seeking to escape his love affairs in marriage, Byron proposed in September 1814 to Anne Isabella (Annabella) Milbanke. The marriage took place in January 1815, and Lady Byron gave birth to a daughter, Augusta Ada, in December 1815. From the start the marriage was doomed by the gulf between Byron and his unimaginative and humorless wife; and in January 1816 Annabella left Byron to live with her parents, amid swirling rumours centring on his relations with Augusta Leigh and his bisexuality.
At the end of the summer the Shelley party left for England, where Clairmont gave birth to Byron’s daughter Allegra in January 1817. In October Byron and Hobhouse departed for Italy. They stopped in Venice, where Byron enjoyed the relaxed customs and morals of the Italians and carried on a love affair with Marianna Segati, his landlord’s wife.
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