‘My Dear Miss Hickman …’

EnvelopeIn 1927 a young journalism student at the University of Illinois, Frances Hickman, wrote to Don Marquis. She was preparing a class paper on the famous newspaper columnist and boldly decided to ask him directly for details of his life. Don responded with an incredible, 988-word summation of his past, present and probable future — rich with detail, honest to a fault and brutally funny.  

Don’s letter, dated December 14, 1927, was eventually given to the Library of Congress. It has been reprinted only once before, in William McCollum Jr.’s “Selected Letters of Don Marquis” (Northwoods Press, 1982).

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My dear Miss Hickman:

I am in receipt of your letter of recent date asking me to tell you something of myself which you can use in your thesis; the way you put it is: “Tell me just as much as you will about yourself.” This at once plunges me into a difficulty—just how much to tell about myself in any perfectly proper thesis submitted to the authorities of any reputable university by any young woman student of Journalism, (for my secretary assures me you must be a young woman on account of the hand writing.)

With regard to my past it can all be summed up by saying I have been a promising young man in literary circles for at least thirty years. With regard to my present, I am in a very low and depressed state of mind, consequent upon having the greatest romantic drama ever written in America [“Out of the Sea”] turn out to be a commercial failure; and in planning a campaign of wholesale murder, mayhem and arson against certain dramatic critics, not to mention a couple of actors. With regard to my future I have no hopes: fountains of evil which have welled up in me on account of various literary disappointments have no legal outlet in the way of dissipation: the time is past when one could get drunk and forget a licking. Continue Reading →