43. The Benjamin Franklin Hotel

222 West 77th Street, New York 24, New York.  Literally hundreds of letters bearing that return address were put through Jigg and Paula’s various letterboxes from the time Jack and Evelyn moved into the Benjamin Franklin Hotel on 30th March 1954 until Evelyn died there in the summer of 1963.

The Benjamin Franklin Hotel offered accommodation in serviced two- or three-room suites, each with its own bathroom facilities but a shared kitchen down the hall (this kitchen the source of much frustration for Evelyn).  It must have been chosen for its low rates, as Evelyn was earning very little in royalties and Jack was dependent on a low-paid post as a tutor at a local “crammer”, preparing students for examinations.

Ben Franklin Hotel.GIF
Benjamin Franklin Hotel, c 1960

To Creighton and Paula Scott

The Benjamin Franklin Hotel
March 31, 1954

Darlings:

We have arrived in New York again and will be here at shortest a week, at longest a month to six or seven weeks, all depending on what is done for our financing, beginning today with Jack’s trying to connect with teaching posts, some for tutoring higher math here as well as permanent for next autumn.

I have applied to other Foundations and am hopeful, as the responses have been kind cordial and remembering of everything we have done and will do soon with enough to complete our books our- own—nominally to me but actually saving two authors at once.

Ever since the letter each—one Jig’s and one Paula’s—in December and January we have been awaiting your address so we can stop this damnable nonsense of having to ask Gladys to forward all our letters to you.  She is good about it but it makes no sense to us, and when we have every so often to admit to others this is the case, it makes no sense to them either.  Give Jig’s Dad our love—on this we insist and will always insist as it DOES MAKE SENSE TO DO SO.

If there is any way at all that we can see you or you us as soon as we have any money to go anywhere for a day with you all and to see the five grands we will save for this really GREAT EVENT.  Think how nice it will be for us all and for JACK TO MEET HIS STEP-GRANDCHILDREN.

I have not yet seen Mathew, Julia or Robert—please darlings let’s end a situation that is senseless and is bound to be equivocally interpreted by poison-minds—it just makes no sense and never will.  We are all so lovingly well disposed—you, us and your Dad I am sure.

Here we have been home a year and not had your address or as yet been able to see you—the factor of economy shall not be played on by any who may be interested in trying to keep people from meeting who corroborate each other as to this sort of thing.  THERE I STAND—as it is not impossible in a muddled stupid world.

We are concerned as to your health, prospects and as to the mutual preservation of the dearest of our human contacts—one of the chief reasons we were so distressed that it took so long to finance our return from England.

I am naturally going to go on telling every body until we actually have your addresses—but we dont want candour exploited either.

I asked Paula for more snapshots of the children and yourselves—Robert have had none yet—and hope for these with the address.

Remember your health and your prospects are one with ours to us because affection does just that—human attachments are at least half the value of every life.

We hope to see Gladys but she is Mrs Sherlock Holmes where any of you are concerned.  I suppose that to her is loyalty.  I dont agree with it, because it implies you have “chosen” where I know damn well you cannot have “chosen” as you have far too much real sense to have done anything so stupid about addresses.

Jack has been telephoning all morning.  Hope to connect by tomorrow—as usual, several out of town.

WE AINT LICKED YOU AINT LICKED CYRIL AINT LICKED.

Love love love love love love love
to Paula Evelyn—to Jigg Mother
Love from Jack

* * * * *

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 12, 1954: Went out again and collected E’s MS from Guggenheim Foundation office.

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 Margaret Foster

The Benjamin Franklin Hotel
August 1, 1954

Dear Margué:

I am still hoping, as Jack does, that you may, by now, have the address of Paula and Jig, Denise, Fredrick, Mathew, Julia and Robert, and will send it on to us for the sake of our love for them all.  We haven’t been able to locate Ralph and family either.  Evelyn.

* * * * *

From John Metcalfe’s diary

November 4, 1954: E applied for a library ticket.

November 17, 1954: E got her library ticket.

December 25, 1954: Quiet and uneventful. Taste still skew-wiff.

January 2, 1955: Latish breakfast.  Rainy, but cleared up. Went out and bought air-mail stationery and two alligator pears. Wrote to Alec Waugh, Lunch. Nap.  Punch and bound some pages of E’s MS. Read E’s MS to p 349. Went out to post letters. Drinks. Supper of hash etc. Wrote to Preston and Fisher. Bed,- and a little nightmare!

