Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Marquis De Sade Gripes To Mrs. Marquis De Sade & His Kids

by Stephen J. Gertz

Oh Sade, poor Sade, mamma's hung you in the closet
and I'm feeling so sad.*

A revealing eleven-page signed autograph letter written by the Marquis de Sade to his ex-wife and children is being offered by Christie's-Paris in its Importants Livres, Livres Anciens, Livres d'Artistes & Manuscrits sale November 6, 2013. Autograph manuscript and letter material by Sade is extremely scarce and this letter, with its original envelope, is estimated to sell for €30,000 - 50,000 ($41,000 - $67,000; £27,000 - £45,000).

Dated October 1, 1806 and composed while he was confined in the asylum at Charenton, Sade provides details of his fortune prior to the Revolution, upon his release from the Bastille in 1789, and in the seventeen years since. He based his calculations of the period 1790-1806 from discussions with Constance Marie- Quesnet, his mistress since 1790 and the one who took care of his post-Bastille business affairs.

He accuses his ex-wife and children of embezzlement; they had accused Mlle Quesnet of same.

"A friendly and confidential agreement held between us last Friday at Mrs. Quesnet [ ... ] resulted in little recall. [4 following lines crossed out]. I hope it makes you feel that the truth must always produce a honest soul, and embrace you, Sade." Sade is especially concerned about the state of his properties; their value seems to have decreased.

"The said picture painted for the purpose of proving that it was not degraded during the sixteen years that Ms. Quesnet has been with me since I was called out of the Bastille, until the present time, and therefore, Madame de Sade was wrong when she said, 'I find it less real now than I found it then.'"

Following calculations on his rental income and certain properties -  "Location good Arles, Coste, Mazan, Saumane, and it was on that pay family debts, charges, fees, Corporate &c . &c" - he notes that yes, his business has been mismanaged but defends Ms. Quesnet. "The charge of embezzlement under Ms. Quesnet is calumnous and unfounded."

He explains that all losses are rather due to mismanagement by the "notary Momaï." 

Sade then ratchets up his chagrin. "What happened to 27,000 [francs]? What has become of them ? O you who would like to make this issue [ ... ] dare say, are you not ashamed? Know that your father was on a list [?] by an evil family." The 'list" in question was a lettre de cachet that his mother-in-law had issued against him.

Disappointed by the behavior of his family against him, he finished the recollection:

"[?] They are all well vexers I believe that the public was instructed [ ... ] he will yet one day [ ... ] but not [ ... ] the horrible vice that we can not exist or compel the soul of the one who gave life to my children or in the souls of those who received it. Sade."

This letter appears to be fresh in the marketplace, purchased by the present owner from a Sade descendant, hence the steep estimate which may very well be exceeded.

 Donatien Alphonse François, Marquis of Sade (1740-1814), spent thirty-two years of his life incarcerated for one reason or another - mistreating prostitutes, blasphemy, etc. In 1768, he was imprisoned for holding a woman against her will and sexually abusing her; his mother-in-law had turned him in to the authorities who issued an infamous lettre de cachet which sealed his fate for many years to come. In 1772, he was sentenced to death for the non-lethal poisoning of prostitutes and sodomy with his manservant. He fled to Italy with his wife's sister and the manservant. He was caught, however, and imprisoned but escaped and took it on the lam four months later.

He hid out in his chateau Lacoste, rejoining his wife, who became his accomplice in further sexual crimes. More sexual mistreatment of servants ensued and he was forced once again to flee to Italy, returning to France in 1776 and more of the same. Arrested again in 1778, he successfully appealed his death sentence but remained in jail under the lettre de cachet that his mother-in-law had sworn out on him ten years earlier. In 1784 he was transferred to the Bastille. On July 4, 1789 he was  transferred to the asylum at Charenton. His wife divorced him.

In 1801, Napoleon ordered the arrest of the anonymous author of Justine and Juliette, Sade's novels of virtue punished and vice rewarded. He was arrested and imprisoned without trial, first at the prison of Sainte-Pélagie and then, following allegations that he had tried to seduce young fellow prisoners there, in the fortress of Bicêtre. After intervention by his family, he was declared insane in 1803 and transferred once more to the asylum at Charenton. His ex-wife and children had agreed to pay his expenses. They were, evidently, siphoning off income from his estate, which by 1796 had already sunk into distress.

It's difficult to feel any sympathy for Sade yet in this letter we hear a broken sixty-six year old man at the end of his rope if not his life, and empathy is warranted if only enough to occupy the point of a needle; it was a rope he hung himself with. His wife and children may not have been the best that a husband and father could hope for but his wife and children had a husband and father you wouldn't wish on a dog.

Life With Father it wasn't.

If only reality television shows had existed at the time: reruns of To Hell With The Sades would still be in syndication today.

*Apologies to Arthur Kopit.

Awkward translation of letter excerpts by the author.

Image courtesy of Christie's, with our thanks.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

19th C. Breast Cancer Lithograph Makes Surgery Look Beautiful

by Stephen J. Gertz

A copy of the first edition of the most complete anatomical atlas and arguably the most beautiful of the nineteenth century, Jean Baptiste Marc Bourgery's Traité complet de l’anatomie de l’homme, comprenant la médecine opératoire (1831-1854), is being offered by Christie's-Paris in its Importants Livres  Ancienes, Livres d'Artistes, et Manuscrits sale November 6, 2013.

Amongst the 726 beautifully designed lithographed plates within its sixteen books in eight folio volumes is Fonctionnant sur une tumeur cancéreuse (Operating on a Cancerous Tumor), which depicts a neat and bloodless breast ablation upon a beautiful woman in calm repose as two sets of hands perform the surgery as if the horror was Photoshopped out leaving only the sheen of precision and 19th century state-of-the-art medicine.

How 'bout those clean, well-manicured, bare hands so gracefully intruding into the patient's flesh as if dancing a finger ballet? The two inset images show the successful result of the surgeons' efforts, and the whole presents a procedure sterile of reality if not of pathogens. The blood-curdling screams have been excised for your comfort; surgical anesthesia was in its infancy and ether and chloroform were not yet standard. This is an artistic exercise in medical aesthetics.

Bourgery studied medicine in Paris with René Laennec, inventor of the stethoscope, and Guillaume Dupuytren, the French anatomist and military surgeon who won fame treating Napoleon's hemorrhoids as the imperial proctologist, before Bourgery continued his work his work at Romilly. 

Published over a period of twenty-three years, this atlas was the result of titanic work by Bourgery, who died before the last volume's publication. This huge artistic work was supervised by Nicholas-Henri Jacob (1782-1871), student of Jacques-Louis David

"Without issue one of the most beautifully illustrated anatomical and surgical treatises ever published in any language" (Heirs of Hippocrates).

We post this today to remind all that breast cancer needs to be early detected and treated. Despite Bourgery's neat and tidy depiction scrubbed of life and death, breast cancer surgery is not pretty. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month ends tomorrow.

BOURGERY, Jean Baptiste Marc (1797-1849). Traité complet de l’anatomie de l’homme, comprenant la médecine opératoire. Paris: C.-A. Delaunay, 1831-1854. First edition. Sixteen tomes in eight folio volumes (425 x 310 mm). Eight lithographed title pages, 724 plates (of 726, lacks vol. V plate 5 and vol. VII plate 36). Lacks the frontispiece. Some foxing, a few tears. Contemporary half black morocco, smooth spine.

Heirs of Hippocrates 1569. Waller 1342. Wellcome II, p. 214.

Image courtesy of Christie's, with our thanks.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Great White Endpapers $35K-$50K

by Stephen J. Gertz

Binding A (1st state).

