17. Algeria, again

In the summer of 1926  Evelyn and Jack were re-united with Cyril and Jig briefly before all four left Cassis for Cintra (near Lisbon in Portugal) where they spent the winter in a cheap hotel before returning to Algeria.  Evelyn’s letters return to vivid descriptions of the places they travelled through and stayed, and of the people who inhabited these places, including her typically judgmental descriptions of their behaviour and customs.

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To Otto Theis

[Cassis-sur-Mer, France]
June 11 [1926]

Dearest Otto:

My personal news (Strictly confidential, for which again I guess I go against John’s inclination to confess) is as follows:  Cyril took John to a first rate diagnostician in Marseilles yesterday.1  He (MD) coined the word physisthenique to apply to him as opposed to neurasthenic.  Says John’s vital energy is absolutely depleted and must have been so for some time.  My private opinion is that he suspects John of TB that I will not say so to John and heaven grant it is sensation.  Anyway, John is to stay out of doors all day, to write out of doors if he will write, to recline while writing, to go up on the terrace and assume as much nudity in the sun as propriety will allow, and to take two kinds of of injections of something which it would need Cyril to elucidate.  Also to weigh himself daily and to take his temperature morning and evening.  To exercise little.  Blood and urine are still at the laboratory and John goes in tomorrow to get the results.  I’m glad he has been.  All the time he was in Scilly his constant tendancy to extreme exhaustion worried me, especially as we had few pipps and there was no mental explanation (usually sufficient cause).  Cyril thought he might have TB too, but now hopes he hasn’t.  He ate little at Scilly, tho bucked up in London, but here eats less.

He is going to the air force mid July, doctor or no doctor, and it may do him good.  Anyhow he adores the airforce and psychology demands he doesn’t resign from it.  I think one reason he loves it is it is the only out of door life he has led in years and he feels better there.  He’ll be leaving about the 12th and be in London a day or so before going to camp, so he will see you.

Large quantities of the mush that embarrasses you here about to overflow the page so, with our most affectionate and largest love for Louise and yourself, I will quit before the page grows too dewy or syrupy for your perusal.

evelyn

Although it wasn’t diagnosed until later, John had contracted a form of amoebic dysentery during an earlier trip to Africa; this plagued him to greater or lesser degree throughout his life.

* * * * *

To David Lawson

Car-sickness, France
August 7, 1926

Very dear Davy:  I was happy to get your letter, even though it did not contain the best of news. .  I think about you both constantly, and it does me so MUCH good even to see your handwriting again and get a direct word that, if things ain’t much better, they ain’t much worse either.

We don’t think we are going to stay in France.  Our reasons are this–first John isn’t well and French food habits and climate don’t agree with him particularly.  Secondly, the fluctuation in the franc has made us lose about half of such money as we have gotten over here, as, by the time I write to America (or even John to England) when we happen to have notice that there is any money due us, by the time it gets here the franc, bought at the exchange of the original date, has again depreciated, the cost of living here has advanced, and the fifty or hundred dollars we started with arrives here, three weeks later, worth just half what it was.  We have managed to get along anyhow, but it is not a cheering experience to people who are being economical, and there is the prospect, if Poincare’s cabinet does not survive the extreme odds against it, that something more drastic and generally disastrous may occur.  The public feeling against English and Americans is very strong throughout France.  There was stone throwing and rioting in Paris (on a small scale) not long ago, a boatload of English tourists attempting a landing in Normandy were met with stones and had to pull out, and even here in Cassis, where there are numerous e.g. English and Americans, last week when the shops had up a sign in the street, Welcome to the Foreigners, some of the people tried to tear it down and were stopped by the police.  So it ain’t too pleasant.  All this feeling has been accumulating since I wrote you.  There are three factions here, Royalist, Communist, and Republican, and even the kids Jigeroo plays with have fights about it.  Very confidentially, but through fairly reliable sources, we have heard that the fall of Poincare’s cabinet is anticipated as the moment to start a rumpus, and we aren’t anxious to be here when it happens, though of course it may be only a tin pot affair that will soon blow over.  But even so.

Consequently, we are considering what are the few cheap places left in the world to live in.  North Africa is the cheapest, but politics here will affect there.  Austria and Italy are the only two places where exchange is cheap and Vienna is very very cold in the winter.  There remains Rome, which is raw but not so bad, and not so hard to get to from here, and would be very little less effort for Lola to reach if she comes over in a Fabro boat which stops at Naples.  From there it is four hours to Rome, but if we go there and Lola comes, we would go to Naples to meet her.

