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


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.


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.


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.





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
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

[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!
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.


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,

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,

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.

* * * * *











40. The house at Number 26.

The finances of Jack Metcalfe’s property at 26 Belsize Crescent were the main reason for the poverty experienced by Evelyn and Jack in not only their day-to-day spending but in financing their return to the United States. This brief summary of the relevant aspects of British housing tenure will make these more intelligible to an American audience.

Broadly speaking, there are two categories of property ownership in England: “freehold”, where ownership is of the building and the land upon which it stands; and “leasehold”, where the owner has title to the building, but not the land:  the land is leased from a landowner and on which an annual rent (ground rent) is paid. Leasehold has its origins in feudal land ownership: the 17th century saw reforms to this system, and the wealthy institutions of the time, the Crown, the Church of England and the colleges of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge acquired much of the land. The Church and the University Colleges in particular owned large tracts in London and as this land was developed into housing, the ground rents payable by the eventual owners (“leaseholders”) of these dwellings provided the landowners with significant income.

26 Belsize Crescent was a leasehold property, and the ground rent was payable to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for England (the “Church Commissioners”). However, Jack not only owned the building but, as a landlord, had certain statutory responsibilities to his tenants, mainly keeping their flats in good repair. Further, because of the severe housing shortage during and after the war, the Rent Restrictions Act was brought in to protect the rights of tenants, including restrictions on the circumstances under which rents could be increased. Broadly, it was not possible under the Rent Restrictions Act for Jack to increase his tenants’ rents, even with rising costs and the need to pay for repairs to bomb damage.

When Jack bought the property with the intention of converting it into four flats and using the rental income from the flats on the three upper floors to subsidise their living expenses, he made a major error in installing gas central heating and hot water throughout the property. It was normal at that time for there to be individual coin-operated meters (“shilling meters”) in flats, calibrated to not only recover the cost of the gas used but also an element of profit for the landlord. Jack did not install these separate meters. At that time, central heating was an expensive novelty, and inclusive central heating and hot water in a rented flat almost unheard of: the tenants must have enjoyed this luxury at Jack;s expense. Because of the Rent Restrictions Act, he could not recoup the rising cost of this luxury by raising the rents.

Evelyn refers on a number of occasions to the threat of eviction from their home. Jack’s debts could have resulted in his being taken to court. If a court had found that he was liable to pay, and his creditors were not willing make any arrangement for payment over time, it is possible that the court could order the house be sold and the debts paid from the proceeds of the sale. This is not the same as being evicted, and although the Metcalfes could have stayed in their home until such time as a sale went through, the end result, of losing their home, would have been the same.

This story begins as the Evelyn Scott Fund has been opened, and Jack has secured a 6-month residency at the Huntington Hartford Foundation in Pacific Palisades, California.

26 belsize cres
Jack standing in front of 26 Belsize Crescent, London NW3

To Margaret DeSilver

26 Belsize Crescent
June 8, 1952

My Dear Maggie,

Further to my last, I still see no exit from an indefinite impasse (I hope not too prolonged) until we can get just straight enough here, on this side, to flit.  This has always, unfortunately, been an integral and unavoidable part of my attempted return to the States, and the necessitarian order (read backwardly as it were from effect to cause) is as follows:-

(i) To return I must get a fresh visa.

(ii) To get a fresh visa I must satisfy the consul more fully, he says, about “means”.

(iii) To satisfy him I must have the flat in what I should call (to you, not to him) a “minimum lettable” condition; and, also, pay off income tax and all non-postponable debts.1

Some debts I could, by guile, run away from temporarily and settle later, out of rent from the flat etc.  Others I could not.  For instance our move could not be carried out so nocturnally and stealthily that it would not be observed, for instance, by the builder who repaired the wall, and by another who has recently repaired part of the roof; and literal fisticuffs on the doorstep might ensue.  The gas bill of £170, if I had not to wait for, possibly, a further six weeks or so for the crediting to my account of the Carnegie money could just be met by that; but by the time it is credited a further quarter’s gas bill will have come in.  Tenants’ rents are absorbed by Rates (over £200 a year) and mortgage (also over £200) and by water rate, electricity, insurance, etc.

I plan to evade (temporarily) as much as I possibly can (while still presenting some sort of show to the consul) and make a get-away as soon as my visa is granted; and as soon as I can be in a position to give reasonable notice at the school (I can’t just run out on them because I must have a good testimonial; otherwise the chance of teaching jobs in US is killed).  The consul, as preliminary to the further consideration of my application for a fresh visa, will no doubt want to know the amount which Evelyn has in the Fund;—but even if it were a million I should still have to make some sort of minimum and, as I say, guileful settlement here in order to make the first physical steps towards a move.

The minimum boat fare, I have found out, is £57 each for just the passage; but what the fare from New York to Pacific Palisades is I have yet to ascertain.  One stipulation of the Huntingdon Hartford’s granting of the Fellowships was that we should each be medically examined; and this would be done in New York.

At the moment (and thanks entirely to the Rent Restrictions Act) we are completely hamstrung financially.  I have tried for three years to sell the house and had no offer

I hope these difficulties may be surmounted.  I feel that, so to speak, we are, thanks to your really noble help dear Maggie, three quarters of the way there;—but the remaining quarter of the way (actually the first quarter) has these problems, which, indeed, I am not exaggerating.

Very much love, from

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

June 9, 1952

Please, oh, please read this with Jack’s letter of today, carefully as soon as you have it—there really are reasons!

Maggie darling: 1952 Now November 7 months since sent

Will you please believe that the factual letters like this in which explicitness is requested are not “nagger’s” letters and are implicitly as filled with the signs of gratitude as the letters we went before this which were just the registering of our emotional out-going!

We are not made of dough, putty, or india rubber; and we can’t at one and the same moment be kicked in the arse as author: and congratulated on our distinguished “pasts”.  I couldn’t go west to Pacific Palisades with everything of greatest importance up in the air and accomplish anything whatever.  To suggest it seems to be defeating every generosity to us.

The other thing about California is that I would rather—again—drop dead in my tracks where I am, than put six thousand miles between myself and every human I love most bar Jack himself, except temporarily. 1952 November—return East must be guaranteed or aim lost

Jig and Paula have moved to otilostrasse 22, Graefelfing bei Munich  Jig and Pavla have no money to come here from Munich.  I had hoped on their arrival some means would be found for allowing us to meet again here.  But the few hundred miles between us here, will already—as far as boat fares go—be three thousand when we land in New York.  And in California, unless one is fully guaranteed—job in the East, lectures for Jack, or any comparable method—the return fare to the East, one is likely—very likely my dear Mag and this really is a most serious problem—to repeat, in California, a marooning such as we have endured here, and with Jack’s house and his tenure on it such as it is, six thousand miles further off.

Any lacks in this letter please blame on the fact that the day the good news came I had to go to bed with an attack of combined “grippe” and bladder irritation.  I had the last similar experience soon after I arrived in London in 1932.  The aches and pains were so persistent that Jack’s medical uncle called in a consultant who specialized in such things.  But he was a good doctor in my view as he just said go to bed and stay on a light diet for a while—and that was all.  But that cost five pounds so I am now preferring to utilize the same advice, as that was twenty years ago and I never had any serious recurrence of any such complaint since.

We hope to arrive very well again and present NO problems in health or—with books—no serious problems in money.

Love Evelyn

Marion is trying to help again with second-hand clothes.  Still have not had money to alter coat—sent 3 years ago—so just hope. What to do to make flat habitable is some problem. We also have to buy trunks—mine collapsed completely, and I also have not even a change-purse and need bag for Passports.  And again shoes as these cannot be mended.

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

[June 29, 1952]

[First two pages missing] I am bothered to know what to do know what can be done by way of finding us a roof should we arrive in the autumn when people are just returning to town.   I would prefer to be anywhere we were most likely to see Jig and Pavla. But we will have to ask Pacific Palisades for a postponement it now seems, anyhow, and we don’t yet know when Jig and Pavla are likely to return home.  Everything is still up in the air, so that decision at our end is slow, as we know it must be at yours.

Some of the details might be worked out on our arrival in New York were we sure of a roof for some weeks, and—first of all, of course—sure of enough money to cover the situation as it is by then.  We can’t move from here, however, until the most essential things are done and the renting of the flat arranged-for.  We would like American tenants if there are any.  Because we hope to rent the flat vultures all trying to peck, as Jack says

But if you don’t lose interest in us Maggie darling we will keep our dander or pecker of what-you-will up and won’t succumb to discouragements that CAN be overcome.   This business of not allowing us to earn anything by normal methods has to be stopped somehow or we can’t win.  I do think we deserve to win out and with Jig and Pavla, and that the winning will be the victory of Margaret De Silver and her generous real heart and imagination is the truth.

Your really loving and grateful
Evelyn for Jack

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

July 4, 1952

Maggie darling:

I hope you don’t blench at the sight of a letter from me!  But everything has been left so vague and “in the air” as to the fund that we would appreciate any specific clarification. And though Jack calls you “Mrs Atlas” and we both know you can do just so much, I think it is necessary that you and fund contributors have the full complete truth, so that no one need be under any misapprehensions as to why we dont sail as soon as asked.

I mentioned a rotten despoilation of carpets by mould and fungi.  These were good carpets intact, of better quality than can be bought now and in any case would cost a fortune to replace.  But we thought that our troubles were ended when we removed these, and I sandpapered the unpainted boards, covered them with dryer and stained them.  And has it not been that wainscot required mending we would have remained in ignorance of the catastrophic fact that was revealed when the boards—one or two at first, then others—were taken up.  The two rooms attacked were devasted [sic] underneath.  Although the flooring superficially appeared okay, this horrible white paddy stuff—it grew fungi here and there on top—had destroyed the undersides of half the boards in one room and all in the other; half the wainscot in one room and all in the other, and half a window-frame.2

It now eventuates that this same thing has attacked about ninety percent of all the houses in Hamstead, and is most commonly encountered in those with gardens.  Apparently it was unknown before the war: and though I twice before heard the word “dry-rot” mentioned by workmen, no one elucidated it as a serious danger or said that this single type of mould produced it in this serious degree.  The joints under the rotted boards, also, have rotten in part, and two articles of furniture and two pieces of baggage—all saved we hope and think by creosote treatments and dryer—also had slight touches of it.  It really is shameful that the house-owners have not had public information and warnings on this subject.  As there has been so much of it there should be brochures circulating telling people, and informing them of safeguards.  As it spreads rapidly when neglected, had we known the danger-signals a few months ago we might possibly have saved most of the lumber, instead of a smallish part. The floor was wrongly constructed in the small room, as concrete was laid on most of it and the boards over that, and the circulation of air is death to this fungi and mould.  And this has figures, also, in the room in which the lodger was, and where there should have been ventilation bricks underneath on the side where the mould started

This may make dull reading, Maggie my dear, but you will realize its practical import to us.  Four pounds went on dryer and stain wasted by me, in my ignorance, on those rotten boards.   As we had no money to do everything at once we had hoped to have a tenant in or arranged for before we were put to heavy expense.  The common sense of the very excellent builder who is working here and is the most decent one we have met here in Hamstead has suggested the [air raid] shelter brick can be used to concrete the rotten portions of the other floor and so save money by combining the jobs.  He is really scrupulous in this respect and we are grateful to him for actually concerning himself with this aspect of our situation.  But when we will be able to get everything straight enough to leave the house we haven’t so far any idea.  There are the debts Jack has mentioned to clear up and they will be more slowly paid off because of this.

Of course I suppose—considering the retrospects of hardships—we might have known it.  A crisis was due as soon as we had any hope of renting at last and getting out and possibly home.  I still say possibly—!  Jack was almost in despair about it a few nights ago, but feels a little better now there is a very moderate estimate and the small pieces of luggage attacked seem likely to be saved.  But it has been a hard blow.

He also has to go to the dentist’s to “celebrate” the Fourth of July, and this is like an ultra bit of cruelty in view of the number of problems pending.  Of course we wish some of the fund money could be applied to this—but of course there must be enough to cover going home if it is to help us in our objective.  But in any event, I feel you and Waldo and Lewis and Hal Smith or anyone who is helping should know we are stuck and why and won’t be able to leave until Jack has more money from some source.

All we can ever say is that our gratitude is genuine and profound.

Everyone who knows of the fund is full of praise for you.  We will never be able to offer any return except as authors, and so to me the fund itself makes it the more essential that we find publishers and some method of continuing to write here.  This is the sort of happier life we would like to have Jig and Pavla with Cyril and his present wife share—our being there helping them too.

Our love Evelyn for Jack too

* * * * *

From John Metcalfe’s diary:
July 17, 1952: Letter from Maggie to say $500 being sent.

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

July 18, 1952

Maggie my dear:

I hope you have had some restorative rest from all worries already, because I cannot possibly avoid pressing you for help and even positive information as to the fund for me, and what we are to expect in regard to money and going home.

Tooth-pulling coincided!—Jack’s!—Do you wonder I say life for us is still hell! Waldo should be ashamed not to have acknowledged Jack’s letter about “Island in the Atlantic”!

Perhaps, because you have done so much already, you feel, at moments, the one way you can safeguard your peace of mind is to temporarily ignore everyone’s distress.  But we are—also temporarily I hope—in worse chaos than ever before; income tax arrears are pressing Jack again rather frighteningly; the house down in the flat is still torn to bits by the removal of the floors and shelter and work left half-finished; we have, within a week or two at most, to write to the Huntington Hartford Foundation something definite as to when or whether we are to utilize their invitation and what to say about the request for postponing it; we can’t make any Consular moves about Jack’s re-entry permit and his re-application for it, until we know how much money will be available for me and so of possible use for both when we arrive until you and the contributors to the fund are willing to be candid.  I suppose it isn’t much, but I really meant that we must know positively or it remains like waste as far as I go.

I hope you read my letter before this describing bloody fungi which attacked the floor boards in rooms that had insufficient ventilation in the under bricks, and been made worse by my dread of trespassers which has become such that I often keep windows shut when they would be better open, because I could almost scream at the recurrent sight of any Hamstead’s rotten, ratty, nuisance-making riff-raff.

This fungi causes dry-rot in wood and carpets.  When the two good carpets and underfelts were attacked and thrown away, some wainscot attacked was torn out and the truth discovered.  The removal of two floors necessitated rubble and to save money the builder tore down the shelter.  This has left the reception hall open at last—seventeen by ten added to the house.

This 17 by 10 space, when you saw the place last year, was blocked.  Now the entrance to the flat is airy and spacious and there is room for a dining table—we have an old second-hand bought for a guinea before the war, but no chairs—and one also has perspectives of the rooms and can see their arrangement on entering.

This would greatly assist rentals.  But of course mid-way in work that showers the whole flat with cement dust—it began two weeks ago—something happened about arrangements to get it done rapidly, and it drags on yet.  And we cannot yet pay for re-doing the walls which are damaged by the shelter’s removal, and were already damaged in the smaller room re-floored with cement and have been damaged decidedly by the work in the larger room cemented.

Our idea is to do what we can and see whether any renter would pay some in advance to complete the job and deduct it from the rent—but it would have to be slow as the rent must pay the gas heat.

