Steinbeck’s tender letter to son sells for more than $32,000

Oct 13, 2022, 12:20 PM | Updated: 12:59 pm

BOSTON (AP) — A heartfelt letter written by author John Steinbeck offering paternal advice to his teenage son who was experiencing love for the first time has sold at auction for more than $32,000.

The two-page, handwritten letter, dated Nov. 10, 1958, went for $32,426 to a collector who wishes to remain anonymous, Boston-based auction house RR Auction said Thursday.

The letter is remarkable because the Nobel Literature Prize laureate author doesn’t simply brush off his then 14-year-old son Thomas’ feelings as childish puppy love.

“If you are in love — that’s a good thing — that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you,” Steinbeck wrote.

He urged his son to embrace the experience, but he warned of letdowns.

“The object of love is the best, and most beautiful. Try to live up to it,” he wrote. “If you love someone — there is no possible harm in saying so — only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration.”

“Girls have a way of knowing or feeling what you feel, but they usually like to hear it also,” he said. “It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another — but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good.”

“If it is right, it happens — The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.”

It is signed: “Love, Father.”

Steinbeck, who won a Pulitzer Prize for “The Grapes of Wrath” in 1940 and the Nobel Prize in 1962 for a body of acclaimed work, died in 1968. Thomas Steinbeck died in 2016.

The text of the letter has been published for worldwide audiences, including in 1989’s “Steinbeck: A Life in Letters,” by Penguin Books.

Other items sold in the Fine Autograph and Artifacts auction included Edgar Allan Poe’s letter soliciting a donation for the Southern Literary Messenger for almost $150,000; Benjamin Franklin’s letter deciding the fate of the mutinous crew of John Paul Jones’ flagship for $62,500; Emily Dickinson’s poem soliciting a shopkeeper’s smile for almost $62,000; and a Benedict Arnold signed document certifying an oath of allegiance for a fellow officer sold for more than $31,000.

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Steinbeck’s tender letter to son sells for more than $32,000