April 12 1812: Byron Writes a Poem and Some Ribaldry

On April 12, 1812, Lord Byron inscribes a 12 line poem on the blank leaf of the book The Pleasures of Memory by Samuel Rogers.  Byron signs his name in Greek characters at the bottom. The book was an 1810 edition of The Pleasures of Memory that the author, Samuel Rogers, had given to Byron. The poem was later published in 1818 in a volume of Byron's collected poems. Byron and Rogers were friends in 1812. Rogers had also helped introduce Lady Caroline Lamb to Byron, which would have been reason enough for the later falling out between the friends.  

The manuscript of the poem in Byron's own handwriting was discovered in 2006 by a librarian at University College London  while cataloging books. The book had come to the college as part of a collection of the Rogers' family papers donated in 1956. The manuscript is believed to be the only known original manuscript of a poem by Byron.

Rogers had given the book to Byron and written his own inscription which read "The Right Hon.ble The Lord Byron, from his obliged & faithful friend The Author." Byron appears to have been inspired by the book to write the poem and returned the book to Rogers. The inscription in the Book reads:


Absent or present, still to thee,
My friend, what magic spells belong! 
As all can tell, who share, like me, 
In turn thy converse and thy song.  
But when the dreaded hour shall come
By Friendship ever deem'd too nigh, 
And 'MEMORY' o'er her Druid's tomb
Shall weep that aught of thee can die, 
How fondly will she then repay
Thy homage offer'd at her shrine, 
And blend, while ages roll away, 
Her name immortally with thine!

On April 12, 182, Byron also wrote to Rogers a little note including some lines about the marriage of Sir Humphry Davy, the famous scientist, to Mrs Apreece, the widow of Shuckburgh Ashby Apreece, and the daughter and wealthy heiress of Charles Kerr of Kelso. The wedding had taken place the day before.

The letter reads:

Dear Sir,
I have dozed too long to obtain my book in time for you, but I will send for it immediately. – In the mean time will you hear my ribaldry on the late nuptials between Conceit & Chemistry. –
“Apreece with her Davy resolved an alliance
“A little for love & a good deal for Science,
“And the Strength of her parts has already been shewn
“For last night she found out the Philosopher’s Stone”
yrs always

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