It is no secret that I've become a fan of Lord Byron since studying his life and works as part of my Open University course. When people are so very famous it is hard to separate the myth that surrounds them from what they must have really been like. Hyperbole abounds in much that I have read about him, especially the earlier biographies. I've almost finished a modern biography (published in 2002) which I can thoroughly recommend, but there is no doubt that the way to discover the most about him is from a wonderful collection of letters made available by Project Gutenberg.
Here is an extract from one that he wrote to his half-sister (and lover) Augusta Leigh (I've shortened it)
Six Mile Bottom, Newmarket.]
Newstead Abbey, Sept. 9th, 1811.
My Dear Augusta,
I am quite alone and never see strangers without being sick, but I am nevertheless on good terms with my neighbours, for I neither ride or shoot or move over my Garden walls, but I fence and box and swim and run a good deal to keep me in exercise and get me to sleep. Poor Murray is ill again, and one of my Greek servants is ill too, and my valet has got a pestilent cough, so that we are in a peck of troubles; my family Surgeon sent an Emetic this morning for one of them, I did not very well know which, but I swore Somebody should take it, so after a deal of discussion the Greek swallowed it with tears in his eyes, and by the blessing of it, and the Virgin whom he invoked to assist it and him, I suppose he'll be well tomorrow, if not, another shall have the next. So your Spouse likes children, that is lucky as he will have to bring them up; for my part (since I lost my Newfoundland dog,) I like nobody except his successor a Dutch Mastiff and three land Tortoises brought with me from Greece.
I thank you for your letters and am always glad to hear from you, but if you won't come here before Xmas, I very much fear we shall not meet here at all, for I shall be off somewhere or other very soon out of this land of Paper credit (or rather no credit at all, for every body seems on the high road to Bankruptcy), and if I quit it again I shall not be back in a hurry.
However, I shall endeavour to see you somewhere, and make my bow with decorum before I return to the Ottomans, I believe I shall turn Mussulman in the end.
You ask after my health; I am in tolerable leanness, which I promote by exercise and abstinence. I don't know that I have acquired any thing by my travels but a smattering of two languages and a habit of chewing Tobacco
If you are interested in reading any more of these then Project Gutenberg really is the most fantastic source. It is entirely free and they are always looking for volunteers to help proof documents. I shall be joining them shortly