You must not be prejudiced against meeting John by last summer’s experience.  I think he’s a dear, but just judged for himself without regard to me, I think you two would like him.  He’s very reserved and very English, in a nice sense, and, if that helps you to be prepared for the best, as unlike Owen as two people could be.  He and Cyril get on grand. John wants to meet you all, and I wish sometime in the next year or so we could go to America.  But as usual—cash.

Dear Davy, again, my best and most love to you and to her.

Evelyn

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To Louise Morgan

Hotel Europa, Cintra, Portugal
October 15, 1926

Louise, old darling, what’s matter.  It’s been months since we’ve heard from you.  won’t you drop us a line and let us tell you how I got ill—I would—in Spain—our money almost but disappeared—arrived here to find a letter from Brandts in which, without explanation, they said publication of Migrations1 would be spring (when the contract reads fall this year, and of course it is too late for me to kick now) and I got ill again of mild flu precipitated by rage and have been in bed strafing.  And about how despite every known discomfort the landscape of Spain was worth suffering for once, less granite than Africa, but rick and forever looking earth near Fraga, which I think Balston mentioned, the finest tents and plateaus of red, orange, purple, rockless treeless soil I ever saw—the most enormousness.  And again, near Guadaloupe, plush look of clay hills in the finest barren purples, wine pinks, or bright gilt sallowness of trampled what.  How Spain is bigger and stiller, save for magpies, than any country but the desert.  The people all have a pride so envolved it must keep them from progress, for indifference they must feign in all but the passionate ceremonial of dancing or bull fighting and perhaps the feigning has become real—an arrogant torpor, shot with suspicion—their most fiery trait.  They are courteous exceeding, but not warmly, more to exhibit their superiority to the petty, than from any outgoing to a stranger.  I don’t want to go thru equal discomfort again, but glad we did it.

Portugal is in proportion to Spain on the scale of the map—nothing grand, not even Cintra—but a modest lovliness, grandeur in little, with minute crags and wild woods confined in the acreage of the former king’s domain.  His palace, in execrable taste, never the less is a miniaturise of Byronic gloom and dominance, standing on the tip top of a hill above us, and piercing the sky with a fretted tower.  Near it another Saracen ruin.  It is not as cheap as we hoped, dearer than France, but too dear getting here to move away again.  Cintra is smart, for the Portuguez, but the season is ending, the villas look shady and blind with closed shutters, and a pretentious casino displays yawning waiters and other employees staring in perpetual idleness thru a grand entrance up with nobody approaches.  I’ve forgotten all the Portuguez I ever knew.  It was unutterable folly to try this, considering money.

Sintra

My civil war book I really think—hope, anyway—you’ll like.  It’s halted since Cassis but I’m starting again when we get settled.  The starch went out of me with Brandts letter, but is seeping back.  Wish you could come over and work with us.  We have a proposition from this hotel if we can’t find a house.  It is practically closed in the winter and man says he will give us five rooms and board all four of us for a hundred escudos a day, making about one hundred and fifty a month.  Of course there will be extras so we have to think.  And Jig has to have a school.  Still, if we do, think how easy—always have another room rented for you if you’d take the notion.  Food not wonderful but fair—his usual price thirty five escudos a day for a person is a little under two dollars a day, there are boats direct from England, no train fare, and we could meet you.  Don’t you want a change again?  We all work so you’d have to.  The isolation is fine for that.  It’s only when bits of bad luck seem to be the result of being off the business field that I wish we had money to break the isolation oftener—but I spent far more on me alone going to America last year than on all of us crossing Spain.

