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Harper Lee
Lee on November 5, 2007
Lee on November 5, 2007
BornNelle Harper Lee
(1926-04-28)April 28, 1926
Monroeville, Alabama, U.S.
DiedFebruary 19, 2016(2016-02-19) (aged 89)
Monroeville, Alabama, U.S.
Pen nameHarper Lee
EducationUniversity of Alabama
GenreLiterature, fiction
Literary movementSouthern Gothic
Notable worksTo Kill a Mockingbird
Go Set a Watchman


Nelle Harper Lee (April 28, 1926 – February 19, 2016) was an American novelist widely known for To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960. Immediately successful, it won the 1961 Pulitzer Prize and has become a classic of modern American literature. Though Lee had only published this single book, in 2007 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contribution to literature.[1] Additionally, Lee received numerous honorary degrees, though she declined to speak on those occasions. She was also known for assisting her close friend Truman Capote in his research for the book In Cold Blood (1966).[2] Capote was the basis for the character Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird.[3]

The plot and characters of To Kill a Mockingbird are loosely based on Lee's observations of her family and neighbors, as well as an event that occurred near her hometown in 1936, when she was 10 years old. The novel deals with the irrationality of adult attitudes towards race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s, as depicted through the eyes of two children. The novel was inspired by racist attitudes in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama.

Another novel, Go Set a Watchman, was written in the mid-1950s and published in July 2015 as a "sequel", though it was later confirmed to be To Kill a Mockingbird's first draft.[4][5][6]

