May 6, 1941
Dear Mrs. Prouty:
I read your two final chapters, after re-reading Chapter 30, last night and again this morning. Chapter 30, I think, is very much tightened and strengthened by the revision you have given it, and the two new chapters seem to me very moving and sound. I have written No against two marginal queries of yours as to whether something was boring or should be omitted, and have only two or three mild suggestions.
At the bottom of Page 8 of Chapter 2, Jerry’s line, “But now I know it’s love – our love – that just won’t die.”, does not convince me.
I think men, either he-men or gentlemen with senses of humor, almost never make assertions about “love”, but either steer around it or understate. I think Jerry, even at this moment of extreme poignancy, would have expressed his feeling with humorous understatement with what the learned call meiosis; something to the effect that “now I know it’s the thing between us that just won’t die.” You, of course, can express it better than that. The main thing is to leave to the ladies the use of the big and abused word ‘love’.
On Page 9, the next page, I am a little doubtful about “that fierce white light” which appeared in Jerry’s eyes. I should be rather inclined to leave that to the reader’s imagination, ending the paragraph with the words “that indescribable change came over his face which always filled her with a leaping sense of joy.”
Again, on page 10, I think the idea of the echo of waltz music from their first meeting is good, but I don’t quite like the choice of The Blue Danube . . .
It is interesting to hear of the fun you are having revising and cutting the earlier part. I think that’s the universal experience of all the best artistic creators, from Michaelangelo, with his “The more the marble wastes, the more the statue grows”, down through Pope, with his “compose with fury, correct with phlegm,” down to the man in the meat market, who does his stuff on the mutton chop.
MS Am 1925 (1462), Houghton Mifflin Publishing Co. archive, Houghton Library, Harvard University