June 20, 2019
Leonard Cohen letters to his sweetheart sold for over $800,000
by Christina Cerio
Some may say love letters are priceless, others say love letters are worth $876,000. The latter was the case for singer-song writer Leonard Cohen’s letters to his sweetheart Marianne Ihlen at a recent online Christie’s auction. Christie’s set pre-sales estimates for the auctioned items and Cohen’s letters far exceeded expectations. BBC reports one letter that was estimated to sell at $10,000 was sold for $56,250.
Cohen and Ihlen were romantically involved in the 1960’s and Ihlen is said to be the inspiration behind songs including “Bird on a Wire,” “So Long Marianne” and “Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye,” among others.
You can see images of all 64 items that were sold, which include letters written by both Cohen and Ihlen, photos, and items from their time living together in Hydra, on Christie’s website—but here are some highlights:
This letter, which sold for $20,000, was written by Cohen in September 1960 from a beach in Tel Aviv. According to Christie’s, Cohen met Ihlen earlier that year and wrote this letter when they were first apart from each other. Ihlen was married at the time, but that did not stop Cohen from expressing his strong emotions. He closes the letter with, “It’s hard to write you. The surf is too loud. The beach is too crowded, and you’re too much in my heart to put anything down.”
Another letter, which also sold for $20,000, was written by Cohen in Montreal. In this letter, Cohen beautifully expresses the complications and frustration of a long-distance relationship. He writes, “Forgive my long silence. I have not even spoken to myself … I do not doubt you. My last letter did not mean that I doubted you. I suppose I felt your loneliness and sensed something of your confusion—or was it my own?” The letter ends, “Ahead of me for the next few months—work and solitude … Please understand that I can promise nothing. I’ve said this to you before. It is not for you, but for my own conscience that I repeat it. Write me and tell me your heart.”
Christina Cerio is the Manager of Direct Sales & Special Projects at Melville House.