Poor Billy Faulkner. From Carolyn Porter’s forthcoming William Faulkner, the latest installment in Oxford University Press’ Lives & Legacies series:
While Murry Falkner was a figure of weakness in his first son’s eyes, his wife Maud was the opposite. On her kitchen wall hung a sign saying “Never explain. Never complain” (a Victorian maxim traceable to the British prime minister, Benjamin Disraeli). However disappointed she was in her husband and her marriage, she was determined to raise her sons according to her own lights, her oldest son in particular. For example, having observed that Billy was not going to be as tall as her younger boys, Maud bought him a kind of corset (a canvas vest that laced up in the back and held the shoulders back) at age thirteen and forced him to wear it for almost two years so that he would stand as straight and upright as possible, as his great-grandfather was reputed to have done. (She apparently succeeded; many would notice Faulkner’s markedly erect posture throughout his life.) Faulkner neither explained nor complained, apparently, even though the brace precluded his playing baseball, among other athletic endeavors he enjoyed…. His cousin, Sally Murry, a partial model for the adventurous little girl Caddy Compson, was similarly cursed at this time, but she so despised the corset that she got her friends to untie it. [Emphasis added.]
“William Faulkner, 1947,” a photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson, is taken from this site.