What Happens to Authors' Manuscripts?

JOHN CARTERhas been in and around the rare book business most of his working life. His ABC FOR BOOK COLLECTORS,widely hailed as Ihe answer to Ihe book collector’s prayer, is now in Us second edition, and since he last contributed to theATLANTIChe has become rice president of the Bibliographical Society. Ur. (tarter is at present associate for American operations at Sotheby’s, the Bond Street auction house.


HARDLY a week passes without an earnest editor’s appealing through the London Times Literary Supplement for news of the whereabouts of some lost but essential piece of script. And even the more popular newspapers nowadays judge it newsworthy that the original manuscript of The Algonquin Round Table has been sold at auction for a mess of money, or that John Doe has acquired a precious series of unpublished letters written by Richard Roe (1887-1914) to his sister-in-law during the throes of composition of his second volume of verse, or that the dean of the English faculty has given a sensational talk on the occasion of the deposit of the Dr. Richard Gullible archive in the library of Ganarsie University. “Deposit,”by the way, is a favorite word with rare book and manuscript department librarians: it carefully does not specify whether the transaction was a purchase, a gift, or a loan. “Archive” is another jargon word, of fairly recent application in the singular. It was first adopted, I believe, by the ingenious director of the Pierpont Morgan Library, and it can be used for anything from a collection of a hundred or so papers by or about the author or his work to the fifty tons of manuscript and typescript by and about Upton Sinclair recently acquired by Indiana University.

In earlier days, most writers — professional writers, at least — gave short shrift to the raw material of manuscript once its matter was in print. Shakespeare did not leave us a single line. Even today, I imagine, most reasonably unself-conscious writers do what I have always done: throw away the manuscript when it has been typed, throw away the typescript when the proofs have been corrected, throw away the proofs once the book is out. But though these may have been the majority, there has always been a large minority. Pope handed his manuscripts around among his friends and patrons, and since he was famous early in life, they kept them. Boswell was not the only hoarder of every draft: William Beckford kept his and rewrote them more elegantly in his old age, to the confusion of posterity.

A good many of Trollope’s novels survive in manuscript, as Professor Tinker of Yale and Robert H. Taylor of Yonkers can bear witness. We have a fair amount of Dickens, with the Forster Collection at South Kensington and the Pierpont Morgan collection of three of the Christmas Books and Our Mutual Friend, and although only a chapter of Pickwick has been preserved, by the Rosenbach Foundation, Great Expectations in its entirety is safely immured in the town library at Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. Arnold Bennett was vain of his elaborate script — The Old Wives’ Tale, the original of which is in the J. K. Lilly collection, was actually published in facsimile — and he had his manuscripts handsomely bound in morocco. Hardy was not vain of his beautiful hand, but he kept most of his manuscripts, and in due course Sir Sydney Cockerell had them bound for him by Katherine Adams, bespeaking one by way of douceur — “The Three Strangers” from Wessex Tales, which later sold for £620 at Sotheby’s.

Authors’ habits with their original manuscripts, in fact, have been as various as authors. Some have preserved from sentiment, many from mere dilatoriness in throwing things away, some no doubt out of canniness. Conrad sold many of his manuscripts to John Quinn, the New York collector, and a few to Thomas J. Wise, who parted with them before his library was bought by the British Museum. H. G. Wells never bothered with his, but his faithful secretary did, and most of the result is now at Urbana, Illinois. Some authors jettison without thought, some deliberately — once the book is out, their only interest is the next one; some doubtless find that, like so many other possessions not in daily use, they have just “become gone.”

But today, hardly any author of pretension to eminence can be unaware that if he puts the manuscript of the latest novel, the latest sonnet sequence, even the latest literary essay into the wastebasket, he may regret it. He will in due course, if not as soon as the reviews are out, be reminded by some librarian of his duty to literary history, to textual criticism, to scholarly research — and to alma mater. He will be reproached by some bibliophile who has been loyally collecting his first editions for years and now yearns for a bit of holograph. Worst of all, some dealer will make him what would have been a tempting offer.