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Wassup y'all? Today on Thug Notes we bringin it back to da South Side with Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee. Now if you an OG Mockingbird fan, you prolly 'spectin this book to be written from the perspective of Scout, or "Jean Louise" as she called these days. But it ain't like dat, girl: In this book, we gettin da lowdown from a third person omniscient narrator. Anyway, it's sometime in the 1950s and 26 year old Jean Louise Finch dun peaced outta da boonies of Alabama and now she keepin it street up in New York. But girl ain't forgotten her roots, so she hop on a train and swang back home to Maycomb County to chill wit her daddy Atticus, whose ol' crusty ass all jacked up with rheumatoid arthritis now. Up at da station, Jean get scooped up by Henry Clinton, a back when friend of Jean and lawyer who work fo' Atticus. This dude don't want nuthin' mo than to make Jean his biddy fo' life. Homeboy might not be no swanky uptown playa like they do up in New York, but he got solid rep up in Maycomb and his love fo' Jean is legit. So Jean drop in at da old crib where Atticus's sister Alexandra also livin' since SOMEBODY gotta wipe Atticus's ass. Atticus all like "Girl. You hear bout what goin down with this whole segregation talk up in the supreme court?" Jean like "Sho' nuff, pops. Brown vs. Board of Education is my jam." Round this time, we hera bout how Jean's lil bro Jem died years ago. And cuz o dat, da finch's black cook Calpurnia got all to' up, chunked deuce, and ain't nobody seen her since. Later, errybody gettin' they church on when they meet up with Uncle Jack Finch, Atticus's brutha from the same mutha. Afta' all dat holy rolling, Jean peep game at a pamphlet in Atticus's living room called "The Black Plague." And this sh** is exactly as racist as it sound. Jean like "Alexandra! Da hell dis mess doin up in mah daddy's house?" Alex like "Why you trippin girl? That's some truth right there. Blacks people ain't sh** compared to white people." OH. NO. SHE. DIDN'T. Alexandra say da pamphlet came from somethin' called the Citizen's Council. Since they meetin' now, Jean head to the courthouse where sho' nuff, Atticus, Henry and all da Maycomb big dawgs sitttin round a long table talk bout how blacks ain't nuthin' but cockroaches. Atticus. You were my man, and now you practically attending Klan meetings? ET TU, BRUH? Jean so to' up by what she see, she throw up, book it home, and pass da fu** out. Jean wake up Monday and get word that Calpurnia's grandson accidentally wrecked someone's sh** wit his hoopty, and now Atticus gonna take the case just so the NAACP don't get involved. Jean go see Calpurnia to show a girl some love, but Cal don't want nuthin to do wit a racist-ass Finch. When Jean like "Cal whatcha doin to me? Calpurnia ll "Girl, what y'all doin to US?" Jean feelin' lonesome as hell. So she hit up her uncle Jack and be all like "Yo. Da hell has my daddy been smokin? How da hell did he become a racist all da sudden?" Girl don't get no straight answer, so she roll over to Atticus's office fo' some real talk. Cept, da only bruh there is Henry, and she lay it on him raw sayin she ain't neva' gonna marry a lil racist bitch. When Atticus drop in, Jean like "Pops! Da fu** you think you doin' wit dat council?" Atticus like "Look girl. This ain't no front. I think da blacks ain't as legit as da whites. Straight up." Jean just bout loses her sh** and tells him dat she ain't never gonna forgive him. I mean, she used to look up to Atticus. Hell. We all did. So she book it back home and start packin her sh** to go back to New York. Uncle Jack drop in and give her five across the face to calm her ass down. Afta' girl spits out some blood, Jack po's up some henny and explains what's goin down. He tell her dat she spent her whole life worshipping Atticus like a god, but truth is, he was bound to disappoint her sooner or later. So she gotta sack up and become her own person. Afta dat, Jean bout to driv Atticus home from work when pops say: "look girl. Even though you said some messed up sh** to me, I'm proud of you. You stood up fo what you think is right, and that's how a real G rolls." JEan like "Ah hell, pops. I love you even though you a racist piece of sh**." THE END. Now if you ain't already know, there's a lotta smack talk goin bout how shady this book's publication was. But is it all bullsh**? Let's take a look: Fact number 1: Harper Lee is old as sh**. Girl lives in an assisted living home, and has been fo a while. Afta' a stroke in 2007 leavin her sight and ability to hear all jacked up, she ain't exactly at the top of her game. Of course, that don't mean she can't make her own decisions, but it sho as hell don't make it easier. Way back in 2002, Harper's lawyer Alice, who was also her sistah, said Harper would pretty much sign any ol pap you slang in front of her. But when sis died in 2014, legal control went to Tonja, a junior partner in Alice's firm, and SHE da one who started hustlin' da manuscript. Most importantly, Harper Lee spent da last couple DECADES sayin she neva' wanted the book to see the light of day. But what even IS this thing? Is it a legit sequel? Well that's definitely what some folk thought; but truth is, this sh** was written BEFORE To Kill a Mockingbird. See, Harper's editor read dis manuscript back in 1957, told Lee it sucked, and made her rewrite it til 1960, when To Kill a Mockingbird hit the shelves. So THAT'S why some of Watchman sound EXACTLY like the original. I mean, peep this, son. These paragraphs are almost THE EXACT SAME THING. So we most likely lookin at is an early draft of Mockingbird that was chopped n' screwed so dat somebody can get in on dat sweet sequel money Anyway, back to the book. When Jean Louise get back home, girl cain't stop buggin' bout how different errything be: "My aunt is a hostile stranger, my Calpurnia won't have anything to do with me, Hank is insane, and Atticus – something's wrong with me, it's something about me. It has to be because all these people cannot have changed." (167) Jean Louise recognize dat if she thinkin bout marrying Henry's crazy racist ass, she gonna have to change HERSELF to make it work 'Is that what loving your man is...[y]ou mean losing your own identity, don't you?' 'In a way, yes,' said Henry." (227) Man, fu** DAT. Eventually, girl drops dat scrub sayin she gotta keep it 100 erry day and stay true to what she know is right. And dat's what da title all about. Like Uncle Jack say, "Every man's island, Jean Louise, every man's watchman, is his conscience." (265) Going to set a watchman basically mean stickin' to yo guns and defining what you think is right and what you think is wrong. Look, as time go by, things and people gonna change. And when they do, you gotta make sho' you don't just go with the flow. You gotta be willing to roll solo to defend what you know is right. And there ain't no change harder fo' my girl than accepting dat her daddy Atticus ain't perfect. Like Jean say: "But a man who has lived by truth – and you have believed in what he has lived – he does not leave you merely wary when he fails you, he leaves you with nothing." (179) She spent her whole life lookin' up to this cat, and now since he sippin on dat haterade actin' all racist and sh**, she gotta keep it real, and make it damn clear that she ain't bout dat. But like I said, it's gonna be a bitch. Dat's why all throughout this book da words "Childe Roland" poppin' up, which allude to a dope poem by Robert Browning called "Childe Roland to the dark Tower Came" where a dude gotta beast through a journey to a dark tower without any of his boys to get his back, and when he gets there, he prolly dies. Likewise, Jean also gotta go on a solo quest- hence why she feelin all alone- AND she gotta kill part of herself to succeed. Now even though we don't know what happen to Childe Roland when he make it to the dark tower, we sho know what happen to Jean-Louise - Uncle Jack tell her she more of a biggot than Atticus? Da hell?! He say Jean-Louise doin her daddy straight dirty by focusing on ONE flaw. Just cuz Atticus is racist don't mean he ain't a baller in a million other ways. She used to think Atticus was a God. Now she know he just another flawed flesh n' blood homie. Now here's da craziest part- we in the same position as Jean. Hear me out, playa: To Kill a Mockingbird is one of da dopest novels of all time- the movie is pretty damn legit too. And da biggest reason fo' dat is Atticus Finch- a straight up WARRIOR fo' equality and justice. Atticus made GOD knows how many kids wanna become lawyers. So when racist Atticus came hot off the presses in Go Set a Watchman, some peeps started losin their damn minds, sayin Atticus was ruined, and Harper Lee's legacy was dead. Thing is, that's exactly the kinda thing Uncle Jack tells Jean-Louise at da end of the novel: even if someone got a whackass worldview, you should still give em a chance. So is Uncle Jack right? Does Atticus deserve a chance? Can people who straight up support racism, sexism, and homophobia still be good people? Or does sh** like dat make a brutha automatically a monster? I know what I think, playa... but I ain't gonna set yo watchman for ya.


