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Poet Lord Byron's letters to friend sell for US$455,000

A collection of letters written by the flamboyant British poet Lord Byron to one of his closest friends was sold on Thursday for 277,250 pounds (US$455,000), far above the expected price, Sotheby's said.

The letters to Byron's friend Francis Hodgson, who became a clergyman, dated from 1808 to 1821 and were expected to fetch between 150,000 and 180,000 pounds at a Sotheby's auction in London.

The letters, amounting to 71 pages and containing many unpublished passages, were considered to be the most important series of the poet's letters to come on the market in more than 30 years.

In the letters, Byron, who was known to have had love affairs with women, men and even family members, details an affair with a servant girl, refers to William Wordsworth as "Turdsworth," and comments that the Portuguese have "few vices except lice and sodomy."

The letters came from the library of former Prime Minister Archibald Primrose, the Earl of Rosebery, who bought the letters in 1885 and kept them in his family.

Byron's friendship with Hodgson dated back 1807 to when the two men were colleagues at Cambridge University and their literary interests brought them together.

Many of Hodgson's letters from Byron were published during the 19th century in such works as Thomas Moore's "Letters and Journals of Lord Byron" in 1830 and Hodgson's own posthumous "Memoirs" of 1878.

Byron died in Greece in 1824 at the age of 36.

But Sotheby's said about 15 percent of the content of this collection, including some of the more controversial passages, apparently remained unpublished. This collection was believed to be about half of the known letters by Byron to Hodgson.

Gabriel Heaton, a Sotheby's specialist in English literary and historical manuscripts, told Britain's The Guardian newspaper that there was a real intimacy to the letters.

"Byron clearly enjoyed writing slightly outrageous things to a clergyman, but you also get a very strong sense of the depth of friendship they had," he said.

No details were immediately available of the buyer.


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