March 29, 2013
Oscar Wilde gives advice to writers in recently discovered letter
by Claire Kelley
If you’ve ever wanted to buy an authentic letter written by Oscar Wilde, you’ll have an opportunity next week.
As reported in the Telegraph, a 13-page letter was found last November in a old dusty box in the back of a wardrobe along with the first draft of “The New Remorse,” the famous sonnet Wilde wrote for his lover Lord Alfred Douglas just after they met in 1891. Both of the documents found in the box were passed down through family members from a Victorian brewery owner and were discovered after his granddaughter died and experts sorted through her estate in Oxfordshire, England.
The letter is addressed to “Mr. Morgan,” an unknown aspiring writer, who sent his manuscript to Wilde looking for comments and feedback. Wilde writes: “It is better than many magazine articles, though if you will allow me to say so it is rather belligerent in tone.” He also gives some general advice:
The best work in literature is always done by those who do not depend on it for their daily bread—and the highest form of literature, Poetry, brings no wealth to the singer… Make some sacrifice for your art and you will be repaid—but ask of art to sacrifice herself for you and a bitter disappointment may come to you.
If you’d like to buy the letter, the auction is scheduled for April 4th through the manuscript auctioneers Bloomsbury of London. A representative, Mike Heseltine has said:
The letter is hitherto unknown and is entirely fascinating while the first draft of one of his most important poems is equally exciting. It is hard to say whether Wilde knew the aspiring writer but he went on for 13 pages and was quite honest and direct in his words of advice. The gist of it is telling the recipient, a Mr Morgan, to write by all means but to make sure he has some other job to rely on for money.
Be prepared—the letter is folded, slightly soiled, and has a stab hole in the left corner—and it’s estimated to sell between 8,000 and 12,000 pounds.
Claire Kelley is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House.