Litkicks Message Board Archive

Found It! Text of Wolfe's letter, written hours before he died.

Posted to WritersAndGenres




Wolfe was about 33 years old before he died. He had been hiking in the Northwest when headaches caused him to go to a hospital. To relieve his head pain a hole was drilled in his head and fluid rushed out like a firehose. They found tabucules in his head had consumed his brain. Hours before he died, he wrote this letter to Max Perkins, his editor at Scribners ...

Dear Max:

I'm sneaking this against orders-- but "I've got a hunch"-- and I wanted to write these words to you.

I've made a long voyage and been to a strange country, and I've seen the dark man very close; and I don't think I was too much afraid of him, but so much of mortality still clings to me-- I wanted most desperately to live and still do, and I thought about you all 1000 times, and wanted to see you all again, and there was the impossible anguish and regret of all the work I had not done, of all the work I had to do-- and I know now I am just a grain of dust, and I feel as if a great window has been opened on life I did not know about before-- and if I come through this, I hope to God I am a better man, and in some strange way I can't explain I know I am a deeper and wiser one-- If I get on my feet and out of here, it will be months before I head back, but if I get on my feet, I'll come back.

-- Whatever happens-- I had this "hunch" and wanted to write you and tell you, no matter what happens or has happened, I shall always think of you and feel about you the way it was that 4th of July day 3 yrs. ago when you met me at the boat, and we went out on the cafe on the river and had a drink and later went on top of the tall building and all the strangeness and glory and the power of life and of the city was below--

Yours always,
Tom