Louis Hyde was Matthiessen’s classmate at Yale and a fellow Skull and Bonesman. Louis Hyde and his wife, Penny, were inseparable friends of Matthiessen and Cheney, and when Matthiessen died, he bequeathed his Cheney paintings and the massive correspondence between “Rat” (Cheney) and “Devil”(Matthiessen) to Louis Hyde.
Hyde selected from some 3,000 letters (now in the permanent collection of Yale’s Beinecke Library) as editor of Rat & The Devil: Journal Letters of F.O. Matthiessen and Russell Cheney, which was published in 1978. As Hyde wrote, the letters, written when Matthiessen and Cheney were apart… “document not only the progress of their intimate and remarkable relationship, but the issues and events that affected their lives. For Matthiessen, they were those of a cultural historian and political activist faced with changing educational and social values; a scholar grappling with a major opus—American Renaissance—which legitimatized the American literary experience; and a man of huge intellectual gifts brought twice to the edge of suicide by anxiety and depression. For Cheney, the main necessity was to struggle away from a dilettantism made easy by inherited money, and forge a strong and coherent artistic style; and to maintain a lively creative sensibility while dogged by chronic illness and a weakness for alcohol.”