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Stranger than fiction? Did Byron’s bong sell at art fair for £1.1m?

Visitors to London Art Fair (20-24 January) might feel like they've stepped into a drug-induced haze at the stand of Pertwee, Anderson and Gold, where a bong said to have once belonged to Lord Byron appears to have sold for £1.1m, possibly the highest price for any item at the fair. The glass smoking apparatus (around 1807, according to the accompanying text) was found under the floorboards of the English Romantic poet’s room at Trinity College, Cambridge during a routine refurbishment in 1967, says gallery spokeswoman Olivia Wright. Several other items were also discovered, including love letters from John Edleston to Lord Byron, which are now housed in the Cambridge University Library, a set of shackles, a bullwhip and several quills. The bong was sold by Trinity to the distinguished Hanbury Collection where it remained until 2008 when John Hanbury reluctantly sold the piece privately, the spokeswoman says. This is the first time the pipe has been offered publicly. But appearances can be deceptive; the exhibit has been curated by the London-based artist duo, The Connor Brothers, fictional artists who could themselves have been imagined from the depths of a Byron-esque hallucination.