At Con-Jour, I was on a panel called Sympathy for the Devil: The Byronic Hero. It was an interesting conversation moderated by a professor of literature at the University of Houston.


Byron's first introduction of this type of character was in his epic poem, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, published in 1812-1818. Emily Bronte, author of Wuthering Heights, was influenced by Byron. Byron was the model for the title character of Glenarvon by his lover Lady Caroline Lamb, and for Lord Ruthven in The Vampyre by his physician Polidori.

The Byronic hero is an idealized but flawed character exemplified in the life and writings of Lord Byron, characterized by Lady Caroline Lamb as being "mad, bad and dangerous to know."

Characteristics of the Byronic hero:

Arrogant
Intelligent and perceptive
Cunning and able to adapt
A troubled past
Dark secret
Sophisticated and educated
Introspective
Seductive and sexually attractive
Social and sexual dominance
Emotional conflicts
Exile, outcast or outlaw
Jaded, world-weary (has seen the world)
Cynical
Good heart in the end

This describes the hero in all of my works. I write about vampires and fallen angels, both of whom already have a dark secret, are bad boys and can definitely be dangerous to know.

In Sinners Opera, the hero, Morgan D'Arcy, is a British lord, a concert pianist and a vamire. All of the above characterists apply to Morgan--in spades! He must learn to balance his nature against his love for a mortal woman.

In Black Swan, the Byronic hero is Tristan. He runs away from the woman who knows what he is and loves him anyway, trying to escape the killer that, as a vampire, he inherently is.

A few examples of the Byronic hero: Edward Cullen in Twilight; the vampire Lestat; Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights); Lucifer (Paradise Lost); and both Rhett Butler and Scarlet O'Hara from Gone with the Wind.

Know any real-life Byronic heroes? Do you use the Byronic hero in your writing? I find them fascinating (obviously) but I'm not sure I'd want one in my life.

16 comments

  1. Judy // February 15, 2010 at 11:14 AM  

    Fascinating, Linda. I liked reading about them, but, like you, I want to keep them on the pages and out of my life.

  2. Scarlet Pumpernickel // February 15, 2010 at 11:57 AM  

    What a great resource. I intend to print that list and keep it on hand. I've just started reworking one of my first historical manuscripts and this list will be very useful. Linda, I love your Byronic Heroes. Just my cup-o-tea!

  3. Toni V.S. // February 15, 2010 at 12:53 PM  

    You left out the most important point of all, as far as our romances are concerned--can be redeemed by the Love of a Good Woman. Think Rochester in Jane Eyre.

  4. Patrice // February 15, 2010 at 1:06 PM  

    Linda,
    I loved it. Great post, and your stories sound intelligent and fun. But I'm not sure I write these characters, maybe because I was married to one and don't recommend it!

  5. Mary Marvella // February 15, 2010 at 2:24 PM  

    Linda, now I understand more about your heroes or protagonists. So he has a big influence on the romance writers of today, too.

  6. Nightingale // February 15, 2010 at 3:24 PM  

    I love the Byronic heroes, that I do. Had one in my life once, too, and like you, Patrice, I wouldn't recommend it. What a rollercoaster ride but very interesting!

  7. Mary Marvella // February 15, 2010 at 5:02 PM  

    the stories I could tell about our Linda!

  8. Mary Ricksen // February 15, 2010 at 9:00 PM  

    Hey wait I have to read that again. I might be married to one!
    I love your stories and I don't think I redeemed him, more like I tamed him a tad. It works anyways.
    Great Post Linda!!!!!

  9. Joelle Charbonneau // February 15, 2010 at 9:34 PM  

    I can't come up with a single Byronic Hero in my life. Perhaps that is a good thing. I have a feeling they are more fun on the page than in real life.

  10. Nightingale // February 15, 2010 at 9:46 PM  

    Joelle, I would tend to agree with you, but they can make life interesting (real life). And I simply love them on the page! :-)

  11. Nightingale // February 15, 2010 at 9:48 PM  

    Toni, I actually had that in the article but thought it sounded a bit, I don't know, implied.

  12. Pamela Varnado // February 15, 2010 at 10:35 PM  

    Linda, I love dark heros. They are the most memorable characters. Like your heros Morgan and Tristan, all of my heros are Byronic. Even my husband, which I must admit is a challenge sometimes. While they're dark and fierce on ony hand, on the other they are the most protective and loving of all men in my opinion.

  13. Barbara Monajem // February 15, 2010 at 10:38 PM  

    No Byronic heroes in my life, either. I like some of Byron's poetry, though. He had a great sense of humor!

  14. Nightingale // February 15, 2010 at 11:49 PM  

    Oh Pam, now you make me remember and want a hero like that of my own. Maybe the love of a good woman can tame them. Sigh

  15. Beth Trissel // February 16, 2010 at 8:29 AM  

    This is a super post and made me think more deeply about a subject I'd hadn't fully explored. Yes, you definitely write the Byronic hero, Linda, and do it very well.

  16. Anonymous // November 4, 2012 at 5:36 PM  

    Dan Zukovic's "DARK ARC", a bizarre byronic modern noir dark comedy called "Absolutely brilliant...truly and completely different..." in Film Threat, was recently released on DVD and Netflix through Vanguard Cinema (http://www.vanguardcinema.com/darkarc/darkarc.htm), and is currently
    debuting on Cable Video On Demand. The film had it's World Premiere at the Montreal Festival, and it's US Premiere at the Cinequest Film Festival. Featuring Sarah Strange ("White Noise"), Kurt Max Runte ("X-Men", "Battlestar Gallactica",) and Dan Zukovic (director and star of the cult comedy "The Last Big Thing"). Featuring the glam/punk tunes "Dark Fruition", "Ire and Angst" and "F.ByronFitzBaudelaire", and a dark orchestral score by Neil Burnett.

    TRAILER : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mPeG4EFZ4ZM

    ***** (Five stars) "Absolutely brilliant...truly and completely different...something you've never tasted
    before..." Film Threat
    "A black comedy about a very strange love triangle" Seattle Times
    "Consistently stunning images...a bizarre blend of art, sex, and opium, "Dark Arc" plays like a candy-coloured
    version of David Lynch. " IFC News
    "Sarah Strange is as decadent as Angelina Jolie thinks she is...Don't see this movie sober!" Metroactive Movies
    "Equal parts film noir intrigue, pop culture send-up, brain teaser and visual feast. " American Cinematheque