George Gordon, Lord Byron
In 1805, he was entered of Trinity College, Cambridge, which he describes as a new and heavy-hearted scene to him; ' adding, it was one of the deadliest and heaviest feelings of his life, to feel that he was no longer a boy. His chief ambition seems to have been to attain the reputation of a rake and a spendthrift; and his principal fear, lest he should become too fat, to prevent which, he took as much violent exercise as his naturally delicate constitution would allow. Among other of his eccentricities, for which he was more remarkable than his profligacy, though he seemed to take a pride in exaggerating the latter, it is said that he kept a bear, with the intention, as he observed, of training it up for a degree. The time not passed by him at the university, he at first spent with his mother, at Southwell, but her violent temper, which his own was not calculated to appease, soon led to their separation; and he afterwards resided in London, Little Hampton, Harrowgate, and other places of fashionable resort. At this period, he is said to have been remarkably bashful, though he subsequently so far overcame his shyness, as to take a prominent part in some private theatricals at Southwell. In November, 1807, his Hours of Idleness was printed at Newark; and, in the following year, appeared the memorable criticism upon them in The Edinburgh Review, which was decidedly unjust, though few, perhaps, will agree with the subject of our memoir, that these poems were as good as any he ever produced. The impression which the criticism above-mentioned made upon our poet, is described, by one who witnessed his fierce looks of defiance, during a first perusal of it, as fearful and sublime. Among the less sentimental effects of this review upon his mind, says Mr. Moore, he used to mention that, on the day he read it, he drank three bottles of claret to his own share after dinner; that nothing, however, relieved him till he had given vent to his indignation in rhyme and that after the first twenty lines, he felt himself considerably better.' During the progress of the satire, he passed his time alternately at Newstead, London, and Brighton, where he took lessons in boxing, and appeared in public with a mistress who accompanied him, dressed in boy's clothes, and whom he introduced as his young brother.
On coming of age, in 1809, he apprised Lord Carlisle of his wish to take his seat in the house of peers; and to the formal reply of the earl, and his refusal to afford any information respecting the marriage of our poet's grandfather, is owing the bitterness with which he attacked the former in his English Bards. He at length took his seat on the 13th of March, and went down to the house for that purpose, accompanied only by Mr. Dallas, whom he had accidentally met. He was received,' says that gentleman, in one of the ante-chambers, by some of the officers in attendance, with whom he settled respecting the fees he had to pay: one of them went to apprise the lord-chancellor of his being there, and soon returned for him. There were very few persons in the house. Lord Eldon was going through some ordinary business. When Lord Byron entered, I thought he looked still paler than before; and he certainly wore a countenance in which mortification was mingled with, but subdued by, indignation. He passed the woolsack without looking round, and advanced to the table, where the proper officer was attending to administer the oaths. When he had gone through them, the chancellor quitted his seat, and went towards him with a smile, putting out his hand warmly to welcome him and, though I did not catch his words, I saw that he paid him some compliment. This was all thrown away upon Lord Byron, who made a stiff bow, and put the tips of his fingers into Lord Eldon's hand.
The Chancellor did not press a welcome so received, but resumed his seat; while Lord Byron carelessly seated himself, for a few minutes, on one of the empty benches to the left of the throne, usually occupied by the lords in opposition. When, on his joining me, I expressed what I had felt, he said, "If I had shaken hands heartily, he would have set me down for one of his party; but I will have nothing to do with any of them, on either side: I have taken my seat, and now I will go abroad." We returned to St. James' Street, but he did not recover his spirits,' Another account states that he offended the chancellor by replying to him, when he apologized for requiring the evidence of Admiral Byron's marriage, as being a part of his duty: Your lordship was exactly like Tom Thumb; you did your duty, and nothing more.'
Shortly after he had taken his seat, his satire was published anonymously, of which, though the success, at the time, highly gratified him, he, some years afterwards, wrote, Nothing but the consideration of its being the property of another, prevents me from consigning this miserable record of misplaced and indiscriminate anger to the flames.' Before a second edition was published, he left England, accompanied by Mr. Hobhouse, under the influence of those melancholy feelings, which he has described in the early part of the first canto of Childe Harold, in which poem a pretty accurate account of his travels is given, during his two years' residence abroad. Almost every event he met with, he has made subservient to his muse, particularly the incident on which is founded his Giaour, and it was during this tour that he swam from Sestos to Abydos.