ROBERT FALCON SCOTT. Autograph Letter Signed, 4 pages, 8vo, March 16, 1912, to Edgar Speyer
Lot 171*
SCOTT (ROBERT FALCON) Autograph Letter Signed, 4 pages, 8vo, March 16, 1912, to Edgar Speyer
Sold for £163,250 (US$ 274,133) inc. premium
Lot Details
The highly important farewell autograph letter signed ("R. Scott"), to Sir Edgar Speyer ("My Dear Sir Edgar"), written shortly after Captain Oates had disappeared, and only days before the tent was pitched for the final time, found with his body in the tent by the search party, 4 pages on thin sheets of paper (with perforated edge, written on recto only except last sheet with pencil note "J.M. Barrie") extracted from Scott's diary, traces of mounting at extremities of horizontal margins, 8vo (approximately 200 x 110mm.), within a purpose-made morocco presentation case surmounted with gilt-metal "S" within a laurel wreath "Lat 79.50S. March 16", [1912]



    THE FIRST OF THE "FAREWELL" LETTERS WRITTEN BY SCOTT KNOWING DEATH MUST BE ONLY DAYS AWAY, AND ARGUABLY THE FINEST ANTARCTIC ASSOCIATION ITEM TO HAVE EVER COME TO AUCTION. "...I hope this may reach you - I fear we must go and that it leaves the Expedition in a bad muddle - But we have been to the Pole and we shall die like gentlemen - I regret only for the women we leave behind... If this diary is found it will show how we stuck by dying companions and fought this thing out well to the end. I think this will show that the spirit of pluck and the power to endure has not passed out of the race - If recognition of this fact can be given by people will you please do your best to have our people looked after, those dependent on us. I have my wife and child to think of... I am sure you will do your best to see this provision made... Wilson, the best fellow that ever stepped, who has sacrificed himself again and again to the sick men of the party, leaves a widow entirely destitute. Surely something ought to be done for her and for the humble widow of Edgar Evans... We very nearly came through and it's a pity to have missed it, but lately I have felt that we have overshot the mark - no one else is to blame and I hope not attempt will be made to suggest that we lacked support..."

    Addressed to Sir Edward Speyer, the expedition's treasurer, this is the earliest of Scott's farewell letters (to close friends, important supporters and relatives of those who died with him), perhaps marking the moment when Scott fully realised that the Polar party would not get through. The letter is written on 16 March, the day in which he recorded in his diary "Tragedy all along the line... the day before yesterday, poor Titus Oates said he could'nt go on; he proposed we should leave him in his sleeping-bag. That we could not do... at night he was worse and we knew the end had come... We can testify to his bravery... He said, 'I am just going outside and may be some time". By 21 March Scott, together with is remaining companions, Wilson and "Birdie" Bowers, had struggled onwards to within eleven miles of awaiting supplies of food and fuel at One Ton depot, but could go no further. In his last letter, written on the 29th, Scott wrote "We shall stick it out to the end, but we are getting weaker, of course, and the end cannot be far... I do not think I can write more". Eight months later, on November 12, a search party led by Lieutenant Atkinson found the men's tent. "Wilson and Bowers were found in the attitude of sleep, their sleeping-bags closed over their heads as they would naturally close them. Scott died later. He had thrown back the flaps of his sleeping-bag and opened his coat. The little wallet containing the three notebooks [which included this letter] was under his shoulders and his arm flung across Wilson..." (Scott's Last Expedition, 1913, Vol. 1, p.596. The letter was partly published in this work, Vol. I, p.600).

    Provenance: Sir Edgar Speyer; presented by Speyer's widow to Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd (1888-1957, Polar explorer) at a dinner held in his honour at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York on 5 December, 1935; Marie A. Byrd; Sotheby's, 15 December, 1988, lot 157; Richard Manney.
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