35. London and second-hand clothing

Margaret DeSilver, a well-connected and wealthy Manhattan socialite, would soon be a major player in the lives of Evelyn and Jack. None of the letters in the collection gives any indication as to how they met, possibly in the 1930s or  early 1940s, but it is clear from the letters that have been found that their relationship had been in existence for some time and that it was close.  It becomes more and more important, as will be seen in later chapters.

The start of this sequence finds Jack visiting New York in order to maintain his right to residency in the United States.  He is also using the opportunity to seek employment, while Evelyn is taking advantage of his visit to try to gain information about Jigg’s whereabouts.

* * * * *

To Cyril Kay Scott

For Jack to send on to Cyril please
26 Belsize Crescent
August 30, 1947

My dear Cyril,

I am asking this to be sent by Jack who is now in New York, at Margaret De Silver’s, and who I know would like very much to see you herself for his own pleasure and because the affectionate regard of us both is the same as ever.

The object of this letter, however, is to implore you–and I mean implore–to relieve my distress and the distress Jack feels on my behalf and as one genuinely fond of Jig regarding his strange treatment of both of us, who have written to him repeatedly in the three years since I stayed with him and Pavla at their express invitation to do so; and had, except for the atmosphere imposed by war, a good visit and when I left took a most affectionate farewell of them and their children, anticipating that we would always be the good friends we have been throughout our lives.

I have been here three years and a few months, and for the first two years I wrote to Jig regularly every week (not very interesting letters, perhaps, but that was the war), and no reply did I ever have, except two brief notes from Pavla, which acknowledged by inference that my letters were being received in Tappan.

Jig and Pavla both know very well that my feeling for their three children is the normal affectionately interested one of any grandmother, and while Jack is, as he would say, “just a step-gran’pappy”, he also is interested in them and would enjoy meeting them and getting acquainted.

Knowing that every day during this long interval I have spoken of Jig and every day have thought of him and almost every day have asked aloud why Jig didn’t write, when Jack left the first thing he promised was to ascertain Jig’s address which has never been given us since they left Tappan and see Jig if he could in any case write to Jig there and get a reply which would clear the air of what has become a miasma of mystification and very positive unhappiness, which is the proof of my normality as a mother.

I have been, during all this last year, reduced to sending any mail I wanted to reach Jig to Ralph Pearson, who refuses to give Jig’s address, and offers no explanation whatever as to why, merely says he was “asked not to”.

I cannot force Jig to conduct himself like himself humanly generously decently scrupulously.  During his entire life he has always been good honest responsive sensitive and civilized, but to remember the evidence as we both do of that makes the present situation the less tolerable the more completely incomprehensible.  What suggestions have been made to him?  Who is inducing an attitude so at odds with what he humanly is.  And explanation of any sort would be a godsend.

I have been humiliated by having sent letters to the Broadcasting Company, registered which advertise to the public that my son for some good damn phoney suggested fool no-reason acts as if I were dead WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY.  We have never quarrelled, we have had a few “spats” that never lasted but we have never quarrelled.  Therefore Creighton, who has also experienced the war–this last war–not the other–cannot with his intellect possibly believe he can “lose himself” in that way.  There are all the ties he has to some extent chosen, in marrying Pavla, in the responsibilities resultant; but additionally he is in continual contact, whether he prefers it or not, with Pearsons, Hales, Brownells1 and Fosters, who, whether or not well-meaning (it remains to be proved that they are, except as regards Pavla) do not appreciate Jig, have NOT the brains the taste the perspicacity the insights into art and living that his father and his step-father and his mother have why the hell and in the name of all common sense then, should Jig be a sort of domestic martyr, to every sort of imposed family tie, and be cut off from the one assortment relatives with whom he has things actually in common. I resent the situation on Jig’s behalf just as much on my own.  Pavla is a good sensible girl, she has an average good mind but she is not profound, she is not extraordinary and she is in many ways lacking in perspicacity as regards the things in which Jig’s interest is most vital. [1952–Pavla intellect cannot be assessed as she was too young and immature at marriage for judgements–This was provoked by her then apparent exclusion of me–circumstantial only I hope]