Guadaloupe.PNG

Mustn’t forget to add an impression of Guadaloupe where we stayed overnight—way up in hills a sudden very white little town houses built low with moorish arches over the street, and, in the early morning, a market conclave of peasants in the doorway of a very old grey and gigantic church attached to an elderly monastary.  The men uniformly in shirts of a sombre piercing blue, tight trousers, velvet braided waistcoats or jackets black sashes, and broad steeple crowned hats like the pilgrim fathers.  The women shawled.  It is a convent popular with fashionably religious Madrid that goes there to repent and retreat, but the obscure geography of its location leaves the peasants as authentically out of date as tho they weren’t perfectly picturesque.  We liked an overnight in Toledo, too—a perfect little medieval background to an El Greco painting.  And the Prado was a wonderful museum.  Madrid is like a raft, city complete up to the minute, yet old fashionedly stylist with many liveries and carriages and gardens and set things to do, it floats on a sea of what, among villages not much more substantial than the mud huts of the Arabs.  There is no colour of the literal sort in the northern Spanish town—the dwellings are of mud brick unplastered, the floors are earth or dirty brick, the people are vigerous with a kind of slovenly energy—but there was no gaiety in dress except in Fraga where, for some reason, alone, the women are as elegant as Velasqueth princesses in wide flowered skirts, tight neat bodices, and vivid demure shawls crossed like kerchiefs.  In Garonna we heard a fine Catalan band and saw the same dancing we encountered in that end of France.  It is Catalonia until Barcelona, but it was only after Zaragossa that we heard pure Castillian, very easy to recognize even when not understood.  Altogether, we feel we were fools, considering Jig needs an overcoat and I can’t get it and some other things, but can’t regret another folly which I hope has only temporary bad results.

Lots and lots of love to both of you—and think about a visit
evelyn

1Migrations was published in 1927.

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To Louise Morgan

Cintra, Portugal
October 26 [1926]

Darling old kid:

Portugal is dear.  We shan’t stay long but are at present too poor to move.  Also busting with things to say to you and my eyes hurt.  Speaking of money troubles I wrote Brandts a stiff letter and got a cable yesterday saying that Bonis were giving me another hundred dollars advance and, forwarding an explanation of their behaviour.  Damn their souls.  However I was glad of the other hundreds.  Things are tight and at least having given me now three fifty they will bring it out.  But curse the delay which means a delay for Ideals too, and that the war book won’t be published until nineteen eighty.

My dear I wish you could drop in.  I’m disappointed for us that you won’t come down.  Are you quite sure you couldn’t at all?  Remember, it is dear compared to France—not dear in the English sense.  The Sitwells would go to the palace hotel.  We are in a small clean place in Cintra that charges thirty five escudos a day in the summer but, because Cintra is deserted in the winter gives us SIX rooms and board for a hundred escudos a day for the four of us.  No dearer than Cornwall.  The man hasn’t four people in his hotel.  We have too much meat to eat, but all quite decent, fair wine, very clean.  Jig is going to the Cintra College and taking Latin and literature in French and the rest in Portuguese which he can’t speak yet.

PS WILL YOU GIVE ME FIVE PENCE.  THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT.  Tomorrow is Jig’s birthday, I ordered him two annuals from The Amalgamated Press Faringdon House Fleet Street, and they have come and I still owe them five pence and to send off five pence will cost me three escudos.  Can you pay this for me for some future settlement.  Dare I write them that you will?  I’m gonna, please, so let me know if you don’t.  Its very near you so maybe not too stuff.  I haven’t any stamps and don’t know what else to do.  Each letter one favor asked huh.  Scuse, evelyn

PS Annuals sent to Mr Metcalfe—they were paid by cheque from John but it was 5d [5 pence] short.

* * * * *

To David Lawson

Mme Metcalfe
Cintra, Portugal
[late 1926]

Dear ol’ Davy:

 I guess Glad will have told about our reckless attempt to see Spain in a week—for which we had nearly three what with break downs in the borrowed car and getting ill.  It was fun and no fun.  Spain provided a barrenness more gorgeous than any I ever imagined at times—at others sheer depressing monotony.  But there were high spots that top everything in visual experience.  It was autumn, so the rather uninteresting green had appropriately disappeared for a general tawnyness richer and more suitable to such harsh indifferent stretches.  The conservatism of the Spaniards struck me forcibly—I think their ritualistic pleasures—dance and bull fights—are a bit of a Freudian outlet for their violent repression.  Cautious and more so than the English—they make no mystic explanation of this.  They lack subtlety.  The English are so subtle emotionally—so disunited there with their deliberately commonsensical minds.  The French with such subtle machines and no emotional data worth looking for.  The Spaniards, in a birdseyes, tho I am not quite assuming myself an interpreter after one glance, are neither mystical at heart nor subtle of mind—but are primitives with their crudity congealed, and so somewhat concealed, by the formalism of the orient.  Catalonia is non Moorish Spain—and its music, the only escape from a cheap modernity, is barbaric—a voodoo challenge to sex.  Southerly Spaniards really are moors with an underlying thing more naïve and less refinedly brutal than the real north African product—I think.  I am wondering what Waldo’s book is like.  His title is good, only it is a virgin with something old maidish more than maidenly—a brute of an old maid, sensual, and with a skin like leather.  None of that goes does it with my other sense of a landscape as pure in color as snow is white.  Its enormousness was its most constant quality—and Spanish grandiosity is like a simplification by an inadequate mind of grandeur, too untouched for bombast.  Spaniards, en passant, seemed neither nervous like the French, nor emotional like the Italians, nor exalted by moral self mystification like the rest of us.  But sensual—Puritans in temper as I always thought the Arabs were—the constant quality of the puritan being a mental view of sensation which is the product of his inferior but persistent intellectualization of himself.  Well I won’t go on for days and weeks.  Portuguese are nearer slave bred negros than is any other race.  Their racial self respect has been vitiated.  They have the wistfulness of their lack of confidence.  Are gentle, treacherous, and easily influenced to generosity—I think.  But it is not as cheap as we had hoped and we can’t stay all winter,  Lisbon is very old and lovely.  Cintra is only fifty minutes away.  It is an anglicized summer resort abandoned in the winter.  We have rooms in a hotel which is empty so that for nothing he gave us empty bedrooms to work in.  The board is thirty five escudos a day, a small tax and a few extras.  It would come out at about fifty dollars a month. Elsa is in Swiss with her mother who is ill.  Cyril is here for a while,  Cintra is a Byronic relic of the old court of Portugal with fussy palaces and so on but a very charming miniature wildness, sea in the distance, trees, and constant milky fogs in the soft green of dripping evergreens.  There are lots of forests, somewhat artificial but very pretty.  It is chilly but no shakes on New York

Again LOVE.  Please let us know how you all are.  Please.  Cyril’s VERY best love too, evelyn

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To Otto Theis

Mme John Metcalfe1
Cottage Jean, rue de l’Oasis, Kouba, Algeria

January 16 [1927]

Dear Otto, will you believe I was just settling down to write to you and Louise a letter with no requests in it?  But you as only possible court of appeal in present distress is unfortunately suggested by everybody.  it is thus:  We have had a month of much endurance and some pleasure getting here (of which I will write Louise) but the advent of plague in Oran which stopped the boat sailings and sent us around the longest way thru Morocco has played hell in other ways.  Thomas Cook of Lisbon being a Portuguese Thomas Cook did not freight our luggage we now find until two weeks after we left Lisbon.  He also freighted it to Oran via Gibraltar.  So there sits the luggage containing all our reference books, and for me the entire guts historically of the Civil War novel.  I was very distressed by being obliged to leave Lisbon just when I had reached the most ticklish point in the first draft, for tho it is easy to rewrite from the first to polish it is most difficult to retrieve the rhythm of a whole when it is broken just as its momentum is gathering.  Because of Cyril’s show and John’s need to return to England, Algeria ends on April 15th.  I can unpack textbooks in a Paris hotel with Jig, and if Cyril can sell sufficient pictures to pay fair [sic] we are going to NY to consider a school or something for Jig who has had a very unsatisfactory year and is beginning to feel the peculiar isolation of his situation.   Imagine pipp, added to perhaps by the fact that we have with us only the clothes on our backs and no housekeeping linen, and that John lessly [sic] but also needs some of his books on Scilly for his next novel.

Kouba map
Modern map showing the location of Kouba, a suburb of Algiers

Well, I would have cabled you what I am gonna ask but that our check from America was in Paris and we have to wait until it is mailed to Paris and sent back before we collect, and tho we have found an apartment we can’t leave the hotel because we can’t pay our bill until the money comes.  So—I couldn’t cable and can’t send you any money until I have it.  Also I don’t know quite how horrible a thing I am asking of the editor of a magazine who has no time to shop.  Isn’t this like a mystery story with solution in the last chapter?  Bon.  LAST CHAPTER:  I can’t afford to rebuy all my books, nor do I feel I can afford to wait the six to nine weeks Cooks prophecy it may take to get belongings.  I thought it might be possible to replace the two most important ones if you would buy them with bill sent to me so I will return money soon as I get it.  They are Shotwell’s History of the American Civil War, in two volumes. And the second book most needed is one on American Negro Folk music.  I can’t alas remember the title, but it is not very satisfactory anyway, as what I want is the words to various old songs which I only remember in fragments, like Roll Jordan Roll, and Deep River, and Mary and Martha, etc, etc.  I’ll adapt myself to using any songs that happen to be in the book but what I mean to accent is that the reading matter accompanying is nonessential to me.  To look up such a book as this may be impossible, but if it is possible to send the office boy with a note to Foils and perhaps find such a thing at the same time as the history, it sure would be a blessing.  With that help I can write parts and leave out the sections about Lincoln until I have my books on Lincoln—I hope—by the end of February.

