The late "Peanuts" creator Charles Schulz was once so infatuated with a woman 23 years his junior he sent her dozens of romantic letters and drawings of his beloved cartoon characters. Many of the themes of that correspondence made it into his daily comic strips at the time.
Now those love notes from 1970-'71 are being offered for sale at Sotheby's in New York by the family of Tracey Claudius, who the auction house says is ill at her home near Philadelphia. It's estimated the notes will fetch $250,000 to $350,000 at the Dec. 14 auction.
Claudius met Schulz on March 16, 1970, while accompanying a friend on an interview assignment. She was 25; Schulz, who was married, was 48. His comic strip ran for nearly 50 years. Schulz died in 2000 at 77.
There are 44 letters, including 22 original drawings of some of the characters.
Sotheby's says it is the most significant collection of correspondence and drawings by Schulz to come to auction.
"He was quite a private and reserved person," said Selby Kiffer, Sotheby's head of fine books and manuscripts.
One letter comments on Claudius' "good points," including being "beepable," "huggable" and "buggable" -- language he applied to Lucy and Snoopy in later comic strips.
In two letters from 1970 Schulz writes that he must cease calling Claudius because his long-distance phone calls had been discovered by his wife.
Soon after, he created a strip in which Charlie Brown berated Snoopy for his behavior when he's not allowed to go out "to see that girl beagle."
In subsequent panels, Charlie warns Snoopy "you'd better start behaving yourself," and when Snoopy picks up the telephone, Charlie Brown yells "And stop making those long-distance phone calls."
In his 2007 book, "Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography," David Michaelis said Schulz was almost between two marriages when he embarked on the romance with Claudius.
Michaelis said Schulz twice proposed to Claudius, but she turned him down for fear of ruining his reputation as one of America's most loved icons.