The author will then recall, too late, the story of the bookseller who pestered John Ruskin time and again to sell him manuscripts or signed copies of named works. Ruskin’s refusals got angrier and longer. Shortly after he gave up answering these repeated requests, someone showed him the bookseller’s latest catalogue, in which was listed, at a fat price, “A magnificent series of autograph letters of John Ruskin, mentioning no less than fourteen of his own works.” There is also the story of the Prince of Wales, afterwards King Edward VII, who wrote to his mother from Oxford asking for five pounds. Queen Victoria replied that he had his allowance, which should be more than sufficient for his proper needs, and she proceeded to give him a lecLure on the desirability of avoiding horses, drink, chorus girls, the theater, low company, and other inducements to reckless spending. When he came home to Sandringham for Christmas, the Queen said she hoped he had taken her advice to heart. “Well,” said His Royal Highness, “I don’t need the five pounds after all, because I was able to sell your letter for ten.”

THERE JLIIEUE have been, of course, collectors and preservers of manuscripts ever since the days when they were the only texts. If it had not been for the exertions of men like Giovanni Aurispa, the Renaissance scholar-dealer who scoured the Levant for manuscripts after the fall of Constantinople, we should today be without large sections of classical literature. In the post-Gutenberg era, it may be true that Archbishop Matthew Parker collected manuscripts partly for the ulterior motives of sectarian controversy. But he was only the precursor of such giants as Sir Robert Cotton in the seventeenth century, Robert Harley in the eighteenth, and Sir Thomas Phillipps in the nineteenth, that disagreeable baronet who gloried in the name of vellomaniac.

As the centuries of print progressed, the attention of bibliophiles, if not of archivists, was increasingly concentrated on printed books; and within the last hundred years, first editions have come to represent to the average collector the natural expression of his enthusiasm for a general subject or period, a particular author or a favorite book. When 1 was first in the rare book business, thirty years ago, not one private collector in twenty extended his devotion into the manuscript field, and I doubt if the proportion is much different today. 1 emphasize private to mean the man who collects not only according to his own taste but strictly for his own, and his friends’, pleasure. For the renewed interest in manuscript material derives not so much from the private cabinet as from the institutional — usually the university — library. Plenty of collectors, certainly, have of late joined that existing minority who have always sought manuscripts even if their contents have been published and would not rather own some unpublished fragments of Sarah Orne Jewett than the fair copy of Moby Dick. But most of the recruits, I fancy, are of that comparatively new school which thinks in terms of ultimate institutional ownership of its collections.

I do not know when literary manuscripts of published works, as distinct from unpublished, or raw, material, began to engage the acquisitive interest of book collectors. The earliest example known to me of the sale of a living author’s manuscripts I owe to my old friend Mr. A. N. L. Munby, who has recently been disserting on the history of bibliophily to the Bibliographical Society of America. On August 19, 1831, Mr. Evans, the London auctioneer, offered for sale “the original manuscripts of the Waverley Novels and Tales of My Landlord ... all in the handwriting of Sir Walter Scott, Bart., to which is added a most curious and interesting collection of autographs of Princes, Popes, Cardinals, Statesmen, Literati and Artists from the XIIIth to the XIXth Centuries.” Sold, no doubt, as a result of poor Sir Walter’s heroic efforts to pay off his creditors, his thirteen manuscripts brought £317, Rob Roy making the top price of £50. The Antiquary and Pevent of the Peak shared second place at £42: Waverley was seriously incomplete and made only £18. Seven of the manuscripts sold that day are now in the Pierpont Morgan Library, along with four others of Scott’s novels.

