Rare handwritten Emily Bronte poems expected to sell for £1m at auction

Works form part of 500 items up for sale at a Sotheby's auction of literature uncovered from 'lost library'

Emily Bronte is best known for her only novel, 'Wuthering Heights'. Getty Images
Emily Bronte is best known for her only novel, 'Wuthering Heights'. Getty Images

A book of handwritten poems by Emily Bronte, first editions of Jane Austen novels and a manuscript by Scotland's Robert Burns will go under the hammer as part of an auction of a “lost library” of literature.

A number of works once housed at The Honresfield Library which have remained out of public view for almost a century will be sold as part of three Sotheby's auctions.

The book of Emily's poems, which feature hand-scrawled notes and corrections by her sister and fellow author Charlotte, is expected to fetch between £800,000 ($1.13 million) and £1.2m ($1.69m) alone.

A first edition of Emily's novel Wuthering Heights will also feature in the auction of about 500 items, as will a letter from Charlotte to her publisher George Smith, and notes between Emily and her sister Anne.

The rare pieces "open a window on to the short but amazing lives" of the siblings, Sotheby's said.

“It is the most important manuscript by Emily to come to market in a lifetime and by far the most significant such manuscript to remain in private hands,” said the auction house.

“Almost nothing of Emily’s survived – she essentially wrote Wuthering Heights and then parted the world without a trace. There aren’t even really any letters out there by her, as she had no one to correspond with.”

The Bronte sisters, who lived in 19th-century England, were all established authors in their own right, though, as was custom at the time, wrote under male pen names. Charlotte was most famous for the book Jane Eyre, and Anne wrote The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

The auctioned works formed part of The Honresfield Library, a private collection acquired by Victorian brothers Alfred and William Law, who grew up about 30 kilometres from the Bronte family home.

When the brothers died, the collection was passed down to one of their nephews and then disappeared from public view when the nephew died in the 1930s.

Highlights from the auction will be shown at exhibitions in London, Edinburgh and New York, though dates have yet to be confirmed, with the first sale set to take place this summer.

The first auction will be held online with bidding open from Friday, July 2, to Tuesday, July 13, with following auctions expected to run into next year.

Updated: May 26, 2021 11:53 PM

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