The National Historical Park museum in Morristown, New Jersey, has learned that a letter that has been in its collection since the 1950’s was not, in fact, written by the English Romantic poet Lord Byron, the Star-Ledger of Newark reports.
“It was kind of a ‘wow’ item,” Jude Pfister, the chief of cultural resources at the park, told the paper. Unfortunately when Mr. Pfister offered to loan the letter to Drew University, his alma mater, researchers noticed a number of peculiarities.
The Lord Byron in the letter signed off his note to Captain John Hay with the word “affectionately,” a term he rarely used. Furthermore, the signature was out of place. “As for the contents, they seemed too good to be true, and more ‘Byronic’ than Byron himself,” Doucet Devin Fischer, a researcher from the New York Public Library, told Mr. Pfister.
The artifact had been donated to the museum by Lloyd W. Smith, a prominent collector and banker, who gave some 300,000 documents to the museum following his death. Researchers now believe that the work was written about 50 years after Lord Byron’s 1824 death.
But Ms. Fischer noted that, in a collection so vast, the presence of a fake should not be unexpected. “It is no disgrace to have a forgery,” she said. “Every collection has forgeries.”