Celebrities in Switzerland: George Byron
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Byron, George (1788 - 1824) UK / Writer / VD

This English poet was the main precursor to the wave of Romanticism in the nineteenth century. Byron loved the Geneva Riviera and set several of his stories in this region, such as The Prisoner of Chillon, which was inspired by a visit to the castle of the same name. Many British writers and poets followed in his footsteps and traveled to Switzerland and the Alps.

Byron arrived in Switzerland in 1816 at the age of 28. After his mother's death, he suffered many trials and tribulations and sought peace of mind on the shores of Lake Geneva. He first lived in Clarens, and then moved to the Villa Diodati in Upper Geneva. Byron hired the services of a boatman, who took him for daily boat rides on the lake. The setting was a source of inspiration for the poet, who is said to have risen to his eccentric reputation and sauntered about armed with two pistols. He liked to go out in the boat during stormy weather and almost drowned on one occasion.

One day his boatman told him the legend of the prisoner of Chillon castle. Moved by the story of François Bonivard, he visited his jail cell, where you can still see Byron's name carved into a pillar. He found the inspiration for his famous poem The Prisoner of Chillon.

Lord Byron faithfully kept company with his English poet friends, who also lived in the neighborhood. He had a passionate love for Claire Clairmont, Mary Shelley's half sister. One stormy night, after a challenge made by Byron to Shelley and his wife Mary, she got the idea to write Frankenstein, which became a great success. Lord Byron admired the blue of Lake Geneva for a few more months in the company of his poet friends. He wrote Childe Harold III before heading on to Italy.

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