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Introduction to “Lucas Beauchamp”: An Unpublished Story


[clock] 4-MINUTE READ ISSUE:  Summer 1999

Toward the end of 1947, about four months before he started writing Intruder in the Dust, William Faulkner was deeply involved in writing the horse race section of A Fable, among whose principal characters are an elderly black man and two assistants (a white English groom and a teenage black boy)—characters not unlike those who would appear in Intruder in the Dust. By the end of January 1948, Faulkner’s agent, Harold Ober, had received more than 500 pages of the typescript of this incomplete novel. Although exhausted by writing A Fable, Faulkner still felt he had much more to do before it was completed.

As a change of pace and to renew his creative energies, Faulkner wrote Ober on February 1 that he had put aside writing A Fable and had already finished 60 pages of a draft of a short novel, what he called “a mystery-murder” whose theme concerned a “relationship between Negro and white, specifically or rather the premise being that the white people in the south, before the North or the govt or anyone else, owe and must pay a responsibility to the Negro.” Faulkner continued by explaining the genesis of this new novel, and that he hoped to see it serialized in a magazine, a desire he reiterated in other letters to Ober. As detailed in my book Faulkner’s “Intruder in the Dust”: A Critical Study of the Typescripts (1980), Faulkner went on to compose two main drafts of this novel in a relatively short period of time.

Ober’s records reveal that he received from Random House, Faulkner’s publisher, an excerpt of Intruder in the Dust entitled “Lucas Beauchamp,” on May 12, which consisted of pages extracted from the typescript of the novel (approximately the first 27 pages—with minor differences—of the published novel). The piece was retyped and the original returned two days later. In a marginal note in the setting copy of Intruder in the Dust, after the narrator declares “He [Chick] was free,” there appears (though not in Faulkner’s hand) the phrase “End of suggested story.” At this point the story’s history becomes less clear.

Although the extent to which Faulkner participated in the selection of this excerpt and having it retyped as a story is impossible to determine, there is no doubt that he saw the setting copy again after he had sent it to Random House, since corrections and addenda exist on the setting copy that Faulkner returned to Albert Erskine, his editor at Random House. Editors at Collier’s and The Saturday Evening Post read the novel at various stages, most likely to consider publishing parts of it. The story, at Erskine’s prompting, was eventually sent to The Atlantic Monthly and Harper’s, both of which declined publication, though an abridged version of the novel was published in Omnibook (Dec. 11, 1948). Today it seems odd that two noted magazines would reject a Faulkner story. It is worth recalling, however, that Faulkner’s popularity had slipped over the years; The Portable Faulkner (1946), edited by Malcolm Cowley, began to reverse this situation.

The text of “Lucas Beauchamp” reproduced in these pages is from a xerox of a copy from Ober’s files that was sent to me in February 1975. In an attempt to alert Faulkner’s readers to the existence of this story, I published, while teaching in France, an article entitled “Faulkner’s Hidden Story in Intruder in the Dust” in the November 1976 issue of the French literary journal Delta. When “Lucas Beauchamp” was not included among those stories published in Faulkner’s Uncollected Stories (1979), I made a mental note of this fact and thought that it might be published (which turned out not to be the case) in a smaller, supplementary volume, should other unpublished Faulkner stories surface. Moving on to other projects, I put “Lucas Beauchamp” out of my mind.

Recently, in looking through my files, I rediscovered “Lucas Beauchamp.” Not only is it a Faulkner story—and that alone merits its publication—but it has the requisite literary qualities one expects of a story by one of America’s greatest creative writers. It is fitting that this story be published in a distinguished journal of the University of Virginia, where Faulkner was writer-in-residence for two semesters beginning in the second semester of the 1956-57 academic year. I am particularly grateful to Mrs. Jill Faulkner Summers, Faulkner’s daughter, for permission to publish this story and to two scholars of Southern literature, Joseph L. Blotner and Stephen P. Miss, for their generous assistance in determining the story’s provenance.

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