Ayn Rand Letters: Nonfiction and Activism (1941 – 1961)
This is the third of four installments featuring previously unpublished Ayn Rand letters selected by Michael S. Berliner, editor of Letters of Ayn Rand. A total of forty letters have been divided into four groups for publication, according to general subject matter: Hollywood, novels, nonfiction (including political activism), and more personal correspondence.
“While recently writing the complete finding aid to the Ayn Rand Papers, I noted some interesting letters that I hadn’t selected for the Letters book,” Berliner says. “Now, more than twenty years later, these letters struck me as meriting a wider audience. These unpublished letters were selected because of their insight into some particular topic or some aspect of Ayn Rand’s life, or, more often, as further evidence of how her mind worked on a variety of matters.
“I’d always been impressed by the care she took with non-philosophical issues and relatively trivial matters, and this mind-set comes across in virtually all of her correspondence. For a variety of reasons, she was not a ‘casual’ letter writer but always took great care to write with great precision on matters that today are usually relegated to a quick, unpunctuated tweet. For an explanation of her non-casual approach, see my preface to Letters of Ayn Rand on page xvi.”
This third group of unpublished material contains twelve letters addressed to the following individuals on the dates listed:
- Gloria Swanson (February 3, 1941)
- DeWitt M. Emery (September 23, 1941)
- Edward A. Rumely (December 8, 1943)
- DeWitt Wallace (December 8, 1943)
- Leonard Read (April 16, 1946)
- Leonard Read (July 17, 1946)
- Alan Collins (August 19, 1946)
- Ev Suffens (August 30, 1946)
- Edna Lonigan (January 29, 1949)
- Edna Lonigan (February 12, 1949)
- Hedda Hopper (November 9, 1950)
- Editor, Commercial & Financial Chronicle (May 26, 1961)
What follows is the text of each letter with accompanying remarks from Berliner (always in italics) supplying necessary context.1
To Gloria Swanson (February 3, 1941)
Ayn Rand met Gloria Swanson (1899–1983) during Wendell Willkie’s 1940 campaign for president and, during the last week of the doomed campaign, answered questions in a Manhattan movie studio converted into an auditorium and rented by Swanson for use in the campaign. “Of all the speakers who came to talk there and share the podium with me, the most memorable by far was Ayn Rand, who had a fascinating mind and held audiences spellbound,” wrote Swanson in her autobiography, Swanson on Swanson. Rand’s copy of the letter exists only in handwritten pencil.
Dear Miss Swanson,
I have just heard from Mr. Joseph Kamp that you are back in New York, and I am writing to thank you for the picture you sent me, for remembering my request and for the lovely way in which you granted it.2
Your picture is the only remembrance of the campaign that will remain with me. And working with you is my nicest memory of the whole campaign. I do hope that you have recovered a little from the disappointment which we all felt. I am not sure that I have quite recovered — or ever will. But then, I’ve always been like an elephant — and now I am beginning to realize what a sad load an elephant must be carrying through life.
With my gratitude and sincere admiration for you — since my days in Russia3 — to the present — and always —
To DeWitt M. Emery (September 23, 1941)
DeWitt Emery (1882–1958) was founder of the National Small Business Men’s Association and the Small Business Economic Foundation (whose purpose was to explain to workers the advantages of the free-enterprise system). In her biographical interviews, Ayn Rand said that Emery was “a very outspoken free-enterpriser at the time. Since then, he’s become a compromiser.”
Two days before Rand’s letter below, Emery had written a note to her about a booklet that was designed to promote a proposed individualist organization, requesting that she “read and return [it] with your comments.” Also, dated the same day (September 23) as her letter, is a telegram from Emery: “Need your suggestions for revising booklet can you mail today.”
Dear Mr. Emery:
If I tell you that it is now 5 a.m. and I have just finished typing my version of the booklet which I am enclosing — you will forgive me for my delay in sending you the material I promised.
Not only did I have one of my busiest weeks, with heavy rush assignments from the studio, but I had to hunt for a new apartment and to make arrangements for moving day after tomorrow. I thought that you wanted the outline of the organization first, so I had not worked on the booklet until today — I only had a general idea of what I wanted to do with it. When I got your wire, I had to make arrangements with the studio to give me the day off. I hope that I have not inconvenienced you too much by the delay and that this will reach you in time.
I re-typed the whole thing — using parts of your version and substituting others. I hope that I have not departed too far from what you wanted. I made an outline of what I thought was the aim and purpose of the booklet — then stated it in my own way. I hope that it will meet with your approval — but you know that I am always open to and grateful for criticism.
I know that you will see for yourself what reasons prompted me to make such changes as I made. But if you want my written criticism of the booklet’s original version — for any possible discussion with your colleagues — I will state it here briefly:
- There is a glaring, dangerous, unresolved contradiction between the opening of the booklet — the statement that national defense is destroying small business — and the later declaration that “the unconditional building of an impregnable defense” is the first aim of the NSBMA. As long as the defense situation is being used as the basis of the booklet’s whole appeal — our attitude towards it has to be stated unequivocably, beyond any un-patriotic suspicion and to the advantage of our cause.
- Page 12 of booklet: Defense should not be placed as the first aim of a business men’s organization. It sounds false. If a prospective member is interested chiefly and primarily in defense — he will go to the U.S.O. or some such place.
