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Leonard Cohen – Outstanding 1963 Handwritten Letter to His Editor, Sent From Family Home in Montreal

An outstanding and evocative handwritten letter from Leonard Cohen to his friend and editor at Viking Books, Corleis ‘Cork’ Smith.

Cohen writes from his childhood home at 599 Belmont Avenue, Montreal, Canada, on October 6, 1963:

Dear Cork,

Montreal is so beautiful–it’s the autumn I remember–everything moving, skirts, leaves–and now there’s an easy, confident atmosphere as the French begin to assume their natural control–the roots of this city are French and they’ve been kept dry so long.

I’m doing an English version for the first feature film this country has produced.  There’s a lot of unsynchronized poetic commentary which I’ve got to recreate.  It’s not the kind of work I really want to do but I’m happy to do it–I’m learning how a film is constructed & I’m working with the best French director in the country.

Marianne [Ihlen, Cohen’s girlfriend and muse] tells me (I spoke to her) that you’re negotiating a paper-back sale.  Oh, do.

I know this city so well, and some people have said I’ve written about it better than anyone else.  I really feel like a prince who carries no money as I walk around. 

I’ll be in N.Y. in a couple of weeks & tell you every thing.

All good things,

Leonard

This letter was written while Cohen was trying to earn a living as a poet and writer, a few years before taking up music as a professional pursuit.  Wikipedia notes, Cohen continued to write poetry and fiction throughout much of the 1960s and preferred to live in quasi-reclusive circumstances after he bought a house on Hydra, a Greek island.  Cohen lived on Hydra with Marianne Ihlen, his muse and the subject of several of his best-known songs, including ‘So Long Marianne.’

Cohen returned occasionally to his hometown, Montreal, and at this point was staying in his childhood home, still owned by his mother. He was in Montreal working for a Canadian production company, Orion Films, writing and voicing the English narration for their film Take It All ( ‘À tout prendre’,)  directed by Claude Jutra.

Reading this letter, it’s almost impossible to imagine that just four years later, Cohen would release his debut album–featuring the classics “Suzanne,” “Sisters of Mercy,” and “So Long, Marianne”– jump-starting a nearly fifty-year career as a beloved singer/songwriter.

This letter was part of the collection of Cork Smith (1929-2004), a New York book editor who in a 50-year career published many important writers, including Thomas Pynchon, Jimmy Breslin and Calvin Trillin.  Signed letters and written works by Leonard Cohen are exceedingly rare; a 2019 auction of his correspondence with Marianne Ihlen saw a 1960 letter sell for $56,250. while a 1964 letter sold for $35,000.

A museum-quality Leonard Cohen collectible from an important time in his life.  With Recordmecca’s written lifetime guarantee of authenticity.

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