20. Woodstock to Felixstowe

Cyril had been in Santa Fe for some months when Evelyn and Jigg returned to New York from Montreal.  During this period Evelyn’s finances were even more precarious than usual, as the following sequence of letters illustrates.  [It is very possible that Evelyn wrote to friends whose letters have not made it into this collection, and equally possible that any such letters have been lost or destroyed.]

* * * * *

To David Lawson

[c/o Mrs Kate Russell, Woodstock, New York]
Saturday [August 1928]

Dearest Davy:

I am coming in with Jig on Wednesday instead of Thursday of next week.  Can you put us both up?  Will arrive on six oclock evening boat at Debrosses1 and go to you unless you phone Woodstock 5! [illeg] to say you can’t have us.  If I don’t hear I will think you expect us. I have decided to go to England if Margaret2 will pay my fare.  I don’t know that she will because I find after second letter from her that she meant to pay Jig’s fare if I should want him to join me.  I misunderstood her.  however I have asked her for mine and will begin negotiations anyway.

Jack seems in a state about quota and life in general. Tell you all about it.

dearest love you and lola.  evelyn

1The terminal for Hudson River ferries at Debrosses Street, then operating between Manhattan and points on the Hudson, including Woodstock.
Margaret DeSilver, wealthy New York socialite and loyal friend of Evelyn and Jack. She gave them significant material aid in a number of ways on more than one occasion.

* * * * *

To David Lawson

[Woodstock, New York]
August 9, 1928

Dear Davy:

I expected to come back to town this week:  but Cyril has written about Santa Fe and a new plan has developed.  Cyril hopes to have the fare for Jig in a couple of more week.  Or at least, he says, by September first.  I’m going to try to arrange with Hazel1 for some place to stay.  But if that fails, and Lola is improving, could Jig and I spend three days with you?  I would have to collect his clothes and attend to the removal of his tooth braces, and finally send him off.  Then, if I have no further plans regarding Jack and England, I’ll come up here again.  It’s cheaper than living in town of course, and will be much better for writing when vacations are waning—next month I guess.

It is nice here. At the present moment there is rather more “social life” than I had bargained for; but I will say it for the usage here, that people respect one’s writing hours.  That writing is truly acknowledged “business” is at least an accepted thing.

We miss you and Lola daily.  That’s the only waste of this arrangement.  As far away as Montreal you two were beyond regrets.  Here it is a bit distressing to feel that the boat goes to NY in a few hours every day and we don’t know anything.  As a matter of fact, the schedule is bad.  It leaves Kingtown everyday at one and does not arrive at Debrosses Street until six in the evening.  And the train journey is dearer and not much quicker—takes four hours.

Our very, very, very much love Davy from both of us
evelyn

Hazel Abrams was a friend with whom Evelyn often stayed while in New York. She had a flat in Greenwich Village.

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

[Woodstock, New York]
August 9 [1928]

Lovely girl:  I can telephone on a party line from out here; but there are twenty-one phones on the same line and the connection is terrible—and costs eighty-five cents.  That is why I have requested the aid of various unknown aides, who may annoy Davy with their telephone calls from town; but I am sure he will forgive me if he realizes what a relief it is to establish even that approximation of direct connection with what is going on.

My eyes are still wabbly; and if I ever get settled near an occulist I can trust, I’m going to take desperate measures.  As long as I don’t write I’m splendid; but I’m afraid that, even aside from economic pressure, I have forgotten how to enjoy literal idleness.

Cyril writes that he has Jig’s fare to Santa Fe—or will have it in a few weeks.  And when it appears I will have to come to town to send him off.  As he can’t prolong his treatments at the dentist anyway, I expect to bring him in a day or two ahead to pack and have the bridges off.  Hazel may be able to find some place for me to stay, but if she doesn’t maybe I will call on Davy’s charity again, if you are feeling better then.  I’m afraid I would have to allow at least three days for dentistry and packing.  Then, in the interval of uncertain plans, I guess I’ll come up here again.