This is not a mother-in-law’s opinion–I was very fond of Pavla and I will be easily fond of her again in a normal atmosphere with normal behaviour on her part towards ourselves.  But I have and do resent (with reservations, for the letter seemed so unlike herself that I have interpreted it in the light of various possible excuses or justifications of the moment, as she saw things, how wrongly–and certainly it was wrongly) the fact that I was sent a letter with such a content (I hadn’t known before the baby was expected) and with no address, and have been left in the period mental torment resultant from such a hiatus in communication.

If I could think of it as deliberate it would be hard to forgive but I think we have every one of us been so controlled and manipulated by every sort of force and influence during the war, that my view of what has happened is based on that, any my judgement of it is a continent one.

You can always assure Jig (though he should know it anyhow) that I will never be a “clinging” mother and that Jack any myself have our own careers work and interests and do not “batten” psychologically, or otherwise But normal human affection has its demands, too, and in a world all but ruined by the rotten putrid totes (and may they meet their annihilation), no one who values his or her integrity of individuality can afford to slight normal human feelings.

So let’s abolish “mystification”.

With the affection best wishes I know Jack shares I am as we both are again
Your very admiringly,

A reference to Paula’s maternal aunts, and particularly her great aunt Gertrude Brownell

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Eastham, Massachusetts
September 6 [1947]

Dear Evelyn:-

I hope you got the $50 in time.  The mails are so slow and your letter had to also be forwarded from NY.

The reason I seem so unresponsive and do not answer your letters is because I am anyway rather confused politically and of course do not know the situation in England at first hand as you do, but my sympathies, as you must surely know by know, are with the Labor Party in general, and here in USA with the Socialist Party, so there really is not much that I can say.  As for the world of arts and letters, I certainly agree with you that it is in a woeful state, but I do not know what I, as a Philistine, can do about it except to buy the books and the paintings that I like and to protest that this and that are not published or exhibited.  My protests are, of course, entirely futile, as I am not a figure or a force in those worlds and have absolutely no chance of appearing authoritative, natch.

As for Jig, that is a personal matter about which I am also entirely incompetent, as I do not even know where he lives, and letters I have written to him in the past, merely friendly, neighborly letters, have gone unacknowledged.  Harrison1 has clear and friendly recollections of Jig and frequently says he would like to get in touch with him but it appears to be quite impossible. [She knows why I ceased to see them and I should think someone could have relieved my anxiety about taking “sides”.  Margaret is included in all I say of Jig—details different that’s all why guess]

Anyway, as you know, I love and admire you and Jack and do wish things were not so rotten for you.  But I think it unfair of you to make your friends responsible for all your troubles.  People really DO still protest, but the forces are such that their voices simply are smothered.

Margaret DeS

[They should have some sense about Jig.  These silences cannot be an advantage to him, they are a painful embarrassment  Jig is fine of spirit I say, and certainly they cannot deny he has intellect—his book]

This may well be Harrison, or Hal, Smith, who had previously published a number of Evelyn’s books.

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

I AM OFFICALLY EVELYN SCOTT AS WELL AS MRS W J METCALFE

Reynolds, Richards & McCutcheon
Attorneys and Counsellors at Law
68 William Street
New York 5, NY

September 22, 1947

[1952—London they were at first reluctant to cash anything for Evelyn Scott legal professional signature as author—Evelyn Scott Evelyn D S Metcalfe was Margaret’s gift I was here alone and literally without a cent Jack was trying to get job in the States]

Dear Madam:

Herewith, draft No D-14306 for $50 drawn on the Central Hanover Bank & Trust Company, 7 Princes Street, London, England, to the order of Evelyn Scott, which is sent at the request of Mrs Margaret DeSilver.

Very truly yours,
REYNOLDS RICHARDS & McCUTCHEON

Cc:  Mrs Margaret DeSilver

[1952 The Bank here has since cashed checks to Evelyn Scott but Jack had left me access to his account with the signature Evelyn D S Metcalfe.  Everything, in 1947, was a bloody mess.]