WE WOULD NOT HAVE BEGUN THE RE-FLOORING BUT THAT fungii spreads quickly—we saw that on the carpets—and it was endangering the house.  It has—as I wrote you—attacked ninety percent of Hamstead’s flats with gardens where ventilation was imperfect.  Trespassers have compelled me to do precisely the opposite of what is normal to me; work with closed windows and artificial light.  Jack likes artificial light but I never in a closed room in my life before.

If we had ever been able to buy sash curtains and replace at least some of the iron bars that were removed from the windows by Hamstead borough when the front gate went, on the basis of “free exits during bomb hits”, many of the dilapidations, including the fungii, might not have occurred: nuisances contributed more to this even than worry.  I have written clearly before in my life when worried, but I cannot write where nuisances persist.

We will clear out the house somehow if we can just pay the most pressing bills and KNOW where we stand in respect to going home. Then—as Jack has said—send small sums here as we can to keep up maintenance until it can be sold and not just taken away at a total loss, as has heretofore been the case.

Poor darling Maggie I don’t want to ask more but WHAT are we to do?

Love and gratitude prevail—Cyril will agree yes, darling Maggie, I don’t want to ask more—but what in hell’s name are we to do?  Our lives and the lives of Jig Pavla Denise Fredrick Mathew Julia are actually economically at stake.  Evelyn

* * * * *
To Margaret DeSilver

July 18, 1952

Darling Maggie-Margretta-Margaret-Maggie:

I have just written the letter that I send with this, and the fund money is now announced.  Your letter respecting it was in the afternoon mail.  But on reflecting on the value of full, clear information on every situation and circumstances whenever it is possible to provide it, I have decided to send on the account of the work on the house which can now be concluded no doubt, and have re-emphasized the matter of the guarantees as to the job for Jack and some guarantees as to publishing us both which will make our livings certain before we sail.  It must be both—it requires both more than ever in these days to make authorship a go practically when people are as serious as we are.

Yes we have to land as authors, even with the teaching job secured in advance.  We can’t go on miscast in limbo.

You are superlatively fine about everything Maggie darling.  If I can find any way to make very public our specific great indebtedness to our courageous, loyal, generous, perspicacious and most, most genuine friend, Margaret De Silver, I will certainly do so.  Jack with me will enjoy doing so when we can.

Yes, positively some small hotel—private hotel—is, as you say, the best we could do for a temporary sojourn in NY to clear up some of the incomprehension as to the publishing situation, the mangling of that 1948 mss, and so on.  The sooner we are able to go the better once the repair work goes far enough to guarantee decent rent, as when we get out the gas bill will be helped by rental and while we are here we are, so to speak, a liability to ourselves.

Marion Sheffield’s box of second-hands arrived today, too, and she, just as you and Anne did, has gone to considerable trouble.  Everything is nicely cleaned and was beautifully packed and very sensibly chosen with a limited selection.  The clothes are not very warm, but one or two may be with a coat the further money will I hope NOW allow me to have the coat suit sent nearly three years—or about three years ago altered.  I think every one of our old friends who know anything whatever of our plight have been good and generous according to the extent of their resources; and we are really much moved by these things.  I begin to wonder again how we can ever make it plain that we are touched and yet not embarrass everybody and ourselves.  As I say, we have our books to offer if we are allowed to.  It is cruel to deny us the one reason for being that we feel justifies us in accepting help—so for publishers we do “pray”.

Jack is feeling some better tonight after his day mostly in bed.  But of course there are many uncertainties yet, and his books have got to be re-stressed somehow to same him and give him heart again to struggle there after his eight years of struggle and hardship and self-immolation here.

Your very loving and positively weepy with sentiment Evelyn for all of us

When the time comes to arrange for our passage we do so hope to avoid what I call dickerings and dockerings and just go—pronto in good spirits and ready to make any return we can to those who are being so good—you first.

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

July 27, 1952

Darling Maggie,

You will have got Evelyn’s last letter, – and this is to add my thanks to hers.  I cannot tell you how grateful we are.  I do tell you, – but feel the best way of showing gratitude for your year’s self-denying labour, and for your own personal generosity, is for us to make it all worth while, – to you and to us.  I do intend to do this.

The money ($550, – not $500 as you had said in your letter) is here, and is now in my bank.  Bless you a million times.

It may be difficult, from your end, to realise the causes of delay on ours, – but such delay as there may be is quite unavoidable.  It results from the necessity of paying off a minimum of debts here (which I can now do) and from the necessity of getting the flat in a minimum lettable condition (which I can now also do), – and using the flat as an additional lever with the consul in applying for a fresh visa.

I take it, from your previous letter, that enough money (earmarked for transport) remains in the Fund to cover our boat and rail fares, – and also that it will be possible, once our sailing-date is fixed, for the boat-fares to be paid on our behalf as it were, to the shipping-company, by you at your end? – I suggest this, tentatively, because otherwise it would mean your sending another cheque to me here for the boat-fares.  This would be all right, and of course you would have our promise to spend it on nothing but boat-fares, – but it struck me it would be more agreeable for you vis-à-vis the subscribers to the Fund, to be able to prove to them without question that the earmarked portion had been spent only upon transport.

Once again, dearest Maggie, – I just can’t tell you how we feel about your kindness.  As I say, it’s now up to us to make it worth while.

Blessings be upon you!

* * * * *

That August, David Lawson, husband of Evelyn’s close friend Lola Ridge, wrote to Evelyn and observed that

I don’t know whether you appreciate the housing shortage that New York (and elsewhere) has been up against but it has been terrific and I have no suggestion at this time. As a land owner living off London tenants, I suppose you have lost the common touch and may have gotten away from the American way of democratic life.  I wish you both success. Regards to both, Davy

The following is Evelyn’s response to these comments.

* * * * *

To David Lawson

August 26, 1952

Please read this—I think you cant have read all my letter even if all were received.  That is why misunderstanding.

Dear Davy:

Who incited the libelling of me contained in your letter just arrived:  I call it libel to say I “own” and “apartment house” in London—what you actually wrote—NOT because it would be anything wrong or wicket if I did, but because it is completely false; and whoever put such an idea into your head must have wished to obstruct Margaret De Silver’s fine generosity in attempting to interest people who remember our books—my own and Jack’s—in contributing to an Evelyn Scott fund to finance our travel back to the USA.

I don’t own a stick or stone in London.  I WISH I did.  London is full of European and some Oriental refugees who do own homes here; and why should not I, who am British by marriage only and an American citizen yet, but as a dual national have a British-born husband.

My dear old Davy, your comment on what you seem to take for granted as affluence, was the last thing I would ever have thought would be said to me by an old friend and to a friend who is still as loyal to Lola’s memory as you are, and who, as well, in not becoming immediately indignant, now, should prove she is personally still loyal to you, pending comprehension on your part when we meet again.

It is JACK’S house nominally.  It is an old residence which he had made into flats with the last of his British Aunt Mary’s smallish bequest.  There are three flats above and this flat in the basement which was very unsatisfactory to us because we both could not repair it, and because the large brick war-shelter shelter just torn down with a presentable flat resulting!

Would you call an old house such as Cyril Jig and myself lived in on Barrow Street in 1920 an “apartment house”?  It is just the same size as to flats, though the ceilings are higher and some of the rooms are larger.  It was converted or remodelled, as we say at home, just as that Barrow Street house and the one next it were after 1914-18.  It is more conspicuous looking because it has a small garden front and back: the land on which it was built before 1914 being Church of England owned, and leased.  It is potentially pleasanter both for this reason and because the land is on a hill near Hamstead Heath and in the top floors, which have always been let as I say, there are views over London in fine days.

When Jack invested the small sum he did in this house, he had to convert it into flats to make it pay; and when the refugee tenants were accepted there was no intimation to anyone that rent would be forced to remain as when rented while costs soared.  It is an unjust ruling.  As I say, I own nothing here or anywhere as yet but I naturally am with Jack whom I love as we both love Jig, in everything that concerns him; and the results of this concern us both.  And the fact is that frozen occupancy in combination with the frozen rents, made it impossible to do the one thing we might have done to help to keep pace with costs:  furnish the fats ourselves on time-payments and then Jack re-rent them for considerably more.

As Jack and myself computed between us an “average” of our earnings on published books at the time this house was being remodelled just before the war, we felt safe in respect to it, as the rentals were to have paid a far larger part of upkeep than was ever possible, after the war began.  We thought if there were any drains on us at intervals these would not be large; and that we would be guaranteed living quarters suitable for writing on periodic visits to London, such as we had already made together.  We expected to rent this flat for several years at a time; and that Jack, after having lost our Walberswick cottage—it was sold at a loss—reinvested here again was due to two factors:  the small sum he first invested was British money and went further here, even before the war, than at home; The sum was too small to yield an income when invested.  We were already thinking prudently of the future and we had been having a terrible time in New York and its environs trying to find any place we could live in and have quiet for our books.  The original investment here was a few thousand and for that amount in New York or near New York we would have had to pay three or four times as much for a house this size.  Jack wished to have a cottage without tenants, but that we had three times hunted for in Santa Fe, and in New York and Connecticut; and we never found anything worth buying that was not exorbitant.

He stumbled on 26 Belsize Crescent by chance.  It was going cheap because largish old-fashioned single houses were then a drug on the market here.  And he was truthfully assured that if he made four flats of the three stories and basement, he could count on tenants the moment the decorator stepped out.  He borrowed to complete the conversion, paid the loan almost at once and took a mortgage out; and this twenty-year mortgage is now paid up for all but six years.  Naturally we don’t want to be left with nothing to show for the worst years of our lives economically.  There have been many occasions when London has been as cruel to myself and Jack and Cercadinho was to myself Cyril and Jig.  We have barely kept afloat.  We have been too poor to see anyone—or rather as soon as rumours of our acute poverty reached the outer world those cads who in large part comprise aforesaid world, began to leave us strictly alone.  We have been almost without clothes, for long periods without teeth, and have had no smallest diversion of any sort—not even walks because clothes were lacking, the war Government confiscated the metal bars on our basement window and thieves entered here more than once.

It is labour extremism that makes the most mischief here.  We believe in private ownership and especially in private property.  And if you will please reflect my dear Davy, you will realize that most of your own and Lola’s friends must have shared this view as a number either owned homes then or since, and abhorred that trespassing of which we are victims, here, with an abhorrence as great as ours.

That we believed in private property should have been evident from our experiences in Brazil, where Cyril tried to acquire our fifteen-hundred acres permanently, though my illness made the hard life impossible for both us and Jig.  Again there was the Scottage in Bermuda, which Swinburne Hale gave Cyril and me outright, but which the Garlands saw fit to take back because Swinburne’s health broke down before he died and Marie appears to have taken a ruthless view of everything and everybody he ever liked.  Then there was Cyril’s house which he owned in Santa Fe and to which Phyllis contributed a little money and I also contributed thirteen-hundred as a future investment for Jig to whom I hoped it would be bequeathed.  Then came Walberswick, and crises which obliged me to return home, and decided Jack he would sell it as we could not endure separation.  And now there is 26 Belsize Crescent.  So that we struggle for a home of our own that, also, may some day mean something to Jig and Pavla and our affection for them and their children, should not surprise anyone, or provoke bitter remarks.  I have FOUR little grandchildren, Davy.  Surely you do not condemn me, as Communists undoubtedly would, for hoping to do something to SAVE THEM from penury and that abominable slaver to State into which “Socialism”, applied in a dictator world, easily develops because of a fallacious implicit assumption that those who control States must be individually “better” than Capitalists!—which they are NOT.  Socialism is absolute political power and we know it living through some isolated socialist measures are good.

You know we value your friendship, Davy, or I wouldn’t give pages to re-explaining about the house.  Don’t insult us, for both our sakes.

* * * * *

To Charles Chaplin

September 23, 1952

Mr Charles Chaplin
Savoy Hotel

1952—November.  Jack telegraphed an offer of our flat to the Savoy the day after they landed.  It was delivered within an hour and his secretary phoned at once to say “nuttin’ doin’” as to flats.  Shabby remembering Cyril  Evelyn Scott

Dear Mr Chaplin:

Your secretary, with a promptitude in every sense considerate, has just telephoned that the telegraphed offer of the flat myself and my husband are trying to rent speedily in order to complete arrangements to return home to the USA, was not apropos.  However, I think some explanation as to why the appeal to you and Mrs Chaplin was made, is due; as I, also, requested your secretary to be good enough to say that should you hear of anyone who is an American and in need of a flat of fair dimensions, we will appreciate the mention of this one as availableI think she was probably—your nice secretary—somewhat taken aback when I said to her that the renting of this flat is essential to financing our return; as we have been financially stranded here ever since my husband—John Metcalfe, the British novelist and short story writer—was demobilized from “RAF” service in 1946.  .  I arrived here 1944 and have never relinquished American citizenship.  But we have been doing our best to go home every year, and have encountered so much obstructionism of an “economic” sort, that our return has been cruelly postponed again and again, though I am American native of many generations and have an American son and John Metcalfe was a quota resident for 18 years.

You and Mrs Chaplin do not know me personally, but Mr Chaplin may recall his own impromptu appearance at the studio—the tiny studio on Fourteenth Street—of my first husband Mr Cyril Kay Scott, in the nineteen-twenties.  It was a delightful experience as recounted to me and our son, Creighton by Mr Scott, from whom I am divorced, but who is esteemed by both myself and Mr Metcalfe.  Waldo Frank, who is now, also generously trying to help us to re-establish ourselves again at home as authors—though we have been virtually banned since the war—had just told you of our Scott experiences in Brazil; and it was Mr Frank to whom I alluded to your secretary just now.  [Typed letter ends here]

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

 October 19, 1952

Maggie my dear Maggie:

We don’t know whether we are on the verge of the real end of this damnable exile, or are in some Gethsemane of tragedy.

Jack is writing again the plea that must seem interminable for help from somewhere—anywhere—to provide the three hundred essential to making the flat rentable enough to allow us to go home to face and solve all the vital issues that have accumulated during thirteen years—our two brief sojourns since 1941 having been such as permitted of no solutions.

The crux of our lives, like Jig’s, Pavla’s, and Cyril’s is this matter of our resumed publication.  Waldo should be able to be of genuine help in getting some action about books.  But to read the mss of more than nine-hundred pages takes time, and the one reassurance I would like now is to know he has begun—the money to make the move home possible has to come soon, for all the reasons you are now so well aware of, bless you.

These have been pretty intolerable weeks—these last.  They have added tantalization to our other miseries.  I, today, re-cleaned the woodwork in the room first renovated, when the floors were removed and the shelter; suddenly realizing it has been three months since then, and my first cleaning in preparation for new occupants, had to be repeated.

It has been a question of not even the cash to buy a tin of paint; and of course trying to keep enough for the Consular fee ready.  All the details I enumerated as yet necessary, as a preliminary to renting furnished, still are necessary.  We look to some advance rent to finish everything, even with the three hundred dollars more achieved.  But this should allow for asking what others do for furnished apartments in good condition, and will save the house until eventually it can be sold.  The essentials have to be here to rent for enough to save the house.