Anyway—I love you (the only platitude I can’t withhold) dear, dear, dear, dear lovely thing.  evelyn

* * * * *

To David Lawson

[Woodstock, New York]
August 16 [1928]

Dear absolute brick Davy:  I was very much touched by all your generous alarm on my behalf.  You are a sweetie.  But it would not do much good for me to run away in a fashion that would prevent my knowing what happened.  You see my denial of mother is an intellectual matter, and while to have her with me permanently in one ménage would, as I know from past experience, end work and happiness; I have that subconscious affiliation with her than can not be eliminated by the mandates of reason.  When Cyril took charge of her letters he was doing his reasonable best for me; but it didn’t work.  I had subconscious horrors about her all the time.  To give you an example, while I adore Cyril so completely as a human that I could never resent his interference on my behalf, I never forgave Alfred Kreymborg1 for being rude to mother2.  This will show you that my personal pride as well as infantile affection is still identified with mother.  If it comes to the point of taking her on, the home must be found because, even discounting other reasons, I literally can not support her.  But it wouldn’t solve it for me to leave future history a blank.

I wrote Margaret DeSilver about the last news—which is that the Graceys3 are going to begin an action against my father.  If it works some money may be gotten for mother, tho I doubt it will be enough to solve things.  Anyway I believe they won’t ship her here until that is settled.  This gives me a few months leeway, I gather.  In the meantime, if there looms up, as I fear, the alarming possibility of me being involved as witness in the lawsuit against my father, Margaret says she will pay my fare to England, which would be a more effectual escape than hiding in New York. But I am also waiting to find out what comes of that.

However, the immediate favor I would like to ask is this.

Jig’s tooth straightening has been left in a mess, and he must have another visit to the dentist.  If I send him down to NY next Thursday on the boat, landing him at Debrosses street at six pm, can he spend Thursday night and Friday night in your place?  He would go to the dentists on Friday and return on Saturday morning with Hazel Abrams who is coming up here then.

I would be grateful if you could meet him at the boat; but if that is inconvenient, would you be in at six and have the outer door unlocked?

Dear Davy, again thank you from me heart for the real and beautiful friendship you so constantly show.  I will be in town in September when I bring Jig in, as I said, and will be very humbly receptive to advice.  I have been so worried and upset that I have done almost no writing, and would like to concentrate on finishing something before I bike off to England or somewhere else.

If I sent a small check by Jig—ten or fifteen dollars—could you cash it?  It is hard to cash checks here.

Best love of Jig to me and to you and her,
evelyn

American poet, novelist, playwright, literary editor and anthologist. In the 1920s he was associated with the same publications as Lola.
The letters do not include any information about this incident.
The Graceys were cousins of Maude Dunn, with whom she had been staying ever since her return from Brazil., The action against Seely Dunn was presumably for financial support for Maude, possibly to enable her to be financially independent of the Graceys.

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

[Woodstock, New York]
August 28 [1928]

Beloved:

Jack telephoned from Montreal last night and said he had got no job yet and his money was getting so low he thought he would have to return to England while he had the fare.  He was evidently pretty overwrought, and I have decided to leave for Montreal tomorrow night so that I can at least see him before he goes—or maybe we can fix a plan between us about coming here.

with apologies—no I won’t keep this up—and so much love
from evelyn

* * * * *

To David Lawson

611 Madison Street, Clarksville, Tennessee
September 8, 1928

Dear Mr Lawson:

I am enclosing a letter to Cyril, in the same envelope with this note to you, because I think it a better plan not to send a letter through the Clarksville Post Office addressed in his name.1  As you will see I have put his name on the envelope, leaving space for you to add the address, below, and forward to him.  The same plan ought to be followed with any letter he may send through you.

Thanking you for this courtesy.
Very truly yours,
Mrs M T Dunn

1vThe relationship between Cyril and Maude broke down entirely while they were in Brazil. It is possible that this ruse was adopted as her Gracey cousins would have welcomed learning Cyril’s address and pursuing him for maintenance for Maude.

