6 of Harper Lee's Personal Letters 'Trickle Out'

But they fail to sell at auction
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 12, 2015 2:46 PM CDT
6 of Harper Lee's Personal Letters 'Trickle Out'
In this 2007 file photo, Harper Lee smiles during a ceremony honoring the four new members of the Alabama Academy of Honor at the state Capitol in Montgomery, Ala.   (AP Photo/Rob Carr, File)

The reclusive Harper Lee reportedly wrote to friends a lot in her younger days, but few letters have "trickled out" because of her desire for privacy, as the New York Times puts it. That changed today when six she wrote to friend Harold Caufield between 1956 and 1961—before and after the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird—went up for auction at Christie's. It turned out that the letters, now in the possession of a book collector, failed to sell, reports AP. (The expected price was $250,000; the bidding didn't hit the reserve price.) But we still get to read snippets, from AP, the Times, and the Los Angeles Times:

  • 'Mockingbird success: "We were surprised, stunned & dazed by the Princeton review. The procurator of Judea is breathing heavily down my neck—all that lovely, lovely money is going straight to the Bureau of Internal Revenue tomorrow."
  • On her dad, the model for Atticus Finch: "Daddy is sitting beside me at the kitchen table. ... I found myself staring at his handsome old face, and a sudden wave of panic flashed through me, which I think was an echo of the fear and desolation that filled me when he was nearly dead. It has been years since I have lived with him on a day-to-day basis."

  • Small-town life: “I don’t trust myself to keep my mouth shut if I feel moved to express myself, thereon it will get out all over Monroeville that I am a member of the NAACP, which, God forbid. They already suspect this to be a fact anyway.” She also complains of the town's "ecclesiastical gloom."
  • The lot included an inscribed 35th anniversary copy of the book: "Hal: Can you believe it?? You've lived to see this, and still have all your teeth and gumption. You will always be my beloved friend, hairless though you are."
Lee's controversial second novel, Go Set a Watchmen, is out next month. (More Harper Lee stories.)

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