Lot 168 of 256:
Original Manuscript of Steinbeck' Sweet Thursday  

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Lot closed - unsold
$300,000 - $500,000

Original First Draft Holograph Manuscript of Sweet Thursday, with additional material

Steinbeck, John

Sag Harbor, Long Island, etc.


Early 1950’s

Archive of some 490 handwritten pages & 113 typed pages by John Steinbeck, plus many carbon duplicates of the typed pages. The handwritten pages are mostly on yellow lined notebook paper (now browned), 12¾x8; the typed pages are primarily on thin typing paper, 11x8½, some of it pink. A remarkable archive of crucial significance in understanding John Steinbeck’s technique as a writer, his development of characters and themes, and his painstaking craft in producing a finished work. It is also a picture-window into the mind and soul of John Steinbeck during this trying period of his life, wracked by the death of his close friend Ed Ricketts. The many pages of manuscript are accompanied by a series of 13 retained carbons of handwritten letters from Steinbeck.

Provenance: In the spring of 2004, more than a decade after the death of Ernest H. Martin, producer of such Broadway hits as Guys and Dolls, and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, there was re-discovered in his effects a remarkable, unparalleled archive of manuscripts and letters by the Nobel Prize winning author John Steinbeck. Stashed in a closet was a box of papers relating to a project Steinbeck and Martin had worked on together, which had lain dormant among Martin’s many records for some fifty years. Mrs. Martin had heard her husband discuss the papers and his close personal friendship with Mr. Steinbeck but they were never organized. Over the ensuing year it was organized, identified and preserved. The compilation of the Steinbeck papers was done by author Joel Eisenberg, president of Topos Books. What emerged was not only the major portion of the manuscript for the first draft of Steinbeck’s novel Sweet Thursday, handwritten in pencil on lined notepaper, but also many early versions, unused excerpts, and portions of the manuscript for the play, Bear Flag, from which the novel had emerged. There was also a highly revealing series of letters Steinbeck had written during the final stages of his work on the manuscript, which offered rare insights into his mind and emotional state as he was finishing one of his major novels.

In the early 1950’s, John Steinbeck and Ernie Martin had conceived of a musical based on Steinbeck’s novel Cannery Row. The proposed title was The Bear Flag Café, and Martin and his partner Cy Feuer went so far as to hire Frank Loesser to compose the score. Steinbeck, however, soon found himself uncomfortable in the role of librettist, and the musical version of Cannery Row evolved into a novelized sequel, which was to serve as the musical’s blueprint. Production stalled, and Frank Loesser moved on to other projects. The book lay unfinished on Steinbeck’s desk. Along came Rodgers and Hammerstein, who hoped to create their own musical version, and Steinbeck, along with Martin, pushed forward on the project.

The novel, Sweet Thursday, was published in June of 1954. The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, the name changed to Pipe Dream, opened on November 30, 1955, at the Shubert Theatre in New York City. The play received only lukewarm praise by the critics, but the novel retains its importance to Steinbeck and his work. Though dismissed by some as lighthearted, even frivolous, the ongoing tale of Mack, Hazel, Fauna the Madame, Suzy, and most of all Doc, is as much a story of Steinbeck as about his characters. Doc is the embodiment of Ed Ricketts, Steinbeck’s longtime friend, and his collaborator on Sea of Cortez, which came out in 1941. As Steinbeck scholar Susan Shillinglaw writes, “He was Steinbeck's mentor, his alter ego, and his soul mate. Considering the depth of his eighteen-year friendship with Ricketts, it is hardly surprising that the bond acknowledged most frequently in Steinbeck's oeuvre is friendship between and among men….” The introspection, soul-searching, and despondency of Doc during stages of Sweet Thursday parallel, to a certain extent, the frame of mind of Steinbeck himself during this period, as evidenced at least in part by the series of letters accompanying the manuscript.

