From The Desk of Maxwell Perkins

A Letter to Ernest Hemingway

max and ernest
Maxwell Perkins and Ernest Hemingway
in Key West, Florida, January 1935.

Maxwell Perkins served as the head editor of Scribner for over 37 years. By his death in 1947 he had worked with some of the most vital and enduring writers in American literature—including Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Thomas Wolfe. Regarded as one of the most creative and visionary editors of all time, Perkins’s letters to his authors are evidence of his deep care and talent. In this letter from 1940, Perkins reaches out to Hemingway following the completion of  For Whom the Bell Tolls to share some encouragement.


September 20, 1940


Now that everything is done that can be done, and done magnificently on your part, I just want to say that I think that to have written this book [For Whom The Bell Tolls] in fifteenth months’ time was miraculous. This hardly need be said, but you seemed to think that you had taken a very long time to it. If you have taken five years to such a book no one would have thought it was a long time—apart from the fact that there isn’t anybody alive who could have written such a book anyhow. It may be silly to say this but you several times spoke of the time taken, as if it worried you. Of course, in a practical sense it might have worried you temporarily, but the fact of having done it in that space was a great feat.

Now I am looking out for books for you, since you at last have leisure. I’ll send you Dawn Powell’s [Angels On Toast] early next week…

Always yours,



For Whom the Bell Tolls

For Whom the Bell Tolls

By Ernest Hemingway