Those years were adventures
On this day in letters
Happy birthday to the following letters, all written on the twentieth day of a November gone by.
Lytton sends his very fondest love. Which is a lie, but he is writing & I can’t disturb him. But I know he would, so I put it in. Please write & say you still love me, & bear me no malice for being a better thinker than a writer.
Letter to Sebastian Sprott
20th November 1928
(From Carrington’s Letters)
There were very few beauties [at last night’s dance], and such as there were were not very handsome. Miss Iremonger did not look well, and Mrs. Blount was the only one much admired. She appeared exactly as she did in September, with the same broad face, diamond bandeau, white shoes, pink husband, and fat neck. The two Miss Coxes were there: I traced in one the remains of the vulgar, broad-featured girl who danced at Enham eight years ago; the other is refined into a nice, composed-looking girl, like Catherine Bigg. I looked at Sir Thomas Champneys and thought of poor Rosalie; I looked at his daughter, and thought her a queer animal with a white neck. Mrs. Warren, I was constrained to think, a very fine young woman, which I much regret. She has got rid of some part of her child, and danced away with great activity looking by no means very large. Her husband is ugly enough, uglier even than his cousin John; but he does not look so very old. The Miss Maitlands are both prettyish, very like Anne, with brown skins, large dark eyes, and a good deal of nose. The General has got the gout, and Mrs. Maitland the jaundice. Miss Debary, Susan, and Sally, all in black, but without any stature, made their appearance, and I was as civil to them as their bad breath would allow me.
Letter to her sister, Cassandra
20th November 1800
(From More Letters of Note)
The amount of meaning you get into a sentence, the dimensions and intensity of the impression you make a paragraph carry, are most extraordinary. The [Great Gatsby] manuscript is full of phrases which make a scene blaze with life...
You once told me you were not a natural writer—my God! You have plainly mastered the craft, of course; but you needed far more than craftsmanship for this.
Maxwell Perkins (Editor)
Letter to F. Scott Fitzgerald
20th November 1924
(From A Life in Letters)
When the two weeks were up, there was a very very slight movement in the tail almost nothing. So again I called the vet. As he looked the dog over, he said that it would be hard for the dog to drag those legs always. You were there. We talked a little and decided to put him to sleep and call it his end. He had had a good life. He looked so beautiful as he sat there with us. When I think of it now I even get an odd feeling in my stomach. He was given a shot and lay quietly down. He was put in the back of the car.
It was all that a man could do to lift him in.
We drove out into the White Hills—dug a hole under a small sized cedar bush and put my beautiful dog into it and covered him with earth and many rocks. I like to think that probably he goes running and leaping through the White Hills alone in the night.
Letter to Todd Webb
20th November 1981
(From Letters of Note: Dogs)
You are dismayed at having lost a year, maybe, because school fell apart. Well—I feel as though I’ve lost the years since Slaughterhouse-Five was published, but that’s malarky. Those years weren’t lost. They simply weren’t the way I’d planned them. Neither was the year in which Jim had to stay motionless in bed while he got over TB. Neither was the year in which Mark went crazy, then put himself together again. Those years were adventures. Planned years are not.
Letter to his daughter, Nanette
20th November 1971
(From Letters of Note: Fathers)
What on earth do you mean when you say my perceptions are “almost impossible for a woman’s”? “Now what the hell,” as you said to me, “you know that’s meaningless.” And if you really do mean anything by it, I imagine it would make me very angry. Is there some glandular reason which prevents a woman from having good perceptions, or what?
Letter to Donald Stanford
20th November 1933
(From One Art: Letters)
King, like all frauds your end is approaching. You could have been our greatest leader. You, even at an early age have turned out to be not a leader but a dissolute, abnormal moral imbecile.
The FBI (Anonymously)
Letter to Martin Luther King, Jr.
20th November 1964
(From National Archives via NYT)