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Napoleon Love Letter Seduces Bidders at Manuscript Auction

A love letter from Napoleon Bonaparte to his future wife Josephine sold for more than a quarter of a million pounds at an auction of original handwritten letters by historical figures -- more than five times the pre-sale estimate.

The letter from the future French leader fetched 276,000 pounds (409,000 euros, 557,000 dollars) at the Christie's auction in London. It had only been expected to fetch 50,000 pounds.

"I send you three kisses -- one on your heart, one on your mouth and one on your eyes," he wrote in the letter.

Just three letters written by Napolean to Josephine, Viscomtesse de Beauharnais, before their marriage are known to exist, the auction house said in a statement.

The collection of letters, which were written between the 13th and 20th centuries, was put together over 30 years by Albin Schram, a professor of law who died last year in Switzerland. He amassed the hundreds of original manuscripts largely without his family's knowledge.

In all, the 500 lots on offer fetched 3.8 million pounds, nearly double the amount expected.

Other highlights of the sale included a manuscript by Sir Isaac Newton in which he discusses the theory of gravity. It sold for 204,000 pounds: more than four times the pre-sale estimate of 50,000 pounds.

But Christie's agreed earlier Tuesday to withdraw a letter written by Mahatma Gandhi shortly before his death, and return it to the Indian government.

The Indian government had been planning to bid for the letter, written 19 days before Gandhi was shot dead on January 30, 1948 by a Hindu fanatic who opposed his tolerance towards Muslims.

Christie's said the executors of Albin Schram had agreed to withdraw the Gandhi manuscript from Tuesday's auction in London to ensure that it was acquired by the Indian government.

In the letter, the freedom movement leader pleaded for religious harmony in th e newly independent India.

"It is wrong to ruffle Muslim or any other person's feelings," Gandhi said in the seven-page document.

Along with the Napoleon and Newton manuscripts, other notables whose letters were on offer included J.R.R. Tolkien, Oliver Cromwell, Winston Churchill, Charlotte Bronte, Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens and Claude Monet.


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