- Page 12. If an amateur like me may be permitted to be very emphatic about anything — I shall be so about the point of “labor’s rights” and “collective bargaining” being placed as one of the three sole, cardinal aims of a business men’s organization. Why, in the name of heaven, must we do that? Can’t we be considered respectable in defending our own rights and concerns without having to proclaim ourselves as champions of labor’s rights? For that noble purpose there’s the C.I.O. It is doing quite well. And I don’t see any declarations about protecting the rights of business men in its pamphlets. If that point was introduced into the booklet only as a sort of protection to cover the second part of the same paragraph — about “abolishing racketeering from labor unions” — it doesn’t work. It merely sounds like Willkie’s Elwood speech — and you know what that cost us. The whole subject of business men’s attitude towards labor is much too delicate. It is better not to touch it — unless we can devote to it pages and pages of full, clear-cut statement. A pious generality destroys the confidence of both labor and business men.
- I think the printed booklet is too short. When we over-cut and over-simplify, we cannot help but be reduced to generalities. In this case, I think it is simply poor business practice. It looks as if we are trying to sell a pig in a poke. We say that we object to certain propaganda and we offer people to buy our counter-propaganda, but we never give a concrete indication of the nature of either. We say in effect that we’ll sell you “a product” — come and pay for it without asking what it is. After all, when a business man advertises an important commercial product, he puts out a long, beautiful, detailed prospectus — with fancy text and photographs. Shouldn’t ideas be sold in the same way? We must remember that people who are in a position to contribute money to our cause are still terribly bitter about the millions they poured into the Willkie campaign and the miserable results they got. I know that from the people who were connected with the Willkie Clubs. They all feel stung. Willkie, too, promised anti-government propaganda — and look at him now. That is why any mild, compromising generality reminds people too much of the barefoot boy from Indiana. Unless we can be strong, clear, positive, militant — as you were in your radio speech — nobody will trust us or follow us. Besides, take this much from an author: people would rather read twenty pages that give them some meat and hold their interest than ten pages of boiled down generalities that bore them.
Please don’t be angry at me for this criticism — and don’t tell me that I am “talking to you like to one of the masses,” as you snapped at me once. I think you know all this. I think also that you must have some “appeasers” on your board — all organizations of our side have them — and these arguments are intended for your use against them.
I shall type the outline of the organization set-up, which we discussed, this week-end and airmail it to you immediately. I am moving on Thursday evening. My new address will be:
139 East 35th Street
New York City
I don’t know yet what my new telephone number will be, but if you should want to reach me before I send it to you, the operator will give you the new number when you call the old one.
Please let me know what you think of my version of the booklet as soon as you find time. I shall be most anxious to hear it.
My best regards,
On September 26, Emery responded that he had received her letter and turned it over to his colleague John Pratt. The only other reference in the Archives to Rand’s letter is Emery’s undated apology for not answering, “but I will.”
To Edward A. Rumely (December 8, 1943)
Ed Rumely (1882–1964) was, according to Wikipedia, pro-Germany in World War I. He was convicted of “trading with the enemy” but was pardoned by President Coolidge. Rumely helped establish the Committee for Constitutional Government in 1941. An early supporter of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, he broke with FDR over his attempted Supreme Court “packing” plan (a term that Rumely supposedly coined).
Dear Dr. Rumely:
I am very sorry that I have unwittingly kept you waiting — but I did not arrive in Hollywood until December 5th (I stopped in Chicago for a few days) and I did not report to the Warner Brother Studios until yesterday, when your letter and wire were given to me.
The terms of the division of the $1,500 paid by Reader’s Digest for “The Only Path to Tomorrow” are acceptable to me as you suggest: $800 to me and $700 to your organization for the further distribution of the article.
I have made some changes in the proofs of the condensed article, which I am enclosing. I am enclosing also a letter to Mr. DeWitt Wallace, explaining my changes. Please read it and forward it to him. You will see why the changes were necessary. There aren’t many, but I have to insist on them. Also, please explain to Mr. Wallace the reason for my delay in answering you.
I am enclosing the copy of your letter, which I have signed — with the one added provision about the changes in the proofs of the article.
I am greatly disturbed by the fact that the proofs contain a separate box with the quotation from Wendell Willkie. The disturbing question is: will this box appear in the reprints of my article which you are ordering from the Reader’s Digest? If it does, it will look as if I am more being endorsed by or am collaborating with Mr. Willkie. There is no man in America at present to whom I am more opposed than to Mr. Willkie. I do not mind the box in the pages of a magazine, because it has no relation to me, but in the pages of a separate pamphlet, it will have. I never dreamed of a possibility of my pamphlet being issued like that and I am most anxious to prevent it. Can you have the thing reprinted without the box? If you can, please do so and save me from a most embarrassing and unhappy situation.
Thanking you for your co-operation and with my best wishes for our mutual success,
P.S. Thank you for the books which you sent me. I appreciate it very much.
On December 16, 1941, Rumely wired Rand that the January “edition” of his newsletter had already been distributed and failure to correct the proof in time “was due partly [to] your delay” in returning the proof. However, he wrote, “Reprints can and will be adjusted in accordance with your letter and corrections.” The copy in the Archives does indeed reflect the requested changes that the Reader’s Digest ignored.
To DeWitt Wallace (December 8, 1943)
DeWitt Wallace (1889–1981) was co-founder of Reader’s Digest in 1922. A staunch anti-Communist, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Richard Nixon in 1972.