Early life

Nelle Harper Lee was born on April 28, 1926, in Monroeville, Alabama [7] where she grew up as the youngest of four children of Frances Cunningham (Finch) and Amasa Coleman Lee.[8] Her parents chose her middle name, Harper, to honor pediatrician Dr. William W. Harper, of Selma, Alabama, who saved the life of her sister Louise.[9] Her first name, Nelle, was her grandmother's name spelled backwards and the name she used;[10] Harper Lee being primarily her pen name.[10] Lee's mother was a homemaker; her father, a former newspaper editor, and proprietor, practiced law and served in the Alabama State Legislature from 1926 to 1938. Before A.C. Lee became a title lawyer, he once defended two black men accused of murdering a white storekeeper. Both clients, a father, and son, were hanged.[11] Lee had three siblings: Alice Finch Lee (1911–2014),[12] Louise Lee Conner (1916–2009), and Edwin Lee (1920–1951).[13]

While enrolled at Monroe County High School, Lee developed an interest in English literature. After graduating from high school in 1944,[8] she attended the then all-female Huntingdon College in Montgomery for a year, then transferred to the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, where she studied law for several years and wrote for the university newspaper, but did not complete a degree.[8] In the summer of 1948, Lee attended a summer school in European civilization at Oxford University in England, financed by her father, who hoped – in vain, as it turned out – that the experience would make her more interested in her legal studies in Tuscaloosa.[14]

To Kill a Mockingbird

I never expected any sort of success with Mockingbird. I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of the reviewers, but at the same time I sort of hoped someone would like it enough to give me encouragement. Public encouragement. I hoped for a little, as I said, but I got rather a whole lot, and in some ways this was just about as frightening as the quick, merciful death I'd expected.

— Harper Lee, quoted in Newquist, 1964[15]

In 1949, Lee moved to New York City and took a job as an airline reservation agent, writing fiction in her spare time.[8] Having written several long stories, Lee found an agent in November 1956. The following month, at Michael Brown's East 50th Street townhouse, she received a gift of a year's wages from friends with a note: "You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas."[16]


In the spring of 1957, a 31-year-old Lee delivered the manuscript for Go Set a Watchman to her agent to send out to publishers, including the now-defunct J. B. Lippincott Company, which eventually bought it.[17] At Lippincott, the novel fell into the hands of Therese von Hohoff Torrey—known professionally as Tay Hohoff. Hohoff was impressed. "[T]he spark of the true writer flashed in every line", she would later recount in a corporate history of Lippincott.[17] But as Hohoff saw it, the manuscript was by no means fit for publication. It was, as she described it, "more a series of anecdotes than a fully conceived novel".[17] During the next couple of years, she led Lee from one draft to the next until the book finally achieved its finished form and was retitled To Kill a Mockingbird.[17]

Like many unpublished authors, Lee was unsure of her talents. "I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told," Lee said in a statement in 2015 about the evolution from Watchman to Mockingbird.[17] Hohoff offers a more detailed characterization of the process in the Lippincott corporate history: "After a couple of false starts, the story-line, interplay of characters, and fall of emphasis grew clearer, and with each revision—there were many minor changes as the story grew in strength and in her own vision of it—the true stature of the novel became evident." (In 1978, Lippincott was acquired by Harper & Row, which became HarperCollins, publisher of Watchman.)[17]

There appeared to be a natural give and take between author and editor. "When she disagreed with a suggestion, we talked it out, sometimes for hours," Hohoff wrote. "And sometimes she came around to my way of thinking, sometimes I to hers, sometimes the discussion would open up an entirely new line of country."[17]

As for her relationship with Lee, it's clear that Hohoff provided more than just editorial guidance. One winter night, as Charles J. Shields recounts in Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee, Lee threw her manuscript out her window and into the snow, before calling Hohoff in tears. "Tay told her to march outside immediately and pick up the pages," Shields wrote.[17]