I will exhaust you, Maggie darling—you know it all so well.  We are trying not to despair.  We WONT despair.  But to have the solution of the problems of eight years anyhow almost ours, and then just sit waiting, is harrowing.

I feel we owe you something that not even a fortune, were it ours, could ever repay.  But poor Jack is even eager to incur an obligation—in the form of a debt and promise to pay it, rather than just collapse as we are.  I dont want him to incur any debt if there is any other way, however—more than the moral debts to you and our friends—because he works so hard and should have strains eased and not added to, if possible.

You know how we feel in loving Jig and Pavla and the four children and in being unshakable in affectionate friendship for Cyril.  And that no letter further has yet arrived from Munich is anguish, at times.  Do I feel bitter when there is prattle for the “American regard” for the “American mother”?—YES—what about this one, Evelyn Scott.

Love Maggie darling love

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

December 14, 1952

Darling Maggie,

I have GOT IT (visa), thank goodness!  It is a great relief, as the hold-up on the medical side was worrying in several ways.  But all’s well that. . .etc.  It arrived by registered mail yesterday morning.

I then went at once to enquire re passages and fares, to the US Lines, Cook’s, etc.  It appears that the earliest date on which there might be any accommodation within our financial compass would not be before mid-January and might be as late as early February.  This is later than we wanted, but almost everything at a reasonable price is booked up till about then;—and of course I could not make even the first gesture about it till I had got my visa. rival at the Foundation.  I shall be writing to him, of course, about this.

The tourist fare for a double cabin would be from £68 to £71 each (i.e. from $190.40 to $190.80 each, – a total of from $380.80 to $397.60 for the two of us).  There might be something slightly cheaper obtainable by waiting longer, – but hotel or lodging expenses in England meanwhile would more than negative this gain, and it will pay us to get away as soon as possible after we move out of this flat around Jan 1st.

The rail fares from London to Southampton will add a bit more, say $10 for the two of us, and there will be at least some lodging expenses in England between the time this flat is let and the time we sail.  Also some unavoidable renovation of baggage:—though I do not know how far such expenses could properly [be] regarded as “travel” or “transport” expenses to come out of the Fund.  We should also have to spend a little (as little as possible!) on small tips on the boat, and I am not sure either how far these (say a further 5 to 10 dollars) are includable.

But altogether, if possible, we should like $430 (four hundred and thirty dollars) now from the Fund.  If you could send this please the way you sent the last money so that it is immediately cashable I should be able to instruct Cook’s to clinch the earliest sailing (within the money-limit) that offers.

This $430, from the $1100, would leave $670.  I see that the return fare (valid 6 months) from New York to Los Angeles (fairly near the Foundation) is $202.43.  That is $404.86 for the two of us, apart from meals etc.  So that (subtracted from $670) would leave (again if permissible) some $260 for meals on train, for a brief stay in New York en route (for E to enquire re her novel etc) and for paper, type-ribbon etc while at the Foundation.

Darling Maggie, I cannot tell you how we both feel to you about all this.  As I said before, all we can do is to make it worth while.  I can get a job I’m quite sure, and shall then of course repay the last $250 loan for a start.  All these months the thing has persisted in appearing still too dreamlike (against reason!) but now that at last I really have my visa (my chief anxiety) I am really getting quite excited.  Bless you and bless you!  See you SOON now, I hope!

Much much love from
Jack. Evelyn adds her very much love with mine

* * * * *

Lt Commander and Mrs Saint-Pierre1

March 1, 1953

Dear Mr and Mrs Saint-Pierre:

I do not know where to put the blankets and linen until Mr Paget2 and yourselves have agreed on the inventory.  I gather he will come here when you are moved in or just before, and until we had our nice evening conversation I had not realized it unlikely that you yourselves will need to use the blankets, so I am leaving all of them—two lots, the greater portion in good condition but a few patched—on the bed in the small room.

Should you wish to use any that require dry cleaning, please ask Match and Company if it will be okay with them to deduct the expense incurred from the future rent.  Davis, the cleaner, just to the left of Belsize Circus, cleans very well and for a moderate price.

Three of the pillow tickings also look very dingy and can be cleaned by Davis for six shillings each.  And this we would have had done but that with both of us under the weather we were using all the pillows until today.

Our cash shortage—temporary we hope—obliges me to leave this to you on the same basis, in the belief that it will be alright to charge up these comparatively small sums to rental to be deducted at the appropriate time.  We are both very sorry to have to request anything that may seem a bother.

Three soiled pillowslips, one bath towel and two or three kitchen towels, as well, have not been washed, and perhaps you will be good enough to let Mr Marsh know that I have neither time to wash them nor any way of sending them to be laundered with no one in the flat yet.

These are the most troubling last-minute items.  I really don’t know how it is managed as to linen when moves are in process and one has to use a little for the most make-shift final night.

Should you come in briefly during the next few days, please don’t be unduly perturbed if all the discards of the move—empty paint tins, discarded clothing, etc—have not every one been put in the dust bins.  These are at the foot of the stairs you pass as you walk along the path to the door of this flat, but the trash collection is usually on Tuesdays and I daren’t fill the tins any more today as others as well as ourselves seem to have been throwing things away and some place has to be left until Tuesday, when I trust Mr Coleman, as a real favour, may come by and put the remainder of the debris in the bins.  As a rule the space for trash is adequate, but there is now and again an overflow when anyone is moving in or out.

I don’t know whether “hints” on the housework will sound like those of the Suffolk landlady who awed me with superfluous “directions” years ago, but give you some anyhow to be followed or not as you incline.

Unless you already have experience with painted concrete floors, you will not know that the red-painted floors in two of the rooms and the toilet cannot be washed, but are easily freshened with “Cardinal Polish”, which can be bought at almost any hardware store, some groceries, and at the tobacconists adjacent to Meade’s green grocery to the left of the first turning at the bottom of Belsize Crescent.  These shops can also be reached by going down the “snicket” behind the house and turning right at bottom.

When dust accumulates along the tops of wainscots it is better, I find, to brush it off with a small dry brush, as you then don’t have to be so careful about the tinted walls, or, for that matter, the wall paper.  I use a damp cloth on the painted wainscots just occasionally, and in the first bed-room at the front just on the painted wood.  The one drawback of “Cardinal Polish” is that when it gets on paint or walls it is hard to get off—ditto as to hands and clothes.  But though it can be smeared when fresh, once it hardens—say an hour after it is used—it will not come off further as far as I know.

There is a good brush for cleaning radiators that was not put on the inventory, ad it was bought to re-paint them and by the time Mr Paget and I got to the kitchen cupboards I was too all-in to explain or say whether it should or shouldn’t be listed.  But I now point it out because of the convenient shape and handle.  It cost something but does not need to be replaced if it wears out.  It is in the bottom left kitchen cupboard with the scouring brushes—also not new, and not itemized or mentioned.  It doesn’t matter about these things except as they may help.

If the two oldest frying-pans in front kitchen cupboard are too much in the way and you wish to discard them, you are free to do so with the proviso that Match is informed either now or when you leave.  I think the inventory is probably of mutual benefit but being still ill the day it was made I almost gave up.

There are some floor cloths—two—one unused and one used but still good and when in use these can be dried on the rod on the under-end of the kitchen table nearest the stove.

The furniture and the wooden floors have all been treated with o’cedar and this had been satisfactory to us as it keeps down dust.  This naturally is for you to decide—I just hope to be helpful, for we are much indebted to you in respect to the storing of the pictures on the top shelf of the cupboard (or wherever you like).

There are a number of small photographs framed and unframed with these, and some small hooks.  These did not go on the inventory because we had hoped to pack them and had no room when the baggage was filled.  We do feel apologetic, and I suppose whenever you leave Match should know of the extra photographs and a few books having been put with the other things, though I DON’T MEAN re-do inventory.

The Gas Company’s phone is Hamstead 1133 for most calls, but on Sundays, holidays and other times of emergency the Gas Company can also be reached at Willesden 1272, their emergency phone.

The best of good wishes to you both again.  We think we are fortunate in having found such nice tenants for the flat, and we do implore the gods to permit it to be a satisfactory habitat for yourselves and the dogs, too.  Thank you again for allowing the personal articles to be stored in the cupboard.

1 The Saint Pierres rented the flat that had been occupied by Jack and Evelyn.

2 Mr Paget worked for Match and Company, the agents handling the letting of 26 Belsize Crescent.

* * * * *

This letter documents Jack and Evelyn’s final departure from Number 26.  Not everything went according to plan. . . .


34. An inheritance is lost

Seely’s second wife, Melissa Whitehead, married Seely shortly after Maude travelled to Brazil to join Cyril and Evelyn.  She had been a work colleague of Seely’s (there are hints that she had been his secretary), was not much older than Evelyn, and the two women never met.  She would be, however, critical in Evelyn’s search for information about her father and his will:  the following sequence of letters records this search.  

In this sequence there are references to Maude “causing trouble”.  This refers to events of 1915, when Seely sent Maude to Brazil to look after Evelyn and her new baby, and soon after divorced her, in her absence, on grounds of “desertion”.  It was feared that Maude would cause trouble by seeking some form of financial support from Seely, and as a result Seely was anxious that his whereabouts were not known to Maude’s extended family.  In the event, Evelyn and Cyril took financial responsibility for Maude and later, after they were no longer able to do so, Maude became the responsibility of her Clarksville cousins, with whom she lived until her death in 1940.

Although there is no evidence in any of the correspondence to support this suspicion, it is easy to deduce that a reason for Seely’s decision to divorce Maude was his wish to marry his young colleague, Melissa Whitehead.

* * * * *

To Melissa Whitehead Dunn

26 Belsize Crescent
April 20, 1947

Mrs Melissa Whitehead Dunn
Lynchburg, Virginia USA

My dear Melissa

I will appreciate precise information from you about my father’s last years, when he fell ill, the exact date of his death, where he is buried, and so on; and, also, anything you incline to tell me about what you and he were doing in this interval of years since I last saw him, in nineteen-twenty-five; when I went to Washington, to your Kay Street flat (you were away) and he came up to New York.

I have just learned that he was dead, and the news is so belated that condolences may seem to be so, as well.  But believing you and he were very fond of each other, I am sure you feel it a loss not to have him there, and I am sorry—as, I must acknowledge, I am somewhat sorry for myself, too, since I always anticipated an eventual assumption of the old normal affectionate relations with my father, and, of course, with yourself the friendly give-and-take with which I think we began.  The hiatus of years, during which I have repeatedly attempted to re-establish contact, all in vain, would have been discouraging; and yet somehow I never doubted that the gap would be bridged, and an explanation given of his apparent ignoring of me; which I could but conjecture as, however wrongly from my point of view, due to complexities aroused by the fact that I was my mother’s daughter and was responsible for her practically.  My mother died in 1940 and in trying to see both sides of the situation (and you know, and he knew, I never criticized the divorce in any “strait-laced” way—as how could I being divorced myself now from Cyril, though I still respect him very much) I thought that, with my mother in the picture, perhaps normal human attitude would be easier for us all.

Well, that is enough of that!  Your whereabouts were given me in a very clear and good letter from J P Morgan and Company, to whom I wrote after having previously written to the Interstate Commerce Bureau.   They did return it, with a pencil scribble at the bottom, “resigned, Jan, 1926, died, 1943”,  date corrected as May, 1944 but day not given and much official stamping at the top.  And of course I could not let things rest there, and so wrote to the Head of J P Morgan and Company; as I was told, many years ago, that my father was a Morgan employee, and that you and he lived at Cranford, New Jersey.

The most exasperating aspect occurred in 1937, when Walter Frank, of the legal firm of Kurzmann and Frank, 25 Broad St, NY, was asked, by me, as a favour, to inquire about Father of various connections he had in Washington, and he agreed to do so, but refused to give me the address when he got it, because he said the lawyer who gave it to him thought it should be withheld lest my mother “make trouble”.  I did consider that an insult to my father, myself and her; and I was so indignant, at the time, that I suspended my search for a while—it just seemed so stupid, Melissa, when if I were a trouble-maker I would obviously not have waited twenty years to make trouble, damn it!  And Mother had many fatuities but much pride of a sort and would never have done anything of that kind, I am sure—couldn’t have, in her financial circumstances!  So much for meddlers—to hell with ‘em, is my sentiments!

One of the bits of gossip about you and my father that was circulating in Clarksville was that I had a half-brother, and while I would no believe mere gossip from any source, I have always hoped it was true, and it is merely because I heard of it in that way that I have a sort of bizarre sense of “indelicacy” in mentioning it.  But for your sake, too, I hope it was, and if so, you may be sure Melissa that it is an added reason for being on normal friendly terms, and certainly not the reverse.

I have discussed ourselves at some length in proof of the absence of any feeling of constraint on my side, and a perfect willingness to accept the decent explanation I think you must be as ready to give as to why we seem to have been plunged into mystifications, for nothing, all these years.  My address with Scribners has been in Who’s Who all the while, and father given there as father, but as you probably never thought of that when not communicating a happening so vital to me, that is no occasion, in itself, for any grudge.  However, Father being the man of sentiment I know he was, I should like to be assured that I was not forgotten by him in his last years.  Maybe you have a recent photograph of him you could spare?  He told me, in 1925, he still had the “Brick-Brownie” doll and other mementos of me, and I was most touched.

My good wishes to yourself as yourself, and the hope, for us all, of compensations for many things that were not happy.

* * * * *

To Andre Chenet1

[May 1947]

Mr Andre Chenet
New Orleans, Louisiana

Dear Mr Chenet,

I learned of the death of my father, Mr Seely Dunn, a year ago, when attempting, as I have on several previous occasions since the commencement of the as yet inexplicable silence antedating his death, to locate him as living.  And it has taken all this while to receive confirmation of the place of his interment, and to learn that you, as Melissa’s brother-in-law, had charge of the disposition of his ashes at Metairie Cemetary, New Orleans.

And as I have written Melissa four registered letters, of which three were, I am sure, correctly addressed, and must have reached her, and she has answered none of them, I judge her, for reasons as yet to be specified, to be unfriendly.  And I therefore appeal here, to you, as possibly taking a more detached view of conduct towards me, on her part, and that of my father (originally a most scrupulous man) which has caused me great distress, to assist me toward a human elucidation of what is behind her attitude, and whether or not it reflected his, and what his actually was.

When I last saw my father face to face in 1925, he was friendly and affectionate; and though Melissa was not in Washington when I stayed a night or two at their Kay Street flat, I was told she was not well, and at some sanatorium, and nothing whatever occurred to throw light on my father’s subsequent failure to reply to letters sent to his place of business; as we did not quarrel, and I had already, in 1919, been duly “forgiven” for any discomfort he may have suffered as a result of my having “run away” from home.

