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RILKE, Rainer Maria.

Autograph letter signed to Paul Thun-Hohenstein, one of the last to be written by the poet.

Hôtel Bellevue Sierre (Valais), Switzerland: 4 November 1926 Stock Code: 132323
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"How it breaks my heart not to be able to say to you: come!"

An emotionally-charged autograph letter signed from Rilke to his fellow Prague poet, the Austrian essayist and translator Count Paul Thun-Hohenstein (1884-1963), in which he laments his inability to host his friend at Muzot due to a sudden sickness and divulges his desire to travel to the Mediterranean - content made poignant in light of the seriousness of his illness, which would lead to his death the following month. The present letter is one of the last to be written by the poet, who was hospitalised on 30 November at the Valmont Clinic in Glion near Montreux, and died of leukaemia on 29 December. Despite their corresponding stretching for over a decade, letters between Rilke and Thun number very few. In his concordance of their correspondence Klaus Jonas traces eleven known letters from Rilke to the Count (p. 274), of which the present is the penultimate, postdated only by Rilke's letter of 20 November 1926 - and of Thun's responses only five are accounted for.

Though Rilke and Thun (1884-1963) first met in 1914, it was not until 1916 that they became closer friends, often running into one another while taking walks around Prague. It was Thun who introduced Rilke to Yvonne de Watteville, a young lady from one of the most distinguished patrician families in Bern who helped Rilke secure a Swiss residence permit - and thus enabled him to permanently move to his beloved Château de Muzot. It was at Muzot that Rilke spent his most creative periods, finishing the Duino Elegies and writing his Sonnets to Orpheus there - both considered the high points of his work. "In the fall of 1926, Thun was recuperating from a lung infection, spending several weeks on the Côte d'Azur in a little known idyllic place at the foot of the Maritime Alps at Cavalière. Returning from Provence to Vienna, he wrote to Rilke in order to announce his impending visit with him at Muzot but not knowing whether or not Rilke would actually be at home, Thun wrote on an open postcard, in French, in order to enable Rilke's housekeeper whom he suspected to be French-speaking to answer him, poste restante, at Avignon. Upon his arrival there, Thun did indeed receive a reply, not from the housekeeper but from Rilke himself" (Jonas, p. 285) - this is that letter. Writing in French, Rilke exclaims, "How it breaks my heart not to be able to say to you: come! but having fallen sick and not finding in my old tower (a little heroic) the necessary comforts for a sick person, I have, for the moment, closed Muzot. I am living in a wretched room in the Hotel Bellevue in Sierre, awaiting the proper time to be transferred either to the sanatorium at Val-Mont, or to any Swiss city where I would be better cared for. I regret this mischance very much; They recommend sea air for me, and I have in mind precisely a small place on the French Riviera. You would render me a great service by telling about 'Cavaliere.' That name attracts me. Would you advise me to go there?"

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Small quarto (211 x 162 mm), single sheet of pale blue writing paper, hand written in ink across both sides.


In French.


Neatly annotated in pencil in top left corner of first page, "R. M. Rilke, une de ses toutes dernières lettres!", with the date "+29. XII. 1926" pencilled below the inked date. In fine condition.


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