This Day In London’s History
1788: Lord Byron born at 16 Holles Street, just north of Oxford Street.
Born George Gordon Byron, but inheriting the family title at the age of 10, Byron was an extravagant, eccentric and hugely prolific writer. However he was just as famous for his tumultuous lifestyle as for his writings, both of which attracted much attention.
Shortly after his birth in London, his mother moved him to Aberdeen. He was initially schooled at Aberdeen Grammar School, before inheriting the title of 6th Baron Byron of Rochdale in 1798. He subsequently moved to London and continued his schooling in Dulwich, then Harrow. After falling in love with a distant cousin but being rejected, he started writing melancholy poetry, which he was to publish several years later having entered Cambridge University. He continued to write poetry at Cambridge, and dealt with critical ridicule by satirising his uncomplimentary reviewers.
Entering his twenties he took a seat in the House of Lords, then toured around Europe, continuing to write. After returning to England, he published Childe Harold’s Pilgimage, which was extremely well received and made him very popular within London society. He continued to write prolifically for the majority of the next decade.
In terms of his notorious (not-so-) private life, to be frank it would not be unfair to say that Byron was wont to shag anything that moved. Amongst accusations of incest and sodomy, he once claimed to have had sex with 250 women in a single year.
In the latter years of his life Bryon travelled to Europe, ultimately getting involved in the Greek War of Independence by way of financial support and military leadership (despite a lack of military experience). However his military ambitions were disrupted by illness and he died of a fever on 19th April 1824, aged 36.
Even in death, Byron managed to cause a stir in London. To quote the poet John Clare:
While I was in London, the melancholy death of Lord Byron was announced in the public papers, and I saw his remains borne away out of the city on its last journey to that place where fame never comes... I happened to see it by chance as I was wandering up Oxford Street... when the train of funeral suddenly appeared, on which a young girl that stood beside me gave a deep sigh and uttered “Poor Lord Byron.” ... I looked up at the young girl's face. It was dark and beautiful, and I could almost feel in love with her for the sigh she had uttered for the poet... The common people felt his merits and his power, and the common people of a country are the best feelings of a prophecy of futurity.
Londoner Of The Week
Face it – the only London face we’re going to see all week is that of the wonderfully talented and terribly important Jade Goody. Whether or not she’s a racist or a bully, we’re not going to be able to avoid her, so let’s just grit our teeth and tolerate the tabloids’ obsession with her for one more week, in the hope that she soon fades into the obscurity that she so richly deserves.
One Thing You Must Do In London This Week
If you didn’t already know, this Friday (26th January) is Australia Day, and it’s likely to be celebrated all week long. Originally commemorating the day on which Captain Arthur Phillip formally established the colony of New South Wales, the date these days is a celebration of all things Aussie. If you’re Australian yourself, you probably already know how to celebrate this occasion, although a quick Google will throw up about a thousand London-based Australia Day events if you’re stuck for inspiration. If you’re not lucky enough to be Australian, just find yourself someone who is (it won’t be difficult – there are about 300,000 in London) and hang out with them all week (if they’ll have you).