I have been indignant, at times, since, as any mother would be, that my father, who had every reason to be proud of his grandson, my son by my first marriage, Creighton Scott  was ignored and I do not pretend that I do not think it distinctly odd, to say the least, that, as I was quite honestly the “adored” only grandchild of my grandparents, Mr and Mrs O M Dunn, and continued to believe they merely consigned to my father a responsibility toward me they had previously considered theirs, when they re-made their Will and left everything to him (in 1921, a year before their death), that there is, as yet, no indication, that my father, when gravely ill, and not give me, his daughter (and as far as I know, he and Melissa had no children) so much as a thought.  But I hope the impression that he did not is erroneous; and will asking for your help in clearing up whatever misapprehension may have given rise to his attitude, to tell Melissa, also, that, in consistence with my own loyalties, I am entirely willing to resume friendly communication with her, provided the decent human explanation is forthcoming.

But as I am not unimaginative about other people’s troubles, I quite realize that the explanation of yourself or any personal friend of my father’s, may completely alter my view of what seems to have taken place; and to that I look forward.  Tell Melissa my father was so afraid of “yellow journalism” when he stayed in NY (1925) he registered at Earls Hotel off Washington Square as “Captain O’Neil” and became panicky when I was visited by a friend who was a “feature-writer” but not of “yellow” journalism.2

The name of my first husband, from whom I am divorced, was legally changed to Scott, and my son, who was originally named for my father, dropped Seely for Creighton, as I dropped “Elsie” for Evelyn; and while my father and Melissa knew this, the fact that we all suffered something as the butt of “yellow journalists”, when I ran away from home, may have been an ingredient in a “mystery” to me highly painful; and may have something to do with the failure of Melissa to inform the Biloxi hospital of my existence and ask them to notify me of his illness, as of his death.  And all these things I am taking into account, in an effort to be just, although I admit I feel somewhat “ill-used”, and Melissa should realize even in New Orleans we are what is called distinguished people.

I acknowledge a “posthumous” clearing of the air cannot be the same as if my father were living, but it is, nonetheless, something for which I would be very grateful, indeed.

Sincerely yours,

[Did not respond or admit he “buried” my father’s ashes—acknowledged this letter and no more. This version of pen most accurate word by word as other letter mailed before I put the pen emendations here but this is approximate and has all the gist of the first minus to crossed and equivalents.]

1Melissa’s brother-in-law

2It appears that Evelyn and Cyril’s “elopement” precipitated a flurry of interest in the so-called “yellow” press, mainly newspapers owned by William Randolp Hearst. This coverage appears to have caused her family and Cyril’s considerable distress.

* * * * *

To the Postmaster, Lynchburg, Virginia

September 8, 1947

Lynchburg, Virginia [Replied with forwarding address]


On April 21st, 1947, I mailed registered, a letter addressed to Mrs Melissa Whitehead Dunn, 252 Norfolk Avenue, Lynchburg, Va, which was of the utmost importance, as it was a request for information regarding the death and last illness of my father, Mr Seely Dunn, formerly of Lynchburg, which I have since learned occurred at the Veterans’ Facility, Biloxi, Mississippi, May, 1944; but of which I had not notified at the time.

When I did not hear from Mrs Melissa Dunn, as I had supposed I would, as my letter was entirely friendly, and though distressed, merely repeated an explanation of her silence (I am a professional author and my address with my literary agents or with my publishers, Chas Scribner’s of New York, was available), I also wrote to the Clerk of the Records of Lynchburg, asking for my former step-mother’s address and any information relevant to my father he could give me, and he replied very kindly, but no will is recorded there, and the Clerk knew of Mrs Melissa Dunn, merely that she was said to be “in Washington”.

My father served in the 1914 war, and having no personal contacts in Washington, I wrote, on the advice of a family connection, to the Dependants and Beneficiaries Claims Services of the Veterans’ Administration, asking them for further information and through them learned where my father had died.  But of Mrs M W Dunn they could tell me nothing.

I am, therefore, writing to you to be good enough to affirm the receipt of my registered letter at the Lynchburg Post Office, where I have assumed it did arrive as it had my return address as above.  What is perhaps forwarded to the addressee, and is it permissible to give me her address:  If so I should much appreciate it, though I am certainly discouraged in the matter of her willingness to assist, and especially as I have written to a Mr Oldham, who I am told was, for a very short time, before my father retired, in business with him, and that letter also has so far been ignored.

I feel a degree of apologeticness in appealing thus to a stranger but my predicament is, I believe, sufficiently unusual to justify it.

Very truly yours,

I am known professionally as Evelyn Scott

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott


United States Post Office
Lynchburg, Virginia

September 16, 1947

Dear Mrs Metcalfe:

Replying to your letter of September 8, 1947, the registered letter referred to, sent by you to Mrs Melissa Whitehead Dunn, was forwarded to addressee at #1421 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington 5, DC.

Yours very truly,
S W West, Postmaster

* * * * *

To S W West, Postmaster, Lynchburg, Virginia

October 5, 1947

Dear Mr West,

I greatly appreciate your reply to my inquiry as to whether the letter I addressed to the second wife of my father, Mr Seely Dunn, deceased, and sent to her former home, 252 Norfolk Avenue, Lynchburg, on April 21st, 1947, had reached you, and been forwarded.

I especially thank you for telling me that it was forwarded to 1421 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC, as, while I was awaiting your reply (which was prompt and that, too, is appreciated) I was given 1421 “Moss” Ave,1 as her address by a friend, and as my communication is important you have saved me trouble.  The war has taught us to value accuracy.

Yours very truly

Morgan gave Moss Ave other was “forwarding” address—probably for “bureau” de lon tum etc

1The confusion may have arisen out of the habit of referring to “Massachusetts” as “Mass”. Evelyn would not have known this, and understood the shortened version to be “Moss”.

* * * * *

To Melissa Whitehead Dunn

October 5, 1947

[Mrs Melissa W Dunn (sent with a request for unofficial forwarding and as a personal favour to the sender, by Mr R J Hinton of Washington, DC, whom I have asked to glance at its contents that he may be assured he is not being imposed upon by me)]

Dear Melissa [Was not acknowledged]

This is the fourth letter sent you requesting you to explain why my father did not reply to letters sent various business addresses during all the years since 1925, when I visited him briefly at the apartment in Kay Street you and he had when he was the Assistant Director of the Interstate Commerce Bureau; why I was not notified when he became seriously ill, and I could have been reached as Evelyn Scott through my publishing address, or Chas Scribner’s, as given in Who’s Who and elsewhere, and through other publishers of my earlier books; and why I was not notified of his death?

This is being sent as an “open” letter, which is quite unofficial, Mr Hinton having demonstrated a good will I wish were more frequently encountered as we flounder in “red tape” and as I don’t want to embarrass him with any emotional intricacies which may be involved, I won’t go into detail as I have in letters sent to addresses given me as your home addresses..

But it is a fact that I never quarrelled with my father, and that while my first husband Cyril Kay Scott, for whom myself and my present husband have the utmost human respect, did have a “scrap” with you, about my early books, of which you disapproved, I cannot believe anything so trivial at the bottom of conduct on either your part or my father’s so unjustified I now see things.

When I last saw my father in Washington, and he went to New York to see me, he was as usual affectionate and kindly.  I visited England that year and he sent me a fifty dollar check and wrote in the same affectionate terms.  But when I was in Washington at the flat you were not there, and the explanation was very vague, and made the more so by the fact that Mr Scott and myself had already decided to separate—I say the more vague, because he had defended me to you in the one “tiff” that had occurred.  My father knew I expected to resolve the situation as between Cyril and myself as it was resolved in a civilized divorce.  I afterwards some years later married my present husband John Metcalfe the British-American author but there was certainly no “grudge” there as you have not as yet met him, so what is it about?

I am as would be normal for any mother, more indignant on behalf of my son by my first marriage, Creighton Scott than on behalf of myself.  Creighton as you, Melissa very well know was first named “Seely” because of the affectionate esteem in which his father Cyril Kay Scott and myself held Seely Dunn.  The Creighton which he preferred was preferred and the Seely dropped  because of my father’s inscrutable attitude.  I realize divorces were not, at the time my father got his from my mother, Mrs Maud Thomas Dunn, who died in Clarksville Tennessee, in 1940, taken as a commonplace as they are now, but my father’s very obvious anxiety then lest my mother “make trouble” was preposterous actually.

You will remember that at the time myself and Mr Scott and Creighton saw you and my father in New York, while my father was still in the US Army, my father did not so much as want Creighton to know his grandfather was his grandfather, lest child as he was he tell my mother (Mr Scott was supporting her then) that he was in contact with ourselves.

But of course as I do know such an attitude was not typical of my father.  I think the explanation must be in the falsity of suggestions made to him from some external sources, and, no doubt, to you, too.  In nineteen-thirty-seven, I tried to locate him, and was told by the intermediary, who actually knew where my father was and wouldn’t tell me, that my father had the same fear of being made responsible for my mother; for whom I actually had the entire moral responsibility though financially assisted at intervals by my relatives and present husband.

The preposterous ingredient must have been due to lies of a sort, and really is unreasonable, as my mother made no effort to contest a divorce on the nominal grounds of “desertion” by her; never asked my father for a penny as far as I know-and I think my mother could never have “kept a secret” whatever the condition.  And when I did last see my father, soon after the death of my grandparents, who, though I now know my grandfather remade his Will and left everything to my father, my father certainly had not taken the position that I was to have nothing (and as yet jhaven’t had a cent, or so much as one of my grandmother’s thirty three thousand dollars worth of diamonds), the inference was that he continued to feel some responsibility for myself as his child.

The moment “money” is mentioned, a flavour of the “sordid”, seems inevitable; but after all, tangibles are included with intangibles in most versions of responsibility, and while I put the intangibles before everything I continue, again, to insist that my father owed me some final recognition of my existence and the debt is tangible and intangible both.

I think there is a civilized opportunity for clearing things up and making some amends to both Creighton and myself.


* * * * *

To Melissa Whitehead Dunn

October 5, 1947

Dear Melissa  [not acknowledged]

I sent you a registered letter air mail1 on September 19th, 47 which I am certain was addressed correctly as far as my information at the time went:  to Apt 607, Heatherington-Apartments, 1421 “Moss” Ave, Washington, DC 54.  But as your address was given thus to a friend who, I think, misread the abbreviation “Mass” as “Moss”; and as Massachusetts Avenue is now confirmed as correct to the Lynchburg Post Office, through which I have been inquiring as to what happened to the registered letter sent to you from here last April 21st, 1947, I sent this to make sure you do know I have been trying to contact you and elicit a reply from you regarding my father ever since I first learned last January that he died.

I have a carbon of the letter of Sept 19th, 47 and of the letter of April 21st, 1947, and if you wish their contents repeated, I will be pleased to send you copies of my carbons, but I feel sure you must have had the first letter at least; and hope the second is in the hands of a Post Office sufficiently perspicacious to realize what mistake was made.  When the letter of Sept 19th, 1947, was sent here in London, there was something of a flurry in the PO, and matters were further complicated by the fact that the officiating clerk wrote “Whitehead” instead of Dunn on the registry receipt; but he says that is not important as the registry number is correct.  However the matter of having been originally given a wrong address, or a misunderstood address, is something else.  And as the letter is concerned with your private affairs, as with mine, and is a point blank demand to know why you have not informed me as my father’s daughter regarding his death, and given me some human explanation of the inscrutable and to me wrong wrong wrong silence maintained during so many years before he died, perhaps you will prefer not to have it fall into other hands than your own.  I therefore suggest that you inquire at the Washington Head Post Office for the letter unless you have already received it.

We have as my other letters tell you, various conjectural explanation of why my father did something so “out of character” as appears, but you are in a position to make a civilized gesture that is explanatory in more than conjecture merely.  And I insist and insist again that my father himself, uninfluenced, could not possibly have completely neglected me his only child voluntarily since nineteen-twenty-five, and that he could not possibly have entirely failed to included myself and Creighton when bequeathing (assuming he made a Will) whatever he had when everything he had was originally my Grandfather O M Dunn’s and was ultimately intended for “Elsie”.  That my name is now legally Evelyn doesnt not affect the situation or the human history behind this.

I hope you will agree both regarding the explanation and the necessity for amends of some sort.

Sincerely as myself first but also as the daughter of Seely Dunn (I may here ask whether he is buried at Metairie, as I haven’t yet found that out)

[1952—Julia Swinburne Scott the fourth grandchild of my father the late Seely Dunn of Lynchburg was born in the USA July 6th, 1951 Evelyn Dunn Scott Metcalfe—nee Elsie Dunn professional author writes as Evelyn Scott]

This letter has not survived.

* * * * *

To Andre Chenet

October 30, 1947

I think you are the Mr Chenet in question, but wishing to preserve an accurate record of this correspondence, I ask, in case of error, for the return to me of my letter to my present address  I am a US citizen but my husband is British, domiciled in USA which he has recently visited to maintain his status, as a quota-re-entrant, and we are here for the time


Having learned by the merest chance, in an effort to re-contact as living, my father, the late Mr Seely Dunn of Lynchburg, Va, at one time a resident of New Orleans, that he had died, in 1944; I have been for the better part of a year writing officials and others who seemed likely sources of information regarding his illness, place of death, place of internment, his executors, and the present whereabouts of his second wife, Mrs Melissa Whitehead Dunn.  And I have just been informed, by the Deputy Clerk of the Civil District Court of the Parish of Orleans, who has been most generous in his efforts on my behalf, that, according to the advice given him, a Mr Chenet he believes to be yourself, as your phone number was also given him, had charge of arrangements for the interment of my father at Metairie Ridge Cemetary.

I am the daughter of Mr Seely Dunn, and as far as I know, his only child, his first marriage having been to my mother, Mrs Maud Thomas Dunn of Clarksville, Tennessee, from whom he was divorced , and who died in Clarksville in1940.  And while I have for many years, been much distressed and perplexed by the conduct of my father, always previously scrupulous and responsible, in not having replied to letters written him at his early business addresses, I cannot yet belief that the neglect to notify me when he became seriously ill was his intention; and it seems to me entirely out of character—his character—that he should have done this.  And I continue convinced he must have remembered me in some way in his Will or elsewhere, and therefore hope that, his executors once located, a distressing situation can be cleared up.

I saw my father face to face, last, in 1925, in Washington and in New York, and he was friendly and affectionate, and send me, afterwards, a check for fifty dollars, for which I had not asked.  And though I have realized the fact that I had the entire moral responsibility for my mother, and supported her, with some assistance from relatives and my husband (my first husband, Mr Cyril Kay Scott and my present husband both actually), probably disturbed his conscience, he was never reproached by me, and must have known I continued fond of him.

If therefore you are the Mr Chenet in question, and did actually arrange my father’s funeral, I hope you will respond to this with the information to which I have a human and legal right.

However, if the explanation exists, we will all be most grateful to have it, as I am sure, would my own grandfather, Mr O M Dunn, who lived in New Orleans for more than half his life, and who was a bond of sympathy between me and my father, as we both admired him as “the salt of the earth”—something said of many people but in this case merely just.

