Library To Sue Over Huckleberry Finn Manuscript
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) _ Huck Finn the object of a litigious tug-of-war? Life along the Mississippi was never like this.
A public library that owns the second half of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn manuscript will sue two granddaughters of a friend of Twain’s to get back the first half, the library’s chairman said Friday.
The Buffalo and Erie County Public Library’s trustees voted to sue after the women escalated their demands from a tax deduction to cold, hard cash, Roland R. Benzow said.
″It’s no longer the nice, friendly gift to the library that it started out to be,″ Benzow said. ″It’s now an attempt to extract a substantial sum of money.″
He said the women’s lawyer had not named a specific sum. William H. Loos, the library’s rare book curator and a Twain scholar, estimated last month the manuscript could bring $1.5 million at auction.
Twain gave the second half of his manuscript for ″The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,″ which is considered among the greatest American novels, to the Buffalo library in 1885 at the request of James Fraser Gluck, a Buffalo lawyer and manuscript collector.
Gluck had asked Twain, whose real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens, for the whole thing, but Twain said he couldn’t find the first half. Two years later, however, Gluck wrote to Twain to tell him the first half had arrived.
The first half did not resurface until last fall, when Sotheby’s auction house announced it had been discovered by two women in a steamer trunk in an attic in Hollywood. Scholars believe it was still among Gluck’s papers when he died unexpectedly in 1897, and that it was taken to Hollywood by his daughter in the 1920s.
Benzow said Gluck’s granddaughters, Barbara Gluck Testa and Pamela Gluck Lindholm, initially appeared willing to give the manuscript to the library.
″All they wanted was a charitable deduction on their income tax. We offered to provide the expertise on it at our expense,″ Benzow said.
″They didn’t respond to that, and a little later they informed us that they wanted to engage their own tax adviser, which was OK by us,″ he said. ″The next thing we knew, they had hired a firm of lawyers in New York City.″
David T. Eames, the women’s lawyer, said that although his clients favored reuniting the two halves of the manuscript, Benzow’s account was not correct.
″They’ve always indicated that they were sympathetic to reuniting the manuscript. They’ve never indicated anything from their side about tax issues or anything along that line,″ Eames said by telephone from New York. ″I believe that suggestion came from (the library).″
He declined to name the price the women had placed on the manuscript.
Benzow said talks with Eames broke down Thursday morning and the library’s board, which happened to be meeting that afternoon, voted to sue. He said the suit would be filed, probably in federal court in New York City, as soon as the paperwork was ready.
Sotheby’s has agreed to hold on to the manuscript until a court decides who should get it, Benzow said.
The manuscript is considered of particular value to Twain scholars because it differs substantially in places from the novel as it was finally published.
If it is awarded to the Buffalo library, it will be on display to the public and accessible to Twain scholars, as the second half is now, Benzow said.
That accessibility will be part of the library’s argument in court, ″but I think the strongest argument is that the two halves should be made whole,″ he said. ″We definitely own the second part, and we were given the first half, and they should be together.″