Advanced Search

West, Rebecca.

LETTERS: Rebecca West - William Shawn Correspondence.

Letter(s)

Correspondence with William Shawn
1952-1975
West, Rebecca. Correspondence with William Shawn, 1952-1975.
A collection of 16 letters - 14 typed and two autograph - and 5 telegrams from Rebecca West to William Shawn. Her letters to him begin early in his tenure as editor at The New Yorker, in 1952 (there are two earlier letters, from 1950 and 1951 from RW to Harold Ross, Shawn's predecessor), and continue until 1975. Also included are copies of Shawn's responses to her; one autograph letter from West's husband, Henry Andrews, to Shawn; letters, telegrams and memos from various secretaries; and a copy of Bernard Levin's Memorial Service for West.
West's letters to Shawn are articulate, verbose, humorous and intelligent; she discusses her work in detail and she communicates her ideas crisply and effectively. She consistently keeps Shawn abreast of the progress she is making on her articles or her books, and, in some cases, suggests new topics. It is evident that West and Shawn had deep professional respect - as well as tender personal feelings - for each other.  
In the July 7th letter, quoted here to represent the tone and content of the archive, she discusses the trial for the Marshall case - in which a young British man was charged with espionage for the Russians. She describes it with acid wit and palpable frustration:
It is a difficult case. The boy is a fairy who has gone into this thing, I think, for sheer gain. I would not know if he were a practicing fairy but he should have been born a girl. He has spun a story about having had a terrible time in Moscow Embassy because he had to mix with striped pants diplomats who made him feel his humble social origin.
I have gone into this thoroughly with the Ambassador under whom he served for nearly all his year's service in Moscow, Sir David Kelly, and the truth is that he was one of a community of 100, most of whom were his own kind. But his family tell the same story; and are the nastiest family I have ever interviewed. They stink several malodorous ways. I have never felt absolutely no pity for the relatives of an accused person before, but these lied so viciously and were so reptilian that I would cheerfully have done anything I could to get the boy out of jail and put them in.
Shawn responds to her article with praise, gushing in a telegram, "Marshall piece fascinated us and gave us the customary feelings of wonder and delight" (December 2, 1952). It is easy to imagine her work generating feelings like these; soon after, she writes a proposal for another piece, and describes it so compellingly that it seems impossible for Shawn to decline. She begins: "There is a very fancy murder here in Rillington Road, Notting Hill Gate, which is our dingy not quite slum quarter - the sort of place that might have been dreamed by Graham Greene. The murderer liked ladies after they were dead; and was so seemly in his bearing and dress that the world wondered why he should live in a street where there were such wicked things as tarts and bookmakers" (April 6, 1953).  
Each letter is summarized below.
Typed letter signed, "Anne Charles,' (secretary to West), to Harold Ross; March 19, 1950; one leaf of Ibstone House stationary; torn at top left corner (not affecting text). Enclosing two parts of West's article on the Setty Murder Trial.
Typed letter carbon, "Rebecca," to Harold Ross; August 6, 1951; three leaves of paper, stapled. An entertaining letter alerting him to the arrival of her family in New York and telling him about an encounter she had with Alan Moorehead.
Autograph letter signed, "Rebecca," to William Shawn; undated; one leaf of Ibstone House stationary, creased. Providing him with her address in Italy, and requesting funds.
Typed letter signed, "Rebecca West," to William Shawn; marked "Private and Confidential;" July 7, 1952; one leaf of Ibstone House stationary; recto and verso. Discussing a trial about which she is writing an article, explains difficulties she's having.
Typed note signed, "Anne Charles," to William Shawn; November 8, 1952; one leaf of Ibstone House stationary. Enclosing West's article on the Marshall Spy case.
Typed letter signed, "Rebecca W," to William Shawn; November 10, 1952; one leaf of Ibstone House stationary, creased; recto and verso. Explaining the difficulties she had with the article on the Marshall Spy case.
Typed Western Union cablegram from "Shawn," to Rebecca West; December 2, 1952. Thanking her for her article; describes it as fascinating.
Typed letter signed, "Anne Charles," to William Shawn; December 22, 1952; one leaf of Ibstone House stationary; creased. Asking to send a check for the article.
Typed carbon signed, "William Shawn," to Rebecca West; January 23, 1953; one leaf of paper. Air mailing West a check for her articles, and mentioning a separate package sent to her with proofs.
Autograph letter signed, "Henry M. Andrews," to William Shawn; January 28, 1953; one leaf of Ibstone House stationary; recto and verso; creased. Requesting copies of the issue in which West's Marshall article will appear. (With a typed inter-office memo telling Shawn that six copies of the Feb. 14 issue being mailed to Andrews).
Typed Western Union cablegram from "Bill Shawn," to Rebecca West; February 4, 1953. Telling her the first part of her article will run that week, and asking for proofs with changes for the second part of the article.
Typed letter signed, "Rebecca," to William Shawn; April 6, 1953; one leaf of Ibstone House stationary; recto and verso. Alerting Shawn to a possible topic for another article she could write.
Typed letter signed, "Rebecca," to William Shawn; May 1, 1953; one leaf of Ibstone House stationary; recto and verso; creased. Explaining the falsity of allegations that she is in support of Senator Joseph McCarthy and asking Shawn to deny the news if people ask him about it.