Between this sale and that of another Scot, Sir Compton Mackenzie, a hundred years later and for the same reason, there were probably not many public sales by a writer of his own manuscripts. But there have been many of the manuscripts of dead, often recently dead, authors and of manuscripts of living authors consigned by owners other than themselves. The autograph manuscript of Bernard Shaw’s John Butt’s Other Island, for example, brought £2800 at Sotheby’s a couple of seasons ago (it is now in Wilmette, Illinois), and that of Somerset Maugham’s The Moon and Sixpence, £2600. Until quite lately, modern literary manuscripts have more often been sold by private negotiation, usually conducted by a bookseller: thus, for example, Robert H. Taylor bought both the first and the final draft of Zuleika Dobson from the author, and the University of California at Berkeley the three versions of Lady Chatterlefs Lover from the widower of Lawrence’s widow.

The manuscripts of Lord Jim and of South Wind arc in the library of the Rosenbach Foundation in Philadelphia; so is Ulysses, which John Quinn bought from Joyce piecemeal as it was completed, in circumstances vividly recalled by Sylvia Beach in Shakespeare and Company. The manuscript of The Picture of Dorian Gray is split between the Pierpont Morgan and the Berg Collection at the New York Public Library, which also has custody, in the Arents Collection, of The Importance oj Being Earnest. 7 he Prisoner oj Jenda, that best of all romantic adventure stories, was sold at Sotheby’s two years ago for a paltry $2000 and is now in the private collection of Arthur A. Houghton, Jr., of New York. Of Human Bondage was given by its author to the Library of Congress, which also owns the poetical notebooks of A. E. Housman, sold by his brother to a New York dealer and in due course bought and presented by Mrs. Elizabeth Whittall. Housman had himself presented the fair copy manuscript of A Shropshire Lad to Trinity College, Cambridge, and that of Last Poems to the Fitzwilliam Museum.

Of the two original manuscripts of Peter Pan, the one Barrie gave to Maude Adams was bought by J. K. Lilly of Indianapolis. Conan Doyle gave all his available manuscripts for a sale in aid of the Red Cross during World War I; they were bought by William Randolph Hearst. but subsequently resold, and The Adventure oj the Missing Three-Quarter was recently presented to the British Museum by a loyal task force of the Baker Street irregulars. The manuscript of The Waste Land once belonged to John Quinn, but it was not in his sale in 1924, and nobody, not even Donald Gallup or John Hayward, let alone the bard himself, knows its present whereabouts, though there have been rumors that it survives in the possession of a Quinn descendant in one of the Western states.

The Man of Property and Saint Joan are, appropriately, in the British Museum. So is T. E. Lawrence’s The Mint, if anyone really cares. The Joyce Cary manuscripts, by a rare English adoption of American practice, have gone to the Bodleian. Mr. Hanley has pretty well cornered the three Powys brothers, not to mention Samuel Beckett. Roger Casement’s diaries are the uncomfortable property of Her Majesty’s Home Office. Baron Corvo’s notorious Venice Letters belonged successively to Christopher Millard, A. J. A. Symons, Maundy Gregory, and Sir Hugh Walpole, but where they are now, those who know won’t say.

Of American authors, it would no doubt be an exaggeration to say that any literary manuscript of importance which has come onto the market within the past twenty years has found its way into the library of the redoubtable president of the Grolier Club, C. Waller Barrett, which means that it will end up at the University of Virginia. There are exceptions: William B. Wisdom bought everything of Thomas Wolfe he could lay hands on — I remember the score of crates in one of the Scribner attics, each crammed with yellow sheets covered with that sprawling script — and the result is now at Harvard. Henry James’s manuscripts and letters are widely scattered, but Harvard is probably in the lead. Most of F. Scott Fitzgerald is at Princeton. The Gertrude Stein papers are at Yale, along with Carl van VeclUen.

Dreiser gave Sister Carrie to Mencken, who offered it first to the Library of Congress, which declined it, and then to the New York Public Library, where Harry M. Lydenberg had more sense. Nearly all Mencken’s own manuscripts are in the Enoch Pratt Library at Baltimore. Only one important Hemingway manuscript has appeared on the open market, “Death in the Afternoon,” and that was bought, at the fancy price of $13,000, for the University of Texas. John P. Marquand, Harvard 1915, recently donated his literary manuscripts to Yale. John O’Hara has given his to Harvard. What Dashiell Hammett, Wallace Smith, and Damon Runyon did with theirs, I wish I knew.

