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  • Report from the Salerooms
  • Alex Alec-Smith

2015 through to the summer of 2016 has seen three sales with important Byron material, all at Sothebys, with two in London and one in New York. I’ll start this report with the London sale on 14 July 2015. There were ten lots (69–79), all bar one were manuscripts, the first being On Finding The Fan of Miss A(nne) H(ouson)—20 lines in five stanzas, a fair copy with two corrections, 2 pages, 4to (1807), annotated in the hand of Elizabeth Pigot. Estimated at £10,000-£15,000, it sold for £18,750 including the buyer’s premium. The next two lots were autograph draft fragments, Oscar of Alva, (lines 289–292) sold for £4,750 and English Bards and Scotch Reviewers (lines 89–92) sold for £3,125. Both of these were within the auctioneer’s estimate.

Lot 72 was a copy of Waltz: An Apostrophic Hymn. First edition 1813, estimated at £7,500–£10,000, it was unsold. The same copy appeared again in Sotheby’s London sale on 12 July 2016, this time estimated at £5,000–£8,000 and again it was unsold. Another copy was offered for sale in Sotheby’s New York sale on 14 June 2016, estimated at $10,000–$15,000, it also did not sell. Waltz was always regarded as a Byron rarity, although Thomas J. Wise does say in his Byron Bibliography that ‘(t)he book is one of many which have a reputation for rarity beyond their deserts’. It would seem he was correct and that the auctioneers have overestimated its value and any interest from the public or trade in it.

Back to the summer sale of 2015. The remaining manuscript lots were all letters. Lot 73 was a two-page letter to Francis Hodgson dated 6 June 1813. It sold for £6,875 and is in volume three of Marchand’s Byron’s Letters and Journals. The next lot was an Autograph Address Panel to Mrs Anne Beatrix Wilmot, selling for £1,000. She was the woman who inspired She Walks In Beauty Like The Night. Then came a note to John Murray regarding The Corsair; this was with a letter from Murray to Thomas Moore and one from John Cam Hobhouse to Murray. The three fetched £4,375. Lot 76 was another letter to Francis Hodgson with the signature torn away, dated 1 April 1815. It sold for £4,375. On to a letter to Thomas Campbell dated 28 November 1815 regarding the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane: this sold over its estimate of £3,000–£4,000 at £6,875. Then we have a letter to Dr James Alexander published in volume ten of Marchand’s edition of Byron’s Letters, dated 12 April 1823, selling for £6,000. And finally a letter to the Earl of Blessington dated 1 June 1823, also in Marchand which sold at the lower estimate of £10,000. [End Page 191]

Sothebys summer sale of 2016 had seven Byron lots, again all manuscript except for Waltz as already mentioned. Lot 87 was a letter to Miss Massingberd, the daughter of his London landlady after he left Cambridge. The note is regarding a debt and sold for £3,500. The auctioneers thought it unpublished but it appears in page 1 of March-and’s Supplementary Volume. Lot 90 was a letter regarding printing, to ‘Dear Sir’ and thought to be addressed to John Murray, possibly dating from 12 November 1813. It also fetched £3,500. The next lot was also to his publishers, a fragment concerning The Giaour, and selling for £3,000. The final lot was a letter to John Cam Hobhouse dated 5 February 1815, again the subject was debt and it was published in volume four of Marchand. It sold for £3,750. Two lots did not sell (88 and 89). The first was an autograph fragment, a portion of a footnote to English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, with the provenance ‘From the Honorable Mrs (Augusta) Leigh’. This was estimated at £2,000–£3,000 and the second estimated at £3,000–£5,000 was a letter...


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