It is amazing how a chance find of a couple of letters in amongst a box of ephemera can unearth so much interesting literary and social history from many years ago.
I recently found two letters by the Hungarian born but British nationalised writer and journalist Arthur Koestler and started to delve into his colourful and varied life. Born in Budapest in 1905, educated in Austria, a member of the communist party in the 1930s before becoming disillusioned with Stalinism, he was I believe imprisoned and sentenced to death by Nationalist rebels in Spain in the late 1930s. Another period of internment followed during WWII before he came to Britain to carry out propaganda work for the Ministry of Information.
I believe he then lived and worked in Britain for the rest of his life and the two letters I have (for sale) are from two of his English addresses in the 1950s.The first in from his London address and is just confirming a deal with his German publishers Desch, although the date on the letter is earlier than the date given on the internet for when he bought this house!
The second and more interesting letter is sent in 1957 from Long Barn, Weald in Kent (a house with strong literary connections having been the home of Vita Sackville West, Anna Morrow Lindbergh the wife of Charles Lindbergh and the house was also associated with the literary Bloomsbury group) and concerns a seeming lack of co-operation he is receiving from (Albert) Camus regarding his contribution to the capital punishment book! Koestler did published “Reflections on Hanging” around this time and with hindsight it seems he did actually collaborate with Camus on this undertaking. In fact I think Camus received a nobel prize for literature for his essay on capital punishment “Reflexions sur la Guillotine”. Maybe this letter was the catalyst in getting Camus to actually fulfil his obligation?
Fascinating stuff anyway there are also a couple of other names in the letter which I havent yet researched. In the ephemera boxes I also found autographed letters by Sir Ralph Richardson and Dame Edith Evans amongst others. I love these mixed boxes!
Koestler letters can be seen on my ebay store here.