Thurber, James: Signed letter to Addison Barker

Letter to Addison Barker
Thurber and his wife seated on wall at Felicity Hall in Somerset, Bermuda
Letter to Addison Barker
Thurber and his wife seated on wall at Felicity Hall in Somerset, Bermuda

Thurber, James: Signed letter to Addison Barker

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Thurber, James (1894 – 1961)

Letter to Addison Barker

American writer and humorist best known for his cartoons in The New Yorker magazine. Typed letter signed. (“James Thurber”). The Ledgelets, Somerset Bridge, Bermuda. 1 June 1951. 1 page, 4to.(8½ × 11 inches). To poet and folklorist Addison Barker.

Dear Mr. Barker: I have taken too long to thank you for the book of poems, which are excellent and charming. I am especially fond of your poem about the design in the chaos of the magpie’s nest, and tried to work a reference to it into a piece I was working on when the book arrived, only to discover that, while it enhanced the paragraph, the prose didn’t do justice to the verse. Poetry has to be quoted in full if it is not to lose its flavor and effect. Maybe that is why Pope wrote so many couplets. He must have known they could be easily and successfully quoted in any context, as they have been ever since he wrote them. Thanks again and all best wishes. Sincerely yours, James Thurber

After working at the Paris Embassy during World War I, Thurber returned to the U.S. and worked as a journalist for such publications as The Columbus DispatchNew York Evening Post and, most famously, The New Yorker magazine. His colleague at The New Yorker, E.B. White, was the first to notice the genius and wit in Thurber’s unique cartoons, literally discovering them in a trash can and getting them published in the magazine. White and Thurber became frequent collaborators on such projects as Is Sex Necessary? or, Why You Feel The Way You Do.

Thurber’s creative output was vast and varied, including short stories, cartoons, plays, essays, poems, fables, and magazine articles. Among his most notable works are the short stories “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ and “The Catbird Seat”. Thurber visited Bermuda multiple times, including in 1950, when he wrote the fantasy The 13 Clocks.

Our letter discusses Barker’s book The Magpie’s Nest and the poem that gave the volume its title. The book was published by Wings Press in 1950. Thurber also mentions frequently quoted 18th-century English poet and satirist Alexander Pope (1688 – 1744).

With Thurber’s large, energetic signature in pencil. Folded and near fine. Accompanied by the original envelope addressed to Barker at Marshall College in Huntington, West Virginia and a black-and-white print of the 1939 photograph showing Thurber and his wife seated on wall at Felicity Hall in Somerset, Bermuda.

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