Dear Mr. Wallace:
Thank you for accepting my article “The Individualist Credo,” now entitled “The Only Path to Tomorrow.” I am very glad and proud to have become a contributor to the Reader’s Digest.
I do not know whether it is considered correct in the circumstances to argue about the text of your condensation or whether one ever argues with the editor of the Reader’s Digest — but I assume that you do not want writers on such crucial subjects as politics and philosophy to sign their names to statements which are not their exact belief, so I feel sure you will not mind the few corrections I have made in the proofs.
With the exception of these few points, let me say that your condensation is excellent and I appreciate it very much.
In order not to appear arbitrary, I shall list here my reasons and explanations for each correction I made.
Page 1. The examples of totalitarian dictators I used were Napoleon, Hitler and Stalin. Stalin has been eliminated in the proof. If you find it inadvisable to include Stalin at this time, then we must eliminate the whole list of examples and leave only the general statement. I do not object to that. But I object most emphatically to any mention of specific dictators which does not include Stalin. By omission and implication it amounts to saying that Stalin is not a totalitarian dictator. I would not allow this to be said in my name under any circumstances whatsoever.
In the following paragraph my definition of what constitutes the collectivist doctrine has been given an entirely different meaning. I have corrected it to read as I intended it. If you find this too strong, then cut the line out entirely and make the paragraph read: “No tyrant has ever lasted long by force of arms alone. No dictator could rise if men…etc.” If you find it possible, please add the last sentence of this paragraph as I have marked it. I think it cinches the point. But I do not insist on this sentence. It is up to you. I would only be very pleased it you find it possible to include it.
Next paragraph: here I think it most important to end my sentence as marked. To say “where men deal with one another as equals” is a generality to which even a communist could subscribe. The whole point of my statement is the end of the sentence: “in voluntary, unregulated exchange.” Since individualism is my whole theme, religion and mission in life, you can understand why I want to give the best definition I can, and why I do not want to sound as if, at the most crucial point, I got away with a mere generality.
Page 2. My statement on what we must reject as total evil has been given an entirely different meaning. As the statement stands in the proof, it amounts to my saying that I would tolerate the abolition of individual rights if it really served the common good, but that I object to it only because it doesn’t. This is not my belief at all. In fact, this is the point on which our entire conservative side has ruined its stand. My belief is that I would not tolerate such an abolition for any cause and in any circumstances whatsoever. This is the heart of my whole article. Therefore, the statement must read as I marked it. By putting the words “common good” in quotes, we will avoid the impression which I believe your editors had in mind or were afraid of when they changed this sentence.
The other cut I made on this page is merely a suggestion to save you space. I notice that the article runs over and you need some cuts.
Page 3. The line: “when the Active is destroyed, the Passive can no longer be cared for” sounds as if I advocate that the Passive must be cared for, that it is our duty. I do not, when I say, as I marked, “the Passive cannot survive” it is a simple statement of fact, without altruistic implications.
In the next paragraph, the line: “There is no other way to help him in the long run” is inexact. There is no other way to help him in any run, long or short. Who but the Active can ever help anyone in any way?
In the same paragraph, I would like very much to add the final sentence, which I marked, about the extermination of the Active in a collectivist society. I think it clinches the point. But I leave this to your discretion. If you prefer to omit that sentence, do so. In this case, I don’t insist.
But the line about “the savage’s whole existence” (at bottom of page) must be kept as I marked it. Here again the meaning has been changed. It is incorrect to say that savages are ruled by their leaders; they are not; they are ruled by tribal laws and customs which also bind the leaders. It is my point that leaders usurp power. It is my point that the attempt to make all existence public and subject to communal laws or decrees is a reversion to savagery.
In the marginal note of my biography (Page 1), somebody gave you some wrong information. I came to this country in 1926, not 1931. My play “Night of January 16th” ran on Broadway for seven months, not three years. It was a good run, but not that good. I would rather not list my novel “Anthem” because it has not been published in this country, only in England. Above all — and this is most important to me — I would like my novel “The Fountainhead” described as “a novel on individualism.” I am asking this merely as a favor. If a reader likes my article and knows that my novel deals with the same subject, he would want to read the novel. This was my main purpose in selling this article to the Committee for Constitutional Government — to publicize the theme of my novel. So it is most important to me that this note appear in the article and its reprints. If you find it possible to do this — I would be extremely grateful.
Thanking you again for your acceptance,
The Ayn Rand Archives contains no response from Wallace regarding Rand’s changes, and, despite the importance of her changes, the published version does not reflect those changes. In her biographical interviews, Rand mentions the Reader’s Digest reprint but makes no reference to their editing. The reprint by the Committee for Constitutional Government (see letter above) does reflect Rand’s changes, as does the reprint in The Ayn Rand Column.
To Leonard Read (April 16, 1946)
Leonard Read (1898–1983) was a leading free-enterpriser and founder of the Foundation for Economic Education. This is one of many letters (and probably in-person discussions) in which Rand critiqued Read’s writing and thinking. Both she and Read even referred to her as his “loyal ghost.” Although she considered Read to be the best of the young right-wing intellectuals, she clearly had to exercise considerable patience to explain some fundamental errors.
Thank you for your letter of April 9th, for the ANTHEM contract and for “The Road to Serfdom,” which I have received.
