Scrope Davies

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Scrope Berdmore Davies was the second son of a Gloucestershire clergyman. His education at Eton began the ruination of his character and morals, a process unfortunately brought to perfection by his time at Cambridge, where he had the great ill luck to make the acquaintance of Lord Byron. It being a case of 'neither barrel better herring', the two were soon fast friends; and when his lordship finally left for the Continent it was to Davies he wrote most often. To him Lord Byron confided much about his life during his European sojourn, including his interesting account of his time in Venice and consequently much on the madness of Jonathan Strange. These letters Gilbert Norrell sought to obtain by magical means; and though a drunkard, gambler and profligate Davies so strongly resented Norrell's attempts upon his private correspondence that he actually threatened him with prosecution.

His anger was aroused by the following incident. According to an affidavit Davies swore out at his lawyer's, he was quietly in his rooms alone when he observed letters sent to him by his lordship behaving as if they might blow away. Immediately taking them in his hand, he was astonished to see that not only the paper on which they were written was behaving skittishly, but the very ink on the page seemed possessed of a life of its own! Reasoning that such odd behaviour must be the consequence of magic Davies quickly placed them inside a Bible he had by him, and so preserved them from further interference[58].

The disappearance of Gilbert Norrell into the Pillar of Darkness shortly thereafter naturally ended any attempt by Davies to obtain legal redress. The letters themselves are unfortunately no longer extant. Davies fled to France in 1820 to avoid action for debt, and it is believed he may have left behind Lord Byron's letters in the care of his lawyer, or perhaps his banker. In either case it seems unlikely they will ever be found.



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