Three notebooks, each variously inscribed in Epstein's hand in ink and pencil between 1950 and 1960, his handwritten notes giving a rare detailed autobiographical account of Epstein's childhood, his teenage years and early twenties:
- The earliest of the three notebooks begins with an entry dated October 18th, 1950 Thoughts on Things, the following six pages written in the same month give a poignant insight into sixteen-year-old Epstein's unhappy school life at Wrekin College in Shropshire, entries include:
.. To be a success at school one must above all be either distinctly original or good at games (all of them). Intellects of a quiet nature are at school invariably a failure...
- .."Playing Soldiers"...in what is presumed to be an intellectual establishment is...futile and childish...and a waste of anybody's time...
- ..Depression is the route of all great and important thought...
- ..The majority of school boys are lyers (sic)...Public schools as such encourage lying however they fail to realise it.. Epstein's schoolboy thoughts also reflect his interest in modern art, architecture and jazz; the second half of this notebook is filled with Epstein's pencil and ink designs for furniture, dresses, evening and day outfits and a wedding dress, on several pages Epstein also practises his flamboyant signature in blue ink, 59pp. ;
In the second notebook, written in ink in 1957 at the age of twenty-three, Epstein gives a brutally honest account of his life to date, tracing the development of his homosexuality culminating in his arrest for soliciting in 1957, in the first half entitled Background and History Epstein outlines the misery of his unsettled school life, moving between nine different schools, the combination of frequent poor reports and entrance exam failures generating his low self-esteem ...The matter of always attaining low marks, being bottom of the class and receiving poor reports and other factors contributed in my thinking of myself even then as a failure, dullard and inferior person...; He was briefly happy in his penultimate school [Claysmore School in Somerset] ...The first half of that third term was I think perhaps the only entirely happy and contented period in my life..., he discusses arguments he had with his parents regarding his artistic leanings and his desire to go to acting school rather than the family business, the personal agony he experienced whilst serving in the army during his National Service in 1952: ...I venomously hated nearly everything about the army and suffered at the merciless hands of the R.S.M., the development of his awareness of his own latent homosexuality and the misery and mental anguish the suppression of his feelings brought him, writing that in 1954 whilst working in the family business ...My life became a succession of mental illnesses and sordid unhappy events bringing great sorrow to my family...; in the final eleven pages of the notebook Epstein gives a harrowing account of how he was set-up by the police and arrested for Persistently Importuning [n.d. but April 24th 1957 - See the catalogue notes on Epstein's pocket diary from 1957 in lot 315] after the horror of this experience Epstein wrote philosophically ...I do not think I am an abnormally weak-willed person - the effort and determination with which I have rebuilt my life these last few months have, I assure you, been no mean effort. I believed that my own will-power was the best thing with which to overcome my homosexuality. And I believe my life may have become contented and I may even have attained a public success... His bitterness at the injustice of his treatment is expressed in his closing comments ...I am not sorry for myself. My worst times and punishments are over. Now, through the wreckage of my life by society, my being will stain and bring the deepest distress to all my devoted family and few friends. the damage, the lying criminal methods of the police in importuning me and consequently capturing me leaves me cold, stunned and finished...; This autobiographical account, clearly written before Epstein had received a verdict, ends with instructions he would like to be followed should he be remanded or given a prison sentence, the feelings of sympathy this frank account provokes are enhanced by the dignity of his closing comment ..I must apologise for my writing which I realise is difficult to read. I was unable to procure a typewriter and my hand is nervous. 19pp.
- an autograph letter, signed, from an inmate of Wandsworth Prison, December 23rd, 1963, attempting to coerce Epstein into attending the prisoner's appeal hearing, 2pp.
- The third notebook comprises four handwritten accounts of Epstein's visits to various cities and restaurants in 1960; in the first entry apparently written after consumming five whiskies, Epstein expresses a desire to rid himself ...of hum drum, dreary god-forsaken surburbia.. for the joys of Rome and his aspirations to join ...that very attractive utterly ridiculous little group that call themselves...the International set...; in his final entry, Epstein confesses to being robbed in Barcelona adding rather poignantly ...But, I ask, is this my fault? Yes I think because I behaved foolishly and irresponsibly. 5pp. (3)