SKU: A01683 Category:


Description: In two autograph letters signed to Henry Hart, Cowley makes wonderfully detailed comments about several recently published books. In the first of these engaging letters, Malcolm Cowley provides three unsolicited editorial suggestions regarding Isidor Schneider’s autobiographical novel, From the Kingdom of Necessity (1935), as he is dissatisfied with Putnam’s Sons editorial work. He wants the book to have a wider circulation than the “American radical audience of 1800 book buyers”; he also acknowledges that work on the book is “frozen.” In the second letter, he admits not sharing Hart’s “enthusiasm” for  Feilding Burke’s (pseudonym of Olive Tilford Dargan) proletariat novel, Call Home My Heart, even as he lists the merits of the novel that traces gendered social class relations with reference to the 1929 textile strikes in Gastonia, NC. He also includes his preferences for the Book Union Choices.

On Sept 9, 1935, Cowley writes, “I have read about ½ of Isidor’s book (about a Jewish immigrant growing up in the New York East side and becoming a writer) and like it enormously. . . . whether or not it should be a Book Union Choice, that is hard for me to decide without having read “Marching, Marching,” (Clara Weatherwax 1935). Cowley has three suggestions for making the book a big seller–20,000-50,000 copies and translations into 10 foreign languages. He advises,“calling Isidor upon the carpet and fighting out three points with him”: Firstly, he thinks that the title is lousy. The book needs something as sharp and arresting as “Jews without Money.” Secondly, he finds it “too vulgar in spots for [his] puritanical sensibilities,” thinking that it needs to be revised for the “mostly Gentile readers.” That which he has “short-handed as ‘vulgarity’” he says is “characteristic of Jewish culture. Talking about white stains in the crotch of one’s pants, or shitting in one’s mouth . . . comes more naturally to Jews than Gentiles–not for racial but for cultural reasons.” Thirdly, he suggests “big cuts . . . in all the passages where Isidor stops to draw a proletarian moral. . . . Isidor’s asides are really a sign that he’s not a 100% revolutionist. . . . Pare theme, excise them, do a moralectomy. It will still be a revolutionary book and a better one.” He considers Isidor a “natural story teller . . . he was a janitor’s boy and gathered kids in the cellar to them about cowboys and injuns-bit-the dust.” In a postscript, he offers a“gratis,” book blurb.

In the second letter (possibly Sept/Oct 1935), he writes, “I had trouble reading [Fielding Burke’s, Call Home My Heart], even though I greatly admired some scenes. The trouble seems to be a faint aroma of unreality. . . Yet, intellectually I had to admit that this book shows more of the Southern textile workers than any other I have read, and gives you a more rounded picture of the bosses, a feeling of more cross-currents in the labor movement.” He lists three books for the Book Union Choices, concluding that “Marching, Marching would be the best November choice.” Both letters are signed, “As Ever, Malcolm.”

The first letter is three pages, handwritten in ink on  8” x 12 ½” ruled paper. The second is one page, handwritten in pencil on ivory 8 ½ ”x 11” paper. Both are signed “Malcolm”. Item #A01683

Malcolm Cowley (1898-1989) was an American literary critic and social historian. He was the literary editor of The New Republic from 1929-1944. Post WWI, he  chronicled the history of the “lost generation” of writers and retrieved William Faulkner’s from literary oblivion with his earnest pursuit of the publication of The Portable Faulkner (1946).

Henry Hart was an American writer (Dr. Barnes of Merion, 1963) and publisher who worked as Publicity Director for Scribner’s Sons, Editor-in-chief of Putnam’s Sons, an Associate Editor of Time and Fortune, the founding member and first editor of Films in Review and a founding member of Equinox Cooperative Press. He was responsible for the English-translation publications of Thomas Mann’s works.

Condition: Both letters have mailing fold lines and light soil on blank verso. The second letter has a short separation at edge fold reinforced with archival tissue/tape. Both letters are quite legible and generally in good condition.