March 4, 1966
Peter Matt was through town the other day and we had a long heart-to heart chat during which he informed me that, in his words, the Paris Review was originally set up and used as a cover for his activities as an agent for the Central Intelligence Agency… He further said that you knew nothing about this until recently, that in fact when he told you your face “turned the color of (my) sweater” which I hasten to inform you is niether red nor blue but a very dirty grey-white, my having worn nothing else since my wife left. It precisely matches my spirits; they get greyer every day.
I believe Peter when he says he is properly ashamed of involving the PR in his youthful folly, and, true, this was all 15 years ago. BUT…
Since this was apparently a formal arrangement, involving his being trained in a New York safehouseand being paid through a cover name, then without doubt the fact is recorded in some or several dusty functionarys’ files in Washington or around the world that our hapless magazine was created and used as an engine in the damned cold war; and although Peter is not be blamed for a paranoid system that makes victims of its instruments, nevertheless what of Styron? What of Marquand? What of half the young writers in America who have been netted in our basket? What color would their faces turn? May the saints preserve us from a counter-McCarthy witch hunt, but who can guarantee that those files may not someday be paraded before some publicity-seeking congressional committee looking for well-known names to burn?
It is not my purpose in writing this letter to instruct my betters, not am I seeking to nudge your conscience, but I do sense thay the situation contains a distinct element of danger. Think of Sadri’s position at the UN, for example; Peter says he is totally ignorant of the whole business. However, what’s past is past, and far from blaming Peter I think at this juncture he deserves full marks for having had the guts to speak up. …However much one might agree with Peter that “in those days the CIA was just a collection of college kids”, judging from today’s newspapers it would appear that the activities of this Kollection of Kollege Kids is inKreasingly Kriminal in nature. I don’t believe that the principles of freedom and justice and respect for Law—which after all are the very foundation of western civilization—are best upheld by raping those principles on the pretext of defending their honor; but, as history repeatedly teaches, this is what any unchecked secret organization invariably ends in doing.
In any event, I have suggested to Peter (on the theory that it’s always best to clean up one’s own vomit) that he immortalize his otherwise quite comical recollections in an article for Esquire, the Post, or (Heaven help us and defend us from error) in the PR itself. It still shocks me that Peter, again in his own words, used you as he used me and frankly I am still sore as hell about it. More precisely, I’m hurt, but never mind…
I have deeply believed in the Review and all that we hoped it stood for, but until this matter is righted I feel I have no honorable choice but to resolutely resign. Even if I have to split an infinitive to do it.
On the other hand, if Peter is willing to laugh the matter off in print in a manner calculated to restore our tarnished escutcheon, then I will listen to alternative argument. For the nonce, however, I should like my name removed from the masthead.
....I know I am regarded as an impractical clown or a troublemaker, but I don’t make trouble, I simply point out trouble where it threatens…. if you take steps now there will be no trouble now or in the future; but if you turn your back on what is after all a serious matter, then only trouble can issue. I hope you will forgive me for pointing this out.
In any event, I remain,
Most always yours,