September 19, 2014

Lord of the Flies manuscript being loaned to University of Exeter



William Golding’s family is loaning the author’s archives, including a handwritten Lord of the Flies manuscript, to the University of Exeter.
Image via Wikimedia

Next week, on the 60th anniversary of the publication of William Golding‘s classic Lord of the Flies, the author’s archives, including the handwritten manuscript of his most famous novel, will be loaned, long-term, to the University of Exeter.

For the first time academics, students and members of the public will get the chance to pore over this precious early version of one of the most famous, widely-read and influential novels of the past six decades.

Golding’s daughter, Judy Carver, said the family wanted to make sure her father’s papers, which include drafts of most of his novels, were properly preserved. “But we also believe that it’s time for readers to see something of the process that produced these works.”

As reported in The Guardian, Carver had some charming things to say about growing up with the author of the brilliant, upsetting book.

My earliest memory is not of the book itself but of a lot of parcels coming back and being sent off again very quickly. Of course, children are always very interested in parcels and I always wanted to know what was going on. The answers were never very explicit.”

The parcels were the manuscript being sent off to publishers, coming back with rejection letters before being despatched again.

After the book was finally published by Faber and Faber in the autumn of 1954, Carver read it and recalls being excited at the reference to a classic children’s book she loved. “I didn’t bother with much apart from the fact it mentioned Swallows and Amazons, which I was thrilled by. My perception of the book was very limited and I wasn’t encouraged to go into it very deeply.”

Once she went to university, Carver deflected the interest of her professors by claiming to have never read her father’s work.

Much of the manuscript remained the same throu gh publication (“images of boys building sand castles, boys dancing in the firelight, the sun and moon pulling against each other, causing the ocean to bulge on one side…Brilliant phrases such as Ralph weeping “for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart.“)

While Golding was pleased with the success of Lord of the Flies, he apparently felt that it distracted from his other work.

Golding told Carver The Inheritors, his book about the last days of the Neanderthals, and The Spire, in which Dean Jocelin very unwisely extends an old cathedral built without foundations skywards, were his best two. “He thought Lord of the Files was pretty good. I think he thought it was all right.”

Julia Fleischaker is a former director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.