This letter, written on 12 August 1811 by poet Lord Byron when he was at Newstead Abbey, his country seat in Nottinghamshire, is to Robert Dallas (1754-1842), Byron’s distant cousin and self-appointed literary agent. In it, Byron sorrowfully mourns the death of Charles Skinner Matthews, an old friend from his university days at Cambridge, who drowned while bathing in the River Cam, Cambridge, after becoming entangled in weeds. Three men present reportedly ‘had it not in their power to assist him’. Byron also mentions John Hobhouse (later first Baron Broughton), another friend from Cambridge, who Byron fears will take the tragedy even harder that himself.
The letter was presented to the British Embassy, Athens, by the connoisseur of the arts and politician David Alexander Robert Lindsay 28th Earl of Crawford and 11th Earl of Balcarres (1900-1975) in 1956.
George Gordon Byron was the son of Captain John Byron. His upbringing was modest until, aged ten, the family title and estate passed to him. He studied at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge, before making a Grand Tour, during which he visited Albania. On his return, he published the first two cantos of ‘Childe Harold's Pilgrimage’. After an affair with the married Lady Caroline Lamb, he courted her cousin, Annabella Milbanke, whom he married in 1815. They had a daughter, Ada, before separating in 1816. That year he travelled to Switzerland and then to Venice. In 1823, while living near Genoa with a married Countess, he decided to become a figure-head in the Greek War of Independence. Byron never saw action but died of a fever in 1824.
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