Bonhams : MALLORY (GEORGE LEIGH) Series of thirty-four autograph letters and cards, all but one signed, to Lytton Strachey; together with a black-edged memorial envelope with his name painted [by Dora Carrington], St John's Vicarage, Birkenhead, Pythagoras House and The Old Lodge Magdalene College, Cambridge, Charterhouse, Haileybury, Dartmouth, Camberley, Paris, Roquebrune, Valentia Harbour, and SS Sardinia nearing Colombo, 1909-1921
MALLORY (GEORGE LEIGH) Series of thirty-four autograph letters and cards, all but one signed, to Lytton Strachey; together with a black-edged memorial envelope with his name painted [by Dora Carrington], St John's Vicarage, Birkenhead, Pythagoras House and The Old Lodge Magdalene College, Cambridge, Charterhouse, Haileybury, Dartmouth, Camberley, Paris, Roquebrune, Valentia Harbour, and SS Sardinia nearing Colombo, 1909-1921

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Lot 179
MALLORY (GEORGE LEIGH)
Series of thirty-four autograph letters and cards, all but one signed, to Lytton Strachey; together with a black-edged memorial envelope with his name painted [by Dora Carrington], St John's Vicarage, Birkenhead, Pythagoras House and The Old Lodge Magdalene College, Cambridge, Charterhouse, Haileybury, Dartmouth, Camberley, Paris, Roquebrune, Valentia Harbour, and SS Sardinia nearing Colombo, 1909-1921 - 'I AM IN THE MOST RIDICULOUS STATE – MADLY ENERGETIC & TOO LAZY TO DO ANYTHING BUT WALK UP MOUNTAINS' – THE HITHERTO LOST LETTERS FROM GEORGE MALLORY TO LYTTON STRACHEY.

Sold for £ 18,750 (US$ 24,174) inc. premium
The Remaining Papers of Giles Lytton Strachey
Sold by order of the Strachey Trust
MALLORY (GEORGE LEIGH)
Series of thirty-four autograph letters and cards, all but one signed, to Lytton Strachey; together with a black-edged memorial envelope with his name painted [by Dora Carrington], two photographs of a rowing eight [the Magdalene crew with Mallory as captain rowing at number two], and a letter of 1964 by Sir Geoffrey Keynes to Lytton's brother James, over 80 pages, three on postcards, one or two with minor dust-staining or a few light fox-marks but generally fine condition throughout, 4to and 8vo, St John's Vicarage, Birkenhead, Pythagoras House and The Old Lodge Magdalene College, Cambridge, Charterhouse, Haileybury, Dartmouth, Camberley, Paris, Roquebrune, Valentia Harbour, and SS Sardinia nearing Colombo, 1909-1921

Footnotes

  • 'I AM IN THE MOST RIDICULOUS STATE – MADLY ENERGETIC & TOO LAZY TO DO ANYTHING BUT WALK UP MOUNTAINS' – THE HITHERTO LOST LETTERS FROM GEORGE MALLORY TO LYTTON STRACHEY. Most of this series dates from the years 1909-1911, during Mallory's fourth and final year at Cambridge and during the succeeding two years when seeking to earn his living as a schoolmaster, for which he travelled to France in order to learn the language. Five are written between 1912 and 1918, and the last in 1921, when Mallory was sailing for the first time to Everest.

    This series, which has only just come to light, reveals, not least, that Mallory was a wonderfully engaging and spontaneous letter-writer, or was so at least when writing to the highly-literate, sexually-liberated, Lytton Strachey. They have something of the immediacy of Byron at his most unbuttoned; as for example – to take a suitably trivial instance – in Mallory's grumble from the depths of France: "the heat was – well never mind about the heat – it was what I saw that chiefly crushed me" (going on: "When will you come? Let it be soon – it will be good for me as I want to keep up my English"). In the letter that accompanies the archive, his friend Geoffrey Keynes writes to James Strachey in 1965: "I agree that G. was no great epistolary genius" and recommends James send them to David Robertson (Mallory's son-in-law and authorised biographer). This was something that was clearly never done as Robertson makes no reference to them in his biography, George Mallory (1969). But then, it is pretty plain that Keynes was never actually shown these letters either; for if he had seen them, he would presumably (as he did with Lytton's letters) have done his utmost to suppress them, something of which the sexually more confident James would have been aware. A good deal has been written on the subject of Mallory's sexual orientation. In a letter to James Strachey, now in the British Library, Mallory confessed his unrequited love for him (G. Mallory to Strachey, 20 Dec 1909, BL, Add. MS 60679, fol. 18), which is more-or-less how matters have stood until now; as summarised by Peter H. Hansen: 'His circle of Cambridge and Bloomsbury friends fostered many same-sex romances, and there has been some question about his sexual preference in this period' (ODNB).