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

[October 8, 1947]

EVELYN METCALFE 26 BELSIZE CRESCENT HAMPSTEAD LONDON NW3

SAILING OCTOBER 8 ARRIVING OCTOBER 17 POST OBTAINED LONDON CORRESPONDENT OF NEWYORK PERIODICAL  DEAREST LOVE.  JACK

[They went back on this offer letting Jack work at it 6 weeks pallid also racket]

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

[October 10, 1947]

EVELYN METCALfE 26 BELSIZE CRESCENT HAMPSTEAD LDN NW3

NOW SAILING ON QUEEN MARY ARRIVING SIXTEENTH OR EARLY SEVENTEENTH LOVE. JACK

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

October 11, 1947

My dear Mag,

The Reynolds, Richards McCutcheon letter with your gift was received by me just a few days after you wrote yourself you were sending it, and is now with the bank, having arrived in the nick of time, when, again, due to “this and that” (and god rot this and that) I had just two pounds cash left to draw on.  [1952—I had not a cent left in the house–literal]

Yes it was the first time (barring five dollars sent once, which insulted me) that I have received any money whatsoever since I have been in England this time.  When I was here as a Guggenheim Fellow1 I cashed checks here of fund money, and when Jack had enough, in Suffolk, he opened an account for me so that whether the money was for my books or his I would not have to consult him about what I spent for personal necessities.

Mag darling, I told you, I would write you more about what’s wrong with “this and that”, and I am doing so.  And my situation as it has been so far is especially unjust as regards Jack himself, on whom has devolved the responsibility for maintaining us both, which he has done impeccably; but it has been often by “odd jobs” which sacrificed the time he requires for creative work; and as normally I earned as much as he did (sometimes one more sometimes the other) also at creative work, there was never a more senseless and inexcusable waste of two talents.

I will go to the Bank again to make sure the gift has been cleared (I went there on Thursday and they thought so, but I didn’t try to do anything as to drawing on it), and if it is and I am pretty sure it must be, I will mail this then with my very great and continued affection, because the most important thing to say here really is that you have again done something generous and genuinely good that is just Margaret and thank you very much.

Evelyn

Evelyn had received a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation in 1932 and, exceptionally, a further grant a year later. These were intended as financial support to enable her to write, and did not carry any duties with them.

* * * * *

 To O  C Reynolds

October 11, 1947

Mr Oliver C Reynolds
Reynolds, Richards and McCutcheon
Attorneys and Counselors at Law
68 William Street, New York City USA

Dear Sir,

Mrs Margaret De Silver has just written me enclosing the carbon of your original letter of September 22nd, 47, containing draft No D-14306 for $50 dollars drawn on the Central Hanover Bank and Trust Company, 7 Princes Street London, England, at the request of Mrs Margaret De Silver and made out to myself Evelyn Scott

Your letter and the draft would have been acknowledged earlier, but I did not receive it until about eight days ago and the Bank, when I last called there, on Thursday (this is Saturday) had not yet cleared it, but were sure it was all right and will be cleared when I go there to draw on it or before.  As a gift I am sure it is all right, but the longer time it has taken to clear it may have been due to its having been sent to me in my professional name which was my legal name when married to Cyril Kay Scott, and which is still my legal name as regards books contracts and anything of a business nature appertaining to my literary career, but which, incredibly, I have not used officially since I arrived here during the bombing phase of the war, as the literary careers of myself and my husband have been very much interrupted until recently.

However, we are beginning to re-establish ourselves normally, and while Mrs De Silver has apologized for having sent the draft that way, she need not have done so, as after all, the preservation of my continuity as a writer in an official as well as unofficial way is important to me, and especially as my son Creighton is also a Scott.

The draft was deposited in the account of my present husband W J Metcalfe, who is John Metcalfe the British author and publishes in the USA.

Thanking you for having sent Mrs De Silver’s generous and appreciated gift.

