The Selected Letters of Thornton Wilder

If you’d like to know how it feels to be a distinguished and popular author of both plays and novels for a good part of the twentieth century, and to correspond with famous friends and a talented family, and to be a central figure in the events of one’s time, then his is a good book to roll around in.

– A R. Gurney, author of Love Letters

A remarkable collection. . . . What emerges from these pages is a new and sometimes surprising self-portrait of a great American artist.

– Marian Seldes

A staggering range of acquaintance. . . . Wilder was a charmer…His letter are chatty, intimate, appealingly self-deprecating.

– The New Republic

This volume of more than three hundred letters, selected from some seven thousand gathered around the world, is the first to provide a comprehensive collection of Thornton Wilder’s correspondence. Wilder was known as a man who knew everybody, and these letters vividly document the range of his friendships. Readers will find him roller-skating with Walt Disney, attending an inaugural reception for FDR at the White House, describing his life as a soldier in two World Wars, mentoring younger writers, dining out with Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor, and savoring his association with colorful local citizens during his twenty-month stay as a self-styled “hermit” in an Arizona mining town.

 

Through Wilder’s correspondence, readers can eavesdrop on his conversations with Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein. Noël Coward, Max Reinhardt, Gene Tunney, Alexander Woollcott, Laurence Olivier, Ruth Gordon, Garson Kanin, Aaron Copeland, Paul Hindemith, Leonard Bernstein, Edward Albee, and Mia Farrow. Equally absorbing are Wilder’s intimate letters to his family.

 

Wilder was a born storyteller and dramatist; we see that talent emerging in scenes and incidental dialogue in his letters. With characteristic exuberance, he draws on his vast reservoir of learning and his incessant reading to inform, encourage, instruct, and entertain. In this collection, Thornton Wilder speaks for himself in his own unique, enduring voice.

 

Edited by Robin G. Wilder and Jackson R. Bryer