Rare letters from Peter Farley collection to sell

A significant auction of rare letters from the collection of the late Peter Farley, a celebrated theatrical costume designer, takes place on January 15 at Dawsons Auctioneers in Berkshire.

The collection, steeped in historical and cultural significance, offers a glimpse into the correspondence of some of the most prominent figures of the late 19th and early 20th century.

A collection of historical letters

Peter Farley, whose remarkable career is well-documented, had a deep personal connection to this collection through his one-time partner, Robin Duff, a WWII BBC war correspondent and descendant of Sir Edward Tyas Cook, a journalist and newspaper editor. Cook meticulously retained a vast archive of letters he received over the years, including those from luminaries across various fields.

The auction will feature letters from Prime Ministers such as William Ewart Gladstone, Herbert Henry Asquith, and Arthur James Balfour, alongside missives from notable authors such as Thomas Hardy, Kenneth Grahame, Robert Louis Stevenson, Lewis Carroll, Rudyard Kipling, and H.G. Wells.

Also included are correspondences from notable late-19thcentury politicians and industrialists like Randolph Churchill and Andrew Carnegie, as well as Sir Henry Tate.

This archive encompasses works from acclaimed artists and architects including Frederic Leighton, Edwin Lutyens, Walter Crane, and Robert Macauley Stevenson, not to mention letters from various actors and significant figures like the prominent turn of the century Irish Republican activist Michael Davitt. A letter from artist and social activist William Morris, berates Cook for publishing an unauthorised representation of a Morris & Co piece of upholstery, designed by Edward Burne Jones.

A collection of historical letters in a desk

A highlight of the collection is the rare letters from Pre-Raphaelite artists such as William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, Edward Coley Burne-Jones, and William Michael Rossetti. Particularly noteworthy is Rossetti’s detailed letter to Cook, identifying the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood artists, depicted as Disciples, in Ford Madox Brown’s famous oil painting Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet, currently housed in the Tate Gallery.