This letter is not a grumble

The thread that runs through today’s newsletter is the relationship between tenant and landlord, a fundamentally delicate walk of the tightrope often made explosive due to problems like rent arrears, dilapidated houses, disapproving neighbours, unannounced visits from Mr. Roberts, hidden pets, blocked toilets, and the increasingly obvious fact that a lot of people—landlords, tenants, literally any type of human—are just awful and should not be allowed to put their name to something as powerful as a tenancy agreement.


I thought the other day that a large rat had managed to insert itself into the plaster above my bedroom and workroom. I was, however, surprised that it apparently slept at night and worked in the day, causing its greatest din around high noon. However yesterday, much to my surprise, I deduced from the sounds it emitted that it was a dog, or rather several dogs, and evidently training for a race, for they ran round and round the tin roof. Now I don't know how these greyhounds climbed up the wall but I know dog-racing is against the law of California—so I thought you'd like to know. Beneath the arena where these races occur an old and harassed literary man is gradually going mad.

F. Scott Fitzgerald | Letter to his landlord, Mrs. Neuville, 29 Jul 1940 | Dreams of Youth

Your visit yesterday was quite a shock to me and I thought I should write this letter to assure you that I am not at all happy with the idea of being evicted and will go to great lengths to avoid it. Primarily, I shall call a halt to my shooting and keep the demon rum at an arm’s length—at least at a safe distance.


You might be interested to know that I sold a short story today and am more than halfway through my novel. For the next few months I shall work exclusively on that and abjure all violence and wild drinking bouts. Then, when I want some excitement, I’ll take a vacation in the West Indies and drink rum and fight with sharks.

Hunter S. Thompson | Letter to his landlord, Mrs. Murphy, 13 Aug 1961 | The Proud Highway

Enclosed is a copy of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, a book by your tenant, the “author.” I am sure you have not read it, otherwise you would never have let this person move into your house. The very best thing about this book is that it can be read from cover to cover in a very short period of time and therefore one does not have to invest much of one’s time in reading it. You will particularly enjoy his descriptions of all the drugs he takes, the weapons he enjoys, and how he likes to damage hotel rooms and leave without paying the bills. I had told you in our telephone conversations that I had never heard of him and you assured me that he was a very well-known writer. With some difficulty I finally did find a copy of this book. I am amazed at how accurately I described him when I told you that he sounds like a crazy person who is on drugs and more than likely armed. This turns out to be an interesting observation as this is very close to the way he describes himself.

A disgruntled neighbour | Letter to Hunter S. Thompson’s landlord, 23 May 1985 | The Gonzo Papers

Yesterday we met our landlady there for a final discussion. She was most obliging to us, lowered the rent by two pound ten, and agreed to put in all the electric light at her own expense. She went round the house with us, being most lavish, power points in every room, she was even prepared to give us six bells. And she is a most detestable woman.

Sylvia Townsend Warner | Letter to Steven Clark, 16 May 1937 | Letters Of Sylvia Townsend Warner

I am being chucked out of my rooms in King Edward Street, which is just as well in the light of homicidal feelings towards my landlady. She is the sort of old lady who is destined to be killed with a hatchet. Or would be if this was Russia.

Iris Murdoch | Letter to David Hicks, May 1953 | Living on Paper

I met the landlady today who, pleasantly, lives in another town. She assured us we could paint the walls (now a ghastly yellow) as long as we didn’t choose purple or orange. No doubt, she’d be only too happy for free improvements; but what a change in my attitude. Nothing I’d rather do than paint it all a lovely blue-gray. Ted and I will really feel we “make” a home, then. The rent is 4 pounds a week, plus expenses for gas, light, phone, and coal. We’ll keep the place extravagantly warm! It even has two apple trees in the ragged little back yard and a bay tree. It’s got pots and pans, old kitchen silver and a few old sheets for the double bed. I’ll make it like an ad out of House and Garden with Ted’s help.

Sylvia Plath | Letter to her mother, 1 Nov 1956 | Letters Home: Correspondence

We have been advised that you have been giving parties in the fourth floor space occupied by you. We understand that they are generally large parties and are held after usual office hours. We have found that your guests have left debris and litter in the public areas which you have never bothered to clean. Further, we feel that a congregation of the number of people such as you have had may be contrary to various applicable governmental rules and regulations and also might present a serious problem with the Fire Department regulations.

Alfred Goldstein | Letter to his tenant, Andy Warhol, 15 Nov 1965 | Letters of Note: New York

I have endured your drunken and dissolute ways, your wanton waste of light, gas fire, hot bath water, horse radish, beans, lavatory water, your assumption that my library was yours, and that you had a right to read the New Statesman and the Obituaries in the World’s Fair before me. I never said an unkind word when your thick head broke the witch bowl and Dumps’ heart, nor when you, in your efforts to conquer Everest, pulled down the balcony next door. I tried to grin when you purloined the money from the telephone box and used my bath salts. When the house trembles at its foundations with your coughing, caused by your unchristian way of living, I do not complain, and have comforted myself with the reflection that every cough brings nearer the day of your demise.

This letter is not a grumble. I have tried to be patient and understanding of a character that is a throw-back to the stone age and who would have been a joy to Freud. Alas, I am not Freud. I never reproached you when you made this house a doss for band boys and barrow spivs, nor when you plastered the walls of a lovely room with obscenities and childish scrawls, and notwithstanding that you occasionally paid the moderate rent asked for one room, persistently regarded the whole of the house, including the two telephones and the two lavatories, as exclusively your property. And the top landing. The horde of undesirables whom you have introduced into the house have pissed over the lavatories (not into) and worn threadbare with their hobnailed boots the stair carpet. I even have not been safe from the rest of your family who roost here and make the house smell abominably of Liverpool and gin, and Gibraltar rock.


Please take this epistle as notice to quit. To give you plenty of time in your hopeless search for some place in Oakley Street with the same amenities as HAVE obtained here, you have been granted ONE MONTH.

William Meadmore | Letter to his tenant, jazz singer George Melly, 9 Aug 1950 | Owning Up

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