Get Your Word's Worth from the Literary Masters

Article excerpt

WHEN Thomas Hardy, the British novelist and poet, received a hostile reception to his novel, Jude The Obscure, he vented his fury to close associates and vowed to devote the rest of his life to poetry.

The book, which centres on a Wessex villager who is tricked into marriage, was branded "dirt" and "drivel" by reviewers when it was published in 1895.

Stung by the criticism, Hardy poured his heart out to friends and fellow authors in a series of letters that chart the change of path which led to the publication of his first volume of poems three years later.

This correspondence has been preserved and will be going under the hammer, with an estimated price of pound sterling1.5m, as part of a literature sale next month organised by Sotheby's.

The books and manuscripts from the library of Frederick B Adams, which has been branded "the greatest collection of Thomas Hardy works in private hands", also feature work from American authors and more than 100 items relating to Franklin D Roosevelt.

Peter Selley, Sotheby's English literature specialist, says it is "perhaps the last great collection of modern literature begun before the second world war which is ever likely to be offered for sale" to the public.

"Many valuable collections and libraries have been built over the years by collectors with an eye for condition and the celebrated rarities, but few have ever been put together with such a degree of understanding for the authors' works," he says. "The result is an outstanding number of deeply evocative and resonant associations which are present in so many of the items in the sale, lovingly assembled over 60 years."

The items feature more than 260 letters signed by Hardy - which are expected to fetch hundreds of pounds - as well as cloth-bound first editions of his major novels.

These include his first one, Desperate Remedies, which should raise up to pound sterling8,000, along with The Trumpet Major and A Pair Of Blue Eyes which Sotheby's believes will each sell for about pound sterling4,500.

Hardy's typescript of his dramatisation of Tess Of The D'Urbervilles is also up for auction, with estimates of pound sterling4,000 to pound sterling6,000, as well as signed manuscripts of some of his best-known poems such as The Darkling Thrush, A Tramp Woman's Tragedy, Souls Of The Slain, The Two Rosalinds and God's Funeral. …