Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Hang on to your hat ...

I knew E.B. White as the author of Charlotte's Web and coauthor of The Elements of Style, but have only recently learned that he was so much more. He was also a prolific writer of essays and letters. One of his eloquent letters has been making the rounds lately, and I've been thinking about it quite a bit since Friday. Here is his reply to Mr. Nadeau, a stranger who wrote to him in 1973, wondering if the future of the human race was as bleak as it seemed.
Dear Mr. Nadeau:
As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.
Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society — things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.
Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.
E. B. White
It is really incredible to me that Mr. White's words - honest and unflinching, yet hopeful - are still so meaningful and relevant 42 years after he wrote them. It often seems that we live in the worst of times, yet there were many preceding us who felt the same way. The human race has indeed made a queer mess of life on this planet, in so many horrible, hateful, and ruinous ways, but I hope that the upright and compassionate among us (and I know there are many) will help the seeds of goodness and love to sprout.

Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope.


  1. That letter is awesome and a balm to the soul right now. I especially love, "Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time." How wise and wonderful.

  2. Carole is right -- wise and wonderful words. Really -- I got a bit of a tingle up my spine reading your post. Thanks so much for sharing; my day just got a whole lot brighter. XO

  3. Thank you, Bonny, for relating the story of a very kind man and for sharing the hope that seems to slip away from time to time.

  4. I can't even add to these comments. You've given us a true gift today, thank-you Bonny! xo

  5. Thanks for a beautiful post and for reminding me of how much I enjoy reading E.B. White. His words and wisdom are greatly needed today. You've prompted me to pull out my 1977 edition of his essays for another re-read.

  6. That is lovely. Thank you for sharing. We have some special family memories involving "Charlotte's Web", and this makes E.B. White even more special.

  7. Beautiful. I read this the other day but haven't been back to comment. It's perfect, really.


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