Letters written by Harper Lee around the time she drafted To Kill a Mockingbird, that cornerstone of 9th grade English classes from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon, proved to be a flop at Christie’s New York auction on June 12.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that this is not the first time Paul Kennerson’s collection of six letters written between 1956 and 1961 (in addition to poems, photos, and other items of Lee’s) has been met with rejection. Kennerson had originally approached the University of Alabama, Lee’s alma mater, as he felt the material belonged in a library collection easily accessible to scholars, but the article indicates by omission that the university declined his offer. Kennerson had also “attempted to interest Harper Lee [in her own memorabilia?] by sending a letter to the postmaster in Monroeville, Ala., where she lives but received no reply.”
The letters were estimated at $150,000 and $250,000, but the bidding started at a mere $80,000 and petered out at $90,000. Kennerson is apparently not discouraged by the lack of interest in the highly publicized sale, which was featured in publications including The New York Times and the New Yorker, telling the Union-Tribune, “The letters, at the appropriate time and place, will end up where they are supposed to be.” (A writer can only hope.)
Kennerson will likely not offer the letters at auction again soon, as he has already received an independent offer and predicts more will follow.