Saint-Exupéry wrote The Little Prince while he was living in New York for two years in 1942-43. During this period, he had a relationship with a young divorced woman, Silvia Hamilton (later Reinhardt). He would often visit Silvia late at night, and she would make him gin and scrambled eggs. During those visits, he wrote and illustrated the bulk of The Little Prince.
It is said that Silvia was the inspiration for aspects of Saint-Exupéry’s tale. She herself was the model for the character of the fox, who uttered the book’s oft-quoted line, “What is essential is invisible to the eye.” Her black poodle provided fodder for the sheep character, and her mop-topped doll, the Little Prince himself.
Before leaving New York to join his Air Force squadron in April 1943, Saint-Exupéry visited Silvia and gave her the original manuscript and many (if not all) of the preparatory drawings for The Little Prince, which the Morgan Library acquired in 1968. In the 1960s, before Silvia Reinhardt sold her collection to the Morgan, she gave three of them to one of her friend Sherlee Lantz.
Sherlee Lantz visited Silvia and Gottfried Reinhardt in Los Angeles where they were to cast a play for the Theater Guild. Sherlee explained: "After dinner, Silvia (wonderfully feline, attractive, difficult) began to whisper to me about Saint-Exupéry with whom she had lived at the time he wrote The Little Prince. I loved Saint-Exupéry's writing, so I was most excited to hear about him on such a personal level. She took me by the hand, commanding 'Come with me!' and led me to her bedroom. She removed a large box from the upper shelf of her closet and opened it. Within were all the drawings of The Little Prince. They were on ordinary onion skin copy paper. She gestured to the box, and said 'Take some'. I was stunned and refused. She then said that she was the 'fox who could not be tamed', that she adored Saint-Exupéry (who incidentally spoke no English and she spoke no French, but that is another story). She insisted that I take whatever drawings I wished. 'But why? Why would you part with them?' I asked. She said that nobody in Hollywood (at that time) even knew who St.-Ex. was. They had no familiarity with his fine prose and, what is more and perhaps more importantly, they were not in the least impressed that he had been her lover. She said that my response both to his books and to the romance, made it clear to her that I should have some of the drawings. I gave one drawing away, almost immediately, as a wedding present to an even more passionate admirer than I of Saint-Exupéry. A big mistake. She never even thanked me. Perhaps, she did not believe that it was an original..."
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