In 1912, Gertrude Stein sent a manuscript to London-based publisher Alfred C. Fifield. The modernist author, known for her avant-garde and at times impenetrable prose, had sent what would later be The Making of Americans: Being a History of a Family’s Progress, published in 1925. The novel is one of Stein’s more challenging works, using present participle, limited vocabulary, and a lot of repetition. It was this last feature that Fifield drew upon to craft his rejection letter:
FROM ARTHUR C. FIFIELD, PUBLISHER,
13, CLIFFORD'S INN, LONDON, E.C.
TELEPHONE 14430 CENTRAL.
April 19, 1912.
I am only one, only one, only one. Only one being, one at the same time. Not two, not three, only one. Only one life to live, only sixty minutes in one hour. Only one pair of eyes. Only one brain. Only one being. Being only one, having only one pair of eyes, having only one time, having only one life, I cannot read your M.S. three or four times. Not even one time. Only one look, only one look is enough. Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one.
Many thanks. I am returning the M.S. by registered post. Only one M.S. by one post.
(Signed 'A. C. Fifield')
Miss Gertrude Stein,
27 Rue de Fleurus,
[h/t Open Culture]