Hoping for an early reply from you, and that it will be one to relieve my natural concern, I am,
Very truly yours

* * * * *

To Melissa Whitehead Dunn

October 3, 1951

Dear Melissa:

Will you, in case you have actually received the four letters sent by me to this address, one forwarded by the Lynchburg Postmaster, and possibly, a fifth letter I requested the “Veterans’ Bureau” “Department of Claims, etc” to send on—in case you have every one of these letters, or even ONE of them, won’t you please emerge from your silence and make some moderately human gesture in elucidation of why you did not tell the “Veterans’ Facility”, when my Father was ill and dying, that I was his daughter and should know something of his death and his estate.

Will you tell me anything whatever?  You know something of my candour and you must have realized I would not just meekly accept a stand on your part superficially “irrational” as my Father himself identified me when Cyril applied in 1923 for the Permanent Scott Family Passport and he—my Father, the late Mr Seely Dunn of Washington at one time—signed the application, and it is absurd to be aware as I think you must have been that my Father has been on record as my Father since 1914 or 1915 when my Mother came to Brazil to “visit” us and registered as Maud Thomas Dunn (Mrs Seely Dunn) at the American Consulate in Recife the day she landed from the Lamport and Holt steamer.

It was in Recife that Cyril with my agreement took the first step toward the establishment of the Common Law Marriage which we had decided was the one solution since his second wife in New Orleans would not, then, as yet, divorce him, though long afterward—a few years, we gathered—she did.

You know all these things and that every word I have said about any of these official steps is the truth and that our Common Law Marriage was re-established in the States with our documented re-acceptance as a family and our documented change of name:  not a change by deed-pole [sic] but by usage.

We must be accepted as we are, as having taken the steps we did for the motives actually ours, which were accepted until this damnable war seemed to re-poison American and British minds.  And I have brought up the date business because I cannot think of anything else that you could possibly have been exploited to alarm either you or my Father about our relationship.

Maybe I am just “telling you something”—if so well and good.  I do not and never did like any sort of concealment, and that you and my Father began in Lynchburg with what may have been merely as a social lie in denying my existence, has resulted in humiliations, implied insults from every quarter, and I really don’t know what else, as myself any my second husband John Metcalfe have been stuck here in Britain with just enough money to keep us actually in food, and literally no more, ever since he was demobilized.

We have been immolated, Creighton and his wife and children have been nearly so we are allowed to think and it must be so, and this is probably as true of Cyril who is I am certain basically unchanged, though we do not hear from him and his Wellman son does not answer letters, or else does not receive them.

Anyone with an atom of sense should realize that to communicate with myself and Jack normally is to stop libel, and that to be silent, is to foment it.  So it may be your letters—Melissa—have been sent to me and I never got them.  My daughter-in-law says I do not receive elucidating letters sent by her here.

Will you please acknowledge this as suits you

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Office of Register of Wills and Clerk of the Probate Court
United States District Court for the District of Columbia
Washington, DC
December 7, 1951

Dear Madam:

In response to your letter of November 21, 1951, in further reference to the estate of Seely Dunn, deceased,  you are advised that this office can add nothing to our previous letter (dated October 16th, 1951).  An examination of the records of this office still fails to disclose that a Will of the said Seely Dunn, deceased, has been filed herein or that Letters of Administration have ever been applied for upon his estate.

Very respectfully
Theodore Cogswell
Register of Wills, Clerk of the Probate Court

* * * * *

The finality of this letter puts a seal on Evelyn’s search for her father’s will and her inheritance. There are hints of Evelyn’s suspicion that Melissa Dunn may have concealed the existence of this will and, as Seely would therefore have been deemed to have died intestate, she would thus have inherited all his property, but there is no evidence for this.

Next week, back to the realities of life in post-war London.


32. Is life too short?

Cyril’s autobiography, Life Is Too Short, was published by Lippincott in 1943.  It detailed what he described as his six careers to date and was greeted with moderate critical approval. It included an account of his “elopement” to Brazil with Elsie Dunn, the adoption of their new names, the birth of their son Creighton (who was known by his infant nickname “Jigg” throughout his life), the years of poverty in Brazil and their return to the United States in 1919.

Evelyn did not see  this book until 1945, although she knew it had been published.  When she did finally see a copy she was angered to read what she considered to be distortions.  She could not believe that Cyril would have written some of the descriptions of her and their relationship which she considered to be libelous, and the only possible explanation she could imagine was that some one, unnamed, had altered the text between the proofing and printing stages.  That person had somehow got into the print works and  had altered the passages she objected to with libelous intent.  This suspicion, which developed in her mind into a certainty, was a central theme in her letters from then on.

[NB:  I have a copy of the original typescript and have been able to compare it to the published version.  The only small differences between the two are typographical or grammatical.]

This is important because it marks the beginning of Evelyn’s continuing and increasing conviction that she was being libeled, and this in turn fed her conviction that she was being kept from her son and grandchildren.  I am introducing it here because 1945 is the point from which Evelyn’s gradually deteriorating mental condition can be most easily dated.

In 1951 Evelyn prepared a lenthy (70 single-spaced pages) document in support of efforts by friends to raise funds for her return to the United States.   The heading on each page reads:

Précis of events indicative of libel, to be read as SOON AS POSSIBLE BY CREIGHTON AND PAVLA SCOTT AND JOHN METCALFE AND, if possible, by CYRIL KAY SCOTT WHOM EVELYN SCOTT IS CONVINCED HAS BEEN VICTIMIZED WITH HER AND THEIR SON AND DAUGHTER-IN-LAW in consequence of a tampering and tinkering with LIFE IS TOO SHORT either when it was in manuscript or was being sent to press which either was unauthorized and completely illegal or was done without consultation with the author respecting facts involving both him and Evelyn Scott and their son when a child which are misrepresented and are sometimes fantastically untrue and as much to the disadvantage of the author as to Evelyn Scott and their son and his wife–the aim of this precis, which is a condensation of a longer precis to be completed in consistence with it, the restoration of the Integrity of American and British Artists and Art.

The entire document is prefaced by the following handwritten note:  “This MS contains an enormous amount of inaccuracy and I can only caution any reader to check almost any statement in it.  Paula Scott”

* * * * *


She is NOW, in 1951, convinced that the distortions of the truth respecting her Passport Document Common Law Marriage to Cyril Kay Scott, one of the earliest of the steps taken in Brazil the registration at the American Consulate in Recife, of the birth, on October 26th 1914, of their son, then called “Seely” Scott and afterward Creighton Scott—that this legal marriage was misrepresented to and by the Church, and that this also was the case respect­ing the divorce obtained from her as Mr Kay Scott’s Common Law wife, in 1928, in Chichuaua County Mexico, where divorce and marriage Laws are consistent.

Mr Cyril Kay Scott himself registered for himself and for Evelyn Dunn Scott as his wife on their arrival in Rio de Janeiro from New York, via London, on as he says the Hamburg-American liner Blucher, in the spring of 1914, before Passports were required by the States, Britain or Brazil. And that everything concerning the steps which documented the establishment of the Common Law Marriage which was absolutely concluded in Chichuaua County1 in 1928, were, between 1939 and the present, being libellously distorted and to some extent deliberately and by intention, she has not a doubt since she re-read Mr Cyril Kay Scott’s mangled autobiography, into which have been interjected misstatements in respect to everything appertaining both to her and her son that he himself, with his innate high qualities of character, the fineness of mind proven in his paintings and his novels filled with psychological insights which could NOT have written, and which are completely at odds with many comments on life philosophy and art that are recognizable as his by everyone who ever knew him well, and are scattered throughout the book. The book, Life Is Too Short is completely veracious in regard to facts which concern his scientific career and his careers in the arts and in business, including the war industry of which he was a competent administrator though he trained himself. But there is NO emotional or personal truth in the book; and it cannot be credited that any man of Mr Kay Scott’s wisdom and good sense, who, as well, has been the most understanding Father of his son and Evelyn Scott’s could concoct a cock-and-bull story about “secret agents” and “murders” as a pseudo-explanation.of the issuance of the Emergency Passport given him for himself and Evelyn Dunn Scott and Creighton Seely Scott as the Scott family, by Ambassador Morgan, when the real reason was Evelyn Dunn Scott was in seriously bad health, physically, and NOT mentally, as other libels in this book imply.

I think Mr Cyril Kay Scott incapable of mean falsehood of a petty order such as pervades those portions of Life Is Too Short which concern the life we shared during our Common Law Marriage of Fourteen Years; and as the decree which was granted him for the “desertion of bed and board”, in 1928, in Chichuaua, was consistently sanctioned by the American State Department the decree itself signed by the American Consul then at Juarez who was Mr John Dye, there was no point whatever in such a lie, unless inserted there by those whom the war had made the enemies both of the author and our son and of Evelyn Scott and JohnMetcalfe, Evelyn Scott’s second husband; who is NOT the “Father of her son”, as she has vaguely gathered some have had it.

But just before she returned FROM Canada to Tappan, New Jersey, to await her waiver and obtain the British Passport required before she could sail as an “RAF” wife into the War Zone and which she resigned immediately on landing in Britain, Mr Paul I Wellman1 had been at death’s door. And she learned this, and that Mr Kay Scott, too, was then ill, from her son and daughter-in-law in Tappan. And as she did not as was usual after her absences see Mr Kay Scott in person, and Mr Creighton Scott expressed himself in her hearing as “not interested” in reading Life Is Too Short—he and his wife were probably repelled by gossip of its vicious attack on her, Mr Creighton Scott’s Mother, but this, then, she did not know—and she herself had no opportunity to read what had been said of her until Mr Lewis Gannett, in 1947, loaned Mr Metcalfe his copy of this book and it was brought to her to England by him and she, in turn, was so revolted by the passages that libel both that she could scarcely read it,—the full and clear comprehension of the real extent of damage which may already have been done to her and her son and her daughter-in-law, his stepfather, and Mr Kay Scott himself—awaited the re-reading of Life Is Too Short in 1951 which she has just recently completed.

In 1943, she had no money to buy the book without a sacrifice of necessities she would gladly have made, had it not been that Creighton and Pavla’s aversion to it decided her that it might be best to read it at some other time; and now that she no longer doubts that libellers must have set to work on her and her son her daughter-in-law and her present husband during the war, she is too impoverished to bring libel charges against anyone, even should she wish to; and this, she is certain, is the truth regarding all concerned.

Think of having failed to warn Mr Kay Scott, when he acknowledged minor kindly practical aid, that, by listing his own and Evelyn Scott’s son and their son’s wife as among those who had “confirmed facts” in Life Is Too Short, he was allowing for the inference that she had neglected or shown little love for her only child, though there are many, and he above them all—who can attest that her concern for Mr Creighton Scott’s happiness and talents has been unremittingly proven her life long, and that as soon as he so much as contemplated marriage it extended to his present wife as well. Think of these things, and of an mss sent on probably unread after these passages were re-done by a “proxy”—possibly “authorized” but not “specified”—and think of the dismay Mr Kay Scott must have felt on reading them himself, and discerning a baseness towards him which, by seemingly reflecting on his son Creighton Scott and Creighton Scott’s wife, was like a criminal cancellation of his own generosities of a lifetime. Slanders inception is always among congenitally de­praved types, and, doubtless, in America, that system introduced with gangsterism, which allows criminals to batten on their moral betters, and is designated “police protection”, has fostered slan­der as convenient to extortion. And even as Evelyn Scott conjectures that slanderers must have battened obliquely, probably in contexts of the war and immigration, on a defamation of herself by which it hoped to embarrass the British and American consuls of 1943 and 1944, she is as con­vinced that Mr Kay Scott, also, loving very genuinely the children of his first marriage, was as much tricked into their inclusions in “Acknowledgements” as on the score of Mr Creighton Scott and his wife; as wilful insult was, to superficial minds, even more easily attributable to the Wellmans and especially because both Mr Paul I Wellman and Mr Manly Wellman1 have been newspaper men and are inured to some extent to the hardness expected in newspaper work.

Evelyn Scott does NOT believe they would be capable of vengefulness toward her, as she likes all of them, nor that they, any more than their Father, would allow any book by Mr Kay Scott to be cheapened by the atrociousness of those passages in Life Is Too Short which are most at variance with everything else Mr Kay Scott has written. So in her estimate, all concerned are victims!

1Chihuahua, Mexico. This is typical of Evelyn’s repeated misspellings of names.

Next week — back to normal!




31. A son writes not to his mother

Now that she  was in London with Jack, Evelyn became increasingly preoccupied with the lack of news of her son, his wife and their (now three) small children.  Jigg, perhaps as the result of the unhappiness and stress caused during her stay with them in Tappan, did not wish to continue contact with his mother and did what he could to impose distance between them.  At this point Gladys Grant, a long-time friend of Evelyn’s, became the buffer between Jigg and his mother.  She had met Jigg some years earlier and was fond of him, she could see how destructive Evelyn’s possessive behaviour could be, and  she managed a delicate balance between her continuing friendship for Evelyn and her desire to protect Jigg and his family from Evelyn’s desire to control his life.

Evelyn’s preoccupation with finding Jigg increased over the years and in 1951/52 she began to annotate her earlier letters and the replies she had received.  These annotations in her inimitable spidery hand give considerable insight into her mental state at this point, and are italicised and enclosed in square brackets [ ].

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Scotch Plains, New Jersey
November 1, 1946

Dear Evelyn:

I am ashamed not to have written before, but kept putting if off in the hope of telling you more.  I’ve forwarded all your letters but my last address for Jig is also care of the radio station in Chicago.  So far as I know he is still there with apparently no prospects or likelihood of being in or near New York.  I’m always glad to forward letters but, of course, this makes for delay and sometimes uncertainty.  Of course the registered letters would have been kept at the PO but the others just lie there.  I’ve been planning to get a PO box, but there isn’t one to be had just now and it would mean daily trips to Scotch Plains.  The old mail man used to be much more careful, but I suspect I’ve lost considerable mail lately.  I’m particularly upset today as all the boxes along this route were torn off by hoodlums last night—Halloween!  So glad as I am to forward any mail for you, I think you ought to know it is not too reliable.

As to the kids—I wrote you after I saw them last.  They were fine then but I haven’t seen them since.  When Jig went to Chicago, I believe the rest went to Paula’s father1—but for how long, I don’t know.  But I’m sure I’d hear and, so would you, if anything went wrong or any of them weren’t well.  They were flourishing, the last time I saw them.  I’m sorry I can’t tell you more as I realise you must want to know. [remainder of letter missing]

Ralph Pearson, then living in Nyack, New York.

During this period Evelyn was preoccupied with preserving her US citizenship (which was never in danger) and believed that one way of doing this was to be “domiciled” in the US.  Accordingly, she asked Gladys if she could use her address as evidence of this “domicile”.  Unknown to her, Gladys had also offered to let Jigg and Paula use her address as a forwarding address as a buffer to prevent Evelyn easily finding out where they were.

Evelyn, frustrated by her inability to contact her son, turned in desperation to Paula’s family.  Some years previously she had met Ralph Pearson, Paula’s father, a talented silversmith who ran a successful design business, and contacted him.  This led to her invoking Paula’s mother, Margué Foster (who had divorced  Ralph and married artist  Joseph Foster) as well as other members of Paula’s family.

