John Lennon's Handwritten Poems at London Book Sale

Handwritten poems and typewritten prose by John Lennon, published in his second collection of writings, A Spaniard in the Works, will be offered at Bonhams Fine Books and Manuscripts sale in London on Wednesday 26 June. They come from the collection of the publisher Tom Maschler, creator of the annual literary award, the Booker Prize for Fiction, who published Lennon's writing when he was head of Jonathan Cape. Recently rediscovered by Maschler, they represent the remainder of his John Lennon manuscript collection.

A Spaniard in the Works appeared in 1965, and followed the success of Lennon's first book, In His Own Write, the previous year. The two works are similar in style with an emphasis on nonsense rhymes and short stories, puns, parodies and word play, often disguising serious commentary on personal and social issues. Lennon worked in a largely spontaneous way and seldom revised his first thoughts, although he occasionally added material.

The book is said to have played a part in drawing the attention of Yoko Ono to Lennon when she came across a copy of it in a London bookshop. She later said the book conveyed Lennon's restlessly romantic spirit and taste for the grotesque.

Highlights include:

• The Wumberlog (or the Magic Dog), the complete manuscript in Lennon's own hand of his longest and most ambitious poem. An homage to Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll, both of whom Lennon admired, the work is a surreal tale of a lonely boy searching for his only friend, his Uncle Joe. He is led by a talking dog to a magic island inhabited by the Wumberlog, a talking apple and carrot. and a group of sinister gravediggers who eventually bury the boy and his uncle alive. Estimate: £15,000-25,000.

The manuscript of a poem titled, The Faulty Bagnose. The work in Lennon's hand parodies the incantation of prayer, and the seeming nonsense work – what Lennon himself called 'a sort of Joycean gobbledegook' – expresses throughout an antipathy to organised religion, a constant theme in the author's oeuvre. Estimate: £8,000-12,000.

• A handwritten poem, Bernice's Sheep, which opens with, "This night I lable down to sleep." The work is a charming lullaby, addressed to a sheep by a girl. Estimate: £8,000-12,000.

Among the prose works are:

• The typescript of I Believe Boot, the short story that formed the outrageous finale to A Spaniard in the Works. In this anti-religion parody – "Griff walks in such mysterious ways his woodwork to perform" – Lennon points the finger at superficial and hypocritical media-friendly TV vicars. Estimate: £2,000-3,000.

• The typescript of Snore wife and some Several Dwarts, a parody of the Disney version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Estimate: £1,500-2,500.

• The typescript, with Lennon's manuscript corrections, of Silly Norman – the tale of Norman, who panics when he believes the world has come to an end and he is alone in the world with no running water to make tea. Eventually, he is reassured by his mother and "they each laff together as they head four the kitchen". Estimate: £2,000-4,000.

Bonhams Books and Manuscripts specialist Sarah Lindberg said, "For his first book, In His Own Write, Lennon drew on existing material, and he found it hard to embrace the discipline of writing to the publisher's timetable for his second work. Regardless, A Spaniard in the Works fizzes with his trademark spontaneous wit and inventiveness, as the pieces in our sale demonstrate, and is arguably the more mature of the two books."

Please note: All rights of reproduction reserved to the Estate of the late John Lennon.


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