George Gordon, Lord Byron
  (1788 - 1824)

Trinity College, Cambridge
1805 (17) - 1807 (19) 

Neville's Court, Trinity College, Cambridge
Neville's Court, Trinity College, Cambridge

Byron entered Trinity College, Cambridge on 1 July 1805 (17), but did not take up residence until 25 October. He noted his first impressions of college life in a letter to Hargreaves Hanson (son of his lawyer John Hanson) on 12 November 1805 (17):

College improves in everything but learning. Nobody here seems to look into an Author, ancient or modern, if they can avoid it. The Muses, poor Devils, are totally neglected, except by a few Musty old Sophs and Fellows, who, however agreeable they may be to Minerva, are perfect Antidotes to the Graces. Even I (great as is my inclination for Knowledge) am carried away by the Tide ... (TMLJ, p84-5) 

and in another to John Hanson dated 23 November 1805 (17):

... this place is the Devil, or at least his principal residence. They call it the University, but any other Appellation would have suited it much better, for Study is the last pursuit of the Society; the Master eats, drinks, and sleeps, the Fellows Drink, dispute and pun; the Empoloyment of the Under graduates you will probably conjecture without my description. I sit down to write with a Head confused with Dissipation which, tho' I hate, I cannot avoid. (TMLJ, p85-86)

Catherine Byron, Byron's mother, writes to John Hanson on 19 March 1807:

I do not know what to say about Byron's returning to Cambridge. When he was there, I believe he did nothing but drink, gamble, and spend money. (TMLJ, p137)

He did, however, make one particularly important friend, who was to be his companion on a tour of Eastern Europe in 1809-10 (21-22), in John Cam Hobhouse, whose character and friendship he summed up as follows:

If friendship, as most people imagine, consists in telling one the truth - unvarnished, unadorned truth - he is indeed a friend: yet, hang it, I must be candid, and say I have had many other, and more agreeable, proofs of Hobhouse's friendship than the truths he always told me; but the fact is, I wanted him to sugar them over a little with flattery, as nurses do the physic given to children; and he never would, and therefore I have never felt quite content with him, though, 'au fond', I respect him the more for his candour, while I respect myself very much less for my weakness in disliking it. (Quoted in RPLJ1, p181-2, Conversations, p93)

Still, the education of a gentleman was not simply about Greek and Latin grammar, it was also about dealing with drink, whores and gambling, and it appears that Cambridge gave adequate means of indulging in all three, and that the young Byron was signally unsuccessful dealing with them, frequently succumbing to their siren temptations with singular abandon.

He writes to Robert Charles Dallas from Dorant's on 21 January 1808:

..I am a member of the University of Cambridge, where I shall take my degree of A.M. this term; but were reasoning, eloquence, or virtue, the objects of my search, Granta is not their metropolis, nor is the place of her situation an 'El Dorado', far less an Utopia. The intellects of her children are as stagnant as her Cam, and their pursuits limited to the church - not of Christ, but of the nearest benefice.

BECP Byron, Eisler, Benita, Child of Passion, Fool of Fame, first published Hamish Hamilton, 1999

LCGL Crompton, Louis, Byron and Greek Love, University of California Press, 1985

MBLW Boyes, Megan, Love Without Wings, Derby, 1988

TMLJ Moore, Thomas, Letters and Journals of Lord Byron, first published J.Murray, London, 1832

RPLJ1 Protheroe, Rowland, The Works of Lord Byron, Letter and Journals Vol 1, Free Plain Vanilla Electronic Texts, September 2005 

The poet biographies, criticism, translations, and textual notes on this site are the copyright of Paul Scott
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