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:
Intelligent and perceptive
Cunning and able to adapt
A troubled past
Sophisticated and educated
Seductive and sexually attractive
Social and sexual dominance
Exile, outcast or outlaw
Jaded, world-weary (has seen the world)
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.