Very truly yours

I am very explicit, because I dislike “pokers, pryers and snoopers”, and if it is actually true, as is published in the papers, that the Government reads your mail, I just think it best to tell everything relevant.

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

October 17, 1947

Margaret my dear

Jack arrived yesterday evening full of good news of yourself as the best friend ever was.  I did not know you had again helped out about the Queen Mary and my gratitude is reintensified.  These have been a very long two months and a half, and when Jack cabled about the change of boats, I was relieved for his sake and my own that he was not obliged to put up with the terrible accommodations of the previous voyage.  But I did not know it was entirely due to you yourself that he was able to arrange the transfer and actually, as your air mail saying he was “on his way” arrived last Tuesday or Wednesday, and I thought the Queen Mary took just four days, I didn’t believe Jack was here until he was at the front door.  And my delight was all the greater, and I have been wishing all day I knew what I could do for Margaret De Silver that was half as good as what she has been doing for us both.

He feels very much encouraged about things as a result of this renewed contact with USA friends and so do I, and the one thing yet to be solved in personal relations is how to re-establish normal communication with Jig, but I am certain that it will be re-established and we will be all three good friends and able to express what is our fundamentally affectionate attitude given a little time.  I have my own idea as to how a situation as a-typical of ourselves has come about, and of course while I won’t blame anybody until I am quite sure about blame, I think it probable Pavla has been stuffed with absurd suggestions, which may or may not have been absorbed.  She is herself honest, but is susceptible to suggestion, an she may have been jealous because of misinterpreting various things due entirely to the war.  She may have actually told Jig a whopper, also as a result of her excitability, and I think the difficulty probably is just that, as it explains by inference some comments Jig made while I was there that I did not understand. But he himself is so completely honest, that, as she was originally, I hope it will clear up.  (Margué may be the nigger in the wood pile, as she is ridden by fake theories of behaviour, and was continually inventing “complexes”, just fool in my opinion.)

I wish I could, I say again, do half as much for you as you for us.

1The preface to Life Is Too Short was written by Cyril’s eldest son, Paul I Wellman

* * * * *

From John Metcalfe’s diary

Jack earned his modest living as a teacher in a series of private prep schools or “crammers”, teaching mainly algebra and Latin.  He kept a diary for many years, recording in his neat schoolmasterly hand each day’s events in a kind of staccato narrative. His life was ordered and orderly, and this was reflected in the diary entries, often brief and very similar from one day to the next.  Sometimes they varied .  .  .

December 25, 1947: Breakfast. Work. Coffee. Work. Lunch. Felt mouldy and went to bed. Got up again and had tea. Supper of steak. More work at Maths. Cake and bed.
January 28, 1948: Gladys has sent a box of typewriter paper, very welcome; – and the paper is excellent quality.
March 12, 1948: E’s teeth troubling her greatly of late.
April 18, 1948: E still very poorly with jaw-ache.
May 10, 1948: Letter to E from B Baumgarten asking E to employ another agent.
June 25, 1948: Letter from Gladys with $50 arrived just as I was leaving for school.
July 12, 1948: Posted letter to Maggie, also letters (3) from E to possible agents

* * * * *

No letters from or to  Otto Theis or his wife Louise Morgan for the 20 or so years prior to this letter were found during the search for Evelyn’s correspondence.  This does not mean that there were none:  it is clear from the tone of the letters that were found that the relationship continued and was warm. 

* * * * *

To Louise Morgan

August 13, 1948

[First page(s) missing]  Standing as regards clothes any one of these acceptable and every one needed.  I have a pair of slacks and some old blouses for wear indoors.  I have a coat ten years old and somewhat out of style for very cold weather (worn but usable if not smart)

I have not a pair of shoes—brown or black or both very acceptable, size five-and-a-half c last, for highish heel dress, five d last for a tennis or heelless shoe (and in espadrilles I wore four and a half d—I like low or moderate heels (very high, tire) wear sandals indoors when I have them, and though having no dressy shoes, would still find good black grey or brown evening shoes second-hand acceptable, as of possible use with all future dress (have an old blue dressing gown and no slippers, by the way).

