Oh, The Places You’ll Go
Theodor Geisel, known to the world as the beloved Dr. Seuss, used to doodle in notebooks during his English literature lectures while at Oxford University in England. A girl sitting next to him, Helen Palmer, his future wife, took notice,
“Ted’s notebooks were always filled with these fabulous animals,” she said in an interview. “So I set to work diverting him; here was a man who could draw such pictures; he should be earning a living doing that.”
Soon thereafter, he dropped out of Oxford, traveled, began to let his imagination wander, and in doing so, created some of literature’s most beloved characters.
We are big fans of Dr. Seuss and have, over the years, been privy to a range of Seussian auction items, from his private letters to friends and his agent, to fabulous, one-of-a-kind pieces of original art Geisel penned for the people he loved, his friends, family, and of course, his readers.
Most impressive in our current auction is a piece of original art — Geisel amends an 1971 abstract drawing of a woman done by his friend Diddo Clark, by adding his beloved Cat in the Hat character from his famous 1957 book to the drawing. He also adds a thought bubble in his distinct penmanship for the Cat that reads, ”I don’t know whether the kids did. But I had FUN! Thanks to Diddo.”
The idea for the book was hedged on a bet, namely, that Seuss should attempt to write a book using only words 6-year-olds would know.
His friend William Ellsworth Spaulding, director of Houghton Mifflin’s education division, said, “Write me a story that first-graders can’t put down!” providing a list of 348 words to choose from, asking Ted to use only 225 of those.
Lo and behold, nine months later, The Cat in the Hat was complete, using 236 easy words, 221 of them having only one syllable.
Geisel began using his middle name, Seuss, as his nom de plume because he had secret dreams of becoming a novelist one day and didn’t want to tarnish his literary pursuits by letting the world know he also wrote children’s books.
But when he did publish his novel, called “The Seven Lady Godivas” in 1939, the critics were non-plussed, and once again, he returned to those endearing doodles in his notebooks he tried to ignore for years.
Children became his lifeline, he explained in one of the few interviews he would give.
“I’d rather write for kids. They’re more appreciative; adults are obsolete children, and the hell with them.”
One of his greatest curmudgeons, The Grinch, remains Christmas’ biggest adversaries, maybe next to Dicken’s Scrooge, complet with his own theme song.
We’re auctioning two 1971 Christmas drawings, one showing the mischievous Grinch underneath a Christmas tree, signed by Dr. Seuss, each penned in his quirky handwriting.
And if books are your bag, check out this First edition of Dr. Seuss’s”How the Grinch Stole Christmas” with the first printing dustjacket. These first editions are incredibly scarce, and even moreso to find one with a dustjacket intact.
Be sure to check out our 15+ Seussian items in our current auction this December.
“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells,” he used to say. “Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope.”