SHERWOOD ANDERSON'S SECRET LOVE LETTERS edited by Ray Lewis White (Louisiana State University Press: $29.95; 283 pp.) . On Nov. 28, 1912, Sherwood Anderson, the owner and manager of a paint-manufacturing company in Elyria, Ohio, stopped in the middle of dictating a letter and walked out of his office. He just kept walking--through cornfields, along railroads and across creeks, 30 miles--until he turned up in Cleveland four days later. Anderson's lapse into this fugue or dream state is often cited as the inspiration for his career as a novelist, but what is less well-known is that he often lived life itself in a similar state of lonely detachment.
A case in point are these letters. Written for every day in 1932 to his lover Eleanor Copenhaver (whom he later married), they were found, hidden in a cupboard, only after his death in 1941. The letters offer eloquent tribute to the unsung women Anderson knew (he quotes Eleanor, for instance, exclaiming, "If only I could show the men in power" of the essential goodness of human beings) as well as penetrating criticism of over-sung literati: "You feel no human tenderness in him," Anderson writes of Upton Sinclair. "Such a man marshals facts against the rich. There are enough of them, God knows."