To Isabel Paterson [Letter 155]

Item Reference Code: 145_PA7_002_001

Date(s) of creation

April 11, 1948


Isabel Paterson


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April 11, 1948

Dear Pat:

How can you expect any man, woman or beast not to be tortured by curiosity when you write such a thing as “Some day when I am up to form, I will explain to you that you are wonderful, in full detail.” Nobody could resist impatience at such a promise, so please get up to form as soon as you can, because I must know why I am wonderful, in full detail.

My script of THE FOUNTAINHEAD and everything at Warner Bros. is going along beautifully. No disagreements, and the ideas which King Vidor has expressed to me about the way he intends to direct the picture are excellent. If I understand him correctly, he wants to keep it simple and stylized, that is, without cluttering it up with unnecessary “realistic” details, which has always been my idea of how it should be done. I can never be sure of a director’s method until I see the first scenes he shoots, but what he says so far is exactly right.

If all goes well, I think my new novel and this picture will come out at about the same time—and then I think there will be an explosion of some sort. I’ll hope for the best.

You were in excellent form in your exposition about the relation of man’s mind to the universe. It is one of your best statements, and I wish you would use it in your column. If you don’t have a carbon copy of it, I will copy it and send it to you. I read it to Frank, and he laughed with delight at the sentence, “But if people will not use their minds, I suppose then one may expect them to sit down and complain that this earth wasn’t arranged for them.” I’m going to show it to Albert when I see him next.

I know that the idea of hiding behind a “paradox” is not new in philosophy, but I just noticed that it

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is being used repeatedly, as a kind of desperate last twist, by the pseudo philosophical intellectuals in magazines. I read a review of a book by Jacques Maritaine called, I believe, MAN AND THE COMMON GOOD, which gave detailed quotations, and it was all about a “dynamic paradox”.[*] The reviewer seemed to find this quite a satisfactory answer to the most preposterous bunch of contradictions I have ever seen in what purports to be a serious book.

Something awful seems to be happening to the Catholic thinkers. If I can untangle their stand at all, they seem to be turning quite deliberately toward Statism. What shocked me about Fulton J. Sheen’s book is a blatant hatred for capitalism. It seems to underlie the whole tone of the book. To tell you the truth, it reminded me of the tone which struck me and which I hated in Soviet books on dialectics and economics, when I read them for the first time in college. I have not observed that particular tone in books since, and the sudden reminder left me pretty much aghast. Just to give you an example, here is what Sheen says on Page 50: “The only contribution that communism makes to capitalism is to shift booty and loot from one man’s pockets to another, while leaving the lust of acquisition untouched….Communism, from the economic point of view, is rotted capitalism, with the difference that in one case the people live off the largess of a capitalist, and in the other, off the largess of the bureaucrat.” (Good God, Pat!) You have been angry at me before, for bothering you with disgusting quotations, but please don’t be angry this time. I don’t think that this book is important as such; but as an indication of the trend of these people, a thing like this quotation is significant and very dreadful.

However, I do think that they will not succeed in this direction and that they have missed the boat. You remember you said that the Catholics were up against a basic contradiction and that they would have to decide which way to choose. Apparently they have chosen the wrong way, and it is really too bad, particularly when the world is slowly being cured of the ideas of Statism. I do agree with you about that. I do think that the intellectual atmosphere has definitely turned in our direction. Intellectually, we have won already, because collectivism is done for. Since philosophical ideas precede men’s application of them in practice, I suppose it is natural that we have to wait for the concrete results; but what is going on in the meantime is

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pretty revolting. I, too, have the definite impression that there is “a growing wish and readiness to hear some sense.” People have not understood or accepted the right ideas yet, but they have discovered the need of right ideas, and that is quite a step forward. They know, at least, that collectivism and the “common good” ain’t what they were cracked up to be.

I think you are probably right about Warner Bros. Warner Bros. are famous as having a genius for seeing public trends ahead of everybody else. I think that’s all to the good. If more people learned to understand their real business interests correctly and to act accordingly, we would have a much better world. One of the ghastly things of our age is the fact that every social group has been causing its own suicide—such as big businessmen, for instance. Anyone who forms an accurate judgment of his proper, legitimate self-interest and acts upon it, instead of working like mad to cut his own throat, is quite an unusual and welcome phenomenon these days.

I am afraid that I do miss the significance of your remark about the fact that an oil pipeline runs through Nazareth. I think I know what you meant, but I am not certain. Would you tell me? As to the situation in Palestine, that is one issue which I have not followed at all. I have not read the stories about it, and I do not really know what is going on. It does seem to be weird as far as I can gather.

I was amused by your saying that “this letter is too long.” Do you know that when I receive a letter from you, the first thing I do before opening it is to weigh it in my hand? The heavier it is, the better I like it. I know that that’s no way to measure intellectual value, but in the case of your letters it is, because no ounce of it is ever wasted. So if you have the time, please make them as long as you can. It’s always an event for us when there is a letter from Pat.

Love from both of us,


*The correct title is The Person and the Common Good.