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Charles W. Chesnutt to Richard W. Gilder, 11 April 1895

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  CHAS. W. CHESNUTT, 7361024SOCIETY FOR SAVINGS BLD'G. f Richard Watson Gilder, Esq., Editor Century Magazine, New York City. Dear Sir:-

Several years ago I sent you, through Mr. G. W. Cable, a story entitled "Rena Walden".1 You were kind enough to read through it, and expressed a willingness to see more of the author's work. You also suggested that the story be re-written along certain lines indicated by you. The attempt was made, but was not successful; in fact the story was not sensibly altered.

After five years' study of life and literature, I have recast the story of "Rena Walden", having always in mind your criticism and suggestions. It is now a novellete of about 25,000 words. I would not venture to send it to you again without asking in advance whether you would be willing to reconsider it.

I have written considerably more since this story was written, but with one exception have offered nothing for publication, having been mainly absorbed in other pursuits. I always believed in this story as a story, and hope that it may now find favor in some one's eyes as a work of art as well.

If you would be willing to read this story again with a view to its publication in the Century, if found available, I shall be glad to forward it when I hear from you to that effect. It seemed to interest you before, and I am sure it is in every way an improvement on the former version.2

Very respectfully yours, Chas. W. Chesnutt.

Correspondent: Richard Watson Gilder (1844–1909) was the editor of The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine from 1881 until his death. Under his leadership, The Century became one of the most influential general-interest magazines in the United States. In 1889, Gilder rejected an essay by Chesnutt and in 1890 he rejected "Rena Walden." Both had come to him via George Washington Cable. Of the essay, "An Inside View of the Negro Question," Gilder wrote to Cable, it is "so timely and so political—in fact so partisan—that we cannot handle it. It should appear at one somewhere." He also gave his comments on "Rena Walden," in a letter to Cable, which Cable shared with Chesnutt. In 1901, Gilder accepted the short story "The March of Progress" for publication in the Century.

1. Like Chesnutt, George Washington Cable also encouraged William Scarborough to provide concrete proof of the intellectual capabilities of African Americans.[back]

2. Richard Watson Gilder, in his letter of April 17, 1895, agreed to reconsider the Rena manuscript.[back]