To Sinclair Lewis [Letter 39]

Item Reference Code: 101_13D_003_001

Date(s) of creation



Sinclair Lewis


This undated letter to Sinclair Lewis exists only in handwritten form. It is not known if AR ever sent it to Lewis, and the relevant Lewis papers were lost in a 1989 fire. It seems likely that she did send the letter, because sometime after 1935, she received from him an inscribed (with “Love”) copy (printed in 1936) of It Can’t Happen Here. 

This letter was previously published only in the Winter 2017–18 issue of The Objective Standard.

[Page 1]
Dear Mr. Lewis,

Being a writer—and the greatest one living—you may understand me when I say that the most important things, the most real ones and, particularly, the most sacred are the hardest ones to express. After so many years of so much that I would like to say to you I find that I can say nothing. I would like to say that you are the last hope in a revolting, pointless mess called literature, the only living mind I’ve heard, the best god of the very religious atheist that I am, the last hero of an embittered and incurable hero worshipper who believes in nothing on earth except heroes. But all this sounds like pretty loud flattery—and there is no other way of saying it. I cannot give my words the strength they need—the certainty that I mean every one of them. I can say it. I can’t prove it. I can only hope that perhaps you will believe me.

[Page 2]

I know also that the mere fact of my trying to say it to you is presumptuous, since you have heard all this before, and more of it, and you must be very tired of hearing it. But I have wanted so much to say it, for such a long time, and it means so much to me, that I am saying it even taking the chance that you will not understand it as I mean it or, understanding it, will not care. I cannot expect you to care. But I do know that if, at the height of my own career, I could find one person to whom my work meant as much as yours does to me, I would like to know it.

I cannot tell you here all that I think of “It Can’t Happen Here.”

[Page 3]

If there is an author I like, besides yourself, it’s Berzelius Windrip and his “Zero Hour”. I have never read anything that approaches for sheer genius those little quotations at the head of your chapters, that gives one, quicker and clearer than any political dissertations, the very essence of modern mob spirit. As one of the millions who owe you a profound gratitude for this book, I would like to thank you for writing it.

Please forgive me if this letter seems a little melodramatic to you. But I cannot help feeling that everything deeply felt has to be a little melodramatic, simply because it isn’t being done as a rule.

[Page 4]

And I must thank you—as deeply and melodramatically as I can—for the book you gave me—and for your inscription. I shall try to live up to it someday.


Ayn Rand

P.S. I do not lose my hero worship very easily—if at all.