CATHER, Willa Siebert. Autograph and typed manuscripts, drafts for her last novel Sapphira and the Slave Girl, WITH NUMEROUS PENCILLED ADDITIONS, REVISIONS AND CORRECTIONS BY THE AUTHOR. N.p., n.d. [Grande Manan Island and New York, 1937-1940]. Together 64 pp., in several groups as filed by Cather or a literary assistant (see below).
WORKING AUTOGRAPH AND TYPED DRAFTS OF 'SAPPHIRA AND THE SLAVE GIRL,' CATHER'S LAST, INTENSELY AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL NOVEL, SET IN ANTE-BELLUM VIRGINIA
In December 2004 Christie's sold a complete, newly discovered typescript of Sapphira (December 2004, lot 504). Here, from another unrelated discovery are highly interesting draft sections from Cather's Sapphira, "a triumphant acheivement at the end of a long and distinguished career" (J. Woodress, Willa Cather: A Literary Life, 1987). In the Spring of 1937, Cather had begun to write Sapphira, her ninth and last novel, and continued to work on it until publication in December 1940. The story is set in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley in 1856, and its vivid characters--African-American and white--were drawn from Cather's childhood memories, family stories about ante-bellum life, and anecdotes about the small group of slaves owned by the family in the years before the Civil War.
Cather's friend and executor Edith Lewis recalled that Willa "could have written two or three Sapphiras out of her material; and in fact she did write, in her first draft, twice as much as she used'" (Woodress, p.481). The handwritten drafts may well be portions of her first draft, and it is quite conceivable that some of the typed sections in this cache represent passages deleted during the editorial process. Close study will permit answers to these intriguing questions and shed new light on the working methods of Cather.
1) Autograph manuscript pages, with revisions, comprising some 3500 words, 19pp., in ink on 13 8 x 10in. sheets, irregular, partial pagination. Page 1 commences "Late in the afternoon..."; two pages marked "Insert," by Cather.
2) Ribbon carbon typescripts WITH EXTENSIVE AUTOGRAPH DELETIONS, ADDITIONS AND REVISIONS , 14pp., 8 x 10in., on rectos only, paginated 162-175. Page 163 with an attached slip with an eight-line autograph addition. Page 162 commences "...Fairhead said he would go: Whitford could carry him back to Mrs. Blake's..." Page 16 commences "Tap came back from Winchester but he came alone..."
3) Autograph manuscript pages, with deletions and revisions, 14 pp., 8 x 10 in. sheets, in pencil, rectos and versos, paginated 1-10,13-16. Page 1 with deleted heading "Doctor from Baltimore," page 8 marked "Discard" by Cather. Begins "They walked along the mill road by the crick, leading the doctor home..."
4) Carbon typescripts with Cather's deletions and revisions, 17pp., 8 x 10 in. sheets, paginated 1-3, 7-10, 4 unnumbered, page 1 headed "Carbon of Timber Ridge Chapter," with Cather's inscription on attached slip: "Write on 1 and edit for Miss Bloom." Commences: "One breezy afternoon Mrs Blake..."
5) Carbon typescripts, 4pp., 8 x 10 in. sheets, rectos only, a few typed revisions. Commences: "Well, that was best, Mrs. Blake agreed, as she folded up the paper...she would not set the slave-catchers on to track Nancy..."
6) Carbon typescripts, with a number of penciled revisions, 8pp., 8 x 10 in. sheets, rectos only, in a manila folder labeled in crayon by Cather: "I. Mrs. Blake & Miller," II. Nancy's Flight, rough draft," (both lined through), "April 29 Recent Carbons." Another flap of folder labeled ""(Virginia New to copy," Mrs. Blake talk with the miller and Nancy's flight." Text paginated 1-4, 4, *4, 5, 6. Commences "No one could remember a finer autumn..."
7) Carbon typescripts, scattered revisions by Cather in pencil, 11pp., 8 x 10 in. sheets, rectos only, paginated 89-95; 1-3. Part of page 92 marked for deletion: "cut out 93"; page 93 neatly crossed out. Page 89 commences "and Betty sat all morning under the old gnarled chestnut tree on the stony hillside..."
8) Carbon typescripts, uncorrected, paginated 1-3 and 1 un-numbered, 8 x 10 in. sheets. Penciled note ("Italic") by Cather on last page. Commences "Tap came back from Winchester late in the afternoon, but he came alone..."