Have you ever known that one classmate who just loved to infuriate the teacher? For the Trinity College class of 1808, George Gordon Byron (more commonly known as Lord Byron) was that classmate. Lord Byron had an infamous reputation at Cambridge University that is still talked about today. He was a charming and talented student, but he enjoyed using his intellect to rebel against the faculty.
The Misadventures of Lord Byron
Byron learned that Cambridge University forbade students to own dogs on campus; they were noisy and distracting and made a mess wherever it pleased them. So instead of a pet dog, Byron brought a pet bear! When the faculty demanded that Byron remove his ursine companion, he pointed to the university’s rules and argued that nothing in the statutes prohibited bears on campus, so the university had no legal right to complain. The bear stayed with Byron until he graduated in 1808.
Another Byron legend still talked about in Trinity College involves the fountain in the campus courtyard. Apparently, Lord Byron enjoyed bathing in it. Once again, nothing in the university’s rules strictly forbade it, so the faculty could only plead to him to stop for the sake of decency. Byron ignored them.
Socially, Byron was adored for his wealth, charm, and devilishly good looks. He had numerous affairs with both men and women; the most famous was with the singer John Edleston, the hidden subject of Byron’s poem “Thyrzna.” Using his family’s riches, Byron held many parties for his friends and classmates, not unlike college students in the United States today!
Byron and Poetry
Byron published his first collection of poetry (Fugitive Pieces) while studying at Trinity, but he preferred to view his literary talent almost as an afterthought; he thought high-strung intellectuals were too pretentious to realize that pleasures of the flesh dominate pleasures of the mind. Nevertheless, Lord Byron became one of the influential poets of the Romantic era, famous for being as passionate and eccentric in literature as he was in life. Perhaps nothing sums up Byron’s ideals better than his death: fighting for Greece’s independence from the Ottoman Empire.
Lord Byron: The Rebel Unshrined
The Trinity College chapel has memorials to its most famous and successful alumni, including six statues, and nearly two hundred plaques and busts on the walls. Lord Byron is not among them. It seems that after two hundred years, Cambridge University still remembers what a delinquent Byron was.
Want to learn more about Lord Byron’s life in Cambridge? Why not take a tour? The official guided walking tour takes you through Trinity College and Byron’s misadventures!
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