I have sent the completed version of ANTHEM to Miss Lindley.4 Can you tell me when we can expect to have galley proofs of it and approximately when you plan to have it out?
I am enclosing “The Scope of Economics and of Economic Education.” I have read it very carefully and to tell you the truth I find it completely confusing; I cannot quite figure out its point or purpose. It either contains too much or not enough. If it’s intended as a defense of capitalism, it’s not enough. If it’s intended as a prospectus for your educational program, it should not contain arguments, it sounds too much on the defensive; it should then contain nothing but statements.
The dictionary definition of economics, which you give on page 1, is clear and valid as its stands. So I don’t see the point of the elaboration that follows. I fail to see the purpose of the argument that to economize means to use to best advantage, therefore economics concerns only free men. This is not a good argument and will not hold. By this very definition, collectivists will claim that the best choice men can make is to let a central planning board plan all their economic activities, using everyone to best advantage, eliminating waste, duplication etc. In fact, this is just what the collectivists do claim; society as a single collective, they say, functions much more economically than a group of free, competing individuals; they call this last “economic chaos.” Of course, we’ll say that this isn’t true, that collectivism doesn’t accomplish any of its claims and that free enterprise is the only system that works to man’s best advantage. Then it becomes, or remains, an argument about the merits of two economics systems. The above definition accomplishes nothing; it can be claimed by both systems as a starting point for argument.
If you look up my long letter to you about economic education, you will see why I consider the last paragraph on page 2 of this article extremely wrong. This paragraph proposes, in effect, to teach freedom and independence by teaching economics. This can’t be done.
Page 3 of the article contains the truly dangerous confusion. To refer to burglary as an economic, though misdirected, activity is really to rob definitions of all meaning. Burglary comes under the head of “crime.” “Criminal activity” and “Economic activity” are two distinct conceptions. You may prove, and rightly, that the rulers of totalitarian economies engage in criminal activities, that their policies belong in the class of criminal violence. But you cannot say that a common burglar is engaged in economic activity. Yet this is what you do say, in a sentence such as: “Burglary may be an economic activity for a few successful and unpunished burglars.” This is really talking communist dialectics and adding to the present day idea that “all terms are relative.”
I have already mentioned to you my most emphatic objection to the use of the word “anti-social.” You know my reasons for this. The same applies to the implications of such phrases as “from the point of view of all concerned.”
What religious sanctions do you refer to in the first paragraph of page 3, as aiding economic violence? This is a question, not yet an objection. I don’t know what is meant here.
Why do you say — paragraph 2, page 3 — that Communism etc. restrict the economic opportunity “for at least a part of the citizenry?” Which part of the citizenry is not restricted under Communism? Do you mean to imply that Commissars have freedom of enterprise?
If you tell me what this article in intended to accomplish and to whom it is directed, I may be more helpful with positive suggestions on how to rewrite it.
Incidentally, since you’ve moved, will you give me your new address? I hope this will reach you.
With best regards,
On April 19, Read answered Rand’s letter, suggesting that they discuss her points “personally.” He did, however, write that he tried to “rationalize” the definition of “economics” and hoped that she would have thought that “sensible.” But he said that he would edit out the “common good” wordage. The “long letter” to which Rand refers was her seven-page letter of February 2, 1946, in which she argues that “the mistake is in the very name” of his organization (Foundation for Economic Education) because what’s needed is philosophic not economic education. See Letters of Ayn Rand, pages 256–62.
To Leonard Read (July 17, 1946)
Thank you for your nice letter. I was certainly glad to hear of my popularity in the Read family. Please give my personal thanks to your son, Jim — but you must tell me just what he said in his introduction of me. Writers and women are notoriously curious; so you are making me suffer on both counts. Also, I would like to know what quotation you selected from Roark’s speech for your office. It is one of the few places where I wouldn’t mind seeing a quotation from Roark.5
Yesterday, I received the first copy of ANTHEM. It looks wonderful, and I was thrilled to see it.
I am enclosing the list you asked for, of the people to whom it might be advisable to send copies of ANTHEM. As you will notice, I have two lists — one of those to whom we might send a copy of the book, and the other one of people to whom I would send only the advertising leaflet, and who might want to buy a copy themselves. Some of the names on these lists are probably on your own mailing list and some are subscribers to The Freeman; so please have that checked, in order not to send out two copies to the same persons.
There are seven free copies which I would like to send out myself to the following people: Hal Wallis, Henry Blanke, Cecil deMille, Walt Disney, the Readers Digest, William Randolph Hearst and Lorine Pruette. If you will send me these seven copies, I will mail them out myself with a personal letter.
There is a question in my mind in regard to Lorine Pruette, which I mentioned to you when you were here. She is the reviewer who gave a grand review to THE FOUNTAINHEAD in the New York Times book section. If you remember, you wanted to ask Henry Hazlitt to review ANTHEM for the Times. I think it would be wonderful if he could do it, but if he can’t, please ask him whether it would be permissible for me to send a copy of the book to Miss Pruette and have her ask the book editor to let her review it. If such a procedure is permitted on the Times, I would like to ask her to do it. Let me know what Henry says about this, and if I can’t ask Miss Pruette to review the book, I will just send it to her for her own reading.
I am enclosing the first two issues of The Vigil which contain my TEXTBOOK OF AMERICANISM. I have asked The Vigil to put you on their mailing list, but I am not sure that they have attended to it. Please let me know whether you have already received these copies.
