Oscar Wilde's Heart's Yearnings manuscript breaks world record

An autographed, revised manuscript version of Oscar Wilde's early poem Heart's Yearnings brought £67,250 ($104,770) to Bonhams London yesterday (May 8), leading the auction house's sale of the Roy Davis collection of poetical and political manuscripts.

Oscar Wilde new world record
A detail from the manuscript, which Oscar Wilde signed in full

Signed "Oscar O'F Wills Wilde Magdalen College Oxford", Heart's Yearnings comprises 40 lines divided into eight five-line stanzas. Wilde only signed his poems in this manner between 1874 and 1878, while studying classics at Oxford University.

The manuscript is one of the earliest known examples by Oscar Wilde.

The auction price represents a new world record for poetic manuscript by the author, the previous record being £24,000 ($37,368) for Wilde's draft of a poem on Lillie Langtree.

The second stanza of Heart's Yearnings reads:

O pale moon shining fair and clear,

Between the apple-blossoms white,

That cluster round my window here,

Why does not love tarry in his flight

And not come near for my heart's delight.

Heart's Yearnings remained unpublished until 2000.

Other high-performing lots include Sylvia Plath's working papers for her poem Sheep in Fog, which made £37,250 ($58,015) and an autographed manuscript of Christina Rossetti's well-known sonnet Remember Me When I Am Gone Away, which sold for £33,650 ($52,404).

The price achieved by Rossetti's sonnet represents a new world record for a poem by the author, while no poem by Plath has ever appeared at auction before.

Plath finished her first draft of Sheep in Fog in December 1962.  She revised the piece on January 28 1963, adding the ominous lines:

They threaten

To let me through to a heaven

Starless and fatherless, a dark water

Plath took her own life just two weeks after the revision was made.

Here at Paul Fraser Collectibles we have an extensive range of books and manuscripts in stock. This remarkable Mark Twain autographed, inscribed pamphlet can be yours today for just £6,950).

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