Harper Lee’s personal letters fail to sell at auction

The author of To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee’s six personal letters fail to sell at Christie’s auction house

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Six letters by "To Kill a Mockingbird" author Harper Lee to one of her close friends failed to sell at auction Friday.

Lee’s The six letters were addressed to Lee’s friend Harold Caulfield and dated between 1956 and 1961 during the period that Lee wrote her classic, To Kill a Mockingbird.

The seller, Paul Kennerman was hoping for a sale worth up to $250,000.

Despite her amazing success in the literary world for her cult novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” little is known about Lee’s personal life, politics or writing habits. Few living authors are as big a mystery as Lee. She does not speak to the media and gave her last formal interview in the 1960s.

As a result any kind of information about Lee’s life rarely publicly available, so the letters’ failure to sell came as a surprise to everybody.

In her letters to Caulfield it is clear that she celebrated the success of To Kill a Mockingbird but also had many up and downs in her career.

In 1956, she wrote of her “longing to get back to New York, for so many reasons … I simply can’t work here. Genius overcomes all obstacles, etc, and this is no excuse, but I think the record will show the extent of my output at 1539 York Ave.”

Lee also complains about her hometown Monroeville. “Sitting & listening to people you went to school with is excruciating for an hour – to hear the same conversation day in & day out is better than the Chinese Torture method. It’s enough to make you give up,” she wrote.

The letters were also signed with different and humorous pseudonyms, including “the prisoner of Zenda,” a reference to an 1894 novel about a king who is drugged and kidnapped on the eve of his coronation.

Michael Morrison, the president of HarperCollins and Lee’s publisher said that he expects she will be unhappy to hear that her private letters are being sold. Lee “is a deeply private person, and I’m sure she would be disappointed that letters she wrote to a friend are being sold as some sort of memorabilia.”

Despite the letters not being sold and are unable to be read publicly, Lee’s fans will finally be able to read more of her writing when her novel “Go Set a Watchman” comes out on July 14.