Helmut in Phronesisiacal:
Today is the great William Faulkner‘s birthday. Born on this date in 1897, he died in 1962.
Years ago, I was browsing an antique store in the small Texas town of Bryan. I have an interest in rare books and first editions. Antique stores are sometimes good places to find them because their books are often priced for a general market based on the factor of being old, rather than priced for the specialized market of the rare books world. In the Texas antique store, I came across a first edition of Nobel laureate Faulkner’s late novel A Fable. I bought it for a dollar or two and was pleased with the find – Faulkner is one of my favorite American writers.
After buying it along with some other books I noticed that the letter in it, which I had taken to be a simple bookmark, was postmarked from Oxford, Mississippi. June 25th, 1956. Faulkner was raised in Oxford and made it his home town until the end of his life (Faulkner’s fictional Yoknapatawpha County).
I opened the envelope and read the letter (below). The letter itself, dated June 20th, is mostly rather banal. One Mrs. Owens (I don’t know who she is/was) writes to Faulkner asking for the source of the quote, “…but that was in another country; and besides, the wench is dead.” The quote itself is fairly famous, at least for its influence on other writers, and is worth examining in its own right for its embedded moral claim about moral boundaries.