HomeCultureBooksMeet the Author

7 facts about the elusive Harper Lee


1st Jan 2015 Meet the Author

Harper Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird—one of the most influential books of a generation. Five decades later she returned with her follow up Go Set a Watchman. What do we know about this incredible author?

1. Harper Lee the Supreme Investment

To Kill a Mocking Bird
via tatteredandlostephemera

In 1956 Harper Lee received a whopping present from her close friends Mr. and Mrs. Brown: they funded her for a whole year so she could dedicate herself to writing her first novel To Kill A Mockingbird.

A solid investment Mr. and Mrs. Brown!


2. Harper Lee the Bibliophile

To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee’s sensational first and only published book (before the hugely anticipated Go Set A Watchman), was missing from every ebook catalogue online right up until 2014. 

Last year Lee celebrated the electronic publication saying, "I'm still old-fashioned. I love dusty old books and libraries. I am amazed and humbled that Mockingbird has survived this long. This is Mockingbird for a new generation."


3. Harper Lee Vs. Truman Capote

Close friend, and fellow writer, Truman Capote, dedicated his masterpiece of crime non-fiction, In Cold Blood, to Harper Lee along with his long-term lover.

A fall-out ensued as it is said that Lee felt unduly credited for the months of field research she conducted with Capote during the book’s conception.

Rumour has it that Lee’s down to earth manner, in contrast to Capote’s flamboyance, won the trust of the residents of Holcomb, Kansas, facilitating countless hard-won interviews necessary for In Cold Blood.


4. Harper Lee on Law 

Although Harper Lee was always interested in literature she actually went to college to study her father’s profession, law. But after a summer exchange at the University of Oxford she returned to her university in America’s south, and to the second year of her law degree only to drop out in order to pursue her passion for writing full time... in New York. 


5. Harper Lee: Ever the modest

Harper Lee's advice to aspiring writers
Via buzzquotes

Before the recent media frenzy surrounding the publication of To Kill A Mockingbirds long-awaited sequel, Go Set A Watchman, media-shy Harper Lee—or Nell as she’s known to friends—hadn’t given an interview since 1964.

On the anniversary of Mockingbird’s publication Lee agreed to an interview with the Mail on Sunday—but only if the journalist promised not to mention the book. 


6. Harper Lee's Best Buddy 

Truman Capote inspired by Harper Lee
via facsimiledustjackets

Truman Capote and Harper Lee grew up next door to one another, they knew each other so well that both inspired characters in each other's books.

Capote is the inspiration for Scout's friend Dill in To Kill a Mocking BirdSimilarly, Lee inspired Idabel Thompkins in Capote's first novel Other Voices, Other Rooms.


7. Harper Lee the writer of Immoral Literature...

Or at least according to the schooling area of Richmond, Virginia which attempted to ban the book. In response to the outrageous suggestion Lee penned the following letter:

"Recently I have received echoes down this way of the Hanover County School Board's activities, and what I've heard makes me wonder if any of its members can read.

Surely it is plain to the simplest intelligence that To Kill a Mockingbird spells out in words of seldom more than two syllables a code of honor and conduct, Christian in its ethic, that is the heritage of all Southerners. To hear that the novel is 'immoral' has made me count the years between now and 1984, for I have yet to come across a better example of doublethink.

I feel, however, that the problem is one of illiteracy, not Marxism. Therefore I enclose a small contribution to the Beadle Bumble Fund that I hope will be used to enroll the Hanover County School Board in any first grade of its choice."

After the schools disposed of all copies of the book, editor of The Richmond News Leader, Richard J. Kilpatrick, started a fund which would give a free copy to any child that wrote to him. He stated that "A more moral novel scarcely could be imagined."

Top image via cambridgeglobalist


*This post contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you.


This post contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you. Read our disclaimer

Loading up next...