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Details & Cataloguing

English Literature, History, Children’s Books & Illustrations

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Lennon, John
AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT POEM, 'THE WUMBERLOG (OR THE MAGIC DOG)' 
fair copy with three corrections, 121 lines in 30 numbered four-line stanzas (and one extra-metrical line at the end), in blue ballpoint, 3 pages, oblong folio (177 x 254mm), title written at the foot of the first page, [1964/65], light creasing at upper right corner
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Catalogue Note

THE COMPLETE AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT OF THE LONGEST AND MOST AMBITIOUS POEM PUBLISHED BY JOHN LENNON. The poem is a surreal nonsense narrative about a boy who is helped by a talking dog to a magic island inhabited by the Wumberlog (a "highly feathered crow"), talking vegetables, and a group of gravediggers. As with so many of Lennon's poems and prose pieces, there is a savage darkness behind the wit and wordplay. The poem ends with the boy being buried alive beside his Uncle Joe:

"...'I told you not to come out here'
His uncle said, all sad.
'I had to Uncle', said the boy
You're all the friend I had.'

With just their heads above the ground
They bade a fond goodbye
With all the people shouting out
'Here's mud into yer eye!'
(And there certainly was.)"

'The Wumberlog' appeared on pp. 44-51 of A Spaniard in the Works, accompanied with three illustrations also by Lennon (the original artwork for two of these were sold in John Lennon: You Might Well Arsk, Sotheby's, New York, 4 June 2014, lots 71 and 72). Tom Maschler of Jonathan Cape had first commissioned Lennon after reading some examples of his work that were given to him by the journalist Michael Braun, and In His Own Write (1964) included pieces that were written over a period of years. In contrast everything in Spaniard, which was published on 24 June 1965, was written in the months before publication. This was a period when Lennon was also writing songs of increasing complexity and filming in the Bahamas and elsewhere for Help! Lennon admitted to the competing pressures in a promotional interview on the BBC's Tonight programme on 18 June 1965, during which he read an extract from 'The Wumberlog':

John: "... I started all this writing long before I was a Pop artist, or even a Beatle, or before I had a guitar ... The guitars came second."
Q: "And which comes first now?"
John: "Well, now the guitars come first-- 'cuz this is still a hobby, which it always has been."
[...]
Q: "Have you written anything else? Is anything else coming off of this?"
John: "Well, uhh, I don't get much time. If I had more time I'd probably write more. The publisher rang up and said, 'Have you written anything yet?' and I said, 'No, I've been writing songs,' because I can't do both at once. You know, I've got to concentrate on the book or the songs. So I haven't written anything since then."

English Literature, History, Children’s Books & Illustrations

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London