Last week, I posted some thoughts about how much of my novel I have lying around at any one time and it set me wondering what I would do if I lost it all. Zoom forward one week and I find myself sat on Wikipedia reading about David Gemmell (great author) and I read this little tidbit;
“In 1986, Gemmell wrote The Lost Crown as a children’s novel with his daughter, who was just seven at the time. His publishers liked the idea and commissioned the work…. After Gemmell finished The Lost Crown, he sent the manuscript to his publishers. Unfortunately, they didn’t like it, saying that they didn’t think it had a “voice” for children. So it was shelved. When Gemmell asked for the manuscript back the following year, so that he could work on it, he was told it had been lost. As if that wasn’t enough, it had been saved only on an old Amstrad PCW disk that had become corrupted.”
This sparked the muse into life and I had to read about other lost, or recently discovered novels and how they came to be (or not, as can be the case). Note, this list is in no way exhaustive, I just spent some time wandering the halls of the Internet with a few key search words in my hands…
Thomas Hardy (The Poor Man and the Lady); Written in 1867 and rejected by a number of publishers, Hardy gave up on the novel in its original form. Years on, after having only a few fragments of the manuscript left (and unable to reconstruct it), he destroyed all remnants of it.
T.E Lawrence (Seven Pillars of Wisdom); Written in 1919, the first draft was in a misplaced briefcase that he lost while changing trains in Reading train station. Although, he re-wrote the story in a number of editions, the original draft was never found.
Jane Austen (The Watsons); An unfinished manuscript that was abandoned after the death of her father. It has since been finished by other authors who have published their own versions. However, only one copy of the original exists – and it’s worth almost £1 million.
Arthur Conan Doyle (The Narrative of John Smith); Doyle’s first novel written when he was 23. He sent it to a publisher but it got lost and he had to redo it from memory. Only contains six chapters.
Truman Capote(Answered Prayers); Following his death in 1984, Capote left several chapters of the book Answered Prayers behind (thought to have been halted in the mid 1960’s due to his substance abuse). The three surviving chapters were collated published in the 1970’s. However, reports by Vanity Fair suggest that another chapter has recently been discovered.
James M Cain (The Cocktail Waitress); Manuscript was mentioned by Cain towards the end of his life. After his death, a 9 year search began to track down the book and guess what they found?
Louisa May Alcott (The Inheritance); Discovered by two researchers after finding a reference to it in Harvard’s Houghton Library Card Catalogue in 1988. When they asked the library for it, there it was – almost 150 years after it had been written, but never published.
Enid Blyton (Mr Tumpy’s Caravan); Discovered in decayed manuscripts that were sold after the death of her eldest daughter, Gillian Baverstock. Thought to have been published work but, upon investigation, was shown to be a complete new novel.
Jules Verne (Paris in the Twentieth Century); Ignored at the time (1863) by his publisher, Verne hid the manuscript away in a safe. It was found by his great-grandson discovered it in 1989. Finally, it was published in French in 1994, and in English in 1997
Jack Kerouac (The Sea is my Brother); His first novel comprising a collection of notes written whilst he was aboard the SS Dorchester in 1942. Never published at the time and was considered by Kerouac himself to be ‘a crock’.
CS Forester (The Pursued); Accepted for publication in 1935, the release was delayed so as not to appear between two Hornblower novels. During that time, the publisher was sold and the manuscript disappeared. It finally surfaced at Christie’s Auction House in 2002.
Franz Xaver von Schonwerth (500 Fairytales); A collection of fairytales that had been locked away in an archive for 150 years is to be published.
Claude McKay (Amiable with Big Teeth); Yet another novel recently discovered by researchers in a university archive. Written in 1941 and found in a box owned by a man who had a reputation for publishing work without permission.