THE examples offered in the preceding paragraphs are a random selection, for the sufficient reason that very few libraries — the Pierpont Morgan and UCLA are honorable exceptions — and, naturally, still fewer private collectors have published any list of their holdings in the field of literary manuscripts. Bibliographies and studies of individual authors sometimes cite their whereabouts. Catalogues of exhibitions contribute occasional information. The auction records provide infrequent, and booksellers’ catalogues still more infrequent, help to anyone setting out on a systematic quest.

Yet, if my examples are a random lot, they are nevertheless representative, I think, in one important respect. For they indicate that a high proportion of literary autograph manuscripts are already in, or are destined for, institutional libraries. Wilmarth Lewis has cornered Horace Walpole, but Farmington is in this context an enclave of New Haven. The private collection of T. E. Hanley, of Bradford, Pennsylvania, was rich in manuscripts of, among others, Bernard Shaw — no less than seventeen of the plays —and D. H. Lawrence, but they are now in the Research Center at Austin, Texas. Edward Beinecke has let very little Stevenson slip by in twenty or thirty years’ devoted collecting, but the collection lives at Yale. Arthur Houghton has dominated the Keats market for almost as long, but the books and manuscripts are housed at Harvard. Mr. and Mrs. Donald Hyde’s collection of Dr. Johnson is unsurpassed and, short of another cache on the Malahide Castle model, by now unsurpassable; it is their private property, no matter how generously available to scholars, and it is shelved under their own roof at Somerville, New Jersey. But I should think the odds are a hundred to one against its ever coming under the hammer at Sotheby’s. And that, crude though it sounds, is the acid test of a truly private collection, a collection wholly personal to the man who has formed it, the architecture and composition of which are idiosyncratic to him.

This is by no means to disparage the connoisseurship of the collectors I have named, for all of whom I happen to have the highest personal esteem and several ol whom have private, as well as their more publicly known, collections. It is rather to suggest that, in the ever-developing course of bibliophily, the systematic collecting ol manuscripts has become more and more an institutional duty and less and less either the responsibility or the passion of the private collector. It is hard to believe that Mr. Houghton bought the entire working material and manuscripts of Prolessor Toynbee’s Study of History in the same moor! as he bought the Shuckburgh copy of the Gutenberg Bible. In one case he was impelled, surely, by alternating current, in the other by direct. And with the way things have been going in the last twenty years or so, it is probably all the better for the health and happiness of the private collectors that this particular responsibility is being widely and energetically assumed by the institutions, so that their native passion can feed the more freely elsewhere.

IT HAS been interesting to watch the tactics of the institutional librarians in the pursuit of their quarry. The frontal attack is simple—buy the stuff in bulk. But it is also sometimes expensive. The indirect approach has accordingly been much favored and adroitly developed. Under the revenue laws of the United States, anyone in a high tax bracket, collector or not, can write off up to 20 per cent of his annual declared income for charitable gifts, in cash or in kind, or 30 per cent if the beneficiary institution is educational. And if he either owns or can be induced to buy an archive or a group of manuscript material, or even a single manuscript, which his alma mater wants to add to one of its special collections, the librarian can usually suggest some qualified person who will be only too glad to put a generous appraised value on it. Mr. Goodfellow thus gels his name in capital letters on the library wall, or at least in the alumni bulletin, at, conservatively, a dime on the dollar. The library has added to its proper resources. Some deserving young man gets his teeth into the raw material for a Ph.D. thesis. Uncle Sam — to date, anyway — hardly notices the tax deduction. Everybody is happy.

Of late, however, this enfilade attack has begun to be superseded by what might be called the bulldozer attack from the rear. This consists in letting it be known to the authors themselves, whether by public manifesto or, more often, by private circular letter, that an honorable home is ready and waiting for their archive. If they are American authors, or foreign authors liable to U.S. income tax, they presumably qualify for the handsome bonus from the Internal Revenue Department. Even if they are not, they are understandably flattered to think that Hale or Yarvard wants their stuff and grateful for an easy answer to the question of what to do with those boxes and folders.

