Byron’s most famous poem is Don Juan which dates from 1818; this is a work which reveals the poet’s humour and wit in contrast to the melancholy of Childe Harold. A liaison with the beautiful Teresa Guiccioli introduced the poet into a new milieu which revitalised him; he became involved in the struggle to free Venice from Austrian rule. His work became re-politicised as a result, but his interest in this cause eventually waned in favour of the struggle of the Greeks for independence from the Turks. He took personal command of a brigade of Greek soldiers but died in Missolonghi of a fever (April, 1824) contracted during his Greek expedition. His posthumous reputation was quickly established: he became one of the most potent symbols of the Romantic movement. He was seen as a man of infinite sympathy and grace, on the side of the disadvantaged and weak, and free of the conventional morality and hypocrisy which were the mark of the typical Englishman in the eyes of Europeans. He was someone who could combine irony and humour (which is modern enough to make us laugh out loud today) with the deepest seriousness. The glamorous reputation his name enjoyed on the continent after his death is impossible to exaggerate.
from notes by Graham Johnson ©