Harper Lee letters fail to sell at auction

Harper Lee's personal letters, expected to take as much as $250,000 at auction, failed to sell

A collection of letters written by "To Kill a Mockingbird" author Harper Lee failed to sell at auction Friday at Christie's in New York. The six typewritten letters from Lee to her friend Harold Caufield, an architect, had been estimated to sell for as much as $250,000.

The auction came about a month before the release of Harper Lee's much-anticipated second novel, "Go Set a Watchman." It's the first book from Lee, 89, since her classic "To Kill A Mockingbird" was published in 1960.

The letters were written between 1956 and 1961, and some were signed with "comic pseudonyms" such as "The Prisoner of Zenda" and "R. Bouverie Pusey."

The San Diego consignor, who wanted to remain anonymous until after the sale, said he paid considerably less than the $250,000 estimate, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported

The consignor collects rare books and manuscripts as a hobby, according to the Union-Tribune.

The auction house described 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 with 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. 

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