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I'd be very pleased3 if you did get out a
new edition, with a new jacket minus4
on it. I'm just leaving for a family reunion7 in Red Cloud8, and could not possibly write a preface now. I've thought a good deal
about prefaces, Knopf9 suggested one for a
certain book of his, and I've decided not
to write any more prefaces10 at all. They
stimulate a temporary interest and curiosity, but in the long run they are a mistake
, for an author still living and still working. I shall leave various comments on
some of my books, out of which you can make prefaces after my decease.
If the writers of various novels I like had written prefaces to them, it would rather
spoil the books for me. I think even stupid people like to puzzle over a book. A
slight element of mystery is a great asset. The explanation11 of the "Archbishop"12 which
n I wrote for THE
COMMONWEAL13 has been much used and quoted ,; but it would be a great mistake to use it
as a preface to the book. It is too much like selling my own goods. One has to
follow one's instinct in these matters, for that is the only guide one has. I know
you will not misunder-
⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩stand my refusal. I don't mean to be
disobliging, and I am glad to help my publishers in any way that seems to me the
right way for
me. I am sure, for instance, that the article14 I wrote for the COLOPHON15, which has been so much quoted16, stimulated interest in "O
Pioneers"17 and "Antonia"18. Indirect methods
are the best, I am sure.
I have not a copy of "The Song of the Lark"19 at hand, but I think of one change I beg you to make. Leave the dedication to Isabelle McClung20, but please cut out the limping verse21 which follows it,- an idiotic attempt to immitate22 the metre of Walther's 'Prize Song'23.
Yes,24 the new
book25 is doing wonderfully well. I really think the feeling in Knopf's
office had a lot to do with it. They were all keener about it than about any other
book of mine, even the salesmen. Mr. Stimson26
thought better of it than I did, a good deal. I turned in the first two-thirds of
the manuscript to him when
the Knopfs27 were abroad. I was
feeling rather low about it, and he gave me a tremendous hand-up. I could see at
once that it was personal, not publishing,
enthusiasm. He and his staff did a lot for it.