27. Recovery, two deaths and a granddaughter

Very little correspondence remains of the period between Evelyn’s separation from Jack and the summer of 1937, when Maude Dunn died.  During this time Jack managed to sell Jove Cottage and returned to London and to the Royal Air Force.  It is very likely that, as a former reservist from World War I, he was called up when it looked as though Britain would be involved in a second war, although he may have rejoined voluntarily.  The tone of his letters indicated a much improved mental state.

Although Jack was stationed at RAF Kinross, he used the address of his old friends in Claygate, Surrey during this time for security reasons. Letters from this period also include references to his house in London, which he presumably bought with the proceeds from Jove Cottage.  This property, 26 Belsize Crescent in the pleasant suburb of Hampstead, was a large house on three storeys plus a basement. Jack planned to let out flats on the three floors and to live with Evelyn in the basement, using the rental from the flats to service the mortgage and to support himself and Evelyn. For reasons that become obvious later the property became, instead of a source of financial security, a huge financial drain which will merit a chapter on its own.

Following her return from Brazil in 1917, Maude lived with her Gracey cousins in Clarksville, Tennessee.  She was effectively a pauper and Evelyn supported her when she could with a modest monthly allowance, scraped together from her small earnings from her writings.

* * * * *

Will of Maude Thomas Dunn

I want my only child Evelyn D Scott Metcalfe (novelist) to have everything I possess.

Maude Thomas Dunn

April 6, 1937
Clarksville, Tennessee

MTD will

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

c/o Abrams, 66 Perry Street, NYC
Sunday [Summer 1937]

Darling, I hate this awful building up of days and distances between us but I know nothing can affect our very deep fundamental rapport and that love once felt for a person wholly though it may sleep in expression can rise when called for from whatever apparent tomb of silences. No dearest I am not ill, but just sapless.  Some days I think I must have TB1, again that I am on the brink of declining from some unnamed obscure malady; and in the end when I rest it is just that—fatigue—and rest is really all I need.  Jack’s situation is very, very tragic; and I can’t quite recover from my own decision, which my mind still approves, to save myself at the risk of his own chance of complete reestablishment.  He went back to England, and I won’t write to him until he is thoroughly in control again as it only harrows under the circumstances.  He has every logical chance of being OK, again and greatly improved before he left; but finance and discouragements to writing are dreadful things for a man to bear alone who has just been through his ordeal—psychological collapses are worse than anything physical and I say that knowing at least enough of the physical not to be a fool of unimaginativeness.  But at the worst if you are ill in body you die.  So I was very glad the doctors so conclusively diagnosed him as not a case of insanity, but just break down, which is vastly different in the medical meaning.

Jig is writing a novel,2 Lola—don’t tell.  I think it is marvelous in lucid, lucent reticent style.  Lots of sad things come out in it however and the theme may make it difficult to sell today.  [remainder of letter missing]

It is very possible that recurring references to chest problems indicated early symptoms of the lung cancer which eventually killed Evelyn. 
Jig’s only novel, The Muscovites, was published in 1940

 * * * * *

To Louise Morgan

28 Craven Terrace, London W2
September 23, 1937

My Dear Louise,

I meant to write or ‘phone you for several days, but have been rushed.  Darling, something you said over the ‘phone annoyed me, and I prefer, particularly in my present irritable mood, to get my little “mads” off my chest.

You said I made “excellent first impressions”. What I would point out is that even that is pretty darned good for someone who, ill-advisedly, sought a better world, or no-world, only a few months back, and was told by his doctor that he was foolish to think, as yet, of so much as applying for a job.  The whole business in NY took me at a most staggering disadvantage.  I’d given up the house [in Walberswick] for what seemed, after weighing pros and cons, the joint good of both, but the actual doing of it was such a fearful wrench that I arrived a temporary wreck and said and did utterly misrepresentative things which precipitated the break.  The break itself was hardly therapeutic with effect and the vicious circle was prolonged.  It’s completely unjust, my dear, to judge a still-sick, if recuperating, bloke by standards applicable to the quite robust.  I’ve survived enough to tip the strongest, let alone someone taken between wind and water in the middle of a nervous breakdown.  I consider the whole thing a most grotesque pity, and an enormous waste of time, nerves and emotions.  I want, of course, to cut losses as much, and as soon, as possible.  Evelyn’s action is historically and psychologically comprehensible, and while I think it misguided and quite as much of a pity for her as for me, I see how it happened detachedly enough, and leave it at that pro tem.  Meanwhile, I can, with recovered health, live my own life, and get as good milk as has been spilt.