When the novel was finally ready, the author opted to use the name "Harper Lee", rather than risk having her first name Nelle be misidentified as "Nellie".[18]

Published July 11, 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird was an immediate bestseller and won great critical acclaim, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961. It remains a bestseller, with more than 30 million copies in print. In 1999, it was voted "Best Novel of the Century" in a poll by the Library Journal.[19]

Autobiographical details in the novel

Like Lee, the tomboy Scout of the novel is the daughter of a respected small-town Alabama attorney. Scout's friend, Dill, was inspired by Lee's childhood friend and neighbor, Truman Capote;[11] Lee, in turn, is the model for a character in Capote's first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms, published in 1948. Although the plot of Lee's novel involves an unsuccessful legal defense similar to one undertaken by her attorney father, the 1931 landmark Scottsboro Boys interracial rape case may also have helped to shape Lee's social conscience.[20]

While Lee herself downplayed autobiographical parallels in the book, Truman Capote, mentioning the character Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird, described details he considered autobiographical: "In my original version of Other Voices, Other Rooms I had that same man living in the house that used to leave things in the trees, and then I took that out. He was a real man, and he lived just down the road from us. We used to go and get those things out of the trees. Everything she wrote about it is absolutely true. But you see, I take the same thing and transfer it into some Gothic dream, done in an entirely different way."[21]

After To Kill a Mockingbird

Middle years

After completing To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee accompanied Capote to Holcomb, Kansas, to assist him in researching what they thought would be an article on a small town's response to the murder of a farmer and his family. Capote expanded the material into his best-selling book, In Cold Blood, published in 1966.

From the time of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird until her death in 2016, Lee granted almost no requests for interviews or public appearances and, with the exception of a few short essays, published nothing further, until 2015. She did work on a follow-up novel—The Long Goodbye—but eventually filed it away unfinished.[22] During the mid-1980s, she began a factual book about an Alabama serial murderer, but also put it aside when she was not satisfied.[22] Her withdrawal from public life prompted unfounded speculation that new publications were in the works.

Lee said of the 1962 Academy Award–winning screenplay adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird by Horton Foote: "I think it is one of the best translations of a book to film ever made."[23] She became a friend of Gregory Peck, and after his death remained close to the actor's family; Peck's grandson, Harper Peck Voll, is named after her.[24]

Peck won an Oscar for his portrayal of Atticus Finch, the father of the novel's narrator, Scout.

In January 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Lee to the National Council on the Arts.[25]

In 1966, Lee wrote a letter to the editor in response to the attempts of a Richmond, Virginia, area school board to ban To Kill a Mockingbird as "immoral literature":

Recently I have received echoes down this way of the Hanover County School Board's activities, and what I've heard makes me wonder if any of its members can read.

Surely it is plain to the simplest intelligence that To Kill a Mockingbird spells out in words of seldom more than two syllables a code of honor and conduct, Christian in its ethic, that is the heritage of all Southerners. To hear that the novel is 'immoral' has made me count the years between now and 1984, for I have yet to come across a better example of doublethink.

I feel, however, that the problem is one of illiteracy, not Marxism. Therefore I enclose a small contribution to the Beadle Bumble Fund that I hope will be used to enroll the Hanover County School Board in any first grade of its choice.[11]

James J. Kilpatrick, the editor of The Richmond News Leader, started the Beadle Bumble fund to pay fines for victims of what he termed "despots on the bench". He built the fund using contributions from readers and later used it to defend books as well as people. After the board in Richmond ordered schools to dispose of all copies of To Kill a Mockingbird, Kilpatrick wrote, "A more moral novel scarcely could be imagined." In the name of the Beadle Bumble fund, he then offered free copies to children who wrote in, and by the end of the first week, he had given away 81 copies.[26]

When Lee attended the 1983 Alabama History and Heritage Festival in Eufaula, Alabama, she presented the essay "Romance and High Adventure".[27]

Late in 1978, Lee spent some time in Alexander City, Alabama, researching a true-crime book called The Reverend.[28]

Lee lived for 40 years at 433 East 82nd Street in Manhattan.[29]


In March 2005, Lee arrived in Philadelphia – her first trip to the city since signing with publisher Lippincott in 1960 – to receive the inaugural ATTY Award for positive depictions of attorneys in the arts from the Spector Gadon & Rosen Foundation.[30] At the urging of Peck's widow, Veronique Peck, Lee traveled by train from Monroeville to Los Angeles in 2005 to accept the Los Angeles Public Library Literary Award.[31] She also attended luncheons for students who have written essays based on her work, held annually at the University of Alabama.[23][32] On May 21, 2006, she accepted an honorary degree from the University of Notre Dame, where graduating seniors saluted her with copies of To Kill a Mockingbird during the ceremony.[33]