It would undoubtedly have been a great convenience to the editor of the complete variorum edition of Emily Dickinson’s poems if all the manuscripts had been in one place instead of being scattered amongst warring factions. It would be a great convenience to the potential future editor of the complete edition of Dylan Thomas if all his manuscripts were in one place instead of being divided, for the most part, between Buffalo, the Hanley collection, and Harvard.

It will clearly be a convenience for the political historians of the future to have Walter Lippmann’s files together at Yale, for the historian of the American theater to find the Theatre Guild’s files at the same handy distance from New York, for the historian of American literature to know that most of the surviving early files of Harper and Brothers have been deposited just up the avenue in the Pierpont Morgan Library. The Roseberys of the 1960s will have a legitimate excuse for a prolonged stay in Havana, where Senor Julio Lobo has assembled the most important collection of Napoleonica outside the Archives Nationales in Paris. And if the Bollingen Foundation’s editors leave anything to be done on the oeuvre of Paul Valery, which is doubtful, later students will find their paths in Paris well marked. But any of Mrs. Mina Curtis’ successors in the exegesis of Proust who had hoped to justify a trip to Normandy will be disappointed to know that microfilms of all the novels except À l’Ombre des Jeunes Filles en Fleurs, which was dismembered for sale piecemeal with copies of a de luxe reprint, have been lodged in the British Museum, the Library of Congress, and Harvard.

IT IS a hundred and twenty-five years since Alexis de Tocqueville, who sometimes seems to me to have made all the generalizations about things American, wrote: “In fifty years it will be more difficult to collect authentic documents concerning the social conditions of the Americans of the present day than it is to find remains of the administration of France during the Middle Ages; and if the United States were ever to be invaded by barbarians, it would be necessary to have recourse to the history of other nations in order to learn anything of the people that now inhabits them. . . . No methodical system is pursued; no archives are formed; and no documents arc brought together when it would be easy to do so.” He could relax today. The Manuscript Society of America has 748 members: 426 of them private collectors, 105 dealers, 200 institutional librarians or libraries, and 17 “Non-Collectors — Writers, etc.”

The question posed in my title has really answered itself: practically all authors’ manuscripts end up in American institutional libraries. All that remains is to furnish manuscript collectors — and librarians — with a terminology for distinguishing between the different kinds of typescript, which every year more heavily outweigh handwritten copy as more and more authors exchange the quill for the Olivetti or the Remington. Alger Hiss learned to his cost that twelve good men and true cannot identify the hand which operated an identified typewriter. How are we to distinguish an author’s own typing from his secretary’s? Who will be able to tell whether the typescript of Hamlet, 1960 was executed by Bill Shakespeare or one of the Shubcrt office boys? What about secretarial typescript with manuscript corrections by the author?

On an evening of the year 1946, in the British Embassy in Washington, Winston Churchill was giving the final polish to a speech he was due to make the next day at a place called Fulton, Missouri. It was his practice to have his speeches typed out on small sheets of writing paper, spaced for breath rather than for syntax. And now the fair copy, to be used for delivery, was before him. A few corrections, a few ultimate felicities were dictated to his secretary, who set them down on her carbon copy in shorthand. She then typed them onto the top copy, which I hope the great man still has. But the carbon copy, which in this case remained technically the more original of the two, was handed to tHe young man detailed by the ambassador to attend Mr. Churchill and to prepare an advance summary for the press. This was not an official speech, nor the copy official paper, so when the young man was clearing off his desk a few days later he put this intimate memento of what had by then become a thunderous explosion into a bottom drawer. A few years later, back in London and hard up, he was tempted, I regret to say, by a bookseller. I cannot now lay hands on the catalogue description that I subsequently prepared — I remember it as full of technical subtleties — but Scribner’s sold the memento all right. I wonder where it is now. I am not a collector, but that is one piece of carbon copy typescript I wouldn’t mind owning.