Mealy’s Rare Book Sale brings out the buyers!

Joyce and Sean O’Casey amongst the star items!

Mealy’s Rare Book Sale which was held on December 14th, 2010 at the Berkeley Court (D4) Hotel in Ballsbridge achieved some strong results with the highest price (€15,000) being paid for Lot.671. a signed, limited edition volume by James Joyce, with the next highest (€10,500) going for Lot.585. a bound volume of hand-coloured Caricatures by early 19th century artists including the notoriously anti-Irish George Cruickshank, and (€10,000) for Lot.537 a collection of letters written by Sean O’Casey. Hopefully the latter were acquired by the National Library who, according to the Irish Times, were amongst the buyers at the sale.

Some detail from the catalogue description here – worth the read – for me anyway.

Important Collection of Sean O’Casey Letters
O’Casey (Sean)
A very good series of eight wartime Letters (two TLS, six ALS) to Mrs. Louise Heppell of Newcastle-on-Tyne, November 1942 to December 1944, mostly on O’Casey’s headed paper, with associated envelopes, and with programmes for two performances of O’Casey’s ‘Juno and the Paycock.’
An interesting correspondence, which apparently began when Mrs. Heppell enquired about terms for an amateur production of O’Casey’s one act comedy The End of the Beginning. The first letter (November 17th 1942) includes an account of O’Casey’s early life and writing, perhaps intended for a programme note. ‘I was born in Dublin more than sixty years ago. I had a hard time of it in association with thousands of others, wanting food, often, and seldom getting it. There was no manna to be gathered anywhere then. I go no education; I learned myself all I know, which is damned little, and am still working to try to make up the deficiency. When I got to fourteen years of age, I started work in a big general Dublin store for 3/6 week… I became an out-of-door labourer helping at building, drainage and so on, all the time buying a book now and again out of what I could spare. Finally, an Irish Club of which I was a member, started a Dramatic Class, and I wrote a play for them. They wouldn’t touch it, so I sent it to the Abbey Theatre. They touched it, but didn’t think it good enough for production. So I went on till I got one good enough (or so they said) to put on their stage, and ended by causing a row as big as the one that foamed around Synge’s PLAYBOY OF THE WESTERN WORLD. Most of my plays have caused some trouble since..’
O’Casey mentions his current work in other letters, ‘I am writing, trying to, another volume of ‘biography’ & am jotting down notes for a possible play. I have written some things for Soviet magazines – I have been in close touch with Soviet theatre and literary activities for ten or twelve years; & I write an occasional article for the Daily Worker.. I hope this year may see the end of Hitler, so that we may begin to build another country in earnest.’ (1 Jan. 1944).
There are comments on his family life, with his three children aged between 4 and 15. ‘I and the missus have to do everything ourselves now; and it means a continuous go from early morn till late at night, so that I can’t think of my own work till 10 o’c. when they are all abed. i usually stay up till 2 a.m.’ (1 Jan. 1944). He refers to his poor health – ‘My eyes, of course, will never be better than they are; but on the whole they have served me well, seeing more, often, than others that are vigorous and keen’ – and to the wartime bombing, ‘Plymouth got a very bad raking indeed – perhaps the worst in the country. Our little town got a shake up recently, the shops and buildings show signs of being badly gashed.’ (8 Dec. 1942).
The envelopes have all been reused by O’Casey using addressed labels – a typical wartime economy. Mrs. Heppell’s replies are not present.
This is a substantial and interesting correspondence, which gives a good impression of O’Casey’s frame of mind through the darkest days of the war. If he wished, O’Casey could have returned to Dublin, but he chose to remain in the small Devon town where he had found a haven, and to share the hardships of its people. (1)

Full realisation list here:

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