"When I found these cigarettes you had left I thought at first to keep them as a remembrance. But I am far from needing a remembrance." —From Max Perkins's first letter to Elizabeth Lemmon, dated 14 April 1922
Maxwell E. Perkins, famed editor of such literary luminaries as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Zora Neale Hurston, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, and Thomas Wolfe, was a man whose personal and professional lives often intersected. Nowhere is this more evident than in his correspondence with Elizabeth Lemmon, the Virginia socialite who became his long-distance confidante. Despite the platonic nature of their relationship, others realized the intensity of their connection. The letters contained in As Ever Yours, published here for the first time, reveal an epistolary love story—and they provide fresh insights into Perkins the man and Perkins the editor.
Max first met Elizabeth in 1922 at the Perkins home in Plainfield, New Jersey. Immediately drawn to her stark beauty and southern charm, he struck up a correspondence with her that lasted until his death in 1947. As Ever Yours contains 121 of Perkins's letters to Lemmon as well as the twenty extant letters from Lemmon to Perkins; the rest are presumed lost or destroyed. Letters from Fitzgerald and Wolfe also shed light on the pair's dynamic relationship.
The letters make for compelling reading as Perkins details his personal life in New Jersey and Connecticut and his professional life in the New York publishing world. The writers he discovered, edited, and encouraged at Charles Scribner's Sons emerge as endearing and believable characters, brought to life in Perkins's vivid narrative voice. He is witty, self-deprecating, and painterly in his descriptions of people and locales together with the social milieu of his day. Protected by distance, Max used his letter-writing relationship to unburden himself in a way he could not with his coworkers, his authors, or even his wife—and these letters simultaneously highlight his editorial judgment and disclose his private feelings.
Expertly edited by Rodger L. Tarr, As Ever Yours will be important to students and scholars of the history of publishing. The Perkins-Lemmon letters illuminate the thoughts and experiences of the greatest literary editor of the twentieth century.