LONDON (Reuters) - Previously unseen letters from “The Catcher in the Rye” author J.D. Salinger show the kind of “warmth” and “affection” not often associated with someone who is seen as an eccentric recluse, a university said on Thursday.
Salinger wrote the letters to Donald Hartog from London, between October 1986 and January 2002, and Hartog’s daughter Frances and his other children have donated them to Britain’s University of East Anglia (UEA) Archives.
The men met in 1937 when they were both 18 years-old and sent by their fathers to study German in Vienna. They stayed in touch after their return home in 1938 and continued to write to each other until the 1950s, although these early letters no longer survive.
After several decades with no contact, Hartog wrote to Salinger in 1986 when he learned of the possible publication of an unauthorized biography of the writer. Salinger replied and their correspondence resumed.
The UEA said it was unable to provide excerpts from the letters, because the copyright remains with Salinger’s estate.
The author, who died a year ago, aged 91, was fiercely protective of his body of work, and in 2009 sued the writer and publisher of a book billed as a sequel to “The Catcher in the Rye,” saying it infringed on his copyright.
Salinger’s 1951 novel, a story of alienation and rebellion featuring teenage hero Holden Caulfield, is considered a classic of American literature.
Salinger addressed Hartog as Don and signed the letters as Jerry, and talked about everyday topics like politics, the weather, family and tennis, including who should win Wimbledon.
According to the UEA, he also referred to their increasing ages and associated health issues, and Salinger remembered fondly the time he spent with Hartog in Vienna before it was annexed by Nazi Germany.
Frances Hartog, who once met Salinger, said that despite the mundane subject matter, the letters were “very moving.
“There is tremendous warmth and affection toward my father and this is so different to the man Salinger is often portrayed as. The letters have been sitting in a drawer, but hopefully by being in the archive they will show people another side to him.
“I think there was this extra bond between my father and Salinger because they met before the war.
“This isn’t the fighting Salinger of the 1960s, though he talks quite aggressively about publishing and publicity.
“He wanted to be published, but what he appears not to have liked was that it wasn’t just about what you published, it was about you.”
In 1989 Salinger traveled to London to attend Hartog’s 70th birthday dinner, and it was then that Frances met him.
“I didn’t really want to meet him because I liked his writing and was worried he might live up to his reputation and be rather unpleasant, but he ... was utterly charming.”
In the manuscripts, Salinger was honest about his dislike of publishers but said he continued to work on his writing, and in 1997 was considering publishing a short story, “Hapworth 16, 1924,” which appeared in The New Yorker in 1965, as a book.
The correspondence from Salinger stopped in 2002, but his wife continued writing to Hartog until his death in 2007.
Reporting by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte