Therese von Hohoff Torrey ("Tay Hohoff") (July 3, 1898 — January 5, 1974) was an American literary editor with the publishing firm J. B. Lippincott & Co. Strong-willed and forceful, she worked closely with author Harper Lee over the course of two years to give final shape to her classic novel To Kill A Mockingbird.[1][2] After the commercial and literary success of the novel, she shielded Harper Lee from the intense pressure to write another one. She retired from a senior editorial position at the firm in 1973 and died the following year.[2]

Tay Hohoff
Therese von Hohoff

(1898-07-03)July 3, 1898
DiedJanuary 5, 1974(1974-01-05) (aged 75)
Manhattan, New York, US
OccupationLiterary editor
Known forEditing To Kill A Mockingbird
Spouse(s)John Edgar Welsh (1921–1929), Arthur Haviland Torrey (1931–1973)

Personal life edit

Tay Hohoff's parents, Ernest Albrecht Hohoff Jr. and Anna Walter Hallock, raised her in a multi-generational Quaker home in Brooklyn, near Prospect Park.[3] She attended Brooklyn Friends, a Quaker school near her home. In 1919 she married Lewis Edgar Welsh (1888–after 1929), an architect and artist.[4][5] They had a daughter, Anne Torrey Welsh (1922–1980) and a son, John Hallock Welsh (born 1924). The marriage ended in divorce in 1929. In 1931 she married Arthur Haviland Torrey (1894–1973), a literary agent. On June 15, 1951, her daughter, Anne Torrey Welsh, married Dr. Grady Harrison Nunn, a professor of political science at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa.[6] The Nunns named their only daughter for her grandmother: Therese von Hohoff Nunn.[7]

Tay Hohoff was small and wiry with a deep, gravelly voice. She was a chain-smoker. She died in Manhattan.[2]

Career edit

In New York in the 1930s she opened the office of Torrey Hohoff, Press Representatives along with her husband, Arthur Haviland Torrey. During the 1930s she also worked as a book editor, first at Cosmopolitan Book Corporation, then at Bobbs-Merrill Company.[8]

In 1942 Tay Hohoff joined J. B. Lippincott & Co., a large and well-known American publishing company.[2] She acted as literary editor for several authors, including Harper Lee, Nicholas Delbanco, Thomas Pynchon,[3] Eugenia Price,[9] Zelda Popkin, Wayne Greenhaw,[10] and Lane Kauffmann.[8]

Hohoff contributed to a corporate history of J. B. Lippincott & Co. that was brought out in 1967 on the occasion of the firm's 175th anniversary. She retired from the firm in 1973 as a senior vice president, a senior editorial position that was rare for a woman to hold at a major publishing house at that time.[2]

An author herself, Hohoff published A Ministry to Man in 1959.[11] It was a biography of John Lovejoy Elliott, a social activist and humanist in early 20th-century New York who had committed his life to helping the city's underclass.[2] The same year, Hohoff also published a children's book The Cat Who Wanted Out, with illustrations by Bogdan Grom.[12][13] In 1973 Hohoff published a memoir, Cats and Other People.[14] In 1975 the book was read by Gillian Neumann in audiobook format on cassette tape.[15]

Literary editor edit

Tay Hohoff worked closely with her authors to transform their manuscripts into critically acclaimed novels through several edits and rewrites.

"Hohoff was a terrific editor. She would go through the manuscript and jot down little questions in the margins. From those questions, you would start questioning your own work."
—Wayne Greenhaw[10]

"I suffer from some sort of mother-complex, so that I always want to make paths smooth for the people I am fond of and of whom I have a high opinion."
—Tay Hohoff in a six-and-a-half-page typewritten letter to Edward Burlingame, executive editor of Lippincott (1969)[2]

She cut Nicholas Delbanco's 1968 novel, Grasse, 3/23/66 from 500 pages to less than 200.[2]

"She was closely attentive and tough, but I never felt manhandled by her."
—Nicholas Delbanco[2]

When Hohoff first saw Harper Lee's manuscript in 1957, she considered it to be "more a series of anecdotes than a fully conceived novel" though "the spark of the true writer flashed in every line".[3]

Over the course of the next two years, she guided Harper Lee until the book finally achieved its finished shape and was retitled To Kill a Mockingbird.[16][17]

Once during the long editorial process, Lee lost confidence in herself and threw her manuscript out her window and into the snow. When she called her editor in tears, Hohoff "told her to march outside immediately and pick up the pages".[18] The commercial and critical success of the novel led to pressure on Lee to publish a second novel[19][20] but Hohoff "guarded Nelle like a junkyard dog".[2]

After their successful collaboration, Hohoff and Lee remained close. When Lee found an extra-toed kitten huddled against a pipe in the basement of her apartment building, she persuaded Hohoff and her husband to adopt him. "She knew us very well and pulled out all the right stops," Hohoff wrote in her memoir.[14] When Hohoff died in 1974, Lee felt devastated.[2]

Legacy edit

In 2015, HarperCollins (US) and Heinemann (UK) published Go Set a Watchman, an early draft for To Kill A Mockingbird. Therese Nunn, Hohoff's granddaughter, said that it was disrespectful to her grandmother's work and legacy that the novel was published after only a light edit, considering the effort that went into changing and polishing To Kill A Mockingbird.[21]

