BYRON, GEORGE GORDON. 1788-1824.
Written by Lord Byron at the Crown Hotel, Harrowgate, 1806. To a Beautiful Quaker.... [N.p., n.d., after 1833].
4to (228 x 182 mm). 2 pp, printed rectos only within typographic border. Full polished calf gilt, red morocco spine labels. Light spotting to second leaf, several short edge-tears.
Provenance: John A. Spoor (letter from T.J. Wise to Spoor laid in; and in his sale, Parke-Bernet, April 22-28, 1939, lot 147).
VERY RARE AND ENIGMATIC BYRON PAMPHLET, we find record of only this copy and one owned by Alfred H. Huth (possibly the same copy). The first leaf bears a watermark of 1833.
Wise's letter, dated April 19, 1921 reads in full: "With regard to Forman's copy of "Lines to a Beautiful Quaker," this was acquired by Forman many years ago. I think I have told you before, if not it may interest you to be told now, that the leaflet was found by Forman in a bound volume of collected Byron pieces. He took it out of this volume, & always intended to let Riviere bind it. Meanwhile it lived in an envelope slipped between the row of Byron pamphlets. I fear the Revenue people, when they examined the library with the other contents of the house for the purpose of fixing the Death-Duty, must have taken the envelope to be empty & have tossed it into the fire or into the waste paper basket, for when afterwards I went over the books & MSS. I could not find it. I hunted everywhere for it, and so did Mrs Forman so far as she was able [she is a cripple, & moves only in a wheeled chair], but without success. The moral is, always bind or case these waifs without a day's delay!"
Thomas J. Wise and Harry Buxton Forman are the two most notorious forgers in recent bibliophilic history. Wise, however, is not known or seriously suspected of having ever forged Byron and the late date of the watermark is uncharacteristic. Despite the very suspicious presence of Wise's letter citing Forman as provenance, this could be a legitimate circa 1833 printing. Or, more tantalizingly, it is just possible that this is an early forgery by Buxton Forman, pre-dating his association with Wise. John Collins pointed out that Forman once forged a book by Richard Horne which also used late watermarked paper. And although Spoor makes no record of how he acquired this copy, it seems likely that it is the Forman copy, pilfered by Wise from Forman's widow. See Collins The Two Forgers: A Biography of Harry Buxton Forman & Thomas James Wise, 1992.