An untouched copy of the first American edition, first issue of Herman Melville's Moby-Dick; or the Whale in its first state binding is coming to auction November 21, 2013 in Swann Galleries 19th & 20th Century Literature sale. One of the few known copies bound with plain white wove endpapers, it is estimated to sell for $35,000 - $50,000.

Orange-coated endpapers are the norm. In 1955 Jacob Blanck, in the Bibliography of American Literature (BAL), declared that only "a single copy has been seen with plain white wove endpapers." Fifty-one years later Kevin MacDonnell, in Firsts magazine (June 2006),  noted "two copies that have been seen with plain white end papers." 

Copies with white endpapers are the great white whale of Moby-Dick collection, and those who wish to harpoon one will be plying the sea lanes a long and lonely time before the opportunity to cry "thar she blows!" presents itself again. Such collectors are the Ahabs of  the rare book world, obsessed monomaniacs at risk if their harpoon gets caught on the price-point and drags them down to the depths along with the book, a disaster at sea when initially published. It remained buried in Davey Jones' locker until salvaged by Carl Van Doren's Melville essay in the 1917 edition of the Cambridge History of American Literature  ("One of the greatest of sea romances in the whole literature of the world").

"[Melville's] great book, Moby-Dick, was a complete practical failure, misunderstood by the critics and ignored by the public; and in 1853 the Harpers' fire destroyed the plates of all of his books and most of the copies remaining in stock (only about sixty copies survived the fire)..." (BAL XII, pp. 522-526).

Examples of the first American edition (published November 14, 1851 and containing thirty-five passages and the Epilogue omitted from the London edition published a month prior, on October 18, 1851) in its first state binding -  aside from association or presentation copies - have, over the last few years, been selling for $10,000 - $30,000 depending upon condition. 

These are, then, super-duper endpapers, the most expensive in the world, adding upwards of $20,000 to the value of a standard, first American edition, first issue copy with orange endpapers; white makes right. Collectors prefer this book untouched with no restoration and few such copies are as nice looking as this one.

"Melville's permanent fame must always rest on the great prose epic of Moby Dick, a book that has no equal in American literature for variety and splendor of style and for depth of feeling" (BAL).

"And now, liberated by reason of its cunning spring, and, owing to its great buoyancy, rising with great force, the coffin life-buoy shot lengthwise from the sea, fell over, and floated by my side. Buoyed up by that coffin, for almost one whole day and night, I floated on a soft and dirge-like main. The unharming sharks, they glided by as if with padlocks on their mouths; the savage sea-hawks sailed with sheathed beaks. On the second day, a sail drew nearer, nearer, and picked me up at last. It was the devious-cruising Rachel, that in her retracing search after her missing children, only found another orphan" (Epilogue, Moby-Dick). 

That orphan is this super-scarce copy with white endpapers. Call it Ishmael. Then call your banker.

MELVILLE, Herman. Moby-Dick; or, The Whale. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1851
. First edition, first state binding. 12mo. xxiii, 634, [6 as catalog] pp. Original black cloth, boards slightly bowed, blind-stamped with heavy rule frame and publisher's circular device at center of each cover, minor chipping to spine ends, short fray along front joint; white endpapers, double flyleaves at front and back, usual scattered light foxing, penciled ownership signature on front free endpaper. Housed in quarter morocco gilt-lettered drop-back cloth box.

BAL 13664. Sadleir, Excursions 229.

Read Carl Van Doren's Mr. Melville's 'Moby-Dick' in The Bookman April 1924 here.

Images courtesy of Swann Galleries, with our thanks.

Friday, October 18, 2013

A Nation Of Political Fools, 1713 Edition

by Stephen J. Gertz

"Although this Island of Folly cannot be found on the map, you will have no difficulty in guessing its real name and location by observing its mores and inhabitants" (Preface).

 In 1713,  A New Voyage to the Island of Fools was published, an  anti-Utopian satire of England's Tory government disguised as a voyage of exploration led by a Venetian nobleman. Pseudonymously written, it has been variously attributed to Jonathan Swift, Edmund Stacey, or Edward Ward. 

By 1713 the Tory party had dominated Parliament for the three preceding years and had made further gains in the current year's elections. Prime Minister Robert Harley, appointed after the downfall of the Whigs in 1710, attempted to pursue a moderate and non-controversial policy, but had  to contend with extremist Tories on the backbenches who were frustrated by the lack of support for their legislation against dissent. 

In five letters, the primativist narrator of ...the Island of Fools observes and reports on the mores of a nation in a sad state of affairs.

The inhabitants of Stultitia, the island of fools, were not "Stultitian [that is, foolish] by nature, but by practice," we are told. Foolishness is considered a moral failure and here refers to the vices that consumed the nation. "Slaves of sentiments, inclinations, interest, avarice, ambition, and desire for vengeance and of 'fantasies,' the Stultitians are suckers for adulation, flattery, false evidence, crime, rebellion, cheating, treason, rioting, prostitution and 'all manner of wickedness and folly'" ((Braga, The Rationalist Critique of Utopian Thinking, University of Bucharest Review, Vol. I. 2011, no. 1, p. 128).

Obsession with superstitions and collective illusions is the cause of human corruption, according to Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan, and the Stultitians enjoy a surfeit of superstitions and collective psychoses. "In order to impinge them to riot or rebellion and to any action in general, it is enough to excite their fancy with a few new Notions or Projects that they will embrace without giving the least thought about their Truth, Reason or their Probability." Imaginary “epidemical pseudosciences”  lie at the core of the Stultitian mind-set.

"During the 17th-18th centuries, the pressure exercised by combined critiques due to religious ideology and later on by rationalist mentality rendered utopias suspect to the eyes of many authors. Christian counter-utopists, ranging from Joseph Hall to Jonathan Swift, accepted and adopted the dogmas related to the Lost Earthly Paradise and Man’s Cursed City, transforming the utopian space into hell on earth, into monstrous kingdoms that would rival Dante’s circles.

"In turn, humanist counter-utopists, skeptical regarding man’s capacity of establishing a perfect society, found other means of expressing their incredulity as well as sarcasms. They imagined madmen islands and kingdoms of fools, demonstrating, by reductio ab absurdum, that the application of the ideals of reason to social programs would only lead to nightmarish societies" (Ibid.).

Slings and arrows from satirists skewering the Tories did not change a thing. Their government remained popular with the electorate for its effort to end the War of the Spanish Succession and ratify the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. 

As for Jonathan Swift being the author of this pamphlet, not true. At this point, Swift, who, as a political pamphleteer simultaneously played tennis on both sides of the net, had permanently moved from the Whig to the Tory party, joining its inner circle: he was a one-issue voter and found Tory policy on the Irish clergy in agreement with his own sympathies as an Irishman. Edmund Stacey, author of The Parliament of Birds (1712), also published by John Morphew, is the likeliest suspect, though Edward Ward is given credit in a manuscript annotation.

Those on the Right or Left seeking ammo in this satire will find it; Right and Left politics as we understand it today did not exist at that time - ideology was fluid and not as sharply defined as now -  It was in the post-Revolution French Assembly that those political directions were established: monarchists sat on the right, republicans on the left side of the Assembly's aisle. Contemporary American Conservatives may plotz to learn that in the 18th and 19th centuries Liberal Conservatism was, far from an oxymoron, a recognized, respected and viable political viewpoint.

The enduring lesson here is that utopias look good on paper but are a disaster in practice, no matter the ideology. Heaven on earth is an impossibility, whether as an ideal society in which government plays no role at all in the lives of its citizens and taxes are non-existent, or an ideal where the government will help the vulnerable from birth to death if necessary at a price shared by all good citizens. It's always a fool's game. People tend to get in the way when a perfect world is pursued; your perfection is my purgatory. One man's sage is another man's fool.

