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C.S. Forester

William Woodward, an American historian and author, published a book titled Evelyn Prentice in which a character named Lawrence Kennard uses a secret code in his diary. English novelist C.S. Forester, after reading the book, writes to Woodward asking for the code word and alphabet used by Kennard in the book and expressing his appreciation of the book itself. Through a follow-up letter we learn that Woodward did, in fact, reply to the initial letter.

Letter from C.S. Forester to William Woodward (page 1)

Page 1 of letter from C.S. Forester to William Woodward, November 11, 1933
Accession #2009MS046

11. Nov. 33. London.

Dear Mr. Woodward (or it may be Miss or Mrs. Woodward, but I don't think so).

Many thanks for a very fine story in Evelyn Prentice - and please do it again soon.

I hope the thanks of someone who also writes books will make more impression than the rest of your fan mail, because I want an answer to this letter - most urgently; I beseech you.

What was the code Kennard used in his diary? I haven't got Mr. Prentice's keen mind. I couldn't discover it in three hours - in fact I have tried for eternity. If it is one of those sliding scale things please let me know the code word & the arbitrary alphabet he used. I have tried 'Lawrence' & 'Kennard' & 'April' & 'Tuesday' & so on, & about fifty alphabets

Letter from C.S. Forester to William Woodward (page 2)

Page 2 of letter from C.S. Forester to William Woodward, November 11, 1933

with each. Do let me know.

Although I have devoted ten times as much space to asking for the code as I have to saying how much I like Evelyn Prentice, please believe me when I say that if everything had its deserts the proportion would be exactly reversed.

Yours truly

C.S. Forester

Letter from C.S. Forester to William Woodward (page 1)

Page 1 of letter from C.S. Forester to William Woodward, December 10, 1933

London,

10th Dec 1933.

Dear Mr. Woodward,

It was very good of you to go to so much trouble & write such a long letter to me about your code.

The arrival of your letter took a load off my mind, because just previously I had got on the track of the solution - your remark in the book about Evelyn's being unable to solve it & substitution put me off - and though I was able to worry and the sense the 'nulls' put me off. I had never before heard of the device of the presence of a meaningless symbol anulling another symbol - it is quite ingenious. But [those?] nulls made me feel I was still missing something.

What got me onto it was using IV3 as

Letter from C. S. Forester to William Woodward (page 2)

Page 2 of letter C.S. Forester to William Woodward, December 10, 1933

[sle], quite arbitrarily, after "[the]" had failed.

Please, if ever you should happen to be in London, let me know at the Savage Club so that I may offer some slight action for your kindness.

Yours very sincerely,

C.S. Forester