Lost for words: portrait of literary giants up for grabs
IT was a soiree that gathered some of the last century's great men of letters – five literary giants, including the Irish-born poet Louis MacNeice, at a party organised by their publisher Faber and Faber.
Now this iconic photograph of MacNeice, TS Eliot, Ted Hughes, WH Auden and Stephen Spender is expected to fetch in excess of £3,000 (€3,500) when it goes under the hammer next month at the London auction house Bonham's.
The portrait was taken in 1960 by the photographer Mark Gerson and was the only time they were photographed together.
Though his parents were from Connemara, Antrim-born MacNeice's relationship with Ireland was complex.
Ted Hughes told his sister about the Faber party in a letter in the summer of 1969: "Sylvia [his wife Sylvia Plath] talked quite a lot to MacNeice and Spender, and I talked to Eliot. Auden has a strangely wrinkled face, like a Viking seaman – that sort of tan and wrinkles. . . Lively brown eyes. The impression was pleasant. . . . MacNeice was drunk and talked like a quick-fire car salesman".
At the Faber party, Ted Hughes met WH Auden for the first time. Hughes later recalled: "I scarcely spoke to him, since he was overpowered by the blue-haired hostesses that seem to run those meetings."