Cambridge, MA and Norfolk, CT: May 4 - August 24, 1939.
Letters one page each, one letter enclosing a one page POEM IN TYPESCRIPT carbon. 4to. Laughlin to fellow young publisher Charles A. Pearce, on Henry Miller, New Directions, etc. On New Directions letterhead. Paperclip rust at top edge of letters, poem typescript toned and brittle at edges. Item #311738
A small but rich group of letters from James Laughlin at the outset of his influential publishing career, to Charles A. Pearce, himself about to strike out on his own as a publisher. Pearce (1906-1970, whom Laughlin addresses in these letters as "Cap") spent ten years as an editor at Harcourt before co-founding (in the year of the present correspondence) the house of Duell, Sloan & Pearce, for which he served as chief editor until its sale to Meredith Press in 1961. Laughlin famously founded New Directions while he was still a student at Harvard, following a suggestion by Ezra Pound and using money he'd inherited from a steel fortune. New Directions published its first work in 1936, and went on to be one of the foremost publishers of modernist literature in its day. The present letters include much discussion of Henry Miller and New Directions' inaugural publication of his work, and make mention of Lawrence Durrell, the New Yorker, the publishing business in general, Laughlin's funding sources, and the end of Laughlin's college career at Harvard. Excerpts:
May 4: "Yes, that's a surprise about your leaving Harcourts ... I imagine that you were responsible for most of the good things they did and now they'll sink down to the usual level.... I'm interested in what you write about Miller. He suggested ... I should see you ... I have my Divisionals and then my Finals here at Harvard next week and I have to ... work like hell, having done no schoolwork the rest of the year. I'm sorry if I've hurt Henry's feelings. He thinks he's God & I just think he's a swell writer ... My present plan is to get out a book of Miller's essays and stories in the Fall. This is because I am at present somewhat too hard up to give TROPIC the promotion it would need...."
June 6: "About your business venture [i.e. Duell, Sloan & Pearce]. It sounds good ... If I had the dough free I would invest in you in a minute, providing the two other guys are OK and will do what you tell 'em. The trouble is that all my principle is tied up in the Godforshat stock of J & L [the Jones & Laughlin Steel Company]. I want to get rid of it and move into something else but the market is so depressed at the present time.... So I just sit tight ... waiting for Roosevelt to get down off his cross and let the boys play dirty like they used to.... [T]here are some reasons for doing something of Miller right away - to keep him pacified, to keep people here from thinking he is just a myth. My plan would be to make up a book that would be representative of hiw whole talent. Some essays, some fantasies, some stories, some surrealism...."
July 26: "Durrell is OK. We'll have sections in ND39. He charges more current into his stuff than any of them. It's exhausting to read. Not pornography so much as sadism.... The enclosed is just for your personal perusal. Keep it. It came out in PARTISAN REVIEW" [referencing a 24 line poem about burning books, titled "A Letter to Hitler," present here].
July 5: "The NEW YORKER sounds pretty good to me. They have been printing a lot of good stuff lately and perhaps you can push in a little more. I've about decided to do a miscellaneous volume of Miller this fall entitled THE COSMOLOGICAL EYE ... I agree with you that it would be best to do one of his big works first, but I can't handle the financing this year, yet feel I must do something. Both Miller and the stores will lose all patience with me if I don't produce some goods. Choice of evils. Have you read CAPRICORN? ... Part of it will go into NEW DIRECTIONS to fix the copyright. It has some powerful passages, some silly ones, and some disgusting ones.... Would you and your wife care to come up here some weekend?... I hope you are not one of those bastards who play golf instead of tennis."
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