Dramatist in America: Letters of Maxwell Anderson, 1912-1958

By Laurence G. Avery; Maxwell Anderson | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

THE LETTERS

Maxwell Anderson wrote at least several thousand letters over a long and active career. Before the middle twenties, as he moved from North Dakota to California and then to New York, he corresponded with a small group of friends and with people who began to hear about him as a poet. From the middle twenties onward, following the phenomenal success of What Price Glory in 1924, he was among the most prominent playwrights in America and received hundreds of letters from people all over the country, then from all over the world. Practically all of those letters he at least acknowledged, and many he answered in detail. After 1938, when he joined in forming the Playwrights' Company and thus became his own producer, Anderson's correspondence took on the additional tasks of arranging for actors, directors, and theaters for his own plays, of criticizing the scripts of his colleagues, Elmer Rice, Sidney Howard, S. N. Behrman, and Robert Sherwood, and of conducting company business. With a few friends outside the theater and with members of his large family, he also corresponded extensively.

Although his letters ran into the thousands, their rate of survival is not great. Many went the way of the dustbin, including some the loss of which is especially regrettable. Despite the fact that he was their neighbor, Anderson had occasions to correspond with Kurt Weill and Burgess Meredith, both of whom were involved with several of his plays, but they lacked the letter-collecting habit altogether. And the same is true of another neighbor, the poet Frank E. Hill, a lifelong friend who frequently read and criticized early drafts of Anderson's plays. Still other letters, which were thought preserved, cannot be located now, Enid Bagnold typifies numerous recipients who found a few Anderson letters where they remembered many; other recipients, remembering many, usually in boxes in the attic, found none. Nor have attics been the only dangerous repositories, for publishers' files

-xiii-

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