Voltaire and the Cowboy: The Letters of Thurman Arnold

Voltaire and the Cowboy: The Letters of Thurman Arnold

Voltaire and the Cowboy: The Letters of Thurman Arnold

Voltaire and the Cowboy: The Letters of Thurman Arnold

Excerpt

My first contact with Thurman Arnold came in 1958. I wrote him what was at once both a diffident and presumptuous letter, gently inviting him to consider the Archives of the University of Wyoming as a possible repository for his papers. Three days after my letter had been postmarked (September 8th), he replied. "I have your request for my papers," he wrote. "Of course you may have them if you want. As soon as I have a chance to go over them and take out the more recent material, which I may need."

A month after this exchange, I visited Thurman Arnold in the Arnold, Fortas and Porter offices at 1229 19th N.W., Washington, D.C., the first of several visits over the next decade. This was not to lay claim to a long, intimate friendship, for I never presumed that I ever really knew Thurman Arnold. I respected him. In common with hosts of his friends, I delighted in his wondrous, torrential conversation. Arnold always had time for a visitor from the West, especially if that visitor came out of Wyoming! For Thurman Arnold possessed a nostalgic, almost to the point of naivete, reverence for his memories of life in the West. A minor though vivid illustration of Arnold's sentiment came at a luncheon at the International Club in Washington (then next door to 1229 19th N.W.), when Arnold introduced his friend to Henry Munroe. "You know he is from Wyoming," and before Thurman could finish, Munroe interjected, "and you know for Thurman that's enough!" And it was.

Over the next ten years, I mentioned the opportunity of editing the Arnold correspondence to a couple of scholars who I thought might be persuaded to undertake the task. They were intrigued, and both pondered the idea at length before saying "maybe"--someday. In 1970, I decided that if the Arnold family would give its consent I would do the editing. A letter to the executrixes of the Arnold estate, Mrs. Thurman Arnold and Mrs. Carolyn Agger Fortas, brought back the warm response, please proceed.

It has proven a challenging assignment, although I was from the first aware of the difficulty of impressing the image of Thurman Arnold's personality on paper. The introduction aspires to catch the complex, elusive, brilliant, blustering individual who was Thurman Arnold, but it is in his letters that the real Thurman Arnold comes closest to being revealed. The insecure college student out of the West, the young . . .

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