    In many ways of course this does not matter; and there is, furthermore, irrefutable evidence that Mallory never allowed Lytton consummation, claiming such things bored him (see Peter and Leni Gillman, The Wildest Dream, 2000, pp. 76-7). But as Maurice Isserman and Stewart Weaver argue: 'What is interesting and of some significance to the history of Himalayan mountaineering is that George Mallory emerged onto Everest from a point of cultural and political rebellion. He was a Fabian socialist who read H.G. Wells, grew his hair long, dressed peculiarly..., canvassed for women's suffrage, slept with men, and posed for a series of sensual portraits by Duncan Grant. None of this made it into the funeral orations of 1924, but perhaps it should have, for to some extent it determined the kind of climber Mallory was and the approach he would ultimately take to '"his" mountain' (Fallen Giants: A History of Himalayan Mountaineering, 2010, p. 89). Furthermore, as David Roberts remarks: 'The photos capture his handsomeness, but no photo could convey the charm and magnetism that made both men and women fall in love with him, often at first sight' ('Out of Thin Air', in The New Age of Adventure: Ten Years of Great Writing, 2009, edited by John Rasmus, p. 360). Indeed, we would argue, pace Keynes, that Mallory was, indeed, something of an epistolary genius and does, indeed, come alive in these letters. Famously, when Mallory was asked by the reporter why he climbed Everest he replied 'Because it is there'. This remark has given rise to a fair deal of speculation as to what, exactly, Mallory meant, and how he meant it; in Hansen's summary: 'This comment has been interpreted as a heroic manifesto, an exasperated evasion, or an editorial invention' (ODNB). But to anyone who has read these letters, that tone of voice will be familiar.

    On 21 May 1909, soon after his first meeting with Mallory, Strachey wrote to the Bells: 'Mon dieu! – George Mallory!... He's six foot high, with the body of an athlete by Praxiteles, and a face – oh incredible – the mystery of Botticelli, the refinement and delicacy of a Chinese print, the youth and piquancy of an unimaginable English boy' (Michael Holroyd, Lytton Strachey: A New Biography, 1994, pp. 205–6). Our series begins before that, on 28 April 1909, with a letter to "Dear Strachey". Already Mallory is in his quizzical, half-mocking, 'because it is there', stride: "I was greatly honoured by your invitation, but unfortunately I am engaged for dinner to-night. I will try to join you later, as you suggest; I have an odd prejudice against climbing in dress clothes, which will make the issue uncertain". By the third letter Mallory is already pondering the nature of their friendship and the joys and pains of letter-writing: "I began a letter to you last Sunday – what a confession! I read it again just now & hated it so much that I threw it in the fire – so now you shan't have a letter but just a few lines to intimate that I have the desire to converse with you; only I am in a deplorably silent mood. After all the thrill of receiving a letter is in the moment when one sees upon the envelope the writing of a friend – perhaps that might have come better from you – but you have given me the word friend for which I thank you. I feel really that I might write rather a lot – all about myself; but it would disgust you so much: I couldn't send it to the New Forest. Please write me another charming letter. James?"); this being a refrain he takes up later: "I wonder why I write to you. I pretend it's because I want to hear from you & hope to inflict a kind of obligation, but I expect really its just that I want to talk to someone & that you at the moment seem to be the most likely person to bear it".

