While it is well known that Will Durant was a prolific writer, penning over 6 million words for The Story of Civilization alone, what is less known is that he also was a prolific letter writer. His fan mail was extensive and every week would see him taking time out from his professional obligations to answer letters from friends, fans and colleagues.

We encourage visitors to The Will Durant Foundation website who may have some correspondence from Dr. Durant to share them with us by sending a copy to John Little’s attention via our e-mail address, along with some information on the background of the letter. Each month, Will Durant On-Line will feature a new installment of "Dear Will Durant" which will highlight some of his more interesting correspondence, from "letters to the editor" sections of newspapers, to answering general queries from fans, to acknowledging missives from Presidents and old friends.

-- J.L.


January 25, 1969

Dear Mr. & Mrs. Durant

I have read, if not completed, all of your books. I have always profited from them.

As a young teacher I am eager to share your books and all that they have held for me with my students.

As great authors you must be great teachers. Is there some bit of advice, some suggestion, you could give me in order to make those living books as important to others as they are to me?


Melvin L. Riggs


Will Durant Replies:


Dear Mr. Riggs,

I have no advice for the young that is not traditional and contained in the old “copybook” maxims.” I have found that to play fair, to treat every man and woman as if he and she were honorable and well intentioned, to be kind and never hurt a person’s feelings, to forgive instead of retaliating – all these are the secret not of material success, but of happiness and peace. The world is a mirror and usually returns to you what you present to it.

(Durant wrote on a separate piece of paper: “Ariel, I haven’t signed this and speak only in the first person for fear you will think it ridiculous. But if you can, sign it just the same – Will.” Ariel signed it, but added the following post script:)

There are some things I cannot forget or forgive – the mirror of the world plays us false sometimes.

-- Ariel