42. Isolation (2)

Very little correspondence has been found for the period after their return to the US and their 6-month stay at the Hartington Hertford Foundation has been found, possibly because after her death in 1963 a grief-stricken Jack destroyed many of her papers as he could not, he explained, bear to see her handwriting.  From the letters that remain it appears they left California in 1954 and found what was probably the only accommodation they could afford, a two-room serviced apartment in a rather run-down residential hotel, the Benjamin Franklin Hotel on Manhattan’s upper West Side.  There they lived until Evelyn died in 1963.

* * * * *

To Paula Scott

Bonnie Burn Road, Scotch Plains, NJ
March 24, 1953

Dear Paula:

Hope this may help a little.  Wish it could be more!  But it brings with it all my love.

In case you don’t know Evelyn is leaving tomorrow morning for Calif.  I talked to her on the telephone and she said they could not possibly stay longer.  However tomorrow afternoon or Thursday morning I’ll call the hotel to be absolutely positive.  Unless you hear from me you’ll know the coast is clear.  Hope to see you soon.

Love to all
Glads
God bless you!

* * * * *

To Creighton Scott

130 West 12th Street, New York City
March 27, 1953

Dear Jigg:–

Your mother presumably left for California at 3PM on Wed Mar 25—in all that downpour!  I saw her several times and she does talk more reasonably than she writes, altho rather buttonholing type of talk like the Ancient Mariner, and after 2 hrs the conversation gets more paranoid.  However, she seemed pretty well and calm—but will it last!?  She told me Miss Allen had told her you were at the Chelsea, and she went there and they were very vague as to when you had left and where you had gone. . .[1]  I began to feel pretty low and horrible when she talked lovingly about “my son” and about The Muscovites and how she was using your agent Russell.  However, I’m sure I did right.  She saw Charlotte Wilder and May Mayers—who seems to be a good egg– and Dawn was hospitable and helpful.  Jack got an agent, too, and registered at several teachers agencies, so here’s hoping!

Anyway, cheerio
MDeS

[1]Jig and his family were still at the Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan, then a cheap residential hotel, where they had been for over a year since their return from Germany.  He had presumably asked the desk not to give out any details to anyone who enquired.

* * * * *

To Ralph Pearson

The Huntington Hartford Foundation,
Pacific Palisades, California
April 6, 1953

Mr Ralph Pearson
Lecturer on Art
The University of New Mexico Arizona or New Mexico
Phoenix or Albuquerque–we don’t know which

Dear Ralph:

Jack and I have been assisted by some generous friends, of whom Margaret De Silver, is the chief, to return home.  We sailed from Southampton, on March 1st, on the Holland-American Liner Veendam, and were in New York just under two weeks, at the Hotel Earl off Washington Square, in Waverley Place.

Can you, if this reaches us [sic], send Jig’s address to his mother?  If so Jack and I both will take it to be a human and kindly act.

 After that period in which I sent letters to Jig in your care, at 288 Piermont Avenue, Nyack, our contact was re-established; and both in Rutherford–at both their addresses, Hawthorne and Ridge Streets–and in Red Hook, at their Pitcher Lane address, we corresponded at intervals.  And we continued to correspond when Jig and Pavla went to Munich, while they were both at Grunwald and at Grafelfing; Pavla writing most of the letters but Jig signing some with her.

It was after Jig returned home with his family that the American Consulate in Munich informed me, in replying to a letter I sent them about a letter of some value that, apparently, when mailed to them from London, was lost, that Jig’s job in Munich had been with the Free Europe Radio Service and that it had then–some while before last Christmas–been concluded, and he and Pavla, Denise, Fredrick, Mathew and Julia had sailed already for their home in the USA.

I telephoned the Free Europe Radio Service in NY twice; and realize now I should have gone there.  But their pleasant promise to do everything possible to locate him again in the USA put me off, so to speak.  I know Jig’s job was not “hushy” and was ordinary civilian radio.  Free Europe assures me he is in the USA, was seen on his return, had been “in the office” but is not there now.  They also said he had stayed at the Chelsea Hotel on 23rd Street with his family on landing last autumn–September probably.  I don’t know what you think of the fact that we communicated when I was in London with Jack and Jig and Pavla were in Germany, yet are cut out of context with them the moment we set foot on the soil of the country of which I am native, but we regard such a contretemps as sheer barbarity–and not on Jig’s part or Pavla’s.