January 3, 1955: Back to St Bernard’s, First day of the new term.  After prayers took AA in Arithmetic owing to Phelan’s bereavement.  Then Algebra with IX as usual.  French with 1A and then with 1B.  Lunch.  Took prep I 1A room 3.30-4.30. Returning via Bloomingdales where mailed letter (registered) to Savile1 Club with £4.4.0.  Also got Aliens Record Card.  Back to 77th Street.  Marketed, and bought Vodka and collected laundry. Found E sickish, so she lay down.  Shis-doff has duly returned my cuttings from The Listener. Drinks. Supper. Bed.

March 9, 1955: St Bernard’s, and took Corbelt’s etc. forms in middle school for first 3 periods, then Algebra IX in fourth period.  Lunch. Mr W said I might go ‘home’,- which I did, calling at bank on way and getting a haircut, tobacco, etc.  Also marketed. Back at hotel about 3.40.  Nap. Drinks. Supper. Bed.

March 10, 1955: St Bernard’s.  Took Corbelt’s class first 3 periods, then Algebra iX.  Lunch.  Westgate kindly agreed to correct Latin papers of 1Bx and 1A∂.  Took detention 2.20 – 3.10, then prep 3.30 – 4.30, – or just before, when Westgate released me. Returned slowly to hotel where E had ‘company’, – Mrs Keppelmann ( B Lockking didn’t come).  By time I knocked at our room door Mrs K had gone, – and E and I had drinks. Letter for me from June. Still no table, for which I had asked the hotel management some days ago.  It seems they are still searching for one. Supper of hash etc. Bed. Very warm for time of year,- 66°

March 17, 1955: Our wedding anniversary, – and may we have many more of them! Weather turned cold and windy. St Bernards. Middle School recitations. Latin 1A∂ and (after a gap) 1Bx. Did some Stanford. Maths 1x. Lunch. Sat with 2A from 2 to 2.20, then detention till 3.10. Westgate said I might pack up, which I did. Saw something of the St Patrick’s Day parade along 96th Street. ‘Home’ by subway, and found E not feeling so good. Went out and marketed. Drinks and did accounts. Supper. Bed. Sprained thumb in reproving a 2A boy.  Nuisance.

March 18, 1955: Snow again. END OF TERM. St Bernard’s upper school recitations in gym. Took Gillespie (D) and Ullman for remainder of their Stanford A Tests in Algebra room. School broke up at 12. Faculty lunch, – soup, sandwiches, beer and coffee. Talk with Westgate re my possible staying-on. Went bank and bought tobacco. “Home” about 3.30. Nap. Marketed. Drinks. Supper. Bed.

1One of many so-called “gentleman’s clubs” in London. It may be that Jack entertained ideas of returning to London, if only on a visit.

* * * * *

In October 1955, Jigg went to Saigon, Vietnam, where he was employed by the International Cooperation Administration, an agency of the US State Department, to advise Vietnam’s new radio network, Radio Vietnam, on the setting up and running of their newsroom. Paula and the children followed a month later, and the family lived in Saigon until August 1959.

From John Metcalfe’s diary:

In the following months Evelyn often took over entire pages of Jack’s diary.

January 16, 1956: E washed ice-box—and how!  Miss K has been 3 times asked not to “help” or be instinctive—she was and I blew up, exclaiming “Jesus wept!”—damn this kitchen! Jesus Christ—I cant stand it!  I left, and when I came back she had gone, thank pete! Before the blow up about “instructiveness” she had, as usual, dinned at her seldom varied theme, that “no one” but she and I “ever” washed the frigidaire.  This time she was wrong.  I was about to wash it myself 8 days after she had done so, and found it already washed and clean.  I put this at length as a future reminder of “community kitchens”.  She began, when she brought in her breakfast to get—I had hoped she had had it, 9.30—and I asked whether I was in her way, by saying, with the air of a tragic muse, “Nobody ever gets in my way.  We are lucky here.  We used to have 3 or 4 people in here at once but it never bothered me.  I’m not that kind of person.” I said, “Well I am”.  This unpleasant conversation on same lines almost verbatim.

560116

January 17, 1956:  Evelyn’s birthday. I, in having bath, discovered large discolouration, like bruise, on right upper arm. Went St Bernards. Taxi to bank and deposited Haithcock check of $258.75 in bank. Haithcock School,- including noon-hour duty.  Left 3.30. Home, after marketing, about 4.10. Drinks, did accounts etc. Supper. Bed

February 6, 1956: Washed frigidaire—Evelyn

February 14, 1956:  today went to the library for:  Manly Wade Wellman’s A Giant in Grey, 4 volumes Thiers History of the French Revolution, The French Revolution by Gaetano Salvemini.

March 5, 1956: [in red ink] Evelyn did ice-box!

March 15, 1956: [in red ink] E got cable from Paula.

