LENOX HILL — Marilyn Monroe had the smudged scrawl of a starlet. Writing from the Waldorf-Astoria, she lamented to a friend that she couldn't pursue poetry anymore — it made her too sad.
Vincent van Gogh had the controlled script of an artist. Seven months before his own death, he assured an ailing confidant "illnesses are there to make us remember again that we are not made of wood."
Thomas Jefferson had the geometric cursive of a statesman-architect. Calling himself their "great white father," he begged his "Friends and Children Chiefs of the Cherokee Nation" to end wars.
Those are just a few of the historic correspondences on view from Dec. 3 to Dec. 9 at Douglas Elliman’s Gallery at 980 Madison Ave. The show is on display from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. It's housed in the real estate agency because its original venue — downtown's Fraunces Tavern Museum — was damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
When Douglas Elliman's management was told about the curatorial predicament, the group offered gallery space, agency reps said.
The letters, which are part of a private collection of 300 "lots," will be up for bid Dec. 18 in an auction organized by Profiles in History, a California-based firm.
The 300 sets — which also include literary memorabilia — range in price from several thousand to half a million dollars. The sweeping collection captures a range of cultural touchstones.
Other items on display at the Douglas Elliman space include writings from Emily Dickinson, Ernest Hemingway, Albert Einstein, Ludvig Van Beethoven, Charles Dickens, and Joe Dimaggio.
There's a lock of Edgar Allan Poe's hair — which he gave to his fiancee — and a Mark Twain first edition.
Marsha Malinowski, senior historical consultant with Profiles in History, said that she hed yet to see so expansive a collection in her 26 years in the field.
The presence of 10 lots from George Washington and six from Thomas Jefferson make the auction one of the most imporant such sales in a half century, she said.
"I feel like a kid in a candy shop," she said. "This is a manuscript specialist's dream."
Particularly rare, she said, were the pieces from Poe and Dickinson.
"Anyone who died young and is extremely famous, there tend not to be a lot of manuscripts," she said.
Malinowski also jokingly lamented the penmanship of some of the authors.
"It's probably in the most horrifying handwriting I've ever seen — barely legible," she said of Beethoven.
And of Monroe's sloppy — oft scratched-out— and lopsided script — she said, "You can tell that she was probably under the influence of something."