The pages of the hardback school exercise book are brittle with age, while the writing is small and at times difficult to read. But the urgency and passion of the story shine through and famous phrases leap out: “Piggy, piggy!”then later: “Kill the pig."
On the 60th anniversary of the publication of Lord of the Flies, much of William Golding’s archive, including this handwritten draft of his most famous novel is today being given to the
For the first time, academics, students and the public will get the chance to pore over this precious early version of one of the most famous, widely-read and influential novels of the past six decades.
Golding’s daughter, Judy Carver, said the family wanted to make sure her father’s papers were properly preserved. “But we also believe that it’s time for readers to see something of the process that produced these works."Speaking at the Cornish home where Golding spent his final years, Carver tells of her first impressions of the book, a terrifying study of the descent into savagery of a group of schoolboys marooned on a desert island.
“My earliest memory is not of the book itself but of a lot of parcels coming back and being sent off again very quickly."
The parcels were the manuscript being sent off to publishers, coming back with rejection letters before being despatched again. “He must have been grief-stricken every time it returned,” said Carver. As a Wiltshire schoolmaster, Golding did not have much money to spare. “Even paying for the postage was a commitment. He must have been fairly sure it was good."
After the book was finally published by Faber and Faber in 1954, Carver read it and recalls being excited at the reference to a classic children’s book she loved. “I didn’t bother with much apart from the fact it mentioned Swallows and Amazons, which I was thrilled by. My perception of the book was very limited and I wasn’t encouraged to go into it very deeply."
Later when she studied English at university, Carver pretended to dons that she had not read her father’s work. “It was very difficult to answer their questions so I’d say I hadn’t read any of them, which wasn’t strictly true. I think they were nice to be interested, I felt a bit cornered."
Many of Carver’s favourite images are fully-formed in the draft – boys building sandcastles, dancing in the firelight, the sun and moon pulling against each other, causing the ocean to bulge on one side.
Brilliant phrases such as Ralph weeping “for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart”are there in this first version.
But the draft does yield surprises. Most strikingly, the published novel begins with the meeting beside the glittering lagoon between Ralph and Piggy when the latter unwisely tells him his nickname and Ralph teases him: “Piggy! Piggy!"
However, Golding originally started by describing how the plane carrying them was attacked during an atomic war. The crash of the plane and the war are much more implicit in the final book.
As well as name-checking Swallows and Amazons, RM Ballantyne’s The Coral Island and Robert Louis Stevenson’s
The terrifying chant of Jack and his hunters - “Kill the pig”- is also subtly but interestingly changed. In the handwritten draft it continues: “Cut his throat. Spill his blood.”In the final version the boys chant: “Cut her throat. Spill her blood."
There are no chapter titles in the draft. Nor is there a book title - Lord of the Flies was dreamt up by another editor.
Carver said Golding enjoyed the success of the book. “But I think he felt a bit aggrieved that it took the thunder and prominence from other books. I once asked him which were his best books."
Golding told her that The Inheritors, about the last Neanderthals, and The Spire, in which Dean Jocelin very unwisely extends a cathedral skywards, were his best two. “He thought Lord of the Flies was pretty good. I think he thought it was all right."