I have no moderate weight or light coat, nothing for moderate winter weather or coolish summer fall or spring; and either a sports coat or a dressy coat (or of course both) would be most welcome—size thirty-six bust gives a good coat shoulder (the best jacket shoulder is thirty-four, but usually the skirt measures don’t g, being larger in waist, and longer in skirt than a misses size)—and as becomingness is as important as warmth, I may say, that I can wear to advantage brown black sage green medium green (can’t wear acid green or bottle green) tan, beige, fawn, and any subdued mixture of tan or beige with green or blue or yellow or orange, or any very small pin-stripe on a tan or brown or fawn base, also russet and deep wine (not bluish) and navy blue, but don’t like, and I can’t wear (beside bottle and acid green) black-and white (hideous), white (horrors), very pale fawn (terrible) and though I can wear navy blue, it is not really becoming, just passable, and lacks interest when you have few clothes as it is more difficult than brown black and beige to combine with various other colours, can’t wear grey (atrocious).

I have no suit except one bought in 1938 and darned, as well as démodé, the skirt conspicuously short.  So a coat suit would be very very very acceptable; and the range of colour is about the same as for coats, although the matter of combining other colours with it figures more importantly than as regards coats, and I can wear yellow blouses with brown, green blouses with brown, pink and cherry blouses with brown navy blue and black, and pale blue blouses with all three; and, as well, especially with black blouses in any interesting floral strip or check if it is small, the more colours combined in one textile subduedly the more interesting the effect with a plain suit.

I have no dresses whatever; neither for hot or cold weather sports or afternoon or evening, so every sort of dress is a fine fine fine if in style, with a close-fitting blouse or top and a longish, flaring skirt.  A black dress with subduedly vivid colour touches, or a black dress with cream (can’t wear white touches, hideous), or a dress in a very small and intricate floral pattern on a black brown or green base.

I have not any stockings, I have no underwear nor rags, especially step-ins and bras (a few frayed, 6 slips, all much too short to be of any use now); my stocking size is eight and a half, step-ins with elastic 28 waist without elastic 29, brassieres 34 bust.

I also greatly appreciate elastic step-in girdles without bones but with hose-supporters, price new one dollar and a half, 28 waist, like the step-ins, slips 34 bust.

I have not a hat of any sort, but hats are something you have to buy yourself, in most instances, though sometimes toques or tie-on turbans or comprise headgear can be used second-hand.

Well there is the situation and of course blouses in any of the colours mentioned as becoming would be gratefully received—thirty-four or thirty-six (thirty-four not washable, thirty-six washable).

Slacks eighteen year size (I have a pair, but just one) twenty-nine waist, brown black blue dark (not bottle) green, pin stripes in same, and any material including corduroy which I like very much in most colours.

I don’t expect any one source to supply all these, nor do I anticipate a full supply from every available source combined, but it does seem possible some could be acquired and sent over, if I do not over-tax, the generosity of those to whom I appeal.

I didn’t mention the evening dress, but if any are going and in the mode, all the better; but I cannot wear a real decolette now, having got too “old and skinny”; and I actually cannot stand the temperature indoors here well enough to wear thin clothes without an evening jacket—so that ingredient is more complicated.

A black brown or green dress, or a black dress with touches of interesting colour, just decolette enough to not to be mistaken for a “day dress” is what I would buy if I could buy one and with it, either as part of a costume, or as combinable with the dress, a short wrap of the jackety order, with a touch of trimming in colour if it were black, or perhaps if the dress were black the jacket could be one of the becoming colours subdued but contrasting. [remainder of letter missing]

* * * * *

To Louise Morgan and Otto Theis

Personal
August 15, 1948

My dear Louise and Otto

I have written to both Lenore Marshall  and to Margaret de Silver and shall write to some others, asking them to try and locate friends who will donate me some second-hand clothes in good style, so I can make a front here and get about some.  But we cannot pay duty and I can get no assurance that any clothes will reach me really free, and I am therefore trying to find somebody who is coming to England to visit and could bring a few things second-hand with her own clothes (a woman, it would have to be).  And as you two have mentioned seeing Americans, and brought the California girl here, I have wondered if yourselves or perhaps Sophie and Ruth might not know somebody who was about to visit England who would be willing to include such gifts for me with their belongings and deliver them on arrival.

