Letter to Mrs. R. D. Ridley from Strilbing
Mrs. R.F. Ridley,
Dear Mrs. Ridley:
My sister, Patricia Springer, forwarded me your letter in which you inquired something about me, something of my life and work.
My connection with Alabama started with my infancy. My mother was born at Gravelly Springs, Alabama sixteen miles Northwest of Florence and I spent my summers with my maternal grandfather's family ever since I was a baby until I was sixteen or seventeen years old. Nearly every one of the incidents of The Forge was told to me by my uncle, Lee Waits. He was a fountain of perpetual entertainment all through my childhood and adolescence. My mother also supplied endless material for the book, talking to me and telling about the Civil War days.
I have a deep sympathy for the young people who are growing up now, because they will never be able to make an actual believable connection in their minds between the present and the past of the South. Even with my advantage of having a mother who lived in those days the past of the South seems dreamy and unreal. For people to have had slaves...... that seems impossible. For them ever to have undergone the Reconstruction, not allowed to vote while the negroes did vote ... that is pure fantasy.
No wonder with such a past that the South has suddenly become the literary center of America. But I suppose I would better get back to myself since you want to know about me. Well, I went to school in Florence, later to University of Alabama where I was graduated in law. I practiced a year in the office of Governor O'Neal in Florence in Intelligence Row, where I lay the scenes in The Store.
It may interest your Club to know that I tried not to be precise in my description of Florence and the surrounding country because I was afraid somebody would not like for me to be writing precisely about his or her place, so I left it a little vague - when you come to try to put your finger on the exact place where the action took its course. This was suggested to me long ago by a little serial I wrote in a magazine giving a correct street address in Philadelphia. The person at that address was highly incensed, although I said nothing disrespectful in the least. This person didn't want to be pointed out.
I am glad you ladies are reading The Store and The Forge both. The two books not only go together, but there is a third inseparably bound up with them. The next will be The Temple. That will complete my trilogy on Alabama and will also complete the idea I set out to express. In fact any person stopping with just two of the novels won't have the slightest idea what I was driving at - but of course, tens of thousands of my readers will never know that and it will never disturb them.
You may be interested to know that I am now up here in New York taking a theological course just to get the background for one character in The Temple. Also I can add that theology isn't half so dry as I'll venture you ladies think it is. On the contrary I find it quite exciting. Trusting this will be of service to you in your Club, I am,
February 13, 1933
New York City