To H. L. Mencken [Letter 11]

Item Reference Code: 077_12B_003_001

Date(s) of creation

July 28, 1934


H. L. Mencken


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July 28, 1934.

Dear Mr. Mencken,

Gathering all my courage, I am writing to thank you for your kindness and interest in my novel “Airtight”.[*] I am still a beginner with very much of a “fan complex”, so I hope you will understand my hesitation in writing to one whom I admire as the greatest representative of a philosophy to which I want to dedicate my whole life.

I am sure you understand that my book is not at all a story about Russia, but a story of an individual against the masses and a plea in defense of the individual. Your favorable opinion of it was particularly valuable to me, since I have always regarded you as the foremost champion of individualism in this country.

This book is only my first step and above all a means of acquiring a voice, of making myself heard. What I shall have to say when I acquire that voice does not need an explanation, for I know that you can understand it. Perhaps it may seem a lost cause, at present, and there are those who will say that I am too late, that I can only hope to be the last fighter for a mode of thinking which has no place in the future. But I do not think so. I intend to be the first one in a new battle which the world needs as it has never needed before, the first to answer the many too many advocates of collectivism, and answer them in a manner which will not be forgotten.

I know that you may smile when you read this. I fully realize that I am a very “green”, very helpless beginner who has the arrogance of embarking, single-handed, against what many call the irrevocable trend of our century. I know that I am only a would-be David starting out against Goliath—and what a fearful, ugly Goliath! I say “single-handed”, because I have heard so much from that other side, the collectivist side, and so little in defense of man against men, and yet so much has to be said. I have attempted to say it in my book. I do not know of a better way to make my entrance into the battle. I believe that man will always be an individualist, whether he knows it or not, and I want to make it my duty to make him know it.

So you can understand why I appreciate your kindness

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in helping me to put my book before the public, for—if you will excuse my presumption—I consider myself a young and very humble brother-in-arms in your own cause.

Gratefully yours,


Ayn Rand,
1750 N. Serrano Ave.
Hollywood, Calif.


*Mencken’s “kindness and interest” likely refer to the positive comments that he made about the book to Gouverneur Morris, as quoted in AR’s June 19, 1934 letter to Jean Wick [Letter 8 in this exhibit].