It is a favour I dislike asking, but the situation fully justifies it I think; otherwise, I might as well be in prison.  I haven’t even marketed since May.  Not a step can I stir from the house under these conditions.

Perhaps Sophie and Ruth themselves might know somebody who had something used but not worn and in good style and though I know this is chance, I include with this a list of needs of measurements to send on to them if you yourselves consider it fitting.

I stress style because I want to put up a good front, and I don’t want just “kivver”1, as per charlady, as that would defeats the real purpose of being decently dressed again, but though it is a lot to ask, I know Sophie is already au courrant with some of the charitable wealthy and as I have written Margaret, Marie Garland supplied me with half a wardrobe of very expensive good quality clothes which were not entirely satisfactory only because I had to have them altered; which I couldn’t now afford and which seems about the hardest thing to get done in London there is, judging by our previous experiences in that line.

So if Sophie or Ruth know anybody with clothes to contribute and also know somebody who is soon to arrive in England that would be splendid.  And if they know somebody who would bring clothes and would be good enough to communicate with Lenore Marshall (better post than phone) and with Margaret in case they have anything to contribute—then that will again be good and whatever we do eventually get on books will not have drains on it, to the same extent, for to solve the problem, we actually require several thousand dollars (house repairs, painting, etc, a good sale, not a sacrifice, taxes, and things including clothes and dentist needed by Jack too.

And so I throw myself on your generosity, for the time—if you can do anything, as I say, well and good and whether you can or not it is very much to be appreciated that I can discuss things with you both with complete candour.

our love
Evelyn

1Cod-Cockney for “cover” or clothing.

* * * * *

To Louise Morgan

September 13, 1948

My dear Louise

I am glad you did not phone, again.  Often here, too, the phone rings, just as Jack is about to call somebody for me—I do so less often), and we have also been treated to hocus-pocus, by way of tangled wires, on so many occasions, a few weeks ago, we had to leave the phone off the hook overnight and a good deal of the day, until whatever flim-flam corrected it was summoned, to have any peace whatever.  This has occurred so many times, in the last four years, if a normal telephone service were not a great convenience, in emergencies, I would get rid of it.  But of course normally it can be useful, and I just wish, too, the public knew what shenanigan went on to produce, repeatedly, such silly business.

I am obliged for suggestions about where to get clothes cheap, and hope these not utility1, for as I said, when dressed at all, I want to be dressed as suits myself and not as the government dictates, or anybody dictates.  We haven’t got six pounds.  We have under five a week, and most of it goes on the house so we just can buy food and some smokes. But when we make some money I can apply to the place you mention.

But I admit fit is the second-hand problem, though it is difficult to believe Sophie would be anything but willing to inquire of the millionaires she knows when opportune.

And again this brings us back to the vital issue, and the sensible view abut publishing and selling enough in both Britain and America to render charity to authors superfluous.  If it weren’t for racket controlling, I think every one of us be already without the necessity to ask the favours.

Everything good to yourselves to Jack’s book my book and the book about which I am eager to have clear facts—here’s hoping we soon have true facts about public matters, too, and give up huge plans, and a power war which is affecting us everyday, largely because the public is ignorant of the techniques and methods by which it is promulgated, and electorates can’t yet and should demand responsibility of irresponsible governments and forces.

Evelyn with love

During and for some years after the war, clothing was rationed and what was available met standards designed to reduce the use of fabric: these “utility” standards sometimes but not always affected their stylishness. Evelyn clearly thought them not stylish.

