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To Archibald Ogden [Letter 548]

Item Reference Code: 131_09C_020_001

Date(s) of creation

August 24, 1967

Recipient

Archibald Ogden

Transcript

[Page 1]
August 24, 1967

Mr. Archibald G. Ogden
66 Overstrand Mansions
Prince of Wales Drive
London S.W. 11. England

Dear Archie:

It was I who asked Bobbs-Merrill to ask you to write an introduction for the 25th Anniversary Edition of The Fountainhead. It is I, therefore, who must tell you, with profound regret, that the introduction you wrote is entirely inappropriate and that I cannot accept it.

My basic objection is to its over-all spirit and style: it is flippant. Flippancy is not a proper approach to the nature of my novel, of my ideas, of my own character, of my career. The events surrounding the publication of The Fountainhead were not funny. That a book and an author survived triumphantly the kind of battle I was and still am fighting, is not a humorous subject.

I had always believed that you understood and appreciated The Fountainhead. Now I am sadly obliged to conclude that you and I have grown too far apart intellectually and that you have forgotten what you did know about me.

Perhaps the most offensive touch in your Introduction is the following line (in regard to the matter of cutting the character of Vesta Dunning out of the book): “So, out went the Hollywood whore—and every line deleted was like removing one of the author’s fingernails with a pair of red-hot pliers.”

In your letter to me of July 26, you say: “I may have slightly exaggerated the story of excising the budding actress.” What you wrote is

[Page 2]
Archibald G. Ogden
August 24, 1967
page #2

not a “slight exaggeration,” but an outright fabrication which implies some extremely derogatory things about me. To refresh your memory: it was I who decided that Vesta Dunning had to be cut—not for the reasons you state, not because she clashed with the Roark-Dominique relationship, but because her moral treason was a variant of Wynand’s, which made her superfluous in regard to the book’s theme. I decided this when I was writing Part III—and I told you of my decision in a telephone conversation. Your first reaction was one of regret, but then you agreed with my reasons. I did all the cutting myself, we had no conferences about it, so where were “the red-hot pliers” and who was applying them?

Once I make a decision, either in regard to writing or to any other matter, I do not hesitate, vacillate or suffer over carrying it out. How could I, in reason, decide to delete Vesta, yet suffer over “every line deleted”? This would make me the kind of irrational person who wants to eat her cake and have it, too—a vice of which I have never been guilty. Yet that is what your sentence implies, and more: it implies that the decision was not mine and that somebody had to force me to do it by some tortuous process, line by line.

I do not remember any such thing as a proof-reader’s query “Who she?” on the page proofs or the galleys of the book. Are you sure you didn’t confuse it with some other book? I suppose it is possible that some indirect reference to Vesta might have remained somewhere in the script (though I doubt it), but what you imply is the kind of sloppiness in writing and editing which is the opposite of the way I work. I am not an emotional, “inspirational” writer. So what was the point of building up such a story? Is that the most interesting or significant thing you could find to say about the author of The Fountainhead?

(Incidentally, I do not wish to have Vesta Dunning mentioned between the book covers of The Fountainhead. She is out, and has to stay out.)

A similarly misleading implication about my character is conveyed by another passage in your Introduction: “my only major contribution to it [the novel], in addition to encouragement and keeping the author’s screams to a minimum when proofreaders altered a word, was the title.” If I was the kind of person who needed “encouragement,” I would not have been able to write The Fountainhead nor to survive any of the things that went on before and after its publication. When did you ever see me “discouraged” about my writing? As to my “screams”—if you found that interesting enough to report, you should have told the whole story: my refusal to read the galley-notes of some pretentious

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Archibald G. Ogden
August 24, 1967
page #3

mediocrity who thought she could improve on my lines. Even then, I did not “scream,” but I certainly did shout. I am proud of myself in that incident, it was a painful and tragic moment, it was not funny and is not to be treated as a humorous aside.

(Your suggestion about changing the title is presented correctly, only the original title was “Second-Hand Lives” and the title “The Fountainhead” was found by me in a thesaurus.)

The rest of your Introduction contains a great many inaccuracies. I have given a list of the main ones to Mr. Amussen, who is writing to you about it. I shall mention only some personal ones: I did not “read the great Russian novelists” as a child; I read only one novel by Dumas (Monte-Christo) and hated it; and the only writer I admired profoundly was Hugo.[*] I did not have any “mentors” in literature, no one to be “true to.”

As to the meaning and value of The Fountainhead, I think it deserves that something more be said about it than that it tells a good story.

You can see from the above that the differences between your attitude and mine are fundamental and that there is no way to bridge the distance. Mr. Amussen said he wanted to let you try another version. I cannot object to that, if you wish to try it, but I must tell you frankly that I do not think it will be possible for you to write an Introduction which would be acceptable to me. You are entitled to your own views about humor. But you know mine, and you chose to ignore them—and there is no meeting ground.

I will not attempt to tell you how sad and painful this is for me.

Sincerely,

 

Ayn Rand

AR:bf
cc: Robert M. Amussen

 

*AR had read The Count of Monte Cristo at age 11 or 12 and described it in 1960 as her “first big literary disappointment,” because it began as a great suspense story and then became just the story of revenge that “comes to nothing important.”

On September 6, Ogden sent a revised introduction, which he hoped “answers your criticism. I may not express myself very well, but I assure you my sentiments haven’t changed over the years.” The 25th anniversary edition of The Fountainhead carries an introduction only by AR herself.