On May 7, 2006, Lee wrote a letter to Oprah Winfrey (published in O, The Oprah Magazine in July 2006) about her love of books as a child and her dedication to the written word: "Now, 75 years later in an abundant society where people have laptops, cell phones, iPods and minds like empty rooms, I still plod along with books."[34]

While attending an August 20, 2007, ceremony inducting four members into the Alabama Academy of Honor, Lee declined an invitation to address the audience, saying: "Well, it's better to be silent than to be a fool."[35][36]

Lee being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, November 5, 2007
Lee being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, November 5, 2007

On November 5, 2007, George W. Bush presented Lee with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. This is the highest civilian award in the United States and recognizes individuals who have made "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors".[37][38]

In 2010, President Barack Obama awarded Lee the National Medal of Arts, the highest award given by the United States government for "outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support and availability of the arts".[39]

In a 2011 interview with an Australian newspaper, Rev. Dr. Thomas Lane Butts said Lee now lived in an assisted-living facility, wheelchair-bound, partially blind and deaf, and suffering from memory loss. Butts also shared that Lee told him why she never wrote again: "Two reasons: one, I wouldn't go through the pressure and publicity I went through with To Kill a Mockingbird for any amount of money. Second, I have said what I wanted to say, and I will not say it again."[40]

On May 3, 2013, Lee had filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court to regain the copyright to To Kill a Mockingbird, seeking unspecified damages from a son-in-law of her former literary agent and related entities. Lee claimed that the man "engaged in a scheme to dupe" her into assigning him the copyright on the book in 2007 when her hearing and eyesight were in decline, and she was residing in an assisted-living facility after having suffered a stroke.[41][42][43] In September 2013, attorneys for both sides announced a settlement of the lawsuit.[44]

In February 2014, Lee settled a lawsuit against the Monroe County Heritage Museum for an undisclosed amount. The suit alleged that the museum had used her name and the title To Kill a Mockingbird to promote itself and to sell souvenirs without her consent.[45][46] Lee's attorneys had filed a trademark application on August 19, 2013, to which the museum filed an opposition. This prompted Lee's attorney to file a lawsuit on October 15 that same year, "which takes issue the museum's website and gift shop, which it accuses of 'palming off its goods', including T-shirts, coffee mugs other various trinkets with Mockingbird brands."[47]

2015: Go Set a Watchman

According to Lee's lawyer Tonja Carter, following an initial meeting to appraise Lee's assets in 2011, she re-examined Lee's safe-deposit box in 2014 and found the manuscript for Go Set a Watchman. After contacting Lee and reading the manuscript, she passed it on to Lee's agent Andrew Nurnberg.[48][49]

On February 3, 2015, it was announced that HarperCollins would publish Go Set a Watchman,[50] which includes versions of many of the characters in To Kill a Mockingbird. According to a HarperCollins press release, it was originally thought that the Watchman manuscript was lost.[51] According to Nurnberg, Mockingbird was originally intended to be the first book of a trilogy: "They discussed publishing Mockingbird first, Watchman last, and a shorter connecting novel between the two."[52]

Jonathan Mahler's account in The New York Times of how Watchman was only ever really considered to be the first draft of Mockingbird makes this assertion seem unlikely.[17] Evidence where the same passages exist in both books, in many cases word for word, also further refutes this assertion.[53]

The book was controversially[4] published in July 2015 as a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, though it has been confirmed to be the first draft of the latter, with many narrative incongruities, repackaged and released as a completely separate work.[4] The book is set some 20 years after the time period depicted in Mockingbird, when Scout returns as an adult from New York to visit her father in Maycomb, Alabama.[54] It alludes to Scout's view of her father, Atticus Finch, as the moral compass ("watchman") of Maycomb,[55] and, according to the publisher, how she finds upon her return to Maycomb, that she "is forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand her father's attitude toward society and her own feelings about the place where she was born and spent her childhood."[56]

Not all reviewers have such a harsh opinion about the publication of the sequel book. Michiko Kakutani in Books of The Times article[57] finds that the book "makes for disturbing reading" when Scout is shocked to find... that her beloved father... has been affiliating with raving anti-integration, anti-black crazies, and the reader shares her horror and confusion... Though it lacks the lyricism... the portions of "Watchman" dealing with Scout's childhood and her adult romance with Henry capture the daily rhythms of life in a small town and are peppered with portraits of minor characters" and she mentions that "Students of writing will find 'Watchman' fascinating." While not fully praising the book she finds the publication of "Watchman" an important step stone in understanding Harper Lee's work.[57]

