Collection 2.40A - Letters of Lord Byron, and related papers

Identity area

Reference code



Letters of Lord Byron, and related papers


  • 1798–1970 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

19 items

Context area

Name of creator

Administrative history

Archival history

The archival history of this small collection is complicated. Its core is a series of six letters written Lord Byron to Henry Drury, his former housemaster at Harrow, between 1808 and 1815 (2–7), which were bequeathed to Trinity by the recipient’s son, Benjamin Drury, who died at his home at Torquay on 10 September 1902. On 18 December that year the letters were delivered in person to the Master of Trinity, Henry Montagu Butler, by Drury’s nephew and executor, and two days later Butler sent them in turn to William Aldis Wright, the Vice-Master, with a letter (1) directing him and the librarian to consider how best to keep them. Not long afterwards—probably some time the next year—Byron’s letters, prefixed by Butler’s, were fixed to guards and bound (see 19), and the volume was placed on Shelf 2 in Class R, one of the locked classes in the Wren Library, alongside another volume of Byron material received in 1897 (R.2.40). The earlier volume is described in M. R. James's Catalogue of the manuscripts in Class R, published in 1901, but the present one, naturally, is not. At some point these seven items were detached from their guards and left loose in the binding, and at various times another four groups of loose items were added.

The first of these additional groups comprises Byron’s ‘first letter’ (8) and the verses entitled ‘Epitaph on a beautiful Boy’ (9). The provenance of these items is unknown, but both had been in the Library since at least 1864, when descriptions and transcriptions of them were communicated to Notes and Queries by T. C. Smith. (This correspondent, whose name appears under a number of contributions to the same journal between 1851 and 1875, and who refers in one of them to having written to Thomas Moore in 1824, has not been definitely identified, but he may have been Thomas Charles Smith, who was for some time a director of the Bank of England.) At the time Smith described them these two documents were displayed in a glazed oak frame on a table near the statue of Byron in the Wren Library. They were presumably transferred to the present volume about the time they were removed from the frame, but it is not known when this was done.

The second group comprises a letter from Byron to Edward Trelawny (10), presented to the College by the recipient’s daughter, Laetitia Call, and her husband in 1912, together with the folder in which the letter was put on its arrival in the Library (11).

The third group comprises a bill of lading relating to the shipping of Byron’s furniture from Venice to Ravenna (14), presented to the College in 1932 by the Librarian of the Foreign Office, Stephen Gaselee, in an official envelope (15), accompanied by a covering letter (12) and a translation (13).

The fourth group comprises two letters (17–18) relating to the gift of the letter to Trelawny already mentioned, which were transferred from the Bursary with a covering letter to the Librarian in 1970 (16). These were originally put in the box numbered R.5.53, but were removed to their present location in 2022.

The previous numbering of the items was confused, and was altered in part at least once. When the present list was made the items now numbered 1–7 were numbered 1–4, 6, 5, 7 (two of them having been numbered out of chronological order); those now numbered 8–11 were marked as being parts of a single document, numbered 8; and those now numbered 12–15 were similarly marked as being parts of one document, numbered 9. Items 16–18 were marked ‘with R.5.53’, and the binding (19) was not previously numbered.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

This is a small collection of items relating to Lord Byron, comprising six letters from him to Henry Drury, one to Edward Trelawny, and a bill of lading for the shipping of his property in Italy, together with various papers relating to their deposit at Trinity.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

Owing to the confused nature of the previous numbering (see the Archival History) the items have been individually numbered afresh from 1 to 19.

Conditions of access and use area

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Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

    Script of material

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      Finding aids

      Allied materials area

      Existence and location of originals

      Existence and location of copies

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      Notes area

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      Rules and/or conventions used

      The series of Byron’s Letters and Journals edited by Leslie A. Marchand (1973–82, 1994) has been referred to as ‘Letters and Journals, ed. Marchand’.


      Level of detail

      Dates of creation revision deletion

      This description was created by A. C. Green in 2024.




          Accession area