Estimate: £2,000 - £3,000
Sold For: £1,600
A piece of red damask material from the bed curtains of the bridal bed of Lord and Lady Byron, 1815,
approximately 14 x 21 cm, loosely window-mounted in card held by two butterfly clips with a typed initialled note by Harold Nicolson pasted to verso, 'This piece of damask was given me by James Pope-Hennessy. It comes from the bed at Seaham [Hall, County Durham], in which Byron spent his bridal night. There was a fire in the room and the red curtains were drawn round the bed. Byron woke up to see the flames playing through the curtains [of the flickering candlelight]. He said "Am I in Hell?" Lady Byron was much wounded by this remark. H.N. 1939', preserved in a contemporary quarter morocco folder
Provenance: The item is accompanied by an autograph letter signed by Harry [Pratley], 1905-1987], a legendary bookdealer from Tunbridge Wells, Kent. The letter, dated 21 December 1974, and refers to this fragment: 'The fabric is worthy companion to Nelson's watch. The voice of the sceptic (always aroused by such things) may be at least muted since the recipient was Harold Nicolson [1886-1968], and the donor James Pope-Hennessy [1916-1974] whose blessing it must have had! I suppose a certain extra macabre interest is given to it by his murder this year [Pope-Hennessy was brutally murdered by three young men in his London flat on 25 January 1974] - hardly a Christmas thought! (It came from Sissinghurst [home of Harold Nicolson and his wife Vita Sackville-West])'. Lord Byron married Annabella Milbanke at Seaham Hall, Country Durham, on 2 January 1815. The short-lived marriage did not get off to a good start. The poet Samuel Rogers remembered from reading Byron's destroyed memoirs that Byron, startled from his dreams and seeing the red bedcurtains illuminated by the flickering candlelight, screamed, 'Good God, I am surely in hell'.