To Leonard Read [Letter 212]

Item Reference Code: 146_RE2_010_001

Date(s) of creation

May 18, 1946


Leonard Read


[Page 1]
May 18, 1946

Dear Leonard:

I am enclosing your correspondence with Pat [Isabel Paterson], which you asked me to return. I am glad you showed it to me. Thank you. It has solved a dilemma for me, even though it was a bad shock.

No, you were not too rough on Pat in your letter. I admire your letter, because of the clear and honest explanation you gave her. You were wrong in simply staying away from her for a long time, without explanation—but I have done the same thing in regard to her (for somewhat different reasons), yet you and I are not people who evade issues. The truth of the matter is that she forces her friends into such a position—and our fault, yours and mine, is in not having recognized this sooner.

Here is what shocked me in Pat’s letter to you: Pat read Anthem in 1942, long before she read The Fountainhead (I was writing The Fountainhead then); it was, in fact, the first book of mine Pat had ever read. She told me then that she did not like it. She did not mention the reasons she gives you in her letter—she stated only that she did not like it, because she felt the characters weren’t characterized enough, whatever that means. I did not argue with her nor question her any further, because I have never respected her literary judgment as I do her political one, so I let it go at that. She did not refer to the thesis of Anthem, and I did not discuss it.

Much later, after long abstract discussions with me and after she read The Fountainhead (do you know that she doesn’t like The Fountainhead, either?), Pat understood and evaluated my theory of the proper ethics of individualism, and told me that it was “the greatest ethical discovery since Christianity.” (These are her exact words.)

[Page 2]

Now here is what’s terrible: my whole theory of ethics is contained in Anthem. That was my first statement of it on paper. Everything I said in The Fountainhead is in Anthem, though in a briefer, less detailed form, but there explicitly, for all to see who are interested in ideas. And that is the book about which Pat tells you: “yes, I know all that; it is tedious to have to go over it.”

Sure, she knows all that—now; she’s learned it from me. But she did not know it at the time when she read Anthem. She was reading a book which presented what, by her own estimate, was a great new idea—and she found it uninteresting, because it had no new idea to offer.

Do you see what this means?

I have never approved of Pat’s incredibly offensive manner toward people, you and me included, but I thought that it could be explained (if not justified) by her fierce intellectual honesty, her strict devotion to ideas and her constant suspicion that others do not take ideas as seriously as she does, and are not as scrupulous about intellectual matters as she is. Well? If she was capable of reading Anthem and missing its idea—what right has she to scream at you that you haven’t read her book carefully enough or haven’t given it enough thought? What right has she to scream at anyone?

Well, that’s that.

Forgive me if I went into this at such length. I felt I had to tell you this. I didn’t answer you sooner, because this was hard for me to face and to say. But I repeat that I am glad you sent me Pat’s letter, because I’d rather face the truth, whatever it is, than be protected from disappointment.

I will keep this confidential, as you asked. Some day, when I see Pat in person, I would like to talk to her about this and say to her what I said in this letter—but I won’t, unless you permit me to. If you’d rather I didn’t, I won’t. And I suppose there would be no point in discussing it with her, anyway.

[Page 3]

Now to a more cheerful subject.

I have read your “I’d Push the Button” speech—and I cheered aloud as I read it. After my harsh criticisms of some of the articles you sent me, I am delighted to be able to say that this one is excellent, first-rate, and perfect. Not a single slip to “give away” our case. Clear thinking and beautiful presentation. And the last two sentences in it are magnificent. My congratulations to you.

As I’ve said to you before, I seldom find any major intellectual mistakes or any indications of basic collectivism in the things which you write yourself. Usually I find that I disagree with you only on lesser points or on the manner of presentation; your basic premises are sound. It is only when you allow someone else to compose something for you or with you that collectivism creeps in. Be careful of reformed collectivists. I am not sure that they are ever completely reformed.

I am enclosing a check for $3.00, made out to the Press of Joseph D. McGuire. Would you ask them to send me 50 copies of your speech? I do not see many people here, but I think I can distribute a few copies.

Let me know how you liked my corrected version of Anthem in the galleys. I was very pleased with the way it was set up and the way it looked in print. Incidentally, I have cut out of my foreword (in my set of galleys) the N.Y. Times quotation from Dr. Preston. I consulted Herbert Freston about it, and his office advised me to cut it out, for a reason that had not occurred to me: if the N.Y. Times did not quote this Dr. Preston correctly, he may have been afraid to sue them, but might want to sue us. So I cut the quote out, since it was of no great importance, anyway—and I do not want to give someone, who might be a pink, a pretext to sue me or Pamphleteers, Inc.

I am looking forward eagerly to seeing you here in June.