For the purposes of this catalogue, the archive has been divided into five sections:

1) Bear Flag Fragments. Approximately 272 pages, divided into 33 “fragments.” These consist of preliminary versions, dialogue from the proposed play, character studies, ideas and themes, etc. Many of these fragments can be seen in different form in the published book, Sweet Thursday. The great majority are written in pencil, although there are a few in ink, and a few carbons. The arrangement of the 33 fragments is purely arbitrary, and some of them might justifiably be felt to belong with the Sweet Thursday Manuscript.

2) Sweet Thursday Manuscript. Approximately 188 pages. These are divided roughly into the chapters in the published book, although at the beginning of the manuscript, elements of different chapters are combined, and a number of early chapters are not present. As Steinbeck progressed through the manuscript, the writing became more like that finally published. Again, most are written in pencil, although there are a few in ink, and a few carbons.

3) Letters. A series of 13 letters written by Steinbeck to Ernie Martin, his editor Elizabeth Otis, publisher Pat Covici, and others. These are Steinbeck’s retained carbons of handwritten letters.

4) Typed Fragments, including Synopses and Proposals for Bear Flag. 15 “fragments,” including character studies, preliminary drafts, outlines, and some finished chapters. There are 113 pages, plus numerous carbon duplicates for a total of 490 pages.

5) Miscellaneous Pieces. There are five undetermined pieces or fragments, not relating directly to the writing of Sweet Thursday or Bear Flag. 15 pages in all.

All are handwritten in pencil unless otherwise noted. Detailed descriptions of the content of these five sections can be supplied upon request, but a few samples follow:

Among the Fragments are

Fragment Three. 10 pages, numbered 31-40. Page 31 contains only four lines: “Tried hard enough to stop it. If he had been noisier or stronger or more persuasive the trucks might now careen down the Row, endangering life and limbs and the flies might still swarm over the fish scales on the beach.” Page 32 is headed “Cont. Ch. 6.” [But does not correspond to Chapter 6 in published version of Sweet Thursday]. Text begins, “Last sentence – And the flies might still swarm over the fish scales on the beach. The first pains were more a stir of uneasiness, or a flick of a skipped heart beat…” The second paragraph begins, “Doc was a reasonable realistic man. He had his eyes examined and his teeth x rayed. Horace Dormody went over him and discovered no secret focus of infection to cause the restlessness…” This episode occurs, in much different form, in Chapter 3 of the published book.

Fragment Fifteen. 5 pages, numbered 1-5. Headed “Cannery Row,” with additional notations “Double spaces long: 2 carbons all on thin paper 8½x11,” and, in blue pencil “OK – 4/22/53 R” (the R is circled). Two vertical blue pencil lines are drawn through the text, which begins: “Before curtain rise – sound of hot jive. Curtain rises at the end of this. Lab – Mack is looking at the exhibits the way a man does who has seen them a thousand times before. He snaps his fingers to the jive. His back is to the door. Fauna enters…” Later on dialogue breaks out, then narrative resumes. The fragment concludes “They decide to give doc a party – The idea catches on. It will start his collection trip to La Jolla with a bang. There is a riot of good feeling. Philanthropy takes hold. Susy comes out and remarks that maybe it would be better if they just stopped hustling him. She is outnumbered and outvoted. The car is started again and Mack and the boys exit full of beans(?) with Fauna and the girls waving good bye. Curtain.”

