Written over an eleven-year period, these letters between Thomas
Wolfe and Aline Bernstein chronicle a love affair that was by turns
stormy, tender, bitter, and contrite.
When Wolfe met Mrs. Bernstein shortly before his twenty-fifth
birthday in 1925, she was forty-four, married, and at the pinnacle
of a successful career as a stage and costume designer. Bernstein
gave the young writer not only the unstinting love of an
experienced older woman but the financial assistance and belief in
his ability that enabled him to create Look Homeward, Angel
"I am deliberately writing the book for two or three people," he
writes to her, "first and chiefest, for you."
In letters written while Wolfe traveled in Europe, Bernstein
describes the exciting world of the theater in New York and her own
work on countless productions. Wolfe's descriptions of life,
culture, and language from Oxford to Budapest rank with the best of
his collected writings. Reproach becomes a more common theme in the
letters as the affair continues, however, by 1931 Wolfe
acknowledges that his feelings for Bernstein have altered: "I need
your help, and I need your friendship, and I need your love and
belief--but the time of madness, darkness, passion is over, we can
never relive that, we can never live through it again."
That time continues to live, however, in these letters and in the
books that both Wolfe and Mrs. Bernstein wrote about their
relationship. For those who have read Wolfe's Of Time and the
, The Web and the Rock
, or You Can't Go Home
, or Aline Bernstein's Three Blue Suits
, this correspondence provides remarkable insights
into the authors' sources.