Love, – see you soon,
John

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

Officers’ Mess, No 14 FTS
RAF Kinross, Morayshire, Scotland
July 23, 1939

Dear Lola,

I’ve been meaning to write for a long while, and wondering how you are getting on.  I do so hope you are feeling fitter than when I last saw  you, and that you are able to work some.  The way you have carried on all these years in the face of so much illness and discouragement should be an example to anyone.

As for me, I’m back in the Air Force as you see and comfortable enough.  I came up here in May.  I was hoping to be posted nearer London, so I could use my own house1, but this station has its advantages.

Work is varied and interesting—but leaves little time for my own writing.  However, I manage a little now and then.

The country round here is quite lovely in its way, but we’ve been having an awful lot of rain;—it’s been general, all over England too.

I wish I could have remained longer in New York and seen more of you and of Davey while I was there.

Over here there is, of course, the usual talk of war.  There’s no telling really what will happen.

RAF Kinross
RAF Kinross, c 1935 [commons.wikimedia.org]
This station is quite new, and only partially built.  At present we are in hutments.  It’s all very familiar though it’s twenty years since I was demobbed and twelve since I came off the Reserve.  The CO is a very decent sort of bloke and the crowd as a whole not at all bad.

Ever so much love to you dear Lola, and all the best to Davey from
Jack

PS  Am worried about Evelyn who seems, from her recent letters, to be having a hard time of it.  And I, at the moment, have to put every cent from my pay into the house or, if I miss a payment, lose the whole thing.  But if I can hang on for a few months longer I will have rounded the corner.

This is the first reference to the house in London, 26 Belsize Crescent.

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Care of F Walton, Esq, MA
Lime Cottage, The Avenue,  Claygate, Surrey
September 6, 1939

Darling Dear,

Hope you got mine of yesterday, explaining that, as serving officer, my address, in all letters written to “abroad” has from now on to be care of “relative or friend”.  Uncle Frank’s is above, so write to me care of him, in care of Cousin Gertrude (Winds End Riding School, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire), or at Uncle Jim (27 Viceroy Lodge, Hove 3, Sussex).

The particulars of our marriage certificate which, as I told you, I may have to forward to Air Ministry are:–

State of New Mexico
County of Rio Arriba

William John Metcalfe       of Alcade, New Mexico
Evelyn D Scott                      of Alcade, New Mexico

Sixto Espinosa Justice of Peace
Witnesses:  C K Scott, Phyllis C Scott

17th March 1930

Marriage Record Book No 8 Page No 637
Jose W Valdez County Clerk

And on back is “Marriage Licence”—No 4478

So I should think all you need quote for 2 certified copies is—the names, date, Marriage Record Book No 8, Page 637, and Marriage License No 4478.

Darling dear, this has to be just a “business” letter written in an awful scramble.  Will write better later.  All my heart and thoughts are with you and I’m yours for ever and ever, and we’ll get together sometime.

All all love
from your
Dickie1

Shall try to write lovey whenever I can, – but without [illeg] all the circumstances you could hardly credit how difficult.  If letters are delayed, don’t worry.  Yours to me, too, may be held up or undelivered now and then.  But one thing you may always be sure of, – that I love you with all my heart and soul and life, and we’ll be together soon or late, according as the situation shapes out.

1  Evelyn’s pet name for Jack

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Claygate, Surrey
October 15, 1939

Darlingest Dear,

Just got two letters from you—one dated October 1st and the other October 3rd.  I have got a letter or letters from you every week except one, so far.  In regard to putting “per USA boat”, if repeal of Neutrality Act involves cessation of USA boats’ running to England you will of course not put that.  Anyhow, the letter you didn’t put it on arrived OK.

I do so hope your cold is quite gone, and that you won’t catch more and get down.  And don’t add worry about me to your own other troubles, lovey.  I am quite oke and going strong.  And for Pete’s sake don’t stew if letters don’t arrive sometimes.  There may be long gaps now and then and it can’t be helped.

Whether there are or not you know that all is fine and strong between us.  It may be possible for you to come over later on, if and when that can be done safely, but length of parting makes no difference to what we are to each other.  I wish I could tell you!  I have such a welling and overflowing of love and everything,—as you say, it is like an “ache”,—but it will be all the sweeter when we are together.  I think of you constantly, of all sorts of things that bring you vividly back—the Yaddo W African negroes and their “Jeem-jeem, Jeem-jeem-jeem”; and the Spanish records at Santa Fe “That’ll be delightful, delightful, delightful”, and the “Valse Ananas” etc, etc.  And that isn’t just “sentiment” at all because it is all integrated with a purpose for existence, with a steady realisation of you-and-me as persons with an identity-in-differences whose actual practical living-together means intelligent understanding and work as well as love.

