Harper Lee letter for sale: ‘Please don’t put this on the internet’


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A cache of letters from ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ author Harper Lee are being sold online by Nate D. Sanders Auction House. Five items are for sale at a fixed price, and eight of the letters are up for auction. The auction closes Tuesday at 5 p.m.

The 13 letters, all written to a single fan, are being sold separately. They were written over a span of years, from 1960 to to 2009. After reading ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ fan Don Salter first wrote to Harper Lee, and then maintained a correspondence with the reclusive writer over decades. He sent her a book, which she thanked him for. Later, when she was having trouble with her eyes, he sent her candy. In 2003, she wrote:


Dear Don: You must have your own radar system. The first Christmas I find it difficult to read, you send candy. Thank you ever so, and thank the French Republic for keeping up their standards in a downmarket world! It’s delicious. Comparatively recently, I have fetched up with macular degeneration that seems to be galloping whereas it’s supposed to go slowly, so I don’t even know if I’ll be in NYC in April. I’m at the beck + call of several doctors in Mobile, and can’t even drive there any more. I’m due to have more cataract surgery (the other eye) and am hopeful that it’ll improve things, but when is yet to be revealed to me. Please don’t put this on the internet or anything -- I’d dread for it to bring more mail! (She’s going blind, so I’ll send her a chatty letter…)

That letter is not up for auction; it has a fixed price of $11,000, which includes a signed photograph. The other fixed-price lots the auction house has from Harper Lee are also listed at $11,000. Not all come with pictures.

The letters that are up for auction begin as low as $100; most cost around $500. One that has been bid up further -- currently about $3,000 -- is from 1960 and appears to be replying to a question about the location of geography of Maycomb County, where ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is set.

At the end of the short letter, Lee writes ‘here is your map’ with a drawing and the words ‘Maycomb County’ written across it. The auction house writes that this is a map of Monroe County, where Lee grew up, but to me it looks much more like a map of the state of Alabama. But trying to find Maycomb County in the real world would be missing the point, as Lee writes in that same letter.

You ask me where Maycomb County is, where the Landing is - -the only answer I can give you is that Maycomb County is in my heart and the Landing is in my imagination. If, in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ I persuaded you that those places are real, that means I have succeeded in my profession, which is writing fiction.

In May, a signed copy of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ sold for $25,000. Since its publication in 1960, Lee has not published another book. She turned 85 in April.



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-- Carolyn Kellogg