Lou Florey was Sinclair Lewis’s secretary intermittently from 1925 to 1937. According to Mark Schorer, in Sinclair Lewis: An American Life, Florey “served as drinking companion and audience, valet and bootlegger, at least as much as he served as typist.” The correspondence listed below is only a portion of the library’s Florey collection; his inscribed books, photographs and manuscripts are itemized elsewhere in this catalog.
Sinclair Lewis / Lou Florey Correspondence
(from Lewis to Florey unless otherwise indicated)
May 24, 1924 from the Hotel Chatham, N.Y.
A letter of recommendation for Florey: “For the last few days Mr. Florey … has been not only my stenographer, but my factotum.”
March 2, 1926 from the Santa Rita Hotel, Tucson
About his trip: “You were a damned fool not to come along.”
Apr. 7, 1926 from the Ambassador, Kansas City
On the Pulitzer Prize for Arrowsmith: “I haven’t myself had any official information … I am dictating this to a very pretty girl who, while she hasn’t your profound intellect, is a damn sight better looking than you are. And I also at the same time am drinking a glass of a curious liquid called Scotch … which seems to be highly prevalent out here.”
June 15, 1926 from Pequot, Minnesota
Lewis is working on Elmer Gantry: “There is a disgusting state of sobriety here.”
Oct. 18, 1926 from Washington, D.C.
Lewis wants Florey to type the final draft of Elmer Gantry.
Nov. 2, 1926 from Washington, D.C.
Invites Florey to Washington “in about a week” to do the draft.
May 31, 1927 from Paris
Declines a business proposition; Florey “could have saved a lot of controversy in those USA by not typing Elmer Gantry!”
Sept. 17, 1928 from Barnard, Vermont
House-hunting; “and we’ve found it, in your own state — a 290 acre farm.”
June 1, 1929 from Barnard, Vermont
Lewis is making home improvements, and having trouble finding liquor: “We’d been dry, except that I did get the cold which one is allowed to have once every 10 days and taking it to Doc Kidder, got one pint more — which lasted the two of us two days, which ain’t more than just hygienic and medicinal drinking.”
July 9, 1929 from Barnard, Vermont
An invitation to visit; the cats Mencken and Nathan “really have rivals in the new restaurant cats … Monkey and Little Nuisance.”
July 27, 1929 from Barnard, Vermont
Wells’s birthday presents arrived; Lewis has gotten 2 dogs.
1929? from Barnard, Vermont
“I find there was a box which I had not opened … I found in it six bottles of Scotch and a copy of ‘How to play baseball’ … All goes nobly — even if the house did get struck by lightning …”
March 14, 1930 from Monterey, Calif.
Lewis estimates Florey’s share in his income tax; his stay in Monterey “has been a great success.”
Apr. 15, 1930 from Kansas City; A press release to the Kansas City Star [carbon copy]
On Reverend Stidger; “[He] has already been able to obtain sufficient publicity out of his slight acquaintanceship with me, and I am disinclined to give him any more.”
Jan. 3, 1932 from Barnard, Vermont
Lewis asks Florey to type his short stories, and to send him a copy of his wife’s speaking schedule.
Feb. 6, 1932 from Florey to Lewis in Barnard [carbon copy]
Florey declines Lewis’s offer of a $500 loan; “I shall never forget your kindness.”
Feb. 8, 1932 from Barnard, Vermont
Lewis asks for a schedule of steamers to Bermuda, and makes suggestions on possible employment for Florey.
Feb. 8, 1932 from Florey to Lewis in Barnard [carbon copy]
An itemization of bills paid by Florey for Lewis in his absence.
Feb. 10, 1932 from Barnard, Vermont
Lewis gives Florey financial instructions, and asks for a new set of typewriter keys.
Feb. 23, 1932 from Florey to Lewis in Barnard
A report on the short stories Florey has typed; Lewis owes him $73.50.
March 1932? from East Setauket, N.Y.
Lewis is returning the rubber typewriter keys; “I don’t see any detail in which the L.C. Smith Co. could have made a worse delivery.”
Apr. 25, 1932 from Florey to Lewis in Europe [carbon copy]
An updated report on the status of all the short stories Florey has typed; “Your subscription to the New Yorker is about to expire…”
Apr. 28, 1932 from Florey to Lewis in Europe [carbon copy]
Florey is enclosing an affadavit for Lewis’s signature “in the damned finger case.”
May 2, 1932 from Florey to Lewis in Europe [carbon copy]
The 1932 directory of Yale alumni is enclosed; “I was at the apartment this morning and found very little mail.”
May 5, 1932 from Florey to Lewis in Europe [carbon copy]
“Mickey [Michael Lewis] is grand and eats everything they give him.”
May 8, 1932? from Norfolk, England
Lewis hopes to have the draft of Ann Vickers done by the time he gets home.
May 10, 1932? from Norfolk, England
He wants Dan to meet him with the car when they land.
May 16, 1932 from Norfolk, England
A telegram; Lewis will sign the affadavit on his return.
