A collection of love letters written by singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen to his lover and muse Marianne Ihlen have sold at auction for $876,000 (£692,190).

Many items from the archive sold for more than five times their pre-sale estimates, according to Christie’s.

One letter, expected to fetch $10,000 (£7,900), went for $56,250 (£44,445).

The top lot in the five-day online auction was an Italian bronze bell that hung in the home Cohen and Ihlen once shared on the Greek island of Hydra.

Tipped to fetch up to $12,000 (£9,480), it sold for $81,250 (£64,200) – a ringing endorsement if ever there was one.

Ihlen, whom Cohen met and lived with in the 1960s, was the inspiration behind such songs as Bird on a Wire, So Long Marianne and Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye.

Cohen and Ihlen, who remained friends after their romance ended, died within months of each other in 2016.

The bulk of the correspondence, sold by Ihlen’s family, spans from 1960 to 1979.

According to Christie’s, the archive provides “fascinating glimpses of the young poet’s yearnings and artistic struggles.”

A new documentary about the couple – Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love – is released in the UK on 26 July.

Born in Canada in 1934, Cohen began as a poet and novelist before pursuing a career as a songwriter and musician.

Known for his quiet, melancholy reflections on lost and flawed love, he came to be known as “the high priest of pathos” and the “godfather of gloom”.

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