Alger is very warm compared to Cintra.  That is to say one wears wool undies and sweaters in the house and is comfortable.  In Cintra one did so and writhed just the same.  France is just a little better than Portugal, but my dream of Algerie as the cheapest place in the world dates back I am afraid, and is no longer appropriate.  Then there are all these here new taxes on foreignors which we may or may not escape.  I think I know how the Russian emigrants feel in America.  It’s a sensation very inhospitable to be taxed hard for living in a place, and the justice of the move doesn’t modify the impression.  Cyril is beastly unwell with a heavy cold he has had up and down since we left Cintra.  It worries me somewhat but I hope it will wear out here.  All of us were ill on our way here and in bed at various places and stages.  I’m glad Louise didn’t come to such a heaven for grippe as Cintra turned out.  The Portuguese are SCUM—SCUUUUUUUUUM.  The country is nice in a spring gardeny way.  I’ll write Louise of our I am afraid futile wish she could be with us to finish some more work.

My humble love.  I feel just like a drunkard that promised mother and then misbehaved again, for I did think I would NOT ask you to buy anything else for me.  From all of us godspeed, happy new year, and our devotions.  evelyn

1It may be that Evelyn felt it necessary to appear married to maintain appearances in a conservative Muslim country.

2Foyle’s Bookshop on the Charing Cross Road in London. Foyle’s was then the world’s biggest bookshop in both size and the number and range of titles stocked.


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To Louise Morgan

Kouba, Algeria
January 17 [1927]

Dear Louise:  I wish you were coming to Alger for their narration and lots of other things. I wish you could—sometime.  Especially as, after Cyril’s show, IF he makes enough, it is our intention to go to USA while Jack goes back to England for a bit.  We are losing too many contacts and Jig needs a school or something.  He is very lonesome this winter and not very happy.  In Portugal he did not make a single acquaintance.  I am very much worried about Cyril, who left Portugal with a bronchitis and has it still and just can I think pull himself about, though his grit and pride exceed many admissions of the fact.  Jack is a very very sweet and comprehending thing and I shall always be glad of my misdemeanors that gave me the opportunity of knowing him so well.

Kouba
General view of Kouba c.1910

Tuesday:  Since beginning this Cyril has cajoled the bank into giving him money before it comes from Paris and we have occupied Cottage Jean.  Kouba is about six miles out but has a tram nearby.  Our suite is very swell in that it has a real bath room and johnny, almost an American bath room, tho the hot water heater requires a wood fire under it.  We have two bedrooms a kitchen a sala and sal a manger.  They are the first floor of a country home of one of the legal profession who is now in town.  Nobody but ourselves is in the house.  There is a terrace at our disposal and last night, feeling very tired and gloomy, I retired there to meditate and saw all Alger in very delicate emerald due on the black hills under clouds all startling from an invisible moon.  The ghost light expanded away from town and I could see all the scallops of beaches and surf quite plainly.  It really is a lovely location, but beastly inconvenient as the shops are miles off and nothing, not even milk, delivered, and we have no present prospect of a servant.  It took Jack until a quarter to twelve to do the marketing.  Also it is raining profusely daily, and we miss our belongings which, as I wrote Otto, are somewhere, presumably, between Gibraltar and heaven.

