Yet once again adieu!


Private collection

Let ABERDEEN and ELGIN still pursue
The shade of fame through regions of Virtu;
Waste useless thousands on their Phidian freaks,
Mis-shapen monuments, and maimed antiques;
And make their grand saloons a general mart
For all the mutilated blocks of art.

Lord Byron (1788-1824). Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage II, Stanza 15, line 1: autograph fragment.

These lines on the Elgin marbles – the magnificent sculptures removed from the Parthenon by Elgin and others between 1801 and 1812 – introduce the theme of despoiled Greek antiquities that Byron would develop further in the second canto of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1812) and The Curse of Minerva (1815). The scrap in Byron’s hand, “Cold is the heart, fair Greece!,” and accompanying note by his half-sister Augusta Leigh are preserved on this leaf from a Victorian autograph album. The marbles eventually were sold by Elgin to the British government for £35,000 and first exhibited in the British Museum in 1816.