Happy Birthday, Dear Thornton...

(L to R) Brothers Amos and Thornton Wilder, spring of 1975, Copley Plaza Hotel, Boston.

(L to R) Brothers Amos and Thornton Wilder, spring of 1975, Copley Plaza Hotel, Boston.

50 Deepwood Drive I Hamden, Connecticut 06517 Yale 

Some are saying that it's April 12 1975

Dear Mary.

Before leaving for Europe (hope you had a lovely time) you sent me a beautiful American Wildlife Calendar. I was enjoying the pictures-the timber wolf, the woodchuck, the bison-and the mottos, Job, Walt Whitman. Dostoyevsky, Dante-when I was thunderstruck to see my name-my birthday month, April ... subscribed to a howling idiocy: "The best thing about animals li that they don't say much." I never wrote that! I never thought that! I yelled for Isabel and pointed it out to her, the tears rolling down my face. "Isabel! Somebody's played a cruel joke on me<.> WHEN DID I SAY SUCH A THING? Let's move to Arkansas until the laughter dies down."

“Don't you remember that Mr. Antrobus says it in The Skin of Our Teeth when the Dinosaur is whining about the Ice Age.”

“But l, I didn't say it.”

Then I thought of all the damaging things that could be brought up against me from that same play:

The Child Welfare Calendar: “A child is a thing that only a parent can love" Thornton Wilder.

The Anti-War Calendar: “God forgive me but I enjoyed the war; everybody's at their best in wartime.” Thornton Wilder.


No more playwriting for me.


[The next day.]

I've calmed down. I read my calendar to the end-and loved the pictures and the legends. Isabel assures me that intelligent people like Mary and Gordon Haight don't believe that I mean all those outrageous things that characters say in a book. I'm going to try and write something that doesn't misrepresent me in a farmer's almanac.


Affectionate greetings to you both and thanks for the beautiful picture-book

Old Thornt'

Mary Haight and her husband, Gordon, an English professor at Yale, were New Haven friends of the Wilder family.

This letter appears on p. 696-697 of  The Selected Letters of Thornton Wilder, edited by Robin G. Wilder and Jackson R. Bryer. 

Rosemary Strub