We had a mild month of it, honey.  The mysterious motor car in which we toured Europe I reveal to you privately as a used Renault of seven horse power which Cyril learned to run via Elsa’s brother when in Switzerland.  Such a vehicle has never been known to do even as much as a Ford and was the first manufactured that ever crossed from France to Portugal.  Cyril had it on a triptych which allowed him to keep it in Portugal three months, and before we left Cintra the time limit ended.  Since then feats of bluff have been in order.  First bluffing the officials at Vila Rial not to detain him on an expired license, and then—Well I will narrate in order.  Cooks told us Vila Rial was the best place to cross the border on.  We got there and found a large river and no bridge.  Were ferried over in a specially hired barge which consumed much of our wherewithal.  Cyril was ill with bronchitis and has been for a month.  Yesterday on arriving here he at last went to bed with thermogene iodine hot water bottles and all he has needed and hasn’t cotton.  He is there now and I hope he’ll stay some time.  At Sevilla I acquired the cold and not having his character and being blind with streaming eyes I laid down at once.  Saw Sevilla mostly from the window in the few days there.  It is a very cheery place despite colds, sunny, orange trees on the sidewalks, very new except for the vastly gloomy relic of the cathedral with a chaotic and occasionally impressive architecture and a very large bull ring also presumably dedicated to Christ.  We had intended to get a boat at Gib to Oran and from there to Alger, fairly short and inexpensive. At Sevilla received word that sailing was cancelled because of plague at Oran.  Could only get our money back promptly by applying at Gib.  We needed it so went on, via Jerez and some real sherry.  Andalusia in its extreme south is all sterility, sun, prickly pear corrals and brilliant sea.  Algiceras received our expiring bodies and John came down with tonsillitis.  We went to Gib Xmas Even and found the garrison thinking of merrie England and rum punch.  It was a fit place to nurture Mrs Bloom.  Sad English ladies with blond hair growing grey bought wild narcissus and berries to make things look like home tomorrow.  It must be a queer exile under that overweight of fortification with Spain seeping in.

We had to choose between traversing the north to Port Vendres in snow and an open car and trying Morocco.  No tryptichs issued for war zone.  But we tried it, going to Ceuta on Xmas and eating cold lunch for Jig’s plum pudding.  We landed safely but it took a long chat with commanding colonel or sumpin he was to get a letter to let us thru.  We were put under promise not to travel before nine or after five.  Soldiers looking statuesque and important on all the heights by road.  Bristley blockhouses—pickets in cocked hats and cloaks flapping dramatically in an icy wind.  Mountains all snow.  Tetuan is a motley hubbub of races.  From there to Alcazarquiver over a pontoon at Larache where this week there has been more ado with Rifs.  But once over the border we were in something more civilized than Spain. Good hotel at Kenitra where Jack was sick and we ran out of money and had to wait around until we could see the first of the month near and a wire possible.  Reached Fez New Year’s even and got our money there.  Saw all the French as drunk as the English at Xmas.  Had champagne gratis at the hotel and all got sick on it—it being gratis.  Saw wonderful walls and amethyst and jade gates (mosaics but fine) and an Araby Douglas Fairbanks never dreamed about.  After that Telemeen, en route went up mountains at dusk, motor lamps wouldn’t work, ran into clouds, night fell, couldn’t see where the cats cradle road went.  Had to get out and light matches to find mile stones.  Road leaped over precipices, but we didn’t.  Bumped into Tolemeen walls about eight pm with our nerves in ribbons.  Next day saw Cascades hanging in spun sugar over hundreds of feet of red and orange granite.  (And I forget desert around Guercif, camels again, mountains steely and snow dashed, nearer like a milky night).  Went to Mascarra where Jig was ill.  On to Orleanville which is like a dump yard inside a jail.  Reached Alger a week ago in a sleet storm that cracked the wind shield.  All dead tired, no clothes, no linen for housekeeping, no books for reference, more or less ill yet, and Cyril a good deal.  Conclusion that it was worth while but not for often.  Also that we are a good deal embarrassed for money.  But once having made the fool essay of Portugal we had to get out with the car.  Portugal is farther off than Mars.

My eyes won’t let me go on.  Cooking and house took too much of day.  But do write when you feel like it, if for letters one ever does.  Darlin, but for the hope you would I wouldn’t.  Jack is writing a very fine story—one of his best I think. All of us send our very, very, very much love and if you can deliver a kiss below the navel, please do it to J C.

evelyn

* * * * *

These next letters refer back to the years Cyril and Evelyn spent in Bermuda with the wealthy Garland-Hale family.  Even though Cyril went there to be their estate manager, a friendship developed between the Scotts and the Garland-Hales, who built a cottage (known as “The Scottage”) for their continued occupation:  this was later withdrawn.  In addition, Marie Tudor Garland pledged them an income of $50 a month each for the rest of their lives, to be paid on her behalf by her solicitor, Walter Nelles.

