University of Virginia Library


During the Twenties, when Faulkner was developing and refining his writing techniques, style, and his literary aesthetic, and throughout his full maturation as an uncompromisingly original artist in the Thirties, it was his habit first to compose his prose in longhand, almost always printing with fountain pen, in lettering so minute as to be illegible to almost all but himself. Generally, it would require three pages of typescript to incorporate one page of handwritten manuscript. Then, Faulkner would transcribe his first draft to a typescript, which almost unfailingly he would subject to rigorous revision, some being done on the typewriter, some in holograph outside the margins as well as interlineally. Finally, he would retype that draft into a clean, presentable typescript.

Unfortunately for The Wishing Tree, neither an original holograph manuscript of presumably fifteen or sixteen pages, nor any of what surely could have been at least two early, successively-revised typescript drafts antecedent to the 47-page typescript which Faulkner gave to Margaret Brown in 1927, have survived. Yet, we must not discount the probability of this hypothetical


Page 336
sequence of composition: the 47-page "Brown" carbon typescript, with its companion second manifold carbon and ribbon copies which Faulkner kept,[14] is far too polished and complete to have come into existence without precursory drafts. In fact, Faulkner had interpolated into the "Brown" typescript only one brief piece of dialogue on page "13" ("What is it?" Daphne asked), which, from context, is obviously a forgotten retort necessary to the flow, not a newly-conceived rejoinder. And, although Faulkner's holographic ink corrections, consisting of sporadic and seemingly arbitrary additions of apostrophes and quotation marks, as well as numerous typographical corrections, evidence a rereading of the typescript, they appear far from comprehensive in their proofing. In no way do they contribute to the inclusion of any new substantive matter.

Furthermore, there is little doubt that either the ribbon copy of the "Brown" typescript or the first of the two carbon copies (the corrected one given to Margaret Brown) served as the one from which at least two additional copies were retyped: matching ribbon and carbon texts which managed to economize forty-seven pages into forty-three pages,[15] while retaining the exact text of the "Brown" copy, as well as incorporating virtually all of Faulkner's holographic emendations and his single addition of dialogue on page "13." That both ribbon and carbon copies of this 43-page retype remained together in Faulkner's personal possession until their final disposition as part of the materials placed on permanent deposit at the Alderman Library of the University of Virginia, can most likely be explained by the apparent carelessness in retyping them. Page "10" of the carbon copy is missing; however, page "10" of the ribbon copy, although extant within the proper sequence of pages, is marred to the extent of carrying on its verso a duplicate


Page 337
of its recto text: this obviously happened when the typist placed the carbon paper ink-side up, rather than face-down between the two sheets to be typed. In addition, page "25" is completely missing from both the ribbon and carbon copies of this 43-page typescript. The text lacking from this missing page corresponds to the text on page "27" of the "Brown" copy. It appears that in completing "Brown" page "26," the typist repeated the page number ("Brown" "26") at the foot of what sequentially should have been page "24" of the retype in progress; then, for whatever reason, he or she skipped completely "Brown" page "27," and began again with "Brown" page "28." The page, intact and identical, became page "26" of the 43-page retype. Then, the typist went back and in ink changed the first mistaken number ("26") to page "24." But, page "25" of the retype, which should have corresponded exactly in text to "Brown" page "27," never got retyped and inserted into the 43-page sequence. Finally, although the pagination runs consecutively from page "26-43," there is the equivalent of a complete page of the "Brown" manuscript (page "44") omitted between pages "40-41."

