Harper Lee was intensely private; now 38 of her letters are up for auction

Harper Lee in 2007, when she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
(Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

After publishing “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Harper Lee spent decades out of the public eye. Now 38 private letters she wrote to a friend are being auctioned for a minimum bid of $10,000.

Nate D. Sanders Auctions has a lot of 38 handwritten letters by Lee up for auction, including one that recalls a possibly prophetic conversation between Gregory Peck and President Lyndon B. Johnson.

The letters were written by Lee between 2005-10 to her friend Felice Itzkoff. Itzkoff died in New York in early 2011.


In the letter written on Jan. 20, 2009, the inauguration day of President Obama, Lee recounts a conversation between actor Peck, who starred in the film adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and Johnson, who signed the Civil Rights Act into law in 1964.

“On this Inauguration Day I count my blessings,” reads Lee’s letter to Itzkoff. “I’m also thinking of another friend, Greg Peck, who was a good friend of LBJ. Greg said to him, ‘Do you suppose we will live to see a black President?’ LBJ said, ‘No, but I wish her well.’”

In another letter, dated “14 May 2009, I think,” Lee writes about the memorial service for Horton Foote, the screenwriter for the film of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

“The service seemed to catch Horton in full,” Lee wrote. “If he was your friend, it meant you had another ‘best friend.’ I am so proud to say that he was my friend. I loved him with all my heart and shall miss him for as long as I am aware of anything.”

Lee, who died in 2016, was best known for 1960’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which was her only published novel until “Go Set a Watchman” was released in 2015 amid controversy over the author’s declining health.

In two of the letters, Lee makes reference to religion, with one letter proclaiming “I wish ‘heaven’ were true,” and another in which Lee describes herself as “at hart a heathen.”

Lee also discusses aging in one 2008 letter, writing, “I haven’t got bat sense — I blame drugs, but it’s probably senility ... Everybody here is in dementia of some sort + I am no exception. At least I can remember major events — 9/11, for example, is also Alice’s birthday. Ninety-seven + still taking care of baby sister.”

The auction, which is currently live, is accepting bids until Oct. 26. The minimum bid for the lot is $10,000.