Intimate glimpses at private life as Henry Miller's kin sell papers

June 26, 1997|By SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER

SAN FRANCISCO -- The life of Henry Miller, author, pornographer, celebrated lover -- including a first draft of his "Tropic of Capricorn" -- is up for sale.

"I don't have a problem parting with any of it," said the author's son Henry "Tony" Miller, who is selling what's believed to be the only surviving copy of his father's first draft of the steamy autobiographical novel.

The Pacific Book Auction Gallery in San Francisco has set the opening bid for the "Tropic of Capricorn" draft at $30,000.

The draft is one of 328 items in Miller's personal papers that go up for sale today, including Miller's famous "Little Black Book" containing a list of his lovers with star ratings beside the names, as well as 24 pages from his novel "Nexus" that were censored due to sexual content.

Tony Miller said he doesn't mind selling off his father's archives because what's most important are the intangibles his father passed on to him. "It's the spirit he gave me. It affects me to this day."

What is most precious to Tony Miller and his sister Valentine are their private memories and mementos of Henry Miller and of their childhood years growing up in Big Sur, on Partington Ridge, where their home was perched high above the Pacific Ocean.

Valentine and Tony, who both live in Carmel, Calif., are the product of Henry Miller's fourth marriage with Lepska Warren -- who married Miller when she was 19 and he was in his 50s.

"He had us late in life, in his late 50s, so I think people at that age aren't so self-centered," Valentine Miller said. "We had a wonderful childhood."

The image of Miller canonized in literary history is that of an egotistical, pleasure-seeking adulterer.

His books written as an expatriate in Paris were considered pornography in the United States and barred from publication for nearly two decades, sealing his reputation as an irreverent underground writer whose name became synonymous with sex.

Miller explains in one unpublished manuscript up for sale today that having sex with someone else "was not necessarily an act of betrayal. It was a sign of life, the celebration of life."

Among the most Miller-esque items on sale is the logbook of his lovers, which is expected to be auctioned off for a few thousand dollars.

Miller gives three stars to his most famous partners in love -- his second wife, June Edith Smith, and his benefactor and fellow writer, Anais Nin. The threesome's passionate love affair is chronicled in Miller's novels "Tropic of Cancer" and "Tropic of Capricorn" and portrayed in the Hollywood movie "Henry and June."

The 17 years since their father's death have taken Valentine and Tony Miller on a long and emotional journey.

The Millers wanted to sell the whole collection of their father's papers to a university for $700,000 or more. But major universities around the nation were uninterested or didn't have the money, and their rejection left Miller's children deeply disappointed.

Pub Date: 6/26/97

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