7. Back to the USA

The Scott family left Brazil in August of 1919 and returned to the USA and to New York City.  Their passport photo shows Jigg not quite 5, Evelyn aged 26 and Cyril aged 46.

passport image

I have found very few letters from their first years in New York, although I have found empty envelopes amongst the various collections I visited, which provide an incomplete record of where the family lived, sometimes together, sometimes with one or other of a series of Evelyn’s and Cyril’s lovers. The spreadsheet which I created to keep track of the letters, their addressees and recipients illustrates graphically how peripatetic  these years were.

letter ss

During this period Cyril resumed the writing he had started at Cercadinho and his first work of fiction, the novel Blind Mice, was published in 1920.  Although it did not sell well (and is now out of print), Evelyn was hugely excited by this as her letter to their good friend Otto Theis illustrates.

There is very little information about Otto, but he appears to have been an American of German origin, and the first mention of their friendship is Cyril’s dedication in Blind Mice to “Otto Frederic Theis, friend of this book and of its author”.  Otto later moved to London to become editor of The Outlook, a popular weekly news sheet.  Over the years Evelyn wrote frequently and at great length to Otto and, later, to his wife Louise Morgan: they both appear to have offered her considerable practical (and financial) support.

NB:  Evelyn’s letters were often lengthy and were concerned with news of other friends as well as commentary on current artistic trends and accounts of her relationships with her publishers. Quoting these letters in full would be beyond the scope of this blog, and they have been heavily edited.  It is accepted good practice for editors to indicate excisions with diareses – [. . . ] – but the number of these would be distracting and I have therefore omitted them.

* * * * *

To Otto Theis

 [Barrow St, NYC]
April 17 [1920]

Dear Mr Theis:

Cyril is in bed with a return of something—influenza maybe—at any rate pretty sick but—BUT—Doran[1] has accepted his books—DORAN HAS ACCEPTED HIS BOOKS—D&O&R&A&N has A&C&C&E&P&T&E&D his books—Blind Mice at once and the others later.  Now dear unofficial godfather of literary ambitions, I am sure you will rejoice with us that the almost impossible seems to have occurred.  I don’t think Jigeroo has measles any more but he has a complication with his ears that is worrying him a lot and he is as cross as hell and both of us are sick of spending two weeks in a back bedroom but we still love our friends.  I hope you will come to see us SOON.

That Long Island idea is – – – – – – -![2]

Evelyn

            My inexpressible opinion of the plan of sending Jigeroo to Long Island—too deep for words is represented below- – –  [bottom half of page contains a huge explanation point]

[1]George H Doran and Company, at the time one of the major American publishing houses.  In 1927 it merged with Doubleday, Page and Company to become Doubleday Doran.
[2]After the Scotts returned to the US, Jig caught one illness after another; this may have been the reason for considering this.

* * * * *

During those years Evelyn and Cyril also met Lola Ridge who, with her husband Davy Lawson, became staunch friends. Lola was a passionate avant-garde feminist and an influential modernist poet.  (Terese Svoboda considers Lola’s work and correspondence in much greater detail in her recent book, Anything That Burns You.[1])  Evelyn’s relationship with Lola was hugely important to both of them, and each supported the other in a lengthy correspondence which lasted until Lola’s death in 1941.

[1]Svoboda, Terese, Anything That Burns You.  Tucson:  Schaffner Press, 2015

Lola
Lola Ridge

To Lola Ridge

[Barrow Street, NYC]
[Summer 1920]

Dearest Lola:

I wrote to you and now Davy says you get no letter from me.  Isn’t he mistaken?  I did not answer your last letter, dear, because I have had news of your health from Davy every few days and have been so exhausted with Jigeroo (he was with me four days) my teeth, and a feverish attempt to write and to find a place to move to that (though I have thought of a letter every day) my hand would not move when the time came to write.  He says you are better and I hope that means you are at work.  I am selfish and can hardly wait for you to get back.

