I have to confess, reading Mallory Ortberg's account of the letter Ayn Rand sent to her teenaged niece in response to a request to borrow US$25 to buy a dress makes me warm to the old monster, just a tiny bit:

The Letters of Ayn Rand is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. It is a perpetual source of comfort and inspiration to me. Every morning, Ayn Rand must have thrust herself forth from her steel bed and asked herself "What is the most Ayn Rand thing that I can do today?"

On May 22, 1949, the answer was to write a letter to her young niece, who had sent her a short note asking to borrow $25 for a new dress.

To Connie Papurt, AR's niece, a daughter of Frank's sister, Agnes Papurt

May 22, 1949

Dear Connie:

You are very young, so I don't know whether you realize the seriousness of your action in writing to me for money. Since I don't know you at all, I am going to put you to a test.

If you really want to borrow $25 from me, I will take a chance on finding out what kind of person you are. You want to borrow the money until your graduation. I will do better than that. I will make it easier for you to repay the debt, but on condition that you understand it as a strict and serious business deal. Before you borrow it, I want you to think it over very carefully.

Here are my conditions: [Details of repayment schedule follow…]

I want you to drop–if you have it in your mind–the idea that you are entitled to take money or support from me, just because we happen to be relatives. I want you to understand very clearly, right now, when you are young, that no honest person believes that he is obliged to support his relatives. I don't believe it and will not to do it. I cannot like you or want to help you without reason. But you can earn my liking, my interest and my help by showing me that you are a good person.

Apparently history doesn't record how young Connie responded to this offer. I like to think that Connie thanked her aunt for the advice but politely declined to accept a loan on the terms her aunt offered.

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