More News from Faulkner's Library(*)

By Welling, Bart | The Mississippi Quarterly, Fall 2000 | Go to article overview

More News from Faulkner's Library(*)


Welling, Bart, The Mississippi Quarterly


IN OCTOBER 2000, JILL SUMMERS ADDED NINETEEN of her father's books, along with typescripts of several of his stories, speeches, and nonfiction articles, to the nearly two hundred floes she had placed on deposit with Special Collections at the University of Virginia in July 1998. The 1998 group included some of the most artistically and emotionally significant books in Faulkner's library: his 1924 Ulysses, two copies of The Marble Faun, his road-worn Modern Library edition of Swinburne, and the only book he is known to have annotated extensively, Ludwig Lewisohn's 1921 anthology A Modern Book of Criticism, to name just a few. They seem to have been copies Faulkner made a point of taking with him from Oxford to Charlottesville and elsewhere in his travels: books he had been returning to for inspiration, companionship, and a sense of tradition (as well as a productive sense of competition) since the beginning of his literary career.

In contrast to these "old friends,"(1) many of them nearly read to pieces, the latest additions to the Faulkner-Summers Library appear to have spent most of their time safely ensconced in their owner's bookcases. But they fill important gaps in our understanding of Faulkner's reading all the same. Thirteen of the nineteen rifles are new to the list started in Blotner's Catalogue, and they cover virtually all of Faulkner's reading life from the earliest book he both autographed and dated (Alcott's Jo's Boys, signed in 1905) to a Civil War history (Charles O'Neill's Wild Train) purchased or given to him in 1956, towards the end of his life. The existence of two rifles by Pearl Buck sheds light on a small but interesting literary rivalry, suggesting a greater familiarity on Faulkner's part with the work of the earlier Nobel laureate (for whom Faulkner expressed contempt on a number of occasions) than he might have cared to admit. Estelle Faulkner's family Bible, with its pages of carefully recorded genealogical information, would have added greatly to Faulkner's understanding of his wife's ancestral origins. Karl A. Menninger's study The Human Mind, which bases many of its observations in passages from contemporary writers, serves as one more witness to Faulkner's fascination with the interfusion of literature and psychology. Interestingly, he envisioned one of these books--Emil Ludwig's Napoleor--as the nucleus of his future library. But perhaps most importantly, the Alcott novel, along with textbooks from Faulkner's classes at the University of Mississippi, contributes to our knowledge of the reading that went into his early moral and secular education--the kind of writing against which his own work would come to define itself.

What follows is a short catalogue of the thirteen rifles not listed in Blotner, together with an abbreviated list of the six already mentioned in the Catalogue (and about which no new information can be provided here). It is hoped that this set of titles--all available, like the other Faulkner-Summers books, for scholarly use--will enrich current dialogue about the role of Faulkner's library in his life and art, lending renewed immediacy to the discussion first sparked by the appearance of Blotner's seminal Catalogue nearly forty years ago.

Part II. Additions to Blotner's Catalogue

Alcott, Louisa M.Jo's Boys, and How They Turned Out: A Sequel to "Little Men."

Boston: Little, Brown, and Company; Cambridge: University Press-John Wilson and Son, 1904 [c1886].

Autograph: William C Falkner./1905

Note: As mentioned above, this is the earliest known book to have been both signed and dated by Faulkner, although by this point he had been reading for some rime. In the same year he also received James Otis's Wan Lun and Dandy (see below) and, interestingly, Thomas Dixon, Jr.'s The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan--a gift from his first grade teacher.(2)

Buck, Pearl S. The First Wife, and Other Stories. …

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