Fragment Twenty-Seven. 22 pages, numbered 1-10, 14-25. First page headed “Dec. 8.” Steinbeck is writing to develop his characters with samples of dialogue and events, some of which appear in variant form in Sweet Thursday. The first page begins, “I can’t tell you much about Suzy. Suzy is a dame – maybe as dame a kid as ever lived. Anything you say about her she’s going to make a liar of you. The first thing you need to say about her is Suzy isn’t very pretty because her nose is flat and funny and her eyes are too big. She makes you think of a rabbit peeking out of a bush… I guess Suzy was some where north of the age of consent and quite a bit south of thirty. But who knows. She looked like a kid and maybe she was a grandmother. I don’t try anymore…” On page 3, “…It’s easy to get fly papered by Irene. I said ‘What I mean, if anything goes on down the street I hear it. And if I don’t know why some body comes up and tells me.’ Irene studied that for a second and a half and then she gave it up and changed the subject. ‘They say there was one hell of a fuss in the Lone Star last evening,’ she said… ‘What was the fuss about,’ ‘What fuss – oh yea. Well it was kind of funny. A kid comes in and wants to go to work. She’s just a kid. Never been no place – never done nothing. She don’t even know it’s a profession. She thinks just anybody can hustle.’ ‘Just like acting,’ I said. ‘How do you –’ ‘I take it back go on,’ I said. ‘Well you know how Dora is. She give this girl a dressing down you could hear in Pepsodent…’” On page 14, “It’s a relief to get them all in. Of course, as I go along I’ll probably remember some more. But if I hear a story about people I don’t know, I always like to know something about them – where they come from and what they looked like. Then when the story part comes along I can see them in my mind and when they talk I know how they moved their mouths and if they make gestures with their hands…”

Among the Manuscript Chapters are

Chapter 5 (and 9 & 10). 13 pages, numbered 51-63. Pages 51-52 contain several passages similar to ones at the end of Chapter 9, with Whitey #1 saying “He used to be the easy goinest guy in the world. Now he’s got a wild hair. Any body else but doc, I figure it was a dame, but hell, doc can take dames or leave ’em alone.” (In the book, Wide Ida makes the statement.) Pages 53-56 correspond closely to the latter part of Chapter 5, beginning with “Suzy looked in the store windows on Alvarado Street and then she went to the wharf and watched the fishing boats at their moorings.” At the bottom of page 56, following the end of Chapter 5, “Suzy took a very deep breath, ‘Yes, by God,’ she said,” is the beginning of another Chapter. This begins passages that comprise much of Chapter 10, with Doc on the beach being interrupted by a “seer” who declares “There’s so much metal in the sea. Why there’s enough magnesium in a cubic meter of sea water to pave the whole country.” There are some differences with the book, but the text generally follows what was printed, including Doc being invited to dinner, finishing “Doc watched him trudge over the brim of the dune and saw the wind flip up the brim of his straw hat and the yellow sun light up his face and glisten in his beard.”

Among the Letters is

7. Ink A.L.s. (signed John), to Pat [Pascal “Pat” Covici], Sept. 16 [1953], written from Sag Harbor. 2 pages, on both sides of lined notepaper. “ Dear Pat: I’m afraid I sounded a little gruff yesterday. I suppose the reason was that I was gruff. I have been working very hard and not under the most restful circumstances. Now it is over for a little while… Already I am casting about for the next thing, a small political essay I think. I am really a restless organism. It is pleasant here and in a way it is pleasant to be alone for a little while… I do have Ethel here and she is a great big black child but she offers no intellectual challenge. She claims to have been a school teacher – Well god help the pickaninnys she taught. I am sorry to be through with the Bear Flag. It has been a lot of fun… Also it is designed for stage as nothing else has been…” (This letter has a short closed tear in the center).

Among the Typed Fragments, including Synopses and Proposals, are

Fragment One: “Story Line – Bear Flag Cafe. Cast, as Projected” 2½ pages, listing the characters and their characteristics, beginning with beginning with “Prof Oregon (probably once spelled Origen. Has just bought Western Biologic Laboratory, for sale after the death of Ed Ricketts…”

Fragment Four: Bear Flag Café. 44 pages, numbered 1-44; carbon. At upper left of first page is typed “John Steinbeck/ 206 East 72nd Street/ New York, N.Y.” This is a preliminary version of Sweet Thursday, with many differences, combining many elements from the handwritten Fragments. It begins: “When Ed Ricketts was killed by the Del Monte Express on a grade crossing, Cannery Row went into an aching slump…”

Lot Amendments

Nearly all of the manuscript pages are written on lined yellow notebook paper which is browned and brittle, though legible throughout. There is some marginal chipping and some of the corners are missing, but in only a few instances does this affect any words; there are also a few minor tears. The great majority of the leaves are in mylar or plastic sleeves, either individually or by Chapter or Fragment.

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