Harper Lee: Wikis


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Harper Lee

Harper Lee (right) with producer Alan J. Pakula in a 1962 publicity photo for the film of To Kill a Mockingbird
Born April 28, 1926 (1926-04-28) (age 83)
Monroeville, Alabama
Occupation Novelist
Nationality American
Subjects Literature
Literary movement Southern Gothic

Nelle Harper Lee (born April 28, 1926) is an American author known for her 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom of the United States for her contribution to literature in 2007.[1]


Early life

Nelle Harper Lee was born in Monroeville, Alabama on April 28, 1926, the youngest of four children of Amasa Coleman Lee and Frances Cunningham Finch. Her father, a former newspaper editor and proprietor, was a lawyer who served in the Alabama State Legislature from 1926 to 1938. As a child, Lee was a tomboy and a precocious reader, and was best friends with her schoolmate and neighbor, the young Truman Capote.

In 1944, Lee graduated from Monroe County High School in Monroeville,[2] and enrolled at the all-female Huntingdon College in Montgomery for one year, and pursued a law degree at the University of Alabama from 1945 to 1949, pledging the Chi Omega sorority. Lee wrote for several student publications and spent a year as editor of the campus humor magazine, Rammer Jammer.[3][4] Though she did not complete the law degree, she studied for a summer in Oxford, England, before moving to New York City in 1950, where she worked as a reservation clerk with Eastern Air Lines and BOAC.

Lee continued as a reservation clerk until 1958, when she devoted herself to writing. She lived a frugal life, traveling between her cold-water-only apartment in New York City and her family home in south-central Alabama to care for her father.

To Kill a Mockingbird

I never expected any sort of success with Mockingbird. I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of the reviewers but, at the same time, I sort of hoped someone would like it enough to give me encouragement. Public encouragement. I hoped for a little, as I said, but I got rather a whole lot, and in some ways this was just about as frightening as the quick, merciful death I'd expected.

—Harper Lee, quoted in Newquist, 1964[5]

Having written several long stories, Harper Lee located an agent in November 1956. The following month at the East 50th townhouse of her friends Michael Brown and Joy Williams Brown, she received a gift of a year's wages with a note: "You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas."[6] Within a year, she had a first draft. Working with J. B. Lippincott & Co. editor Tay Hohoff, she completed To Kill a Mockingbird in the summer of 1959. Published July 11, 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird was an immediate bestseller and won great critical acclaim, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961. It remains a bestseller with more than 30 million copies in print. In 1999, it was voted "Best Novel of the Century" in a poll by the Library Journal.

To Kill a Mockingbird details

Many details of To Kill a Mockingbird are apparently autobiographical. Like Lee, the tomboy (Scout) is the daughter of a respected small-town Alabama attorney. The plot involves a legal case, the workings of which would have been familiar to Lee, who studied law. Scout's friend Dill was inspired by Lee's childhood friend and neighbor, Truman Capote,[7] while Lee is the model for a character in Capote's first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms.

Harper Lee has downplayed autobiographical parallels. Yet Truman Capote, mentioning the character Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird, described details he considered biographical: "In my original version of Other Voices, Other Rooms I had that same man living in the house that used to leave things in the trees, and then I took that out. He was a real man, and he lived just down the road from us. We used to go and get those things out of the trees. Everything she wrote about it is absolutely true. But you see, I take the same thing and transfer it into some Gothic dream, done in an entirely different way."[8]

After To Kill a Mockingbird

After completing To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee accompanied Capote to Holcomb, Kansas, to assist him in researching what they thought would be an article on a small town's response to the murder of a farmer and his family. Capote expanded the material into his best-selling book, In Cold Blood (1966).

Since publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee has granted almost no requests for interviews or public appearances, and with the exception of a few short essays, has published no further writings. She did work on a second novel--The Long Goodbye--eventually filing it away unfinished.[9] During the mid-1980s, she began a factual book about an Alabama serial murderer, but also put it aside when she was not satisfied.[9] Her withdrawal from public life prompted unfounded speculation that new publications were in the works. Similar speculation followed the American writers J. D. Salinger and Ralph Ellison.

Lee said of the 1962 Academy Award–winning screenplay adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird by Horton Foote: "I think it is one of the best translations of a book to film ever made".[10] She also became a friend of Gregory Peck, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of Atticus Finch, the father of the novel's narrator, Scout. She remains close to the actor's family. Peck's grandson, Harper Peck Voll, is named after her.

