Letters of Ayn Rand

Chapter 5

Letters to Isabel Paterson

Friends and political allies for many years, Ayn Rand and Isabel Paterson were two of the champions of individualism of the 1940s. Paterson was a columnist for the New York Herald-Tribune and author of numerous books, most notably The God of the Machine. Rand and “Pat” saw each other on many occasions, often talking philosophy all night and often disagreeing. The contrasting approaches to ideas evident in their letters seem also to have characterized their conversations—Rand organized and logical; Paterson spontaneous and sometimes rambling. Rand later said of Paterson: “She had such switching metaphysics that it was frightening and you never could tell, not only from meeting to meeting, but within the same evening, when she would switch or why. At her best, she was enormously rational, with a very wide kind of abstract mind, could talk fascinatingly, make the best philosophical identifications and abstract connections. And generally was a marvelous mind… At her worst, she would turn into a mystic.” Their friendship ended in 1948, after Paterson’s visit to the O’Connors in California, when, in Rand’s words, Paterson insulted some of Rand’s friends “in the most causeless, unnecessary way.”

Permission to print material from previously unpublished correspondence granted by the Estate of Isabel Paterson.