Letters of Donne, Napoleon, Gandhi up for auction in London

A love letter by Napoleon, words of comfort from John Donne, a plea for tolerance from Mahatma Gandhi are among the handwritten treasures from a private collection up for auction in London next month.

The extensive collection, estimated to sell for 2 million pounds (EUR3 million; US$4 million) at the July 3 sale, was quietly amassed over three decades by the late Albin Schram, who kept them in a filing cabinet in his home in Lausanne, Switzerland, according to Christie's.

The star of the collection is a letter by Donne, the celebrated priest and poet, which Christie's said is "the finest manuscript by his hand in existence" and is estimated to sell for 120,000 pounds (Ђ180,000; US$240,000).

Donne wrote to Lady Kingsmill in 1624, offering consolation for the death of her husband.

"Let us not, who know in God's house there are many mansions, but yet have no model, no design of the form of that building, wonder at his taking in of his materials, why he takes the young, and leaves the old, or why the sickly overlive those, that had better health," Donne wrote.

The letter by Napoleon is one of three letters to Josephine before they married, and is estimated to sell for up to 50,000 pounds (EUR75,000; US$100,000), Christie's said.

The letter was written after an argument about her family's wealth, in which she accused Napoleon of not loving her for herself. In the letter he declares his love: "I send you three kisses one on your heart, one on your mouth and one on your eyes." ("Je te donne trios baisй un sur ton coeur, un sur ta bouche un sur tes yeux.")

A letter from Gandhi, estimated to sell for up to 12,000 pounds (Ђ18,000; US$24,000), was written 19 days before his assassination and pleads for tolerance of Muslims.

A letter written in 1831 by Alexandr Pushkin, said to be only the second by his hand to appear at auction for more than 30 years, is estimated to sell for up to 80,000 pounds (EUR120,000; US$160,000).

Pushkin wrote to Baron E. Rosen, editor of the almanac Altsiona, saying that he could not offer any short works for publication because he was busy preparing the third edition of his poems.

Schram, who died in 2005, was born in Prague in 1926 to Austrian parents, Christie's said.

He was drafted into the German army in World War II and taken prisoner late in the conflict and confined at Kaliningrad in Russia. He escaped in mid-1945 and made his way back to Austria.

According to Christie's, Schram began collecting in 1973.