The population of the Island of Fools is exploding yet it's a protean destination resort and can accommodate all who wish to vacation in folly and call it wisdom.

[UTOPIAN SATIRE]. A New Voyage to the Island of Fools, Representing the Policy, Government, and Present State of the Stultitians. By a Noble Venetian. Inscib'd to the Right Honorable The Lord Fernando. Translated from the Italian. London: John Morphew, [September] 1713. Attributed to Swift (in Wrenn catalogue) but not in Teerink.  Octavo (188 x 118 mm). [2], 62 pp. Wrappers.

A second edition was issued in 1715.

Claeys, Utopias of the British Enlightenment, p. xxix. Letellier, The English Novel 1700-1740, p. 336.

Image courtesy of Christie's, which is offering this title in its Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts sale November 15, 2013. With our thanks. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Scarcer Than A Battleship In A Bathtub

by Stephen J. Gertz

A copy of James Ralfe's Naval Chronology of Great Britain in the original parts has come to market. A book of incredible scarcity in its original twelve installments 1818-1819, only one copy has been seen at auction within the last fifty-three years, in 1960, according to ABPC. The chances of seeing another in the original parts anytime soon are slim to none. The rare 1820 three-volume first edition in book format is commonplace by comparison.

It's a foundational historical account of British naval and maritime events from the beginning of the Napoleonic wars in 1803 through the War of 1812 to the end of 1816, illustrated with sixty magnificent hand-colored aquatint engravings. James Ralfe (fl 1818-1829) was a respected naval historian.

As such, it is an invaluable reference on the British Navy during the period under review, with the plates based on drawings by officers, many of whom were participants in the naval battles:  T. Sutherland, F.C. Lewis, D. Havel and others after T. Whitcombe, J. Beresford, W.A. Armstrong, J. Gore, and W. Hill.

"The object of this work is, more particularly, to perpetuate the names of those individuals who have, by their talents, courage, and professional abilities, increased the honour and reputation of the British Navy, and secured the peace and independence of the Country.

 "It will form a complete Naval History from 1802 (the time at which Captain Schomberg's Chronology terminates) to 1817, under the form generally acknowledged to be the most convenient for an historical work of reference. From the arrangements which have been made, it is expected that the work will answer every purpose of information not only to gentlemen of the Navy, but to those who feel an interest in the naval events of the last fourteen years; while the correctness of the drawings, the superior style of the engravings, and the neatness of execution, will render it worthy of the attention of every lover of the fine arts. Indeed, throughout the greatest pains will be taken to make this publication of the utmost utility, and deserving of general patronage" (rear wrapper).

Amongst the splendid hand-colored aquatints are images of the Battle of Trafalgar, the bombardment of Algiers, and more.

As if this copy in original parts wasn't special enough, it possesses important bibliographical points, not the least of which are early watermarking of the plates (1819; early issue) and printed plate inscriptions, i.e. "from a sketch by...,"  "from a plan by...". According to Abbey, plates later colored lack these inscriptions for genuine hand-colored plates, i.e. colored at time of issue. "Genuine colored copies are rare" (Tooley). The rear wrappers  state "Price to Subscribers 10s 6d plain, and 15s coloured."

This copy was stashed in the 1940s and forgotten in the vault of a bookselling firm in Europe until recently. While complete with all plates and the subscriber's list, the wrappers were distressed to one degree or another and those parts which bore the worst wear along the spine or edges, wrapper losses, loose plates, etc. were restored by master book conservator Bruce Levy who did an astonishing job that is almost invisible to the untrained eye.

The sinking of the H.M.S. Miasma, Trafalgar Motor Lodge, room 24, lavatory.

Pardon me. Battleships in bathtubs are not as scarce as I thought. But I think it safe to say that Ralfe's Naval Chronology of Great Britain in the original parts is almost as scarce as an aircraft carrier cruising the Sahara in search of Australian grass parakeets.

RALFE, Mr. J[ames]. Naval Chronology of Great Britain. Or, an Historical Account of Naval and Maritime Events, From the Commencement of the War in 1803, to the end of the year 1816: also, Particulars of the Most Important Court-Martial, Votes of Parliament, Lists of Flag-Officers in Commission, and of Promotions for Each year: The Whole forming a complete Naval History of the above Period. Illustrated with Numerous Engravings. London: Whitmore and Fenn, 1818.

First edition, early issue with plates watermarked 1819. Twelve original parts, 1818-1819, in tall octavo (10 1/8 x 6 7/8 in; 256 x 175 mm). Sixty "genuine" hand-colored aquatint plates (with printed inscriptions, i.e. "from a sketch by...,"  "from a plan by...,"), including frontispiece, with original tissue guards. Original buff printed wrappers, restored and/or renewed.

Abbey, Life 342. Tooley 392. Sabin 67602. Howes R21. Cf. Prideaux, p. 348 (book edition).

Images courtesy of David Brass Rare Books, currently offering this item, with our thanks.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Mysterious Daguerreotype Of Brooklyn NYC c. 1850 Est. $20K-$30K

by Stephen J. Gertz

A haunting, whole-plate daguerreotype of a street tableau in Brooklyn, New York City, staged and photographed c. mid-1850s, is being offered by Swann Auction Galleries on Thursday, October 17, 2013 in its Fine Photographs and Photobooks sale. It is estimated to sell for $20,000 - $30,000.

In this striking photo, a very quiet, treeless street lined with buildings of various architectural styles is populated by two enigmatic women who seem to be engaged in an entre-nous exchange at a doorway on a porch, their faces obscured, both by the distance at which the photographer was positioned and by a parasol held by the woman at left. They may know each other; they may not. One may live or work in the building, the other may be a visiting friend, business patron, or who knows and their ambiguous interaction hints of mystery and an intriguing, if inscrutable, story that begs to be deciphered.

The photo was certainly posed and not a candid snapshot. At this point in their development daguerreotypes took up to twenty minutes to expose; the women are in sharp focus; they stood there like stones until the photographer told them otherwise; this was not Candid Camera.

The owner of this daguerreotype (8.5 x 6.5 inches) purchased it with the understanding that it depicted Brooklyn, one of New York City's five boroughs. Architectural historian Francis Morrone, author of An Architectural Guidebook to Brooklyn (2001), asserts that, based on fire laws of the period (which prohibited new wooden house construction), the fringed or scalloped valances which were fashionable when wooden houses were being built, and the appearance of the Greek Revival house, the daguerreotype likely depicts a scene in Greenpoint, the northernmost neighborhood of Brooklyn.

The image features three beautiful buildings bathed in sunlight, each of them rivals for our attention  asking the inevitable question the image raises and the viewer wonders: are they the real subject of the daguerreotype, or does the staged scene hint at lost moment in time? This is the central drama of the photo, what stirs the imagination and makes it so desirable to collectors.

The elaborately designed wood-frame home at left displays a brick base, two porches, a pointed roof, and an artful bargeboard, while the wood-frame house at far right is minimalist with a simple jigsaw-cut bargeboard along the underside of the top gable serving as the structure's only ornamentation. The sun, shining in from the upper left side of the image, casts delicate shadows on the wooden boards, and highlights the delicate work of the architectural style. The large modified Greek Revival building in the center has a flat brick front and brownstone trimmings around the door and windows. The small porch is decorated with two potted plants astride the stairs, each with delicate hand-colored touches of red and green.

