Raymond Chandler Remembers His Wife

Today, we’re celebrating the anniversary of novelist Raymond Chandler‘s birthday with a letter where the novelist remembers his wife.

He was born 23 July 1888, and died 26 March 1959.

Chandler was an American novelist and screenwriter. He is considered to be a founder of the hard-boiled school of detective fiction. His novels include The Big SleepFarewell, My Lovely, and The Long Goodbye.

We wanted to share the letter he wrote after his wife of 30 years, Cissy, died on 12 December 1954 after a long illness, during which he wrote The Long Goodbye.

Letters of Note writes:

“As can be seen in the following touching and affectionate letter, written to friend Leonard Russell shortly after Cissy’s passing, Raymond was deeply affected by the loss of his wife, and it seems he never really recovered. Sadly, he died five years later a broken man, having attempted suicide and returned to the alcoholism she had previously helped him to avoid.”

December 29, 1954

Dear Leonard:

Your letter of December 15th has just reached me, the mails being what they are around Christmas time. I have received much sympathy and kindness and many letters, but yours is somehow unique in that it speaks of the beauty that is lost rather than condoling with the comparatively useless life that continues on. She was everything you say, and more. She was the beat of my heart for thirty years. She was the music heard faintly at the edge of sound. It was my great and now useless regret that I never wrote anything really worth her attention, no book that I could dedicate to her. I planned it. I thought of it, but I never wrote it. Perhaps I couldn’t have written it.

She died hard. Her body fought a hundred lost battles, any one of which would have been enough to finish most of us. Twice I brought her home from the hospital because she hated hospitals, and had her in her own room with nurses around the clock. But she had to go back. And I suppose she never quite forgave me for that. But when at the end I closed her eyes she looked very young. Perhaps by now she realizes that I tried, and that I regarded the sacrifice of several years of a rather insignificant literary career as a small price to pay, if I could make her smile a few times more.

No doubt you realise that this was no sudden thing, that it had been going on for a long time, and that I have said goodbye to my Cissy in the middle of the night in the dark cold hours many, many times. She admired and liked you very much. I’m not sure that she liked Dilys as much as I did, because possibly she suspected that I liked her too much. And it is just possible that I thought she liked you a little too much.

I hope that you are both well and prosperous and that I may have the privilege of seeing you again in the not too distant future, with or without the butler from the Ritz. And I hope I am not being too sentimental if I sign myself,

Yours affectionately,


(Source: The Raymond Chandler Papers: Selected Letters and Nonfiction 1909-1959; Image: via.)

Must-read: Raymond Chandler’s Response To An Overzealous Editor

 by Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 23rd July 2018