Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2013 Issue

Good Grief! Charles Schultz's Personal Letters Offered at Auction

Schultzletters

Charles Schultz's love letters and drawings. Courtesy Sotheby's.

Many of us lament the effect of electronic communications on the permanency of written and printed records. A paper book, a manuscript letter, provides a permanent record if kept, something scholars can look back on generations from now to understand our world and our lives. How about an email? Or an instant message? Or a text message? Or maybe a message posted on Facebook, or a ubiquitous “like?” I erase my text messages when my phone memory is full, my emails when the saved ones become too numerous to manage, my instant messages instantly, and Facebook?... well, I don't expect they will still be saving my page generations after I'm gone. But, I still have old letters.

Then again, on second thought, maybe electronic messaging isn't so bad. Take the case of an auction that took place a few weeks back. Offered for sale was a collection of letters, not of someone from the 19th century, a distant memory, but a man who lived until the 21st. Everyone knows him, not personally, but we know who he was. The man was Charles Schultz, creator of Peanuts, the comic strip that every one of us has read, without exception, some time in our lives. Reruns still appear in newspapers (Schultz did not permit anyone else to continue his strip) and Charlie Brown TV specials still are broadcast over the air. If Schultz's cartoon kids are a bit tame by today's standards – Lucy was mean but never obscene – they still have a following.

The letters of Schultz that went up for auction were personal. They were love letters. Schultz was married. The letters were not to his wife. How would Schultz feel about these letters being put up for auction, their content available for all the world to see? Schultz was a quiet and private man. Just a guess, but I don't think he would have liked it. Schultz was married in 1951, divorced in 1972. These letters come from 1970-1971. According to Wikipedia (and I can rely on Wikipedia because it really doesn't matter whether this is true), Schultz's marriage was already in trouble by 1970. Evidently. As to whether this relationship was a cause or symptom of that trouble, a biography by David Michaelis indicates the married couple had already grown distant. A “chance” meeting set up by one Tracey Claudius, 23 years his junior and an admirer of his work, must have pushed the lovestruck 48-year-old man over the edge.

Schultz remarried the year after his 1972 divorce. It was not to Miss Claudius. According to Michaelis, Schultz proposed twice to her but she turned him down. Schultz second marriage lasted the remainder of his life.

The letters are basically what you would expect from a schoolboy in love for the first time. They probably aren't something a 48-year-old man would want to share with the world. What is most interesting is to see his drawings, frequently Peanuts characters expressing similar lovestruck views. Lucy with a heart! Fortunately, it's all very sweet and silly. Schultz's image for good clean fun remains intact, even if the circumstances of this belated youthful romance aren't entirely appropriate. At one time, he is forced to write Claudius that he has to stop making his frequent long distance phone calls. His wife found out.

Interestingly, some of the episodes and descriptions Schultz used in his letters made their way into his comic strips, or vice versa. Snoopy described himself as “buggable and huggable,” words Schultz used to describe Claudius. At one point, Charlie Brown warns Snoopy, “And stop making those long-distance phone calls!” Art imitates life.

According to the Michaelis biography, one of the reasons Claudius turned down Schultz's marriage proposals was she feared it would hurt his reputation. Apparently, she has overcome that fear. Reportedly, the 67-year-old Claudius, who later married, is in ill health. According to the London Daily Mail, they interviewed several of Schultz's descendants, and they are less than pleased with the auction. Words such as “tacky” were used to describe the sale of his personal letters. In hindsight, maybe it would have been better if the great cartoonist could have sent Miss Claudius a bunch of text messages and emails. Had he the chance to do it over, we suspect that Mr. Schultz would agree.

Note: The Charles Schultz archive, estimated at $250,000 - $350,000, was not sold.

Rare Book Monthly

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    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>Aurora Australis.</i> Printed at the sign of 'The Penguins'; East Antarctica, 1908. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>South Polar Times.</i> 1st edition, limited issue. from the library of Michael Barne. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> General Washington's <i>Proceedings of a General Court Martial... of Major General Lee.</i> Philiadelphia, 1778. 100 copies printed for Congress. BOUND WITH: ...Court Martial... of St Clair and ...Schuyler. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>The Voice of the People.</i> Boston, 1754. Rare pamphlet on the Excise Tax. Nathaniel Sparhawk's copy. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Autograph Letter Signed ("S.L. Clemens"), offering extensive hard-earned advice on writing, 5 pp, 1881. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> After Fra Egnazio Danti. <i>L'Ultime Parti not:e nel Indie Occid:ntli" [The last known parts of the Western Indies].</i> Painted Map of California, Western Mexico, and Japan. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Ptolemaeus, Claudius. <i>Geographie opus nouissima...</i> 1513. The most important edition of Ptolemy, containing the Admiral's Map. $250,000 to $350,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> De Arellano, Don Alonso. Manuscript, his <i>"Relación mui singular y circunstanciada... Capitán del Patax San Lucas,"</i> manuscript copy from the Sir Thomas Phillips collection. $50,000 to $80,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Purchas, Samuel. <i>Purchas his Pilgrimes.</i> First edition. With John Simth's engraved map of Virginia. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Lewis, Meriwether. Contemporary manuscript true copy of his final power of attorney, 1809. $8,000 to $12,000
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    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>Scientific Base Ball Pitching: A Treatise on the Pitcher, Pitching, Origin and Philosophy of the Curve.</i> Chicago, 1897. $2,000 to $3,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Franklin H. Brown, <i>State Sovereignty, National Union,</i> Chicago, 1860. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Thomas Paine, <i>The American Crisis,</i> Fishkill, NY, December 1776. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b><br>The Aitken Bible, Philadelphia, 1781. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francisco Loubayssin de Lamarca, probable first edition of the first novel set in the Spanish New World, Paris, 1617. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Juan de la Anunciación, <i>Sermonario en lengua mexicana,</i> first edition, first book of sermons in Nahuatl, Mexico, 1577. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Maturino Gilberti, <i>Thesoro spiritual en lengua de Mechuacá,</i> first edition, Mexico, 1558. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Commission of William O. Stoddard as secretary to the president, signed by Lincoln, Washington, 1861. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> <i>Clay and Frelinghuysen,</i> flag banner, circa 1844. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Daguerreotype of a man believed to be Frederick Granger Williams Smith, son of Joseph Smith, circa late 1850s. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> John C. Wolfe, <i>Portrait of Abraham Lincoln,</i> oil on board in period wooden frame, circa 1860s. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francis W. Winton, manuscript on pow-wows with indigenous Canadians, 1881. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Family letters from two young daguerreotype artists, 1826-79. $10,000 to $15,000.

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