restricted access To the Literary Editor of The Chicago Daily News
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432 ] To the Literary Editor of The Chicago Daily News1 Sir, According to your issue of the 21st of February, Mr. Ben Hecht has stated that he met me in London, and added that he knows that I thoroughlyhateAmericansandeverythingtheywriteandread .2 Mr.BenHecht has never met me in London or anywhere else, and I hope that you will kindly publish this fact as I think that if it is brought to Mr. Hecht’s notice he is not likely in future ever to want to meet me. I do not know what credit is usually given in Chicago to Mr. Hecht’s statements but I trust that your readers will observe that as Mr. Hecht has on a point of fact said a thing that is not,3 it is superfluous for me even to contradict the further statements which Mr. Hecht has made about me. I am, Sir, Your obedient Servant, [T. S. Eliot] Notes 1. This letter, dated 20 Mar 1923 and sent from 9 Clarence Gate Gdns (see L2 83), was not actually published; the literary editor of the Chicago Daily News, Harry Hansen (1884-1977), summarized it and added the following critical comment in his weekly column of 11 Apr 1923: “However, we have heard so often of Mr. Eliot’s contempt for American writing that we shall be glad to give him space to explain his views if he wishes to do so” (14). 2.Thenovelist,dramatist,andscreenwriterBenHecht(1894-1964),acolumnistfortheChicago Daily News, had just founded his own biweekly paper, the Chicago Literary Times, the first issue of whichappearedon26Feb1923,declaring“openseason”onAmericanauthorsandartists.Hisremarks onEliotandTheWasteLand,madeduringawarm-upforthenewpaperatSchlogl’srestaurant,were quotedinHansen’scolumnof21Feb:“Thepoemhascertainmeritsinit,”saidHecht,“asisnaturalin apoemwrittenbyabigmanlikeEliot,butitdifferssoradicallyfromhisworkin‘Prufrock’andother poemsthatIhavenodoubtthatitwascarefullyplannedbyEliotasahoaxontheAmericanpublic.I met Eliot in London and know that he thoroughly hates Americans and everything they write and read and would consider him wholly capable of hoaxing the Dial and all its friends” (14). 3. In Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels IV. iii, Gulliver recalls his conversation with a Houyhnhnm: “He replied, that I must needs be mistaken, or that I said the thing which was not. (For they have no word in their language to express lying or falsehood).” Gulliver’s Travels, The Tale of a Tub, and The Battle of the Books (Oxford UP, 1919), 279. ...