The publication of the novel (announced by her lawyer) raised concerns over why Lee, who for 55 years had maintained that she would never write another book, would suddenly choose to publish again. In February 2015, the State of Alabama, through its Human Resources Department, launched an investigation into whether Lee was competent enough to consent to the publishing of Go Set a Watchman.[10] The investigation found that the claims of coercion and elder abuse were unfounded,[58] and, according to Lee's lawyer, Lee was "happy as hell" with the publication.[59]

This characterization, however, was contested by many of Lee's friends.[4][60][61] Marja Mills, author of The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee, a friend and former neighbor, painted a very different picture.[62] In her piece for The Washington Post, "The Harper Lee I knew",[60] she quoted Alice—Lee's sister, whom she described as "gatekeeper, advisor, protector" for most of Lee's adult life—as saying, "Poor Nelle Harper can't see and can't hear and will sign anything put before her by anyone in whom she has confidence." She made note that Watchman was announced just two and a half months after Alice's death and that all correspondence to and from Lee went through her new attorney. She described Lee as "in a wheelchair in an assisted living center, nearly deaf and blind, with a uniformed guard posted at the door" and her visitors "restricted to those on an approved list."[60]

New York Times columnist Joe Nocera continued this argument.[4] He also took issue with how the book was promoted by the 'Murdoch Empire' as a "newly discovered" novel, attesting that the other people in the Sothebys meeting insisted that Lee's attorney was present in 2011, when Lee's former agent (who was subsequently fired) and the Sotheby's specialist found the manuscript. They said she knew full well that it was the same one submitted to Tay Hohoff in the 1950s that was reworked into Mockingbird, and that Lee's lawyer Tonja Carter had been sitting on the discovery, waiting for the moment when she, and not Alice, would be in charge of Harper Lee's affairs.[4]

Stephen Peck, son of actor Gregory Peck, also expressed concern. Responding to the question of how he thought his father would have reacted to the book, he said that he "would have appreciated the discussion the book has prompted, but would have been troubled by the decision to publish it."[61] Peck noted that his father considered Lee a dear friend. She gave him the pocket watch that had belonged to her father, on whom she modeled Atticus and that Gregory wore it the night he won an Oscar for the role.[61] Stephen, who is president and chief executive of the United States Veterans Initiative, went on to say "I think he would have felt very protective of her," and that his father would have counseled Lee not to publish Watchman because it could taint Mockingbird, one of the most beloved novels (in) American history.[61]

"Not to protect himself, but to protect her," Peck said, also noting that the decision to publish it was made not long after the death of Alice Lee, who had long handled Harper Lee's affairs. "You just don't know how that decision was made. ... If he had to, he would have flown down to talk to her. I have no doubt." Later in the article, which was posted in The Wall Street Journal, he said, "To me, it was an unedited draft. Do you want to put that early version out there or do you want to put it in the University of Alabama archives for scholars to look at?"[61]


Lee died in her sleep on the morning of February 19, 2016, aged 89.[63][64] Prior to her death, she lived in Monroeville, Alabama.[65] On February 20, her funeral was held at First United Methodist Church in Monroeville.[66] The service was attended by close family and friends, and the eulogy was given by Wayne Flynt.[67]

After her death, The New York Times filed a lawsuit that argued that since Lee's will was filed in a probate court in Alabama that it should be part of the public record. They argued that wills filed in a probate court are considered part of the public record, and that Lee's should follow suit.[68]

Fictional portrayals

Harper Lee was portrayed by Catherine Keener in the film Capote (2005), by Sandra Bullock in the film Infamous (2006), and by Tracey Hoyt in the TV movie Scandalous Me: The Jacqueline Susann Story (1998).[69] In the adaptation of Truman Capote's novel Other Voices, Other Rooms (1995), the character of Idabel Thompkins, who was inspired by Capote's memories of Lee as a child, was played by Aubrey Dollar.




  • "Love—In Other Words". Vogue. April 15, 1961. pp. 64–65.
  • "Christmas to Me". McCall's. December 1961.
  • "When Children Discover America". McCall's. August 1965.
  • "Romance and High Adventure". 1983. A paper presented in Eufaula, Alabama, and collected in the anthology Clearings in the Thicket (1985).
  • "Open letter to Oprah Winfrey". O: The Oprah Magazine. July 2006.

