STEINBECK, JOHN. 1902-1968.
6 Autograph Letters Signed ("John," "John Steinbeck" "J."), 11 pp recto and verso; 1 Typed Letter Signed ("John Steinbeck") with holograph amendments, 2 pp recto and verso; and 1 Typed Letter, 2 pp recto and verso; legal folio and 8vo, Pacific Grove, CA and New York, 1947-49, typed letters on personal letterhead, original transmittal envelopes, folding creases.
A COLLECTION OF LETTERS RICH IN PERSONAL AND EMOTIONAL DETAIL FROM A VOLATILE PERIOD IN STEINBECK'S LIFE. The letters are written to Pamela Marsh, a young acquaintance of Steinbeck's sister Mary, who aspires to an acting career in New York. In a typed letter written from New York in February 1947, Steinbeck offers Marsh a frank, if bleak, assessment of her chances: "If you have a divine stupidity and a refusal to admit the law of averages, you will probably do what you set out to do. Everything is against you. Your chance of survival is practically non existent and yet people do survive and they do get where you think you want to get ... I suppose the two necessary qualifications are stupidity and energy ... I don't have a terribly wide acquaintance in the theatre but I could send you to the people I do know and let them try to discourage you."
In spite of his discouragement, Marsh does move to New York to pursue an acting career, and, the next letter in the collection is dated January 13, 1949, from Pacific Grove, California, where Steinbeck has settled into an old family cottage following his second divorce. Reflecting on his new situation and surroundings, Steinbeck writes: "Much water, or whatever it was, under the bridge for me this year. Very hard and sad at first but I am getting used to it now ... I'm doing my own time and getting strong and mean and tough which is a good thing ... [H]ere I know the names of grass and trees and things like that." He goes on to offer a harsh critique of his neighbors: "The people are the same frightened, weak, cowardly and enslaved ... They make a social prestige matter of their fears instead of trying to defeat them and so ruin themselves. They share their little tragedies. They have completely lost gallantry." In the following four autograph letters, from January to May 1949, Steinbeck continues to write about his new life in Pacific Grove; his sons Tom and John; a disastrous visit to New York to see them, marred by bitterness over the divorce ("The hostility is deafening. No happiness can ever happen in that house"); his feelings on work and companionship; and many other matters besides.
In a letter of January 29, he mentions a planned visit to Mexico: "Working on my script [i.e. Viva Zapata!], and I need the authority of language and country side for verification." In the next letter, he writes, "I got well in Mexico. I don't know what happened but some cog fell back into place and I ran home and got to work and I have been working like mad ever since and feeling very good excruciatingly good" (February 25).
In his letter of May 20, 1949, Steinbeck encloses a letter for Marsh to take to Henry White, president of World Video, asking him to introduce Marsh to the people at the Actor's Studio in New York. That letter of introduction, along with another letter from Steinbeck to his sister Mary discussing Marsh's theater aspirations, comprise the seventh and eighth letters in the lot.