On changing names - about as OT as you can get

Charles Butler hannibal at thegates.fsbusiness.co.uk
Tue Mar 11 18:13:33 EST 2003

> There is a tangible benefit to accurate record
> keeping and genealogy; there is none to maintaining stacks of first draft
> manuscripts, unless you intend to become famous and make loads of money
> auctioning them on eBay.  With writing, the final product really is all
> counts

I'm sure I read recently (I think in Peter Hunt and Millicent Lenz's book on
Alternative Worlds) that Terry Pratchett, once he has finished his final
draft, shreds all the previous ones with a cry of 'Sod you, literary critics
of the future!' - or words to that effect.

But forget eBay - there's a thriving industry in literary manuscripts and
even moderately successful authors can hope to ease their retirement by
selling their MSS to the Harry Ransom Center or similar places. (I'm working
on Penelope Lively's children's books at the moment. She lives in London and
is happy to be interviewed there, but if I want to see the original
manuscripts I'm going to have to fly to Houston!) Writers of literary as
well as genealogical history like such things to be preserved. Though the
kind of research I do doesn't generally involve me heavily with such things,
I've seen it at close quarters with my wife, who just edited the Journals of
Mary Butts (English modernist writer, 1890-1937) for Yale, as well as doing
her biography a few years ago. For these projects she had to correspond with
a spirit-boggling number of archivists and private individuals, as well as
spending weeks in situ at the Beinecke in New Haven, looking at MSS as well
as letters and rest. If Butts and her friends had left everything to rot on
floppy discs both books would have been a lot shorter and we'd know a lot
less about the modernist scene.

All the same, I don't keep my MSS either.


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