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The Rise and Fall of a Regency Dandy

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The Life and Times of Scrope Berdmore by T.A.J. Burnett

'Scholars swoon over Byron-Shelley find' pronounced the New York Daily News when Scrope Davies's leather trunk emerged from its hiding place in the vaults of Barclay's Bank in 1976. Even the London Times told its readers that the trunk's contents were 'the literary discovery of the century'. Now, with the century advanced by a few more years and with the publication of a careful study of Scrope Berdmore Davies's life scholars are more likely to be in control of themselves. The trunk's contents are deposited on loan to the Department of Manuscripts at the British Library; the papers are hound into twenty-three volumes, two of which consist entirely of letters and bills from bankers and moneylenders and two of records of bets. Nevertheless, as Davies fled those same bankers, moneylenders and bookmakers in 1820 he also stuffed into his trunk the original manuscript of Canto 3 of Childe Harold, important drafts of other poems by Byron and Shelley (including two thin, but previously unknown sonnets by the latter) and a miscellany of letters from his distinguished friends.

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