In June 1966, Lee was one of two persons named by President Lyndon B. Johnson to the National Council on the Arts.

Lee showed her feistiness in her 1966 letter to the editor in response to the attempts of a Richmond, Virginia area school board to ban To Kill a Mockingbird as “immoral literature”:[7]

Recently I have received echoes down this way of the Hanover County School Board’s activities, and what I’ve heard makes me wonder if any of its members can read.

Surely it is plain to the simplest intelligence that “To Kill a Mockingbird” spells out in words of seldom more than two syllables a code of honor and conduct, Christian in its ethic, that is the heritage of all Southerners. To hear that the novel is “immoral” has made me count the years between now and 1984, for I have yet to come across a better example of doublethink.

I feel, however, that the problem is one of illiteracy, not Marxism. Therefore I enclose a small contribution to the Beadle Bumble Fund that I hope will be used to enroll the Hanover County School Board in any first grade of its choice.

When Lee attended the 1983 Alabama History and Heritage Festival in Eufaula, Alabama, she presented the essay "Romance and High Adventure."

Lee has been known to split time between an apartment in New York and her sister's home in Monroeville. She has accepted honorary degrees but has declined to make speeches. In March 2005, she arrived in Philadelphia — her first trip to the city since signing with publisher Lippincott in 1960 — to receive the inaugural ATTY Award for positive depictions of attorneys in the arts from the Spector Gadon & Rosen Foundation. At the urging of Peck's widow Veronique, Lee traveled by train from Monroeville to Los Angeles in 2005 to accept the Los Angeles Public Library Literary Award. She has also attended luncheons for students who have written essays based on her work, held annually at the University of Alabama.[11][12] On May 21, 2006, she accepted an honorary degree from the University of Notre Dame. To honor her, the graduating seniors were given copies of Mockingbird before the ceremony and held them up when she received her degree.

On May 7, 2006, Lee wrote a letter to Oprah Winfrey (published in O, The Oprah Magazine in July 2006). Lee wrote about her love of books as a child and her dedication to the written word: "Now, 75 years later in an abundant society where people have laptops, cell phones, iPods and minds like empty rooms, I still plod along with books."[13]

While attending an August 20, 2007 ceremony inducting four members into the Alabama Academy of Honor, Lee responded to an invitation to address the audience with "Well, it's better to be silent than to be a fool."[14]

Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient

President George W. Bush presents Harper Lee with the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House on November 5, 2007

On November 5, 2007, Lee was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush at a White House Ceremony. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian award in the United States and recognizes individuals who have made "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."[15][16]

Fictional portrayals

Harper Lee was portrayed by Catherine Keener in the film Capote (2005), by Sandra Bullock in the film Infamous (2006), and by Tracey Hoyt in the TV movie Scandalous Me: The Jacqueline Susann Story (1998). In the adaptation of Capote's Other Voices, Other Rooms (1995), the character of Idabell Thompkins, who was inspired by Truman Capote's memories of Harper Lee as a child, was played by Aubrey Dollar.


  • Lee, Harper (1960) To Kill a Mockingbird. New York: J. B. Lippincott.
  • Lee, Harper (1961) "Love—In Other Words". Vogue Magazine.
  • Lee, Harper (1961) "Christmas to Me". McCall's Magazine.
  • Lee, Harper (1965) "When Children Discover America". McCall's Magazine.