Now, about your speech, DEALING WITH COLLECTIVISM, which you sent me. I read it with interest, and I don’t think it is bad at all. In fact, it is quite good and accomplishes its purpose very tactfully. I like particularly the fact that you stressed the words “individualism” and “collectivism” often enough and in the right places.
But I found one startling instance of giving our case away — which was surprising from you. This was the second paragraph on Page 5: “No true lover of liberty will admit that there is another side to the case. He may admit that he does not know how to accomplish everything by voluntary methods, but his thinking will be aimed at finding out. He knows that coercion is destructive except when it is used as police force to prevent interferences with personal liberty.”
The second sentence of this paragraph is a blatant denial of the first. It is an admission that there are things which we should accomplish, and which can be accomplished by coercion, but not by voluntary methods. What are these things? There is not a single issue, objective or purpose — and I mean none whatever — which is desirable but cannot be accomplished by voluntary methods. If anyone presents you with an objective which you cannot accomplish by voluntary methods, it merely means that it should not be accomplished at all, that the objective itself is evil and improper. I cannot imagine what you had in mind when you wrote that sentence. If, as an example, you meant some such objective as how to insure permanent prosperity to everybody, the answer is that it cannot be done and should not be attempted. Any objective which cannot be achieved voluntarily is a self-contradictory proposition, a request for the impossible.
That sentence in your speech is an admission that coercive methods work sometimes for good purposes and with good results. Surely, you do not believe that. If you do, it is a loophole through which a collectivist can destroy your whole case. Once you grant him that some proper objective can be accomplished by force, the rest of the argument becomes merely a squabble over which objectives you or he will consider proper. You have granted him his premise.
Please let me know what you had in mind. I am worried about this, because it is the first breach I have seen in your intellectual armor. If you are not clear on this point, I would like to discuss it further, as my first job in the position of your “loyal ghost.”
Also, the last sentence of your paragraph which I quoted is extremely inaccurate and bad in its implications. You describe the police power of the government as the power of coercion, and you place it in the same category as any other coercion exercised by a government. That is not correct. What the government does in regard to criminals is not coercion; it is not an action, but a reaction; the use of force to answer force. The use of force here is not initiated by the government but by the criminal. Therefore, it is not the same thing (and does not rest on the same principle) as the action of a government initiating the use of force for some “social” purpose of its own.
I cover this very point in the second installment of my TEXTBOOK OF AMERICANISM. I would suggest that you read very carefully my questions #7 and #8. I think the definition I give there cover the case — and it is extremely important for our side not to mix the proper police powers of the government with its usurped powers of economic coercion. This is a crucial point which collectivists are using to the hilt; one of their most frequent arguments goes like this: “If the government has the right to seize criminals, it also has the right to seize you.” We must not help them spread that kind of confusion.
There are two other points to which I object in your speech. On page 7, you mention as your aim: “Encouragement, including financial assistance, when necessary, to those scholars who are competent to produce such fundamental works as The Wealth of Nations, The Federalist Papers,” etc. This sentence sounds a bit naive. Such works as “The Wealth of Nations” or “The Federalist Papers” are achievements of genius, which is rare in any century, and they cannot be produced to order, just through financial assistance to scholars. I suggest that you say, instead, that you would like to provide financial assistance to scholars who can produce important works. That is the best any organization can hope to accomplish. Also, in the same paragraph. I would suggest that you do not quote Friedrich Hayek. I believe you agreed with me as to the dangerous weaknesses of his book which are viciously destructive to our cause. Therefore, I would not help to publicize his book.
The last sentence of this paragraph, to the effect that the support of the intellectuals can be regained “only as their devotion and understanding are re-won” is quite a dubious sentence, because it seems to imply that this devotion is to be re-won by financial assistance, that is, in plain language, by a bribe. I am sure you did not want to give that impression.
On page 8, fourth paragraph from the bottom, I object to your sentence: “I have almost a mystic faith in what can be accomplished by pursuing a course of utter and complete honesty — .” This sentence implies the confession that the speaker does not believe in reason as the final and most powerful argument in support of the ideas he advocates. It implies that he considers mystic faith a more convincing basis for the truth of his ideas. I am sure that few of your listeners would realize this, but what I am concerned with here is your own attitude. Unless, you are convinced, firmly, unquestionably, totally, completely and absolutely, in your own mind and for your own purposes, that REASON, not mystic faith, is the proper basis for all human actions and convictions, you will not be able to achieve for yourself a clear and consistent philosophy of life. The issue of rationalism versus anti-rationalism is a much more profound one than that of individualism versus collectivism. In fact, the first issue is the root of the second. I could write volumes on this particular point — and intend to do it some day. For the moment, I hope that you will understand this and agree with me. If not, I will have to attempt to write you a longer treatise on this.
Please let me know whether I have convinced you in regard to these objections or not. I take my duties of “ghost” very seriously, and want to be sure that they are bearing fruit.
With best regards.
Read answered Rand’s letter on July 19, 1946. He wrote that he agreed “wholly” with her criticisms re “points no. 7 and 8” (unidentified), and he admitted to some “careless writing,” “but that’s all.” Read also agreed with her comment about Hayek and said that he had already changed “mystic faith” to “proposed faith.” But he defended himself against her charge that he was “giving our case away.” He was, he wrote, referring to people who want to support liberty but don’t know how, not implying that coercion might be a legitimate option.
