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Porter, Katherine Anne (1890-1980)
Typed letter Signed, Southbury, Connecticut. 23 October 1957 to Douglas Watson, discussing a theatrical collaboration

Quarto, two pages, formerly folded, in good, clean legible condition.

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Katherine Anne Porter was an American writer best known for her sole full length novel, Ship of Fools. Porter is remembered primarily for the restrained style and evocative symbolism of her short stories and novellas. She exemplifies the devotion to an aesthetic of irony and restraint that is often seen as a defining element of modernism. This letter discusses a theatrical adaption of her work. Douglas Watson  (1921-1989) was an acclaimed actor on the New York stage, who went on to star  in film and television.


“Dear Mr. Watson,

It was very good of you to take the time and trouble to write an account of affairs in this play project. I have seen several advertisements, and my niece sent me a review, besides the two you sent me, all I thought very good and they did give me hope that the Anta performance will lead to an off-Broadway run.

The token check is at once touching and funny, but I see it is signed by you and I hope it did not come out of your bank account!  I shall be mean enough to spend it; it will exactly cover my fare from here to New York and return, and taxi cab fare to the theatre and back – who am I to despise such a useful sum? Thank you for that, too.

I am going up to New York tomorrow afternoon for dinner with friends and on Friday morning I shall go to the country with them and shall be back late Sunday night. On Monday I have no engagement except for dinner, and if you are having a final rehearsal, maybe I could come and we would find time for a talk then? Or is that simply trying to do too many things at once? I shall of course be there for the matinée with my nephew, but we are engaged for cocktails just afterward, and then dinner, and then a party, and I MUST get back here Wednesday by midday, so unless we can manage something for Monday, I don’t know what to say. I do want badly to talk it over with you, and in any event, I should be happy to know you personally, you have been really so courageous in tackling this difficult business with no reward except glory, if that – working for the love of the work, which is the one motive in this world I believe I understand absolutely, and respect above all others. I hope this doesn’t sound stuffy. It doesn’t feel stuffy, but very light hearted and free.

Since writing the above, I have talked by telephone with Cyrilly Abels, who is my hostess for Tuesday evening, (Managing Editor of Mademoiselle, a pub you likely wouldn’t know) and I find that what I mistook for a cocktail party means her customary two rounds before dinner, beginning at a discreet seven o’clock. (By the way, she has bought tickets for her entire dinner party, and will be there with a cheering section. She has instructed Frank O’Connor’s young wife to go early and hold down a row of good seats for all of them.) What I mean now to say is this: if you are not too tired, or not otherwise engaged, could we have a little conversation after the play? The others can go on and I will stay if you are able to see me.

Please send me a note or message care Wheeler, 410 Park Avenue, or call Monday or Tuesday if you prefer: Plaza 3-6344. If there is no answer, call Plaza, 1-2499. I don’t get to New York very often, and so I have to spread myself pretty thin, but I’m bound to be somewhere. Maybe the note or telegram waiting for me would be more certain.

And so looking forward very merrily to seeing the play and meeting you and maybe even the other members of the cast?

Katherine Anne Porter”



American National Biography, volume 17, pp. 704- 706