Lot 81: Rare Joyce Kilmer Autograph Letter Commends Actress' Portrayal of Lady Macbeth
Presidential Letters, Free Franks & Speeches: Washington to Bush + Important Autographs in History, Science & the Arts
26 October 2016
New York, NY, USALive Auction
Description: Commending an Actress’ Portrayal of Lady Macbeth: “…the noblest poetry in the English tongue was never more nobly spoken… your art gives new beauty to Shakespeare’s art. I can no more forget your rendering of the sleep-walking scene than I can forget Westminster Abbey, or Keats’s ‘Endymion’...” ********** KILMER, JOYCE. (1886-1918). American journalist, editor and poet best known for his 1913 poem “Trees.” ALS. (“Joyce Kilmer”). 1p. 8vo. New York, March 4, 1916. On his New York Times stationery. To Broadway and Shakespearean actress VIOLA ALLEN (1867-1948). ********** “I am sending you with this note a copy of the part of tomorrow’s paper which contains your article. I hope you like the appearance of the page. Last night I had the great pleasure of hearing and watching you in your interpretation of Lady Macbeth. You have received so much high praise from critics who speak with authority that what an obscure hack-writer like myself can say will be of no interest to you. Neverth[e]less, let me state my conviction that the noblest poetry in the English tongue was never more nobly spoken, that your art gives new beauty to Shakespeare’s art. I can no more forget your rendering of the sleep-walking scene than I can forget Westminster Abbey, or Keats’s ‘Endymion’, or any other work of genius. Yours sincerely…” ********** Kilmer began his literary career while a high school teacher in New Jersey, writing poetry and book reviews published in Town & Country, The New York Times and The Nation. He eventually became a special writer for The New York Times’ Review of Books and Sunday Magazine. In 1913, he converted to Catholicism and Poetry magazine published his poem Trees, which begins “I think that I shall never see / A poem lovely as a tree.” The work secured his popularity as a poet and lecturer, especially with Catholic audiences. He enlisted in the Army in 1917, penning several poems about his World War I experiences. He was killed during the Battle of the Marne at the age of 31. ********** Our letter references English Romantic poet John Keats (1795-1821) who is also remembered for his early death and for many great poems including “Endymion,” with its famous opening line, “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever.” ********** Allen made her stage debut at 15, achieving fame for her performances in such plays as Shenandoah and Little Lord Fauntleroy, Twelfth Night, As You Like It, and Under the Red Robe. The production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth discussed in our letter ran from February 7, 1916 through March at Broadway’s Criterion Theater and co-starred James Hackett as Macbeth and William Harcourt as Macduff. ********** Folded with normal wear and some slight creasing in the upper right corner. In very good condition. Accompanied by a full-page article about Allen and with three pictures of her in costume. Kilmer is scarce.