FAULKNER, William. Big Woods. New York: Random House, 1955.
8o. Illustrated by Edward Shenton. Original green cloth (old tape residue on endleaves, corners bumped); pictorial dust jacket (a bit rubbed and lightly worn, few old tape remains on inner flaps and verso). Provenance: Alabama Leroy Faulkner McLean (presentation inscription).
FIRST EDITION. AN INTIMATE FAMILY ASSOCIATION COPY, INSCRIBED BY FAULKNER TO HIS GREAT-AUNT on the front free endpaper: "To Aunt Bama, with love William Faulkner." ADDITIONALLY SIGNED BY FAULKNER on the title: "William Faulkner New York 13 Nov. 1955."
"Aunt Bama" was Faulkner's great aunt, Alabama Leroy Faulkner McLean, and the two remained close until Faulkner's death in 1962. Always supportive of her famous relation, she made sure she was present at his career milestones. Faulkner's biographer Joseph Blotner especially notes her desire to attend the world premiere of Intruder in the Dust: "I've waited a long time to be proud of you... and I want to be there when you take your bow" (Blotner, p.1297). Faulkner named his first daughter after Bama, though she died after just nine days. Blotner notes of her character: "She did not believe in helping people too much, for she thought they ought to work out their problems themselves... One did not complain around Aunt 'Bama. She was distinguished by what Faulkner once called her 'charming grand-duchess air' and a proclivity for 'penetrating stage asides.'" Frederick Karl calls Aunt 'Bama, who lived to be 94, the "holder of the Falkner family story," and thus her connection to the characters and stories told throughout her grand-nephew's novels is intense (Karl, William Faulkner, 1989, p.36).
She did believe in Faulkner, though, and went out of her way to support him: "She was drawn to Billy not only by her pride in his work and accomplishments (sometimes they would correspond in French), but by his admiration for the Old Colonel, her adored father. She saw in her grandnephew another Southern literary artist like the author of The White Rose of Memphis. She had certainly not helped with subsidizing The Marble Faun, but now she may have thought for a moment of her father's trip to Europe over forty years before--the trip which had produced Rapid Ramblings in Europe. She may have reflected on the contrasting circumstances of the affluent Colonel and his down-at-the-heels great-grandson. Aunt 'Bama broke a rule. She gave him twenty dollars" (Blotner, p.441).
Inscribed copies of The Woods are very scarce, especially with such close family association. The only other inscribed copy appearing at auction in the last thirty years is the uncorrected galley proofs inscribed to Malcolm Cowley, sold as part of the Jonathan Goodwin Collection in 1977. Massey 424; Peterson A44.1.