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Lot 98: Arthur Miller Letter with Rare Reference to Most Famous Work, Death of a Salesman
Presidential Letters, Free Franks & Speeches: Washington to Bush + Important Autographs in History, Science & the Arts
26 October 2016
New York, NY, USALive Auction
Description: Rare Reference to His Most Famous Work, Death of a Salesman: “It is ironical – she is referring to Willy agreeing to Biff’s leaving forever while Willy is agreeing to kill himself” ********** MILLER, ARTHUR. (1915-2005). American author and playwright whose 1949 play Death of a Salesman quickly became an American classic. TLS. (“Arthur”). 1p. 4to. N.p., December 9, 1982. On his personal stationery. To an unidentified book editor. ********** “Professor Matlaw [probably Myron Matlaw a scholar of American Theatre] is incorrect; Linda does say the line. It is ironical – she is referring to Willy agreeing to Biff’s leaving forever while Willy is agreeing to kill himself. That’s how it goes. This means you don’t have to call back three million copies, which is a better record than General Motors. Best… P.S. A youngish, possibly insane New Yorker who has co-produced many shows is taking an option on my two one-acts for off-B’way, to be recast. Also the Shakespeare Festival in Canada talks about doing them up there. Well, we shall see.” ********** Miller’s literary career spanned three decades and included such American theater classics as All My Sons, The Crucible, A View from the Bridge, and his masterpiece, Death of a Salesman, whose three of four main characters, Willy Loman, his wife Linda and their son Biff, are discussed in our letter. The events described take place in Act II, Scene 13, the climactic confrontation between Biff and Willy, when Biff announces he is leaving home and his father, Willy, responds with, “Rot in hell if you leave this house,” which leads to the final break between father and son. Towards the end of the confrontation, with Biff crying in his father’s arms, Willy says, “Isn’t that – isn’t that remarkable? Biff – he likes me!” Linda responds, ironically in Miller’s opinion, with “He loves you, Willy!” ********** The letter’s postscript refers to Miller’s one-act plays Elegy for a Lady and Some Kind of Love Story, written in 1982 and debuted in New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre. They are often presented together as Two-Way Mirror. Our letter was written several months before Miller began to oversee rehearsals for the Chinese production of Death of a Salesman, which he directed. The following year he published “Salesman” in Beijing, an account of the experience. ********** Folded with a red ink address written in the upper left corner. Very light creasing and wear. In very good condition. The only letter we have ever seen in the market with Miller specifically commenting on a scene from his masterpiece, Death of a Salesman.