John Steinbeck’s dog partly ate his Of Mice and Men manuscript (2-months’ work)

John Steinbeck on a stamp.

The dog-eaten remains in the form of a torn fragment of John Steinbeck’s handwritten draft of Of Mice and Men is to be sold at auction with an estimate sale price of $3000 at Bonhams auction house. The destruction occurred 77 years ago.

Imagine how Mr Steinbeck felt. He had a disciplined work ethic according to Maria Popova. And at the time he had a setter dog called Toby. His manuscript was handwritten as mentioned. And his dog chewed through two months’ worth of manuscript!

He had to explain, I believe, to his editor, Elizabeth Otis, why the manuscript was taking so long and he said the following:

Minor tragedy stalked. I don’t know whether I told you. My setter pup, left alone one night, made confetti of about half of my [manuscript] book. Two months’ work to do over again. It sets me back. There was no other draft. I was pretty mad but the poor little fellow may have been acting critically. I didn’t want to ruin a good dog for a ms. I’m not sure is good at all. He only got an ordinary spanking with his punishment flyswatter. But there’s the work to do over from the start. I should imagine the new little manuscript will be ready in about two months. I hope you won’t be angry at it. I think it has something, but can’t tell much yet. I’ll get this off. I hear the postman.

John Steinbeck

And to his agent he said the following:

My setter pup made confetti of about half of my manuscript. There was no other draft. I was pretty mad, but the poor little fellow may have been acting critically.” It was May 1936.

The letter was found in a book of his letters called Steinbeck: A Life in Letters. Apparently, the book is in a public library.

Catherine Williamson, a director at Bonhams said: “When I found this tiny scrap of Steinbeck’s manuscript, gnawed at the edges with a tooth mark through the center, I knew exactly how Steinbach felt. What puppy hasn’t eaten something he shouldn’t have because his owner didn’t put it out of the way? And who among us hasn’t lost months of work with the wrong stroke of a key?”

Toby. I think this picture is in the public domain and if not please comment and I’ll remove it.

There is a reference to losing work on a computer by pushing the wrong key such as the delete key! Maria Popova on her website ‘the margilian’ equates the loss of part of Steinbeck’s manuscript to a computer crash so there’s quite a neat connection between what the Bonhams director is saying and what Popova said.

The auction is in New York on October 25. It features more than a hundred items which were kept by the family of Steinbeck’s sister Mary Steinbeck Dekker. The collection includes diaries, books and letters and other personal effects. They provide a unique glimpse into his life.

John Steinbeck is one of America’s most celebrated authors.

Many authors both living and dead are and were cat lovers. Cats are possibly better companions for authors. They don’t need walking and are less intrusive. And they won’t eat your manuscript. Although they might play with the papers. This wouldn’t destroy it though; just mess it up a little.

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