[Lord Byron forgery.] Manuscript Letter, signed 'Byron', addressed to 'Capt. Hammond', on subject of Parry and the North-West Passage, purporting to be in the hand of the poet, but almost certainly by the celebrated forger 'Major Byron'.

Lord Byron forgery ['Major Byron', 'Major George Gordon De Luna Byron', 'De Gibler', 'Monsieur Memoir'] George Gordon Noel (1788-1824), 6th Baron Byron of Rochdale
Publication details: 
Dated from Albaro [Genoa], 15 May 1823.
SKU: 22752

2pp, 4to. Thirty-nine lines of text in imitation of Lord Byron's hurried hand. On laid paper with an 1820 watermark. Once a bifolium, but with the two leaves now separated, and each bearing thin strips of white-paper mounts along one edge. In fair condition, lightly aged and worn. In its unseparated form folded four times into the customary packet. Short closed tear at edge of one fold. From the celebrated autograph collection of Richard Monckton Milnes (Lord Houghton), who may have bought the item in good faith, or as an oddity. This item has all the hallmarks of the work of the celebrated forger 'Major Byron'. The signature ('Byron') bears a marked similarity to the forged facsimile signature on p.93 of T. G. Ehrsam's 1951 book on the forger. Like the 'eight G. Byron forgeries' stated by Ehrsam to be in the John Murray archives, the present example bears a seal; like six of those eight it carries postmarks. The modus operandi is also strikingly similar. Ehrsam gives an example of the forger making use of a printed text 'to construct letters which "sound Byronic." [...] done very nearly word for word', and so it is with the present example. The theme is unlikely, as at the time of writing Byron would have been preoccupied with deciding whether to travel to Greece. The letter is addressed in the same hand as the rest on the reverse of second leaf to 'Capt. Hammond | St. Angelo - | San Pietra d'Arena - | Genova -'. (The forger no doubt wished to suggest Sir Graham Eden Hamond (sic), who had in the previous decade commanded HMS Rivoli in the Mediterranean Squadron.) The reverse of the second leaf also bears a seal in black wax, and what appear to be parts of postmarks in red ink, one reading 'GENOVA'. The first four lines of the letter appear to be the work of the forger's own mind: 'My dear Sir - | Many thanks for the news - "Admiral" John Murray and his Navy list - Capt. Barry & the Northwest Passage - fiddlesticks"!' The greater part of what follows ('I trusted that the last disappointment [...] Esquimaux squaws with a nail') - all but the last nine lines - is taken word-for-word from the Monthly Magazine (edited by Richard Phillips, and not to be confused with Henry Colburn's New Monthly Magazine), 1 August 1824, p.32, 'Philosophy of Contemporary Criticism, No. XXVII', the only change being the alteration of the first person plural of the article to the first person singular. (The forger would have been aware that earlier in the same article there was a reference to a work that 'owed much of its success to the artificial impulse of being for some time supposed to be Lord Byron's'.) The conclusion of the letter would again appear to be the work of the forger. It begins with a sexual innuendo: 'for the purpose of "making feet for children's stockings" - I prognosticate the expedition is in imminent danger of illustrating that couplet in Hudibras - | "The adventure of the bear & fiddle | Was sung - but broke off in the middle." | Sto sempre servitore [?]lissimo | Byron'.