See also


  1. ^ "President Bush Honors Medal of Freedom Recipients" (Press release). The White House. November 5, 2007.
  2. ^ Harris, Paul (May 4, 2013). "Harper Lee sues agent over copyright to To Kill A Mockingbird". The Guardian.
  3. ^ Langer, Emily (February 19, 2016). "Harper Lee, elusive author of 'To Kill a Mockingbird,' is dead at 89". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved February 19, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Nocera, Joe (July 24, 2015). "The Harper Lee 'Go Set A Watchman' Fraud". The New York Times. Retrieved December 15, 2015.
  5. ^ Oldenburg, Ann (February 3, 2015). "New Harper Lee novel on the way!". USA Today. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  6. ^ Alter, Alexandra (February 3, 2015). "Harper Lee, Author of 'To Kill a Mockingbird,' Is to Publish a Second Novel". The New York Times. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  7. ^ Grimes, William (February 19, 2016). "Harper Lee, Author of 'To Kill a Mockingbird,' Dies at 89". New York Times. Retrieved February 19, 2016.
  8. ^ a b c d Anderson, Nancy G. (March 19, 2007). "Nelle Harper Lee". The Encyclopedia of Alabama. Auburn University at Montgomery. Retrieved November 3, 2010.
  9. ^ Mills, Marja (2014). The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee. Penguin. p. 181. ISBN 9780698163836.
  10. ^ a b c Kovaleski, Serge (March 11, 2015). "Harper Lee's Condition Debated by Friends, Fans and Now State of Alabama". New York Times. New York. Retrieved March 12, 2015.
  11. ^ a b c Shields, Charles J. (2006). Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee. Henry Holt and Co. Retrieved February 19, 2016.
  12. ^ Woo, Elaine (November 22, 2014). "Lawyer Alice Lee dies at 103; sister of 'To Kill a Mockingbird' author". Los Angeles Times.
  13. ^ "Louise L. Conner Obituary". The Gainesville Sun.
  14. ^ "Harper Lee's Oxford Summer," Department of Continuing Education, Oxford University: unsigned article is also undated, but written after publication of Go Set a Watchman; accessed 12 December 2016.
  15. ^ Newquist, Roy, ed. (1964). Counterpoint. Chicago: Rand McNally. ISBN 1-111-80499-0.
  16. ^ "Harper Lee". Retrieved May 7, 2007.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i Mahler, Jonathan (July 12, 2015). "The Invisible Hand Behind Harper Lee's 'To Kill A Mockingbird'". The New York Times. Retrieved December 15, 2015.
  18. ^ Maslin, Janet (June 8, 2006). "A Biography of Harper Lee, Author of 'To Kill a Mockingbird'". The New York Times. Retrieved November 30, 2014.
  19. ^ "1960, To Kill a Mockingbird". PBS. Retrieved November 30, 2014.
  20. ^ Johnson, Claudia Durst (1994). To Kill a Mockingbird: Threatening Boundaries. Twayne.
  21. ^ Nance, William (1970). The Worlds of Truman Capote. New York: Stein & Day. p. 223.
  22. ^ a b "A writer's story: The mockingbird mystery". The Independent. June 4, 2006. Retrieved August 3, 2008.
  23. ^ a b Bellafante, Ginia (January 30, 2006). "Harper Lee, Gregarious for a Day". The New York Times. Retrieved August 3, 2008.
  24. ^ Lacher, Irene (May 21, 2005). "Harper Lee raises her low profile for a friend". LA Times. Retrieved March 3, 2017.
  25. ^ "26 to Be Advisory Board for National Endowment". The New York Times. January 28, 1966. Retrieved November 30, 2014. In a parallel development to- day, the President appointed Harper Lee, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning "To Kill a Mockingbird." and Richard Diebenkorn, artist, to the National Council on the Arts.
  26. ^ "Newspapers: Spoofing the Despots". Time. January 21, 1966. Retrieved April 29, 2011.
  27. ^ Monroe County Heritage Museums (1999). Monroeville: The Search for Harper Lee's Maycomb. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-7385-0204-5. Retrieved June 15, 2015.
  28. ^ Kemp, Kathy (November 10, 2010). "In search of Harper Lee".
  29. ^ Oleksinski, Johnny. Find out if New York's greatest writers lived next door. The New York Post April 14, 2017, Accessed April 14, 2017
  30. ^ Reynolds, Jennifer (February 11, 2015). "Meeting 'Mockingbird' author Harper Lee". Delaware County Daily Times. Archived from the original on March 9, 2015. Retrieved March 5, 2015.
  31. ^ Nelson, Valerie J. (August 19, 2012). "Veronique Peck dies at 80; Gregory Peck's widow was L.A. philanthropist". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 2, 2012.
  32. ^ Lacher, Irene (May 21, 2005). "Harper Lee raises her low profile for a friend". Los Angeles Times.
