A Blupete Biography Page

Cambridge and The Lord's Rejection, Part 3 to the Life & Works of
Lord Byron

Having finished up at Harrow (he apparently ran away from the place a couple of times), in October of 1805, at the age seventeen, Byron entered Cambridge (Trinity College). Byron was fast approaching the age of majority, when, without permission of the court, he could deal with his own affairs as he saw fit. Byron was particularly looking forward to taking title to Newstead Abby. Money lenders in London, now that he was approaching the age of majority, were fast becoming Byron's friends. Thus, Byron could easily raise the money to support a conventional life of extravagant dissipation. During his years at Cambridge, 1805-08, he divided his time between Cambridge, London and at his mother's house at Southwell. At times through these years he would leave Cambridge in the middle of term, or early, or late; Lord Byron was more interested in tasting life as might be had at London than keeping his nose in the books at Cambridge. Still, the allowances were coming through Hanson's hands and Byron was kept at the wheel of learning through threats from solicitor Hanson, that, should Byron leave Cambridge, he would be cut off. These threats usually had the effect of driving Byron back to his studies at Cambridge.18

Quarrels through these years continued with his mother over his extravagances at Cambridge and London, and his arrangements with the money-lenders. He passed his days not so much studying as much, with his friends, shooting pistols, playing cricket, and swimming.19 At London, Byron took fencing and boxing lessons. Notwithstanding all this activity, Byron found time to write. As early as 1806, Byron saw to the publication of his first poems, Fugitive Pieces. This first work was privately printed without Byron's name. Criticism of this work caused Byron to recall most of the distributed copies which he then proceeded to destroy. He then carried out "excisions and prunings" of the work and re-published it. In 1807, he brought out Poems on Various Occasions (January), again, privately printed (about 100 copies) and Hours of Idleness (June). In February of 1808, a scathing review of Hours of Idleness appeared in the Edinburgh Review, "imitative, sentimental, and mawkish." This criticism provoked Byron to reply with the publication, in 1808, of English Bards and Scotch Reviewers. This work, English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, was an immediate success and a sell out.20

In 1808, Byron entered into a time that he could fully call his own. In June of that year, Lord Grey's lease on Newstead Abbey came to an end. That July, Cambridge granted Lord Byron a degree. By September, Byron took up residence at Newstead. His mother was likely quite prepared to join him there but he managed to keep her away on the basis that repairs must first be carried out.21 His friend, Hobhouse22, joined him at Newstead and stayed until November, after which Byron continued to write in the isolation of the Abbey.23

Upon coming of age, Byron went through the motions of establishing himself as a high class member of society. On January 22nd, 1809, Byron became twenty-one. He traveled to London and filed his papers giving evidence of his heredity right to become a member of the House of Lords. In March of that year, Byron took his rightful seat at the House of Lords, but he was "humiliated by the manner in which he is announced." The fact is that the young lord was spurned by his fellow lords; and, Byron felt it deeply. Why was he rejected? -- Was it because he was too young to join the old club. Was it because these men thought that Byron had no real power or money behind him? Was it because Byron was a man who fancied himself a poet? Was it because his father was a reprobate? Was it because he was a cripple? Byron, I am sure, turned over all of these reasons in his mind. Eventually, Byron decided that he did not need the approval of such men. He would make his way in the world on his own terms.24



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Peter Landry

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