Manuscripts Etc.


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The following items are drawn from the William Faulkner Foundation Collection at the University of Virginia's Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library (
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“Knight's Gambit”

The pages here are from the 23-page typescript of "Knight's Gambit" that Faulkner sent his agent in January, 1942 - seven years, at least three re-writings, and over a dozen rejections from magazines before he completed the 150-page typescript of the novella that was published in 1949 as the final story in the collection Knight's Gambit. Even this typescript is not the earliest version of the story, as we can tell from the cancelled version of the first page that is on the back of the sheet that the ever-frugal author reused when he typed the next version of page one (below left and center). That ur-story has been lost, but in both these earliest versions, apparently, the Mr. Harriss whom Gavin's former sweetheart married was a Yankee, a New York businessman rather than the New Orleans gangster who appears in the novella. And from one change in the first paragraph in both first pages - from "since two years ago" to "for twenty years now" - it seems Faulkner originally intended to make Captain Gualdes (and not Harriss) responsible for transforming the former "plantation for raising cotton and corn" into the "county landmark" with its "electric-lighted stables" and "polo field" and so on. There are several other notable changes even on this one page. For example, in describing the Harriss siblings, he initially used the term "delicate" but removed it from the revision, perhaps because he didn't want to undermine the danger that Max poses later on in the story. More tellingly, when Max asks "You're Stevens?" Faulkner initially had Stevens respond: "'That's partly correct,' Uncle Gavin said. 'But let it pass.'" In his careful revision Faulkner clarifies things a bit: "'That's partly correct,' Uncle Gavin said, 'since I'm a little better than twice your age. But let it pass.'" The revised version makes clearer that Stevens thinks Max is a disrespectful presumptuous youth who should have said "You're Mr. Stevens?"

Page 1 verso, Carbon Typescript     Page 1, Carbon Typescript     Page 7, Carbon Typescript

Faulkner had already published four of the six stories that appear in Knight's Gambit when he wrote the first version of this story. As a group the stories featuring Gavin Stevens solving or preventing crimes are among the least studied of Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha fictions, but for the critics and scholars who have written about them, a major issue is the depiction of Gavin Stevens's evolution as a character. Faulkner writes that Stevens is "twenty-eight" in "Tomorrow" (1940) and "almost fifty" in this text. Comparing page 7 in the typescript (above right) with the published novella illustrates that evolution. The main action of the story (in all versions) takes place right on the verge of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that sent the US into World War II. In this short story version Stevens says to Max: "I'm on the draft board here. Your number came up today. You're leaving day after tomorrow." At the end of the novella, on the other hand, Stevens offers Max the alternative of enlisting to either induction or jail - and lets him decide what to do.

In this earlier version Stevens also seems quite different in his interactions with Captain Gauldes (Faulkner later added the "r"). When they meet in front of the stable in the climactic scene below, Stevens lets the Captain have center stage: as the narrator notes (page 19 below): Gauldes "never did run, he just walked, his back to the stallion until it was within ten feet of him." Moreover, when Gauldes climbs the fence after subduing the stallion, Stevens remarks, "You lost" (19). Gualdes replies, "Your pardon, . . . I won" (20). This differs significantly from his response in the final version, in which he tells Stevens "I have lost," until Stevens corrects him (231). In the short story, after bravely conquering the horse that would have killed him, Gualdes wins a wealthy wife and becomes a US citizen. In the novella, his fate seems much bleaker, a meaningless existence arranged by Stevens.

Page 17, Carbon Typescript     Page 18, Carbon Typescript     Page 19, Carbon Typescript     Page 20, Carbon Typescript     Page 21, Carbon Typescript

The change from Gualdes to Gualdres is not the most striking name change Faulkner makes between the two versions. He had published four of the other five Knight's Gambit stories before writing this first version of the title story ("An Error In Chemistry" appeared in 1946). Like this story, two of them ("Smoke," 1932, and "Tomorrow," 1940) are narrated by "Uncle Gavin"'s nephew. He has no name in "Smoke," and only a first name, "Chick," in "Tomorrow. In Intruder in the Dust (1948) he will become a major character as Charles (Chick) Mallison, so it comes as a kind of shock when here Gavin refers to him by name as "Chuck," and again when he reveals himself to be "Charles Weddel."

SOURCE: Joseph Blotner, Faulkner: A Biography.

    Citing this source:
Lorie Watkins and Stephen Railton, "Manuscripts &c: 'Knight's Gambit,'" Digital Yoknapatawpha, University of Virginia, (Date added to project: 2019)