BYRON (GEORGE GORDON, Lord) Conclusion of an autograph letter signed (with the "B" squiggle), to the Hon Frederick Douglas, [c.1813]
Lot 84
BYRON (GEORGE GORDON, Lord)
Conclusion of an autograph letter signed (with the "B" squiggle), to the Hon Frederick Douglas, [c.1813]
Sold for £4,000 (US$ 6,480) inc. premium

Lot Details
BYRON (GEORGE GORDON, Lord)
Conclusion of an autograph letter signed (with the "B" squiggle), to the Hon Frederick Douglas, care of his publisher John Murray at 50 Albemarle Street, thanking him for a book: "your Essay is worth all the Quartos put together on the subject (in my opinion) a conviction which encreases with my daily perusal. – I have read the rest once – the volume before me daily – & it shall be one of my few companions on my voyage, to those lands of which it is a worthy native"; subscribing himself "ever yrs truly", a fragment laid down, with address ("To/ The Hon.ble F.S.N. Douglas M.P.../ 50 Albemarle Steet/ London") and postmark visible overleaf, irregularly trimmed with some tears at lower edge, c.120 x 160mm., [c.1813]

Footnotes

  • 'MY VOYAGE TO THOSE LANDS' – LORD BYRON DREAMS OF GREECE DURING HIS YEARS OF LONDON FAME. This newly-discovered fragment represents the only known communication by Byron to the Hon Frederick Sylvester North Douglas, who was to become one of his intimates during his London heyday. He was MP for Banbury from 1812 until his death in 1819, and in 1813 published with John Murray an Essay on Certain Points of Resemblance between the Ancient and Modern Greeks, based on his tour of Greece of 1810-12. On 5 May 1813 Byron wrote to the writer of oriental tales Henry Gally Knight: 'Your friend Mr Douglas is about I understand to publish an essay on Greece which I have not seen – but have heard it "applauded to the very echo" and that by a person not much accustomed to praise – the more we have upon the East the better – it is a subject to which the world has betaken itself with great good humour' (Marchand, Byron's Letters and Journals, xi, 1981, p. 184). From this we can infer that Knight let Douglas know of Byron's interest and that Murray was asked to supply him with a copy.

    Our fragment is intriguing in that Byron implies that he is about to go to Greece himself, taking the book with him. Although of course he had been there on his grand tour of 1809-11, he was not to return until the last journey of 1823, by when Douglas had long been dead (a fact Byron sadly touches on in one of his letters). It seems improbable that this letter was sent when the collapse of his marriage and accusations of incest forced him into continental exile in 1816 (when he had other things on his mind and was not going to Greece anyway). So it seems we have here an example of Byron day-dreaming of Greece during his most flamboyantly successful London years.

    It is a commonplace to observe that when Byron did eventually set off for Greece he showed such good sense – designing Greek helmets and suchlike apart – that he had, in a sense, grown up. But then, if indeed he had been true to his word and read the book attentively, he would have been well forewarned by Douglas: 'The various writers who have anticipated the restoration of Greece... have called upon the nations of Europe to lend their assistance to this great design. We have been adjured, in the name of religion, to form another crusade against the enemies of Christendom. Justice, it is said, should induce us to restore to the Greeks the possessions of which they have been unwarrantably deprived... Should the Greeks rise suddenly to independence, the first consequence, it has been very well observed, would not improbably prove a religious war... To England, indeed, the independence of the Greeks must always be a subject of alarm. It is at sea alone that they have as yet shewn any symptoms of spirit and perseverance' (Ancient and Modern Greeks, third edition, 1813, pp.192-4).
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