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Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

W. H. Auden poem manuscript Stop all the Clocks to be auctioned at Bonhams

The manuscript of W. H. Auden’s famous poem Stop all the Clocks is to be sold in Part I of the Roy Davids Collection Part III: Poetry: Poetical Manuscripts and Portraits of Poets at Bonhams, New Bond Street on 10 April. It is estimated at £6,000-8,000.

The work became known around the world when it featured in the 1994 hit British film, Four Weddings and a Funeral as a tribute read by Matthew (played by John Hannah) at the funeral of his lover, Gareth (Simon Callow).

Stop all the Clocks first appeared as a burlesque dirge in the poetic drama The Ascent of F6 which Auden wrote in 1936 with his close friend Christopher Isherwood. At that point the work consisted of five verses but it was later recast by the poet as a cabaret song. The last three verses were dropped and two new ones added making the final poem four verses long. It was published in 1940 in Another Time under the title Funeral Blues. The manuscript for sale, which has the interim title of Blues, almost certainly dates from 1937 and is in every important respect identical to the final published version.

It was sent to a Miss Boyd, possibly as a contribution to an anthology of poetry for use in schools. In the accompanying letter Auden speaks of experimenting with songs and of the difficulties of writing poems suitable for children.

The sale at Bonhams is the fruit of 40 years of collecting by the poet and scholar Roy Davids and is the finest collection of poetry ever to come to auction. In Mr David’s own words, “it would now be impossible for the present collection to be even approximately replicated.’