Arts & Culture

Buy a Beloved Lowcountry Writer’s Desk, Books, and Pens

The auction of Dorothea Benton Frank’s collections of cookbooks, dishes, and jewelry will support a writing fund in Charleston

photo: Courtesy of the Dorothea Benton Frank Estate

Dorothea Benton Frank.

No matter where she went, the late author Dorothea Benton Frank surrounded herself with reminders of her native South Carolina home. She collected sweetgrass baskets, set her table with palm tree candlesticks, and earmarked recipes in her favorite Southern cookbooks. “In fact, my mom started writing because she wanted to buy a house on Sullivan’s Island,” says Frank’s daughter, Victoria Frank Peluso.

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Frank, who died last year at the age of sixty-seven, set her best-selling novels, beginning with 2000’s Sullivan’s Island, around her Lowcountry home, although she often wrote from her other residence in Montclair, New Jersey. Now, an upcoming series of auctions gives readers a chance to own a piece of her legacy—including those candlesticks and cookbooks.

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“As we were going through my mom’s stuff, we realized there’s just so much,” Peluso says. “What you’re seeing here is probably a sixteenth of it all. It’s emotional because she’s my favorite person, but as we were going through the stuff, I realized my house cannot be a museum to my mother. I have to let some of this go.”

So the family worked with Doyle auctions to sell Frank’s possessions, beginning next week, with proceeds supporting the Dorothea Benton Frank Writing Series and Fellowship at the College of Charleston. “My mom’s whole mission was to help make writers money,” Peluso says. “I love the idea that we’ll be both supporting her program at the college, and that her pens, her books, and even her writing desk might go to someone who is writing their first novel.”

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From her home near Charleston, South Carolina, Peluso scrolled through the auction site and shared a few favorite memories of the objects for sale: The porcelain dogs that Frank called “the perfect pets”; necklaces and bangles she wore on book tours; an inside-joke-inscribed silver cocktail shaker; an ornate punch bowl; and “Okay, this is hysterical that it’s on here. Lot 33, affectionately known as her ‘diet china,’ because she told my dad that if she could get down to 130 pounds after having her kids, he had to buy her this china. Here it is.”

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When Peluso, who co-authored a book with her mother, was pregnant with her daughter, a nurse told her that Frank’s books and style inspired her and gave her confidence to dress with elegance. “My mom always put herself together in a way that was thoughtful and not too showy,” Peluso says. “And she wanted to be surrounded by beautiful things.” And now, her fans and aspiring writers can be, too.

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