* * * * *

To Louise Morgan

Kouba, Algeria
February 8 [1927]

Louise, old darling,  Well, a very heavy blow has just descended upon our solar plexus, and I want to quote to you and Otto, in moderate confidence of course,  the following letter received yesterday from Marie:

“Dear Evelyn:

“This is not an easy letter to write.  Chiefly because in the past you have misunderstood me and quarreled with me.

“I find that it is impossible for me to continue as a patron of the arts!  (Exclamation hers) I have come to the point where I am not only earning my own living, but am earning yours too.  I am telling you this because I think you may wish to earn your own.

“I am finding it increasingly hard since I gave half of what I had to Swinburne to make a living off an income dwindled to almost nothing.  Each year, to meet my obligations to you and to others, I have drawn upon my capital until that has almost disappeared. As I have a sense of humour I suddenly realized that I was trying to earn enough to take care of everyone but myself.

“I am in business, apart from everything else, and I may make good, but at present I am not making enough to go on with my annuities and I have to cut them out.  I wish to reduce yours to half this year and pay nothing next year.  This will give you a chance to look around and provide for yourself.

“I shall ask Walter to send you six hundred dollars this next year.  I think you know without my telling you how sorry I am to have to do this.

Your friend,
Marie T Garland”

Which leaves us where we were five years ago except that Cyril has a chronic pulse of about a hundred and thirty and we are in Africa instead of New York.

Cyril is in Bousaad so I can’t consult him yet.  The joke is that all the checks have gone to him for over three years but I guess she couldn’t forego a direct one at me knowing I was still getting my share.  Of course in winter I was with you I was able to hold off thanks to you and Franks, but Cyril did not use it all for him anyway and it was what he had kept out that he called mine that went on this unfortunately expensive journey from Portugal.  It has taken Jack all year to finish his novel so, tho he is working hard trying to get some short stories off to Peters, he has nothing ahead at present.  Africa is a fine place to spend a small income but a poor one to find a supplement for no income at all.  And even to get to Paris on fifty dollars a month doesn’t look optimistic.  If Migrations sells I may get a little from it next fall.  In the meantime—Well, here we am.  Of course I’ve got to get back to America tho just how ain’t very exact.  I’m going to collect all the good clippings I ever had of my work and try to put it up to somebody or other to give me another hand out for a few years.  Of course Cyril can’t support me as of yore (even not counting his own affairs and the sacrifice of great painting) with a heart at a hundred and thirty all the time and a bronchial tendency getting worse—tho I know him and expect him to be as prodigally inclined re me and Jig as he always was, bless him.  Nor do I see Jack, who is really very inexperienced in jobs and worldly things, very certain to contend successful with USA EVEN, which makes it a sickening thought, at the complete sacrifice of his imminent success.  Poor old Jig hears we are hard up and is a darling wanting to sell stamps and so on.  But I want him to be EDUCATED since obviously he is to receive no inheritance.  So its back where it was when Otto first knew us and Gladys took me to the general electric for a job I didn’t get.  of course if I get no help I’ll have to go to work, which seems sillier now than it did then after having got as the publication of seven books and the acceptance of eight (EVEN tho they ain’t sold miraculously).  I am still choking in the implacable fact—but there it is—and the funny thing is I have expected it in nightmares for four years at least.  And I still feel that it just couldn’t be true that I have to give up writing, and, maybe, from what I guess anyhow, Cyril painting too.  Of course the immediate problem is framing for Sug’s show, and the getting of all of us away from here and to America.  I have written asking Walter to try and get me the six hundred more of a lump instead of fifty per month, but he probably won’t.  We have just enough on hand to carry us thru the rest of time here with economy.  Cyril of course can sell the Renault but it was worth so little to start on it so won’t be no fortune.  Otto was right, they ain’t no quiet life for this crowd.

But something in my gizzard is so mad I don’t feel half as despairing as commonsense tells me I should.

We LOVE YOU TOO, YOU BET.
evelyn

* * * * *

To Marie Tudor Garland

Chez Mme. Kay Boyle
22 Boulevard du France, Monte-Carlo, Monaco1
February 19, 1927

Dear Marie:

I have just received your letter of December 5th which has been forwarded to me.

Of course I am terribly surprised since you said at Bermuda “I have done this so you needn’t ever have to worry again about your actual bread and butter”.  It simply never occurred to me after this that it was a contingent gift, otherwise I should never have come to Europe but should have made other plans.

I am very grateful for what I have received and am sorry to hear that your own resources have diminished.

