Byron’s Don Juan
One writer who has not recieved nearly enough credit for his works is
George Gordon, who later became known as Lord Byron. This is the man who wrote
his own poetical version of Don Juan. Don Juan is a man who is known for being
able to arouse the desires of women and to love every one he meets. This Don
Juan can be viewed, however, as a loosely disguised biography of Byron.
Lord Byron’s father, Captain John, has ancestors that go back as far as
the Buruns in the time of William the Conqueror. Back in this time it was very
common for people to marry their own cousins. Captain John was married three
times and was considered to be very smooth with the ladies.
Byron was born on January 22, 1788 in London, and the following year he
and his mother moved to Aberdeen, Scotland. His father soon followed, but it
wouldn’t be long before he would disappear to France and end up dying in 1791.
It was just as well because his parents never got along very well.
In Lord Byron’s early years he experienced poverty, the ill-temper of
his mother, and the absence of his father. By 1798 he had inherited the title
of 6th Baron Byron and the estate of Newstead Abbey. Once hearing this news, he
and his mother quickly removed to England.
All of Byron’s passions developed early. In 1803 he had his first
serious and abortive romance with Mary Chaworth. At the age of15 he fell
platonically but violently in love with a young distant cousin, Mary Duff
(Parker 10). He soon had another affair with a woman named Mary Gray. Soon
hereafter he was involved with many liaisons with such women as Lady Caroline
Lamb and then Lady Oxford.
Then just as Byron was beginning to live his life the way he had always
wanted to, his mother dies in 1811. The following year he became immensely
fashionable and notorious. By 1813 he had began another affair with his half-
sister Augusta. Continuing his search for the woman of his dreams, he marrys
Anabella Milbanke in 1815 and has a daughter the same year.
The next year Lady Byron leaves him to visit her parents and never
returns. Separation papers are signed and he begins another liaison with Claire
Clairmont. The following year(1817), they have a baby named Allegra. Not too
long after this he falls in love with yet another woman, named Marianna Segati.
His next love happened two years later, Countess Teresa Guiccioli. Many
say she was his last love and his first. Byron met Teresa at an evening party.
They soon began meeting secretly because she was married to Count Alessandro
Guiccioli. She had auburn curls, large lovely eyes, beautifully shaped
shoulders and arms, and an abundant bosom. She was completely intrigued by
Byron’s beauty. Maybe they both felt that fate brought them together. It was
customary in the code of serventismo for a married woman to have a lover and
the husband wasn’t allowed to be jealous. Count Alessandro did know about
Teresa and Byron’s love for each other, but never spoke of it (Trueblood 99).
After this liaison ended, Byron’s life began to exhale love and devotion
in vast quantities. Then his daughter, Allegra, and one of his close friends,
Shelley, died in 1822. Two years later Lord Byron himself died. His body was
then brought to England and buried in family vault at Hucknall Torkard near
Nottingham. At his death he was the most famous poet in Europe and the most
notorious sexual adventurer.
Lord Byron was a professional poet. His letters and journals prove his
concern to be the best poet around and to be famous was consistently deep and
serious. Ambition for power and popularity came first and remained always the
principle reason for writing. Byron had a great range of interests and
experiences of ideas and emotion than your average man ever did (Boyd 4).
Don Juan is, all-in-all, a legendary lover. Familiar with the Don Juan
legend, Byron deliberately altered the traditional character and made him the
innocent victim of womankind. He experiences love by natural disaster, slavery,
war, the court, and the aristocracy. Its two main epic themes are love and war
The first two cantos of the poem Byron wrote were published without an
author or a publisher. Many thought the poem was novel and powerful, and caused
great misgivings for Byron’s publisher. Others hoped for the poem to be
discontinued. The first sample of Don Juan got a very mixed reception. Byron’s
publisher, Murray, told him the poem was too outrageously shocking and to revise
it. He did not listen to Murray. He believed in what he had created and he
wanted to continue it.