* * * * *

Some time between late September and early October 1928, Evelyn and Jack returned to England and Jigg joined his father in Santa Fe, although the correspondence relating to this decision and their journey appears to have been lost. Evelyn and Jack appear to have stayed with Jack’s long-time friend C Thompson-Walker at his home in Kent; they later moved on to Felixstowe in Suffolk, staying in what had been Jack’s childhood home.

* * * * *

To David Lawson

care C F Thompson-Walker
Winsley, Red Hill, Chislehurst, Kent]
September 25 [1928]

Dearest Davy:

My time since arrival has been spent mostly in bed—throat chest eyes (due to unheated houses).  It is quite cold.

I am on edge about the mother thing.  Is she writing to Cyril via you?  Has anything happened?  I don’t want to be cut off from news.  I’ll just worry more.

Will you send me Cyril’s El Paso address as soon as you get it?  I want to cable him re Jack and I and job and don’t know where to.

Dear Davy, this has been an odd experience (the visit) which I will narrate for you and Lola’s delection some day.  It is seeing England for sure.

And no friends in the world were ever what you and Lola are and have always been to me.  I just relapse into weeping mistiness when I try to express it.  I love you both very deeply (and Pete knows I ought).  But you both know all that.

Darn if you are so good to me.  Wish I could ever be half.

England, my England
Of cold meat pie
Of raddled cheek
And haughty eye,
Of Indian Colonel,
Roman dame,
I sometimes wonder why I came!

(But I don’t—Jack is a good reason.)  Love, blessings, thanks to you and Lola from both

* * * * *

To David Lawson

[Chislehurst, Kent]
[October 9 [1928]

Dear Davy:

If Jack and I can raise the $500 to flash at the government we will sail Dec 14 or a little earlier—say 7th if Jack’s writing allows.  Will your 2nd studio be occupied or could you let it to us for four or five days?  We hope to be able to go to NO1 by freight boat almost at once but could find no sailings from her to NO that fitted in.  Anyhow if we get to NY Jack is in.

If that happens and you can take us in, I would ask you to leave your key with Lola and we could go from boat by her place, if she is well enough to give it us.

I’m kind of homesick and longing for you all.  I enclose a note to Lola [reproduced below] as I don’t know whether she is using Cox or house.

With very much love always
Evelyn

New Orleans

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

[Chislehurst, Kent]
October 9 [1928]

Beloved:

How I wish I could break down the doubt unplanted now of ever finding an ear for what gives me the word of poetry.  It makes my pen halt and refuse to write it.  If it were not for that, I could give you an adequate sense of a scene meant for you when, yesterday, walking over Westminster Bridge just as rain came over sun and sun burst faintly or the shivered rain again, we looked East along the solid low enormous ramparts of Somerset House, and below them to the embankment, faintly with scurrying red busses and then further to some grey shape of commerce that was probably a Brewery between us and London Bridge; and the gulls were whirling—like little rotating white machines—childrens inventions, I thought, and the barges at the South Bank—the dingy bank—lay stranded in a bramble bus of schooner masts, and the soiled Thames water tuned murkily a half-blue, as if peace had shone upon it an instant in passing on.

The other way the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Spire took that sonorous contour that fog and evening gives to everything here—and there was the intimation of sunset too reserved to flame forth.

Afterward Jack and I walked up the Strand and down to Temple Gardens where the flowers do credit—as it old English gardens—to that timid poetry too doubtfully expressed in other places.  The dahlias were a whole city up and down the wall—sulphur pale, end of a red that I wanted to call Charlotte Corday, if allowed to give them a name.

There was a little sunken garden, a nursery for baby asters, with a minute pool like a fairy’s sea, and a minute bronze cherub riding on top of it.

All of London I get thru the eyes, I love.  Its bulk, which is orchestral, and is always softened and liquefied by the gentle darkness of mists in sun.

Of the people I have a mood of weariness, due to meeting too many relatives.1  They make me like better to think of raucous New York and all our screaming rather ugly youth, where this is a at least no dry-rot niceness yet.

Love, Beloved, and anxious hopes to hear good of you,

Love from Jack too to you and Davy,
Evelyn

1Evelyn is probably referring to Jack’s maiden aunts.