This scarce and stunning daguerreotype - the only known copy - is reproduced in John Wood's The Daguerreotype: A Sesquicentennial Celebration (1989), where he notes that the signage on the right and left buildings' sides are legible as the office of Dr. H.B. May, the shop of J. Wood (a butcher), and a builder whose sign can be partially read. The plate was in the collection of Julian Wolff. 

With its inclusion of an ambiguous narrative within what was plainly an architectural photograph, this daguerreotype suggests the mid-twentieth century shift in fashion photography to present the clothing within a visual story often having nothing at all to do with the clothes or models yet nonetheless drawing us into an arresting image not easily forgotten, the fashions brought to life within an artificial reality. Here, the mystery women in the doorway animate the buildings and transform them into compelling characters in a secret history.

The deft composition, masterful handling of detail, insertion of figures and injection of mystery into this remarkable piece indicates that it was made by a skilled, highly imaginative photographer, alas, unknown. 

For these reasons it must be considered amongst the great American urban architectural photographs of the nineteenth century.

Images courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries, with our thanks.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Mark Twain On How To Announce Your Marriage Engagement

by Stephen J. Gertz

On October 16, 2013, Bonham's-Los Angeles is offering a three-page, recto and verso Autograph Letter Signed, dated Elmira, NY, February 5, 1869 by Mark Twain regarding his engagement to be married, in its Fine Books and Manuscripts including Historical Photographs sale. It is estimated to sell for $15,000-$25,000.

Samuel L. Clemens and Olivia Langdon, the woman who would become his wife, initially met at the end of 1867; together they attended a reading by Charles Dickens. Throughout 1868 Twain conducted his courtship of her primarily through letters. Olivia rejected his first proposal but accepted his second in 1869. Upon her acceptance, Clemens composed a clarion call to his family, less an engagement announcement than a gushing, self-deprecating declaration of intent that dares his family not to love his future wife, the sort of sentiment deeply appreciated by a prospective spouse.

The letter reads in full:

Olivia Clemens, neé Langdon.

My dear Mother & Brother & Sisters & Nephew & Niece, & Margaret: 

This is to inform you that on yesterday, the 4th of February, I was duly & solemnly & irrevocably engaged to be married to Miss Olivia L. Langdon, of Elmira, New York. Amen. She is the best girl in all the world, & the most sensible, & I am just as proud of her as I can be.

It may be a good while before we are married, for I am not rich enough to give her a comfortable home right away, & I don't want anybody's help. I can get an eighth of the Cleveland Herald for $25,000, & have it so arranged that I can pay for it as I earn the money with my unaided hands. I shall look around a little more, & if I can do no better elsewhere, I shall take it.
I am not worrying about whether you will love my future wife or not—if you know her twenty-four hours & then don't love her, you will accomplish what nobody else has ever succeeded in doing since she was born. She just naturally drops into everybody's affections that comes across her. My prophecy was correct. She said she never could or would love me—but she set herself the task of making a Christian of me. I said she would succeed, but that in the meantime she would unwittingly dig a matrimonial pit & end up tumbling into it—& lo! the prophecy is fulfilled. She was in New York a day or two ago, & George Wiley & his wife Clara know her now. Pump them, if you want to. You shall see her before very long. 

Love to all. Affect'ly 


P.S. Shall be here a week.

Twain, c. 1869.

They were married a year later. Their marriage a happy one, it lasted thirty-four years, enduring the death of two children and periodic financial troubles secondary to Clemens' weakness for get rich quick schemes. Aside from pen & paper, the only investment that ever paid off for him was his effort to win the heart of Olivia Langdon.

This letter is found in The Love Letters of Mark Twain, p. 64. Its provenance is solid: that of the prominent Twain scholar and collector Chester L. Davis, (1903-1987). It was last seen at Christie's New York, June 9, 1992, lot 35, when it sold for $9,500. 

Letter image courtesy of Bonham's, with our thanks.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Bad Afternoon of a Fawn: Bambi's Dark Secret Revealed

by Stephen J. Gertz

Thumper: Psst!  Hey, you! Who's your daddy?

Bambi: The Great Prince stag.

Thumper: No, I mean the guy who wrote you.

Bambi: Walt Disney?

Thumper: No, he adapted you. I mean the guy who brought you into the world.

Bambi: I don't know.

Thumper: Your author was Felix Salten, an Austrian Jew born in Hungary in 1869. He wrote you in German in 1923 and you were translated into English in 1928.

First edition (1923)
First edition in English (1928).

Thumper: His real name was Siegmund Saltzmann and his family moved to Vienna when he was an infant because the city granted Jews full citizenship in 1867; life was much easier there. When his father went broke he quit school and became an insurance salesman but, with an inch to write, began submitting poems and reviews to local journals. Soon, he was part of the Jung Wien (Young Vienna) movement and writing assignments came his way. In 1901 he published his first collection of short stories and afterward produced an average of a book a year - novels, short stories, essays, plays, you name it - under the pseudonym Felix Salten.

In 1906 he anonymously wrote a scandalous book.

Bambi: Scandalous? 

Thumper: Oh, yes. The book was Josefine Mutzenbacher, oder Die Geschichte einer Wienerischen Dirne, von ihr selbst erzählt.

Bambi: What's that mean?

Thumper: Josephine Mutzenbacher, or The Story of a Viennese Whore, as told by Herself. It's written in a very realistic and explicit manner.

Bambi: No! I'm shocked. Say it isn't so.

First edition.

Thumper: It is! It's a wild thing, privately published in an edition of 1000 copies for subscribers only and an instant hit. It's the most popular German erotic novel of all time. 

Thumper: It was first translated into English c. 1920s in a clandestine edition - a horrible job, all sex no style, Salten's humor lost as well as his voice, the rich flavor of the prose, and spirit of contemporary Vienna. This translation has been reprinted countless times; avoid it like a forest fire.

Thumper: The only translation into English that's worth reading is that done by Rudolf Schleifer in 1967 for Brandon House Library Editions out of North Hollywood, California. It was commissioned by Brian Kirby, the imprint's editor, who is considered to be the American Maurice Girodias due to his taste in fine erotica and boldness in publishing the finest erotic literature and translating for the first time into English many European erotic novels.

This edition bears an introduction by Hilary E. Holt, Ph.D., who did the translation under the pseudonym Rudolf Schleifer. Holt, an Austrian emigré to Los  Angeles, was a "sad, old man" according to Kirby, and a former professor living in a small, dumpy apartment in Hollywood  who translated for Kirby under the pseudonyms Rudolf Schleifer, Andre Gilbert, and Franz Mecklenberg. He  provided Kirby with many German erotic works from his personal collection, including Josefine Mutzenbacher. Holt also wrote introductions for the imprint, sometimes under his own name (when he'd done the book's translation under one of his pseudonyms), sometimes under the pseudonyms John S. Murphy, James E. White, Albert W. Lowy, or Allan D. Warner.

In his introduction Holt recalled a conversation he had with Stefan Zweig (1881-1942), the Vienesse novelist, about Mutzenbacher.

"Stefan Zweig was the only mortal who worked-up enough courage to ask the alleged ghost-writer of the Mutzenbacher Memoirs, Felix Salten, whether he had actually authored the book. The famous author of Bambi, et al, Zweig's senior by twelve years, was a very serious gentleman of dignified bearing which definitely did not encourage any indiscreet questions. Zweig mentinoed this episode to me, 37 years ago, in the following words:

"'Salten and I were discussing the literary phenomenon of famous authors writing bawdy stories containing four letter words and describing sexual bouts with Rabelaisian frankness. Salten reminded me of the poem Der Herr von Iste by Goethe ["Mr. Iste" is Goethe's penis, who refused to cooperate when Goethe, age 78, met a willing wench]. I, in turn, mentioned Mark Twain's bawdy story dealing with the court of Elizabeth I, 1601.

