No third novel from Harper Lee, expert says after examining manuscript

Harper Lee in Montoeville, Ala., on May 19, 2010.

Harper Lee in Montoeville, Ala., on May 19, 2010.

(Penny Weaver / Associated Press)

The publication of Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman” this summer rocked the publishing world and dominated literary conversations around the globe. But it looks like there won’t be a repeat anytime soon.

James S. Jaffe, an expert in rare books, examined the contents of a safe deposit box used by Lee, and determined that it does not contain a third novel, the Wall Street Journal reported. The manuscript in question is actually an early draft of the first part of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

In a report on the contents of the safe deposit box, Jaffe wrote, “The present group of drafts therefore undoubtedly represents only a small portion of what must have been a larger body of Harper Lee’s original working drafts for ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ ... [I]t is an extremely important collection, representing, in effect, the genesis of the novel ...”


The box also contains an edited manuscript of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and a typewritten draft of “Go Set a Watchman,” Jaffe said.

Questions about the contents of the box were raised in July after the Journal published an op-ed article by Tonja B. Carter, Lee’s attorney. In the article, which chronicles how Carter found the “Go Set a Watchman” manuscript, the lawyer wrote: “What of the other pages that have for decades sat in the Lord & Taylor box on top of ‘Watchman’? Was it an earlier draft of ‘Watchman,’ or of ‘Mockingbird,’ or even, as early correspondence indicates it might be, a third book bridging the two? I don’t know.”

Carter then said she would be inviting “experts” to examine the documents. “As we celebrate the publication of ‘Go Set a Watchman,’ history demands no less from us,” she wrote.


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