* * * * *

From John Metcalfe’s diary:

September 13, 1948: Letter from Gladys enclosing $25.
September 24, 1948: E got cheque for $50 from Maggie, which I paid into bank (it was made out to me)
October 14, 1948: Went into town and bought children’s book for Denise at Foyles. E got first parcel of clothes from Maggie today.
October 15, 1948: Bought more children’s books at Foyles.
October 16: 1948: Further parcel of clothes came for her today from Maggie
October 29, 1948: E got another parcel of clothes from Maggie.
November 26, 1948: . . . also packet of typewriting paper from Gladys.
December 25, 1948: At home all day, working mainly on Scilly novel. Removed teeth after tea, as very sore. Supper of steak. Work. Bed.March 14, 1949: Got letter from Margaret with $100
April 4, 1949: In evening found out we had run out of American-size typewriter paper, – and E accordingly depressed.

* * * * *

In November 1949, Jigg decided to try to find employment in Europe, and sailed to London en route to Paris. He had been given some small commissions in England and hoped to find work at the BBC or, failing that, a post in Paris, for which he felt he was well qualified with his fluent French and his extensive experience in radio journalism. The family had moved to Rutherford, New Jersey, where they lived at three different addresses during the following 18 months, including the period Jigg was in Europe.

 

* * * * *

From John Metcalfe’s diary:

November 17, 1949: Found E had opened in error letter for me from Pavla to say Jig coming to London.
November 20, 1949: Jig rang up from Regent Palace Hotel and arrived soon afterwards, bringing whisky. He stayed the night, company retiring, after coffee, at about 1.30

* * * * *

To Paula Scott

Regent Palace Hotel, London
Monday, November 21, 1949

Dearest baby—

I had a very severe shock a while ago.  The telephone in my room rang and when I answered it, it was my mother.  The letter you sent care of Jack was the means by which she knew I was coming; and they found out where I was by the simple expedient of calling up the Cunard line every day and asking where I would stay until the right ship came in.  Naturally I had to go out there, which I did last evening.

It was awful.  E Scott is much better—in fact, she is quite changed.  But they are both living in a state which I can only describe as near-destitution.  The house is up for sale.  For a while they hoped to live on some money the government allotted them to repair bomb damage; but that was not allowed.  Jack is very sick with the same thing Dad had—an infected prostate, but he can’t have it out because he does not dare give up the occasional tutoring jobs by which they keep body and soul together and take the time to be operated on.  They are both almost emaciated and so shabby they are quite ragged.  The rent from the house is no longer enough even to keep the house going, and the price of fuel and repairs, etc, has skyrocketed in the last few months so that they are heavily in the red.  Lately they have been unable to pay for the gas which heats the house, and the tenants are threatening to leave.  If that happened, they would have to leave themselves, with no place to go.  Jack has been trying to look for a job, but he can’t because he has no decent clothes, and all he has been able to get is a few kids to tutor.

I went out last night and stayed until midnight, then found that the underground closes and that there are no cabs late at night, so I slept on the couch.  But they no longer have even enough blankets to keep warm, and I slept under a coat.

I couldn’t stand it.  The upshot is that I lent them fifty dollars, mostly to pay the gas bill, buy a few clothes, and get something to eat.  They will also be able to fix up one of their 4 rooms so that they can take a lodger.

I’m sorry, baby.  It is really appalling.  Nobody asked me for anything but I just couldn’t stand it.  Blood is a little thicker than water, and it’s hard to watch anybody living on oatmeal.  I am sending out some of the grub I brought with me.

If you can raise the missing fifty I will be all right.  My room here is paid for until Wednesday—that is, Thursday morning, when I shall be able to go to a pension and live much more cheaply.  However, I find I can’t do that until they give me my ration books, which won’t be until Wednesday.

Try to raise it from two sources, on the grounds that my going to work is delayed by red tape.  It seems to me that Glads and Julia could do that between them.  I shall be in a frightful jam if I don’t get it, but I will do the best I can.  You should get a bank draft and send it to me here, or wire it here (to this hotel).  Even if I have moved, I can always get mail from the hall porter after I have left.

I am terribly sorry, baby.  The letter care of Jack was a mistake, and I should not have gone out there, but I didn’t know what I was getting into.  And I just simply couldn’t take it all in my stride.

