Byron: Child of Passion, Fool of Fame by Benita Eisler

“Censure no more shall brand my humble name
The child of passion and the fool of fame”
Cancelled lines from
“Childish Recollections” (1806)

Recently, during a group discussion of poetry, I mentioned I have always loved Lord Byron’s work.  This received a laugh/groan from my friend, and fellow writer, Lacey.  When I asked her what was so funny, she said it had been her experience that guys who were into Byron were full of themselves.

I can see that.  I wasn’t offended.

I discovered Lord Byron by accident in my high school library.  See, I learned that, from time to time, I could write a passable line of poetry (sometimes an original line).  One of my friends knew a chord or two on on the guitar– more appropriately, he could produce sounds on it.  We both discovered the girls were rather attentive when we were “writing” a song.  The only thing that prevented us from rock stardom and, more importantly, groupies, was talent.

While we were deep into the “songwriting” process, I poured through poetry collections for inspiration.  As a teen I really didn’t have too many original thoughts (hopefully that has changed in adulthood).  It was in one of those yellowed volumes I stumbled across “She Walks In Beauty” by Lord Byron.  When I read it, it was like light shone from Heaven to spotlight me while angels sang.

I read everything I could of George Gordon, the Sixth Lord Byron and his work from that moment on.   I wrote a lot more poetry, too.  Lady Caroline Lamb described him, famously, as “mad, bad and dangerous to know.”  What self-respecting author, especially a poet, wouldn’t want to be defined as such?  I did– still kinda do– but once I learned what Byron did in his life to earn that description, it made me reconsider my own ambitions.

Benita Eisler’s Child of Passion, Fool of Fame is not for the casual fan of ol’ George and I don’t recommend it to everyone.  At over eight hundred pages, it’s for the truly devoted.  Child details everything, and more, one would want to know about Lord Byron from the cradle to the grave.  Sadly, I relate too well with some of his financial debt problems even after having read this book for the first time over twenty years ago.  History repeats itself, am I right?

Finances aside, Eisler goes behind bedroom doors for Byron’s many romantic dalliances all the way to his battles in the service for Greek independence.  He was the rock star of his day.  He lived a life of art, passion, and controversy.  “Mad, bad and dangerous to know” may not be the moniker for me, or for a lot of people, but Lord Byron accepted it and exceeded it.