December 29, 1939
Dear Mr. Greenslet,
I know you want to have some idea about the new Vale book. It is going strong, now in my thoughts and efforts. I am interested and engrossed by it and would be perfectly happy to do nothing else but work on it. If ?? pressure was sufficient I could finish it by early summer at this rate. But ?? looms definite dates of abroad for travel. The next ?? date is Feb. 17th. These interruptions (pleasant as they are) are simply ruinous to my consecutive work. My feeling of constant frustration in wresting time for writing is very real and constant. But before we talk about dates you’d better read a chapter or two of what I’m writing. Your reaction will speed me up or slow me down. So I’ll send you a sample probably before too many weeks pass. . .
Dear Mr. Greenslet,
Here are the first five chapters and a bit of six— It doesn’t seem to be carrying on, so far, many of the lines-of-interest in “Lisa Vale”. But later, when the scene shifts from Majorca to Boston (as it does pretty soon) those who bear any slight curiosity about the various problems in “Lisa Vale” will learn how they were solved, or unsolved—or just accepted (as in life—usually) – anyhow, “what happened”. The problems in “Lisa Vale” are not the theme in this book. My interest is in Charlotte, and it certainly is an absorbing one. I’m finding this unmarried woman, of around forty, more challenging to one’s comprehension of the female-of-the-species, than the married woman. Added to this, the domination of a mother over a child has always interested me. In Charlotte is combined both these conditions. This cause, effect, alternatives, and possible escape—all offer wonderful opportunities for a good story – if I’ve got it in me to tell it. I just wonder - But I would say that the attempt is more engrossing than any story I’ve written. Or do I forget? I’ve ?? “Stella Dallas” as a woman who engrossed me so. I didn’t know her so well. You may think this story begins too slowly. Do you? Too much “flashback” in Chapter V (when I tell about her first love-affairs). Too much detailed description of the processes of her thoughts. You may want more action – feel impatient to get more quickly into her “affair” with Durrance – (whatever it is to be). Or it may be of no interest to you at all. You may say her metamorphosis seems improbable and “sensational” – I’ve good foundation however for my facts – as far as the physical and mental changes following an illness such as hers is concerned. Well, tell me what you do think – I value your reactions very much. There’s only one thing about you as a critic, as a first critic – I wish was different – your sex. I wonder if Charlotte would appeal to any man as she appears in these first chapters. Of course if you do like it – please say so, for it will be sweet music to my ears.
P.S. Though I haven’t told much about Durrance yet, I’m finding him almost as engrossing as Charlotte.
MS Am 1925 (1462), Houghton Mifflin Publishing Co. archive, Houghton Library, Harvard University