Typed carbon from William Shawn to Rebecca West; May 18, 1953; one leaf of paper. Promising to defend her on the McCarthy matter.
Typed letter signed, "Rebecca West," to William Shawn; January 16, 1954; marked "Private and Confidential;" one leaf of Ibstone House stationary; creased. Alerting him about a false announcement claiming she will be a contributor to a new magazine.
Typed letter signed "Rebecca," to William Shawn; February 6, 1954; one leaf of Ibstone House stationary; recto and verso; creased. Thanking him for sending provisions and telling him of her bad experience with strange houseguests.
Typed inter-office memo, from "Forster," to William Shawn; December 23, 1954; one leaf of paper. Alerting him to loss of source material for West's piece and asking if it is necessary to contact her about it.
Typed telegram from "Rebecca West," to William Shawn; December 15, 1954; one leaf; creased. Regarding material on Setty and Marshall articles.
Western Union telegram from "Bill Shawn," to Rebecca West; January 25, 1955; one leaf. Apologizing that checking material had been thrown away, and promising that checking material on forthcoming articles will be held longer.
Typed letter signed, "Rebecca," to William Shawn; January 30, 1955; one leaf of Ibstone House stationary; recto and verso; creased. Explaining the legal necessity that the magazine keep the source material she sends them.
Typed radiogram from Bill Shawn to Rebecca West; January 25, 1957; one leaf. Asking if West would be interested in writing a piece about the Adams case.
Typed telegram from Rebecca West to William Shawn; January 29, 1957; one leaf. Explaining that she's too busy working on her novel to write a piece on the case.
Typed carbon from William Shawn to Rebecca West; June 27, 1958; one leaf. Expressing his pleasure at her story submission, "Parthenope."
Typed letter signed "Rebecca West," to William Shawn; March 7, 1961; three leaves of Ibstone House stationary. Explaining the complications which arose from an article by West followed by letters between other people regarding that article.
Together with:
Typed letter carbon from Rebecca West to Arthur McDowell; June 9, 1960; two leaves; creased. Clearing up a misunderstanding.
Telegram from William Shawn, to A.D. Peters; April 28, 1964; one leaf. Requesting permission to print new edition of "The Meaning of Treason."
Telegram from Rebecca West to William Shawn; April 30, 1964; one leaf; creased. Saying she is distressed about his cable.
Telegram from A.D. Peters to William Shawn; May 1, 1964; one leaf; creased. Explaining situation about article.
Typed letter signed, "Rebecca," to William Shawn; May 2, 1964; three pages of typing paper; with staple holes; creased. Expressing her distress regarding a bungled situation about her "Meaning of Treason" article.
Telegram from William Shawn, to Rebecca West; June 25, 1964; one leaf. Sending  her best wishes for her health and understanding the situation with her article was beyond her control.
Telegram from William Shawn to Rebecca West; September 23, 1966; one leaf. Offering to advance money to her if she wrote a piece for the New Yorker while she traveled to Mexico.
Telegram from Rebecca West to William Shawn; September 27, 1966; one leaf; creased. Accepting his offer.
Telegram from Odette Arnaud to William Shawn; November 9, 1966; one leaf; creased. Asking for West's address in Mexico.
Telegram from Rebecca West to William Shawn; November 22, 1966; one leaf; creased. Updating on her progress.
Typed letter signed, "Rebecca," to William Shawn; March 6, 1967; one leaf of Ibstone House stationary; recto and verso. Updating him on Mexico article and her health, and sending along a poem written by her friend for consideration of publication.
Typed letter carbon, William Shawn to Rebecca West; April 11, 1967; one leaf. Thanking her for her update and the poem.
Typed letter signed, "Rebecca," to William Shawn; November 10, 1967; one leaf of blue Ibstone House typing paper; recto and verso. Informing him that her piece on Mexico is incomplete and offering reasons why.
Typed letter carbon from William Shawn to Rebecca West; November 17, 1967; one lead. Sending condolences.
Telegram from William Shawn to Rebecca West; November 18, 1968; one leaf. Sending sympathy about her husband Henry's death.
Typed letter signed, "Rebecca," to William Shawn; two leaves of blue Ibstone House typing paper; rectos and versos; creased; with envelope. Explaining the circumstances of her husband's death.
Together with:
Printed program for the funeral of Henry Maxwell Andrews (written by West).
Autograph letter signed, "Rebecca," to William Shawn; April 21, 1969; one leaf of Kingston House North stationary; recto and verso. Promising to send him something on Mexico and explaining she sold her house.
Typed letter carbon William Shawn to Rebecca West; June 11, 1969; one leaf. Wishing her well in her new living arrangements.
Typed letter signed, "Rebecca," to William Shawn; June 29, 1969; two leaves of Kingston House North stationary; creased. Humorous proposal for a story involving mail that circulates after people die.
Together with;
Printed "Boar Performance Test Report" from the Meat and Livestock Commission, for the week ending June 19, 1969. Recto and verso; creased.
Typed letter signed, "Rebecca," to William Shawn; January 30, 1975; three leaves of Kingston House North stationary, with staple holes; creased. Alerting him to her eye operation and discussing a matter about Gordon Ray's book.
Typed letter carbon William Shawn to Rebecca West; February 19, 1975; one leaf. Wishing her a speedy recovery from her operation and asking her to forget about an advance made to her nine years previous for an article she never finished writing.
Typed copy of a four page program of Rebecca West's memorial service; April 21, 1983.
(#9069)

© 2011-2017 Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, Inc. All Rights Reserved.