Lot 530
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Autograph letter signed (“Byron”), to Richard Belgrave Hoppner (“My dear Hoppner”), British Consul at Venice, about the care of his daughter Allegra, then in a convent near Florence (“…About Allegra – I will take some decisive step in the course of the year, at present she is so happy where she is – that perhaps she had better have her Alphabet imparted in her Convent…”), and discussing poems that he is currently engaged upon, including The Prophecy of Dante (“…What you say of the Dante is the first I have heard of it – – all seeming to be merged in the row about the tragedy [Marino Faliero]. – Continue it! – alas! what could Dante himself now prophecy about Italy? – – I am glad you like it however – but doubt that you will be singular in your opinion…”), his tragedy Sardanapalus (“…My new tragedy is completed. I shall send it to London by this post…”), and Marino Faliero [where, in a note, he alludes to the ‘celebrated beauty’ contessa Marina Benzoni] (“…The Benzona is right – – I ought to have mentioned her humour & amiability – but I thought at her sixty – beauty would be most agreeable or least likely. – However it shall be rectified in a new Edition. – And if any of the parties have either looks or qualities – which they wish to be noticed – let me have a minute of them…”); he also avers that he has “no private – nor personal dislike to Venice – rather the contrary – but I merely speak of what is the subject of all remarks – & all writers upon her present state”; in a postscript he gives an account of his latest run-in with the Papal authorities regarding “a poor devil of a Neapolitan – arrested at Sinigaglia on suspicion – who came to beg of me here – being without breeches” whom he relieved and who has been rearrested; and enquires after the “Consuless” and their boy [his godchild]; with a further postscript written on the back of the address in which he thanks Hoppner for his article [probably about the staging of Marino Faliero] and asks if he has received Moore’s verses [in which he castigates the Neapolitan insurgents for giving in to the Austrians without a struggle], 3 pages, 4to, integral autograph address leaf, seal and postmark, Hoppner’s endorsement, paper watermarked with the head of Pius VII, unobtrusive later fold at edge but overall in fine and fresh condition, Ravenna, 31 May 1821


  • Byron on his daughter Allegra, on 'Sardanapalus', 'Marino Faliero', 'The Prophecy of Dante', and the plight of Italy. Belgrave Hoppner, the recipient, was son of the famous portrait painter and was one of Byron’s closest confidants during his Italian years. As British Consul he acted for Byron in Venice while he was away in Ravenna. He had been entrusted with the care of Allegra, Bryon’s daughter by Claire Clairmont, for six weeks in 1818; although he was later to confess that she “was not by any means an amiable child, nor was Mrs Hoppner or I particularly fond of her” (Marchand, ii, p.747). Nor was Claire happy that she had been placed in a convent.

    Byron’s poem The Prophecy of Dante had for its subject the unification and liberation of Italy. The “poor devil” of whom news is given in this letter was Giuseppe Gigante to whom Byron had entrusted his address to the Neapolitan insurgents and who was arrested by the papal authorities, forcing him to eat his dispatches in an attempt to evade detection. Byron’s tragedy Marino Faliero had received an unauthorised performance at Drury Lane on 21 April, and Byron had asked Hoppner to refute Italian rumours that he had sanctioned the performance and that the play had been hissed off the stage. Sardanapalus, of which he here announces the completion (announced also in a letter to Murray of 28 May) was published at the end of the year.

    This letter is published in Marchand’s edition of The Letters and Journals, vii, pp.130-31, from the version published by Moore, which regularises the text and has several omissions (including the statement that Sardanapalus is being sent to Murray).
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