Letter to the Editor – NY Times Article

27 Nov

(Here is my Letter to the Editor concerning the article on my Grandfather, Wilbur Lucius Cross, and his wonderful writing and Thanksgiving Proclamations. The article can be seen in the below post and the Proclamation below that)

The “Thanksgiving Day Scripture” editorial in the Times  by Lincoln Caplan, about my grandfather, Wilbur Cross Lucius Cross,  was of course  most interesting to me as the namesake of the subject and an author whose greatest desire has always been to emulate  his ability to express ideas so clearly and succinctly, both in speaking and in writing.  But the sad fact is that we who are known as writers and editors today  are ruled more by technology and the ability to enlist machines in our calling than on plain old-fashioned  penmanship which requires time and thought, word by word, and sentence by sentence.

I was fortunate to have spent many hours with him in his study, not only going over various works I was writing, but discussing his own work  as editor of  The Yale Review and the biographies with which he himself was authoring. Looking back, I well recall how astonished I was at the way he turned out page after page in the old-fashioned way: dipping a quill-type pen in an inkwell without ever spilling a drop, and neatly onto each succeeding page. It was, to me at least, astonishing how he could pre-determine exactly what he was going to write–including punctuation marks and spellings–without crossing marks and rewrites, page after page. To my knowledge he never even used a fountain pen in all of his writings, which included more than a dozen lengthy biographies and other historical books, not to mention scores of articles and essays. He was horrified at the new “backward” approach to writing—spew everything out onto a page  then  cut, paste, and edit it, if possible, and rethink what you really wanted to say. I daresay that his most notable proclamations were almost exactly what he wrote the first time around, and in no way a series of writes and rewrites. (I wish I could say the same for this letter).

– Wilbur Lucius Cross, III.  

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Posted by on November 27, 2010 in Books


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