Ayn Rand and Lady Ethel Boileau: Anti-Communist Friends and Allies, across the Atlantic

Shoshana Milgram Knapp, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

In 1936, the Russian-American novelist Ayn Rand received a fan letter from a successful British novelist, Lady Ethel Boileau. Boileau had just read Ayn Rand’s _We the Living,_ and wrote: “it has made a very special appeal to me not only for the quality as a picture of human life and character but because of the leitmotiv which underlies the story. I could never believe in Soviet Russia because it took away from men all that makes life of value and significance—freedom and the gift of personal choice.” Ayn Rand then read a novel by her new friend, _Clansmen_, which had just been published in the U.S. She was impressed: “Your book makes me believe that Scotland is a country of strong individuals. . . I must mention that I got a somewhat fiendish delight out of your presentation of London `parlor-pinks.’ I actually gloated over the brilliant questions which `Alan’ asks `Imogen—questions which are so much to the point and which no Communist can ever answer.” The friendship continued for years. A newspaper description of Boileau‘s visit to New York in 1938 reports on a lunch with President and Mrs. Roosevelt at Hyde Park, dinner with Mrs. Chester Arthur, and a cocktail party given by Ayn Rand at Town Hall. The two had much in common in their political views and in the seriousness and passion of their literary ambitions.

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 Presented in Session 224. American Individualist Women Writers and the Question of Europe