* * * * *

To Creighton and Paula Scott

26 Belsize Crescent
December 22, 1946

Darling Jig and Pavla

What has happened?  Where are you?1  I have written several letters to the business address given as Jig’s on Pavla’s July letter, and sent them registered, but have had no reply, and have merely inferred Pavla was with her father until she rejoined Jig, which she must by this time have done.

I am writing to Ralph Pearson and sending this letter with the one to him for forwarding, but his address, also, I misplaced, and I have only remembered it recently as Piermont Avenue.

As I am telling him, I had to give Jig’s address as care Gladys, when I got a new American passport and don’t know yet whether he received a check meant for Freddy’s birthday, and it is also very important that I have Jig’s correct present address2 for a British agent for The Muscovites, which there is a strong possibility of my being able to sell in Britain; and it need it similarly for the validation in the States of the Will of which he has a copy, in which he and Jack are appointed my literary executors.   Anyhow, all this goes to prove how necessary it is that we all keep in some sort of continuous contact and I don’t know how may more got where they were sent, and while that was during the bombing, there seems more than ever no reason for being left in the dark NOW.

Our love again and again and I do implore Creighton and Pavla themselves to reply NOW to this.
The very best to you two and to the children.

1At that time, Paula and the children were living in Pine Bluff, North Carolina near Cyril and his wife Louise, and Jigg was commuting from Chicago at weekends.

2Evelyn often claimed she had important practical reasons for needing Jig’s address, but these ploys never had the desired result.

3Paula’s great aunt Gertrude Brownell

* * * * *

To Ralph Pearson

26 Belsize Crescent
December 22, 1946

[Ralph replied after several letters and in 1949 I learned of experience in Chicago like experience reported in The Sun column during early part of war–similar]

Dear Ralph Pearson,

When Pavla and Jig moved from Tappan, in July, Pavla wrote me saying she would have no permanent address until she was settled with Jig, again; and Jack and myself have been much concerned about her, Creighton and the children recently, as we have had not a word since, although as Pavla, on the envelope enclosing her letter, gave Creighton’s business address as the Columbia Broadcasting Company, Chicago, and we have written several letters to him and her there.  [Other letters were not returned—there were not many two or three at most]

Her own letter was blank as to address, and it has been merely by inference that we have assumed she was with you until she joined Creighton, which by now she must surely have done; though Gladys Grant, said she thought Pavla could be reached through you.  And I would have written to you, in any case, and asked you to relieve our anxiety, and I had not misplaced your address, which I, all at once, remembered a day or two ago as Piermont Avenue.  You have lived there so long, I am sure the fact that I have not got the number won’t matter.  [June Jig had been in Army then ill]

Well, there is the situation!  Jig and Pavla have always kept us apprised of what happened and of their whereabouts, heretofore, and if I had let myself I could have been in a fine dither, by now!

I wrote Margué during the war, to the address which was hers when I visited Pavla and Creighton on my way back to Jack and have written there, again, although that is two years and a half ago, and she may have moved; but I have yet to get a reply; and as letters I sent Pavla’s Aunt Gertrude at the same time I wrote Margué, and which undoubtedly, if it arrived, went to the correct address, [1952—All requests for addresses—anyone’s—were ignored. except that he sent Harper’s ] was never acknowledged, you can’t blame me for the anxiety I shall feel until I have your answer to this and all the necessary information about Creighton and Pavla, Denise, Fredrick and Mathew, whom Jack and myself love very much and for whom we feel the greatest loyalty.  [No allusion to my books and Jacks or to Jigs has been made by Mr Pearson]

And so you will understand why I appeal to you, certain as I am of your innate kindliness!  Letters, the children’s and your own, are of first importance NOW, but the other things are also very VERY very important to us, and, ultimately, what we are able to do for ourselves is important in effect as regards them too.

Our regards to you all, and our very great appreciation,

Do you know Cyril’s address?  I had a letter sent him in my care for months, and can’t forward it because he didn’t give me any more address when he last wrote than Pavla did.  Really, if it wasn’t damnably serious, it would be funny.

* * * * *

To Ralph Pearson

26 Belsize Crescent
January 12, 1947

Dear Ralph [Took two years to get a reply to this.  He is Jig’s father-in-law]

I called you Ralph “Pearson” in the letter I mailed, or I should say Jack mailed for me, last week, and that is how it is addressed, and while I am sure it will get to you, well known as you are, I add this apology.  I think you live on Piermont Avenue?  Am I not right?  That would explain the ease with which I seem thrown into confusion about the spelling of your name, for I believe I did the same thing in writing you from Canada.  But hereafter, with Louise’s1 permission, I shall call you Ralph and let it go at that.

Feeling sure you will have the first letter by the time this arrives I won’t repeat the contents at length, but I do beg you again, please, to give me whatever news you have of the children as soon as possible.  My distress is great, and Jack, likewise, is anxious; and there are still the important reasons for having Creighton’s address, first and foremost to give the agent handling his novel for British publication, and secondly for documentary purposes, validation of will, and to append to my passport as when at the American Consulate I had to give his as Gladys Grant’s, and it shouldn’t be that everything went through her.

And there is, besides these things,my human feeling to be considered, and Jack’s also affectionate concern, and if both Creighton and Pavla, but of course especially now at once Creighton would write to us as before it would make a very great difference and make us all happier.

Thank you very much and again Jack’s and my regards and good wishes to you and our love and very great love to Creighton and Pavla and Denise and Freddy and Mathew.

Evelyn Scott Metcalfe

Ralph’s second wife

288 Piermont Avenue, Nyack [Google Street View]

To Creighton Scott

Ralph M Pearson’s Design Workshop Courses by Mail
288 Piermont Ave Nyack, NY

February 3, 1947

Dear Jigg:

This second letter came from Evelyn today; I send it on to you where it really belongs.  I have finally after much thought and after consulting Louise, decided on the letter in answer, a copy of which is enclosed [see below].  I cannot see the need of telling her lies, nor of the insult of silence; to us it seems that you should take care of the matter as you know all the answers.

Though Evelyn was distraught while staying with you, silence will only make her more so.  Can’t you see your way to set her at ease before the situation goes from bad to worse?  It would appear to be a son’s duty to do that.


* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Ralph M Pearson’s Design Workshops Courses by Mail
288 Piermont Ave Nyack, NY

February 3, 1947

Dear Evelyn:

Your letters both received, the second one came today, and both have been forwarded to Jigg.

I fear I can be of little help to you as it is obvious that this situation exists between you and Jigg.  Besides he must know all the answers to your queries.  The letters you have been sending to them certainly must have been forwarded; why he has not answered I do not know. [He did know he and Jig were both pestered by “inquirers” about Ralph’s innocuous second wife Pavla’s step-mother and calling me Margaret Jack Carlo it is just rackety politics]

So, this seems to be the best I can do.

With best wishes,

[1952 There was some constraint about the content of Life Is Too Short when I was with Jig in Tappan. He seemed happier about this in London when Jack and I both said the libels libelled the author and that it was evidently re-slanted by a ratty editor to suit low markets  1952—I think the silences I object to criminal—imposed by criminals]

* * * * *

To Ralph Pearson

26 Belsize Crescent
March 30, 1947

Dear Ralph, this is the second time I have written my objection to the tenor or your last letter; which annoyed—and more than annoyed!—and perplexed me to an extent that made me very indignant; and caused me to write again today when I had calmed down, and could be temperate. [Ralph cooked up a pseudo-explanation thinking he was being helpful as Jig didn’t want to write about a fight—explained the effect on me was disturbing. Margué always said he was cruel.]

Well, that I have done, but the reason for my indignation is as was.  There has been NO no no no NO NO “falling out” of any sort between either Creighton and myself, Jack and him, Pavla and Jack, or Pavla and me.  And why almost a year has passed since Pavla (of whom I am fond) wrote me a letter with a content distressing to me and to Jack both (in which she spoke of the difficulties of the move to Chicago, her plight in having to stay “with friends”, the financial problem of move to such a distance, her wish and Jig’s to be re-established somewhere together at once, and the birth of Mathew—whose advent had never been mentioned to us as imminent in any previous letter), and no further letter has been received here in London by either Jack or me from either of them, is a complete mystery.

And the reason your—Ralph Pearson’s (NOT to mix pronouns) letter was and is a cause for indignation, was and is because Pearsons and Fosters, apparently, are in constant touch with them and our grandchildren.  But when I ask Ralph Pearson to corroborate as Creighton’s present address, that on the envelope of Pavla’s letter (the letter was blank as far as address went), the request is ignored, and on the basis of a fool and quite false assumption.

I asked for Margué’s1 present address, as no letter to her has yet been answered from her old address (although I saw her during the war and she was very pleasant and apparently interested in both Jack and myself as well as Creighton and Pavla); and you—Ralph Pearson I mean again—chose to ignore that request, as well—why why WHY?

I would have supposed a man whose work connected him with the arts would evince some symptom of imagination considering what we have all been through during the damn war; considering that I left the States in a convoy and got here under a rain of bombs; and there has been no real peace yet, and news or information of any sort about our family (and none are nearer or more loved that Creighton and Pavla and their children)—but, no–!  There was not any of the anticipated humanity in the reply I actually got.

What is wrong?  Is there a sort of “Pearson-Foster” opposition to human relations of a natural sort, or what?  If there is an explanation to be given, then you should give it.  If anybody is offended about anything we should know who is, and why!  And in any case I hold you and Margué to a degree responsible for failing to assist in relieving whatever misapprehension, if any, is at the bottom of this rotten madness.  You are both in contact with them, and you therefore have an advantage in influence, and if you refuse to use it on behalf of normal decent human civilized contacts and normal decent human civilized relations between mother and son, son and step-father-in-law, the consequences be on your own head.  You are assuming a responsibility I should not wish to have mine in the state of the world as it is when and while the civilized and normal have a supreme value, everywhere and anywhere.

But I, AGAIN, register objection about a situation which forces me to use “go-betweens”, where there has been no quarrel.  You have merely stirred resentment, where otherwise there would be amiability.  Fifteen letters, literally, sent to the States, have been unanswered in the last two years, and all to previously good friends—again why why why WHY? (and this does not include any of the letters written Creighton and Pavla, Pavla, writing infrequently to both having given blanket answers to most

Justly protesting, I am sincerely

[They have all been unhumanly cruel to me—is it because conditions there have been unhumanly cruel?  1952 E Scott]

1 Ralph’s first wife and Paula’s mother, Margaret Hale (Margué), remarried after their divorce; her second husband was Joseph Foster.

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Scotch Plains, New Jersey
April 11, 1947

Dear Evelyn: [She sent paper twice]

Your letter came yesterday and I would have answered it then, but was just taking my son to New York to return to school and had several business things I had to do there.  Last night I came back so tired that I waited to write you until morning.

I realize how you must want to hear about your grandchildren and wish I could send you details.  But I haven’t seen any of them since they left Tappan or even heard for the last month or more.  In Paula’s last letter she enclosed a nice one from Denise, very sweet and well written, mainly asking about the fish they gave me before they left.  So perhaps you know more than I do!

Love to you both as always.

* * * * *

To Creighton Scott

Scotch Plains, New Jersey
May 12, 1947

Dear Jig:

This is written to you to ask what you want me to do if and when your mother comes.  May I say that I promised to give your address to no one without official permission, I’ll lie and say I don’t know, if you prefer, but I’m not a good liar and this may just make her angry and more hurt and determined.  It’s none of my business but, if you don’t want to see her, wouldn’t it be easier for both of you to cable her before she started?  If she gets to this country she is almost sure to find out somehow were you are.  I realize such a cable is hard and cruel but won’t it be much worse for all of you after she is here?

Please forgive my butting in.  I won’t mention it again.  Unless I hear to the contrary I’ll just refuse to give your address, if I’m cornered.

Excuse scrawl.  I’ll write again soon and be sure to let me know how you all are.

God bless you all

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Scotch Plains, New Jersey
June 15, 1947

[1952  This letter rather stupid in view of facts.  Jack was about to sail—arranging passage when this arrived]

Dear Evelyn:

I’m sorry I did not send the paper before, but waited for you to confirm where you were,  I am sending it herewith.

I must also tell you one very important thing.  Don’t come to this country unless you absolutely have to!  I am sure it must be much worse than England and certainly can’t be any better.  We have more material goods to be sure, but everything is terrifically expensive and the grab attitude is terrible.  I am sure you would both be utterly miserable.

I hope when you wrote “domiciled with me” you did not mean to stay here.  Not that I don’t want to see you and Jack, but there isn’t an inch of space.  You can always have mail sent to this address, if you trust the RFD, and I’ll be glad to forward it.  But there isn’t any place to sleep.

As for Jig and Paula, I haven’t heard from them for ages and can’t tell you their address.  The last letter, I believe, was the note from Denise and had none.  They are worse correspondents than I am, but I’m sure I would have heard if all was not well.  If the Chicago address is the last you have, it will undoubtedly reach him.  [1952—mail to Chicago was returned to London]

I hate to write this discouraging letter and perhaps should not send it, but I don’t know when I’ll get a chance to write again.  I’ll try to when I’m in a less depressed mood myself.

Love to you both

* * * * *

To Creighton Scott

c/o DeSilver, 130 West 12th Street, NYC
August 16, 1947

Dear Jig,

Here I am back in the US and eager to see you if you care for that.  Whatever the reasons (which I am quite willing to respect) for your long silence, you and I have, I trust, always been good friends and I hope that it may be possible to contact you, preferably in person, or, failing that at any rate by letter.  I feel that a certain amount of, at least, “tentative” clarification would be of mutual help.

I don’t know what in heck the conditions or considerations which have created the present impasse (to call it that!) may be, but I am not lacking in imagination which, towards yourself, has always been and will always be, exercised in the friendliest possible way.  Please take that as a first datum anyhow.

At the same time, you, also, are a person of imagination, so you can probably guess the effect on Evelyn (and by repercussion and propinquity on myself) of a sustained silence.  I fancy, from all one may gather, that she must have been a wearing inmate of your house while she was awaiting a passage to England, and I certainly feel no “disloyalty” to her in saying so.  You and I both know her well, and indeed she herself would now readily admit that she was a trying guest.  Anything of that kind, or any faintest attempt towards a repetition thereof, can, on my personal guarantee, be ruled out.  So if any fear of her being again parked on you has been at all operative, dismiss it.

None the less, and conceding all of this, her affection for you is very deep and genuine, and to grant it some sort of vent, if only by occasional correspondence, could, as I (failing further enlightenment) see it, do you no harm.  It would not be a wedge’s thin-end towards anything you might find obtrusive, inappropriate or oppressive.

Meanwhile, however, your silence has had the effect of rendering her unresigned to life in England.  A line or two, now and then, would, as they say, have kept her happy, or reasonably so; but, as it is, the absence of a word from you has received, progressively, a wholly disproportionate emphasis until it was warped and coloured her entire outlook, and tended, of course, to aggravate those very symptoms of nervousness and all else which may, in the first instance, have played some part in prompting you to drop correspondence.