As to Rand’s request that Read contact Lorine Pruette to write a review of Anthem, Read wrote that he would — but if he did, it was too late. Pruette wrote to Rand that she did want to review that book (calling it a “brilliant and heartening conception”), but the New York Times had already assigned another reviewer before Pruette offered herself. For Rand’s letters to Pruette about this issue, see Letters of Ayn Rand, pages 314, 330 and 336.
To Alan Collins (August 19, 1946)
Alan Collins (1904–68) was Rand’s agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. from 1943 until his death in 1968. Beginning with the publishing of We the Living, Rand had long experience dealing with leftists in the book, film and theater worlds. We the Living had the misfortune to appear in the midst of the pro-Soviet “Red Decade,” when the New York publishing company staffs included Communist Party members, including Macmillan’s Granville Hicks, who tried unsuccessfully to prevent Macmillan from publishing the novel. As a consequence, she was particularly sensitive to the perils of navigating through those worlds. Herman Shumlin, the focus of this letter, was a highly successful theatrical producer and director whose Broadway hits include Inherit the Wind and Lillian Hellman’s Little Foxes. His lengthy obituary in the New York Times includes this relevant and somewhat euphemistic characterization: “A crusty perfectionist who was a passionate political liberal, Mr. Shumlin had a strong sense of social commitment.”
The politically-tinged disagreement between Rand and Collins, evident in the letter below, was not the only such dispute between the two. One month later, Collins advised her not to join the American Writers Association because it was headed by “rabid reactionaries” Eugene Lyons and John T. Flynn. She replied that “the only thing I have against Flynn and Lyons is that they aren’t ‘reactionary’ enough.” (See Letters of Ayn Rand at page 327.)
Thank you for your letter of August 14th.
Yes, I know that there are damn few people connected with the theatre who are not pink or pinkish. This merely means that our field is limited, and that we can submit IDEAL only to a small group among theatrical producers. If we do not find the right man among that group, we must not try any further. It is useless even to consider the others. For my purposes they do not exist, nor are they in the theatrical business. Realistically speaking, they are in the propaganda business.
I have had to go through exactly the same situation in relation to publishers and THE FOUNTAINHEAD. The problem is only to find one man of taste and intelligence who would be to the theatrical equivalent of Archie Ogden. That is all I need. The more pink junk is being produced, the better chance there is for somebody to make a great hit with a serious play which is not pink. There is a growing audience for that in the theatre, just as there was among novel readers.
As to Herman Shumlin, you have unwittingly caused me some embarrassment by submitting IDEAL to him. I have never met the “gink,” but apparently he knows about me and has gone out of his way to be nasty, because he has made it a point to “smear” me and my work both to Warner Bros., when I was with them, and to Hal Wallis, when I went to work for him. This has been reported to me from both places. So you see what a bad position you put me in, when Shumlin finds that I am submitting a play to him.
Therefore, I would appreciate very much if you will tell him just exactly what you said in your letter: that you sent the script to him “with your tongue in your cheek” and without my knowledge; and that I objected to it, when I heard about it. I don’t actually care too much what people like Shumlin think, but since you gave him the impression that I am seeking his favor or support, I think you should correct that impression. I would appreciate it very much, just to keep the record clear.
The Rand-Collins correspondence in the Archives contains no further reference to this issue.
To Ev Suffens (August 30, 1946)
Ev Suffens was the stage name of Raymond Nelson, host of Midnight Jamboree, a classical music program on WEVD radio in New York City. Under his real name, he had an advertising business and taught at City College of New York. The O’Connors were big fans of Suffens. Rand made musical requests and in April 1936 sent him a fan letter addressed to “Dear Announcer” (see pages 26–27 in Letters of Ayn Rand), one of six letters to him reprinted in Letters of Ayn Rand. Shortly after her first letter, she inscribed a copy of We the Living to him as “my favorite radio announcer.” She and Frank owned two stuffed lions named Oscar and Oswald after characters on Suffens’s program, and the lions were like family pets. The O’Connors and the Suffenses became friends, as shown by the twenty-one calendar entries (mostly dinners) between 1943 (the earliest Rand daily calendar available) and 1952.
Sorry to have taken longer to answer this time. I didn’t know I would cause so much trouble in regard to the television rights to NIGHT OF JANUARY 16TH.
I had forgotten all about the movie strings attached, so I have been trying to get them for you from the west coast front office. They have now asked me to ask you to write me an official letter, stating all the pertinent details of your proposed broadcast, such as: who will do it, what station, when and where, at whose expense — and particularly, is it a strictly experimental performance or a commercial one with a sponsor, and if so, who? I am then to send that letter to the Paramount officials, with a request from me that they grant you permission for this broadcast. I think they will do it, but I can’t be sure, because any legal matter or rights is always extremely complicated at the studios. Anyway, send me the letter, and I will try my best.
No, I don’t do my troweling in a floppy hat. I do it in a checkered shirt and shorts. If you saw me in that costume, I don’t think it would strain a beautiful friendship, but quite the opposite. At least, I hope so.
As to my new novel, I have just finished my final outline, and will start on the actual writing any moment. Can’t tell you much about it in a few words — but if THE FOUNTAINHEAD was a kind of a bombshell, wait until you read this one!
