Neal Cassady’s Jack Kerouac letter makes $206,250

Neal Cassady’s legendary letter to Jack Kerouac has sold for $206,250 at Heritage Auctions.

The lot is known as "the Joan Anderson letter" and inspired Kerouac to start work on his masterpiece On the Road.

Jack Kerouac Cassasy

Neal Cassady was an old friend of Jack Kerouac

It was the star of a sale of books and manuscripts in New York yesterday.

Cassady wrote the letter in December 1950, while in the midst of a two day Benzedrine high. Its scattergun, free-form prose proved a revelation for Kerouac, who had been struggling to find his own voice.

Kerouac explained in a 1968 interview with the Paris Review: “It was the greatest piece of writing I ever saw, better’n anybody in America, or at least enough to make (Herman) Melville, (Mark) Twain, (Theodore) Dreiser, (Thomas) Wolfe, I dunno who, spin in their graves.”

The letter is named for its repeated reference to Joan Anderson, a girlfriend of Cassady’s.

Kerouac’s original manuscript draft for his third novel, the Dharma Bums, achieved $137,500.

Dharma Bums Kerouac

Kerouac's Dharma Bums covers similar ground to On the Road 

The lot features corrections from Kerouac’s publisher, Viking Press.

Kerouac was irked by Viking’s insistence that he remove certain passages from the book. On the cover he has written "Dharma Bums Ms. (with Viking Press Changes that I rejected)".  

A steamer trunk belonging to Mark Twain, one of America’s most celebrated writers, achieved $31,250.

It’s inscribed “Property of Samuel L Clemens” (Twain’s Christian name) across the lid.

The consignor spotted it at a Kentucky auction in 2015 and put in significant time and effort to trace its provenance. It’s likely that Twain bought the box while passing through St Louis in 1867.

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