Six Harper Lee letters expected to fetch $250,000 at auction

Letters by 'To Kill a Mockingbird' author up for auction at Christie's

An "exceptionally rare" collection of letters written by "To Kill a Mockingbird" author Harper Lee to a friend will be auctioned in New York next week, Reuters reports, and could fetch up to $250,000.

Christie's will auction the lot, which consists of six typewritten letters from Lee to her friend Harold Caufield, an architect, on June 12. The letters were written between 1956 and 1961, and some are signed with "comic pseudonyms" such as "The Prisoner of Zenda" and "R. Bouverie Pusey."

The auction house describes the lot as a "poignant and especially rare" collection written to "one of [Lee's] oldest and closest friends." Four of the letters were written before "To Kill a Mockingbird" was published in 1960, and one of those was written about her father, the inspiration for the character Atticus Finch.

Another letter, written in December 1960, describes her reaction to the success of "To Kill a Mockingbird." "We were surprised, stunned & dazed by the Princeton review ... The procurator of Judea is breathing heavily down my neck -- all that lovely, lovely money is going straight to the Bureau of Internal Revenue tomorrow ... Must stop and take my rock-and-roll aunt Alice to the show. Elvis is on."

The lot also includes an autographed copy of the 35th anniversary edition of "To Kill a Mockingbird," inscribed to Caufield wih the note, "Hal: Can you believe it?? You've lived to see this, and still have all your teeth and gumption. You will always be my beloved friend, hairless though you are."

In another letter, Lee complains of spending five months in small-town Monroeville, Ala., the Guardian reports, lamenting its "ecclesiastical gloom" as "really too much." In the end, Lee wound up back in Monroeville, where the 89-year-old now resides in an assisted living facility. After "To Kill a Mockingbird," Lee never published another book. 

At least, not until 2015, when Lee's second book was announced. "Go Set a Watchman" will be published July 14. The novel, which was written before "To Kill a Mockingbird" but  takes place years afterward, is being closely guarded by its publishers and is the most preordered book in the history of HarperCollins.

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