SINCLAIR LEWIS COUNSELS A YOUNG WOMAN WRITER IN ITALY: “IF YOU CARRIED OUT YOUR FEELING THAT I HAVE ROBBED YOU OF YOUR ASSIGNMENT, YOU WOULD ALSO HAVE TO ASK EVERY AMERICAN CORRESPONDENT IN ITALY…TO RESIGN ON THE GROUND THAT THEY ARE MALICIOUSLY HOLDING JOBS WHICH YOU WOULD LIKE.”
LEWIS, SINCLAIR. (1885-1951). American novelist, short-story writer, playwright; first writer from the United States to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Typed Letter Signed, “Sinclair Lewis” on imprinted Excelsior Hotel [Florence] illustrated stationery, with original stamped envelope. January 29, 1949. One page, octavo. To “Dear Miss Mollica”. Lewis’ reply to a letter from a woman Syracuse native, with “a bone to pick”, for his presumed taking of the choice writing assignments in Italy. He writes:
“I have not been in Rome for weeks. Mail has been difficult and I’m sorry to say that I have no idea where the article you sent me ^ is. I am about to leave Florence for Bologna and a dozen other places. Don’t answer this.
If you carried out your feeling that I have robbed you of your assignment, you would also have to ask every American correspondent in Italy, something over a hundred, to resign on the ground that they are maliciously holding jobs which you would like. My articles are handled by a syndicate in New York and have never known, do not now know, which newspapers are using them.
If you will go to Gene Corio, press attaché at the American Embassy, who is both very kind and very intelligent, he might be able to suggest a job which would enable you to stay in Rome. Sincerely yours / Sinclair Lewis”
Carbon copy of the letter to which Lewis was replying (included):
Via Rovereto 13, Roma /January 17, 1949
Dear Mr..Lewis, This is not a fan letter (though Arrowsmith did influence my adolescence), but rather a bone to pick.
I, too, write “not newspaper articles but artless letters back home”. Only I started first – August – and have only one hometown – Syracuse – whereas you claim the continent for your audience and probably a whole lot more (to keep you in such heated happiness at the Ambassador) than my 10 bucks a. column.
Now, most inappropriately, your articles, too, have cropped up in the Syracuse Herald-Journal where previously my “Dear Syracusans” accounts used to suffice. And the dear Syracusans, being a volatile bunch, will most likely decide for you instead of their native daughter.
Seriously, Mr. Lewis, I see my $10 (6500 lire on the black market and enough for room, board, and 1 bath a week for me), dimming dangerously.
I love Italy and want to stay awhile and so in desperation I thought of you. I’ve never bothered anyone fmaous (sic) before, because why should I? But now I’ve got the idea that meeting you and writing you up for “Dear Syracusans” will reestablish my prestige and maybe you’ll even be worth 2 weeks rent at once in Rome. Will you consider seeing me, Mr. Lewis? It won’t be an interview because I’ve never given one. We can just talk about good places to eat and I promise not to take notes in your presence.
I leave this Thursday for a week-end in Milan where I’ve been invited to attend La Scala, but will be before leaving so that I can start. my article home. Will you let me know at the above address what your decision is?
Sincerely yours, / P.S. I’m enclosing a copy of one of my articles to show you what I mean.