Several new world records for hand written works by some of the giants of British poetry were set at Bonhams yesterday (8 May) during Part II of the sale of The Roy Davids Collection Part III: Poetry: Poetical Manuscripts and Portraits of Poets. The sale made a total of £750,000.
Star of the sale was Oscar Wilde’s very early poem, ‘Heart’s Yearnings’ written when he was an undergraduate at Magdalen College Oxford in 1874. It sold for £67,250, a world record for a poetic manuscript by the writer the previous record being £24,000 for a draft poem on Lillie Langtry). It had been estimated at £12-15,000.
An important draft of Siegfried Sassoon’s war poem, ‘Atrocities’ showing how he toned the wording down before publication sold for £13,500 surpassing the previous record of £3,600 and a collection of unpublished Sassoon poems made £37,250.
Christina Rossetti’s, ‘Remember me when I am gone’, which was estimated at £4,000-6,000 made £33,650, easily outstripping the previous highest price for one of her poems at auction of £1,400.
Handwritten draft copies of William Butler Yeats poems ‘Are you content’ and ‘The spirit medium’ made £15,000. This surpassed the previous record of £5,000 for a Yeats poem at auction.
New benchmarks were also set for Phillip Larkin whose ‘Love’ sold for £7,500 and for Sylvia Plath whose working papers for ‘Sheep in Fog’ made £37,250. Neither of these poets work had appeared at auction before.
Edward Lear last nonsense poem, ‘Some incidents in the Life of my Uncle Arly’ sold for £10,000 beating the previous auction record of £4,200 and Wordsworth’s sonnet, ‘To the author’s portrait’ made £13,750 against a previous record of £7,350.
Poetry: Poetical Manuscripts and Portraits of Poets, was 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.