Lord Byron's Sofa from Missolonghi
Mahogany; hair-cloth upholstery and bolsters; brass plaque
"This Sofa / was in the room of / GEORGE GORDON, 6TH . LORD BYRON. / Author of "THE DREAM" / when he died at MISSOLONGHI. / It was bought at PUTTICK'S / by Sir W. A. FRASER, Bt. / 7 Jan 1863 Lot 1002X" (engr. on plaque)
Bequeathed to the Garrick Club by Sir William Fraser Bart, 1899
A Russian mahogany canape, siad to have come from the room at at Missolonghi in Greece where Lord Byron died on 19th April 1824. similar sofas are recorded in three sales by Christies: "Furniture, Clocks, Carpets, Sculpture and Works of Art" Amsterdam, 20/12/2000 lot 425; "The House Sale" New York, Rockefeller Center 29/11-1/12/2004 lot 634; "Le Goût Steinitz, III" 06/12/2007 lot 376.
The sofa was bequeathed to the Garrick Club by Sir William Augustus Fraser Bart, 1899 and this is recorded in the Garrick Club Gift Book as Gift 268 "Sofa that was in the room of George Gordon Lord Byron when he died as Missolonghi"..
William Augustus Fraser bought the sofa on 7 January 1863, and this is recorded on the plaque attached to the sofa:
"This sofa / was in the room of / GEORGE GORDON, 6TH. LORD BYRON. / Author of "THE DREAM" / when he died at MISSOLONGHI. / It was bought at PUTTICK'S / by Sir W. A. FRASER, Bt. / 7 Jan 1863 Lot 1002X"
This was the third and final day of a Puttick & Simpson sale that had begun on January 5 1863, a catalogue of which survives today in the Grolier Club Library, New York:
“Catalogue of the library of a gentleman, removed from Ireland, also the remaining library of the late Lady Noel Byron : together comprising an excellent selection of works by standard writers, chiefly in the English language, and foreign classic authors, books of prints, and works of art, numerous books relating to Ireland, works by and relating to the Quakers, etc. ... : which will be sold by auction, by Messrs. Puttick and Simpson ... at their new and very spacious premises, on Monday, Jan. 5th, 1863, and two following days.”
Correspondence with the Grolier Club Library has confirmed that the only items of furniture in this sale were lots 998-1002 (out of a total of 1006): all were book cases. Lot 1002 was described as “A costly Spanish mahogany bookcase in 3 divisions, the upper part enclosed by plate glass doors, the lower portioned by panelled doors, carved caps, etc…” That the plaque records the sofa as lot 1002x suggests it was a late addition to the sale and not included in the catalogue, but inserted after the rest of the furniture.
No other record of the sale has so far been found.
Sir William Augustus Fraser (1826–1898) was a politician, author and collector of curiosities; as well as bequeathing the sofa to the Garrick he also left a splendid collection of Gillray's caricatures to the House of Lords, a similar collection of H. B.'s caricatures and a unique set of portraits of former speakers to the House of Commons, the chairs of Thackeray and Dickens respectively to the Travellers' Club and the Athenaeum, Nelson's sword to the United Service Club, the manuscript of Gray's Elegy to Eton College Library, and the duke of Marlborough's sword to the Scots Guards at St James's Palace.
Byron’s estranged wife Lady Annabella Noel Byron, Baroness Wentworth (1792 – 1860), died in May 1860, and was succeeded in the baronetcy by Byron King-Noel, 12th Baron Wentworth, Viscount Ockham (1836 – 1862), who died in September 1862, four months before the sale of the “remaining Libray of Lady Noel Byron” by Puttick & Simpson. Ockham was succeeded by Ralph Gordon King Noel Milbanke, 2nd Earl of Lovelace (1839 – 1906), who was the son of Ada Lovelace (1815 – 1852), Lord Byron’s daughter with Lady Byron.
Although further confirmation is not available, there is a very strong likelihood that the sofa was returned to England with his body and posessions following Byron’s death at Missolonghi, and had been in the possession of Lady Byron and her descendants prior to it being bought by Sir William Augustus Fraser and his bequest to the Garrick Club.