SEPTEMBER 16, 1936
WASHINGTON—I left New York last night at midnight, but at six o'clock walking into the Colony Club with a sinking heart and that peculiar feeling one sometimes gets in the depths of one's anatomy when one is about to do something that one dreads and wishes one had never promised to do!
In a moment of enthusiasm my secretary told the publishers of Martha Gellhorn's book, "The Trouble I've Seen" that when I read the first story aloud at home my listeners wept! He jumped to the conclusion that this was a tribute to my reading whereas it was a tribute to a very remarkable piece of writing. He asked if I would read that story over again to some friends of his, I agreed with alacrity for it was little enough for me to do not only for a friend but for a book which I feel on its own merits should be read by many people in the next few months.
But, as the day drew nearer, my terror grew greater. Why had I ever been so conceited as to think that I could read aloud to a group of really critical, and erudite people? Any one might have had my shoes for the asking at six o'clock yesterday afternoon!
The first person I saw on going in was my old friend Mrs. Percy Pennybacker, who had told me she was going to be in town and would like to come if she could. She at once gave me a sense of reassurance. I talked to her for a few minutes and when the moment came to start, somehow or other I began, and then the story got me just as it had the first time. The description of the old woman, as one of the gentlemen present said: "something like Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch, 1936 style." The humor which is after all so closely tied to the tragedies of life, and the vivid bits of characterization. Before I knew it the first part was ended and it was seven-twenty.
This American edition will come out on the twenty-third of this month. I can not tell you how Martha Gellhorn, young, pretty, college graduate, good home, more or less Junior League background, with a touch of exquisite Paris clothes and "esprit" thrown in, can write as she does. She has an understanding of many people and many situations in this country of ours, but she can make them live for us. Let us be thankful that she can for we need badly the interpretation that she can give us to understand each other.
I arrived in Washington early this morning, had a friend lunch with me, one or two interviews and otherwise just mail—which is always with us!