William Faulkner didn’t know Eudora Welty in April of 1943.
They were both Mississippians, both writers who preferred to work in the quiet morning hours, both fiercely private people. But they were in different worlds.
Mr. Faulkner, at 46, was at the top of the literary mountain. He’d published The Sound and the Fury, Absalom, Absalom!, As I Lay Dying. Was working out in Hollywood adapting screenplays for Howard Hawks.
Ms. Welty, at 34, was beginning her ascent. She’d just published her first novella, The Robber Bridegroom. Was living – by her own choice – in the Tudor revival house she grew up in on Pinehurst Street in Jackson.
It was the house where she’d read Mr. Faulkner. Where she’d developed a “deepest awe” for Mr. Faulkner. And it was the house where, in April of 1943, she received a letter out of the clear blue sky from Mr. Faulkner.
“Dear Welty,” it began. “A friend loaned me THE ROBBER BRIDEGROOM…You are doing very fine. Is there any way I can help you?”
Ms. Welty would frame that letter, hang it in her office where it would remain for decades. Mr. Faulkner would return to Mississippi, invite Ms. Welty boating. They would become casual friends.
But in April of 1943, Mr. Faulkner didn’t know Ms. Welty. He just knew the importance of encouragement. Even if it’s from out of the clear blue sky.