  1. ^ President Bush Honors Medal of Freedom Recipients The White House Press Release from November 5, 2007
  2. ^ Anderson, Nancy (2007-03-19). "Nelle Harper Lee". The Encyclopedia of Alabama. http://eoa.auburn.edu/face/Article.jsp?id=h-1126. Retrieved 2008-09-12. 
  3. ^ "Harper Lee Biography". Biography.com. http://www.biography.com/search/article.do?id=9377021. Retrieved 2008-09-13. 
  4. ^ Keillor, Garrison (2006-06-11). "'Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee,' by Charles J. Shields: Good Scout". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/11/books/review/11keillor.html?pagewanted=print. Retrieved 2008-09-13. 
  5. ^ Newquist, Roy, editor (1964). Counterpoint. Chicago: Rand McNally. ISBN 1-111-80499-0. 
  6. ^ "Harper Lee". NNDB.com. http://www.nndb.com/people/572/000025497/. Retrieved 2007-05-07. 
  7. ^ a b Shields, Charles J. (2006). Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee. Henry Holt and Co.. http://books.google.com/books?id=j8cm3hxUd7MC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Mockingbird:+A+Portrait+of+Harper+Lee&source=bl&ots=bUyDEN96Qe&sig=EbVxXtWOItvdKzm9lN5Iuuas-hk&hl=en&ei=4HV_S9etLoLbnAeZlJh6&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CAgQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=&f=false. 
  8. ^ Nance, William (1970). The Worlds of Truman Capote. New York: Stein & Day. pp. 223. 
  9. ^ a b "A writer's story: The mockingbird mystery". The Independent. 2006-06-04. http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/features/a-writers-story-the-mockingbird-mystery-480965.html. Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  10. ^ Bellafante, Ginia (2006-01-30). "Harper Lee, Gregarious for a Day". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/30/books/30lee.html. Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  11. ^ Lacher, Irene. (May 21, 2005). "Harper Lee raises her low profile for a friend." Los Angeles Times
  12. ^ Bellafante, Ginia. (January 30, 2006). "Harper Lee, Gregarious for a Day." New York Times. Books section.
  13. ^ "Harper Lee Writes Rare Item for O Magazine", The Washington Post, June 26, 2006, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/26/AR2006062601039.html 
  14. ^ Author has her say; The Boston Globe, August 21, 2007
  15. ^ Harper Lee given Presidential Medal of Freedom; The Birmingham News, November 5, 2007
  16. ^ Author Lee receives top US honour; BBC News Online, November 6, 2007

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Nelle Harper Lee (born April 28, 1926) is an American novelist and author of the classic 1960 novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.


  • Well, they’re Southern people, and if they know you are working at home they think nothing of walking right in for coffee. But they wouldn’t dream of interrupting you at golf.
    • Time (May 12, 1980)
    • On why she has done her best creative thinking while playing golf

To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)