Send the marriage certificate whenever it comes along.  Yes, these things are slow, I know.

Dropped Jig a line for [his birthday on] the 26th (late 27th). Do hope he keeps fit and well, and all blessings on the novel.  Cyril too.  Do trust things aren’t too hard if his job ends.

So, darling, darling, darling—don’t worry—not about me anyhow.  As to war, it may be shorter than we think and after it (if not before) we’ll be able to enjoy all those things we’ve looked forward to.

All, all, all love for ever for my darling dear,
YOUR
Dickie
Love as always to Jig, Cyril
(William John Metcalfe)

 * * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Claygate,Surrey
October 19, 1939

Darlingest Dear,

Just a very hurried note to tell you I have been promoted to Flight Lieutenant (i.e. equivalent of “Captain” in the Army).

All oke.  No time for more at the moment. – tho just a very very hurried scribble that you knew.  And send marriage certif. as soon as possible.  Shall write you soon, – all dearest love and adoration from

Your
Dickie
(F/Lieut William John Metcalfe, RAF)

* * * * *

In the summer of 1940, Jigg married Paula Pearson, the daughter of Ralph Pearson and Margaret (Margué) Hale. They met when living in Greenwich Village, Jigg with Cyril, and Paula with a friend, and the newly-weds lived for a month with Jigg’s half sister, Alice Wellman Harris in Teaneck, New Jersey, before moving back to Greenwich Village. where their first child, Denise, was born in February, 1941.

At around this time, Jigg had found work in radio news, based on his experience on the Rocky Mountain News, where he had been a reporter while living with Cyril in Denver. His first radio job was with in the newsroom of the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), where he was able to make use of his excellent French by broadcasting in both English and French. He remained with NBC until March 1943.

Muscovites.jpg

Before his marriage, Jigg had been working on his first and only novel, The Muscovites, published by Charles Scribner and Sons in 1940. Although it was well reviewed, it sold very few copies.  His mother, perhaps naturally, considered it to be a work of great artistic merit.

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Claygate, Surrey
March 11, 1940

Darlingest Dear,

Nothing fresh since my last of a day or two ago.  Am hard at work as usual, – though there may be a lighter week-end soon over Easter, – weather and other things permitting.

Times goes slowly-quickly, in the funny way it always does, and by the time you get this it’ll be a year since I sailed last from New York and ten since our marriage, on the 17th.  Oh, golly, I think we are the funniest people out, – but I feel that after all these vicissitudes we are closer, and so much much more understanding than ever before.  How I wish I could talk to you, – just for 10 minutes, even.

Well, I’m glad winter’s over anyhow.  I thought of you when I read of the New York blizzard in the papers, – and of course (now it’s two months old, and the press has published weather-stories, it’s permissible to mention it) it’s been pretty cold here too.  Many nights really darned cold, and with my shoes comically frozen to the floor next morning.

Oh, dollink, how swell, some time, to be together again and write our books.  All blessings to your own novel.  It will mean frightful hard work under unfavourable circumstances, I know.

Thank Jig and Pavla1 (is it Pavla or Pavli?) so much for their message, – and much love to them.

Where is Cyril now and what is he doing?  What is latest news of your mother?

All dearest love, always from
Your
Dickie (W J Metcalfe)

Paula was born in Spanish-speaking New Mexico and originally christened “Pavli”, the Spanish form of Paula. After her marriage to Jigg in 1940 and their move to the East Coast she adopted “Paula” to avoid the need for constant explanations of the origin of her name.

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Claygate, Surrey
April 1, 1940

Darlingest Dear,

I have just got your sweet letter of March 14th.  I hope you have been getting my recent letters OK.  There are bound to be gaps in between, – I mean, a number of letters, written on different dates, arriving in a bunch.  That’s the way with yours, and I guess it is so with mine to you, also.

I wrote you a few days ago, – and had hoped to have any leisure to write a longer letter on Sunday (yesterday).  Vain hope indeed!—And today is as bad.  I want to read your poems properly, – but nowadays I have hardly time to think at all.  This is just literally so, – No time whatever for leisure of the mind or for “souvenirs”.  But I hope to be able to get a moment to myself (and you!) before long.  My letters, such as they are, have often to be written in a noisy, crowded room, – and this is one of them.

