January 21, 1918
Just got your letter of the 13 today. Have had the book (West is
West) for several weeks; and by robbing my pillow have waded through
It is a Powerful Book. It deserved to have been printed by
someone who knew a fount of type from a tin can, evacuated. It still
hurts my Virgin Feelings to see misspelling and typographical
You have done a very extraordinary thing. Very uneven, in places
hazy, not entirely pulled together to a final Draw-String Novel made
up of episodes. But you have made the Best-Talking book that ever
came out of the mouth of the West. The language they use on occasion
is frequent and painful and free.
You have three heroes, any one of whom is good enough for a whole
novel—and all so different that they would do for three. I think
probably you were wasteful to chuck them all into one book. “Dick”
and “Crooknose” and “Emil”—they are people. You also have some
And to my surprise you have some Desirable Ladies.
I surely hope that you will be shamed by this blacksmith imprint,
and insist on a new edition, and go over it yourself, and not only
kill the compositor and the proof-reader but also get yourself
together a little….
(Here Lummis details some mistakes in names and punctuation.)
I often think back to the times when I first bumped your knuckles
for doing just what you do now. I never saw any work of yours that I
didn’t admire. I never saw any of it that I didn’t want to kick you
for not doing it better, as you are perfectly competent to do. I
guess I never saw any of it that I didn’t tell you about it what I
am telling you now—that you have done a great thing but ought to be
ashamed for not doing it better.
“Caboza” is not only perfectly proper, but the only sane thing to
say nowadays, likewise “palisada”. A good many letters were
interchangeable in the old Spanish—and for that matter, they didn’t
spell any better than the old English or the old French, both of
whom raised hell with spelling as we know it now.
“Penalosa” has only one “s”—though in the ancient Spanish the “s”
was often duplicated.
Of course “Xiqilpa” is impossible in Spanish. There must be a “u”
after the “q”. And you would do a great deal better to spell it with
a “J” instead of an X…
(He continues a bit in this vein.)
As to any of your willfulness, I think I shall have nothing to
say. I raise hell myself sometimes. But you ought to bump your own
head against the wall for seriously hampering a really noble book…
All here is very tame and steady. We are taking care of the
missions and preparing to seed the Southwest with little regional
history-rooms to save their own mementoes, and the Southwest Museum
is the liveliest thing you ever saw in education. And everyone is
well and busy. And we have times here every now and then that would
do your heart good and would even reconcile you to temporary absence
from the East. If you could be wirelessed over here for one of our
Sunday evenings, I think you would not mind the lost motion or Time
Power to your elbow! I have enjoyed this book as few in many
years. That is the reason I am fussing to cuss you about it.
With love and best wishes for you and yours,
Always your friend,
(Charles F. Lummis)
From Sandpapers: The lives and letters of Eugene Manlove
Rhodes and Charles Fletcher Lummis, by Frank M. Clark (Sunstone
Press, Santa Fe, 1994). Used by permission.