    As the series progresses Mallory provides us with something of a self-portrait of the climber as a young man, as he contemplates subjects such as: summer and its (dis)contents ("...I feel at the moment particularly inert. I believe I rather hate the summer; it seems so senseless and oppressive and makes me just contended – that really is a sign that one's going to the devil: think of all the horrible people you know & I expect they're all either just contented or just discontented & not either really miserable or really glad..."); their shared interest in biography ("...I am wonderfully wrapped up in Boswell [subject of his prize essay] & myself; the connection is very intimate because whenever I am thinking about Bozz's feelings I seem to be half-consciously engaged in examining my own – I wonder if every one does that when they're writing anybody's life; I think they must do because then there's some justification for hating as much as I do certain biographers..."); the writing of poetry ("...Have you written any poems yet? May I see them? No you shan't have mine: my efforts were so despicable that I gave it up; they don't even please me..."); bourgeois avocations ("...I am going to play Bridge – Now you know my true character – or at least you may know a very little bit of it; I expect I've deceived you a good deal. Do you deceive people? How much does one deceive oneself? Its awful, isnt it, when one finds oneself out. But then its quite clear really that its all a joke; the fact that one wants to be serious is just part of it..."); his younger self ("...I wish my photograph weren't in front of me – it irritates me exceedingly; I wore such high collars then & looked so good and sentimental, as indeed I was – I believed so thoroughly that I should be in love with him for ever, and I should have thought it so wicked and dreadful not to be: and it was so nice to be melancholy and to have a real tragedy all to myself, especially as I was so advanced and thought that it couldn't be very wicked to kiss. Perhaps you think all that rather attractive: in somebody else it might be. In any case its better than being fat..."); Rupert Brooke and Grantchester ("...I have I believe after much perplexity discovered what you mean by using the word flirtatious: but I am not in the least interested in that quarter, & should be the last to discourage any attempt upon him... Will you please let me know your address in Grantchester? Will you also prevent James, if he happens to be with you, from going to lunch with R.B. on Sunday?..."); the ethos of Cambridge ("...But you may perhaps find some compensation for living in Cambridge in the excellent opportunities it affords for a strenuous intellectual life: it is a great advantage too that there should be so many young men from whom to choose suitable companions. I myself have found that it is the young whom I desire (I believe this to have been your experience also) and I feel it to be a misfortune that the only young man whom I know out here is not one with whom I am ever likely to love on the most intimate terms..."); his day-dreams ("...I, in about the year 1930, have stood upon my trial for sodomy in defence of my conduct and playing altogether very heroic part..."); his pet hates ("...if I hated M. Marcel Picot I might describe his character; but I cannot rise above a general dislike of his unattractive appearance and his bloodless intelligence..."); Lytton's loves ("...My dear, unfortunate Lytton, you don't know how loudly I should bewail your fate if I ever had time to be sorry for anyone else. As it is I have merely to remark what a wicked old sodomite you are – with your Antinous and your Rupert and beautiful young Lamb... You might give a message of respectful affection to Rupert – is that permitted? And to James? Well really you know I've almost forgotten him lately..."); teaching the young ("...It is so difficult to be serious & the atmosphere of a classroom is so much against it. Youth does & says such delicious things & I couldn't help laughing if I wanted to. And then you see teaching is only a specialised form of conversation, & if one feels cheerful, one talks to laugh..."); school masters ("...it is monstrous really they exist – they don't merely conform to a type; they are the living essence of it in every detail, a different kind of being, as distinct from you & me as the polar bear – & rather like it..."; past loves ("...By the bye I saw at Charterhouse the other day an ancient amour of mine – which means that I was pleased to take notice of him when he was 13 – But now! a young man of 17, but still only just past the moment of pubity & with a fair skin & fair curly hair & red enticing lips! What will happen? His mother wrote me a confiding letter asking me to take care of him..."); and marriage ("...It can hardly be a shock to you that I desert the ranks of the fashionable homosexualists (And yet I am still in part of that persuasion), unless you think I have turned monogamist. But you may be assured that this last catastrophe has not happened. This sentiment shocks me deeply – considering that I really am to be tied by the conjugal knot & actually to be blessed by the Church of England: but then the truth always is shocking & probably nobody is monogamous...").

