Oscar Wilde's Les Ballons manuscript set for Bonhams auction

A four stanza poem hand-drafted by Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), which was later entitled Les Ballons by the writer, is to auction at Bonhams, London, on May 8. As it is the only known copy of the poem to have been written in Wilde's hand, the rare manuscript carries a £14,000-16,000 ($21,277-24,322) estimate ahead of the much anticipated sale.

Oscar Wilde poem auction
Wilde's poem begins: "Against the shifting agate skies / The light and luminous balloons / Dip and drift like satin moons / Drift like silken butterflies"

The poem is believed to have been started by Wilde in 1883, while the playwright and bon vivant was living in Paris. It describes his response to watching a group of children flying balloons in the Tuileries Gardens. Although Wilde had yet to give it a title, the wording is almost identical to that of the final poem.

The poem begins: "Against the shifting agate skies / The light and luminous balloons / Dip and drift like satin moons / Drift like silken butterflies".  

An unpublished poem by Wilde's contemporary William Topaz McGonagall (1825-1902) is also set to star in the sale. Widely regarded as the worst poet in English literature, McGonagall's In Praise of the Royal Marriage was written in 1893 to celebrate the union of Princess Victoria Mary of Teck and George Albert, who would become King George V in 1910.

The poem includes the lines: "Long life, and happiness, in married life. / May they always, be prosperous and free from strife."

Legend has it that McGonagall, a music hall performer, was frequently pelted with fish by members of the audience.

In Praise of the Royal Marriage is expected to achieve £3,000 ($4,568).

Here at Paul Fraser Collectibles we have a number of museum grade books and manuscripts in stock, including this handwritten letter authored by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

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