Did I write you about our (Cyril’s and my) resolution to live apart this winter?  It does not grow out of misunderstanding but the contrary, and I think as always that he is the biggest and best and truest ;person that—well male person anyway—I have ever known.  I love him so and I will hate to hear the nasty things that will undoubtedly be said by the crass minded individuals who observe the outward change in our way of life.  He has a room above Dudley’s[1] and I am trying—as yet without success—to discover an unfurnished room for me.  I want to get this last months rent off my hands and it is difficult.  We have been flat as you may imagine and so many personal readjustments to make that it has depleted our earning capacity.

Do you remember the dark spots on my two front teeth?  I have had them sawed off and two spotless false ones—what fate for a poetess—put in their place.  As a result—it was done without cocaine—my nerves have gone bad and every tooth in my head (I have sixteen cavities, by the way) has ached like fun all week.  In spite of that I am writing novel.  I do not know what the immediate expression of toothache will supply to art—but we will see.

Lola I have been through all the different kinds of emotions I hadn’t experienced already since you left.  I would love to have a compassing talk with you about the inconsistency and cussedness of the human race of which I seem to be a prime representative.

I can not think of anything unpardonable I have done lately except that I have bought me a cloth suit for fifteen dollars which makes me look like a poor but honest working girl.  My black silk suit with holes worn through it could be described with the first adjective but not the second.

It is now after twelve and I am soaked in the sticky atmosphere of Barrow Street on a hot night.  The curtains are dank.  The air is thick so that it squeezes my thoughts out in niggardly fashion—no room to flow.

I will go and jump in the new bath tub for my landlady—the one who has bought the house—has built a tantalizing bathroom in the place where I pay to have a dressing room and for a week I can look at it and develop a strong and resigned nature as I contemplate the bathless winter before me.

Well, dearest, write to me and WRITE.  We love you. Evelyn

PS  Jigeroo is in Greenwich Connecticut where by becoming eternally grateful to a stout lady with a desire to enlarge her personality to the dimensions of her corset he is being boarded at next to nothing on a farm[2] intended to be at the disposal of orphans.

[1]Evelyn’s friend from early years, he later married another of Evelyn’s friends, Gladys Edgerton.  Dudley was employed as an industrial chemist and developed, among other things, DDT.
[2]Creighton  described this “baby farm” in his unpublished memoir Confessions of an American Boy, written in 1960.  He writes:  “The unpredictable supperlessness at the farm, the ostracism every Saturday, the fear of being locked up for saying something Portuguese by mistake, and the lunges Mr. Harper made at my pants buttons when he still thought I was a girl because of my bobbed hair, all combined to bring on melancholia. . .  As soon as I came back to Brooklyn . . . I discovered how keenly I missed the formerly detestable cycle of bacchanalian exhilaration, clammy sentiment and shrill re-awakening from opiates and alcohol. . . At about the time I would have been dosed if I had still been on the farm, I found myself on fire with thirst for the contents of brown bottles—any brown bottles—then gruesomely depressed, and at last dreamily tranquil for a minute or two as I counterfeited in imagination how consoling it had been to give up fighting against the ghastly taste, resign myself to the necessary interval of nausea, and yield up my will to that of the bottle.”

* * * * *

In 1920 Cyril found employment with the Guaranty Trust Company, a large financial institution based in New York City, and through this employment became acquainted with members of the Garland-Hale family, well-established and prosperous members of New York society.  While in Brazil Cyril had acquired a number of practical skills, which led to his being offered a position as general handyman for the Garland-Hales at their property in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts.  I have not been able to find any contemporary images of Buzzards Bay, but this modern map gives an idea of why Buzzards Bay, with its waterside properties, would have been attractive to wealthy families.

Buzzards Bay

This  excerpt from Evelyn’s lengthy document of April 1956 is a narrative of the years in Buzzard’s Bay and later Bermuda and of Evelyn’s relationship with Marie Tudor Garland and Swinburne Hale and the various members of that family.  Although she does not mention this, during this period Evelyn was writing and published numerous critical essays and a large number of poems in the so-called “little magazines” as well as her first three novels:  The Narrow House (1921), Narcissus (1922) and Escapade (1923).