Jonathan Mahler of the New York Times compared the two books and praised Hohoff's large role "in reconceiving the story from a dark tale of a young woman's disillusionment with her father's racist views, to a redemptive one of moral courage and human decency".[2] Mark Lawson of The Guardian found Go Set a Watchman more complex but less compelling than To Kill A Mockingbird, saying that "it is hard not to feel some awe at the literary midwives who spotted, in the original conception, the greater literary sibling that existed in embryo. If the text now published had been the one released in 1960, it would almost certainly not have achieved the same greatness."[22] Todd Leopold of CNN wrote that "Lee's graceful, drily witty voice, at once childlike and knowing [...] isn't lost in "Watchman," but one can see the impact of having a strong editor." He concluded that "The value of a good editor cannot be overstated."[23]

Bibliography edit

  • A Ministry to Man: The life of John Lovejoy Elliott, a biography (1959)
  • The Cat Who Wanted Out (1959)
  • The Author and His Audience: With a Chronology of Major Events in the Publishing History of J. B. Lippincott Company. (1967) - contributing author
  • Cats And Other People (1973)

References edit

  1. ^ Louisa Thomas (July 30, 2010). "Who Helped Harper Lee With "Mockingbird"?". Newsweek. Retrieved July 30, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Jonathan Mahler (July 13, 2015). "The Invisible Hand Behind Harper Lee's 'To Kill a Mockingbird'". New York Times. Retrieved July 30, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c Shields, Charles (April 3, 2007). Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee. Holt Paperbacks. p. 115. ISBN 978-0805083194.
  4. ^ Luther W. Welsh (1928). Ancestral Colonial Families. Independence, Missouri: Lambert Moon Print Company. p. 52. Retrieved July 30, 2015.
  5. ^ The AIA Historical Directory of American Architects (1956). "Lewis Edgar Welsh (member 1921 - 1936)". The American Institute of Architects (AIA). Retrieved July 30, 2015. {{cite web}}: |author= has generic name (help)
  6. ^ "Wedding Announcements - Page 11". The Bridgeport Telegram. June 17, 1951. Retrieved July 30, 2015.
  7. ^ "Obituary - Dr. Grady Harrison Nunn". The Birmingham News. November 23, 2012. Retrieved July 30, 2015.
  8. ^ a b Obituary - Therese von Hohoff Torrey. Publishers Weekly, Volume 205, Part 1. 1974. p. 53. Therese von Hohoff Torrey, author and editor known professionally as Tay Hohoff, died on January 5 at her home in New York. She was 75 years old. In 1931 she married Arthur H. Torrey, with whom she opened the office, in New York, of Torrey Hohoff, Press Representatives. Also during the '30s she worked as a book editor, first at Cosmopolitan Book Corporation, then at Bobbs-Merrill. In 1942, Mrs. Torrey joined the editorial staff of J.B. Lippincott Company, in its New York office, and remained there until her retirement as a vice-president in 1973. At Lippincott she edited the books of several authors, including Zelda Popkin, Eugenia Price and Lane Kauffmann. She was also the editor of 'To Kill a Mockingbird' by Harper Lee, which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961.
  9. ^ Price, Eugenia (August 12, 1986). Getting Through the Night: Finding Your Way After the Loss of a Loved One. Ballantine Books. p. 46. ISBN 978-0345341969.
  10. ^ a b Shields, Charles (April 3, 2007). Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee. Holt Paperbacks. p. 130. ISBN 978-0805083194.
  11. ^ Hohoff, Tay (1959). A Ministry to Man: The life of John Lovejoy Elliott, a biography. New York: Harper.
  12. ^ Hohoff, Tay (1959). The Cat Who Wanted Out. Lippincott.
  13. ^ "Kirkus Review: The Cat Who Wanted Out by Tay Hohoff". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved July 30, 2015.
  14. ^ a b Hohoff, Tay (1973). Cats and Other People. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday. ISBN 9780385022958.
  15. ^ Cats and Other People by Tay Hohoff and Gillian Neumann. WorldCat. OCLC 607221643.
  16. ^ Frances Wilson (February 5, 2015). "Harper Lee: 'she never wanted to publish another book'". The Telegraph. Retrieved July 30, 2015.
  17. ^ Gaby Wood (July 3, 2015). "Harper Lee: the inside story of the greatest comeback in literature". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on July 5, 2015. Retrieved July 30, 2015.
  18. ^ Shields, Charles (April 3, 2007). Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee. Holt Paperbacks. p. 131. ISBN 978-0805083194.
  19. ^ Susan Salter Reynolds (June 11, 2006). "The escape artist". LA Times. Retrieved July 30, 2015.
  20. ^ Andrew Gumbel (June 4, 2006). "A writer's story: The mockingbird mystery". The Independent. Retrieved July 30, 2015.
  21. ^ Anita Singh and David Millward (July 13, 2015). "To Kill A Mockingbird editor would be dismayed at decision to publish new Harper Lee novel". The Telegraph. Retrieved July 30, 2015.
  22. ^ Mark Lawson (July 13, 2015). "Go Set a Watchman review – more complex than Harper Lee's original classic, but less compelling". The Guardian. Retrieved July 30, 2015.
  23. ^ Todd Leopold (July 14, 2015). "Harper Lee's 'Mockingbird' and 'Watchman' an intriguing comparison". CNN. Retrieved July 30, 2015.