    As Mallory's new life – above all his marriage in 1914 – took hold, so the letters grow more infrequent. A foretaste of this is to be found in a letter written on 19 September 1910: "I can hardly write you a letter now – the atmosphere of you & the atmosphere of me are too far apart"; and in the same letter, the Mallory of later legend begins to come into view: "I feel quite ashamed when I think of it of the desperate enthusiasm which took me to Switzerland for those deceiving mountains. It is no use saying that it is unimportant if one can dream all day of nothing else, of wonderful new expeditions upon the giants of Zermatt & the thrill of exploring. It is in the background at present. But have I not promised to go to Wales after Xmas & to Scotland at Easter – & that with a young lady. And oh! Yes I shall fall in love with her I suppose – & all because she can climb. Oh! woe! woe! it is all too absurd, but who knows?" The last letter of all (much of which is devoted to discussing Lytton's recently-published Queen Victoria) is, by comparison, relatively flat in tone, the epistolary magic of their intimacy having had its day. It ends: "A letter will pursue me to Tibet if you address it Mount Everest Expedition c/o Postmaster Darjeeling. Please give my love to Duncan when you see him. Yrs. ever/ George Mallory".
Contacts
MALLORY (GEORGE LEIGH) Series of thirty-four autograph letters and cards, all but one signed, to Lytton Strachey; together with a black-edged memorial envelope with his name painted [by Dora Carrington], St John's Vicarage, Birkenhead, Pythagoras House and The Old Lodge Magdalene College, Cambridge, Charterhouse, Haileybury, Dartmouth, Camberley, Paris, Roquebrune, Valentia Harbour, and SS Sardinia nearing Colombo, 1909-1921
MALLORY (GEORGE LEIGH) Series of thirty-four autograph letters and cards, all but one signed, to Lytton Strachey; together with a black-edged memorial envelope with his name painted [by Dora Carrington], St John's Vicarage, Birkenhead, Pythagoras House and The Old Lodge Magdalene College, Cambridge, Charterhouse, Haileybury, Dartmouth, Camberley, Paris, Roquebrune, Valentia Harbour, and SS Sardinia nearing Colombo, 1909-1921
MALLORY (GEORGE LEIGH) Series of thirty-four autograph letters and cards, all but one signed, to Lytton Strachey; together with a black-edged memorial envelope with his name painted [by Dora Carrington], St John's Vicarage, Birkenhead, Pythagoras House and The Old Lodge Magdalene College, Cambridge, Charterhouse, Haileybury, Dartmouth, Camberley, Paris, Roquebrune, Valentia Harbour, and SS Sardinia nearing Colombo, 1909-1921
MALLORY (GEORGE LEIGH) Series of thirty-four autograph letters and cards, all but one signed, to Lytton Strachey; together with a black-edged memorial envelope with his name painted [by Dora Carrington], St John's Vicarage, Birkenhead, Pythagoras House and The Old Lodge Magdalene College, Cambridge, Charterhouse, Haileybury, Dartmouth, Camberley, Paris, Roquebrune, Valentia Harbour, and SS Sardinia nearing Colombo, 1909-1921
MALLORY (GEORGE LEIGH) Series of thirty-four autograph letters and cards, all but one signed, to Lytton Strachey; together with a black-edged memorial envelope with his name painted [by Dora Carrington], St John's Vicarage, Birkenhead, Pythagoras House and The Old Lodge Magdalene College, Cambridge, Charterhouse, Haileybury, Dartmouth, Camberley, Paris, Roquebrune, Valentia Harbour, and SS Sardinia nearing Colombo, 1909-1921
MALLORY (GEORGE LEIGH) Series of thirty-four autograph letters and cards, all but one signed, to Lytton Strachey; together with a black-edged memorial envelope with his name painted [by Dora Carrington], St John's Vicarage, Birkenhead, Pythagoras House and The Old Lodge Magdalene College, Cambridge, Charterhouse, Haileybury, Dartmouth, Camberley, Paris, Roquebrune, Valentia Harbour, and SS Sardinia nearing Colombo, 1909-1921
MALLORY (GEORGE LEIGH) Series of thirty-four autograph letters and cards, all but one signed, to Lytton Strachey; together with a black-edged memorial envelope with his name painted [by Dora Carrington], St John's Vicarage, Birkenhead, Pythagoras House and The Old Lodge Magdalene College, Cambridge, Charterhouse, Haileybury, Dartmouth, Camberley, Paris, Roquebrune, Valentia Harbour, and SS Sardinia nearing Colombo, 1909-1921
MALLORY (GEORGE LEIGH) Series of thirty-four autograph letters and cards, all but one signed, to Lytton Strachey; together with a black-edged memorial envelope with his name painted [by Dora Carrington], St John's Vicarage, Birkenhead, Pythagoras House and The Old Lodge Magdalene College, Cambridge, Charterhouse, Haileybury, Dartmouth, Camberley, Paris, Roquebrune, Valentia Harbour, and SS Sardinia nearing Colombo, 1909-1921
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