I have told them that I am leaving for the continent on Wednesday, so they don’t expect to see me again excepting perhaps for a brief visit, which I can’t refuse.  I have between 35 and 40 dollars left, and that will do the trick if I can get the other fifty.  I would think up any reason but the real one, if I were you.  Tell them I have to pay for a laboring permit—anything you decide is propitious. I will avoid pitfalls hereafter.

The other thing I am in a hurry about is the letter to the Newsweek man in Paris.  I want to start planning to do something about that if life here seems too rough.  Paris is, I am told, quite comfortable, and we may be happier there.

I have a terrible pip at the moment, and I am sorry to afflict you with this dismal letter.  By the time I have seen BBC and so forth, I will feel better.  I have to get started pretty soon.  I intend to take a nap and then start on my rounds—I didn’t sleep at all last night.  I’ll let you know what I find out pronto.

When you send money or the letter to Jess Jones, send it airmail, or if you find it cheap enough, wire to me.  Perhaps you can send money with the message.

Once again my humble apologies.

I read your beautiful letter, and the letters from Freddy and Bumpy, and they made me break down.  Don’t give up hope or anything—it’s not that bad by any means.  And the 50 will put us back where we were before, so that nothing will really be changed.  Perhaps you can raise it in small chunks—I think the cost of a labor permit is the best excuse.  50 dollars is 15 pounds fifteen shillings, an enormous sum in England at the moment, the minimum wage being 6 pounds a week.  It represents a month’s wages to quite a few.

God bless you, baby.  I love you better than anything in the world.  I’ll write you again later, when I am more myself.

Your devoted husband,
Jigg

* * * * *

From John Metcalfe’s diary:

November 21, 1949: Jig left after breakfast, I putting him on right track for a taxi.
November 24, 1949: School–and lunched there. Tea. Nap. Jig arrived.
November 25, 1949: School as usual. Tea, Work. Nap. Supper of corned beef. Read stories etc to Jig. Bed.

* * * * *

To Creighton Scott

Rutherford, New Jersey
Saturday November 26 [1949]

Dearest Angel—

Today I got your letter about your mother and Jack.  I put a PS on the letter I was about to mail to you—about it–but this is the real answer.  And yet I don’t know what to say—except that until we have some money of our own we can’t help them any more—after than perhaps we can—at least enough for Jack to have his operation.  I was sorry to learn that they are so terribly up against it.  But we can do no more now, so please don’t get into anything more.  I have enough for myself and the kids with Julia’s and Gladys’ help, but if I have to send you more (not counting the other twenty you’ll get next week) before the normal need for more arises, if it does before you can get things started for us, the kids and I will be up against it.  So stretch it, will you, honey?  I’m dying to know how the BBC thing works out.  It’s the limit that your letters take so long to get here, but I suppose that regular mail would be 10 days instead of five.

I told [Deo1] and Aunt G that you had to pay 50 bucks for a labor permit.  They helped out, but we can expect no more from them for quite a while.  Julia and Glads are doing their best.

Dorothy McNamara, Paula’s maternal aunt.  This passage makes it clear just how dependent Jigg and Paula were on financial support from Paula’s family.

* * * * *

From John Metcalfe’s diary:

November 26, 1949: Walked home, and all three had lunch of soup, – no, mistake, – Jig didn’t want any! Nap.
November 27, 1949: Work most of day. After supper read aloud to E and Jig from This Emergent and from 1926 diary. Bed.
November 28, 1949: Morning school. Jig just leaving when I came home for lunch.
December 25, 1949: Spent all day quietly at home. After tea read E’s MS to p 515. Steak and Christmas-pudding for supper. Work. Bed.

* * * * *

In spite of some had seemed positive interviews in England and in France, Jigg did not secure employment in Europe and returned to the United States some weeks later. Evelyn had been very hopeful of his success in finding employment in Europe as she saw this as bringing her son and his family within easy reach of London and Jigg, realising this, did not tell his mother that he had returned to the United States jobless.

* * * * *

 

 

 

 

 

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