It looks as if we won’t be able to come to New York this time. I don’t like California any better than I did, but I am now so busy that I haven’t time to notice it. Still, I do miss New York, and I intend to come there to celebrate the new novel as soon as I can, which I hope will be next year.
Here is an idea that I wanted to consult you about — I am not sure I will do it, but let me know what you think of it. A small group of my conservative friends here, known as The Pamphleteers, who publish political non-fiction booklets, are publishing an American edition of my novelette, ANTHEM. If you remember, that is the one that was published only in England. They intend to sell it as a paper covered booklet in the regular book channels. Of course, they have to start it on a very small scale with very little advertising, but they hope that it will grow on the strength of my name. Would you undertake to handle a publicity campaign for it? I realize that publicity and advertising are two different mediums, but would you be interested in trying it? If so, what would you charge us, and what would be your general idea of a campaign? Let me know your ideas on the subject. I know that your ideas of salesmanship are about like mine — the dramatic and the different, so I thought you might be the ideal man for it, if we decide to have a publicity campaign.
Best regards from the two of us to the three of you. (And from Oscar and Oswald, too)
Suffens responded by setting out the difficulties of getting backing for a television production, despite his having major clients such as Sears, Roebuck. He continued that he would “like to do” the publicity for Anthem and that “the fashionable shade of red is a much more subdued one than it was in the days when you first started singing in the wilderness.” Neither project came to fruition.
To Edna Lonigan (January 29, 1949)
Edna Lonigan was a well-known conservative writer on economics and politics. She was a member of the board of directors and was secretary of the American Writers Association, which, according to Wikipedia, was “formed as a response to the ‘Cain Plan,’ a proposal put forth by the novelist and screenwriter James M. Cain. In July 1946, Cain proposed that an “American Authors’ Authority” be created to act as a central repository for copyrights and to negotiate collectively for authors to give them greater bargaining power. The AWA successfully opposed this plan.
Rand was on the AWA letterhead as a member of the National Committee from at least September 1947 and was elected to the board of directors in November 1949. Other board members included Morrie Riskind, Fred Niblo and perennial Socialist presidential candidate Norman Thomas.
In a March 1949 letter to Rand, Lonigan wrote of Rand’s House Un-American Activities Committee testimony: “Your courageous, positive, beautifully clear statements fill me with joy.”
The Archives contains no letters to Rand from Lonigan that are specific responses to Rand’s letters below.
Dear Miss Lonigan:
Thank you very much for your letter of January 24.
I shall be glad to help the Association in any way I can with the plan to fight the Authors League’s defense of the ten Hollywood writers convicted of contempt of Congress.
If our Association plans to submit a brief to the Court in the case of these ten, I would like very much to see a copy of it before it is released officially and publicly. I think all the members of the Board should have a copy and a chance to make suggestions before it is released in our name.
My concern here is that the brief must be written most carefully so that it contain no sentences and no implication, direct or indirect, that we advocate any sort of Government censorship of ideas. You may remember my concern last year when I was in New York over the unfortunate stand taken by the Hearst papers at the time, when they tried to use the Hollywood hearings as a justification for establishing a Federal censorship of the movies. That is what the Reds accuse all conservatives of doing or trying to do — and we must be very sure not to give them any foothold to justify such an accusation.
I am enclosing a few suggestions for what I think should be our official stand on this question. Would you show it to the persons who will write the brief? I hope that they may find it of some help or value.6
With best regards,
To Edna Lonigan (February 12, 1949)
Dear Miss Lonigan:
Thank you for your report on the Board Meeting of January 27.
In regard to the three proposed versions of a possible amendment to the By-Laws of the Association, barring Communist as members, I want to place on record my approval of the first version, the one proposed by Louis Waldman, and my most emphatic opposition to the other two versions, those of John T. Flynn and Morris Markey.
Mr. Waldman’s version is clear-cut, objective and covers the issue completely. The other two versions are so inexact, self-contradictory and controversial that they do not constitute a definition of any kind.
I could not subscribe to Mr. Flynn’s version, because it confuses private boycotts with government censorship. I believe, for instance, that every member of our Association has a perfect right, and a moral duty, to boycott the DAILY WORKER.
Mr. Markey’s version would make it necessary for me to resign from the Association and necessary for the Association to expel me, because I most emphatically do not believe that the philosophy set forth in the Constitution of the United States is a “Democratic philosophy,” and I do not hold a “Democratic” philosophy, if one uses that word correctly. Nowadays, the word “Democratic,” like the word “liberal,” has lost all specific, objective meaning. It has become a rubber word which every person stretches to mean whatever he wishes it to mean. But since we are an organization of writers, we, above all people, should use words in their exact meaning. Historically and philosophically, a democratic philosophy means a belief in unlimited majority rule (total rule by the majority, unlimited by any individual rights). This is not the philosophy on which the Constitution was based. The United States is a Republic, not a Democracy. If proof is needed, here is a quotation from THE FEDERALIST:
“Such democracies (pure democracies) have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security of the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.”
And what does Mr. Markey mean when he states that we should all believe “the philosophy set forth in the Constitution of the United States and its Amendments”? Does he believe the Eighteenth Amendment? I don’t.7
I would appreciate it very much if you would read this letter at the next meeting of the Board when the proposed amendments are discussed.
