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Letter from Ayn Rand to Hal Wallis

Final Group of Never-Before-Published Rand Letters Online

The final group of never-before-published letters of Ayn Rand, spanning the years 1938 to 1950, is concerned more with Rand’s personal relationships and less with her work (though her work is never too far from any conversation).

Two of the notes acknowledge gifts (though the letters don’t identify precisely what the gifts are). To Hal Wallis, the Hollywood producer for whom she worked as a screenwriter beginning in the 1940s, the salutation features her affectionate nickname for him (“Dear Boss”) and continues: “This is to thank you formally for your lovely present. It was such a nice gesture on your part that you broke my heart with kindness — a thing you have always known how to do.” And to Lorine Pruette, the noted psychoanalyst and feminist who reviewed The Fountainhead for the New York Times, Rand wrote: “I don’t know yet when I will be back East, as I am deep in work on my new novel. It’s going along wonderfully and I am very happy with it. Your rose quartz is here on my desk as reminder and inspiration.”

Another letter makes mention of Rand’s on-again, off-again relationship with Isabel Paterson, the prominent journalist, critic and political philosopher known to friends as “Pat.” Rand’s correspondence with Paterson is the subject of an entire chapter in Letters of Ayn Rand, covering the years 1943 to 1950. In this newly published letter from February 1948, Rand writes to a friend: “I have taken some time off to write to Pat and couldn’t do it in less than five single-spaced pages. I had a wonderful letter from her in answer, and believe it or not, I answered back, too. When Pat is in a good mood, she is like quicksand, completely irresistible, so maybe I shall become a good correspondent.”

READ ALSO:  Previously Unpublished Letters of Ayn Rand Now Online
The earliest letter in this group, from June 21, 1938, is addressed to Lady Ethel Boileau. As Michael S. Berliner, editor of Letters of Ayn Rand, notes in his explanatory comments, Boileau was an English novelist, best known for Clansmen and Ballade in G Minor, whose correspondence with Rand began in 1936 after Boileau read We the Living. Rand’s letter, written five years before The Fountainhead was published, reveals the thoroughness of her planning process for the book:

At present, I am working on my next novel — the very big one about American architects. For the last few months I have been wracking my brain and nerves upon the preliminary outline. It is always the hardest part of the work for me — and my particular kind of torture. Now it is done, finished, every chapter outlined — and there are eighty of them at present! The actual writing of it is now before me, but I would rather write ten chapters than plan one. So the worst of it is over.

This letter also includes some of Rand’s thoughts about the developing crisis in Europe that would soon degenerate into world war.

“I am an individualist who believes that there is no clash of interest among people and that any talent is a help, not a threat, to another talent.”
Another letter was written to Archibald Ogden, the Bobbs-Merrill editor who had evaluated Rand’s manuscript for The Fountainhead. Ogden had put his job on the line in recommending the book, telling his employer that if The Fountainhead wasn’t the novel for them, then he wasn’t the editor for them. This newly published letter, full of personal affection, was written in 1950, when Ogden had reentered the publishing business after an absence, and Rand hoped that he might become editor of her novel-in-progress, Atlas Shrugged. Here, Rand humorously applies to join Ogden’s “harem” of authors, adding her own unique twist on the prospect of competing with other writers:

Let me know the name of the novel which is your own choice on your fall list — I would like to read it. No, do not send me a free copy — I want to have the privilege of buying and supporting any novel which is your choice. If I were a collectivist, I would be jealous of any writer you select, but since I am an individualist who believes that there is no clash of interest among people and that any talent is a help, not a threat, to another talent, I will wish you to discover a whole list of your own writers, all of them good. In fact, I wish you a whole harem of them. But, of course, being selfish, I want to be the wife No. 1. And being conceited, I am not afraid of competition for that title.

This fourth and final installment of never-before-published Ayn Rand letters is available on ARI Campus here and on the Ayn Rand University app (Android or Apple — use the three-line “hamburger” menu icon in the upper left to navigate to “Works & Talks,” then in the drop-down menu replace “Name A -> Z” with “Newly Published”).

(Note: These letters, owned by Leonard Peikoff, are part of Ayn Rand Papers collection. Their reproduction here is courtesy of the Ayn Rand Archives.)

Previously Unpublished Ayn Rand Letters: The Complete List

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Tom Bowden

Tom Bowden, JD and former civil litigator, is a research fellow and publishing manager at the Ayn Rand Institute. He is also a coeditor of Illuminating Ayn Rand (2022) and a contributing editor of New Ideal.

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