Vivien Leigh's poetic musings—a remarkable handwritten anthology
Unique handwritten book of poetry kept by Leigh during the late 1920s and early 1930s, 4.75 x 7.25, containing 170 pages in her hand, mostly comprising transcriptions of works by famous writers, as well as several original compositions. The front of the notebook has a very faint label with her given name written in pencil, “Vivian Hartley,” and the marbled first free end page has been marked by Leigh in block letters, “Vivian Hartley,” and “Private Notebook.” This is followed by a table of contents, listing the poems transcribed within, by poets including Banjo Paterson, W. B. Yeats, Thomas Moore, John Masefield, Rupert Brooke, and others. Several of her original poems are marked in the contents with her initials, “VH,” or “Viv.”
One of Leigh’s original pieces of poetry, “Enchanted Mountain,” describing a romantic encounter, was written from “bed, 11th June 1931.” In part: “The fields lay sleeping whitely— / Now and then a little rustle thro’ the corn / Only our footsteps shattered the stillness / And then we saw the magic of the dawn— / And we loved—Then / We thanked God for / the enchantment of the mountains.” In the back of the notebook, Leigh kept a log of letter she received, as well as the many books she read. In very good to fine condition, with several pages cut out, partial separation along its weak binding, and general wear; interior pages are clean and sound. Consignor notes that this was purchased from Vivien Leigh's estate sale.
As a young girl, Vivian Mary Hartley was instilled with a love for literature—her mother Gertrude introduced her to the works of of Hans Christian Andersen, Lewis Carroll, and Rudyard Kipling, as well as myths and folklore. Her affinity for the written word clearly continued during her teenage years, during which she created this private poetry notebook. She had always hoped to become a great actress, and after marrying barrister Leigh Holman in 1932 she crafted a more glamorous stage name—adopting his first name as her last, and swapping the "a" in her first name for the less common "e." This compelling handwritten volume of poetry is revealing of the young Vivien Leigh's refined literary taste, as well as her own creative talents. A truly remarkable, one-of-a-kind piece.