  • Lawyers, I suppose, were children once. (Quoted from Charles Lamb)
    • Epigraph
  • Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.
    • Pt. 1, ch. 2
    • Jean Louise (Scout) Finch
  • You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view--until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.
    • Pt. 1, ch. 3
    • Atticus Finch
  • As I inched sluggishly along the treadmill of the Maycomb County school system, I could not help receiving the impression that I was being cheated out of something. Out of what I knew not, yet I did not believe that twelve years of unrelieved boredom was exactly what the state had in mind for me.
    • Pt. 1, ch. 3
    • Jean Louise (Scout) Finch
  • And it's certainly bad, but when a man spends his relief checks on green whiskey his children have a way of crying from hunger pains. I don't know of any landowner around here who begrudges those children any game their father can hit. Of course he shouldn't, but he'll never change his ways. Are you going to take out your disapproval on his children?
    • Pt. 1, ch.3
    • Atticus Finch
  • The sixth grade seemed to please him from the beginning: he went through a brief Egyptian Period that baffled me - he tried to walk flat a great deal, sticking one arm in front of him and one in back of him, putting one foot behind the other. He declared Egyptians walked that way; I said if they did I didn't see how they got anything done, but Jem said they accomplished more than the Americans ever did, they invented toilet paper and perpetual embalming, and asked where would we be today if they hadn't? Atticus told me to delete the adjectives and I'd have the facts.
    • Pt. 1, ch. 7
    • Jean Louise (Scout) Finch
  • When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness' sake. But don't make a production of it. Children are children, but they can spot an evasion quicker than adults, an evasion simply muddles 'em.
    • Pt. 1, ch. 9
    • Atticus Finch
  • Bad language is a stage all children go through, and it dies with time when they learn they're not attracting attention with it, hotheadedness isn't.
    • Pt. 1, ch. 9
    • Atticus Finch
  • Why reasonable people go stark raving mad when anything involving a Negro comes up, is something I don't pretend to understand.
    • Pt. 1, ch. 9
    • Atticus Finch
  • "I'd rather you shot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you'll go after birds. Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird." That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it.
    “Your father's right," she said. "Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."
    • Pt. 1, ch. 10
    • Atticus Finch & Miss Maudie
  • People in their right minds never take pride in their talents.
    • Pt. 1, ch. 10
    • Miss Maudie
  • They're certainly entitled to think that, and they're entitled to full respect for their opinions... but before I can live with other folks I've got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.
    • Pt. 1, ch. 11
    • Atticus Finch
  • It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.
    • Pt. 1, ch. 11
    • Jean Louise (Scout) Finch
  • It's never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name. It just shows you how poor that person is, it doesn't hurt you.
    • Pt.1, ch.11
    • Atticus Finch
  • I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.
    • Pt. 1, ch. 11
    • Atticus Finch
  • Folks don’t like to have somebody around knowin’ more than they do. It aggravates ‘em. You’re not gonna change any of them by talkin’ right, they’ve got to want to learn themselves, and when they don’t want to learn there’s nothing you can do but keep your mouth shut or talk their language.
    • Pt. 2, ch. 12
    • Calpurnia
  • She seemed glad to see me when I appeared in the kitchen, and by watching her I began to think there was some skill involved in being a girl.
    • Pt. 2, ch. 12
    • Jean Louise (Scout) Finch
  • Atticus had said it was the polite thing to talk to people about what they were interested in, not about what you were interested in.
    • Jean Louise (hotty) Finch
    • Pt. 2, ch. 15
  • So it took an eight-year-old child to bring 'em to their senses.... That proves something - that a gang of wild animals can be stopped, simply because they're still human. Hmp, maybe we need a police force of children.
    • Pt. 2, ch. 16
    • Atticus Finch
  • Apparently, Mayella's recital had given her confidence, but it was not her father's brash kind: there was something stealthy about hers, like a steady-eyed cat with a twitchy tail.
    • Pt. 2, ch. 18
  • Slowly but surely I began to see the pattern of questions: from questions that Mr.Gilmer did not deem sufficiently irrelevant or immaterial to object to, Atticus was quietly building up before the jury the picture of the Ewell's home life.
    • Pt. 2, ch. 18
    • Jean Louise (Scout) Finch
  • I’m no idealist to believe firmly in the integrity of our courts and in the jury system—that is no ideal to me, it is a living, working reality. Gentlemen, a court is no better than each man of you sitting before me on this jury. A court is only as sound as its jury, and a jury is only as sound as the men who make it up.
    • Pt. 2, ch. 20
    • Atticus Finch
  • The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box. As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it—whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.
    • Pt. 2, ch. 23
    • Atticus Finch
  • But there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal- there is one human institution that makes a pauper the equal of a Rockefeller, the stupid man the equal of an Einstein, and the ignorant man the equal of any college president. That institution, gentlemen, is a court. It can be the Supreme Court of the United States or the humblest J.P. court in the land, or this honourable court which you serve. Our courts have their faults, as does any human institution, but in this country our courts are the great levellers, and in our courts all men are created equal.
    • Pt. 2, ch. 20
    • Atticus Finch
  • "I think I'll be a clown when I get grown," said Dill. "Yes, sir, a clown.... There ain't one thing in this world I can do about folks except laugh, so I'm gonna join the circus and laugh my head off." "You got it backwards, Dill," said Jem. "Clowns are sad, it's folks that laugh at them." "Well, I'm gonna be a new kind of clown. I'm gonna stand in the middle of the ring and laugh at the folks."
    • Pt. 2, ch. 22
  • I think there's just one kind of folks. Folks.
    • Pt. 2, ch. 23
    • Jean Louise (Scout) Finch
  • In the secret courts of men's hearts Atticus had no case. Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed.
    • Pt. 2, ch. 25
  • "An' they chased him 'n' never could catch him 'cause they didn't know what he looked like, an' Atticus, when they finally saw him, why he hadn't done any of those things... Atticus, he was real nice..." "Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them."
    • Pt. 2, ch. 31
    • Jean Louise (Scout) Finch & Atticus Finch
  • Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.
    • Pt. 2, ch. 31
    • Jean Louise (Scout) Finch

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

Simple English

Harper Lee
File:Harper Lee
President George W. Bush gives Harper Lee (right) the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House on November 5, 2007.
Occupation Novelist
Nationality American
Subjects Literature
Literary movement Southern Gothic

Harper Lee is an author. She was born on April 28, 1926 in Monroeville, Alabama. She is most famous for writing To Kill a Mockingbird. She was friends with Truman Capote. The Civil Rights issues in Alabama influenced her writing more than World War II. Her book, To Kill A Mocking Bird was published in 1959. Harper Lee's interests apart from writing are watching politicians and cats, travelling and being alone.

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