"'I thought this a good occasion to question Salten about his alleged authorship of the Mutzenbacher story. He smiled mysteriously and said, 'If I deny it, you won't believe me, and if I admit it, you'll think I am teasing you. So...' and he shrugged. To me this was a badly disguised admission. Knowing Salten well, I realized he'd have become very angry at being asked such a question unless he was the author.'"

Bambi: I'm plotzing; I need to lie down. It's like discovering daddy was an axe-murderer.

Thumper: More like a pimp. 

Bambi: I feel corrupted.

Thumper: You are. Blame it on Walt Disney. You were born a roe-deer. Disney played Frankenstein and turned you into a white-tailed deer.

Bambi: I feel tainted.

Thumper: You feel tainted? In the book I'm Friend Hare. Disney turned me into Thumper, a rabbit with paw pads. Rabbits don't have paw pads. I'm a freak.

Felix Salten reading to his children.

"The saying is, that young whores become old, religious crones, but that was not my case. I became a whore at an early age and experienced everything a woman can ... in bed, on chairs, tables, standing against walls, benches, lying on the grass, in dark hall-ways, in private bedchambers, on railroad trains, in lodging houses, in jail; in fact in every conceivable place where it was possible...but I have no regrets. I am along in years now...the enjoyment which my sex afforded me is fast disappearing. I am rich but faded, and often being very lonesome, but it never entered my mind, although in the past years I was religious... to now do penance."

That's the opening to the lousy first edition in English.

"When I remember the old popular saying that young whores turn into religious bigots when they become old, I must claim to be one of the few exceptions. Yes, I am old now, and have lost my good looks, and though I am wealthy, I often suffer from loneliness; but I don't regret my past one little bit and don't feel I have to do penance. I believe in God, but I dislike making a show of religion which is a private concern.

"My sex education started very early in life, and theory and practice were never separated. I have experienced everything that a woman can in male company, be it in bed, on the floor, on tables or chairs, leaning against the walls of old houses, in the open field, in carriages and on trains, in military barracks, in prisons and bordellos."

That's the opening as translated by Holt. Quite a difference!

As "translated" by Paul J. Gillette in 1970 for Holloway House in Los Angeles it isn't worth the paper it's printed on. Gillette was notorious for using existing translations of erotic novels, paraphrasing them, and adding graphic scenes not present in the original.

By the way, the memoir is fiction but Josefine Mutzenbacher was real. Born in 1859 in Ottakring, Vienna's 17th district, by the 1890s she had amassed enough wealth to buy a huge, ranch-like estate in the Austrian province of Carinthia. 

Bambi: How do you know so much about books? You must read a lot.

Thumper: Constantly. You know what they say - rabbits do it like bunnies.

Bambi: Thumper the book humper?

Thumper: You're not as innocent as you look, boy. I presume you've experienced sex.

Bambi: I'm only in it for the doe.

Thumper: Ultimately, so was Josephine Mutzenbacher.

[SALTEN, Felix]. Josefine Mutzenbacher oder Die Geschichte einer Wienerischen Dirne von ihr selbst erzählt. [N.p., n.p.] Privatdruck, 1906. First edition, limited to 1000 copies for subscribers only. Octavo. 332 pp.  In the original silk envelope.

Hayn-Gotendorf VIII, 477: "An extremely naturalistic portrayal of the life of a prostitute seeking Sotadicum."

Image of title page to first edition of Josefine Mutzenbacher courtesy of  Buchauktionen Hauff & Auvermann of Berlin, offering a copy in its Sale 71, Moderne Literatur und Kunst, October 24, 2013 (featuring an excellent selection of fine erotica), with our thanks. The lower margin of the title page has been Photoshopped to remove an inventory ticket.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Cleaning Up With William S. Burroughs And Mata Hari's Knickers

by Alastair Johnston

Mata Hari (nee M'greet MacLeod, 1876-1915),
caught with her pants down, as usual

     Martin Stone has a knack for finding great literary association items. The legendary British rock guitarist (Savoy Brown, Chilli Willi & the Red Hot Peppers, Pink Fairies, Wreckless Eric) was celebrated in a memoir by Peter Howard, Martin Stone, Bookscout, and immortalized in Iain Sinclair's novel White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings (1987) and he is still on the search. Peter Howard, in his fond reminiscence, recalls Stone tracking down T. E. Lawrence's driver's license (though he was not able to acquire it). Finding it was not as significant as having the imagination to look for it, says Howard. (Lawrence died in a motorcycle wreck in 1935, presumably with his license in his wallet.)

     (Further aside: Mentioning the author of Seven Pillars of Wisdom, I always recall a bit by the great British satirist Alan Bennett: "Clad in the magnificent white silk robes of an Arab prince he hoped to pass unnoticed through London. Alas, he was mistaken... No one who knew T. E. Lawrence as I did, scarcely at all, could fail but to be deeply impressed by him. I went down to Clouds Hill to visit Lawrence, or "Tee Hee" as he was known at school, and knocked at the door of the rose-covered cottage. The door was opened by a small, rather unprepossessing figure, slight of frame, fair-haired and with the ruddy gleaming face of a schoolboy. -- It was a schoolboy: I had come to the wrong house...").

     Recently on Facebook, Stone mentioned he had bought Mata Hari's knickers formerly held in the Black Museum in Paris. Mata Hari, the famous spy who was executed by a French firing squad in 1917, was perhaps better known for not wearing her knickers. (They have a Clousseau-like provenance: A retiring inspector of police asked for them as a going-away present during WWII; his son inherited them, didn't want them, and sold them to an antique dealer in Versailles. Now who would not want Mata Hari's knickers?) Stone did not reveal the price nor how much he made on the sale other than to say when he was younger he could have bought a nice house from the proceeds.

Martin Stone, bookscout, on the scent of some rare knickers.

(Picture tweeted by AnyAmount of Books, 

Mais oui, c'est un Office Depot à Paris).

     In his essay "A Blockhead's Bookshelf" (collected in William Targ's Carousel for Bibliophiles [New York, 1947]), Walter Blumenthal says "you cannot hope to own a copy of Paradise Lost bound in the apple tree that proved Adam's undoing," but he does cite a Shakespeare bound in the tree featured in The Merry Wives of Windsor and other similar "association" items. These range from fanciful to preposterous, but imagination can conjur up some wonderful association items and, like our hero Martin Stone, imagining them can lead to discovery. Think of an I.O.U. from Godwin to Shelley, a ticket to see the World in Miniature issued to J. Swift, a map of the Hebrides marked up by Dr Johnson, a prescription for clap medicine made out to James Boswell, a laudanum prescription made out to Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The riverboat pilot's license of Sam Clemens. Put but your fancy in it.

Literary association item, awaiting authentication

     Fill the blank with the object of your desire. What do you collect? What do you crave? Seek and ye shall find. Somewhere there must exist a fair copy of Byron's autobiography, the original of which was burned in the offices of John Murray by Tommy Moore, "Hobby-O" Hobhouse and other craven cowards. Perhaps the scandalous tell-all autobiography, if a copy exists, is buried in some family archive in the attic of a stately home. I met a financier in New York who has Byron's Greek passport.

     There must be a name for non-literary artifacts with literary associations. Disjecta literaria? I have a paper plate used as a fan by Philip Whalen at a party, so inscribed by the poet in his elegant calligraphy. He would have thought of it as a goof, not a piece of literary history. It was a piece of trash, but Phil's comment ennobles it somewhat humorously.

