A significant handwritten letter from Eric Clapton to Pattie Boyd, in black ink on a sheet of white notepaper, n.d., sent to Pattie at her marital home Friar Park and addressed Dearest L......., Clapton writes to ascertain her feelings ...what I whish [sic] to ask you, is if you still love your husband, or if you have another lover? there still a feeling in your heart for me, and implores her to write back to put his mind to rest must let me know whatever your feelings are, signed anonymously all my love, E.; together with the original envelope, addressed in Clapton's hand to Pattie Harrison, Friar Park, Henley on Thames, Berkshire, postmarked 5 October [1970], and marked by Clapton express and urgent
814 x 534 in. (20.9 x 14.8 cm.); envelope 312 x 6 in. (9 x 15.2 cm.)
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Lot Essay

When her marriage to George Harrison started to falter, under the strain of his extra-marital exploits and increasing preoccupation with Eastern spirituality, Pattie Boyd found herself drawn into a painful love triangle. In her 2007 autobiography, Boyd remembers meeting Eric Clapton for the first time: [Eric] had played on a couple of albums with George [Harrison], had been in the Yardbirds, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, Cream, and Blind Faith. I first met him at a party [Beatles manager] Brian Epstein gave after a Cream concert at the Saville Theatre, which Brian had just bought. Eric was held in awe by his fellow musicians for his guitar playing, and graffiti declaring that “Clapton is God” had been scrawled on the London Underground. He was incredibly exciting to watch… He looked wonderful on stage, very sexy, and played so beautifully. But when I met him afterward he didn’t behave like a rock star: he was surprisingly shy and reticent. He and George had become close friends; they played, wrote music, and recorded together. Feeling increasingly neglected by her husband, Clapton’s attentions were a welcome distraction: I was aware that he found me attractive - and I enjoyed the attention he paid me. It was hard not to be flattered when I caught him staring at me or when he chose to sit beside me or complimented me on what I was wearing or the food I had made, or when he said things he knew would make me laugh or engaged me in conversation. Those were all things that George no longer did... George and I had been together for five years, married for three, and although we still loved each other dearly, life was not idyllic.

Things began to unravel around the time the couple moved into Friar Park, a Neo-Gothic mansion in Henley on Thames, in the spring of 1970. From time to time during the spring and summer of 1970 Eric and I saw each other, reveals Boyd. One day we went to see a film called Kes together, and afterward we were walking down Oxford Street when Eric said, “Do you like me, then, or are you seeing me because I’m famous?” “Oh, I thought you were seeing me because I’m famous,” I said. And we both laughed. He always found it difficult to talk about his feelings - instead he poured them into his music and writing. By Clapton’s own account, as divulged in his 2007 autobiography, he had by this time developed an all-encompassing obsession for the wife of his close friend. However hard I tried, I just could not get her out of my mind, Clapton admits. Even though I didn’t consider that I really had any chance of ever being with her, I still thought of all other affairs with women as being merely temporary. I was totally distracted by the idea that I could never love another woman as much as I loved Pattie. In fact, in order to get closer to her, I had even taken up with her sister… Tormented by my feelings for her, I threw myself into my music. Around this time, Clapton formed the blues rock ensemble Derek and the Dominos with three former members of Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, and the quartet flew off to Miami in August 1970 to record the album that would become Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, the majority of the tracks inspired by his unrequited passion for Boyd. Inspired by the classical love poem The Story of Layla and Majnun by the 12th-century Persian poet Nizami Ganiavi, Clapton penned the album’s powerful title track about a man who falls hopelessly in love with a woman who loves him but is unavailable, disguising Boyd as the titular Layla.

On his return from Miami in early October 1970, a desperate Clapton reached out to Boyd in an attempt to ascertain her feelings. It was in the big old kitchen one morning that I opened a letter addressed to Pattie Harrison, Friar Park, Boyd remembers. It had “express” and “urgent” written at top and bottom. Inside I found a small piece of paper. In small, immaculate writing, with no capital letters, I read: “as you have probably gathered, my own home affairs are a galloping farce, which is rapidly degenerating day by intolerable day... it seems like an eternity since i last saw or spoke to you!” It began, “Dearest L....” He needed to ascertain my feelings: did I still love my husband or did I have another lover? More crucially, did I still have feeling in my heart for him? He had to know, and urged me to write - much safer - and tell him: “please do this, whatever it may say, my mind will be at rest...all my love E.” I read it quickly and assumed it was from some weirdo… When I showed it to George and others in the kitchen at the time, “Look at this really weird letter,” they laughed and dismissed it as I had. I thought no more about it until that evening the phone rang. It was Eric. “Did you get my letter?” “Letter?” I said. “I don’t think so. What letter are you talking about?” And then the penny dropped. “Was that from you?” I said. “I had no idea you felt that way.” It was the most passionate letter anyone had ever written to me and it put our relationship on a different footing. It made the flirtation all the more exciting and dangerous. But as far as I was concerned it was just flirtation.

I have kept the letter ever since in a little box filled with trinkets and things, Boyd told us, and when I was writing my autobiography, ‘Wonderful Today’, I brought it out. It’s a very beautifully written letter, but the writing is so small - it takes up not even a third of the page. It’s like he was rather shy about writing it. It’s like a whisper instead of a talk. George and I were going through a bit of a spiky time together, continues Boyd. The Beatles had this chaos and anxiety surrounding the band, and George was being dismissive. Then Eric keeps coming over to our house asking me to run away with him. Well, that was tempting, but I couldn’t do it. It just wasn’t right. Not long afterwards, Clapton would play the finished album for Boyd. He switched on the tape machine, Boyd remembers, turned up the volume, and played me the most powerful, moving song I had ever heard. It was “Layla” …My first thought was, Oh God, everyone’s going to know who this is… But the song got the better of me, with the realisation that I had inspired such passion and such creativity. I could resist no longer.

When Clapton admitted the affair to Harrison, telling him I’m in love with your wife, Boyd made the choice to go home with Harrison, refusing to leave her husband. The dejected Clapton retreated into seclusion and a burgeoning heroin addiction at his Surrey home Hurtwood Edge, and Boyd would hardly see him again for almost four years. No longer able to turn a blind eye to her husband’s many infidelities, which reportedly included Ringo’s wife Maureen, Boyd finally left Harrison for Clapton in July 1974.

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