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"Obscured by the freedom fighter, fashion leader, fallen angel, and literary bad boy, Byron the great poet has tended to be forgotten," writes Benita Eisler in the closing chapter of her monumental biography, which goes a long way toward depicting George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824) in a more balanced fashion. Even in his own era, when the first edition of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage sold out in three days, whispers of incest, homosexuality, and--far worse in Tory England--political radicalism grew so insistent that they drove Byron out of his homeland. Eisler's comprehensive narrative does ample justice to the impassioned love affairs that made him notorious, from his voluptuous half-sister, Augusta Leigh, to the erratic and vengeful Lady Caroline Lamb, who famously described him as "mad, bad, and dangerous to know." Let's face it, those juicy stories are half the reason we want to read about Byron, but Eisler gives us the other half, too, reminding her readers with lengthy quotes and intelligent exegesis that Don Juan is one of the greatest poems in English, and Byron one of the most influential and important poets. Her impeccably researched text is lucid about Byron's beliefs, candid about his faults, and persuasively ardent about his genius. --Wendy Smith [via]