Paper plate with food stains, inscribed by Philip Whalen 
(Dixie Paper Co., 9" picnic plate, Minden, Louisiana, ca. 1978)

       So how does one evaluate such things? People collect them for their literary association though they have no intrinsic literary value. Here's a case in point. The Pacific Book Auction Galleries in San Francisco have a sale coming up on October 10 of "Beats, Counterculture and the Avant Garde." It comprises 200 lots collected by Richard Synchef over the last 40 years or so. He seems to have been particular keen on getting authors to sign and inscribe works. He owned a copy of Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test signed by 40 members of the counterculture: Diggers, poets, artists, Grateful dead roadies, etc. Now it can be yours for about ten grand. Some of the figures in his collection, such as McClure and Snyder, are alive so their signatures can still be had. (Just last weekend Snyder was signing broadsides at the Watershed Festival in Berkeley.) But the Big Guns of Beat, Kerouac, Ginsberg, Corso and Burroughs have gone to their eternal rest.

      Some of Synchef's acquisitions border on fetishism. He has a check from Jack Kerouac to the IRS (dated December 1963) for $300, now worth an estimated $1000 to $1500. Then there's Neal Cassady's Letters from Prison (New York, Blast Book, 1993) signed by Carolyn Cassady and her 3 children, the recipients of the letters. "Rick, good to see you at the Beat Museum. Keep the Beat!" "Hey Rick - you flatterer! Best, Carolyn Cassady" and "It's too much! Jami Cassady." This brings up some strange visions of "The Beat Museum" and a desperate autograph seeker; maybe Neal Cassady himself was in a glass case there (Estimated $400 to $600). The strangest item of all, perhaps, is the shopping list of William Burroughs (1914-97).

rubbing alcohol, Lysol, honey, milk -- boil, then inject?

     While Burroughs is by far the most interesting of the so-called "Beat" writers, how valuable can this shopping list be? Dated circa 1989 it is estimated to sell for $500 to $800. It is a curiosity, containing "Small garbage bags," "Cat pans" (or is that cats paw?!), "rubbing alcohol" and "Lysol," as well as "Castille soap (the kind that makes water softer)". We get the sense Burroughs was a bit of a clean freak. Then there's "Saltines" and "Gravy" (amended in manuscript to "Brown gravy"): pretty sad dietary items. A second hand has added "Bic 'good news' razors (10-pak)" and "gourmet vinegar - white balsamic." Are biographers going to make bank with this, like the discovery that Abe Lincoln grew up eating pork ribs? I met Burroughs a few times and somewhere have letters from him.

     In one he thanks me for sending him a Victorian pamphlet on the Cure for the Opium Habit. Now there's a useful piece of his writing (if I can find it). I always thought it would be amusing one day to tell my grand daughter that I did drugs with Burroughs (when she is older and will not be shocked). I imagine Old Bill got fairly sick of young cocks like me showing up with their sad stash and offering to get him high. He never seemed fazed by any of it though. But now any piece of him seems to have intrinsic value, even a shopping list. Who would want this scrap enough to pay hundreds of dollars for it? You could apply the Cut-Up technique to it, but you'd still have a banal piece of waste paper.

Corrections: The Kerouac check and Burroughs shopping list were not part of Mr. Synchef's collection. Those items were added to the auction by PBA Galleries to round-out the sale. Additionally, the copy of Wolfe's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test was signed by only one of the Grateful Dead's roadies.

Of Related Interest:

Beware of Hart Crane's Sombrero.

Ernest Hemingway's Typewriter Comes To Auction.

Monday, October 7, 2013

George Washington's Original Thanksgiving Proclamation $8-$12 Million

by Stephen J. Gertz

The original manuscript proclamation establishing the first federal Thanksgiving Day in the United States of America is being offered by Christie's-New York on Thursday evening November 14, 2013 in a  single-lot special event sale. Signed by George Washington on October 3, 1789 it is estimated to sell for $8,000,000 - $12,000,000.

The proclamation reads in full:

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation

    Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."

    Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

    And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

    Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Prior to its sale, the proclamation will be on tour, exhibited October 17-20 in Los Angeles at the Reagan Library; October 22 in Dallas at the Harlan Crow Library; October 24 at Christie's-Chicago; October 30 in Boston; November 4 in Washington, D.C. at the Library of Congress; November 5 in Philadelphia at the National Constitution Center; and November 7-13 in New York at Christie's Galleries.

The proclamation followed the request to President Washington by the House and Senate, on the day after ratification of the 1st Amendment to the Constitution, to proclaim a day of thanksgiving for “the many signal favors of Almighty God." Congressman Elias Boudinot of New Jersey said that he “could not think of letting the session pass over without offering an opportunity to all the citizens of the United States of joining, with one voice, in returning to Almighty God their sincere thanks for the many blessings he had poured down upon them" (The Annals of the Congress, The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States 1, Washington, DC: Gales and Seaton, pp. 949–950).

Massachusetts Centinel, October 14, 1789.

This was not the first time that a day of thanksgiving had been proclaimed. On October 11, 1782, John Hanson, first president of the newly independent United States under the Articles of Confederation, declared the fourth Thursday of every November to be a national Thanksgiving Day. The holiday, however, was by the authority of each state, not the national government. Under the new Constitution it was to be a federal holiday.

But not an annual observation. George Washington again proclaimed a Thanksgiving Day in 1795. John Adams declared Thanksgiving Days in 1798 and 1799. In response to resolutions in Congress at the close of the War of 1812, James Madison renewed the tradition in 1814 and 1815. But it was not until Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day on October 3, 1863 to occur in November of that year that the holiday has been annually celebrated.

Washington's proclamation is a foundational document in the history of the United States of America's grand national tradition of Thanksgiving. One of the great documents of Americana, it's no turkey.

Document images courtesy of Christie's, with our thanks.

Newspaper clipping courtesy of the Washington Post, with our thanks.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Bukowski's First Appearance In Print, 1944

by Stephen J. Gertz

A wonderful association copy of the scarce March-April 1944 issue of Story, featuring the first published work by Charles Bukowski - at the time only twenty-four years old - is being offered by PBA Galleries in its Beats, Counterculture & Avant Garde - Literature - Science Fiction. Collection of Richard Synchef sale, October 10, 2013. It is estimated to sell for $2,500-$3,500.

Bukowski's contribution, Aftermath of a Lengthy Rejection Slip, was composed just two years after he had begun to write, and was inspired by a note from Story publisher-editor Whit Burnett regarding a recent submission:

Dear Mr. Bukowski:

Again, this is a conglomeration of extremely good stuff and other stuff so full of idolized prostitutes, morning-after vomiting scenes, misanthropy, praise for suicide etc. that it is not quite for a magazine of any circulation at all. This is, however, pretty much the saga of a certain type of person and in it I think you've done an honest job. Possibly we will print you sometime but I don't know exactly when. That depends on you.

Sincerely yours,

Whit Burnett

In Factotum (1975), Bukowski described his experience with this first publication, calling Whit Burnett "Clay Gladmore":

"Gladmore returned many of my things with personal rejections. True, most of them weren't very long but they did seem kind and they were very encouraging...So I kept him busy with four or five stories a week." 

Bukowski later recalled the circumstances of the short story's publication in an interview just shortly before he died:

"I can remember my first major publication, a short story in Whit Burnett's and Martha Foley's Story magazine, 1944. I had been sending them a couple of short stories a week for maybe a year and a half. The story they finally accepted was mild in comparison to the others. I mean in terms of content and style and gamble and exploration and all that."

But Bukowski was not happy when Burnett finally published him. Aftermath of a Lengthy Rejection Slip had been buried in the End Pages section of the magazine as, Bukowski felt, a curiosity rather than a serious piece of writing. The cover's tag line - "Author to editor with everybody discomfited" - didn't help. Bukowski felt discounted and humiliated; he never submitted anything to Story again.

