LONDON (Reuters) - The largest private collection of nonsense poems, doodles and comic drawings by the Beatles singer John Lennon will be sold in New York in June, auctioneer Sotheby’s said on Friday.
Ranging from gibberish descriptions of Lennon’s native city Liverpool, in northern England, to a drawing of a “National Health Cow” in an apparent jab at Britain’s national health service, the collection reveals a lesser known side of the celebrated British singer, who was shot dead in 1980.
The drawings and original manuscripts are part of the collection of publisher Tom Maschler, creator of the prestigious literary award the Booker Prize, who published them in two books, “In His Own Write” (1964), and “A Spaniard in the Works” (1965).
The collection, named “You Might Well Arsk”, has a pre-sale estimate of around 800,000 dollars over 89 lots, Sotheby’s (BID.N) said.
The sale coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ first appearance in America on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964. Watched by 73 million Americans, it shot the band to stardom.
The drawings and poems all date back to the early 1960s at the height of ‘Beatlemania’, Sotheby’s said.
One of the unpublished typescripts contains a reference to the record-breaking British band’s first single “Love Me Do”, released in 1962.
“The Beatles (a band) hab jud make a regord ... a song they whripe themselves called ‘Lub Me Jew’”, Lennon wrote in his characteristic gibberish style.
“It’s very much like Lewis Carroll. ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ and ‘Through the Looking Glass’ were two of Lennon’s favourite books from childhood and he read them on a yearly basis,” said Philip Errington, director of printed books and manuscripts at Sotheby‘s.
“It is gibberish, it is gobbledygook, and yet it’s funny, it’s humorous verse.”
Not everyone was as convinced of their literary value. In a parliamentary debate in 1964, a Conservative politician, Charles Curran, used Lennon’s nonsense verse to attack Britain’s education standards.
“He (Lennon) is in a state of pathetic near-literacy,” Curran said. “He seems to have picked up bits of Tennyson, Browning and Robert Louis Stevenson while listening with one ear to the football results on the wireless.”
Maschler tracked Lennon down at a concert after coming across the drawings and writings in 1962 and convinced him to make a book out of them.
The New York sale will take place on June 4.
Reporting by Julia Fioretti