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Sale 24

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Lot 444

Porter, Cole (1891-1964) American composer and lyricist. Typed Letter Signed ("Cole"), on "Doctors Hospital" stationery, New York City, December 2, 1937, 4½ pages, quarto. In late 1937, Porter was in a very serious horseback riding accident that would necessitate thirty surgeries in the years to come. Not long after the accident, he writes from the hospital to Monty Woolley, whom Porter had met at Yale and who became his sometimes lover, fellow carouser, and life-long friend; Woolley achieved stardom as the insufferable Sheridan Whiteside in the 1939 Broadway production The Man Who Came to Dinner. Porter begins by saying, "Stop writing pages about your damned lip and then saying it must be a bore to sit around patiently while my bones knit." He goes into great gory detail about his injuries. In part: "If I had merely broken my legs, I'd have no complaints to make. But, although the left leg got a compound fracture…the right leg was mashed to such a pulp from below the knee to just above the ankle that a great many of the nerves were injured, one of them very seriously….From the second day it was obvious that the toes of my right leg were without sensation. And after a few more days, the most excruciating pains, as if from burns, began….these were blebs forming….a bleb is a hemispheric ulcer about an inch in diameter….the doctors decided that the blebs could be treated with Amertan…the stuff they used for the burnt passengers of the Hindenburg…." Porter describes the struggle of the doctors to find the right drug for him: "Morphine simply made me want to give parties and did nothing toward diminishing the pain. Hyoscine drove me crazy, Nembutal…induced nothing but drowsiness. Then they hit on Dilaudid…it's a mixture of morphine with a lot of other nice drugs….I have had a shot of it every four hours for the last month and it has saved my life…." The doctors asked Porter to write down how the pain felt. Porter encloses 2½ pages of his sensations to Woolley; they are headed "A Few Illusions Caused By An Injured Anterior Popliteal Nerve"; his descriptions reflect how well the drugs are or are not working. They include: "I'm a toe dancer, but a toe dancer who dances only on the toes of his right foot.…"; "…the right foot is doing its best to fit into a shoe that is much too short for it…some one inserts…a jagged glass shoe-horn."; and "A procession of little men with picks…choose a spot on the inner side of the instep of my right foot, near the ankle, and start digging a hole…." There is much more incredible personal content in this letter.

Many thought Porter's career would be ended by this devastating injury, but he went on to create The Taming of the Shrew, Anything Goes , and other shows. From a biographical point of view, this could well be the most important Cole Porter letter ever on the market.
Estimated Value $2,500 - 3,000.

Realized $1,955

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