With best regards,
To Hedda Hopper (November 9, 1950)
Hedda Hopper (1885–1966) was a famous Hollywood gossip columnist and staunch anti-Communist. In her September 1957 column in the New York Daily News, Hopper referred to Rand as “one of the finest American citizens I know.”
In case you have not seen it yet, here is the first copy of “The Freeman,” the new magazine of our side. I call your attention particularly to the statement of policy on p. 5 — “The Faith of the Freeman.” I think this magazine is the best thing that has happened among us “revolutionaries” in a long time.
Looking forward to seeing you on Monday.8
The Archives contains no letter in response to Rand’s letter.
To Editor, Commercial & Financial Chronicle (May 26, 1961)
The Commercial & Financial Chronicle was a weekly business newspaper, founded in 1865 and modeled on The Economist. Never nearing the circulation of the Wall Street Journal, it ceased operation in 1987.
In the May 4, 1961 issue of The Commercial and Financial Chronicle, there appeared a review, by Mr. John Dutton, of my book FOR THE NEW INTELLECTUAL: THE PHILOSOPHY OF AYN RAND.9 I wish to register my emphatic objection to Mr. Dutton’s literary procedure which I find incomprehensible: for some reason or motive unknown to me, about half of the review consists of statements attributed to me and presented in quotation marks, statements which I have never made and which are not contained in my book nor in anything else I have ever written.
The review consists of three columns of print. In paragraph 3, column 1, Mr. Dutton quotes a passage which, except for minor misprints, does come from my book FOR THE NEW INTELLECTUAL. In the next paragraph, Mr. Dutton takes parts of sentences which appear in different parts of my book, but which he puts together, without the customary dots or ellipsis, into a single, embarrassingly unintelligible passage.
Thereafter, all the passages purporting to be quotations from my book do not contain a single sentence written by me (paragraphs 2, 3, 4, 5 of column 2, and paragraphs 1, 2 of column 3) and do not correspond to anything in my book. These passages are not condensations or paraphrases, they are Mr. Dutton’s own editorializing improvisations on political themes, never seen by me before, yet presented in quotation marks. And the intention to pass them off as my words is emphasized by such inserts as “And Ayn Rand asks:” followed by long paragraphs that are not mine and that bear no resemblance to any writing, language or thought-sequence of mine.
I must state that the appallingly superficial, journalistic character of the ideas which Mr. Dutton attributes to me has no place in a book on philosophy and that my book does not deal with journalistic topics and is not written in journalistic terms. Some of those allegedly quoted passages contain Mr. Dutton’s own applications of my abstract ideas to currents events, and some contain the exact opposite of my ideas. What I am primarily concerned with is the fact that Mr. Dutton’s has permitted himself to paste my name or, in effect, my signature, on his own writing, without my knowledge and permission (a permission I would never grant to anyone) — and that his writing is far below the standard I have set for myself.
Since I have always maintained that ideas must be treated with the same scrupulous precision as financial matters or legal documents, and since I take an enormous amount of time, effort and thought on the formulation of my ideas, Mr. Dutton’s action is extremely embarrassing to me and damaging to my professional reputation. In as much as your newspaper is known for its accuracy and reliability, I feel certain that you will want to correct a misrepresentation of that kind.
I wish to state, for the record, that none of the quotations attributed to me in Mr. Dutton’s review are mine (with the exception of the first one, as noted above) — and that they are not my method of approach, nor my level of thinking, nor my kind of writing.
P.S. Please print in full.
On June 15, 1961, the newspaper published “With Apologies To Ayn Rand” by John Dutton, which stated: “My column in the May 4 issue was based on Ayn Rand’s book entitled “FOR THE NEW INTELLECTUAL: THE PHILOSOPHY OF AYN RAND,” published by Random House. Owing to the erroneous use of quotation marks in some instances, what were actually the views of this columnist appeared in print as being specific quotations from Miss Rand’s book. This error is particularly to be regretted in light of the fact that in certain socio-economic areas touched on in my column, my own thinking and philosophy is not shared by Miss Rand.”10
- A few typographical errors and outmoded typewriting styles in these letters have been corrected without notation.
- Joseph Kamp was a political activist who was jailed for refusing to cooperate with a 1944 congressional investigation into campaign expenditures.
- Rand saw her first Swanson film, DeMille’s Male and Female, on December 26, 1924, in St. Petersburg, and, in approximately 1930, placed Swanson #14 on her list of favorite actresses.
- Marjorie Lindley worked with Read at the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and was closely involved in the first U.S. publication of Anthem.
- Read paraphrased what he remembered of his son’s reason for calling Rand “a great American”: the excellence of her advocacy of individualism and limited government. Read did not answer her question about the quote he selected from Roark’s speech.
- The “few suggestions” to which Rand refers is her eight-page paper “Suggestions re: The Congressional Investigation of Communism,” reprinted in Journals of Ayn Rand, (New York: Plume, 1999), 381–96.
- The Eighteenth Amendment prohibited the production, transport and sale of liquor in the United States. It was ratified in 1919 and repealed by the Twenty-First Amendment in 1933.
- Rand’s daily calendar lists “Hazlitt party” for Monday, November 13, 1950.
- Dutton’s review can be read by clicking “show document” and then typing “58” into the search box for the May 4, 1961, issue of the periodical, available here.
- This item can be read by clicking “show document” and then typing “22” into the search box for the June 15, 1961, issue of the periodical, available here.