Monday, 1 April 2013

The hunt is on for Lord Byron's explosive memoirs*

The deliberate destruction of Lord Byron's memoirs is one of the great literary tragedies. On 17 May 1824, his publisher, John Murray, burnt them in the fireplace at his offices in Albemarle Street, London. Although he had not read the memoirs before destroying them, he feared that Bryon had written frankly about his boy-loves on his first visit to Greece, his marriage and his affair with his half-sister Augusta. Now, though, there is the tantalising prospect that the memoirs, which would revolutionise Byron studies, might have survived. Costas Papadopolous, muniments officer at the General State Archives in Athens, has unearthed a cache of letters from the months after Byron's death at Missolonghi in April 1824 that suggest that Byron, who gave the original memoirs to his friend Tom Moore when he went to fight for Greek independence, entrusted a copy to his Greek manservant, Aprilios Moros. Literary sleuths are now undertaking the difficult and involved task of trying to piece together its movements since the 1820s, in particular by tracing Moros's descendants, who may be sitting on a manuscript of huge literary and historical significance - and financial value.

Costas Papadopolous (right) of the General State Archives in Athens
Lord Byron in Balkan mode

*Update at midday: the likelihood of finding a copy is indicated by the date of the post and the name of the manservant.