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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The Sound and the Fury

Faulkner regularly called The Sound and the Fury his own favorite among his novels. It was the book, he told several audiences at the University of Virginia, "that I anguished the most over, that I worked the hardest at" (13 March 1957; also 15 April, 25 April, 25 May, etc.). The surviving manuscript, partial typescript and later complete typescript document that work. The record is incomplete — it seems certain that Faulkner composed earlier drafts before the extant manuscript and that he made a last set of revisions on the lost galley proofs — but what we do have confirms Faulkner's claim about working hard to get the novel right, or as he also frequently said, to make it his "most splendid failure" (15 April 1957).
Below left: the way Benjy's section begins in the manuscript. "Twilight" is the title Faulkner chose for what he intended as a short story, before the story grew into a novel. When the man says "caddie," as the published text has it, Benjy hears "Caddy," which makes it harder to understand what is happening outside Benjy (the golf game) but perhaps easier to understand what happens inside him, why he "moans." The switch of Benjy's caretaker in the middle, from "T.P." to "Luster," is confusing. Among other differences, Faulkner has obviously not yet thought of the missing quarter that anticipates so much of the story and also gives readers a way to recognize scenes set in the present instead of Benjy's past.
Below center: the cancelled title indicates that Faulkner wrote this page as the beginning of Quentin's section. It picks up an image from late in Benjy's section: Caddy in the doorway on the evening of the day in which she lost her virginity. Since this and the next five the manuscript pages, originally numbered 34-40, give no hint of Quentin's life at Harvard, it is possible that Faulkner originally intended to set Quentin's section on this day. All these pages are renumbered three times, indicating Faulkner's various attempts to find the right place for this passage. In the published novel it - and the larger account of Quentin and Caddy's actions on that day in 1909 - comes near the end of Quentin's section (pages 149-58).
Below right: the new page "34," the revised beginning of Quentin's section, which puts him in Massachusetts waking up.  But like Luster's quarter in Benjy's section, there is still a lot missing from this revision, most notably Quentin's father's voice. The emphasis is on locating Quentin in a Christian context but not a Southern one.

Page 1, The Sound and the Fury Ms         Page 70, The Sound and the Fury Ms         Page 34, The Sound and the Fury Ms

The page below left is the way Quentin's section begins in one of the more puzzling documents in the Faulkner Collection: 24 pages of a "ribbon typescript" that has been copy-edited by at least two people other than Faulkner. The scholarly consensus is that this typescript represents what Faulkner sent to New York for his publisher to use as the setting copy for the novel, but then replaced after making extensive revisions in Quentin's section before the novel was set in print. It largely follows the manuscript version above right.
Below right: the carbon typescript beginning of Quentin's section. While there is no definitive account of the relationship between this 409-page typescript and the earlier one, it is clear that Faulkner extensively revised and retyped at least this section after the novel had begun the publication process — and possible that he revised and retyped the whole novel at the same time. In this version we hear the sound that will recur throughout Quentin's section almost as regularly as the ticking of a watch: the sound of Mr. Compson's voice in his son's memory.

Page 86, The Sound and the Fury Ribbon Ts         Page 86, The Sound and the Fury Carbon Ts

Below: the next 3 pages of Quentin's section, from the copy-edited ribbon typescript. "Father said" does appear on the third of these pages (below right). The original beginning of the section — "one minute she was standing in the door" — puts in a brief appearance on that same page; it's not clear who crossed it out using a pen, but it probably wasn't Faulkner. On the first page below, it's shocking to see how one of the copy-editors, red pencil in hand, felt free to "improve" Faulkner's text, by clarifying the dialogue and even deleting one of Quentin's more elliptical fragments of memory.

Page 87, The Sound and the Fury Ribbon Ts         Page 88, The Sound and the Fury Ribbon Ts         Page 89, The Sound and the Fury Ribbon Ts

The manuscript pages below provide other windows into the pattern of Faulkner's revisions. Note, first, that he is writing on two different kinds of paper, one of several indications that there was at least one earlier handwritten version of the novel prior to the one that we have.
Below left: from Benjy's section, one of the most heavily revised pages in the extant manuscript. It was revised on at least two separate occasions, as indicated by the interlineated changes in what Mr. Compson says about disease and decay.
Together these pages display one of Faulkner's more prominent concerns in revising: to establish a role and a tone for the father's voice. The marginal addition in Benjy's section puts Mr. Compson's nihilism on record via Benjy's reliable memory. If we only heard those accents of futility in Quentin's section, we could decide Quentin was inventing or at least distorting his father's words.
Father's voice returns very powerfully as Faulkner struggles to find the ending for Quentin's section. The passage below center, also revised on at least two occasions, ultimately became that ending, but from the section's last page in the manuscript (below right), it seems that Faulkner once considered that the last word in Quentin's section — "was" — should be Mr. Compson's. It's also noteworthy how much easier it is to follow the conversation between father and son in the manuscript, which says "and father said/and I said" rather than "and he/and i" to indicate the speakers.

