Picture of the Barrett family including Elizabeth as a child, £4820 at Lawrences of Crewkerne.

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A well-received group of material including sketches and manuscripts relating to the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning came to auction at Lawrences (25% buyer’s premium) of Crewkerne.

Offered in 25 lots at the spring Books, Maps, Manuscripts and Photography sale on March 21, all got away (including four after-sales). The items came from the family of Octavius Moulton-Barrett (1824-1910), youngest brother of Elizabeth, then by descent.


A copy of the manuscript Prologue by Elizabeth Barrett Browning contained in an album of loose manuscripts, £3000 at Lawrences of Crewkerne.

It attracted a good mix of both private, institutional and trade buyers both in the UK and abroad, said Sophie Tregarthen-Leisk of Lawrences.

“There was a large amount of bidding across all platforms and on the phone although it was difficult to tell exactly how the sale of these items would go due to very few condition reports or enquiries beforehand,” she added.

The lots came “direct from a descendant of the Barretts and we have previously sold other Browning material back in the early 2000s and again in 2020, each time from a different member of the family”.

By the Sea Side

Sold for £4000 (estimate £1200-1800) was an album of sketches and manuscript copies by the Barretts and their circle, including The Sea Side Walk signed EBB with a note Sidmouth August 17th, Monday evening, 1835, 2pp, and a further untitled poem, commencing ‘For ever since my childhood looks/Could rest on nature’s pictured books…’, in six stanzas, also signed EBB, 2pp.

The title-page was inscribed Arabella Barrett, Hope End June 13th 1831. The album was a gift to Arabella Moulton-Barrett - Elizabeth’s sister - from Eliza Cliffe, a family friend.

The Sea Side Walk by Elizabeth was first published in The Athenaeum, July 2, 1836, and collected in The Seraphim, and Other Poems, 1838. This “appears to be a fair copy in the author’s hand”, said Lawrences.

An album of loose manuscripts, the cover titled Barrett, included a fair copy of the manuscript Prologue by Elizabeth, 2pp, in the author’s hand, and several incomplete manuscripts by her younger brother Edward, 8pp. Guided at £1000- 1500, this took £3000.

Inscribed books proved popular. A copy of The Book of Animals with wood-engraved frontispiece, wood-engravings in text, original publisher’s boards, London, John W Parker, 1833, made £1200 (estimate £200-300). The front free endpaper was inscribed With E. B. Barrett’s love, to dear Bessy Peyton, Sidmouth November 5th 1833. Elizabeth and her family lived in Sidmouth, Devon, from 1833-35.

Sold at £1100 (estimate £400-600) was a first edition of In Fairyland. A Series of Pictures of the Elf-World, by Robert Browning and Richard Doyle, 16 chromolithographed plates, original green cloth gilt, folio, London, Longmans, et al, 1870.

The front free-endpaper was inscribed For dear Charlie - with the best Christmas wishes of his affectionately ever, Robert Browning. Christmas Eve, ‘69. The recipient was Charles Moulton-Barrett (1860-1925), later Major Charles Graham Moulton Barrett. He was the son of Octavius.

Meanwhile, a first edition, presentation copy of Poems by Elizabeth, London, Edward Moxon, 1844, sold for £1400 against a guide of £500-800. It was inscribed on the free-endpaper verso, Arabel Barrett, with the truest affection of her Ba, August 1844. Arabel (1813-68) was Elizabeth’s younger sister and ‘Ba’ was the family pet name the poet was known by.

Elizabeth’s two-volume edition of Poems earned the author both commercial and critical success. It prompted her future husband, Robert Browning, to write and express his admiration for her work, but their correspondence, courtship and marriage had to be carried out in secret because of her father’s disapproval (when they did marry she was disinherited. The couple moved to Italy).

Siblings sketched


One of three sketches of the Barrett children, showing Elizabeth, £2000 at Lawrences of Crewkerne.

The sale included three round, 11½in (29.5cm) diameter pastel and charcoal sketches by William Artaud (1763-1823) done in 18 at Hope End, Herefordshire - where the family moved to in 1809. They showed Edward, Elizabeth and Henrietta Moulton-Barrett (1763-1823).

The pictures were in preparation for a large oil painting by Artaud of the sitters, now at Eton College. The one of Elizabeth sold on low estimate at £2000. A copy of a note by Octavius on the reverse of this sketch records Elizabeth’s birth at Coxhoe Hall, Co Durham, on March 6, 1806, at 7pm.

The best performer from the group as a whole was a surprise. Estimated at £300-400, a watercolour group portrait by a John Day depicted the family, Elizabeth as a child, held by her father in the foreground, her mother behind with her siblings, Henrietta and Edward, a toy cart lower right with J. Day on the side, the reverse with details of the subjects inscribed in pencil. Nothing is known about the artist, it appears.

With some surface discolouration and soiling, the image cropped to the left, the 8 x 10½in (20 x 27cm) work realised £4820.

Special guest


Menu signed by Albert Einstein and others from a fundraising meal held at the Savoy in 1930, sold for £18,000 at Lawrences of Crewkerne.

Also in the Lawrences auction, a menu signed by Albert Einstein (1879- 1955) at a meal staged on October 28, 1930, at the Savoy in London to raise money to support impoverished Jewish communities in Europe sold for 10 times its top estimate.

Consigned from a private collection of autograph documents acquired by the vendor’s grandfather during the 1980s, it was hammered down for £18,000 to an online trade bidder based in London.

The menu was framed and displayed together with an invitation requesting the company of a Mr J Jung Esq to join Lord Rothschild and Einstein for this reception dinner.

Lawrences consultant Robert Ansell said: “By mid-October 1930, the Nazi party had taken sufficient seats in the Reichstag to form the second-largest voting bloc in the German Parliament, foreshadowing the escalating oppression of the Jewish people. Against this tide, the Joint British Committee of the Societies Ort-Oze for promoting the Economic and Physical Welfare of East-

European Jewry was established.” Einstein was invited as the guest of honour at the event organised by Lord Rothschild, chairman of the committee. More than 370 people attended, with Einstein seated between HG Wells and Lord Rothschild.

The signatures here seem to correspond with a seating plan present on the reverse of the frame and it seems likely that it was passed along the table for each delegate to sign before being handed back to Jung.

Museum dispersal

The contents of a small London museum devoted to Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning sold for just under £100,000 at auction in Essex in June 2022 - see ATG No 2548 for more.