Byron: the elusive poet

I stumbled on this article on Byron – a romantic poet – who died young but left a legacy of fine poetry, political vision and surely a lifestyle ahead of his age..

A new collection of writings and artefacts relating to the poet opened yesterday at the John Rylands Library in the University of Manchester. It is billed as the first cross-disciplinary attempt to assess Byron’s impact on European literature, music, art and politics. Its director, Dr Alan Rawes, made some extraordinary claims at the opening.The man who has been vilified as an over-sexed Regency dandy was in fact, with the possible exception of Napoleon, “the most important European in the first half of the 19th century”. He was, Rawes said, “bigger than Shakespeare”.

If that sounds like a man with a vested interest talking he makes a good case. “There are statues of Byron all over Europe and he was a formative influence on Pushkin, Nietzsche, Berlioz, Liszt, Bismarck and Mazzini. As Bertrand Russell put it, on the continent Byron’s way of feeling and outlook became factors in great events.”

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