May 19, 1932 from London, England
A telegram; he wants the household moved to Barnard.
May 20, 1932 from London, England
A telegram; “Before Fernand comes get boxes pack books.”
June 2, 1932? from Barnard, Vermont
Lewis asks Florey for the Saturday Evening Post article by Dean Christian Gauss.
June 5, 1932 from Barnard, Vermont
“I’m enclosing check for $211.90.”
June 9, 1932 from Florey to Lewis in Barnard [carbon copy]
Florey is enclosing the Saturday Evening Post article.
June 15, 1932 from Barnard, Vermont
A telegram; Lewis asks for typewriter ribbons.
Sept. 16, 1932 from Semmering, Austria
Lewis describes the Villa Sauerbrunn, “a cuckoo-clock house,” and writes, “We had a really grand crossing. The people we saw the most of were Adolphe Menjou and his wife, Kathryn Carver. I would have expected him to be a rather snotty movie actor, but he proved to be an extraordinarily good fellow.”
Dec. 6, 1932 from Semmering, Austria
Lewis has been to Italy, and “Mrs. Wilson — Peggie — had an audience with the Pope and had personally blessed for me, to send to your mother, a rosary and a handsome crucifix.”
Jan. 14, 1933 from Semmering, Austria
He asks for research help and books on hotelkeeping for Work of Art.
Jan. 31, 1933 from Florey to Lewis in Austria [carbon copy]
Sales of Ann Vickers are impressive. Florey is trying to see the Assistant Manager of the Waldorf; “I shall get his slant on suburban inns as well as city hotels.”
Feb. 16, 1933 from London, England
Lewis is trying to clear up a bill: “Will you please go down to 330 Fifth Avenue and bounce a couple of hundred bricks off the heads of these people. I am getting damned tired of this bill, as you know.”
May 14, 1933 from Barnard, Vermont
On bibliographer Harvey Taylor: “Yes, we’d better keep an eye on him.”
May 25, 1933 from Barnard, Vermont
A telegram; Lewis asks for “stray copies” of hotel magazines for 1904 and 1905.
June 4, 1933 from Barnard, Vermont
“Look up in the telephone book the names of the chief hotel equipment companies of all sorts … write to them for catalogues and send them to me.”
June 19, 1933 from Florey to Lewis in Barnard [carbon copy]
He is typing a novel for Ursula Parrott, and expects to work on a play for James Sheean.
June 27, 1933 from Barnard, Vermont
“Where in hell is that New York telephone book? .. Please also send me a small box of ordinary size paper clips.”
June 29, 1933 from Florey to Lewis in Barnard [carbon copy]
“I waited for the new telephone books and new ones were delivered yesterday — my name is in the new one …”
July 7, 1933 from Barnard, Vermont
“Working hard and no particular news.”
July 13, 1933 from Florey to Lewis in Barnard [carbon copy]
Florey is typing more of Lewis’s short stories; Sheean’s new play is in rehearsal.
July 14, 1933 from Barnard, Vermont
“If Harvey Taylor comes again, be plenty nasty to him … There are now 8 damn cats on the place.”
July 17, 1933 from Barnard, Vermont
Lewis describes a five-day motor trip to Bar Harbor, Maine. He has finished most of the first draft of Work of Art.
Aug. [1933?] from Barnard, Vermont
“Queries on manuscript / … Would Myron get $12,000 a year and living quarters as manager of this very smart and expensive country inn?”
Aug. 28, 1933 from Florey to Lewis in Barnard [carbon copy]
He begins to answer Lewis’s questions: “$8,000 and living quarters would be more nearly right …”
Aug. 28, 1933 from Florey to Lewis in Barnard [carbon copy]
More answers to Lewis’s “queries”: “… I have been worrying about the beer ‘slicer.’ In my search among bartenders I finally asked them just what they would order if they were getting a new one. My speakeasy friend Jim Nugent said he would order a beer ‘comber.’”
Nov. 10, 1933 from Florey to Lewis in Barnard [carbon copy]
Florey wishes Lewis success with Jayhawker; “please remember me to Lloyd [Lewis] …”
Nov. 18, 1933 from Chicago
Jayhawker is nearly completed.
Dec. 18, 1933 from Florey to Lewis [carbon copy]
Florey plans to listen to Lewis on the radio; he provides a list of “hotel people” who should receive copies of Work of Art.
May 16, 1934 from Bronxville, N.Y.
“Harvey Taylor apparently has gone into partnership, as literary agent, with Madeline Boyd whom I disliked, upon meeting her once or twice, a little bit more than any woman I have ever met, and whose husband, Ernest Boyd, has viciously attacked me in all known mediums available, when he has had the chance!”
Sept. 28, 1935 from London, England
“We have had a swell vacation, and I will be going home in a short time.”
Dec. 20, 1935 from Bronxville, N.Y.
Lewis will call him in New York. Dorothy is back from her lecture tour.
Dec. 23, [1935?] from Bronxville, N.Y.
