Auctions | April 10, 2013

Keats and Bronte World Records Tumble at Bonhams

The last known manuscript poem by John Keats sold for a world record £181,250 today (10 April) at the sale of the first part (Poets A-K) of Roy Davids Collection Part III: Poetry: Poetical Manuscripts and Portraits of Poets at Bonhams, New Bond Street. 


Charlotte Bronte’s 'I’ve been wandering in the greenwoods,' written when she was just 13, also set a world record for the poet when it sold for £92,450.

Today’s sale made £940,000 in total.  The second part, (Poets L-Y) will take place at Bonhams, New Bond Street on 8 May.


The Keats manuscript is from the draft of his well known early poem, 'I stood tiptoe on a little hill,' and consists of 33 lines from the work scribbled on both front and back showing how the poet revised his thoughts as he wrote. This is the last poetical manuscript by Keats now ever likely to sold.  It was estimated at £40,000-45,000.  The previous record for a Keats poem at auction was $130,000 in 2001.


The Bronte is written on a small slip of paper 3x3 inches in size and cannot be read easily without a magnifying glass. Although Charlotte Brontë wrote around 200 poems, the vast majority of the manuscripts are in institutions making this poem extremely rare. The previous record for a Charlotte Bronte poem at auction was £62,500 in 2009.


Among other works, W. H. Auden’s ‘Stop All the Clocks’ sold for £23,750, Robert Burn’s ‘Afton Braes’ made £39,650,  Lord Byron’s ‘Sun of the Sleepless’ was bought for £26,250, ‘The Journey of the Magi’ by T.S. Eliot made £44,450 and Gerald Manley Hopkins’ ‘Binsey Poplars’ was sold for £49,250.


The sale is the fruit of 40 years of collecting by the poet and scholar Roy Davids and is the finest collection of poetry ever to come to auction.  In Mr David’s  own words, “it would now be impossible for the present collection to be even approximately replicated.’