In that same interview, he noted that in the aftermath of Aftermath... "I didn't feel that the publishers were ready and that although I was ready, I could be readier and I was also disgusted with what I read as accepted front-line literature. So I drank and became one of the best drinkers anywhere, which takes some talent also."

"Charles Bukowski was born in Andernach, Germany, 1920. His father was California-born of Polish parentage, and served with the American Army of Occupation in the Rhineland where he met the author's mother. He was brought to America at the age of two. He attended Los Angeles City College for a couple of years and in the two and one half years since then he has been a clerk in the postoffice, a stockroom boy for Sears Roebuck, a truck-loader nights in a bakery. He is now working as a package-wrapper and box-filler in the cellar of a ladies' sportswear shop" (Bio in Story).

Laid in to this copy of Story is a postcard from Christa Malone, daughter of Wormword Review publisher Marvin Malone, stating that this copy belonged to her father. Bukowski was the most frequent contributor to the Wormwood Review, with works appearing in more than ninety issues. It's a strong association.

Story was founded in 1931 by Whit Burnett and his first wife, Martha Foley, in Vienna, Austria. A showcase for short stories by new writers, two years later Story moved to New York City where Burnett and Foley created The Story Press in 1936.

By the late 1930s, the magazine's circulation had climbed to a relatively astounding 21,000 copies. In addition to Bukowski, Burnett and Foley published early stories by Erskine Caldwell, John Cheever, Junot Diaz, James T. Farrell, Joseph Heller, J. D. Salinger, Tennessee Williams and Richard Wright. Other authors in the pages of Story included Ludwig Bemelmans, Carson McCullers and William Saroyan.

In 1942, Burnett's second wife, Hallie Southgate Burnett, began collaborating with him and Story published the early work of Truman Capote, John Knowles and Norman Mailer. Story folded in 1967 secondary to lint in its bank account but its roster of authors established and has maintained its reputation as one of the great American literary journals.

After finishing Bulowski's Aftermath of a Lengthy Rejection Slip,  readers of Story could take advantage of a fabulous offer advertised by the Book-Of-The-Month-Club. New subscribers to the BOTMC were offered a free copy of My Friend Flicka (1941) and its sequel (1943). Those familiar with the novel will note its thematic similarities to the work of Bukowski. 

My Friend Flicka is the story of a horse and the boy that loved him, and "Flicka," as we all know, is Swedish for "little girl." Flicka was quite the filly, and Bukowski had a keen eye for fillies - at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park racetracks. And, yes, Roddy McDowall, who starred in the 1943 film adaptation (as the boy, not the horse), was a dead ringer for Charles Bukowski, though a bottle or three of whiskey may be  necessary to appreciate their resemblance to each other.

All images courtesy of PBA Galleries, with our thanks.

Of Related Interest:

Bukowski: Lost Original Drawings Of A Dirty Old Man.

Charles Bukowski, Artist.

Charles Bukowski's Last, Unpublished Poem.

Charles Bukowski Bonanza At Auction.
Dirty Old Man Exposed At The Huntington Library

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

William Faulkner, Screenwriter

by Stephen J. Gertz

A cache of screenplays by novelist William Faulkner is being offered by Bonham's - Los Angeles in its Fine Books and Manuscripts including Historical Photographs sale October 16, 2013. The trove comes from the Richard Manney collection via the late, great Serendipity Books of Berkeley.

You haven't lived until you've read Faulkner's hilariously contemptuous screenplay notes, i.e. "Lana tells Mary whatever sappy stuff we need here about love conquers all things, etc...."

Mimeographed Manuscript, dialogue cutting continuity script
of Today We Live, 121 pp, 4to, n.p., April 8, 1933,
in tan wrappers, the Dublin censor's copy, annotations
throughout in green, red and graphite pencil.

Today We Live is based on the Faulkner short story "Turn About," and is one of only two films based on an original story by the author, and the only screenplay based on his own work for which Faulkner received credit. Director Howard Hawks saw the piece in the Saturday Evening Post in March of 1932, bought the rights, and hired Faulkner to write the script. Soon after Faulkner turned in his first draft, Irving Thalberg asked that a part for Joan Crawford be created, since the star was available. Faulkner dutifully complied, and the film, now a love triangle between two WWI pilots and Crawford, went into production in late 1932.

The Dublin censor removed some seemingly inoffensive dialogue and imagery: a reference to sipping communion wine, a shot of a cockroach in a box, Crawford's character putting her head on her brother's shoulder.

Mimeographed Manuscript, final draft of Zero Hour,
140 pp, 4to, [Los Angeles], January 27, 1936
(with blue revision pages bound in as late as
February 2, 1936), in plain blue wrappers stamped
"Twentieth Century-Fox ... Stenographic Department"
and copy #32 to title page.

Faulkner and Joel Sayer developed the present script, originally titled Wooden Crosses, then Zero Hour, and finally released as The Road to Glory, between December of 1935 and early January of 1936. The film, set in France during World War I, details trench life during that conflict. During the same period, Faulkner finalized the manscript of his most complex novel, Absalom, Absalom!

The University of Virginia's Faulkner collection has a copy of the January 27 "final" screenplay, though theirs is apparently four pages longer than this one.

Mimeographed Manuscript, screenplay of The Last Slaver,
144 pp, 4to, [Los Angeles], December 3, 1936, in
blue Twentieth Century-Fox wraps stamped #1, with
initials to upper cover and annotations throughout
of studio chief Darryl F. Zanuck.

This is Darryl F. Zanuck's copy of The Last Slaver, with his initials to the upper cover and with his many annotations in ink throughout.

In July of 1936 Faulkner, his wife Estelle, and daughter Jill traveled from Mississippi to California for another swipe at the lucrative work of screenwriting, this time for Twentieth Century-Fox Studios. He was assigned to adapt The Last Slaver, based on a novel set on board a slave ship in 1845. The film would be released in 1937 as Slave Ship, starring Warner Baxter, Wallace Beery and Mickey Rooney; Faulkner received story credit for the film.

This copy is dated December 3, 1936, and though stamped "Final," a pencil notation indicates that it is not in fact the final draft. A penciled note at the lower right corner of the title page indicates this copy as the "Faulkner draft." The text is annotated throughout in pencil by Zanuck, editing dialogue and making important character suggestions ("Swifty should watch all this from a distance, taking no part").

The copy of The Last Slaver in the Carl Petersen Collection is identified as the revised final draft and bears the date of December 15, 1936 (with revisions as late as December 20). That copy is identified as the text of Faulkner's September 1936 draft minimally revised by Nunnally Johnson. The University of Virginia has Zanuck's copy of the September 24 and October 10 drafts of The Last Slaver. No other copies of a December 3 draft have been located.

Mimeographed Manuscript, first draft continuity
screenplay of Splinter Fleet, 130 pp, 4to,
[Los Angeles], December 22, 1936, in orange
Twentieth Century-Fox wrappers. WITH: Mimeographed
manuscript, shooting final screenplay of Splinter Fleet
(crossed out and re-titled in pen Submarine Patrol),
160 pp, 4to, [Los Angeles], June 23, 1938,
in tan Twentieth Century-Fox wraps stamped.

This is a rare draft of an early Faulkner screenplay, along with a copy of the shooting script.

In September of 1936, Darryl Zanuck assigned Faulkner to work on the dialogue Splinter Fleet, while Kathryn Scola was tasked with keeping an eye on the story line. Faulkner told Scola that producer Gene Markey had told him to "follow the story line, but I can't find the story line" (Blotner 373). Scola told Faulkner's biographer that the dialogue was "Good Faulknerian dialogue," but that it had little to do with the story at hand, as it seemed to relate more to aerial than naval warfare.

