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Autograph letter signed ("Byron") to Captain John Hay ("My dear Hay")
Pisa, 19 January, 1822. One page, octavo (200 × 125 mm), written on one side only. Small circular blindstamp of Dobbs & Co, London, at foot below the text. Housed in a black quarter morocco slipcase with chemise by the Chelsea Bindery. Byron writes to thank his old friend for an unusual gift: "A Thousand and one thanks for the boar - which has arrived in high order - and entire. But I wish you were here to partake of your magnifique present. When do you return?" and continuing to his valediction "with a haste not to keep your man waiting". Byron had moved to Pisa at the end of October 1821 to join the Shelleys and Teresa Guiccioli, and Hay joined their Pisan circle (including, besides Byron and Shelley, Edward and Jane Williams and Leigh Hunt and his family) the following January. Hay, a Scot from Kelso, Roxburghshire, had known Byron as early as 1809 and perhaps earlier. He was related, though distantly, to Byron's youthful love Mary Duff and, through a connection with the Gordons, even more distantly to Byron himself. They enjoyed a bluff masculine relationship, characterized in part by their 1809 wager, Byron betting Hay fifty guineas to one that he would never get married, a bet he had to pay out six years later. By 1812 Hay was a blood in London society, acquainted with Martin Hawke (son of Baron Hawke of Towton), and Lords Powerscourt and Blessington, all known to Byron, when Thomas Medwin was introduced into their circle, and later to Byron. The present letter, acknowledging a gift of spoils from the hunt, is highly characteristic of their relationship during Hay's stay in Pisa. Hay played a central role in the most violent episode of Byron's Pisan sojourn, when on 24 March the male friends were riding out for their customary afternoon's pistol shooting. A local dragoon, Sergeant-Major Stefani Masi of the Tuscan Royal Light Horse, brushed past, startling one of their horses, and started an affray in which Masi slashed Hay across the face with his sabre and knocked Shelley unconscious. Masi was later stabbed with a pitchfork by an unidentified assailant, perhaps one of Byron's servants. The Masi affair was one catalyst in dispersing the Pisan circle. Hay left for England on 3 April, presumably to have his facial wound tended. Two disasters finally broke the circle - first the death of Byron's five-year-old daughter Allegra on 20 April and then the drowning of Shelley, Williams and Charles Vivian on 8 July - and Byron left Pisa for the summer residence Hay had found for him, the Villa Dupuy on a hillside in Montenero, several kilometers south of Leghorn, which however proved unbearably hot.
      [Bookseller: Peter Harrington]
Last Found On: 2014-10-02           Check availability:      Biblio    


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