Once again, please understand, I am not, nor is she, “blaming” (oh holy Mike!) or “reproaching” (oh even holier Mike!) you for all this.  Let us leave any obfuscating so-called “moral” issues out of it.  I am merely stating, without exaggeration and as straightforwardly as I can, the sequence of cause and effect.  And naturally I do not disguise that I, as living with her, am a highly interested party.  All of this, of course, comes back to me!

So what I want to put over to you is the present actual concrete picture and no more.  At present, and rightly or wrongly, that actual concrete picture is that lack of word from you is a prime cause—I may say the prime cause—of mental disturbance generally, impeding work and destroying health.  A word from you would relieve this condition and constitute no faintest kind of “threat” to yourself.  But you can imagine the effect a continued silence will undoubtedly have upon such a nature.

This, of course, is inadequate and partial.  In particular, it fails to convey how warmly I feel towards you, yourself, as a person.  That is quite apart from anything construable as mere “sentiment”, of which, I hope, I am sufficiently adult to be absolved.

If you feel like it, I want, as I’ve said, to see you.  I, just as much as Evelyn, am feeling rather bothered and “bottled-up” by this “situation”,–which I still insist on enclosing in inverted commas.

Yrs ever,

 * * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

c/o DeSilver, 130 West 12th Street, NYC
August 20, 1947

Darling Beloved Evelyn-Chookie

This is just an interim note by air mail.  As I told you in last letter (tho’ it was not air-mail, – and this may arrive first), I saw Ralph Pearson (it’s spelt that way, I find) on Saturday, – and left a short letter for Jig, which he will forward.  Jig had asked R P not to give his address to anyone, so of course I still have not got it, and it may be a week or so before I can get any reply.

R P seemed most friendly, – but a little hurt that you hadn’t visited him as often as he (apparently) had wanted.  He begged me to understand that he was not to blame. Now he regretted the present situation, and, for his part, had asked Jig to write to us, – and had no idea why he would not.

I am sure all this will adjust itself if only you (who have, at the moment, to play infinitely the most difficult part) can hold on for a while.  I told Jig, of course, how lovingly we both felt and I delighted I wd be to see him, – but at the same time assured him that I was not, in any way, “pursuing” him.  If I did, incidentally, learn his address, what good would that really be to us unless he himself had volunteered it?—as I think he will.

All love always

* * * * *

To Cyril Kay Scott

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, Apt 12G, 130 West 12th St NYC 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.  Jack has written me he is is bringing home a copy of Life Is Too Short, and it will certainly be appreciated as both of us have been doing our best to get it and read it ever since it appeared, but when I was in the USA during the war I was advised to travel with such light baggage that I could not bring a book, besides lacking cash for buying anything not essential at the moment.  But in our estimate of literature an human beings books of the value we are sure that are essential, so it has been a great deprivation to have had to wait as long as this for one we especially want.

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”.  It is a form of “scruple” somewhat like it would have been had I adhered to Lola’s request not to get money for her from anybody, when I had been told (erroneously, but I didn’t know it) that she was dying.  I asked for money for her without consulting her, and if it didn’t save her medically, it saved her from starving, and you yourself aided with complete disdain for such inhuman “pseudo” “scrupling”.

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.

Pavla wrote the last of the two letters from her immediately after Mathew was born, said she and Jig were in a “terrible state”, did not say why, put no address on the envelope, and on the outside of the letter put the Columbia Broadcasting, Chicago, where Jack learns from Pearson he is not employed, having a better job elsewhere.  But 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.

That is why Cyril I implore you to throw any light you can on the situation and if you can exert influence with Creighton please do so, for I think we both realize by now that the idea of cutting early ties didn’t work.

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 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.

Jack has the hypothesis (first time) that some fake analyst has impinged with the “mother complex” rot; and it may be so, though I believe Jig to be too sensible to accept that blather at this late date.  And as I know you yourself Cyril have just the opinion Jack and myself have of “psycho-analysis” as the most completely invalidated lot of rotten nonsense that was ever foist by duped doctors on a duped world, I somehow feel you won’t support that stuff, and if it is an ingredient will help.

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,

* * * * *

To Creighton and Paula Scott

26 Belsize Crescent
August 3, 1948

[1952–This letter was not specifically mentioned at any time]

My very dear (and it is our very dear, for Jack feels precisely as I do about you) very dear Creighton and Pavla  [Very few specific acknowledgements]

Jig’s letter which Jack received when he arrived here, continues to distress us because of its misapprehensions.  I don’t know their source, but I do remember every smallest thing that happened during my ten months stay with you, and remember most vividly of all that Jig was alarmed, as I was, lest some slip-up about my passage leave me on his hands financially, when he was carrying every bit of financial responsibility he could shoulder.  I remember he said then, that, in order to try and assure the speeding-up of my passage arrangements at the American end, he would be obliged to invent some story which would be comprehensible to his then-boss (whom I judge to have been a complete ass), and he intended to tell him there was friction in the family caused by my presence, and he was “desperate” about it.  And this I gather Jig did, and that is why Jack received the cable1 which was so incredibly unjust as regards myself Jack Jig himself Pavla and the children.

I was never “jealous” of Pavla or of Denise and Fredrick in my life, but when I was in Tappan, I was in actual panic, every moment, lest I be stranded there as I was in New York in 1939, when Jack was over here in service, and my income on books abruptly ceased, and I could find no means of supplementing it, though I had somehow to get my mother’s hospital bills paid, and she was dying.  I was in such panic, that conscious of a constraint the war was imposing on every one of us, and that we were not speaking with the candour natural to our affections, I “leaned over backward” not to appear too grandmotherly, or mother-in-lawly, lest it be supposed I placidly accepted just staying on there indefinitely, which I didn’t.

We both deeply regret Jack did not see you both and Denise Fredrick and Mathew last year, as you were one of the chief reasons he went to the USA; as he feels as I do the continuity of one’s intimate human relations is important in contributing to a sane normal life.  But, again, we do not blame you, but conditions.  We have not yet solved our problems, and still we hope.

We love you and the three children and we feel precisely as we always have about Cyril whom we have both been accustomed to consider one of our best friends, notwithstanding a divorce, for the occasions of divorce don’t last forever, and Cyril and I as Jack appreciates have a son, the son more important than the original cause of divorce.  For Jig’s sake I hope Cyril will write to both of us as he used to do.

1Dated January 28, 1944: see blog post 28. This reference to this cable illustrates Evelyn’s lack of awareness of the effect her behaviour had on her son.

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

United States Post Office
Nyack, New York

July 21, 1949

[NB August 3rd 1949 this was an inquiry about mail addressed to my son in Pearson’s care which though correctly addressed was returned. I therefore regard the Post Office at Nyack as disingenuous and evasive and as having downright refused to answer straight questions regarding a specific instance of mishandling. This inquiry was made May 27 1949 this letter arrived August 2 1949.]

Dear Madam:

Receipt is acknowledged of your letter of June 29th, 1949, all which has reference to mail which you send to your Son, his Wife and your Grandson.

You are advised that Mr Pierson [ear—my fault! ]is alive and resides at 288 Piermont Avenue, for a number of years. All mail received at this office addressed to him or other persons in his care has been delivered to that address.

Of course, it would be impossible to trace the letters you mailed during the years 1944 and 1945, however, I can assure you that if they were addressed to Mr Pierson or someone in his care they were delivered to the above mentioned address. What he might do with such mail is unknown to anyone at this office.

We have no forwarding address for your Son or any member of his family and any mail addressed to them directly would be returned to the sender marked unknown. If the mail was addressed to your Son or any member of his family in care of Mr Pierson it would be delivered to Mr Pierson’s residence for such disposition as he cared to make of it.

Trusting this explains our position in the matter,

I am
Respectfully yours,

[NB 1952 This blast of ice returned to me a letter and parcel correctly addressed to Mathew Scott my grandson and Mr Pearson’s in Mr Pearson’s care–Mr Pearson said he know nothing of it. In London, Jig said Ralph’s second wife had been called a “red” because she was once in a teacher’s union in which were some communists. The two Pearsons were once socialists.]

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Ralph M Pearson’s Design Workshop
288 Piermont Ave Nyack NY

 October 7, 1949

[Pearson is as brutal as Walter Frank–Pearson lies I think and he knows a situation so painful would naturally make it impossible for Jig to read my letter in his presence.]

Dear Evelyn:

The Nyack postmaster just showed me another letter from you about Jigg not getting your letters. Now look, Evelyn–Jigg has received every letter you sent in my care. That last long one about a month ago came to me while he happened to be here visiting for the day and I gave it to him direct from the carrier–without reading it myself. From the way he acted I doubt if he read it, altho I saw him read part of the first page. He is following a deliberate policy of not answering your letters; that is the hard fact you may as well take into account. And I suggest you stop bothering postmasters about this family matter; it is hardly fair to them to be brought in on such a thing.

The packages must have gone astray because I was not in Nyack to receive them and it is too late now to do anything about them.

But every letter you send to me will be forwarded–so you may always be assured Jigg gets them.

It is very unfortunate, this whole situation–and I regret it very much–but there is nothing I can do.

Ralph M P

[Egregious evasion–Ralph doesn’t answer during two years and not until I had embarrassed him by inquiring of the P Office about parcel ((returned))]

* * * * *

Next week Evelyn finally sees a copy of Life Is Too Short and is inspired to record her reactions to it.




17. Algeria, again

In the summer of 1926  Evelyn and Jack were re-united with Cyril and Jig briefly before all four left Cassis for Cintra (near Lisbon in Portugal) where they spent the winter in a cheap hotel before returning to Algeria.  Evelyn’s letters return to vivid descriptions of the places they travelled through and stayed, and of the people who inhabited these places, including her typically judgmental descriptions of their behaviour and customs.

* * * * *

To Otto Theis

[Cassis-sur-Mer, France]
June 11 [1926]

Dearest Otto:

My personal news (Strictly confidential, for which again I guess I go against John’s inclination to confess) is as follows:  Cyril took John to a first rate diagnostician in Marseilles yesterday.1  He (MD) coined the word physisthenique to apply to him as opposed to neurasthenic.  Says John’s vital energy is absolutely depleted and must have been so for some time.  My private opinion is that he suspects John of TB that I will not say so to John and heaven grant it is sensation.  Anyway, John is to stay out of doors all day, to write out of doors if he will write, to recline while writing, to go up on the terrace and assume as much nudity in the sun as propriety will allow, and to take two kinds of of injections of something which it would need Cyril to elucidate.  Also to weigh himself daily and to take his temperature morning and evening.  To exercise little.  Blood and urine are still at the laboratory and John goes in tomorrow to get the results.  I’m glad he has been.  All the time he was in Scilly his constant tendancy to extreme exhaustion worried me, especially as we had few pipps and there was no mental explanation (usually sufficient cause).  Cyril thought he might have TB too, but now hopes he hasn’t.  He ate little at Scilly, tho bucked up in London, but here eats less.

He is going to the air force mid July, doctor or no doctor, and it may do him good.  Anyhow he adores the airforce and psychology demands he doesn’t resign from it.  I think one reason he loves it is it is the only out of door life he has led in years and he feels better there.  He’ll be leaving about the 12th and be in London a day or so before going to camp, so he will see you.

Large quantities of the mush that embarrasses you here about to overflow the page so, with our most affectionate and largest love for Louise and yourself, I will quit before the page grows too dewy or syrupy for your perusal.


Although it wasn’t diagnosed until later, John had contracted a form of amoebic dysentery during an earlier trip to Africa; this plagued him to greater or lesser degree throughout his life.

* * * * *

To David Lawson

Car-sickness, France
August 7, 1926

Very dear Davy:  I was happy to get your letter, even though it did not contain the best of news. .  I think about you both constantly, and it does me so MUCH good even to see your handwriting again and get a direct word that, if things ain’t much better, they ain’t much worse either.

We don’t think we are going to stay in France.  Our reasons are this–first John isn’t well and French food habits and climate don’t agree with him particularly.  Secondly, the fluctuation in the franc has made us lose about half of such money as we have gotten over here, as, by the time I write to America (or even John to England) when we happen to have notice that there is any money due us, by the time it gets here the franc, bought at the exchange of the original date, has again depreciated, the cost of living here has advanced, and the fifty or hundred dollars we started with arrives here, three weeks later, worth just half what it was.  We have managed to get along anyhow, but it is not a cheering experience to people who are being economical, and there is the prospect, if Poincare’s cabinet does not survive the extreme odds against it, that something more drastic and generally disastrous may occur.  The public feeling against English and Americans is very strong throughout France.  There was stone throwing and rioting in Paris (on a small scale) not long ago, a boatload of English tourists attempting a landing in Normandy were met with stones and had to pull out, and even here in Cassis, where there are numerous e.g. English and Americans, last week when the shops had up a sign in the street, Welcome to the Foreigners, some of the people tried to tear it down and were stopped by the police.  So it ain’t too pleasant.  All this feeling has been accumulating since I wrote you.  There are three factions here, Royalist, Communist, and Republican, and even the kids Jigeroo plays with have fights about it.  Very confidentially, but through fairly reliable sources, we have heard that the fall of Poincare’s cabinet is anticipated as the moment to start a rumpus, and we aren’t anxious to be here when it happens, though of course it may be only a tin pot affair that will soon blow over.  But even so.

Consequently, we are considering what are the few cheap places left in the world to live in.  North Africa is the cheapest, but politics here will affect there.  Austria and Italy are the only two places where exchange is cheap and Vienna is very very cold in the winter.  There remains Rome, which is raw but not so bad, and not so hard to get to from here, and would be very little less effort for Lola to reach if she comes over in a Fabro boat which stops at Naples.  From there it is four hours to Rome, but if we go there and Lola comes, we would go to Naples to meet her.

You must not be prejudiced against meeting John by last summer’s experience.  I think he’s a dear, but just judged for himself without regard to me, I think you two would like him.  He’s very reserved and very English, in a nice sense, and, if that helps you to be prepared for the best, as unlike Owen as two people could be.  He and Cyril get on grand. John wants to meet you all, and I wish sometime in the next year or so we could go to America.  But as usual—cash.

Dear Davy, again, my best and most love to you and to her.


* * * * *

To Louise Morgan

Hotel Europa, Cintra, Portugal
October 15, 1926

Louise, old darling, what’s matter.  It’s been months since we’ve heard from you.  won’t you drop us a line and let us tell you how I got ill—I would—in Spain—our money almost but disappeared—arrived here to find a letter from Brandts in which, without explanation, they said publication of Migrations1 would be spring (when the contract reads fall this year, and of course it is too late for me to kick now) and I got ill again of mild flu precipitated by rage and have been in bed strafing.  And about how despite every known discomfort the landscape of Spain was worth suffering for once, less granite than Africa, but rick and forever looking earth near Fraga, which I think Balston mentioned, the finest tents and plateaus of red, orange, purple, rockless treeless soil I ever saw—the most enormousness.  And again, near Guadaloupe, plush look of clay hills in the finest barren purples, wine pinks, or bright gilt sallowness of trampled what.  How Spain is bigger and stiller, save for magpies, than any country but the desert.  The people all have a pride so envolved it must keep them from progress, for indifference they must feign in all but the passionate ceremonial of dancing or bull fighting and perhaps the feigning has become real—an arrogant torpor, shot with suspicion—their most fiery trait.  They are courteous exceeding, but not warmly, more to exhibit their superiority to the petty, than from any outgoing to a stranger.  I don’t want to go thru equal discomfort again, but glad we did it.