  33. ^ "Commencement 2006". Notre Dame Magazine. Retrieved November 30, 2014.
  34. ^ "Harper Lee Writes Rare Item for O Magazine". The Washington Post. Associated Press. June 26, 2006.
  35. ^ Paraphrase of a well-known American saying: "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt." The origin of the saying is uncertain; see Quote Investigator, 17 May 2010.
  36. ^ "Author has her say". The Boston Globe. August 21, 2007.
  37. ^ Martin, Virginia (November 5, 2007). "Harper Lee given Presidential Medal of Freedom". The Birmingham News.
  38. ^ "Author Lee receives top US honour". BBC News. November 6, 2007.
  39. ^ "Harper Lee". National Endowment for the Arts. Retrieved February 4, 2015.
  40. ^ Toohey, Paul (July 31, 2011). "Miss Nelle in Monroeville". The Daily Telegraph. Sydney, NSW, Australia. Retrieved August 8, 2011.
  41. ^ Jeffrey, Don; Van Voris, Bob (May 3, 2013). "Harper Lee Sues Agent Over 'Mockingbird' Royalties". Bloomberg.
  42. ^ "'Mockingbird' author Lee sues over copyright in NY". AP. Retrieved May 4, 2013.
  43. ^ "'To Kill a Mockingbird' author Lee sues her agent over copyright". Reuters. May 4, 2013.
  44. ^ Matthews, Cara (September 6, 2013). "Harper Lee settles 'To Kill a Mockingbird' suit". USA Today.
  45. ^ "Harper Lee settles legal action against Alabama museum". BBC News. February 20, 2014.
  46. ^ Gates, Verna Gates (November 2, 2013). "Town dependent on fame of Harper Lee book stung by museum lawsuit". Monroeville, Alabama. Reuters.
  47. ^ Lewis, Paul (November 1, 2013). "Lawsuit divides town which inspired classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird". The Guardian.
  48. ^ Carter, Tonja B. (July 12, 2015). "How I Found the Harper Lee Manuscript". The Wall Street Journal.
  49. ^ Flood, Alison (July 13, 2015). "Harper Lee may have written a third novel, lawyer suggests". The Guardian.
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  51. ^ Alter, Alexandra (February 3, 2015). "Harper Lee, Author of 'To Kill a Mockingbird,' Is to Publish a Second Novel". The New York Times. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  52. ^ Alison Flood (February 5, 2015). "Harper Lee's 'lost' novel was intended to complete a trilogy, says agent". The Guardian.
  53. ^ Collins, Keith; Sonnad, Nikhil (July 14, 2015). "See where 'Go Set A Watchman' overlaps with 'To Kill A Mockingbird' word for word". Quartz. Retrieved December 15, 2015.
  54. ^ "Recently Discovered Novel from Harper Lee, Author of To Kill a Mockingbird". HarperCollins Publishers. February 3, 2015. Archived from the original on February 3, 2015.
  55. ^ Garrison, Greg. "'Go Set a Watchman': What does Harper Lee's book title mean?". Retrieved February 6, 2015.
  56. ^ "Second Harper Lee Novel to Be Published in July". ABC News. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  57. ^ a b Kakutani, Michiko (July 10, 2015). "Review: Harper Lee's 'Go Set a Watchman' Gives Atticus Finch a Dark Side" – via
  58. ^ "Review rejects claims author Harper Lee was coerced into publishing second book 'Go Set A Watchman'". Radio Australia. April 4, 2015. Retrieved December 15, 2015.
  59. ^ Tucker, Neely (February 16, 2015). "To shill a mockingbird: How a manuscript's discovery became Harper Lee's 'new' novel". Washington Post. Retrieved July 18, 2015. Lee, in a statement released by Carter, said she was "happy as hell" that it was finally being published. The statement also quoted Lee as saying that she recently showed the manuscript to some unnamed friends, who verified its merit, thus convincing her to reverse her long-held decision about not publishing. In the statement, she said that she was young when she wrote it, so when an editor told her to reshape it, "I did as I was told."
  60. ^ a b c Mills, Marja (July 20, 2015). "The Harper Lee I Knew". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 15, 2015.
  61. ^ a b c d e Maloney, Jennifer (July 17, 2015). "What Would Gregory Peck Think Of 'Go Set A Watchman'? His Son Weights In". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved December 15, 2015.
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  68. ^ F. Kovaleski, Serge; Alter, Alexandra. "Harper Lee's Will, Unsealed, Only Adds More Mystery to Her Life". The New York Times. Retrieved 14. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  69. ^ "Scandalous Me: The Jacqueline Susann Story". The New York Times. 1998.

External links

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