He is looking forward to Christmas; a story copied by Florey will appear in the Herald-Tribune in February.
May 26, 1936 from Barnard, Vermont
Lewis cannot find the Florida title certificate, Tully [unidentified] “should protest to the Maryland Automobile Commission.”
July 29, 1936 from Barnard, Vermont
Lewis is enclosing an application for a duplicate certificate. “All goes well here … but Kippy barks too much.”
Oct. 12, 1936 from New York
A telegram; Lewis asks Lou to meet him after the show, or afterwards at Essex House.
(as filed by Florey)
Mar. 10, 1936 from Fannie Hurst to Lewis
Hurst asks Lewis to serve on the membership committee of the Authors’ Guild.
Mar. 7, 1930 A form letter from the Royal Literary Fund, reproducing J.M. Barrie’s hand, to Lewis
A plea for funds.
Feb. 12, 1936 from Fannie Hurst to Dorothy Thompson
An invitation to lunch at the Ritz
Feb. 4, [1936?] from novelist Victoria Lincoln to Lewis
A love letter: “I love you as much now as I did when I surprised myself by declaring my passion in the presence of witnesses (your wife and my husband) … ”
Mar. 22, 1930 from H.L. Mencken to Lewis
“As soon as you get in will you let me hear of it? I’ll then send you my new tome.”
1932? from Carl Van Doren to Lewis
He is returning the essay, “of which I made far more use than may appear …”
Feb. 26, 1934 from Dorothy Thompson to Lewis
A telegram; she reports on the success of Dodsworth on stage.
Feb. 26, 1934 from Sidney Howard to Lewis
A telegram; he reports on the critical reaction to Dodsworth on stage.
Feb. 25, 1934 from Joe Irving to Lewis
A telegram; the advance ticket sales to Dodsworth are impressive.
Feb. 25, 1934 from Dorothy Thompson to Lewis
A telegram; she will join him Wednesday.
Feb. 25, 1934 from Sidney Howard to Lewis
A telegram; “Times rave for Huston …”
Apr. 16, 1932 from Florey to Louise Bryant [carbon copy]
He offers his services as a typist.
May 3, 1932 from Louise Bryant to Florey
She wants to speak to him: “I am sure that if I had known about you months ago the book would be finished now.”
May 13, 1932 from Louise Bryant to Harrison Smith
An invitation to tea: “Ask Sinclair Lewis’s secretary to come with you.”
Jan. 14, 1933 from Florey to Harry Maule at Doubleday [carbon copy]
Florey thanks him for a copy of Ann Vickers: “I think you did a wonderful job with the jacket.”
July 14, 1933 from Harry Maule to Florey
“How are things going? I have been hoping to get up to Vermont …”
Dec. 11, 1933 from Harry Maule to Florey
Maule asks for suggestions on promoting Work of Art, and continues, “From the telephone call I had Sunday night a week ago I take it that you have been on a little trip. That does not sound so good.”
Dec. 13, 1933 from Florey to Harry Maule [carbon copy]
Florey provides the names of “hotel people” who should receive promotional copies of Work of Art.
Dec. 14, 1933 from Harry Maule to Florey
“Thanks for the hotel dope. That is just what we want …”
Dec. 18, 1933 Florey to Harry Maule [carbon copy]
Florey provides additional names of “hotel people in Chicago”: “I think it might be well to ask Mr. Lewis …”
Feb. 21, 1952 from Harrison Smith to Florey
“I hope you haven’t forgotten me… One of the last recollections of you came from Stockbridge and the cottage you found for Red after he had escaped from the institution in which Dorothy had placed him as an alcoholic … I had been trying to find you.”
Mar. 3, 1952 from Harrison Smith to Florey
Smith is trying to contact Lewis’s last secretary [Alexander Manson]: “There seems to be another story in back of it.”
Aug. 25, 1953 from Philip Allan Friedman to Florey
Friedman thanks Florey for the interview: “Should you make any arrangement with one of the other Lewis biographers, which I frankly doubt, please let me know.”
May 1932 from Dorothy Thompson to Florey
Thompson asks Florey to mail some letters “on May 11.”
[193-?] from Dorothy Thompson to Florey
“Everything is terribly depressing here [in London]. War talk everywhere.”
Mar. 18, 1932 from Carl Van Doren to Florey
“I am glad that your new business is starting off well.”
Feb. 24, 1933 from Florey to Mr. Wightman [carbon copy]
Lewis has been in touch from London, and is expected home “in the course of two weeks.”
June 20, 1933 from Florey to James Sheean [carbon copy]
Florey has just ended a week of work for Lewis: “I want to work with you all I can and it sure sounded grand to know that you are ‘on your toes’ and have apparently hit upon a good play.”
[193-?] Group of 13 letters from James Sheean to Florey
These undated letters discuss work Florey is doing for Sheean, such as the re-typing of short stories intended for publication in the Saturday Evening Post. The final letter reads in part: “I hope that one of these stories produces a check for us in a few days. My situation is terrible. If you know any spells or luck-charms, put them to work on this MSS …”