* * * * *

            In 1920 Cyril Kay Scott, though writing novels, went to work for the Guaranty Trust Company of New York City; where he, also, gave satisfaction, as expressed in their approval, and especially the approval of Mr Henry Theis[1], who occupied a high position in it.  Cyril Kay Scott resigned because of poor health.  He was, however, assured, before he did so, of a position as superintendent of the estate of Marie Garland[2] and her third husband, Swinburne Hale,[3] the lawyer, at Buzzard’s Bay, Massachusetts.  The Garland-Hales, though not then long known to us, had speedily become friendly; we had confided our history to them, and being interested in artists and unusual people, they had suggested that work in the country might be the solution.  We went to Buzzard’s Bay in the spring of 1921.  Cyril Kay Scott, in his new position, utilized his experience of farming at Cercadinho, the ranch in Brazil, and, with this, his experience in auditing; and though we were on the Hale-Garland estate only a brief time—less than a year—before the Hale-Garlands invited him to superintend their recently acquired properties in Somerset, Bermuda, Ely’s Lodge and Parapet, Cyril Kay Scott had already reduced the expense of maintaining the Buzzard’s Bay farm by five thousand dollars when compared with the maintenance for the same period under previous superintendents.

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge and Davy Lawson

[Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts]
[April 1921]

Dear Lola and Davy:

We arrived here per schedule on Friday night in the rain (rain not per schedule) and it has been raining almost ever since.  The surroundings are beautiful really—poetical, desolate, only we have all been so sick with colds and throats that the poetry is waiting for appreciation.  The Garland-Hales have been very lovely to us and after I get used to the unlimited bestowal of favors I shall be really glad.  Just now I feel that it is very much more blessed to give than to receive.  However as soon as we take root we can begin to imaging that this lovely cottage is really ours and that the charming little water view we have from it is a gift of the gods and demands no gratitude.

We spent the first three days at Mrs Garland’s large and very beautiful country house surrounded by automobiles and Arcadian millionaire children who go barefoot and wash their own dishes.  Mrs Garland has two picturesque silent sons and one young viking daughter—altogether the most characterful examples of the idle rich I ever saw.  I really like them.  Though of course things will be nicest when we settle down into our own little rut and write.  I think we shall lots.

We love you both terrifically and shall want to know how you are and what you are doing every minute hence.  When my tonsils stop demanding my attention I shall write you a letter of more length and I hope more interest.  This is only to tell you we are thinking of you as nearly continuously as life allows and that we would like to experience the phenomena, as yet unheard of, of a real letter from Davy and are avid for the consumption of any chirographical enormities Lola is willing to perpetrate.  I still insist on hugging Davy even at this distance and we mutually kiss Lola a hundred and eighty times.

Jiggeroo too sends love, Evelyn

* * * * *

To Otto Theis

Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts
May 3, 1921

Otto, dear:

Your letter received the day we arrived.  Contents appreciated and needed.  We have spent three days in over opulence at large country house where millionaires go barefoot and wash the dishes for the good of their souls or the soul of the butler I know not which but are nice and very silent boys and girls very much like Indian princes and princesses.  We have large luxurious room and opulent bath in wonderful comfort and a good deal of taste but not enjoyed because of inevitable feeling of poor relation one has in these circumstances.  It is as cold as Labrador—no spring whatever yet and has rained every day, but we are at last in own cottage and feel it more possible to take roots.  Mrs Garland and S[winburne] H[ale] have really worked terrifically getting this place fixed up in three days and if I did not appreciate it too much I could enjoy it, but even gratitude will pass and they are really exceedingly nice and kind not to mention lavish.  From our veranda we have a charming landscape vignettes of water and pines only slightly obstructed by a neighbors barn.  There is lots of milk and automobiles and Sunday we went to Sagamore and could see the surf and I believe Provincetown only twelve or fifteen miles off.  I do not like to think of being so close to Boston which is only two hours because there is something about sandy soil and large cold houses which was too much like Boston must be.  Anyhow- –

When the weather gets warm this will be a very wonderful place.  Mrs Garland’s estate is enormous and each member of the family has his or her own little cottage tucked somewhere in the woods.  There are several tiny lakes and from all most all the verandas one has some sort of glimpse of black pine trunks against blue water.

