From a comment posted at https://howellssociety.wordpress.com/queries/. If you have suggestions, post them in the comments here or on howells-l. Thanks!
I am representing a client who has what may be an unrecorded William Dean Howells manuscript and I am looking for assistance in possibly identifying it. (I also am not an expert in Howells’s handwriting, so it is, of course, very possible that it is not the work of Howells.)
The manuscript seems to be the first three chapters (totaling 109 manuscript pages and three manuscript slips) of a novel, written across the pages of a salesman’s dummy of Grant’s Memoirs.
The handwriting is easy to read: the story begins in the middle of the subscription list (about two-thirds of the way into the salesman’s dummy) with possible epigraphs and a character list with the characters’ ages preceding the text. It then continues at the beginning of the book until re-connecting with the opening lines.
I’ve read the story (and enjoyed it!). It involves an aspiring writer, Ralph Estabrook who falls in love with a poor young girl (Nancy “Nan” Valcour, who is fifteen when they meet), but then marries an older heiress, Miss Charlotte Thursby.
Ten years pass, Estabrook (who is now successful as a speaker and writer) and his wife have been separated for five years; Nan Valcour has come into an unexpected inheritance and become a famous singer. The two meet again, they declare their love for each other, but Valcour will not marry Estabrook because he is, although separated from his wife, still married. Even if he can get a divorce, she will not accept him because he will still be married “in God’s eyes”.
The setting is a small coastal village, with the Valcour’s house situated on an island (“Clam Island”). There are resemblances to Cape Cod, with even a reference to Cape Cod at one point.
Does this sound at all familiar to anyone?
If it is Howells, my guess is that he picked up a used salesman’s dummy (the subscriptions seem to have been filled) lying around at Charles Webster’s and just began writing.
If there are any Howells handwriting experts who could help (I have images of all the pages I could forward) – or if this story sounds familiar to anyone – I would love to hear from you.
Owner, The Manhattan Rare Book Company