March 30, 1956: Bernice 5.30.  Margaret De Silver George Burnham De Silver came to witness my signature to my will confirming formally letter in safety deposit for Jigg. Will dated March 23, 1956 to go to Lewis Mayers 214 East 18th St, NYC C, NY Prof of Law City College Write Margaret and Bernice how Jigg at present reached Everything for equal division between Jigg—son Creighton Seely Scott and his Stepfather William John Metcalfe who are appointed my literary executors not to allow changes in posthumous publications. After Maggie and Burnham had gone, E, Bernice and I went to Waldorf Cafeteria for supper, and I broke my upper denture.

March 31, 1956: Phoned Bernice E’s Dentist, Dr Foster, and fixed appointment for 10 on Monday. Collected laundry etc. E’s cold bad.  I had supper at Rudley’s and brought her back sandwich and ice-cream.

* * * * *

To Creighton Scott

[Contained in a manila envelope, inscribed as follows: For William John Metcalfe and Creighton Seely Scott letters and a family record  To be opened by either or by my daughter-in-law Paula Scott or any of my grandchildren who are of age at the time of my death. To be opened only after my death.]

Letter to Creighton Seely Scott, to be preserved with the Will of his mother, Evelyn Dunn Scott Metcalfe, author Evelyn Scottand handed to him on her death or before, but not to be opened in her lifetime. Love to Cyril 4 living appreciation to F C Wellman and trust in his fundamental kindness

[signed] Evelyn Dunn Scott Metcalfe  Evelyn Scott Mother Grandmother there are 15 pages herein all but one typed on both sides all single space.

New York City, NY,
April 2, 1956

Darling Son Creighton, to us always Jigg, or Jigeroo, it is a call on one’s imagination to be read when one lives, after one is dead.

I hope, long before that time, for the human opportunity to speak the love that Jack and myself, like your Dad, I am sure, feel for you for Paula, for Denise, Fredrick, Mathew, Julia and Robert, and to know explicitly, instead of so largely as a matter of conjecture and hints, what is at the bottom of the silence we abhor as between you, Paula and ourselves, and us and good and fine Cyril.  I hope to know in particular why you were sent to Indo-China, to Saigon, at the very moment when, at last, we had located you as attached to your U S Army anti-soviet peace mission.  But, meanwhile, I can only reiterate that you have been a joy to me from the very day you were born, and that as an adult you still represent to me and to Jack—and to your Dad equally of course—the splendid comprehending friend to whom I dedicated Bread And A Sword with the utmost sincere continued appreciation of your talents as author and painter, your acute intellect, your human insights, and all those unique capacities of mind and sensitive feeling Jack and I value, not merely because of a “maternal bias”, but despite it; for do believe, darling Jigg that, though my heart is with you, I have never failed and never ceased to see you with the detached eyes of one accustomed for a lifetime to criticise individuals and societies and appraise genius such as you have innately.  I have never been able to love anyone unless my mind concurred in large measure; and though this might be called a “defect”, I think it is not that, and helps to give my love its staying power.  I respect you deeply morally, as a man of superior courage and will who has carried on under the circumstances of a more than usually difficult life.  And there I am very grateful to darling Paula—may I say Pavli in affection?—for perceptivity, her loyalty to you, her marvellous sustained fight with you, shoulder to shoulder, for you both and your children whose futures are in our thoughts every day, and have been, all during those years since 1944, in which circumstances not of your making, or hers, or ours, or Cyril’s, have kept us from any knowledge of them beyond mine in 1943-44, when Denise and Fredrick were met in the flesh.

There is no reproach in this, there never will be, never can be—none to yourselves, but much to a bad world.  Those five days in London when you were with us in the flat, stand now with the most important of our lives, as the reassurance that you are in the flesh, and I implore you never to give up, even as I know you never will, merely in carrying over to you and to Paula and the five children, our own constant concern.

Nothing can ever change us and nothing can ever change you, nor will Paula ever change I am certain, or Cyril; and please remember your children have the benefit of fine parents, not merely as influences—though this counts heavily—but in the matter of heredity.  We believe in them, too, completely.

* * * * *

Some years ago, on one of my trips to the US to collect these letters, I spent some time in New York City and took the opportunity to try to locate the Benjamin Franklin Hotel.  I had no difficulty finding the address or a building which looked as though it had been there for well over 50 years, but there was no evidence of the name by which Jack and Evelyn had known it.  The sign on the door proclaimed it as the “Hotel on the Avenue” and the lobby area was stylish and sleek in black and silver.  I asked several of the staff, including a (perhaps junior) manager if they knew what the hotel had been known as before their company took it over:  no one did.  And the name “Benjamin Franklin Hotel” drew not a flicker of recognition.

It was almost as though those 10 years had never happened.

 

 

 

 

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