DescriptionBonnie Parker & Clyde Barrow: Poetry Ostensibly Written by the Folk Hero Outlaws. This fascinating archive of ephemera has been consigned by Clyde Barrow's nephew. It belonged to his mother, Nell May Barrow (b. 1905, d. 1968), the older sister of Clyde Barrow. The "anchor piece" of this lot is a 4" x 6.75" green leatherette "Year Book" (an appointment book or daytime calendar) for the year 1933. There are some entries in the book written by the original owner, a golf pro or avid player. The book was apparently discarded before reaching the hands of Bonnie & Clyde who repurposed it as a journal in which to write poetry. The common theme is their life of crime and doomed efforts to elude capture. The book had a sixteen-stanza poem written on leaves dated March 17th to March 25th 1933 (one side only). A typed transcript of the poem with a slightly revised ordering of the stanzas is part of the lot. The typist titled it "The Story of Bonnie and Clyde" By Bonnie Parker. The original poem (written in pencil as are all other poems in the book) was excised from the album and housed in an old envelope labeled "Bonnie & Clyde. Written by Bonnie." Seven stanzas of the poem are written again in the day book on the leaves for July 3rd, 5th and 7th. A rather plaintive poem appears later on (September 1st, 3rd, 5th and 9th), apparently related to Blanche Caldwell Barrow's incarceration and the death of her husband, Buck Barrow. Then, a 13-stanza poem appears on four pages (September 20th through the 23rd), signed "Clyde Barrow".
After the ambush killing of Bonnie & Clyde in 1934, Bonnie's mother Emma and Clyde's sister Nell wrote a history titled "Fugitives: The Story of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker". The material was compiled, edited and arranged by Jan I. Fortune. The second copy of the "Story of Bonnie & Clyde" poem is illustrated on page 189, although the date was altered to coincide with a shootout at the Red Crown Tavern & Tourist Cabins in Missouri that took place shortly thereafter. The caption reads: "A Page From a Memorandum Book Used by Bonnie. The Handwriting Is Clyde's." This poem and the subsequent one signed by Clyde are redolent of the jargon of "gangster-ese" which Depression-era Americans were inculcated with through the media of films, radio and pulp fiction. Clyde had a minimal education. Both poems are riddled with spelling errors that are characteristic of Clyde. Some excerpts from the later entry: "Bonnie s Just Written a poem/ the Story of Bonnie & Clyde. So/ I will try my hand at Poetry/ With her riding by my side. We donte want to hurt anney one/ but we have to Steal to eat./ and if it's a shoot out to/ to live that's the way it/ will have to bee./ We have kidnapped some/ people. And tied them to a tree/ but not so tight that after we/ were gone tha could not get/ themselves free./ We are going home tomorrow/ to look in on the folks. We will/ meet then out near Grape Vine/ if the Laws donte get there/ first./ Now that's not as good as/ Bonnies. So I guess I/ Will call it a flop-/ But please God Just one/ moore visit before we are/ Put on the spot."
The Bonnie poem is reprinted in "Fugitives" and cited on page 241. "Bonnie gave me the poem that night, 'The Story of Bonnie and Clyde.' I shall present it here because it gives a little of the inside angle of the case... They would be back in two weeks, they promised, but in two weeks they were dead." The poem is also referenced in a 1968 letter from compiler Jan Fortune to Nell Barrow Francis where Fortune says "I'm sure the poems were Bonnie's." The Bonnie poem is very much representative of the gangster jargon so prevalent at the time. The first three stanzas read: "You've read the story of 'Jesse James',/ Of how he lived and died./ If you're still in need/ Of something to read,/ Here's the story of 'Bonnie and Clyde.'/ Now 'Bonnie and Clyde' are the 'Barrow Gang',/ I'm sure you all have read/ How they 'rob' and 'steal',/ And how those who 'squeal'/ Are usually found dying or dead./ There's lots of untruths to these 'write-ups',/ They're not so merciless as that,/ Their nature is raw/ They hate all the laws,/ The 'stool pigeons spotters and rats'."
The poem is well-worn and soiled and was obviously a valued keepsake. In contrast to the Clyde poem, it has no spelling or grammatical errors (save for "nite" instead of "night", which is a popular, albeit, incorrect spelling). The handwriting is also noticeably different than the Clyde poem. In determining whether these poems were indeed hand-written by Bonnie & Clyde, we can investigate various channels. Unfortunately, there are few exemplars of authentic Bonnie & Clyde handwriting. The ones we have been able to locate tend to be fragmentary. They are similarities, but not conclusive enough for us to definitively authenticate the handwriting. Accordingly, we are attributing the handwriting to them. Are there other experts who can weigh in on the question? We think so. These experts are Bonnie's mother and Clyde's sister, both of whom received countless messages and letters from the pair (We call upon "the quick and the dead"). They identify the Clyde poem as being in his handwriting. They reference the Bonnie poem as something she gave to them in her final visit. It was torn from the book and placed for safekeeping in an envelope inscribed "Written by Bonnie". The book's compiler, Jan Fortune, also makes this assertion. Bonnie is known for having written poetry. The vernacular of both poems is consistent with the source and time-frame. The spelling errors, or lack of them, is also consistent with the attribution. Plus, due weight should be placed on the provenance which is impeccable.
The lot includes some ancillary material, including: Nell's copy of "Fugitives" published in 1934, the 1968 letter from Jan Fortune to Nell Barrow discussing Warren Beatty and the "Bonnie & Clyde" movie along with its inaccuracies, the original 1934 publisher's contract for the book "Fugitives", a 1937 lawyer's letter to Clyde's brother, L.C., in regard to a pardon for a robbery supposedly committed by him at Dougherty's Drug Store in Dallas, a typed transcript of a poem written by Pauline Fortune titled "When Bonnie and Clyde Came Home" and a 1934 mimeographed poem by Carey Harvey of Dallas titled "Bonnie and Clyde" ("For you know not the day or hour/ When a gumshoe will sneak around./ And frame your true loving children,/ For the thrill of shooting them down./ Should they fight like Clyde and Bonnie/ The spotters will ambush and hide./ To murder your brave fighting children,/ Just as they did Bonnie and Clyde." A Letter of Provenance from the consignor, Nell Barrow's only son, will accompany the lot.
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