If you can help me, and care to take a human view, we shall be more than obliged.

I phoned Nyack information to ask whether you were still listed in the Nyack phone book, and she told you were not; so perhaps the Design Workshop has been permanently transported to Albuquerque Arizona.

We have Fellowships here, but no money whatever; and will return to New York in the late summer, as our fares back are guaranteed and Jack must have a school-job and is the one of us best qualified by experience and degree.

I have no reason to suppose you feel any longer any interest whatever in us; but–again–I appeal to you on the basis of human feeling.  I think the fact that we have four grandchildren–all American born–in common, should be enough to suggest loyalty to us as Jig’s near family as the most normal attitude.  But goodness knows what anybody thinks of anything, since a disastrous metamorphosis has been wrought in so many of the country’s views.  I am just hoping.

Sincerely yours,
Evelyn Dunn Scott Metcalfe (Mrs John or Mrs WJ)

* * * * *

To Creighton Scott

April 20, 1953

Dear Jigg

I enclose a letter [missing] from your mother  which I hope you’ll read.  I’d like to suggest that if and when you get yourself a far distant post office address, you write her a small non-committal letter telling her you’re alive and well.  It is going to be increasingly difficult for me to keep my up-to-now successful dead-pan front when they come back in the Fall.  Her address is:– Huntington-Hartford Foundation, 2000 Rustic Canyon Road, Pacific Palisades, Calif.

Best wishes to you!
Faithfully
Margaret DeS

How is Paula?  I regret that it is impractical for us to meet.

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

Hotel Chelsea
223 West 23rd St, New York City
April 24 [1953]

Dear Margaret

Sorry my letter threw you, as it appears to have done, and which I didn’t intend.  Your letters have never bored me, although I admit they have scared me at times.  I don’t think it’s correct to say that you have been stupid about bringing E Scott and Jack to the ‘States.  What I do contend is that you, and the others involved, have failed to take into consideration that she is, in the strictly clinical sense, insane.

As you say, my mother was a bit of a witch hunter in her time.  Everybody who knew her at the time realises that she went quite overboard on the idea that there was a terrible conspiracy afoot to repress True Art, and that the super patriots, as represented by the Hearst Press, the un-American Activities Committee, etc. were natural allies against such a conspiracy.  The logic of this did then, and still does, escape me altogether.

As I say, everyone knew, or suspected, that she was doing a bit of witch hunting.  What nobody knew, and what the people I told have steadfastly refused to believe up this moment, is that she was nuts.

At the time in question, for example, I spent many hours trying to convince her that she was wrong in supposing that there was in existence a machine (a kind of telepathic radio) which enabled malignant influences (at that time communist, but today God knows what) to tune in on one’s thoughts.  A little later, I tried to talk her out of the notion that this same device had been improved to the point where it could not only be tuned in on one’s thoughts, but used to twist, pervert and direct them as well.  In 1943, at a time when she was considered to be quite sane, and when my own rationality was called into question for suggesting that she was not, she was urging me to get rid of my wife (Paula), by poison if necessary, because, she claimed, Paula was a robot under the influence of this contraption.  It was later perfected, as she took pains to inform me, to the point where it could make people ill (How’s your arthritis?).  Not only that, but it soon transpired, as she made clear, that there was no such thing as a germ or a virus, or what have you.  All diseases, mechanical fractures of the bone possibly excepted, were induced by this super-gadget.  There was, however, a counteragent.  If you thought “right” thoughts, and repeated the word “Peruna” frequently enough, you could outwit the gadget.  To prove the point (she was living with me at the time) she deliberately infected my son Frederick (then a baby) with the flu, from which he nearly died.

