One scandalous literary man was George Gordon, Lord Byron, born in 1788. With a deformed right foot, his mother was a Scottish heiress and his father a notorious rake and gambler.
His childhood was happy, but his mother’s abuses giving him a mistrust of women. Having his first sexual encounter with a servant girl when he was nine, he was introduced to homosexuality at Harrow the following year. By 1805 he regularly visited prostitutes at Cambridge, before departing for a tour of Europe in 1809, where he fell in love with Greece. Returning in 1812, his ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’, about a young man who has tasted forbidden pleasures, became a sensation and Byron was a celebrity.
Scandalising London with his affair with the married Lady Caroline Lamb, he also had an incestuous affair with his half-sister Augusta. To curb his desires, he married the priggish Annabella Milbanke but it was a disaster, Byron becoming a drunk. The marriage over, he was vilified, and retired to Venice, where he claimed to have had some two hundred women before setting off to his beloved Greece to become a freedom fighter. Unfortunately, he died of fever at the age of thirty six, having lived a full life of debauchery and nihilistic freedom, as chronicled in works such as his ‘Don Juan.’ His friendship with Shelley made him one of the two best known Romantics.
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