• The William E. Self Library, I auction at Christies

    Sale 2153

    The William E. Self Library, Important English and American Literature

    4 December 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 36

    [BYRON, George Gordon Noel, Lord (1788-1824)]. -- WILSON, John (1785-1854). The City of the Plague, and Other Poems. Edinburgh: George Ramsay for Archibald Constable, Edinburgh; John Smith, Glasgow; and Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown, London, 1816.

    Price Realised  

    [BYRON, George Gordon Noel, Lord (1788-1824)]. -- WILSON, John (1785-1854). The City of the Plague, and Other Poems. Edinburgh: George Ramsay for Archibald Constable, Edinburgh; John Smith, Glasgow; and Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown, London, 1816.

    8o (203 x 131 mm). Contemporary calf, gilt-ruled, morocco lettering-piece on spine, edges gilt; full red morocco pull-off case.

    Provenance: Francis Le Mann (presentation inscription from BYRON)

    PRESENTATION COPY, INSCRIBED BY BYRON TO LADY BYRON'S PHYSICIAN IN THE WAKE OF HIS SEPARATION, on the fly-title before the text: "To Mr. Le Mann April 23d. 1816. -- With Lord Byron's Compliments." The years 1815-16 were particularly tempestuous for the poet, especially concerning his love life. After a volatile courtship, Byron had married Annabella Milbanke on 2 January 1815. They were soon made to understand that their marriage was a terrible error in judgment, despite their previous flirtations. A meeting with Byron's half-sister, in which the poet made several lewd innuendoes that alarmed both women, was the first sign of difficulties to come. Byron's moods soured and his behavior became erratic. Annabella became fearful and apprehensive, more so when he taunted her with tales of his profligate past and formed a visible liaison with the actress Susan Boyce. Byron's debts continued to mount, and his marriage provided no refuge from his creditors.

    Annabella had become pregnant in March and gave birth to their daughter (Augusta) Ada on 10 December 1815. Francis Le Mann was Lady Byron's physician, who had attended her at the birth. Black moods continued to drive Byron out of the house to the theatre and green-room distractions. By early January 1816, Annabella had decided that her husband was insane and set out to prove it by going through his papers in search of evidence. Maintaining appearances of affection, on 15 January, she left with her child to visit her parents in Leicestershire. Byron never saw either of them again.

    During their separation, Lady Byron became increasing suspicious of the possibility of incest between Byron and his sister Augusta, adding this accusation to those of insanity, adultery and cruelty. Francis Le Mann was again employed by Lady Byron, this time to investigate Byron's sanity. Given a list of sixteen symptoms believed to prove his insanity, Le Mann could not be convinced during his meetings with Lord Byron in January. On the 20th of January, he wrote to Lady Byron to say that he believed her husband to be sane. Her lawyer had drafted the terms of separation by March 17. Byron signed his final deed of separation on 21 April 1816, two days prior to his inscribing this copy of John Wilson's City of the Plague to Le Mann. Wilson, who also wrote under the name of Christopher North, had become an intimate of Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey after the publication of his first book, The Isle of Palms in 1812. AN OUTSTANDING ASSOCIATION COPY.


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