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3 Feb 2018: New Light on Lord Byron’s ‘Furniture’ in Don Juan, Canto 3

In a letter to his publisher John Murray on 23 August 1821, Lord Byron owned up to various borrowings in his poems, including Don Juan: ‘By the way much of the description of the furniture in Canto 3d is taken from Tully’s Tripoli’ (L&J 8:186). As Peter Cochrane has demonstrated, the Narrative of a Ten Years’ Residence at Tripoli (1816) was the source in fact ‘for virtually all of the furniture in Canto III, much of the food and drink, the greater part of the costume, plus several other useful details’ (77).

Cochrane also reminds his readers that Tully’s Tripoli was written not by the British Consul, Richard Tully, but by his sister-in-law ‘whose name has not come down to us’ (77). Subsequent scholars and many library catalogues have since referred to the author simply as ‘Miss Tully’, but with no further information on her relationship to Richard Tully. Richard Tully, too, has until now remained a shadowy figure.

My pursuit of ‘Miss Tully’ led to the National Archives at Kew, where much of Richard Tully’s diplomatic correspondence has been preserved, along with a letter from his wife, Catherine Tully, née Dornbush, that gives an invaluable account of her husband’s family background. But it was the Gentleman’s Magazine obituary for the writer and bookseller, Thomas Faulkner (1777-1855), that pointed the way to the likely author of the Residence at Tripoli, while solving another mystery about the volume’s production. Few have remarked that Residence not only had an anonymous author but also an anonymous editor, the writer of the preface. The Gentleman’s Magazine identifies Faulkner as that person, working ‘from Miss Dornbush’s papers’ (216).

While it is possible that ‘Miss Dornbush’ was keeper rather than author of these papers, it is more likely that she is Richard Tully’s sister-in-law (i.e. Catherine Tully’s sister), identified by Faulkner’s preface as the volume’s true author. Might she have been the ‘A. Dornbush’ who witnessed Richard and Catherine Tully’s marriage at St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden, on 30 June 1768?

For more information, follow these links to read biographies of Faulkner and Dornbush, now available on the database: Thomas Faulkner (1777-1855); Miss Dornbush.


Byron, George Gordon (Lord). To John Murray, 23 Aug. 1821. Byron’s Letters and Journals. Vol. 8. London: John Murray, 1978.

Cochrane, Peter. ‘Byron and “Tully’s Tripoli”’. The Byron Journal 20 (1992): 77-88.

‘Mr. Thomas Faulkner’ [Obituary]. Gentleman’s Magazine 44 (Aug. 1855): 215-16.