This is merely by way of illustrating the point things had reached ten years ago:  they were plenty bad before that.  I recall suggesting to various people that she might not be all there, and all I got was a sweet, sceptical smile—the smile one accords to someone who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

At ABC two things happened.  Firstly, I found that my mother had a reputation among persons of more or less liberal complexion as their sworn enemy, and that it was assumed that I was her staunch supporter in this.  My rather timid intimations that this was not so got me nowhere.  The last person with whom I had an argument on this score happens to have been Whittaker Chambers (he wasn’t famous yet) who offered me a job at Time.  After that I just shut up and played my cards close to my chest.  The second thing that happened was that my boss at ABC got the inevitable letter from my mother, asking, indirectly, that some kind of heat be put on me to make me a better correspondent, and suggesting that ABC was preventing me from writing.  You can imagine what a difficult thing it was to explain to the foresaid boss when I mention that he is now in the publicity department of the NAM, where he longed to be.  He is a pretty decent guy in many ways, but not subtle.

From ABC I moved to CBS.  Ed Murrow is probably still puzzled by the letter he got from my mother trying to enlist his help in making me a more dutiful son.  My mail was opened in Germany by the CIA, and I have often tried to imagine what General Walter Bedell Smith, or whoever my mother’s letters (forwarded from the ‘States) finally reached thought about their contents.

As far as I know she is still a confirmed letter writer.

Now I realize that the foregoing may sound completely incredible to you, or anyone else.  Nevertheless it is true.  However, about the only thing I have ever asked anybody to do about it is (1) kindly not hold me responsible for what my parents did—the sins of the fathers may be visited upon the sons in the bible, but this is supposed to be a non-biblical age; and (2) that someone look into the matter, with the aid of competent and qualified medical men, without automatically assuming that it couldn’t be true because it was I who said so.  If I am wrong, I shall be happy to abide by the decision of an unbiased judge, but I’m afraid I’m right.  I have been for fifteen years, and the fact that I spent 25 of my 38 years dancing attendance on my mother and father gives my opinion some weight.

So much for that.  You now have the main facts in fairly comprehensible form.  Sorry to bother you with it all, but it seems easier to state the whole case in one lump that to try to explain it piecemeal.

I’m very grateful to you for what you are trying to do for my mother, and I’ll do anything I can to help.  Frankly, however, it presents certain problems.  But don’t let it get you down.  Best of luck from Paula and myself.

Jigg

Incidentally, you are the second person who asked me to write my mother in a week.  Gladys Grant was the other.  The letter is in the works.

* * * * *

To Creighton Scott

April 24, 1953

Dear Jigg;-

Your letter just received so horrifies and fascinates me that I hasten to answer it, even tho a letter from me must always scare and bore you!  What fascinates me is the revelation of my own stupidity, and what horrifies me are the implications involved in E’s remarks to which I scarcely paid any attention!

First let me hasten to say that my arthritis—the present—was only mentioned to Evelyn because I was bored with hearing of her complaints and thought I’d just stick in one of my own.  But I see that that is dangerous as, like other mentally ill people I know, Evelyn never forgets a damn thing.  I have always assumed it was Evelyn’s enormous vanity that made her unable to admit that you of your own free will wish NOT to communicate with her, but had not the heart to come right out and say so—she would not have accepted it anyway.  BUT I did NOT know she was so thoroughly au courant as to your ideas and intentions.

Plenty of people DID warn me against trying to bring Evelyn here and plenty are hiding out in fear and trembling, all of which makes me feel an utter ass, softy, simpleminded “Do-Gooder”—such always mess things up for all concerned.  But I did somehow think that if E got out of that hideous environment she might be able to do

It was very sweet of Paula to write me a few lines.  I did not know Margaret was so ill, and feel rather guilty because I did not answer a letter she wrote me about Foster’s book.  Evelyn had also assailed Margaret as to your whereabouts and she had answered she did not know where you were.  Knowing how Margaret has always felt about Evelyn, I was surprised that Evelyn would communicate with her.  Dr Mayers, by the way, seems to have remained discretely loyal to you.  She also told me that Paula is a beauty.

Yes, Cyril and E both sure have outsized egos but I sort of assumed that was a disease of artists—that they had to have egos to buck all sorts of things.  But I must say when they get top-heavy, one certainly ceases to function and instead does only endless damage.

Well, that’s enough.  Good luck to you both.  And thank you for writing Evelyn.

Margaret DeSilver

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico
May 24, 1953

Dear Evelyn:

As I wired you, it is absolutely impossible for me to see you at any time.  This I explained in my wire.  Joe1 also feels as I do that there is no use in post mortems.

So please do not come to see us at any time.

I hope all goes well with you.