During these years I have always hoped that some day we might come to a renewed understanding and friendship.

I shall get back to America as soon as I can, and try to make my belated plans for my future.

Again I thank you, and please know that I have always wished you happiness and good and always shall.

Very sincerely, [not signed]

1There is no evidence that Evelyn left Kouba to travel to Monaco at this time and this return address appears to be a way of concealing their whereabouts from Marie. Evelyn and Cyril had been giving Marie the Theis’ London address, and their dealings with her appear to have been via their lawyer, Walter Nelles.

* * * * *


To Louise Morgan

Kouba, Algeria
March 8, 1927

Very dear ginklet:  It was pretty darling of you to get angry and of course nothing could please me more seeing as I was angry myself.  Of course it doesn’t look hopeful.  I’ve never heard you and Otto speak of feeling close to any wealthy cousins, and my pa, who might at least have left me a fiver, has repented his weak access of mobility, and has refused to answer any of the four letters I have written him since July last.

Cyril was up for three days to frame some pictures for a show going on here, and they were wonderful—such an ache of subtleties of a robust—but not “red blooded” kind as braced us up.  Jig and I will stay in Paris till Cyril’s show is over, when it is hoped there will be the sponduliks for everybody’s fare to NY.  Of course Sug is determined to pay it, and I don’t see how to help it, if he finds he can, for it would not help his spirits much to leave Jig and me decaying there.  No fear Marie will change her mind as regards me I think.  I’m not asking her sure, tho even that may seem funny after one has digested so much for so long heartily.  Of course I’m going back to NY with every intention to try and play the “game”, and of course very likely I shall not be at it long before I put my foot in it.  Ever since I was fifteen I’ve been fighting to develop one way, against discouragement, and in consequence I haven’t developed the other.  I’m not clever and never will be.  I don’t either exalt the fact or indulge in humility regarding it.  But it is so hard to keep agile in a worldly minded way and to remain expressive in a quite other way.  And mostly only the few and rare achieve it.  And mostly only the few and rare keep their defense active and acquisitive and their deepest guts intact though mute.

Still, I’m older and less impassioned about the matter than I was when I first came to New York.  All the time I was ill and isolated in Brazil I lived on the plane of trying to write the best that was in me, and on no other.  It was a jump from the almost mystical solitude of Cercadinho to the intrigues of Greenwich Village—particularly as the lack of manners misguided me to imagine them the reflection of leanings toward honesty.  And of course the enemies made then will be the hardest to ignore now, as they won’t ignore me, in the wrong way.

However, for self centeredness I guess that’s enough.  Jack is a fine kid, and everything that any really generous temperament can be when it has absolutely no practical experience of being responsible for any living thing but itself.  I mean he wants to help me, but the only thing commonsense and facts allow is that he help himself as fast as ever he can.  He will have to get a job when he arrives I’m afraid at once, tho there is Bossun1 and the aunts for a couple of weeks.  I’m praying very heartily he can land on something half time so that he can go on.

We have just had Ram a din2 and hope the Arabs are happy.  Mutton went up six francs more a kilo in consequence.  It is beginning to be spring here very flagrantly with white flowers and bees and things and all the roses out tho chilly since the stone floors and fireless rooms are built for twelve above.  Please have Otto write us when the news arrives.  We think about it every day.  I dream of receiving five kids by parcel post, losing them in a tram, and finding them again under a seat in a locker.  Thinking they must be suffocated, I put them out on the ground when all rose and talked.  So I cut the strings and out jumped four dogs and a cat.  The street being full of such animals, I consulted five tintype photos of little girls in aprons and recognized one as a spits, one a greyhound, one a spaniel, one a terrier, and one the cat. Gad bless yawl and your works, internal and on paper.

love from us, evelyn

PS  You know I have in a Bermuda trunk stored alas in Marie’s house for the letter announcing the life gift of that money, and for Jig thereafter.

This is most likely a reference to Bosham (pronounced “Bossum”) in Sussex, where John’s Aunt Mary lived.
Ramadan

* * * * *

 

Some time during the summer of 1927 Evelyn and Jigg returned to the United States.  No existing letters give any reason for her return at this point, and the next post will see her in lodgings in New York City.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One thought on “17. Algeria, again

  1. ‘Darling Old Kid, please will you give me five pence’ I love it! How eccentric, charming and yet with strong undertones of needy and demanding… a complex bouquet, your grandmother!

    Like

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