Although there is little doubt that the 47-page ribbon and its two carbon copies of the "Brown" text followed a preexisting, non-extant typescript, or that the 43-page ribbon and carbon copies were typed from one of the 47-page copies, there is uncertainty as to whom the typist might have been for either or both these sets of typescripts. In Faulkner: A Biography (1974), Joseph Blotner (pp. 431-432) documents the fact that during the period Faulkner was writing Soldiers' Pay and Mosquitoes, both composed and published within the same time-frame (1925-1927), Faulkner would customarily submit his work to others for typing and proof-reading. Mostly, these assistants were secretaries in Phil Stone's law office. There is more than a suggestion that at least the 47-page copies and most likely the 43-page copies may have been handled in this manner. The three 47-page "Brown" typescripts repeat "William Faulkner," followed by "The Wishing-Tree," across the top of each sheet; neither was this one of Faulkner's typing characteristics, nor does this format appear on any of the manuscripts whose typing can be clearly attributed to Faulkner himself from around this same period. Rather, this seems more to be in the nature of a convention congenial to the legal profession. Additionally, it was not Faulkner's habit to make three copies of any of his typescripts; conversely, this was a common legal procedure. Furthermore, with hindsight to inform us of Faulkner's easy access to his friend's, Stone's, good will in terms of providing professional services in those early years of Faulkner's writing career, it seems most likely that Faulkner could have submitted at least one, possibly both tedious and perfunctory jobs to Stone's modest "typing pool" for processing.

And, if this were the case, it might plausibly allow for the following explanation as to how the version of The Wishing Tree Faulkner gave to Victoria Franklin at about the same time in February, 1927, could have developed. First, let us assume that Faulkner had conceived the story, The Wishing-Tree, as a tribute to Margaret Brown, as he himself stated at the time he presented it to her, and reiterated in his letter to Bennett Cerf in November,


Page 338
1959. Possibly, with completion of the clean 47-page typescript, the carbon of which he intended to and subsequently did give to Margaret Brown, Faulkner also realized that he might have another suitable occasion and recipient for his story. Acknowledging the fact that he would need to retain a complete copy for his files, the ribbon copy (apparently the second carbon copy was incomplete from the outset), Faulkner yet may have relinquished it to Phil Stone for retyping, with the notion of using one of the two newly-retyped copies to give to Victoria Franklin whose birthday was fast-approaching. Possibly, while what became the 43-page copies were being retyped, or even after both new copies were returned to him in a manner made seemingly unpresentable because of their problems with pages "10," "25," and "40-41," Faulkner thought better of his earlier notion of presenting both children with virtually identical gifts.

Acting on this "ethical" consideration, Faulkner indeed may have returned to the typescript from which his clean 47-page text had originally been typed to make revisions extensive enough not only to satisfy his own artistic sensibility, but to assuage his sense of moral integrity. Either from this nonextant text or from another which apparently has not survived, it seems certain that Faulkner personally did retype into a "single mss. impression" the specially-bound gift booklet which he gave to Victoria Franklin. Also, it is virtually certain that Faulkner could not have possibly typed the "Victoria" copy from one of the "Brown" typescripts, because far too many major stylistic, as well as substantive variations, exist between the two for Faulkner to have transposed the alterations in his head and transcribed them intact onto the off-sized booklet pages of the "Victoria" copy; certainly not with so few typographical or punctuation flaws as are in evidence.

Finally, whether the major energy Faulkner expended to fashion the "Victoria" version of The Wishing Tree into existence was the result of his natural, self-induced tendency to continue revising his prose, or whether it had been motivated by his determination to create a different gift for her, must remain a matter of scholarly conjecture. There is little doubt that both extant versions are distinct and complete unto themselves. In point of fact, both stories have different titles: the one he presented to Margaret Brown is unequivocally called The Wishing-Tree, its idiosyncratic hyphenation carrying through in each reference within the story itself. The "Victoria" copy, lacking the hyphen, with one exception,[16] is entitled The Wishing Tree with similar consistency throughout its text. And, significantly, Faulkner has given his main female protagonist different names: in the "Brown" version, she is referred to as Daphne; in the "Victoria" version, she is called Dulcie, as though


Page 339
to insure separate fictional identities with whom each of his recipients, if she so desired, might identify.

Moreover, by internally comparing the texts of both extant versions of The Wishing Tree, the "Victoria" version in its original typescript, and the "Brown" version as manifested in its most recent, though virtually unchanged, incarnation, the Philip Stone copy of 1948, this distinctiveness between the versions becomes all the more consequential.