Unpublished and revealing letters from Lord Byron to his close friend and ‘brother minstrel’ Francis Hodgson, which have lain unexamined for more than 100 years, go on sale with other books and manuscripts at Sotheby’s London next week. The 15 letters, with 70 pages in the poet’s handwriting, are the most important Byron papers to be available for auction for more than 30 years.
 
The documents belonged to the 19th-century Liberal Prime Minister the 5th Earl of Rosebery and Midlothian, who was a noted bibliophile and biographer (of Napoleon) and are estimated to sell for £150,000-£180,000.

The letters were written between 1808, before the poet was famous, and 1821, by which time he was in exile. Topics include his Grand Tour ‘the inhabitants (of Portugal) have few vices except Lice and sodomy’poetry, politics, the publication of Childe Harold, Byron’s disillusionment with religion ‘we are miserable enough in this life, without the absurdity of speculating on another’ and love ‘I almost rejoice when one I love dies young, for I could never bear to see them old or altered’.

A highlight among the books is a first-edition copy of Bligh’s account of the ‘mutiny’ on the Bounty, estimated at £10,000-£15,000. Viewing is on October 25-28 and the sale on October 29 (www.sothebys.com)

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