I have had no word from Pavli for months.

Yours sincerely,
Margué

1Joe Foster was Margué’s second husband and Paula’s step-father

* * * * *

To Paula Scott

Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico
September 6, 1953

Dearest Paula:

This is not an answer to your and Bumpy’s wonderful letters.  That will come later.

This is on a subject I have held off writing you about since last March.  Evelyn has written Frieda Lawrence Ravagli1 a six-page letter like all her others to me trying to get her to get your address from me.  It gives her father’s date of death and name and all his jobs, her mother’s etc.  The exact words of her wire to me and may answer that I didn’t have your address.  All about Cyril and her divorce.  The names of Paul and Frederick Wellman and their occupations.  Etc.  Etc.

So I am sending you her address and perhaps you can just write her you and Jigg are well and the children.  You need not send your address but you could get her off our backs.

Frieda sent me the letter and said she could not make head or tail of it and what should she do.  I’m sorry she has been bothered.

So no more of this.  I’ll write soon.

Love to you, all of you,
Margué

1One-time wife of D H Lawrence. The Lawrences were living in Taos at that time.

From Jack Metcalfe’s diary:

December 25, 1953: Went over to Community House for Christmas celebrations 5.30. Drinks. Dinner.  Distribution of presents,–John Vincent being Santa Claus.  I got tie, Evelyn stockings.  We also had gifts of chocolate, nuts, etc. Before going over to dinner, I opened packet of railroad post-cards from R Wylie, and found it also contained $10! January 7, 1954: In evening got $125 from Derlett, also unpleasant letter from Maggie.  January 9, 1954: Letter from Pavla to E.
January 21, 1954: Matthew’s birthday, – today or tomorrow!
February 12, 1954: E and I had interview with Dr V1 after breakfast
March 8, 1954: In evening E had letter from Charles Day enclosing $50.
March 24, 1954: Day spent in preparations for departure.
March 25, 1954: Did odd jobs connected with our departure.  In afternoon, after nap, made some notes from encyclopedia. Dinner in “our honour”.  Usual awful business afterwards of packing and locking bulging trunks.
March 26, 1954: In morning went in to Los Angeles with John and Sal and heavy luggage, which I checked through to NYC.
March 27, 1954: Left Huntington Hartford Foundation at 11.15,- being driven in to LA by Sal.  Left LA at 1.30.  Dinner at about six or six-thirty.  Poorish night, as expected.
March 28, 1954: All day on train.
March 29, 1954: Reached Chicago 7.15 am.  Snowing.  Taxi from Dearborn to  LaSalle.  Martin Sheffield turned up at 9.15 and took us to Bismark Hotel, where we engaged a room and chatted.  Lunch at the hotel, – oyster stew for E and self.  Martin presented us with $30.  Left hotel at 2.15 by taxi to LaSalle depot and got aboard train “The Pacemaker” at 2.35.  Left at 3.  Dinner rather early, – about 5.30.
March 30, 1954: Reached New York at 8.45, and, after much telephoning etc, fixed up at the Benjamin Franklin hotel.  Had lunch out.  I made two journeys, for heavy and then for lighter luggage, to Grand Central.  Nap.  We had dinner out, at Rudley’s. Had hair cut today.
March 31, 1954: Breakfasted at Rudley’s at 9. Rang St Bernards,- Mr Westgate away.  Went PO on 83rd ST,- fill in and posted card to Immigration notifying new address.  Cashed a traveller’s cheque at bank.  Returned to hotel and rang St Bernards again, – success, – finally arranging to ring Mr Fry between 6.30 and 7.30 tonight. Did so. E and I had dinner. Bed.

1Dr Vincent, then director of the Huntington Hartford Foundation.

* * * * *

have met several people this year

* * * * *

From John Metcalfe’s diary:

April 1, 1954: E and I passed v disturbed night with diarrhoea.  I went out and got coffee in containers, and buns, for our breakfast. Beatrice (cleaner) did our room at 10.45 while we had more coffee out. Lunch at Rudley’s. Nap. I went out and bought brown hat, and then on to Village with idea of seeing Fanny,- but did not do so.  Looked in vain for place to get hat blocked and cleaned. Back to hotel by 6.30. E and I had dinner at Waldorf. Later went out and bought brioches and croissants from DuBarry’s at corner.

