Friday, 16 March 2012

Very rich Americans: polite letter

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In July of 1952, Nancy Mitford wrote to her friend, the famous novelist Evelyn Waugh, and asked:
"What do you do with all the people who want interviews, with fan letters & with fans in the flesh? Just a barrage of nos?"
Waugh's reply contained the following — a list of the stock responses he used in such situations.

(Source: Evelyn Waugh: A Biography; Image: Evelyn Waugh, via.)

I am not greatly troubled by fans nowadays. Less than one a day on the average. No sour grapes when I say they were an infernal nuisance. I divide them into...

(a) Humble expressions of admiration. To these a post-card saying "I am delighted to learn that you enjoyed my book. E. W."
(b) Impudent criticism. No answer.
(c) Bores who wish to tell me about themselves. Post-card saying "Thank you for interesting letter. E. W."
(d) Technical criticism, eg. One has made a character go to Salisbury from Paddington. Post-card: "Many thanks for your valuable suggestion. E. W."
(e) Humble aspirations of would-be writers. If attractive a letter of discouragement. If unattractive a post-card.
(f) Requests from University Clubs for a lecture. Printed refusal.
(g) Requests from Catholic Clubs for lecture. Acceptance.
(h) American students of "Creative Writing" who are writing theses about one & want one, virtually, to write their theses for them. Printed refusal.
(i) Tourists who invite themselves to one’s house. Printed refusal.
(j) Manuscript sent for advice. Return without comment.

I also have some post-cards with my photograph on them which I send to nuns.

In case of very impudent letters from married women I write to the husband warning him that his wife is attempting to enter into correspondence with strange men.

Oh, and of course...

(k) Autograph collectors: no answer.
(l) Indians & Germans asking for free copies of one's books: no answer.
(m) Very rich Americans: polite letter. They are capable of buying 100 copies for Christmas presents.

I think that more or less covers the field.