According to Rebecca Mead of the New Yorker, a few personal letters by Harper Lee, the renowned author of the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird, will be auctioned by Christie’s Auction House on June 12, 2015. These letters were written to New York architect Harold Caufield, one of a small group of Lee’s New York friends, which also included Michael and Joy Brown, who gave Harper Lee an amazing gift in 1956 by offering her a year’s salary so that she could simply write. The result of that gift was the novel that would speak to generations—To Kill a Mockingbird.
Letters by Harper Lee to be Auctioned Shortly Before New Novel is Released
The letters by Harper Lee were acquired by Christie’s from a private owner at a very opportune time. Harper Lee’s much-awaited second book, Go Set a Watchman, is scheduled for release on July 14. Speculation by the auction house is that the letters, signed with amusing pseudonyms like “Francesca da Rimini” and “the Prisoner of Zenda,” could sell for upwards of $250,000.
What Harper Lee Had to Say
Lee was known for writing to friends and family often, and her letters are said to be impressive and engaging. Alison Flood of The Guardian notes that at least two of the letters offer a window to Lee’s pleasure at the success of To Kill a Mockingbird, while another (telling Caufield that she will not engage with an interview in Esquire) seems to point to what would become of her public persona, eventually refusing interviews at all.
The impressive collection of letters by Harper Lee is a rare prize indeed, detailing Lee’s thoughts on her beloved, aging father, Amasa Coleman Lee, on whom the character of Atticus Finch was undoubtedly based, as well as her feelings about the small town of Monroeville, Alabama, which provided the foundation for Lee’s fictional setting of Maycomb in Mockingbird.
A Rare Treasure
With the exceptions of a few small gems–including a letter to O Magazine in 2006; an essay called “When Children Discover America,” published in McCall’s in 1965; and another essay known as “Romance and High Adventure” written for the Alabama Heritage Festival in 1983—Lee has published nothing of note between the 1960 release of To Kill a Mockingbird and the upcoming Go Set a Watchman, which undoubtedly explains the fascination of so many with the letters to be auctioned. Harper Lee fans want another glimpse into the world of the author that is so relatable and yet so distant—to know more about the woman who wrote the book who changed the face of a nation. Perhaps the Christie’s Letters by Harper Lee will offer a little more insight to that character.
The Upcoming Release of Go Set a Watchman
For those not privy to the letters by Harper Lee, the new novel Go Set a Watchman offers an alternative to getting to know the famous author. Now the most pre-ordered book in HarperCollin’s history, certified copies are available from author Harper Lee’s hometown of Monroeville, AL. If you haven’t already done so, you’ll likely want to reserve your copy today.