Page 20, The Sound and the Fury Ms         Page 85, The Sound and the Fury Ms         Detail: Page 86, The Sound and the Fury Ms

Another pattern that these pages make visible is Faulkner's increasing interest in representing the African American characters who live largely at the margins of the Compson family's life. The six pages below describe the narrative's first engagement with black life: after watching the white men play golf, Luster takes Benjy to the branch where the black women are washing clothes, probably for paying white customers. The first page is from the manuscript, and includes the moment when Benjy remembers Caddy getting her underwear muddy. But also noteworthy is the way Faulkner's marginal addition stages an encounter between white and black worlds.
The next five pages are from the carbon typescript. Their numbering — 15, then 15-A through 15-D — indicate that Faulkner interpolated them into the text after having typed at least this part of it. Included in the addition is an exchange among the black women about their place in the larger society, in which one asks another the resonant question "What you got against white folks." This novel does not go any further in the cultural direction pointed to by that question, but the fact that it occurred to Faulkner's imagination as a kind of second thought anticipates the larger shape of his career.

Page 6, The Sound and the Fury Ms         Page 15, The Sound and the Fury Carbon Ts         Page 15-A, The Sound and the Fury Carbon Ts

Page 15-B, The Sound and the Fury Carbon Ts         15-C, The Sound and the Fury Carbon Ts         Page 15-D, The Sound and the Fury Carbon Ts

In the edition of The Sound and the Fury manuscripts that Noel Polk prepared for Garland Publishing, he points out that even as he re-typed the novel for the last time Faulkner continued to experiment with ways to deploy the conventions of English grammar to represent the idiosyncrasies of Benjy's mind. In the first part of Benjy's section the dialogue is punctuated according to standard usage rules (below left). Then for a few pages Faulkner left out all punctuation inside the quotation marks (below center). Beginning on page 51 (below right) he found and settled on the method that we see throughout Benjy's section in the published text: using periods, even when a comma or a question mark is called for.

Page 3, The Sound and the Fury Ts         Page 47, The Sound and the Fury Ts         Page 51, The Sound and the Fury Carbon Ts

From the available evidence, it seems that Faulkner had less trouble finding the right ending for the novel than the right beginning for Quentin's section, but it is still interesting to see him "working at" that quest even through the final typescript. Below left and center: the often heavily revised manuscript versions of the ending. Below right: the typescript version, where after a few final changes he decided he had put the words into their ordered place. The handwritten place and date obviously were another afterthought, a Joycean touch. Faulkner apparently finished this typewritten version at his friend Ben Wasson's apartment about half a year after writing the first page of the manuscript, but given how many differences there are between this typescript and the published text, this isn't the real end of the story of the book's composition. Perhaps someday someone will find the galley proofs on which all the evidence suggests that Faulkner himself continued to work at the novel until the last possible moment.

Detail: Page 147, The Sound and the Fury Ms         Detail: Page 148, The Sound and the Fury Ms         Page 392, The Sound and the Fury Carbon Ts

If you want to learn more about what scholars have had to say about the composition, revision and publication of The Sound and the Fury|, five good places to start are: James B. Meriwether, "Notes on the Textual History of The Sound and the Fury," 1962, revised and reprinted in The Merrill Studies in "The Sound and the Fury," ed. Meriwether (Columbus: Merrill, 1970): 1-32; Emily K. Izsak, "The Manuscript of The Sound and the Fury: The Revisions in the First Section," Studies in Bibliography 20 (1967): 189-202; Gail M. Morrison, "The Composition of The Sound and the Fury," in William Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury": A Critical Casebook, ed. Andre Bleikasten (New York: Garland, 1982): 33-64; Noel Polk, An Editorial Handbook for William Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury" (New York: Garland, 1985); Polk, "Introduction" to William Faulkner Manuscripts 6: The Sound and the Fury I (New York: Garland, 1987): vii-xiii.

      Citing this source:
Stephen Railton, "Manuscripts &c: The Sound and the Fury," Digital Yoknapatawpha, University of Virginia, (Date added to project: 2015)