Friday Filosophy v.02.24.2023
To close out February’s Friday Filosophy, Ron Slee shares quotes and words of wisdom from the melancholy Lord Byron. Please read on for Friday Filosophy v.02.24.2023.
George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron FRS (22 January 1788 – 19 April 1824), known simply as Lord Byron, was an English romantic poet and peer. He was one of the leading figures of the Romantic movement, and has been regarded as among the greatest of English poets. Among his best-known works are the lengthy narratives Don Juan and Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage; many of his shorter lyrics in Hebrew Melodies also became popular.
Byron was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, later travelling extensively across Europe to places such as Italy, where he lived for seven years in Venice, Ravenna, and Pisa after he was forced to flee England due to lynching threats. During his stay in Italy, he frequently visited his friend and fellow poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Later in life Byron joined the Greek War of Independence fighting the Ottoman Empire and died leading a campaign during that war, for which Greeks revere him as a folk hero. He died in 1824 at the age of 36 from a fever contracted after the First and Second Sieges of Missolonghi.
His only legitimate child, Ada Lovelace, was a founding figure in the field of computer programming based on her notes for Charles Babbage‘s Analytical Engine. Byron’s extramarital children include Allegra Byron, who died in childhood, and possibly Elizabeth Medora Leigh, daughter of his half-sister Augusta Leigh. Byron received his early formal education at Aberdeen Grammar School in 1798 until his move back to England as a 10-year-old. In August 1799 he entered the school of Dr. William Glennie, in Dulwich. Placed under the care of a Dr. Bailey, he was encouraged to exercise in moderation but could not restrain himself from “violent” bouts in an attempt to overcompensate for his deformed foot. His mother interfered with his studies, often withdrawing him from school, with the result that he lacked discipline, and his classical studies were neglected.
In 1801, he was sent to Harrow School, where he remained until July 1805. An undistinguished student and an unskilled cricketer, he did represent the school during the very first Eton v Harrow cricket match at Lord’s in 1805.
His lack of moderation was not restricted to physical exercise. Byron fell in love with Mary Chaworth, whom he met while at school, and she was the reason he refused to return to Harrow in September 1803. His mother wrote, “He has no indisposition that I know of but love, desperate love, the worst of all maladies in my opinion. In short, the boy is distractedly in love with Miss Chaworth. “In Byron’s later memoirs, “Mary Chaworth is portrayed as the first object of his adult sexual feelings.”
Byron finally returned in January 1804, to a more settled period, which saw the formation of a circle of emotional involvements with other Harrow boys, which he recalled with great vividness: “My school friendships were with me passions (for I was always violent)”. The most enduring of those was with John FitzGibbon, 2nd Earl of Clare—four years Byron’s junior—whom he was to meet unexpectedly many years later in Italy (1821). His nostalgic poems about his Harrow friendships, Childish Recollections (1806), express a prescient “consciousness of sexual differences that may in the end make England untenable to him.”[ Letters to Byron in the John Murray archive contain evidence of a previously unremarked if short-lived romantic relationship with a younger boy at Harrow, John Thomas Claridge.
The following autumn, he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, where he met and formed a close friendship with the younger John Edleston. About his “protégé” he wrote, “He has been my almost constant associate since October 1805, when I entered Trinity College. His voice first attracted my attention, his countenance fixed it, and his manners attached me to him forever.” Byron composed Thyrza, a series of elegies, in his memory. In later years, he described the affair as “a violent, though pure love and passion”. This statement, however, needs to be read in the context of hardening public attitudes toward homosexuality in England and the severe sanctions (including public hanging) against convicted or even suspected offenders. The liaison, on the other hand, may well have been “pure” out of respect for Edleston’s innocence, in contrast to the (probably) more sexually overt relations experienced at Harrow School. The poem “The Cornelian” was written about the cornelian that Byron received from Edleston.
Byron spent three years at Trinity College, engaging in sexual escapades, boxing, horse riding, and gambling. While at Cambridge, he also formed lifelong friendships with men such as John Cam Hobhouse, who initiated him into the Cambridge Whig Club, which endorsed liberal politics, and Francis Hodgson, a Fellow at King’s College, with whom he corresponded on literary and other matters until the end of his life.
- There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not Man the less, but Nature more.
- Absence – that common cure of love.
- Be thou the rainbow in the storms of life. The evening beam that smiles the clouds away, and tints tomorrow with prophetic ray.
- There are four questions of value in life, Don Octavio. What is sacred? Of what is the spirit made? What is worth living for and what is worth dying for? The answer to each is the same. Only love.
- Man’s love is of man’s life a part; it is a woman’s whole existence. In her first passion, a woman loves her lover, in all the others all she loves is love.
- Sorrow is knowledge, those that know the most must mourn the deepest, the tree of knowledge is not the tree of life.
- Then stirs the feeling infinite, so felt In solitude, where we are least alone.
- Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine.
- Yes, love indeed is light from heaven; A spark of that immortal fire with angels shared, by Allah given to lift from earth our low desire.
- Those who will not reason, are bigots, those who cannot, are fools, and those who dare not, are slaves.
- Fame is the thirst of youth.
- Death, so called, is a thing which makes men weep, And yet a third of life is passed in sleep.
The Time is Now.