Oh dear, – I’m so sorry, – but know, beloved, that nothing alters and one is each’s for always.

Tho only a tiny note to let you know I’m well and loving you.  Shall write better letter the moment I can.

I am so sorry for your poor mother—do hope the operation will relieve her somewhat.

All blessings on you, on your novel, – and for Jig and Pavla

Yours
Dickie (W J Metcalfe)

Do forgive this note.  It’s not my fault, love, and unavoidable—but all OK Love you!!!

* * * * *

Louise Gracey1 to Evelyn Scott

April 21, 1940

MISS EVELYN SCOTT 18 GROVE ST NYC.  MOTHER PASSED AWAY EARLY THIS MORNING FUNERAL MONDAY MORNING.  LOUISE.

1 A Clarksville cousin of Evelyn’s

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

[18 Grove Street, NYC]
[May 8, 1940]

Yes, Lola, dear, losing mother did strange things to the emotions and still does.  Death is wonderful clarifier of feeling.  Mother was so oddly, too, both the same hen-headed person she always was, and quite different toward the end of her life.  When she was ill, she had the most really aristocratic dignity and reticence.  I don’t think she ever complained except occasionally in a rather sharp joking way; and the only time she was furiously angry was when some nosey church members she didn’t know butted into her room.  I was there and she quashed them far better than I could in a highly dignified way, although she was so ill.  Her face changed, too; and got a curious aquiline contour, different from the one it had when the bones didn’t show.  And she always thought I did everything for her, whether I did or not—other people got no credit for their flowers, these all came from me.  It was very touching.  So I knew in the end that I really did love her, and that seeming not to was an instinct of nature in defense against a temperament too unlike my own to be lived with.  It was my piece of sentiment to arrange what was to be read at her funeral, even though I couldn’t be there.  They read the Episcopal service at the cemetery, and Saint Paul on charity and the last chapter of Ecclesiastes, those being the loveliest things I know.  So I hoped the petty little townsfolk would hear about charity for once.  I don’t like rationalistic funerals, in which death and garbage collection are on a par.

Now I’ve got that out of my system I won’t talk about it again.  I don’t think I need to be pampered with visits.  Just know I love them when they come.

god bless, evelyn

* * * * *

At some point during the winter of 1940/41, Jack, whose work experience was mainly as a teacher, was stationed in Kingston, Ontario, where the RAF was providing training for the Canadian Air Force. Evelyn was at this time teaching writing at Skidmore College and took the opportunity to visit Jack when she could, and eventually to live with him once again. There are only a few letters describing these events in a period during which Jack’s mental health appears to have improved and he and Evelyn to have been reconciled.

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

NEWYORK NY FEB 10 857P

MRS W J METCALFE 150 REGENT ST SG

MISDIRECTED ANNOUNCEMENT DUE TO EXCITEMENT VERY DISTRESSED DENISE EIGHT POUNDS ONE OUNCE PAULA DOING FINE LOVE AND REGRETS

DSF West Union_20180325_0001.jpg

To Evelyn Scott

[269 West 10th Street, NYC]
[February 12, 1941]

Dear Mother,

I have sent you the same birth announcement which I mis-addressed in the excitement, by air mail and special delivery.  If it does not reach you, I shall print another as soon as I have time.  I’m desolate that you, of all people, should have been neglected.  I have intended to write you a full and complete letter about anything and everything when I recovered.  This is to tide you over.  The bathtub, a beauty, came; and I shall express my gratitude later, in full.  Denise was born on Saturday, Feb nine, at approx 11:30 pipemma, after twenty-four hours of labor pains.  She weighed eight lbs one oz, has dark green eyes, a dark brown pubescence on the scalp, and a fresh, not to say choleric, complexion; but less raw looking than the average.  The medical verdict is that her health is absolutely perfect.  Appetite and voice both phenomenally powerful.  I saw her for one minute on Sat, and am not allowed to see her again until she leaves hosp.  Pavli is much admired for her stoicism and fortitude.  The house physician, an assisting intern, and our own doctor all paid visits for the express purpose of telling her she was an ideal patient.  The doctor who officiated did not realize her pains were labor pains because she minimized them so.  He’s used to Jewish mamas1 who raise hell.  P had to be told that she could scream if she liked.  She was very slightly torn, but only to the extent of a mild discomfort, and nothing more:  one small stitch.  She feels like a new woman.  Plenty of milk, and enthusiastic about the baby.  This is just a measly note, but honestly, I’m a ruin pro tempore.  I’ll write you more later.

