Yesterday I got in touch with Alicia Mayer, the grandniece of Louis B. Mayer, in connection with some research I’ve been doing on some MGM movies from the 30s. I was having a hard time locating his papers, which I assumed were archived someplace. Not so. According to Ms. Mayer, his papers were all “burnt by his second wife and her lawyer.”
That puts them right up there with Cassandra Austen, Mrs. Stephen Foster and all the other maniacs who have gouged holes in our artistic heritage. But then wonderful stuff has gone missing for so many reasons….
Refused publication, James Joyce threw Stephen Hero into the fire; Nora retrieved 1/5 of it.
From 1856 to 1896 Johannes Brahms and Clara Schumann exchanged more than four thousand letters, almost all of which he destroyed just before his death.
Julius Caesar wrote a play called Oedipus — who knew and where is it
Gogol burns Part II of Dead Souls — well-known — rewrites it completely and burns that too — less known
A drawing by Leonardo da Vinci representing Orpheus pursued by the Furies is ruined while being restored in 2001
Emile Zola burns all his letters from Paul Cezanne; Cezanne destroys his portrait of Zola (tiff?)
Check out Henri LeFebvre’s incantatory Missing Pieces for many, many more of the the same. It’s the eeriest book you can imagine.