Melville Cane was AR’s attorney and an award-winning poet.
This letter was previously published only in the Winter 2017–18 issue of The Objective Standard.
Dear Mr. Cane:
My deepest gratitude for your book and still more for the rare pleasure your poems have given me. I do not know whether you will understand me when I say that I love poetry so much that I never read it. I think that poetry is the highest and most exacting of arts, therefore it should be perfect—or nothing. And it is perfect so seldom. But your work is perfect and I appreciate profoundly the privilege you have given me of reading it.
There is one verse in particular which I would like, presumptuously perhaps, to see used as my epitaph some day. No, I won’t tell you now which one.[*] Presumptuously again, I hope that you may try to guess it. You will probably see through it, so I may as well confess that it is a feminine legal trick to leave myself an opening for an opportunity to see you and tell you in person how much I admire your work.
Since the book was sent to me from my lawyer when he isn’t a lawyer, I will not attempt here to thank you for your help in matters that were anything but poetic. But I do thank you for your work in the realm that is so far above courtrooms and arbitrations.[**]
Feb. 15, 1936
*Reliable speculation is that Ayn Rand is referring to the first four lines in Cane’s poem “Alone, Immune,” published in his collection Behind Dark Spaces (Harcourt Brace, 1930). “She was not bound by mortal sight, / The stars were hers, at noon. / Against the malady of night / She stood, alone, immune.”
**Ayn Rand’s allusion is to the arbitration case Cane’s law firm won for her against A. H. Woods, producer of Night of January 16th on Broadway.