The presence of the later shooting final script here offers a rare chance to assess how much of Faulkner's work made it into the final script (Blotner claims nothing did).

The University of Virginia has a copy dated December 7, 1936 which is one page longer than this copy; no other copies of the December 22 version have been located.

Typed Carbon on yellow foolscap, treatment of
Drums Along the Mohawk, 26 pp, 4to, [Los Angeles],
March 14, 1937, housed in blue wraps bound with brads,
with typed title and date, marked "only copy" twice
at upper margin and with ownership signature of
assistant producer Ben Silvey to upper right corner.

On March 12, 1937, Faulkner began an extended assignment for Twentieth Century-Fox Studios (Blotner p 954). Three days later he turned in this 26-page breakdown of Walter D. Edmonds' best-selling novel, Drums Along the Mohawk. Never a fan of studio work, Faulkner injects a fair amount of contempt into this treatment. From page 21: "McKlennar's house. Two Indians enter the house, set fire to it, kill Mrs. McKlennar, find Lana in bed with her child which is about three years old. They tell her the house is on fire. They are drunk. Lana forces the Indians to carry the wedding bed outside of the house. Lana gets into it again with the child. The two drunken Indians are finally driven away by the child. This will be comedy. Lana lies in bed and watches the house burn." If that's not clear enough, in his final paragraph, as the next generation is taking up the challenge of settling the new frontier, he writes, "Lana tells Mary whatever sappy stuff we need here about love conquers all things, etc...."

The University of Virginia has a mimeographed version of this treatment bearing the same date, but no typescript or other typed carbons have been located.

Mimeographed Manuscript, dialogued treatment titled
Drums Along the Mohawk, 248 pp, 4to, [Los Angeles],
July 3, 1937, housed in blue Twentieth Century-Fox
wraps bound with brads, upper cover marked "only copy."

Faulkner's full-length adaptation of Edmond's novel: From March until mid-June of 1937 Faulkner worked on this "dialogued treatment," which includes a detailed list of characters with description, a sequence-by-sequence breakdown of location, and a 238 pp screenplay. After he turned this treatment in, Faulkner was taken off the project and Lamar Trotti and Sonia Levien took over (and earned final screen credit).

Walter Edmonds' novel of the hardships endured by settlers of the Mohawk Valley in the 1700s was a runaway bestseller in 1936. Faulkner was something of a logical choice to adapt the book, given his experience writing about rural life and tensions between cultures. The contempt evident in the short treatment (See lot 2301) is no longer present here. He apparently takes the assignment seriously, crafting the long novel into a workable three act structure. Among other things, he boils down Edmonds' long subplot of servant girl Nancy Schuyler's loss of innocence and later marriage to an Indian into a single scene: after a brave surprises Nancy at a stream, the two engage in a silent dance: "CLOSE SHOT OF BOTH -- Nancy shrinks slowly back, as the Indian lifts her shawl away and touches her hair. He takes it up and examines it with interest and admiration. He gestures and speaks to Nancy in Indian. Nancy stares at him. The Indian gestures to her to get up. She doesn't move. He takes her arm and helps her up, stands facing her, takes her hair into his hands again, speaks to her in Indian. Nancy's terror goes away. He takes a small pouch from his shoulder and hands it to her, still speaking. She takes the pouch, staring at him stupidly. He taps his chest, then he taps Nancy's speaking Indian. He hangs the pouch over Nancy's shoulder, points toward the forest, advances, stops, looks back, beckons. Nancy follows him. He looks down at her feet, speaks again, approaches, takes from the pouch a pair of mocasins, drops them at Nancy's feet. She sits down and puts them on, the Indian watching. he beckons again. She rises. He turns into the forest, Nancy following."

No copies of this treatment appear in WorldCat, though the Morgan library has later treatments by Trotti and Levien that are purportedly based on this one. This script provides the unique opportunity once and for all for scholars to determine the extent of Faulkner's contribution to the final film.

Mimeographed Manuscript, final screenplay of
The Bouncer and the Lady, 134 pp, 4to, [Los Angeles],
April 7, 1941 (blue revision pages dated as late as
April 19, 1941 bound in), in blue Twentieth Century-Fox
steno department wraps, stamped #21 to title page.

In March of 1939 Faulkner worked for two days on a project titled Dance Hall, before being once more listed by the studio as "unassigned." The film was released four years later under the original title of Dance Hall and starred Carole Landis and Cesar Romero.

Typed Carbon titled "Battle Cry—Hawks,"
144 pp, 4to, [Los Angeles], April 21, 1943,
treatment in prose and screenplay format,
moderate thumbing to leaves, housed in
plain blue wraps with typed title, story
department stamp, and penciled annotations
to upper right corner ("rec'd Geller9/16/43".

Faulkner's original story treatment of Battle Cry. Following Howard Hawks to Warner Bros., Faulkner was assigned to Battle Cry in early 1943. The film was to celebrate the U.S. and its allies in the world war. Hawks and Faulkner roughed out an outline, and Faulkner completed this 144 pp treatment on his own by late April. This draft was scrapped, however, and so Faulkner began again, completing a 231 pp script by June, at which point screenwriter Steve Fisher was brought in to collaborate.

Faulkner was excited about the prospect of an epic like Battle Cry making it to the screen, not the least because it would help restore the four-figure screenwriting salary he so desperately needed. The project, however, was canceled by Jack Warner, either because director Howard Hawks clashed with the studio exec, it was too sympathetic to the Soviets, or just too expensive to mount.

The 231 page expanded story treatment and the second temporary screenplay of Battle Cry were published in volume IV of Faulkner: A Comprehensive Guide to the Brodsky Collection (Oxford, MS: 1985), but this, the first treatment, remains unpublished.

Mimeographed Manuscript, revised final screenplay
of The Left Hand of God, 140 pp, 4to, [Los Angeles],
July 18, 1952, in plain blue wrappers stamped
"Please return to RKO Story Files" and "20" at
lower right, minor toning to leaves, light staining
to upper and lower wraps. WITH: HAYES, ALFRED.
Mimeographed manuscript, final draft of
The Left
Hand of God
, 135 pp, 4to, [Los Angeles], February 22,
1955 (blue revision pages dated as late as
June 7, 1955 bound in), in blue Twentieth Century-Fox
wraps stamped copy #8 to lower right.

In early 1951 Howard Hawks reached out to Faulkner once more, asking him to come to Los Angeles and work on The Left Hand of God, a script about a former army pilot in China who escapes a warlord by masquerading as a priest (Blotner 537). Faulkner turned in a draft early, earning a bonus, and later that year the trades announced that RKO would make the film and Kirk Douglas would star. Faulkner revised the draft again in 1952 (the original typescript of the present draft appears to be with the Howard Hawks Collection at Brigham Young University), but again the project was delayed. In early 1954, Paramount and Hawks sold the property to Twentieth Century-Fox, which eventually produced the film starring Humphrey Bogart and Gene Tierney. The screenwriting credit went to Alfred Hayes.

• • •

There are many stories about Faulkner in Hollywood. My favorite: While under contract to Warner Brothers and unhappy and weary showing up for work to the Writer's Building on the Warner's lot in Burbank, he asked studio head Jack Warner if he could go home to write. "Sure, go ahead," Warner replied, presuming that Faulkner preferred to work alone in his house.

He did.

Days later, Warner was looking for Faulkner and couldn't find him. The writer had indeed gone home to write.

To Oxford, Mississippi.

All images courtesy of Bonham's, with our thanks.

A tip o' the hat to Bonham's cataloger.
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