ES and DSF.jpg

You’ve been angelic, which forcibly comes upon me by contrast with MY mother-in-law.  You may be an arch-loony, like me and the rest of the litt profession, but you’ve got taste.  Margué2 gets in my hair a little, especially as she’s being very ladylike in order (I suspect) to show me up as an oaf.  Or maybe she is just ladylike like a lady.  I don’t know.  This Freudian instant-calculators gives me indigestion.  I haven’t enjoyed my meals since the lady came, although she is being very pleasant.  But whatever you say or whoever you mention, she has a bright explanation for.  For example, if you remark that Churchill said so and so, the instant comment is that, Oh, Yes; that’s probably because he has no hair on his balls, or because his grandnephew was buggered by the choir master, and so whenever he (C) has pickled beets it aggravates his Agamemnon complex so that he resents Germans.  It’s a mania, sort of an intellectual dysentery, the diarrhea of which cannot be relieved except on somebody else’s shirt.  However, she has been trying hard to be nice, and don’t ever quote me.

As I said, the bathtub is supercolossal and hyperprodigious, and I will write again.  Denise received your valentine, in what spirit I am not able to say.  My best love.

Your affec son,
Jigg

1 The baby was born at Beth Israel Hospital, a Jewish hospital in Greenwich Village.

2 Paula’s mother, Margaret Hale Foster (Margué)

DSF announcement_20180325_0001
Engraved announcement, by Jigg

 * * * * *

For many years Lola Ridge had been a friend and close confidante of Evelyn’s, and had long suffered from a form of tuberculosis which affected her digestive tract.  She died in May 1941. Gladys Grant was also a long-term friend of Lola’s as well as a member of her larger circle and was able to attend Lola’s funeral.

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Scotch Plains, New Jersey
May 25, 1941

Dear Evelyn:

Just a short note to let you know as much about Lola as I do.  But in the first place I will have to forbear taking credit for telegraphing you.  I would have done so anyway, but it was Laura who specifically asked me to and did so in Davy’s name.  So you see you were not forgotten, but they did not know your address.

I know very little about the last sickness even though I rode in the car with the nurse.  The nurse had been called in a few weeks before the end, first temporarily, then again and finally asked to stay.  She seemed to think there was no one ailment, just a complete break down of everything.  And after Lola’s life and many desperate illnesses this seems very possible.  Martin told me that Davy would not believe it until it actually happened.  Lola had recovered so many times before that he was sure she would again.  But Martin said he knew it was the end when he was called.  I don’t quite know when this was, but some time before Lola’s death.  He had apparently been around as much as he could and been a great help to Davy.  He and Laura both told me that for a year or more Lola had been in utter seclusion, seeing no-one and just saving all her little strength to write.  This as well as Davy may have been why none of us even heard from her.  In your case Lola may have been just too weak to combat any opposition of Davy’s.

I went to the funeral last Thursday.  Except for the actual service, which was merely a prayer, excerpts from the bible and some reading from Lola’s poems, it was the conventional funeral which surprised me.  I really thought there would be only a reading of her poems or something of the sort and supposed she would be cremated.  I don’t know whether it was Davy or the Benets or Lola herself who arranged it otherwise.

There were a lot of people for their apartment, but few that I knew and a few others I knew neither by face or name.  The place was full of flowers and everyone was taken to see Lola.  I do not know the name of the clergyman who was evidently some friend of a friend of Lola’s if not of Lola herself.  After the service quite a few drove way out to the Evergreen Cemetery where she was buried with almost the usual rites.

Funerals are always very unreal to me.  I could not feel Lola at all in the conventional apartment room suffocating with flowers or see her in the doll like image, even though the place was full of pictures of her and the walls covered with her and Davy’s books.  The only time I seemed to feel her presence and loss was when we were sent into the bedroom to wait for the coffin to be taken out.  Here the austere simplicity and something about the windows open and looking far out over the roofs gave a sense of Lola.  Everything was bare except for the winged victory by her bed and one sprig of flowers on her pillow.  Here I almost made a fool of myself while the others were praising the service.

The day was one to the two terrifically hot ones we have had here so you can imagine how worn out I was on my return.  Friday I was all in.  I tell you this to explain why I did not write before.

Excuse tired and confused letter.  It brings lot of love to both of you.  As always I wish I could see you and have a good talk.

Love,
Glads

* * * * *

Next week we see how Evelyn came to live with the young Scott family, and of her increasingly desperate attempts to cross the Atlantic and rejoin Jack during the early days of the war.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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