"There Was a Queen" (Text Key 250)

Code: 
TWQ
Type: 
short story
About: 

In some respects "There Was a Queen" is a kind of valedictory on the two old Yoknapatawpha families who were at the center of two of Faulkner's first four novels. In Flags in the Dust (1929) Bayard Sartoris marries Narcissa Benbow. The focus of Sanctuary (1931) is on Narcissa's brother Horace, also a major character in the first novel, but Narcissa and Jenny Du Pre (the central characters in this story) play prominent roles. Taking place a decade after the end of Flags, "There Was a Queen" describes how Narcissa preserves her reputation and how that proves too much for Aunt Jenny, who had long been the guardian of the Sartoris legacy. There is a next generation - Bayard and Narcissa's son Benbow Sartoris was born at the end of Flags, but Faulkner never picks up his story again. On the other hand, in the mid-1930s he does re-open the Sartoris saga in the other direction, writing The Unvanquished stories about the family during the Civil War and Reconstruction.

Beginning in 1929, Faulkner wrote at least three different versions of the story, including one titled "An Empress Passed." Under its final title it was published in Scribner's magazine in January 1933. Faulkner republished it twice, without further revision: in Dr. Martino and Other Stories (1934) and Collected Stories (1950). This latter version is the basis for our edition.

Dating the Story: Exactly how long this story takes place after the events in Flags is unclear, because of the inconsistencies in its chronological references. At the start Elnora remembers that "ten years ago" old Bayard (who in the earlier text dies at the end of 1919) was alive (727), and the narrator refers to Benbow (who in the earlier text was born in the spring of 1920) as a "ten-year-old boy" (728); these references date the story in 1929 or 1930. Jenny says that the jasmine she brought "to Mississippi in '69" (728) has been blooming in the garden "for fifty-seven years this summer" (738) - which would put 'this summer' in 1927. Narcissa tells Jenny that she showed her one of the anonymous letters "thirteen years ago . . . Before Bayard came back from France" (739), and uses the phrase "twelve years ago" three different times: to refer to Benbow's birth, the time that has passed since the letters disappeared, and the time the "Federal agent" has had possession of them (740); her references make the current year 1932. Our decision to date the story's events in June, 1930, takes the average of these.

First Publisher: 
Scribner's Magazine
First Publisher Date: 
January 1933
Page Start: 
727
Page Stop: 
744
Sections: 
Edit Copy Publisher: 
Vintage International
Edit Copy Publisher Location: 
New York
Edit Copy Publisher Date: 
1995
Search DIsplay Order: 
22.00
Other Resources: 
Publication Date: 
1933-01
Citation: 

How to cite this resource:
Railton, Stephen, and Dorette Sobolewski. "Faulkner's 'There Was a Queen.'" Added to the project: 2013. Digital Yoknapatawpha, University of Virginia, http://faulkner.iath.virginia.edu