"Fugitive Pieces", Byron's first volume of verse, was privately
printed in the autumn of 1806, when Byron was eighteen years of age.
Passages in Byron's correspondence indicate that as early as August
of that year some of the poems were in the printers' hands and that
during the latter part of August and during September the printing
was suspended in order that Byron might give his poems an "entire
new form." The new form consisted, in part, in an enlargement; for he
wrote to Elizabeth Pigot about September that he had nearly doubled
his poems "partly by the discovery of some I conceived to be lost, and
partly by some new productions." According to Moore, _Fugitive Pieces_
was ready for distribution in November. The last poem in the volume
bears the date of November 16, 1806.
A difficulty in supposing the date of completion of the volume to be
about November 16 is that two copies contain inscriptions in Byron's
hand with earlier dates. On the copy of the late Mr. J.A. Spoor,
of Chicago, the inscription reads: "October 21st Tuesday 1806--Haec
poemata ex dono sunt--Georgii Gordon Byron, Vale." That on the
copy in the Morgan library reads: "Nov. 8, 1806, H.P.E.D.S.G.G.B.,
Southwell.--Vale!--Byron," the initials evidently standing for the
Latin words of the preceding inscription. The Latin "Vale" in each
inscription, however, suggests that it commemorates a leave-taking,
the date referring not to the presentation but to the farewell.
It has been suggested that copies of the volume were distributed
earlier than November and that some of the poems, printed separately
and distributed in fly-leaf form, were added later. This would explain
such discrepancies as the early dates of the inscriptions, and the
presence of Byron's name on pages 46 and 48 in a volume otherwise
anonymous, but there is little evidence to support it.
Moore's account of _Fugitive Pieces_ is that it was distributed in
November, Byron presenting the first copy to the Reverend J.T. Becher,
prebendary of Southwell minster, who objected to what he considered
the too voluptuous coloring of the poem "To Mary." The objection led
Byron to suppress the edition immediately, he himself burning nearly
every copy. This account is corroborated in part by Miss Pigot and in
part by Byron.
Immediately after the destruction, Byron began the preparation of a
second volume, to replace _Fugitive Pieces_. This appeared in January,
1807, as _Poems on Various Occasions_, Byron describing it as "vastly
correct and miraculously chaste." Of the 38 poems that constitute
_Fugitive Pieces_, all except "To Mary," "To Caroline," and the last
six stanzas of "To Miss E.P." were reprinted in _Poems on Various
Occasions_. Nineteen of the original 38 poems occur in Byron's third
work, _Hours of Idleness_, published in June or July, 1807. All three
editions were printed by S. and J. Ridge, booksellers of Newark,
Byron himself never reprinted the poems "To Mary" or "To Caroline," or
the last six stanzas of "To Miss E.P." Except in a limited facsimile
of _Fugitive Pieces_, supervised by H. Buxton Forman in 1886, "To
Mary" has never been reprinted--not even in supposedly complete
editions of Byron's works.
Only four copies of _Fugitive Pieces_ are known to-day, and one of
these is incomplete. The copy from which the present facsimile is made
was originally given by Byron to Becher and preserved by him in spite
of his objections to the poem "To Mary." From Becher's family it
passed into the possession of Mr. Faulkner, of Louth, solicitor for
the Becher family. In 1885 it was in the possession of H.W. Ball,
antiquary and bookseller of Barton-on-Humber, who sold it to H. Buxton
Forman. Forman used it for his facsimile, but incorporated certain
manuscript corrections of the original, so that his facsimile is not
exact. The original is now owned by Mr. Thomas J. Wise, who has kindly
permitted its use for the present facsimile.
Of the other three copies, the incomplete one, lacking pages 17-20
("To Mary") and all after page 58, is in the possession of the family
of the late Mr. H.C. Roe, of Nottingham. This was originally sent by
Byron to Pigot, then studying medicine in Edinburgh. Byron later asked
Pigot to destroy the copy and Pigot seems to have complied so far
as to tear out the offending verses "To Mary." For many years it was
thought that only the Pigot and Becher copies had escaped destruction
at Byron's hands. But another complete copy came to light in 1907
and is now in the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York. This contains
numerous manuscript corrections and alterations, and seems to have
been used as a proof copy for _Poems on Various Occasions_ (not, as
has sometimes been stated, for _Hours of Idleness_). A fourth copy,
also complete, was offered at public sale in 1912, and is now in the
hands of the executors of the late Mr. J.A. Spoor, of Chicago.
The present facsimile is an exact photographic reproduction of the
text with all typographical and other errors as in the original,
except that certain manuscript corrections which appear in the
original perforce appear in the photographic reproduction, as follows:
Page 3, _To E_.... line 2. "me" has been inserted by hand.
Page 8, stanza 5, line 2. A letter ("s"?) has been erased
between "so" and "oft," and
the second "e" of "meets" has
been inserted to replace "l."
Page 14, line 10. "j" in "jargon" has been
inserted by hand.
Page 19, stanza (11), line 1. "night" was originally printed
"might," the "m" later changed
to "n" by erasure.
Page 24, stanza 4, line 4. "s" in "setting" has been
inserted by hand.
Page 25, _Thoughts Suggested by_ "e" in "tremble" has been
_a College Examination_, inserted, correcting "trimble."
Page 31, line 4. "f" in "fast" was originally
"l," but was changed by hand.
The text has been collated with that in the Morgan library, and
except for later corrections made in ink in the Morgan copy, the only
differences noted are as follows:
1.) On p. 5, in the first line of the footnote, the Morgan
copy reads "piece" where the Wise copy reads "p*ece," the
"[dotless i]" lacking.
2.) The two pages of signature M are incorrectly numbered in
the Wise copy as "41, 41," this copy having no page numbered
42; and are incorrectly numbered in the Morgan copy as "40,
42," the latter copy having no page numbered 41. The text of
these pages is identical.