April 2013 | Nate Pedersen

Nine Salinger Letters Acquired by the Morgan


Nine letters written by a young J. D. Salinger to a fellow aspiring writer in the early 1940s were recently acquired by the Morgan Library and Museum. The two year correspondence began in 1941 when Salinger was only 22 years old and experiencing his first brush with literary success with stories published in Esquire and Collier's and upcoming stories in The New Yorker. Salinger's early correspondent was Marjorie Sheard, a young Canadian woman who had read Salinger's first published stories and wrote to him seeking advice.

"Seems to me you have the instincts to avoid the usual Vassar-girl tripe," Salinger wrote to Sheard. "You can't go around buying Cadillacs on what the small mags pay, but that doesn't really matter, does it?"

Salinger's letters, which were shared with The New York TImes, contain tantalizing references to short stories that were either lost or never came to fruition.  Salinger was working on one story entitled Harry Jesus which he said would "doubtless tear the country's heart out, and return the thing a new and far richer organ."  The fate of the story remains unknown.

Marjorie Sheard, who is now 95 years old, saved the letters for 70 years in a shoe box in her closet.  She and her family recently made the decision to sell the letters in order to pay for the cost of her care.

The Morgan has declined to reveal the amount of money paid for the letters, which offer a rare glimpse into the early character of the notoriously reclusive Salinger.