The only known manuscript of Byron’s humorous, bantering poem “Farewell to Malta’ is to be auctioned at Bonhams in London on March29.

It is from the collection of papers and portraits assembled by poet Roy Davids and is estimated at between £15,000-£20,000.

Byron wrote the 56 line work, signed with his initial ('B') and dated 'May 26th. 1811', in Malta at the end of his grand tour of the continent, which lasted nearly two years. A week later, on June 3, he set sail for England.

In a letter to his friend Hobhouse on November 3 Byron referred to the poem which, he said, he gave to Commander Fraser because it contained a compliment to his wife.

He did not intend 'the thing to be bandied about', he added, but 'no sooner were we sailed than they were set in circulation, and I am told by a lately arrived traveller, that they are all, but particularly Oakes [H.M. Commissioner for Malta], in a pucker, and yet I am sure there is nothing to annoy anybody, or a single personal allusion throughout, as far as I remember, for I kept no copy'.

The poem was first published in a pirated edition, Hone's sixth edition of Poems on his Domestic Circumstances (1816), and was later included in the more authoritative Works of Lord Byron (1832).

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