Of course I’ve been blue (I would be) and of course have worried Cyril (I always do) and waked up at three am to wonder if I was quite mad. Yet I do think coming here was the only sensible thing left and after all readjustments are made may be wonderful.  I shall not one moment stop hoping and wishing and willing that you may spend your vacation with us.  By that time the Garlands will be in Bermuda and we shall be quite alone and I do believe you would be rested by lovely calm surroundings like these.  Also both of us may be better company by then.

Love from all of us, Evelyn

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts
June 3, 1921

            Sweet, sweet, sweet girl, hello!  Gee!  IT LOOKED GOOD TO SEE A LETTER FROM YOU WITH AN ADDRESS ON IT!!!!!!!  (I’m hugging myself.)  Well, beloved, life is same as ever (more or less hell) and you are sane as ever (more or less heavenly).  It’s good getting where you can feel the world is mathematically larger—and has new houses and people you hadn’t seen before anyway, even if you know that the same sort of bunco is being cultivated by said people in said establishments, ain’t it?  Darling, what a pity that bed bugs and cooties can’t be trained to eat each other instead of us!  Therein is a parable.  Practically speaking I have been afraid to unpack my clothes since I hit the place for fear some of the denizens of Jones street has stowed away in my trunk.  So far all the bugs are in the woods where they ought to be.  THINK A bugless bed   After all one gets much closer to nature in town than out here.

I have written a bushel on the new novel.[1]  I know it is infinitely subtler than The Narrow House but of course more elusive—bits slip between my fingers and I think it will need more going over and around before it is finished than the other did.  I have now had sixty reviews (and a great many more notices) that I have actually seen and I have been compared to Dorothy Richardson[2] until my naturally benevolent regard of the lady is about to be converted into a desire for her complete extinction in the minds of men and book reviewers.  I never read even one of her novels—just two instalments of her Interim thing in the L[ittle] R[eview].  I must be SOME virtuoso to acquire her so indelibly on such superficial acquaintance.

I don’t know how this extremely personal venture is going to pan out.  Marie Garland is a real person, a dear, whom you would like I think as well as we do. Swinburne is clever but more difficult.  We may be here till next winter as planned or we may be back in New York in a month. God knows—if he does.

Jigeroo is with us and that is a help—though not toward writing.  We have a nice little house, or did I write you about it?

Oh, Lola, if we could have had you two out here a little while how selfishly nice it would have been!  When shall we have our tea and talk together again?

Somebody at Playboy wrote me that James Harvey Robinson[3] gave a lecture almost exclusively on the N H and praising it.  And still I get sore at the world.

Well, darling, lots of hugs and goodbye and good wishes and please write us MORE IN DETAIL ABOUT YOU.

Our best love to Davy. Evelyn

[1] Narcissus, published in 1922.
[2] She is credited with the first novel of the “stream of consciousness” genre
[3] American historian and founder of the New School for Social Research; editor of several historical journals

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge and Davy Lawson

  [Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts]

My sweet children, there is nothing I want, beyond just being able to live, so much as to see you both.  I feel that when I do I shall be wild—jubilant.  It will be a dozen Christmases of the kind that children dream rolled into one.  Hear the condition of our affairs.  I was in New York ten days—at the dentists almost every one.  This much I owe to the Narrow House.  And next week I am going up there again and to a hospital to have my tonsils out.  This much again.  Cyril has been so unwell that Marie and Swinburne have (or did I write to you) offered us a trip (at their expense) to Bermuda for two months.  We will start in a few weeks and I pray with all my heart to return somewhere the time you do.  If you come before Christmas I may not be here but after yes, and YOU MUST STOP HERE.  Darling, if anything happens to prevent this I am going to get you and Davy up here away from New York if need be.  Our future as usual is strange and dim. Passing the winter in part in Bermuda makes us able to get through on very little money even though Cyril has given up his work.  What will happen afterward I don’t know.  Being here has been spending in the way of life saving, and yet as you know dependence, partial dependence and favours, have their draw backs even you your patrons are delicate of perception.  Its been an ordeal at times and a relief at others.  I’ll tell you about it.  Of course this arrangement was understood to be temporary and what happens next is in the lap of the gods.  I feel too that if we can hang on AND ARE BOTH ABLE TO WRITE for two years we will probably be earning a livelihood in the moderate salary way.  Just two years more!  One can’t give up with a possibility so near.

