NOTES RE ROBERT NEILL
Contains Galley roofs of Black William plus copy letter transcribed as below
14th May, 1956
Dear Miss Downton.
Here are a set of galley-proofs of Black William. In another parcel, which I am also posting today, there are: the original pencil script; the typescript from which the book was set into type; and a set of bound proofs of the kind which are sent to booksellers before publication.
I am afraid there is one stage missing from all this. My procedure is to have the first pencil script btyped roughly in one copy, which I call the intermediate script; and this, after very heavy corection, is then retyped, in several copies, for my two publishers (in London and New York), each of whom requires at least three copies in order to deal wit the subsidiary rights – i.e., Book Clubs and so on. This intermediate script of Black William has, unfortunately, not been kept. There was no notion at that time that it would ever be wanted, and my secretary destroyed it as she typed it. I am sorry about this; and it is the more unfortunate because it incorporated a new beginning to the book. That is to say, I rewrote the beginning at that stage; and you will see that the opening, as it appears in the pencil script, is quite different from what appears in the typescript and in print. It is an unfortunate hiatus, but I am afraid it is not to be mended now. I must hope that enough remains to be of interest to you. The loose sheets among the pencil scripts are, of course, rewritings meant to be incorporated when the first (intermediate) script was typed. At all events, there is perhaps enough here to dispose of the notion that the novelist doesn't do any work; or that a novel goes from his head to the paper, smooth and polished, all at the first attempt.
With all good wishes:
(signed) ROBERT NEILL
P.S.: The pencil script, read together with the corrections (and the loose leaves), would give the text of the intermediate script. A comparison of this with the final script will show the extent of the corrections that were done to the intermediate script. The differences are perhaps large enough to surprise people.
The Galley proofs are unexceptional, except that a prior reader has got them badly out of order, with the opening chapter the other way up to the main bulk of the proofs, plus pages reversed. I reported this so that it can be rectified.
I did not go far into the proofs, enough to tell that they are very close (as indeed they should be!) to the print version. Neill makes various minor corrections in green ink using the standard notation. These are limited to deleting or inserting unruly punctuation, or deleting as 's' off the end of a word that should be singular not plural
I found the above letter to be fascinating for what it revealed about Neill's working methods (not to mention his Cheltenham address), but also for the last part of the second paragraph: do I detect a note of defensiveness, almost peevishness? It sounds like Neill has been criticised, perhaps in a 'writing isn't a proper job' manner and stung by it.
Next: Box 1 with pencil script and different opening, to be copied.