War poet Richard Spender's manuscripts to be offered at Bonhams's books auction

The manuscripts and other memorabilia of great poets are naturally valuable. For example, a single letter written by John Keats to his beloved Fanny Brawne sold from the Roy Davids collection a year ago for £96,000.

War Poets are certainly not the exception, with Cambridge University prepared to spend £1.25m in 2009 to gain the archive of Siegfried Sassoon.

So there's a great opportunity for collectors of literary manuscripts coming up at Bonhams this month:

Richard 'Dicky' Spender was a WWII poet, and quite a celebrated one. Described as 'the Rupert Brooke of his generation' his life was cut brutally short like so many in 1943, aged just 21.

At this point, he had already had poems published in The Daily Telegraph, the Observer and The Times.

The Times Literary Supplement wrote in its obituary of Spender:  "Those familiar with the work of the young solder-poet will be aware of the loss his death must mean to English literature."

Richard Spender poem
One of Richard Spender's poems


The Observer added, "He wrote mainly in the free style, with a passionate appetite for all lively and beautiful things. There is enough of his work left to make another small book. He will be remembered by far more than his friends."

 Spender's papers, including a variety of letters, are being sold at Bonhams Fine Books and Manuscripts sale in London on 27 March.  They are estimated at a modest £4,000-6,000.

Buried in a Tunisian cemetery, his gravestone is inscribed with lines from his poem 'The Young Soldier': 'In High Proud Exultation/ Let Us Repay/ Laughing Blood With Spilt.'

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