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Rolling Stones

So, as truth is not to be found in history, autobiography, press reports (nor at the bottom
of an H. G. Wells), let us hope that fiction may be the means of bringing out a few grains
of it.
The "hero" of the story will be a man born and "raised" in a somnolent little southern
town. His education is about a common school one, but he learns afterward from reading
and life. I'm going to try to give him a "style" in narrative and speech—the best I've got
in the shop. I'm going to take him through all the main phases of life—wild adventure,
city, society, something of the "under world," and among many characteristic planes of
the phases. I want him to acquire all the sophistication that experience can give him, and
always preserve his individual honest human view, and have him tell the truth about
It is time to say now, that by the "truth" I don't mean the objectionable stuff that so often
masquerades under the name. I mean true opinions a true estimate of all things as they
seem to the "hero." If you find a word or a suggestive line or sentence in any of my copy,
you cut it out and deduct it from the royalties.
I want this man to be a man of natural intelligence, of individual character, absolutely
open and broad minded; and show how the Creator of the earth has got him in a rat trap—
put him here "willy nilly" (you know the Omar verse); and then I want to show what he
does about it. There is always the eternal question from the Primal Source—"What are
you going to do about it?"
Please don't think for the half of a moment that the story is going to be anything of an
autobiography. I have a distinct character in my mind for the part, and he does not at all
[Here the letter ends. He never finished it.]
[In "Sixes and Sevens" there appears an article entitled "Holding Up a Train." Now the
facts were given to O. Henry by an old and dear friend who, in his wild avenging youth,
had actually held up trains. To-day he is Mr. Al. Jennings, of Oklahoma City, Okla., a
prominent attorney. He has permitted the publication of two letters O. Henry wrote him,
the first outlining the story as he thought his friend Jennings ought to write it, and the
second announcing that, with O. Henry's revision, the manuscript had been accepted.
From W. S. Porter to Al. Jennings, September 21st (year not given but probably 1902).]