George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron (1788 – 1824), who became famous as a prominent figure in the Romantic Movement, is considered one of Britain’s greatest poets, widely praised for his brilliant use of the English language. He gained further fame, or infamy, for his flamboyance, sexually deviant practices, the notoriety of his romantic liaisons with members of both sexes, and allegations of incest.
Of Byron’s numerous affairs, his most famous was with the married Lady Caroline Lamb, who spurned him at first, describing him as “mad, bad, and dangerous to know“, before succumbing to his charms and joining him in a torrid affair that scandalized Britain. After he dumped her, Lamb turned stalker and pursued him relentlessly. After she stopped at his house one time too many and scribbled in a book on his desk “Remember me”, an exasperated Byron responded as only a poet could, with a poem entitled Remember Thee! Remember Thee!, whose final line concludes “Thou false to him, thou fiend to me“.
Byron’s most controversial relationship, however, was an incestuous one carried on with his own sister, Augusta Leigh, whom Byron had seen little of during childhood, only to make up for it in spades by forming an extremely close relationship with her in adulthood. In 1814, Byron fathered a daughter upon his sister, making the poet the unfortunate child’s uncle as well as father.
Byron, ever sentimental, liked to keep mementos of his lovers. In those days, the norm for mementos was a lock of hair from one’s object of affection, perhaps tied with a ribbon. But being Byron, Britain’s most flamboyant poet, eccentric aristocrat, and all-around pervert, a simple lock of hair would not do. Instead, Byron liked to snip clumps of pubic hair from his lovers’ crotches, and kept them, cataloged and labeled, in envelopes at his publishing house.
The mounting scandals eventually made Britain too hot for Bryon, and he started roaming Europe for years at a stretch, including a seven-year stint spent living in Italy, before his restlessness led him to join the Greeks in their war of independence from the Ottoman Turks. He was disappointed with the Greeks of his day, however, because they differed greatly from the heroic Hellenes he had read about in history books and Homer’s poems. While moping about that discrepancy, he caught a fever and died in a Greek backwater at age 36.