* * * * *

To David Lawson

801 Austin Street, El Paso, Texas
October 14, 1928

Dear Davy:

Thank you for your letters and for forwarding Mrs Dunn’s letters and for everything.  I’ve been in a whirl.  Everything is going fine and I’d like to see you and Lola.  Please give her my dearest love, bless her—one of the dearest and most wonderful people who ever lived.  I enclose a letter, which please forward, as my address is a secret from the lady in question.

Jig is well and talks about you lots.

I’ll write later at greater length—just now am working day and night.

Best love to you and to beautiful Lola—the world is more bearable because she is in it.

Always affy and gratefully
Cyril

PS:  Please put the enclosed in an envelope and address it in your own hand to—Mrs M T Dunn, 611 Madison St, Clarksville, Tenn.  Cyril

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

Chislehurst, Kent
October 18, 1928

Sweetheart, I know you will be glad that I have recovered the use of a typewriter.  It at least eliminates for the time one of the lesser tests of our friendship for me.  As for the other way round, however, I am really so improving in capacity to decipher that it is a sort of a pleasure of sanity to peruse one of your distinguished flourishes.1

I love you and Cyril as I love some books, some pictures, some landscapes—because you represent in the organisation of your human life the kind of harmonies that, usually, are only wrung from the fact on paper or on canvas by the great especial effort of art.  Most people, even most artists, are only for moments as good as their best work.  Both of you I have seen for the space of years consistent with your own best achievement and with all the beauty that ever was designed to be eternal in such eternity as art allow.

It hurts me conscience that he paid for that garret longer with that vague intention on accommodating me.  I wish I could square it, but of course he wouldn’t.  I don’t even know the cost of taxi cab when he took my trunk—which makes it worse my asking other things.  I have had no word yet from Sophie, or from Cyril about mother, and wondering if it will all be hung up just as high when we get back.

No news on Wave. Jack and I hope to reach New York by mid December, depending on possession of the five hundred needed to show customs.  His passage has been advanced on condition he has three quarters of his new novel done before we sail.  I have mine.

Cyril has hopes of a job in west by Jan 1st.  There the remains problem of a week in New York.  For Gawds sake don’t let Davy rerent that place even if he can, but will you both inquire when it comes up if there is any place available to rent for a week at that time?  I’m leery of landing there with no place decided on if I can help it.  Shall write to the Waverly Hotel, in Waverly Place if there is no other way.  Scarcely heard from anybody.

felixstowe.PNG
Felixstowe Suffolk [www.oldukphotos.com]
And, oh, I forgot to tell you we have lodging at Felixstowe in a house where Jack lived in childhood—it was then his home not lodgings.  This is where the German Empress used to summer, but nothing remains but a mouldy dwelling, modestly regal, now hotel.  We face the North Sea and empty atrocities occupied by summer trippers but now abandoned to the gales.  It is like a locust shell that has been shed, this town in winter—all new and a perfect husk, but lifeless after summer.  Except that the sea stays cold and alive and yesterday was stormy with the sun brazening sulphur brown clouds and the gulls mewing, and a few nursemaids with prams running to escape the rain on the elegant promenade beach where nobody walks after Sept 1st.  It is all new here, with an after war newness that makes England the lame counterpart of Douglas Long Island, but it is very cheap at this season.  Love and love to you from us and to dear Davy

1 A reference to Lola’s unique handwriting.

* * * * *

To David Lawson

Chislehurst, Kent
October 27 [1928]

Dear Davy:

I am so sorry I have had to trouble you—or rather have troubled you so much.  I don’t know what has happened to Cyril unless it is he is just dotty with responsibilities and the effort to make things go for all of us.  I have had a cable of his address—801 Austin Street, El Paso, Texas—but have not had a line from him, Phyllis or Jig written since my departure.

One reason he may be extra harassed I found out today.  This mornings post brought me, ironically, as a birthday present for poor Jig, another letter from Marie [Tudor Garland], saying that, My marriage to Jack which she had just heard of making it “easier” for her to do it, she would have to permanently discontinue my income (and it is implied Cyril’s too) after December.  So I have two months of grace at my twenty-five a week.

