Lord Bryron 1788-1824

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George Gordon Byron, if known for anything in the entire span of late history, is renowned for his status, by today’s common standard, as the world’s first followed mega-star. Described by Lady Caroline Lamb, Lord Byron is none other than “mad, bad, and dangerous to know.” Byron’s reputation for being a dashing, charismatic, elegant, scandalous, blunt, womanizing, rebellious, talented yet moody young man is unparalleled. His lifetime stands at the apex of a time when some of the greatest literature was ever written, an epoch of literary output that includes a chance summer rendezvous upon the shores of Lake Geneva that provided the inspiration for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

While Byron’s talent incited a passionate flare in young women, Byron’s attitude toward the establishment incited a range of socialite and political men to dislike him. For Byron, this fact was irrelevant to the impetus that drove him, but not immune to consequences. Exiled from England, Byron came to know a rich life abroad amid the countries of Europe, an experience that only enhanced his vivaciousness and made him all the more appealing to the women he seduced. He was a man of moderate principle with a knack for scandal, and his witty conversation combined with his uncontrollable mood swings and powerful good looks made him the subject (intentionally or not) of his own work, as well as the work of other famous authors. The characters in his poetry resemble himself, an aspect of his career that drew so much attention, yet his life is fictitiously portrayed in other works that are anything but humble. In John Polidori’s Vampyre, vampiric folk tales are introduced into British lore by depicting a vampire who frequents English social circles, a work of fiction that today, still echoes the elegance and charisma that accompanies the vampire model. Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray bears an undeniable resemblance to Byron, a man who seemingly never turns old or ugly, of whose notoriety extends from a long line of wealth.

Byron’s life incurred the existence of the Byronic hero, a self-destructive man hiding an undesirable past, whose cockiness and iconoclastic tastes are abhorred by contemporaries; a man abounding with promiscuity, yet perputually unsuccessful with love; a man paradoxically exiled yet desired, of whom, in the same vein of paradox, withholds such talent that his ego makes him unutterably bored with life.

Byron did not pass without leaving the world with a sense of his ability to understand his own faults, where often times he openly admitted his inability to control his sprightly and sardonic pronouncements no matter the mood, and he is known for having engaged the most bizarre twist of endeavors by leaping from a person meticulously scribing great poetic works, to organizing rebellions against the most ill-intended powers that threaten, and it is for this reason that Lord Byron is renowned as a hero in present day Greece.

The heroic acts did not prevent Byron’s early death, nor did it relinquish the aftertaste he left in England after his blatant exile, at least not until about 150years later when a memorial was finally erected to him by sheer force of pervading fame, at Westminster Abbey.      

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William Blake 1757-1827

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Little may many know that the bizzare figure appearing tattooed on the back of the infamous protagonist, Dolarhyde, in the newer movie version of Thomas Harris’ novel, Red Dragon, is an abstract painting by William Blake. Yet Blake’s work as a painter does not wholly represent the extent of his creativity and influence upon aestheticism proceeding the great age of the Early Romantics. Blake wrote many poems, and he drew, painted and plated pictures to accompany the drama unfolding within every poem, with extras to consider. Aside and beneath these cursory references to the man Blake, lies the deeper man, the inconclastic and cognitively intuitive rebel.

Blake was the type of person whom, as a child, would speak of visions of angels in trees. He was intellectually eccentric, and the world within his mind abounded with concepts of, as the bible would call it, “principalities.” A mixed assortment of emotions collected within his frame of thinking, for on the one hand, he was known to have spent hours and hours making sketches of old churches to the sound of chanting monks in the background, where on the other hand, he possessed a vital passion for equality among humans, with such convictions as hatred of slavery.  Being aware of such frightful events such as the Reign of Terror occurring during his day, and possessing such great predisposition for in-depth thought on elevated subjects of spirituality and the human condition, it is no small wonder his works strike an odd chord to the common observer and reader. The conglomerataion of darkness/death, light/love of humanity, and biblical influence unfolding in Blake’s mind could only explain a portion of the vast volumes of complicated poetry that comprise the enormous total of Blake’s work. Upon a reading of Blake, Coleridge once commented the man was none other than a genius.  

Blake was obsessed with the notion of control, or better phrased, the notion of being controlled. He strongly voiced his antagonism toward the opression of society’s leadership at the time through his veiled form of writing. He also felt strongly about the influence of religious dogma, and was torn by his split opinion concerning the French Revolution. Through these emotions emerges the world of Blake, the product of his angelic visions that seem to speak to him the prospect of men being blinded men and the nature of truth he believes lies within the spirit of every human. Blake is a visionary whose inclination toward the arts prevents him from being a societal leader, but rather, a prophet writing on behalf of what the world could or should be. In a famous poem, he is known for reciting the deplorable life state of a young child who is doomed to the job of cleaning chimneys while aristocrats and political nobility live affluent, opulence abounding in spite of the sordid and decrepit reality of child neglect.

As he had spent much of his life as an artist, his poems are recognized as existing in symbiosis with the art he drew for them, for it has been stated that without the images he so tediously created, reading Blake simply doesn’t work. The effort Blake put into these books of poems limited the amount of his self-published works, with copies ranging in numbers below 28, 16, & 9 for each print, such that to own one such book would be to own a book worth millions of dollars in value.

Though Blake is recognized as standing among the stars of the Early Romantics, his work his long and drawn out with extensive even grueling proportion, and touches on subjects that not only differ in aesthetic quality from his contemporaries, but are immensely complex, a cumbersome fact that for the most part, diverts the average reader. Blake was not well accepted during his time for this reason, but like many others, of whom their talent transcends the day and age of their surroundings, he has become widely known as a man praised for his tedious artistic labor and ability to think, and his accomplishments, unique unto themselves, make William Blake more of a singular enigma rather than a realized member of the Romantic Era.