English - Souls enwrapped in gloom

21st June 2013 at 01:00

Many 19th-century Romantic poets battled personal tragedy and depression as they sought inspiration - John Keats and Lord Byron, for example.

Keats first trained to become a surgeon but was increasingly drawn to writing. He was not considered a great poet in his lifetime and much of his work received savage criticism. At times he grew restless, moody and lonely, writing in his poem To Hope that "hateful thoughts enwrap my soul in gloom". He died from tuberculosis at the age of 25.

Byron (pictured, in a painting by Giacomo Trecourt) also struggled with melancholy, penning poems that explored dark themes and the degradation of humankind.

Like Keats, who suffered several personal tragedies, including the deaths of his parents when he was a child, Byron's turmoil had identifiable causes.

His marriage to Anne Isabella Milbanke broke down in 1816, weeks after she gave birth to their daughter, Augusta Ada. He was accused of incest and sodomy, and doubts were expressed publicly about his sanity.

Byron abandoned England, vowing never to return. In 1824, he died from fever in Greece, where he was helping to fight for Greek independence.

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