THOMAS (DYLAN) Autograph letter signed ("Dylan Thomas"), to Clifford Roberts, The Boat House, Laugharne, Carmarthenshire, 9 October 1953

This lot has been removed from the website, please contact customer services for more information

Lot 170
THOMAS (DYLAN)
Autograph letter signed ("Dylan Thomas"), to Clifford Roberts, The Boat House, Laugharne, Carmarthenshire, 9 October 1953

Sold for £ 2,500 (US$ 3,134) inc. premium
THOMAS (DYLAN)
Autograph letter signed ("Dylan Thomas"), to Clifford Roberts, thanking him for his kind invitation to the Portreeve's Annual Breakfast that coming Saturday, which he will be unable to attend as he is just setting off to London "& from there to America, and will have to miss the pleasure of the Breakfast"; assuring him once again how sorry he is, but wishing him "a very successful Sunday morning & the best of wishes over the coming year"; with autograph envelope addressed to "Mr C. Roberts", with London addresses and telephone numbers scribbled on in another hand, 1 page, minor creasing, 8vo, The Boat House, Laugharne, Carmarthenshire, 9 October 1953

Footnotes

  • 'FROM THERE TO AMERICA' – THE LAST KNOWN LETTER OF DYLAN THOMAS, IN WHICH HE TAKES LEAVE OF LAUGHARNE, written less than a month before his death. This is the last of Thomas's letters known to Paul Ferris, Collected Letters of Dylan Thomas: New Edition, 2000, no letters otherwise known since over a fortnight earlier, 22 September. Apart from two telegrams, dated 17 and 25 October, the rest is silence. He was to take the plane to New York on 19 October, give his last reading on the 29th, and collapse in a coma early in the morning of 5 November, dying on the 9th. His body was returned to Wales and interred at Laugharne on 24 November.

    Thomas had first visited Laugharne in 1934 and, famously, spent the last fours years of his life at the Boathouse, from where this letter is addressed. D. Clifford Roberts, the letter's recipient – or intended recipient – was appointed Portreeve of Laugharne that year. The Portreeve presided over Laugharne's mediaeval corporation and each year was sworn in on the first Monday after Michaelmas, holding a celebratory breakfast the following Sunday: 'Another regular event is Portreeve's Sunday, on the Sunday after Big Court. The Portreeve holds a Breakfast (cold meats, bread and butter, coffee and tea) for some 200 guests, with some speeches, followed by a procession to St Martin's Church for morning service. After the service the procession returns to the Town Hall where the Portreeve's Chaplain says a short prayer. Many then repair to one or other public house for further refreshment' ('Laugharne Corporation' on the Laugharne website).

    Without Laugharne, with its Portreeve breakfasts and all, it is hard to imagine there being an Under Milk Wood (even if little of the play was actually written in situ); as Douglas Cleverdon, the play's instigator, put it: 'There is no doubt, of course, that Under Milk Wood derives ultimately from his own innate Welshness; but it is equally true that the stimulus was his feeling for Laugharne, "this timeless, mild, beguiling island of a town", where he had been living now "for fifteen years, or centuries" – so he described it in a programme on Laugharne that was broadcast, by a strange irony, on the day that he fell into his death coma' (The Growth of Milk Wood, 1969, p. 3).

    From the scribbled notes on the envelope, as from its provenance, it seems that this letter was never delivered. On the front is the note: "...Alfred Kemp/ Camden High St" and the reverse: "260 King St/ RIV 6090". Alfred Kemp of Camden High Street was a second-hand clothes shop that traded under the slogan 'Alfred Kemp Will Fit Anyone' (Tim Jeal, Swimming with My Father, 2004, 2011 edition, p. 78). 260 King Street can be identified as Willoughby House in Ravenscourt Park, the home of Thomas's friends the character actor Harry Locke and his wife Cordelia, where the painter Ruskin Spear rented a studio, "RIV 6090" being presumably their telephone number (i.e. the Hammersmith code 'RIVerside'). It was here that Thomas spent his last days in England (Paul Ferris, Dylan Thomas: The Biography, New Edition, 1999, p. 312).

    Printed by Ferris, op. cit., p. 1025, from the MS in the possession of the Thomas Trustees.

    Provenance: sold on behalf of the Trustees for the Copyrights of Dylan Thomas.
Contacts
Auction information

This auction is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future auctions, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this auction, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations

ALL BIDDERS MUST AGREE THAT THEY HAVE READ AND UNDERSTOOD BONHAMS' CONDITIONS OF SALE AND AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THEM, AND AGREE TO PAY THE BUYER'S PREMIUM AND ANY OTHER CHARGES MENTIONED IN THE NOTICE TO BIDDERS. THIS AFFECTS THE BIDDERS LEGAL RIGHTS.

If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories, buyer's premium excluding Cars, Motorbikes, Wine and Coin & Medal sales, will be as follows:

Buyer's Premium Rates
27.5% on the first £2,500 of the hammer price;
25% of the hammer price of amounts in excess of £2,500 up to and including £300,000;
20% of the hammer price of amounts in excess of £300,000 up to and including £3,000,000;
and 13.9% of the hammer price of any amounts in excess of £3,000,000.

VAT at the current rate of 20% will be added to the Buyer's Premium and charges excluding Artists Resale Right.

Payment Notices

For payment information please refer to the sale catalog.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licenses please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.