The best rejection letter ever in the whole history of rejection letters

220px-Gertrude_steinI suspect most young people have never heard of Gertrude Stein — or at least, most straight young people, since Stein lives on as a gay icon. She was famous in her day for her prose style, which some called experimental, some called lyrical, and some called insane. The Wikipedia article on Stein actually does a nice job of summarizing her prose:

Typical quotes are: “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose”; “Out of kindness comes redness and out of rudeness comes rapid same question, out of an eye comes research, out of selection comes painful cattle”; about her childhood home in Oakland, “There is no there there”; and “The change of color is likely and a difference a very little difference is prepared. Sugar is not a vegetable.”

[snip]

Her use of repetition is ascribed to her search for descriptions of the “bottom nature” of her characters, such as in The Making of Americans where the narrator is described through the repetition of narrative phrases such as “As I was saying” and “There will be now a history of her.” Stein used many Anglo-Saxon words and avoided words with “too much association”.

Stein predominantly used the present progressive tense, creating a continuous present in her work. . . .

Here’s a good example of her early writing:

A RED STAMP.

If lilies are lily white if they exhaust noise and distance and even dust, if they dusty will dirt a surface that has no extreme grace, if they do this and it is not necessary it is not at all necessary if they do this they need a catalogue.

In 1912, shortly after she began her literary career, Stein submitted a manuscript (“M.S.”) to Arthur Fifield, a publisher in London. He, in return, wrote her the most magnificent rejection letter I have ever seen:

Gertrude Stein rejection letter

April 19 1912

Dear Madam,

I am only one, only one, only one.  Only one being, one at the same time.  Not two, not three, only one.  Only one life to live, only sixty minutes in one hour.  Only one pair of eyes.  Only one brain.  Only one being.  Being only one, having only one pair of eyes, having only one time, having only one life, I cannot read your M.S. three or four times.  Not even one time.  Only one look, only one look is enough.  Hardly one copy would sell here.  Hardly one.  Hardly one.

Many thanks.  I am returning the M.S. by registered post.  Only one M.S. by one post.

Sincerely yours,

Arthur Fifield

Mental Floss has assembled a collection of nine other rejection letters sent to famous people, in addition to Fifield’s letter to Stein.  All are somewhat interesting.  Only the one (the one, only the one) to Stein is brilliant.

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Comments

  1. Charles Martel says

    Dear Mr. Bellerophon:
     
    We are in receipt of your manuscript, “Peg o’ My Heart,” which purports to be an account of your collaboration with “Pegasus,” a flying horse.
     
    Well, a horse is a horse, of course. Of course! And nobody can fly on a horse, of course. That is unless, of course, the horse is the famous Henry the Horse who danced the waltz at Pablo Fanque’s Fair in London.
     
    Pegasus is not Henry.
     
    With great regret, I am returning your manuscript.
     
    Best regards,
     
    Jay McInerney

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