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Dawn Powell (1896–1965).






Small, Maynard & Company




The American writer Dawn Powell wrote sixteen novels, of which Whither was her first. However, following its publication, she disowned it, and went around to bookstores and bought up all the copies she could find. Thus, she always called her second novel, She Walks in Beauty (1925), her first. She refused to acknowledge Whither in her official biography; her friend Hannah Green recalled that, some thirty-five years after the book’s publication, Powell was not pleased when Green found a copy in a secondhand bookstore. Consequently, Whither with its dust jacket is very rare, with only two known copies, and any inscribed copy, such as this one, rarer still.

Powell’s books cover two subjects: small town American life in the Midwest, where she grew up, and the sophisticated and literary life of New York City, of which she was very much a part, including spending considerable time in speakeasies. Whither describes a small-town girl in her twenties living in a New York City rooming house, trying to become a writer, and it has an unconvincing happy ending. But because it is so autobiographical, it will be fascinating to anyone interested in Dawn Powell’s life, which her biographer, Tim Page, has so admirably described.

I have collected Dawn Powell for many years, and others have described my collection as the best in private hands. I greatly admire her writing, which I find both moving and hilarious. When Dawn Powell died, virtually all of her books were out of print and she was unknown. However, after Gore Vidal commented that, along with Mark Twain, she was “the best American comic novelist,” she has been brought back into print, including as volumes in the Library of America.


Susan Brynteson