“A poet dangerous to know,” said Lady Caroline Lamb, infatuated with Lord Byron, as were many others, both in fact and in fancy, for he was a man who had the misfortune to become a legend in his own time- It was largely a scandalous legend- A century and a half have passed since his death, but the reported improprieties of his life have continued to shadow his name and obscure the details of what was in essence a tragic story. Born of an unhappy marriage, lame from infancy, reared in an uncomfortable mixture of poverty and grandeur, Byron was also gifted, spectacularly handsome, and a peer, attributes which ensured his entry into fashionable London society. He was headstrong, brave almost to recklessness, and proud, a storm-centre wherever he went, his complex character an enigma both to his admirers and detractors, then as now.
Geoffrey Trease traces Byron’s turbulent career, outlining with tact and clarity the varied relationships that formed his character and ordered his life from its deprived beginning to his untimely death, mourned by Greek patriots and a handful of loyal and devoted friends. He relates the poet’s work to the events that inspired and enriched them, discussing in particular those poems young readers are most likely to have read and enjoyed-or, knowing more of the writer, may seek and find rewarding.
Even in 1969, the idea of a life of Byron for young readers causes raised eyebrows. “Can it be done – honestly?” is the usual question. Although generations of children have studied and enjoyed his poems, timid or embarrassed adults have shied away from too many questions about the poet’s life. Geoffrey Trease, with a life-long experience of presenting the adult world to the child who is on its threshold, was convinced that the events of Byron’s stormy career, even the most notorious, could be treated without harm to the young reader and without offence to his elders. He feels that Byron’s poems are so interwoven with his personal life that they are often incomprehensible by themselves, and that Byron’s human relationships must be explained as well as his foreign travels and romantic death. “I wrote this book to get young people interested in Byron’s poetry,” he says. “All the same, I’m not sure that this isn’t one of the best ways to teach them about life as well. I think many of them will find sympathetic parallels. Byron was rather a ‘mixed-up kid’ after all.”
Hardcover, 136 pages. In fair condition with the exception of some discoloration in front and back (a few pages each end) and being ex-library.