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Lord Byron is regarded as one of the greatest British poets and is best known for his amorous lifestyle and his brilliant use of the English language.
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However, by January the ill-fated union crumbled, and Annabella left Byron amid his drinking, increased debt, and rumors of his relations with his half sister and of his bisexuality. He never saw his wife or daughter again.
In April 1816, Byron left England, never to return. He traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, befriending Percy Bysshe Shelley, his wife Mary and her stepsister, Claire Clairmont. While in Geneva, Byron wrote the third canto to "Childe Harold," depicting his travels from Belgium up the Rhine to Switzerland. On a trip to the Bernese Oberland, Byron was inspired to write the Faustian poetic-drama Manfred. By the end of that summer the Shelleys departed for England, where Claire gave birth to Byron's daughter Allegra in January 1817.
In October 1816, Byron and John Hobhouse sailed for Italy. Along the way he continued his lustful ways with several women and portrayed these experiences in his greatest poem, "Don Juan." The poem was a witty and satirical change from the melancholy of "Childe Harold" and revealed other sides of Byron's personality. He would go on to write 16 cantos before his death and leave the poem unfinished.
By 1818, Byron's life of debauchery had aged him well beyond his 30 years. He then met 19-year-old Teresa Guiccioli, a married countess. The pair were immediately attracted to each other and carried on an unconsummated relationship until she separated from her husband. Byron soon won the admiration of Teresa's father, who had him initiated into the secret Carbonari society dedicated to freeing Italy from Austrian rule. Between 1821 and 1822, Byron edited the society's short-lived newspaper, The Liberal.
In 1823, a restless Byron accepted an invitation to support Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire. Byron spent 4,000 pounds of his own money to refit the Greek naval fleet and took personal command of a Greek unit of elite fighters. On February 15, 1824, he fell ill. Doctors bled him, which weakened his condition further and likely gave him an infection.
Byron died on April 19, 1824, at age 36. He was deeply mourned in England and became a hero in Greece. His body was brought back to England, but the clergy refused to bury him at Westminster Abbey, as was the custom for individuals of great stature. Instead, he was buried in the family vault near Newstead. In 1969, a memorial to Byron was finally placed on the floor of Westminster Abbey.
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