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Leonard Cohen's love letters sell at auction for 5 times more than expected

A collection of more than 50 love letters written by Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen to the woman who inspired So Long, Marianne has sold at auction for $876,000 US.

Letters were to the woman who inspired song So Long, Marianne

Marianne Ihlen, her son and Leonard Cohen (James Burke/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

A collection of more than 50 love letters written by Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen to the woman who inspired So Long, Marianne has sold for nearly $1.2 million, with many going for more than five times their pre-sale estimates, Christie's auction house said on Thursday.

The archive of letters from Cohen to Marianne Ihlen chronicles their 1960s love affair and the blossoming of Cohen's career from struggling poet to famous musician.

The top letter, in which Cohen wrote in December 1960 about being "alone with the vast dictionaries of language," fetched almost $75,000 compared to an original high estimate of $13,000.

A 1964 letter, in which Cohen wrote "I am famous but empty," went for more than $46,000, Christie's said.

One of the love letters from Cohen to Ihlen which sold as part of a lot at Christie's Thursday for more than $1 million. (Christies.com)

Cohen and the Norwegian-born Ihlen met on the Greek island of Hydra in 1960 and she became the inspiration for several of his best-known songs, including Bird on a WireHey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye, and the 1967 track So Long, Marianne.

Ihlen died of leukemia in Oslo in July 2016 at age 81. Cohen, who was also suffering from leukemia, died in November 2016 at the age of 82.

The letters were sold by Ihlen's family. The buyers were not revealed.

The top lot in the five-day online auction was an Italian bronze bell dating from the 15th or 16th century that hung in the Hydra home that Cohen and Ihlen once shared. It sold for more than $107,000 compared to a pre-sale estimate of up to $16,000.

The bell is believed to have inspired the lines, "There is a crack, a crack in everything" in Cohen's 1992 release Anthem.

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