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Autobiography, with Letters

By William Lyon Phelps | Go to book overview

108
RADIO

I BECAME a radio speaker late in life; at first I did not enjoy it, because having been accustomed to look into the faces of an audience while addressing them, I felt when speaking into the microphone as if I were soliloquizing in the dark. But as soon as letters began to arrive from several thousand miles away, saying my voice had come into their houses as clearly as if I had been there, the experience became exciting and has remained so. Even if there is an audience in the studio where I am talking on the air, I do not really see or feel them as I do the invisible audience sitting under vine and fig tree. Every radio speaker receives what is known as 'fan mail'; some of these letters are especially appealing. A former student of mine at Yale, who had not been back at the University for thirty years, and was living on the top of a mountain in Utah, turned on the radio not knowing what was on the air, and he said it was as if he were back in the classroom. Another, living in Paris, returned home with his wife at one o'clock in the morning, thought they would turn on the radio for a half-hour before going to bed, and were greeted by my familiar voice. Captain Alan Villiers, commanding the sailing-ship Joseph Conrad was somewhere south of the Azores, turned on his radio, with a similar result. After I had spoken between the acts of the opera at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, I received letters from friends in Honolulu and then from Egypt, saying it was exactly as if I had been talking with them!

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