Thank the Lord Margaret gave me enough for my fare home, or I would be in hell.  I suppose I will have to give up my frantic resistance to the sacrifice of writing and get whatever job I can.  If Cyril succeeds in finding Jack a job out west and can help us out there, I would rather work in Texas than in NY’s climate (been having chronic bronchitis here).  But in case he can’t then I must settle down to whatever brass tacks I can command there.  I wish I could get a literary job, but suppose I had better resign myself to waitressing or sumpin like.

The gods bless you and love from me and Jack to you and Lola.  I’ll be home first part December whether Jack can come or not.

kiss lola.  evelyn

* * * * *

To David Lawson

Felixstowe, Suffolk
November 30 [1928]

Dearest Davy:

Wondering in the major way how Lola is, I am also in the minor way asking you more favors.

It is pretty fierce to continue to trouble you, Davy dear, and none of these things matter compared to major worries; yet if anything can be done I will be obliged, as the loss of the clothes means the purchase of more and we are so hard up.  I thank you and do so apologise.

Jack and I are sailing on December 14th.  On the American Banker—American Merchant Line.  Jack is not allowed to buy a tourist third ticket when we goes as an emigrant, so we had to take a one class boat.  This is the same line I came over on.  We will get in on Xmas Eve if our journey is a lucky one; but more likely on Xmas day or the day after.  The weather has been terrible and nothing but wrecks off this coast, so I don’t feel very happy about it.  Vestris1 wreck impressed my imagination unduly.

Now Davy dear, the ever resourceful landlady, Hazel, had found a way to put us up in her place, so, thank god, we won’t have to camp on you.  You must want to poison me by now with all the changes of plan.  But it is so much better you don’t have to sleep with Lola, and selfishly, Hazel has steam heat.  My teeth chatter daily here.

Lots of love from us to you and her, dear davy.
evelyn

The SS Vestris sank on 12th November 1928. There was an outcry about her generally lax safety and as a result new laws regarding safety on merchant shipping were introduced..

* * * * *

To David Lawson

[Felixstowe, Suffolk]
December 4 [1928]

Dearest Davy:

Guess we all seem world’s worst pills in making so many demands on friendship and, technically, standpoint of letters, returning to little.  You see in one way you have kept far more independence than anybody ever does who tries to put over a business.  In America that is done, as you know, entirely and exclusively by bluff.  Virtue counts very little.  I only know because I have seen it what Cyril puts into starting these new enterprises that are to save us all from starvation—and that’s what his art school idea is intended for.  Just one year ago and the specialist Cyril had in New York said that his nerves were in a condition, with his heart, that would either kill him or land him in invalidism for life (this is confidential) and yet he is still going and having persuaded the unutterably hyde bound citizens of El Paso to send at least a fair number of their daughters to him, besides bucking the troubles that came when he and Phyllis went away from NY.  So, dear Davy, while there ain’t a leg to stand on in one way, please be forgiving.  Indeed I see you are.

Believe I wrote you last week that we are sailing on Dec 14 on The American Banker—due in with luck Xmas Eve.  Then to decide whether we go to El Paso or get jobs in New York.

Jesus bless you both as he would and do lots for you if he had more power on Olympus. Hope to see you and Lola Xmas day.  blessings again, evelyn

PS  I have finished the first draft of a 450 page novel1 in three weeks and four days, so if I get a job I can work on it Sundays.

1 Published in 1929 as The Wave.

* * * * *

To Otto Theis and Louise Morgan

c/o Abrams, 66 Perry Street, NYC
January 16, 1929

Sweet Peoples,

Evelyn maybe has told you I got job as captain of a coal-barge in East River, held the job 10 days and then got run-into by a tug or something one night1.  Three of us barges tied up abreast.  Tug hit outer boat and shock caused my lines to the dock to part, so we were all three carried upstream to Hellgate.  Were picked off by police launch just in time.  2 minutes later the barges hit rock and sank.  I lost my clothes and bedding but saved the novel.  Got back same night to E in Hudson St to find her ill with flue.  Now much worse, so she’s in hospital at New York Infirmary.  Don’t know what next.  Am using spare time in writing but may get another barge job if vacancy occurs.

