Auctions | April 19, 2013

Rare Poem by Amy Levy For Sale at Bonhams

A very rare poem, ‘At Dawn’, by the novelist and poetess Amy Levy described by Oscar Wilde as a ‘girl of genius’,  is to be sold on 8 May in Part II of the sale of The Roy Davids Collection Part III: Poetry: Poetical Manuscripts and Portraits of Poets at Bonhams, New Bond Street. 


Amy Levy (1861-1889) was only the second Jewish woman to attend Cambridge University and the first to attend Newnham College though she left after four terms. A precocious child, she had her first poem published at the age of 14. During her brief life she contributed poems, essays and stories to many magazines including the Jewish Chronicle and Oscar Wilde’s Women’s World.

Her work explores not only her Jewish identity but also her controversial feminist and free thinking views.


In 1886 Amy Levy met the feminist novelist Vernon Lee (the pseudonym of Violet Paget) with whom she fell in love. ‘At Dawn’ (text below) is said to be about that relationship:


In the night I dreamed of you;

All the place was filled

With y[ou]r presence, in my heart

The strife was stilled.

All night I have dreamed of you

Now the morn is grey.

How shall I arise & face

The empty day!


All her life, Levy suffered from depression and she committed suicide in 1889 at the age of just 28. It was in the obituary of her in Women’s World that Oscar Wilde, a great admirer, used the words, ‘a girl of genius’.


Poetry: Poetical Manuscripts and Portraits of Poets, 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.’


For more information on the sale, go to www.bonhams/books.