Lot 129
  • 129

Beckett, Samuel.

bidding is closed


  • Beckett, Samuel.
the author's "personal" corrected carbon copy typescript of "krapp's last tape"

Catalogue Note

no autograph or typed material by beckett relating to "krapp's last tape", one of his most famous and popular plays, has ever been sold at auction.

Beckett wrote his dramatic monologue, Krapp's Last Tape, during the spring of 1958. It was to be a curtain-raiser for his masterpiece Endgame, due to be performed at the Royal Court Theatre in October of the same year. The first actor to play Krapp was Patrick Magee, whom Beckett had in mind for the part from the play's inception (in fact Beckett referred to the play for some time as the "Magee Monologue"): "Beckett was impressed and moved by the cracked quality of Magee's distinctively Irish voice which seemed to capture a sense of deep world-weariness, sadness, ruination and regret" (James Knowlson, Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett, 1996, p.444).

Krapp's Last Tape "is unusual in Beckett's theatrical opus for its tender lyricism and for a poignancy that skirts sentimentality...[It] contains many personal elements...[which] convey more universal feelings of yearning or loss, nostalgia or regret, aspiration or failure. Beckett always felt a great deal of affection for this play...[it] gave Beckett a very real sense of achievement..." (Knowlson, pp.442-446).

All drafts of the play, except the first, are typescripts. In a letter to the book collector and dealer Jake Schwartz dated 15 March 1958, Beckett mentions four typescript states: "I am also keeping for you, if you would be interested...four states, in typescript, with copious and dirty corrections, of a short stage monologue I have just written (in English) for Pat Magee. This was composed on the machine from a tangle of old notes, so I have not the MS to offer you" (quoted by J. Knowlson in "Krapp's Last Tape: the evolution of a play, 1958-75", Journal of Beckett Studies, Winter 1976). It appears that the manuscript to which Beckett refers is in fact MS 1227/7/7/1 in the Beckett Manuscript Collection at Reading University, where it is described as an exercise book of manuscript notes representing the first draft of the play.

The four states of the typescript are in the Humanities Research Centre in the University of Texas at Austin: "The finished play is an eminently poetic work, and these four much-revised preliminary versions reveal Beckett's path in reaching his destination" (Carlton Lake, No Symbols Where None Intended, Texas, 1984, nos. 226-229). There is also a further typescript (no. 230), which seems to resemble the present one in that it is a corrected carbon copy of eight pages (as opposed to the third and fourth typescripts, of nine pages each), has the final title "Krapp's Last Tape" and has "the nineteen eighties" modified to "the future". It may well be the case that both the Texas carbon copy and the present one were produced from the same top copy, i.e the one in the Reading collection (MS 1659). It is also likely that the corrections made in the present typescript correspond to those in the Reading top copy; at least this is what may be inferred from the Reading catalogue description, which could also apply to the present typescript: "...Late formative draft. Corrections...frequent, including deletion and some exchanges of words and phrases. The initial setting is altered from 'A late evening in the nineteen eighties' to 'A late evening in the future', Krapp's hair is identified as grey, and the directions rather than the actions of the opening mime are abbreviated. Some important changes to the text in the latter stages, including the deletion of 'wire-haired fox terrier' for 'little white dog', and the substitution of 'flags' for 'reeds' in the twice-heard punt episode. Beckett types 'Krapp' and 'Tape' for the first time in the adjacent left margin each time the role of speaker changes from one to the other" (Beckett at Reading: Catalogue of the Beckett Manuscript Collection at the University of Reading, 1998, p.59).

Other notable changes include the deletion of "living" in "Not a [living] soul. Sat before the fire with closed eyes..." (p.3) and in "Not a [living] soul. (Pause.) Last fancies" (p.7), the substitution of "early autumn" for "late autumn" (p.4), of "Deserted spot it was" to "Hardly a soul" (p.4) and of "empty your bottle" to "finish your booze" (p.7).

The present typescript is close to the final version (first published in 1959), but Beckett's own annotated and corrected copies of the text show that he was substantially revising the play even after publication: "...in the course of working on his play for a number of productions, Beckett came to reappraise, revise, and trim it. Later versions differed therefore substantially, particularly in the setting and the non-verbal acting of Krapp, from the one first seen in London in October 1958, when Patrick Magee acted the part of Krapp" (Knowlson, "Krapp's Last Tape: the evolution of a play").

"...It is...difficult to imagine how even a poor performance of Krapp's Last Tape could be undramatic. It is one of Beckett's most accessible plays, and represents a further clarification of his investigation into the sources of creativity and the characteristics of the artifact..." (John Pilling, Samuel Beckett, 1976, p.83).