How are you all then?  Write to us.  Forgive haste.  E sends bestest love and hugs to you both.   So do I.

Yrs ever,
John

Lots of nice free publicity for John Metcalfe in all the papers as result of barge mix-up.  Headlines “Two Saved from Hellgate” etc etc

1Hell’s Gate is a narrow tidal stretch in New York City’s East River, and is known to be dangerous to navigation. A search of online New York City newspaper archives for this date has not yielded any information about this incident.

* * * * *

To David Lawson

Cyril Kay-Scott School of Painting
East Yandell Boulevard at Austin Street
El Paso, Texas

January 23, 1929

Dear Davy:

Why haven’t I written?  Davy I’ve been up against it.  One is ashamed to write when things are bad.  Marie didn’t like Phyllis (she wouldn’t like any woman I married) and took my “income” away and left me heavily in debt and without a red cent.  I’ve paid off $2000 in notes and have only $200 more to pay, but it looks as if we were going to get through all right now.

I want to ask another favor from you.  There is a movement on foot to put my school on an official footing here.  Would you send me a letter addressed “to whom it may concern” saying nice things about me as a person, abut my prominence as a painter and my ability to talk sound principles of art?  Do you know anyone with a letter head who would vouch for me similarly?  As a matter of fact I am as reliable financially as the most conventional man in the US.

How are you Davy and how is dear Lola.  I think of you both so often even if I don’t write.  You know how one feels when one is with one’s back to the wall and don’t want to have even his truest friends feel sorry for him.

Don’t feel bad toward me because I’ve not written.  I consider you one of the few steadfast friends I have.  You’ve stuck to me all these years and my feeling for you is something few people have gained.

I’m nearly all in from overwork, but if this thing goes through, things will be easier on me.

Best love to you both
Affy
Cyril

All this is confidential

* * * * *

To Louise Morgan

449½ Hudson Street, NYC
February 10 [1929]

Dear Kiddie:

Lord deliver us,  don’t reproach yourself about writing.  As a matter of strict etiquette I should have written.  But life has been exhaustingly full since we got here and my inclinations, if I had the temperament would be to pass out like Merton in some sort of collapse that made it impossible I be supposed to think.  Now you have had your share of the same kind of reflections, so we ought to understand each other.  It is illness and money.

First there was the barge.  Today Jack is in bed with flu.  I had flue and went to hospital as you know, but which it was revealed that I have a tumour in the uterus (a small and tame one they say however) inflammation of the uterus (not due to tumour but to a hurt acquired in Montreal) diabetes (not advanced) an inflamed appendix, and a derangement of the liver probably due to the sluggish effects of my general prolapsis.  Also anaemia.  I’m taking iron injections and diabetic diet, but the real cure would be total irresponsibility—and for Jack as well.  You know all about it.

Cheerio and lots of ‘em, in other words as true but less nostalgic of Blighty—or thee—our best beloved love to you and very much adored Otto,

evelyn

* * * * *

To Otto Theis and Louise Morgan

449½ Hudson Street, NYC
April 7, 1929

Dear Peoples,

Excuse scrawl and great haste.  Evelyn now in hospital after operation (successful) and therefore unable to answer your nice, nice letters, – says she sends bushels and oceans of love, and will write when able.  Expects to be out of hospital in 10 days.  Then we hope spend a month in country—but this address will always find us.

Blessings to you all three, and I do hope things soon get cheerier.  You’re having a hell of a time just now I know.

E’s operation consisted in a complete remodelling of the vaginal landscape, general refitting and spring cleaning.  Involved great pain for a week afterwards, catheterizing only every 6 hours and of course, in rebellion, she wet her sheets all the time.  And more even than that.  Formidable and tumultuous movement of bowels while I was visiting her, – also in sheets.  Nurses dashing around with pallid smirks.  But enough of this—

Love and hugs to you all three,
Yrs ever,
John

* * * * *

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