April 2, 1954: Interview with Mr Westgate at St Bernards School in morning, – satisfactory save for rather low salary. Lunch. Nap. Remembered must have funds over week-end so cashed withdrew further $20 traveller’s cheque. Resumed nap,- but then Mr Fles rang up.  Again resumed nap. At 5.30 telephoned Craven (had already done so after lunch and found Mr French left), – saying would ring again Monday.

April 3, 1954: Breakfast at Rudley’s.  On return found letters from McDowell, Derleth and Guggenheim,- the last being a durn-damn. Derleth set me my jacket for The Feasting Dead.  I rang Davison, and then rang Mr Westgate in definite acceptance of post at St Bernards.  Wrote and posted letters to Gannett and Derleth.  Bought percolator and crockery, and later coffee and condensed milk and brioches. Had lunch “at home”, using community kitchen for boiling water.  Before this had opened a trunk in store-room and extracted letter-files.  Nap from 3 to 4.  Went out and bought coffee pot etc.  Dinner at 7 at Waldorf.

April 4, 1954: Breakfast “at home” of coffee and brioches etc.

April 5, 1954: Shopped in morning,- tobacco, cooking utensils etc.  Strained heart while buying lemon meringue pie.  Lunch at “home” of bacon and pie.  Had rung Mrs Aronson in morning.  Nap.  More shopping etc.  E and I had dinner at Waldorf.  Bed. Posted letters to Maggie, Walter, French, Inglis, Pleasantville and Putney.

April 9, 1954: Gladys came unexpectedly. Went bank etc. Lunched at Waldorf, with Gladys.

April 15, 1954: Went to Searing Tutorial School and left testimonials etc. Pay only $2 per hr.

April 18, 1954: Easter, and very dull. E thought valuables lost at 10 am. Found again at 4 pm. No dinner.

May 14, 1954: Back at hotel and found Maggie had sent us whisky, brandy, tea and coffee. Sampled the whiskey before supper.

May 25, 1954: Gladys and Edgerton visited us in evening and took us to supper at Waldorf Cafeteria.

June 2, 1954: Back at hotel about 6.15 and found Maggie there. She left about 7.30, – giving us present of cheese and a book.

June 5, 1954: This morning E and I had stroll to yacht basin by Riverside Dr while maid was cleaning our room.

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Scotch Plains, NJ
June 28, 1954

[First page missing]

You are quite right that I avoid writing about Jig and Paula. It is not that I don’t want to, but because you ask impossibly intimate questions that I have no way of answering and then accuse me of lying or concealing. For instance I have no possible way of knowing about Jig’s health. Even on the few past occasions when I visited them, I could only tell you what I saw or they volunteered. Evidently Jig told you much more when he saw you in London and this was only natural.

I can’t possibly remember how many times I saw Jig or the family since 1941. Not many and we did not discuss you or Jack or any of them. And all you wrote abut 22 years ago was completely new to me. I was either selfishly absorbed in my own first love affair and did not know what was going on or was away in Darien. Both probably.

Please forgive the tone of this letter. I am no longer angry, but still deeply hurt. I do realize that you and Jack have been and are still going through terrible times and wish I could help. Yet you have your work and you have each other which is so much much much more than many of the rest of us. It is tragic that your work is not appreciated, but isn’t that always the fate of true artists? Not that that makes it any easier!

But you have Jack’s love and I still know and have always known that love is the greatest thing in the world!

Love to you both–Always

* * * * *

To Paula Scott

Brooklyn Hospital
July 5, 1954

Dearest Pavli—

No news is good news I trust, in this case, on your part.

Perhaps you already know the following—that Evelyn Scott has placed a notice in the NY Times asking anybody informed of it—to let her have the address of her son—someone sent the clipping to Gertrude—who I think mislaid it—Does Creighton know her address?

I am still here, you see—but improving—beginning practicing walking.  I still have to push a chair before me—and have a nurse beside me—but the time is near when I shall be able to go home.

I save clippings for the children without being sure that they care for them.

Love to you all
Aunt Kitty¹

1 “Aunt Kitty” (Gertrude Brownell) was Paula’s great-aunt on her mother’s side.

* * * * *

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.