“The Corsair” by Lord Byron is published - HISTORY
Year
1814

“The Corsair” by Lord Byron is published

On this day in 1814, Lord Byron’s “The Corsair” is published and sells some 10,000 copies on its first day in print. The poem was one of several gloomy works he produced at a time when he was engaged in several ill-fated love affairs.

Byron was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1788 and was raised in poverty. Burdened with a clubfoot, Byron later forbid anyone to mention his condition. At age 10, he inherited his great uncle’s title and became Lord Byron. He attended Harrow, then Trinity College, Cambridge, where he ran up enormous debts. His first published volume of poetry, Hours of Idleness (1807), was savaged by critics, especially in Scotland, and his second published work, English Bards and Scotch Reviewers (1809), attacked the British literary establishment.

After taking his master’s degree in 1809, he traveled in Portugal, Spain, and the Near East for two years. His wanderings inspired his poetic work Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1812), which won him almost instant acclaim in England. As he said at the time, “(I) awoke one morning and found myself famous.” His poetry, manners, fashion, and tastes were widely imitated.

In 1815, he married Anne Isabella Milbanke, and the couple had a daughter, August Ada, the following year. Ada proved to be a mathematical prodigy and is considered by some to be the first computer programmer, thanks to her work on Charles Babbage’s computing machine.

The marriage quickly foundered, and the couple legally separated. By this time, scandal had broken out over Byron’s suspected incest with his half-sister, Augusta Leigh. He was ostracized from society and forced to flee England in 1816. He settled in Geneva, near Percy Bysshe Shelley and his wife, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. There, he became intimately involved with Mary’s half-sister, Claire Clairmont, who bore his daughter Allegra in January 1817. Byron moved to Venice that same year and began a period of debauchery.

In 1819, he entered an affair with the Countess Teresa Guiccioli, the young wife of an elderly count, and the two remained attached for many years. Byron, always an avid proponent of liberal causes and national independence, supported the Greek war for independence. He joined the cause in Greece, training troops in the town of Missolonghi, where he died just after his 36th birthday.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Puccini’s La bohème premieres in Turin, Italy

By the time the first of his three career-defining operas had its premiere, Giacomo Puccini was no longer living a life of impoverished artistic struggle. His previous opera, Manon Gascaut, had made his name in the world of Italian opera, and, more important, it had earned him a ...read more

Ayatollah Khomeini returns to Iran

On February 1, 1979, the Ayatollah Khomeini returns to Iran in triumph after 15 years of exile. The shah and his family had fled the country two weeks before, and jubilant Iranian revolutionaries were eager to establish a fundamentalist Islamic government under Khomeini’s ...read more

Oxford Dictionary debuts

On this day in 1884, the first portion, or fascicle, of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), considered the most comprehensive and accurate dictionary of the English language, is published. Today, the OED is the definitive authority on the meaning, pronunciation and history of ...read more

Operation Plan 34A commences

U.S. and South Vietnamese naval forces initiate Operation Plan (Oplan) 34A, which calls for raids by South Vietnamese commandos, operating under American orders, against North Vietnamese coastal and island installations.Although American forces were not directly involved in the ...read more

Nixon announces his candidacy for president

Richard M. Nixon announces his candidacy for the presidency. Most observers had written off Nixon’s political career eight years earlier, when he had lost to John F. Kennedy in the 1960 election.Two years after losing to Kennedy, Nixon ran for governor of California and lost in a ...read more

NHL goalie Terry Sawchuk posts 103rd shutout

On this day in 1970, goaltender Terry Sawchuk earns his 103rd shutout, setting an NHL record for most regular-season shutouts that still stands today.Terrance Gordon Sawchuk was born December 28, 1929, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Nicknamed “Ukey” for his Ukrainian heritage, he ...read more

Mormon president goes underground

John Taylor, the president of the Mormon Church, goes “underground” to avoid arrest and continue resisting federal demands for reforms within the community of Latter-day Saints.A former Methodist minister, Taylor converted to Mormonism in 1836, not long after Joseph Smith founded ...read more

Official registration of Hollywood

On this day in 1887, Harvey Wilcox officially registers Hollywood with the Los Angeles County recorder’s office. Wilcox and his wife, Daeida, had moved to Southern California four years earlier from Topeka, Kansas, where Harvey had made his fortune in real estate. They bought 160 ...read more

Columbia mission ends in disaster

On this day in 2003, the space shuttle Columbia breaks up while entering the atmosphere over Texas, killing all seven crew members on board.The Columbia‘s 28th space mission, designated STS-107, was originally scheduled to launch on January 11, 2001, but was delayed numerous ...read more

Serial killer Ted Bundy strikes again

On this day in 1974, University of Washington student Lynda Ann Healy disappears from her apartment and is killed by Ted Bundy. The murder marked Bundy’s entry into the ranks of serial killers as he had recently attacked his first victim, Sharon Clarke, in her Seattle home. By ...read more

U.N. condemns PRC for aggression

By a vote of 44 to 7, the United Nations General Assembly passes a resolution condemning the communist government of the People’s Republic of China for acts of aggression in Korea. It was the first time since the United Nations formed in 1945 that it had condemned a nation as an ...read more

Texas secedes

On this day in 1861, Texas becomes the seventh state to secede from the Union when a state convention votes 166 to 8 in favor of the measure.The Texans who voted to leave the Union did so over the objections of their governor, Sam Houston.A staunch Unionist,Houston’s election in ...read more

Ford GT makes TV debut in Super Bowl ad

During the Super Bowl on this day in 2004, the first TV commercial airs for the Ford GT, a new, high-performance “supercar” based on Ford’s GT40 race car, which won the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race in France four years in a row starting in 1966. The TV ad for the two-seater ...read more