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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 July, 2004, 15:47 GMT 16:47 UK
Joyce letter smashes sale record
James Joyce
In the letter Joyce describes his "ungovernable lust"
An erotic letter sent by author James Joyce to his wife has fetched a record 240,800 at auction in London.

The correspondence to Nora Barnacle made the highest price ever reached for a 20th Century autographed letter, Sotheby's said.

Smashing its 60,000 estimate, the letter in which Joyce describes Nora as a "wild-eyed whore" was bought by an anonymous bidder.

Together with other letters and Joyce memorabilia, the sale reached 721,620.

The sexually explicit letter is said to be remarkable because of Joyce's hatred of obscene jokes and swearing.

It was written in the winter of 1909 after Joyce's return to Dublin without Nora for the first time since the couple's elopement from Dublin to Trieste, Italy five years earlier.

'Ungovernable lust'

The letter testifies to Joyce's "ungovernable lust" and describes various ways in which he wishes to satisfy his desires.

Peter Selley, Sotheby's English literature specialist, said: "The sale was extraordinarily well-attended by all the major collectors.

"The high price achieved for the erotic letter from Joyce to Nora Barnacle fully reflects the importance of the couple's relationship.

"It was their relationship that was the source of so much of Joyce's creativity, and this is clearly evident throughout Joyce's work - especially in (his novel) Ulysses."

The collection, formerly owned by Joyce's brother Stanislaus, included one of the earliest presentation copies of his novel Ulysses.

It bears an inscription to Stanislaus which reads: "To Stannie Jim Paris 11 February 1922."

Joyce's own proof-sheets for the abandoned 1910 edition of his book Dubliners also went on sale.

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