I think sometimes with you Lola that “the curse is on Jigeroo”.  He is a weirdly dualistic little soul.  When he isn’t well he is sweet, and soft and occult in his subtleties and far wiser than Jove, and when he feels all right he is just an impish little boy in the street with no subtleties at all in the way of mischief.  I want him to be strong and oblivious—safe in the crasser outlook.  Yes, I do.  I can’t biologically wish him to go through the initiation that you and I have had.  And yet of course there is profound appeal to my vanity in the nearness and understanding of him when he is not in a state to cope with a fool world.

 

Now in a comparatively short time I want us all to eat dinner together with lots of red wine (only it will be almost superfluous to me good spirits).  And I want us to walk up that seething pinch beck Fourteenth St and up that long stair where Davy’s studio (unrecognisable in the hands of Dud) will become recognizable again.  It is grey here today.  I see Lola in a painters smock all white (except for smut) and tea with orange peel in green cups.  I love you both.  Evelyn.

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

 [Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts]
July 30 [1921]

My own Lola:

Two weeks ago [Mrs Garland] and Swinburne took Cyril and I on a motor trip to Cornish New Hampshire, about fifty miles from where you were in Peterborough.  I enjoyed the thirteen hour motor trip while it was taking place but spent four days in bed up there as a result.  We came home again day before yesterday and I am knocked up again, though not so badly.  There’s no good my trying to pretend I’m as good as knew where any real test of endurance is envolved.  I start in to be as sick as I was in Brazil, though thank heaven it doesn’t last now.

You know New Hampshire so you can imagine the trip—lovely hills, Mount Sutney and Sunapee in the distance, mirage effects of clouds, and on this occasion—a fortnight without rain—a sultry stillness like a sullen obsession possessing all those tired heavy hills.  Marie has a cottage that she bought from Maude Howe (daughter of Julia Ward Howe).[1]  It is fortunately isolated but not particularly attractive in other respects.  The Winston Churchills, Maxfield Parishes, Norman Hapgoods, and other popular celebrities (St Gaudens old home is here) are close about.  Your friends the Mackayes have a place a few miles away.  However we did not visit any of these though Marie is acquainted with all of them.  I just can’t bear prosperous art.  It is far worse than any other type of prosperity.  However, I wish that we might command some of its demoralizations.

I have longed—Cyril has longed—we all both have (as Jigeroo says) to have you and Davy come down.  The humid heat—rains daily—here is agreeable to our tropical constitutions and we go in the bay rather often.  Lewis Gannet[2] just called Cyril on the phone announcing his return from his three months sojourn in France, Germany, Austria and Russia.  He and Mary are now over at Quinsett, Mass, with Margaret DeSilver.[3]  Margaret has motored over here several times and brought four or five wives of the pillars of New Republican liberalism with her.

I have finished the first draft of my next novel,[4] but Cyril hasn’t had an opportunity to do half the work expected.  However, it would have been infinitely worse in every way if we had stayed in New York.

When you get something done, dear child, won’t you please send us a copy or something to read.  Lola, I love you—Cyril loves you—we love Davy, and we are anxious for news of you continually.  Dearest, dearest, I want to get somewhere, have influence enough to choke your genius down more throats than have swallowed it yet.  I wonder if I ever can!  It’s not a very wicked vanity, is it!

            Kisses and kisses from us both, and hugs (and might I kiss you once, Davy) for Davy. Evelyn

[1]Author of “Battle Hymn of the Republic”.
[2]Gannet was an American journalist and editor. Evelyn and Cyril first met him when they rented a flat from him on their return from Brazil.
[3]Evelyn and Cyril also met Margaret DeSilver when they returned to New York in 1920.  She remained a loyal and firm friend throughout Evelyn’s life.
[4]Narcissus, published in 1922

                      * * * * *

Next week we learn of the years in Bermuda, and the increasingly difficult relationship between the Scotts and the Garland-Hales  And we are introduced to Owen Merton and his relationship with Evelyn.

 

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