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Transcript of Letter

This is a draft of a letter written by Lowell Thomas to Harry Chase. It provides remarkable insight into the character and relationship of these men:


Heretofore I have endeavored to treat you in all of our associations as though you were my companion, friend, and colleague. Instead of giving you orders I have merely given you hints, expecting you in our mutual interest to act upon them without further comment. But during all of the time that we have been together you have frequently made it quite clear that you preferred to be given specific instructions rather than be asked advice, and rather than be merely given suggestions. So for the time being I am going to do as you wish and tell you exactly what I want and what I don't want. Bet let it be clearly understood right now once and for all that every order I give you is given for business reasons, For instance, if — (this is merely an impossible example of something which would never occur but which will illustrate what I mean) you should come to your meals without having your finger nails cleaned or your teeth cleaned, I would instruct you to always have them cleaned in the future. But I would not do this because I wanted to educate you regarding your personal conduct but simply because it would be exceedingly bad manners for you to come to the table in a fist class hotel among cultured people with dirty fingernails or unclean teeth. And for any member of my staff to have bad manners would reflect upon me. For obvious business reasons that is undesirable. But to come straight to the point:–

In the future when we are seated at the same table and you desire to leave before the others have finished I must ask you to excuse yourself. It is a mark of bad breeding not to do so. And if they or I hand you the butter you should express your thanks.

I sent you a newspaper this morning. You did not acknowledge receipt of it. It is not sufficient to thank my bearer which perhaps you did thinking he would present your thanks to me. Instead of thanking me when I met you at breakfast you greeted me without either smile or word of thanks for the paper, but found something disagreeable to speak about instead.

Whenever anything occurs which does not suit you I must insist that you speak to me about it in a straightforward man to man manner, and having once lodged your complaint I must insist that you forever hold your peace upon that subject and not refer to it again unless an identical occurrence similar to it happens when I shall expect you to speak out frankly again.

When we are taking photographs and I am helping arrange the subject, instead of looking with scorn and mumbling things behind your cloth I want you to be on alert and tell me in a loud clear voice, which I can hear, what you desire and at what point I have succeeded in playing the people or objects in the best positions possible to put them in. Only you can judge of this because you are behind the camera and can see exactly what is on the class. I who am doing me utmost to assist you and to save both of us time am necessarily out in front of the camera and cannot be both there and behind the ground glass at the same time. I want this clearly understood, and instead of answering me with a frown on your face I want you to reply with a smile. The weather is warm, and unless all of us smile whether we fell like it or not, the weather will seem to be much warmer than it really is.

While Major Francis Yeats-Brown is with us on behalf of the British Government in India, if he ever makes what you consider to be a good suggestion I want you to compliment him upon it right on the spot. Otherwise he will soon get tired of trying to help us.

The table where we eat together is a sacred place. Nothing by way of complaints must ever be made there in the future…

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…unless in a purely joking way. If you happen to get up on the wrong side of your bed I want you to be a man and go in a corner and eat your damned old breakfast by yourself. You may get a lot of personal satisfaction out of trying to make other people feel rotten just because you yourself have got a grouch on. But this cannot be permitted. My writing demands that I should be in a happy frame of mind. I'm not going to let you or anybody else stop me from doing my job as it ought to be done.

The trouble with you is that your liver is cutting up capers. This is nothing new. Mrs. Roberson told me just before I made my final agreement with her that there was one thing about you which she though she ought to in all fairness tell be before anything was settled. It was this: that both she and Mr. Roberson liked you tremendously, in fact she said they both loved you, and that in you own particular work you were always satisfactory. But she continued, “Mr. Chase is the worst pessimist that we have ever known, and at times he nearly drives everyone to distraction.” Well Chase, I decided that you and I could get along together in spite of that, bit at times it has been extremely difficult and again this morning I have lost half a day simply because you didn't thank me when I tried to do you a very very small courtesy, and because you groused over not being able to bring those print along with you. Let me tell you this, I am very sorry that those pictures were ever taken. I wish that the print were destroyed and the plates smashed. I don't want our peace of mind and happiness to be impaired because of a few pictures. We only live in this would once. You and I don't know where we came from and we don't know where we are going and we don't know why in the devil we are here. But we are here. Let'ls laugh and be merry for tomorrow we may be dead. While you were Poona and Bombay doing your best, I was here in Delhi having a great deal of serious trouble which you know nothing about. But I was doing my best. When I sent you that wire I did that I considered to be the advisable thing to do. You did your best and I did my best. Let's forget it. Lets's be friends, let's be pals, and let's work together happily. It is only in that way that we can ever succeed and play our very small and humble part in this mysterious life in a way which will reflect credit upon us and upon our parents who were responsible for bringing us into this world.

The reason you are a pessimist is because you were not quite so fortunate as some others in being able to get a broad general education. You are a self-made man. For that you deserve great credit. But you are very deficient when it comes to certain little things like manners. As I said before for business reasons I must in the future tell you point blank that certain things must be done. I will tell you these things privately. I have mentioned several in this letter. The reason you have an ill-behaved liver is because you get no exercise. You don't even get exercise when you are putting up and tearing down your projection equipment — or at any rate you only exercise part of your muscles. When we were on the “Elysia” coming out you were a different man because you spent a little of your time in play. If you only know what a marvelous change it produced in you for that voyage you would be dumbfounded. During the rest of this tour Yeats-Brown and I are going to get up in the morning as often as possible and exercise our livers before we start out on our day's work. We want you to join us. You would make an athlete if you gave yourself a chance because you are naturally supple and quick. Kendall, Morse and many others have spoken to me of this.

But after having a good walk, a good sleep and a hearty laugh if you still have something to kick about I want you to come to me when we are not in a public room and spit it out once and for all and then wipe it out of your mind.

Yours sincerely,



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