298
298
Spender, Stephen
AN ARCHIVE OF LETTERS, ONE CONTAINING AN UNPUBLISHED POEM
Estimate
4,0006,000
JUMP TO LOT
298
Spender, Stephen
AN ARCHIVE OF LETTERS, ONE CONTAINING AN UNPUBLISHED POEM
Estimate
4,0006,000
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

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Spender, Stephen
AN ARCHIVE OF LETTERS, ONE CONTAINING AN UNPUBLISHED POEM
Group of 19 autograph letters and 1 typed letter, signed ("Stephen"), 66 pages (various sizes), Evanston IL, London, Zurich, and v.p., 4 May 1973 — 22 October 1975, to Stephen Sewall, 12 autograph envelopes; vertical and horizontal folds. 
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Provenance

Dr. Stephen Sewall

Catalogue Note

Chronicle of a brief friendship. In May 1973, Stephen Spender was ending a year-long term as a visiting professor at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.  At a cocktail given in his flat, the poet met Stephen Sewall, a young Instructor of English at the University.  After the other guests had left, the two men talked long into the night.  Although Spender never saw Sewall again after he left Evanston, the two corresponded till the end of 1975.

On 8 June 1973, Spender wrote a farewell note to Sewall and included an untitled fifteen-line poem of unrequited love that begins "I am in your dreams / Have you ever seen me? I appear / a lover who will find himself / in a woman. But whose / nakedness is known to you." 

In his letter of 3 June 1973, Spender comments, "Please remember that most of our relationship has been my thinking about our relationship. Well, what I think is that you are engaged on a quest which has nothing to do with me. The only function I can possibly play is understanding it ..." Despite the ambiguous nature of the relationship, Spender wrote from London on 10 June, "[D]on't you think that young guy who climbed into the window and got us those pencils must have been rather inspired by the sight of us to do such a thing?" In the coming months Spender and his wife Natasha travel to Corfu and France and the poet brings Sewall's thesis prospectus on Tom Jones along to read.

In a fine letter written just after W. H. Auden's funeral in October 1973, Spender writes, "At that funeral, I thought that all arrangements in life are conventions partly imposed by society but partly also by the nature of things. We walked in a procession behind the coffin while a man from the British Embassy and I chatted about the weather (it was a beautiful day). We were enclosed by convention in a kind of space, Auden in another. I felt this even more when the coffin was in the grave — Auden lying there shut off from the rest of us, no one speaking to him ... an extreme application of the convention." Of his daughter Lizzie, he writes, "She's still writing journalism about the Pop world and is friends of strange, strange people like David Bowie, those monstrous people whose names I can't remember, and people dressed like London costermongers in 1850 and called by names like Gary Glitter."

Writing on his last day in Evanston, Spender summed up the pleasure he derived from his friendship with Stephen Sewall: "What was so delightful last night and all yesterday was that you'd obviously planned the whole day for pleasure — mostly mine though perhaps it gave you pleasure too. I do hope so. ... I don't feel at all sad leaving, because I think we've gone a very long way and arrived at the idea of pleasant days not burdensome that we could have together."

Fine Books and Manuscripts Including Americana Online

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New York