Portugal is in proportion to Spain on the scale of the map—nothing grand, not even Cintra—but a modest lovliness, grandeur in little, with minute crags and wild woods confined in the acreage of the former king’s domain.  His palace, in execrable taste, never the less is a miniaturise of Byronic gloom and dominance, standing on the tip top of a hill above us, and piercing the sky with a fretted tower.  Near it another Saracen ruin.  It is not as cheap as we hoped, dearer than France, but too dear getting here to move away again.  Cintra is smart, for the Portuguez, but the season is ending, the villas look shady and blind with closed shutters, and a pretentious casino displays yawning waiters and other employees staring in perpetual idleness thru a grand entrance up with nobody approaches.  I’ve forgotten all the Portuguez I ever knew.  It was unutterable folly to try this, considering money.


My civil war book I really think—hope, anyway—you’ll like.  It’s halted since Cassis but I’m starting again when we get settled.  The starch went out of me with Brandts letter, but is seeping back.  Wish you could come over and work with us.  We have a proposition from this hotel if we can’t find a house.  It is practically closed in the winter and man says he will give us five rooms and board all four of us for a hundred escudos a day, making about one hundred and fifty a month.  Of course there will be extras so we have to think.  And Jig has to have a school.  Still, if we do, think how easy—always have another room rented for you if you’d take the notion.  Food not wonderful but fair—his usual price thirty five escudos a day for a person is a little under two dollars a day, there are boats direct from England, no train fare, and we could meet you.  Don’t you want a change again?  We all work so you’d have to.  The isolation is fine for that.  It’s only when bits of bad luck seem to be the result of being off the business field that I wish we had money to break the isolation oftener—but I spent far more on me alone going to America last year than on all of us crossing Spain.


Mustn’t forget to add an impression of Guadaloupe where we stayed overnight—way up in hills a sudden very white little town houses built low with moorish arches over the street, and, in the early morning, a market conclave of peasants in the doorway of a very old grey and gigantic church attached to an elderly monastary.  The men uniformly in shirts of a sombre piercing blue, tight trousers, velvet braided waistcoats or jackets black sashes, and broad steeple crowned hats like the pilgrim fathers.  The women shawled.  It is a convent popular with fashionably religious Madrid that goes there to repent and retreat, but the obscure geography of its location leaves the peasants as authentically out of date as tho they weren’t perfectly picturesque.  We liked an overnight in Toledo, too—a perfect little medieval background to an El Greco painting.  And the Prado was a wonderful museum.  Madrid is like a raft, city complete up to the minute, yet old fashionedly stylist with many liveries and carriages and gardens and set things to do, it floats on a sea of what, among villages not much more substantial than the mud huts of the Arabs.  There is no colour of the literal sort in the northern Spanish town—the dwellings are of mud brick unplastered, the floors are earth or dirty brick, the people are vigerous with a kind of slovenly energy—but there was no gaiety in dress except in Fraga where, for some reason, alone, the women are as elegant as Velasqueth princesses in wide flowered skirts, tight neat bodices, and vivid demure shawls crossed like kerchiefs.  In Garonna we heard a fine Catalan band and saw the same dancing we encountered in that end of France.  It is Catalonia until Barcelona, but it was only after Zaragossa that we heard pure Castillian, very easy to recognize even when not understood.  Altogether, we feel we were fools, considering Jig needs an overcoat and I can’t get it and some other things, but can’t regret another folly which I hope has only temporary bad results.

Lots and lots of love to both of you—and think about a visit

1Migrations was published in 1927.

* * * * *

To Louise Morgan

Cintra, Portugal
October 26 [1926]

Darling old kid:

Portugal is dear.  We shan’t stay long but are at present too poor to move.  Also busting with things to say to you and my eyes hurt.  Speaking of money troubles I wrote Brandts a stiff letter and got a cable yesterday saying that Bonis were giving me another hundred dollars advance and, forwarding an explanation of their behaviour.  Damn their souls.  However I was glad of the other hundreds.  Things are tight and at least having given me now three fifty they will bring it out.  But curse the delay which means a delay for Ideals too, and that the war book won’t be published until nineteen eighty.

My dear I wish you could drop in.  I’m disappointed for us that you won’t come down.  Are you quite sure you couldn’t at all?  Remember, it is dear compared to France—not dear in the English sense.  The Sitwells would go to the palace hotel.  We are in a small clean place in Cintra that charges thirty five escudos a day in the summer but, because Cintra is deserted in the winter gives us SIX rooms and board for a hundred escudos a day for the four of us.  No dearer than Cornwall.  The man hasn’t four people in his hotel.  We have too much meat to eat, but all quite decent, fair wine, very clean.  Jig is going to the Cintra College and taking Latin and literature in French and the rest in Portuguese which he can’t speak yet.

PS WILL YOU GIVE ME FIVE PENCE.  THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT.  Tomorrow is Jig’s birthday, I ordered him two annuals from The Amalgamated Press Faringdon House Fleet Street, and they have come and I still owe them five pence and to send off five pence will cost me three escudos.  Can you pay this for me for some future settlement.  Dare I write them that you will?  I’m gonna, please, so let me know if you don’t.  Its very near you so maybe not too stuff.  I haven’t any stamps and don’t know what else to do.  Each letter one favor asked huh.  Scuse, evelyn

PS Annuals sent to Mr Metcalfe—they were paid by cheque from John but it was 5d [5 pence] short.

* * * * *

To David Lawson

Mme Metcalfe
Cintra, Portugal
[late 1926]

Dear ol’ Davy:

 I guess Glad will have told about our reckless attempt to see Spain in a week—for which we had nearly three what with break downs in the borrowed car and getting ill.  It was fun and no fun.  Spain provided a barrenness more gorgeous than any I ever imagined at times—at others sheer depressing monotony.  But there were high spots that top everything in visual experience.  It was autumn, so the rather uninteresting green had appropriately disappeared for a general tawnyness richer and more suitable to such harsh indifferent stretches.  The conservatism of the Spaniards struck me forcibly—I think their ritualistic pleasures—dance and bull fights—are a bit of a Freudian outlet for their violent repression.  Cautious and more so than the English—they make no mystic explanation of this.  They lack subtlety.  The English are so subtle emotionally—so disunited there with their deliberately commonsensical minds.  The French with such subtle machines and no emotional data worth looking for.  The Spaniards, in a birdseyes, tho I am not quite assuming myself an interpreter after one glance, are neither mystical at heart nor subtle of mind—but are primitives with their crudity congealed, and so somewhat concealed, by the formalism of the orient.  Catalonia is non Moorish Spain—and its music, the only escape from a cheap modernity, is barbaric—a voodoo challenge to sex.  Southerly Spaniards really are moors with an underlying thing more naïve and less refinedly brutal than the real north African product—I think.  I am wondering what Waldo’s book is like.  His title is good, only it is a virgin with something old maidish more than maidenly—a brute of an old maid, sensual, and with a skin like leather.  None of that goes does it with my other sense of a landscape as pure in color as snow is white.  Its enormousness was its most constant quality—and Spanish grandiosity is like a simplification by an inadequate mind of grandeur, too untouched for bombast.  Spaniards, en passant, seemed neither nervous like the French, nor emotional like the Italians, nor exalted by moral self mystification like the rest of us.  But sensual—Puritans in temper as I always thought the Arabs were—the constant quality of the puritan being a mental view of sensation which is the product of his inferior but persistent intellectualization of himself.  Well I won’t go on for days and weeks.  Portuguese are nearer slave bred negros than is any other race.  Their racial self respect has been vitiated.  They have the wistfulness of their lack of confidence.  Are gentle, treacherous, and easily influenced to generosity—I think.  But it is not as cheap as we had hoped and we can’t stay all winter,  Lisbon is very old and lovely.  Cintra is only fifty minutes away.  It is an anglicized summer resort abandoned in the winter.  We have rooms in a hotel which is empty so that for nothing he gave us empty bedrooms to work in.  The board is thirty five escudos a day, a small tax and a few extras.  It would come out at about fifty dollars a month. Elsa is in Swiss with her mother who is ill.  Cyril is here for a while,  Cintra is a Byronic relic of the old court of Portugal with fussy palaces and so on but a very charming miniature wildness, sea in the distance, trees, and constant milky fogs in the soft green of dripping evergreens.  There are lots of forests, somewhat artificial but very pretty.  It is chilly but no shakes on New York

Again LOVE.  Please let us know how you all are.  Please.  Cyril’s VERY best love too, evelyn

* * * * *

To Otto Theis

Mme John Metcalfe1
Cottage Jean, rue de l’Oasis, Kouba, Algeria

January 16 [1927]

Dear Otto, will you believe I was just settling down to write to you and Louise a letter with no requests in it?  But you as only possible court of appeal in present distress is unfortunately suggested by everybody.  it is thus:  We have had a month of much endurance and some pleasure getting here (of which I will write Louise) but the advent of plague in Oran which stopped the boat sailings and sent us around the longest way thru Morocco has played hell in other ways.  Thomas Cook of Lisbon being a Portuguese Thomas Cook did not freight our luggage we now find until two weeks after we left Lisbon.  He also freighted it to Oran via Gibraltar.  So there sits the luggage containing all our reference books, and for me the entire guts historically of the Civil War novel.  I was very distressed by being obliged to leave Lisbon just when I had reached the most ticklish point in the first draft, for tho it is easy to rewrite from the first to polish it is most difficult to retrieve the rhythm of a whole when it is broken just as its momentum is gathering.  Because of Cyril’s show and John’s need to return to England, Algeria ends on April 15th.  I can unpack textbooks in a Paris hotel with Jig, and if Cyril can sell sufficient pictures to pay fair [sic] we are going to NY to consider a school or something for Jig who has had a very unsatisfactory year and is beginning to feel the peculiar isolation of his situation.   Imagine pipp, added to perhaps by the fact that we have with us only the clothes on our backs and no housekeeping linen, and that John lessly [sic] but also needs some of his books on Scilly for his next novel.

Kouba map
Modern map showing the location of Kouba, a suburb of Algiers

Well, I would have cabled you what I am gonna ask but that our check from America was in Paris and we have to wait until it is mailed to Paris and sent back before we collect, and tho we have found an apartment we can’t leave the hotel because we can’t pay our bill until the money comes.  So—I couldn’t cable and can’t send you any money until I have it.  Also I don’t know quite how horrible a thing I am asking of the editor of a magazine who has no time to shop.  Isn’t this like a mystery story with solution in the last chapter?  Bon.  LAST CHAPTER:  I can’t afford to rebuy all my books, nor do I feel I can afford to wait the six to nine weeks Cooks prophecy it may take to get belongings.  I thought it might be possible to replace the two most important ones if you would buy them with bill sent to me so I will return money soon as I get it.  They are Shotwell’s History of the American Civil War, in two volumes. And the second book most needed is one on American Negro Folk music.  I can’t alas remember the title, but it is not very satisfactory anyway, as what I want is the words to various old songs which I only remember in fragments, like Roll Jordan Roll, and Deep River, and Mary and Martha, etc, etc.  I’ll adapt myself to using any songs that happen to be in the book but what I mean to accent is that the reading matter accompanying is nonessential to me.  To look up such a book as this may be impossible, but if it is possible to send the office boy with a note to Foils and perhaps find such a thing at the same time as the history, it sure would be a blessing.  With that help I can write parts and leave out the sections about Lincoln until I have my books on Lincoln—I hope—by the end of February.

Alger is very warm compared to Cintra.  That is to say one wears wool undies and sweaters in the house and is comfortable.  In Cintra one did so and writhed just the same.  France is just a little better than Portugal, but my dream of Algerie as the cheapest place in the world dates back I am afraid, and is no longer appropriate.  Then there are all these here new taxes on foreignors which we may or may not escape.  I think I know how the Russian emigrants feel in America.  It’s a sensation very inhospitable to be taxed hard for living in a place, and the justice of the move doesn’t modify the impression.  Cyril is beastly unwell with a heavy cold he has had up and down since we left Cintra.  It worries me somewhat but I hope it will wear out here.  All of us were ill on our way here and in bed at various places and stages.  I’m glad Louise didn’t come to such a heaven for grippe as Cintra turned out.  The Portuguese are SCUM—SCUUUUUUUUUM.  The country is nice in a spring gardeny way.  I’ll write Louise of our I am afraid futile wish she could be with us to finish some more work.

My humble love.  I feel just like a drunkard that promised mother and then misbehaved again, for I did think I would NOT ask you to buy anything else for me.  From all of us godspeed, happy new year, and our devotions.  evelyn

1It may be that Evelyn felt it necessary to appear married to maintain appearances in a conservative Muslim country.

2Foyle’s Bookshop on the Charing Cross Road in London. Foyle’s was then the world’s biggest bookshop in both size and the number and range of titles stocked.

* * * * *

To Louise Morgan

Kouba, Algeria
January 17 [1927]

Dear Louise:  I wish you were coming to Alger for their narration and lots of other things. I wish you could—sometime.  Especially as, after Cyril’s show, IF he makes enough, it is our intention to go to USA while Jack goes back to England for a bit.  We are losing too many contacts and Jig needs a school or something.  He is very lonesome this winter and not very happy.  In Portugal he did not make a single acquaintance.  I am very much worried about Cyril, who left Portugal with a bronchitis and has it still and just can I think pull himself about, though his grit and pride exceed many admissions of the fact.  Jack is a very very sweet and comprehending thing and I shall always be glad of my misdemeanors that gave me the opportunity of knowing him so well.

General view of Kouba c.1910

Tuesday:  Since beginning this Cyril has cajoled the bank into giving him money before it comes from Paris and we have occupied Cottage Jean.  Kouba is about six miles out but has a tram nearby.  Our suite is very swell in that it has a real bath room and johnny, almost an American bath room, tho the hot water heater requires a wood fire under it.  We have two bedrooms a kitchen a sala and sal a manger.  They are the first floor of a country home of one of the legal profession who is now in town.  Nobody but ourselves is in the house.  There is a terrace at our disposal and last night, feeling very tired and gloomy, I retired there to meditate and saw all Alger in very delicate emerald due on the black hills under clouds all startling from an invisible moon.  The ghost light expanded away from town and I could see all the scallops of beaches and surf quite plainly.  It really is a lovely location, but beastly inconvenient as the shops are miles off and nothing, not even milk, delivered, and we have no present prospect of a servant.  It took Jack until a quarter to twelve to do the marketing.  Also it is raining profusely daily, and we miss our belongings which, as I wrote Otto, are somewhere, presumably, between Gibraltar and heaven.

We had a mild month of it, honey.  The mysterious motor car in which we toured Europe I reveal to you privately as a used Renault of seven horse power which Cyril learned to run via Elsa’s brother when in Switzerland.  Such a vehicle has never been known to do even as much as a Ford and was the first manufactured that ever crossed from France to Portugal.  Cyril had it on a triptych which allowed him to keep it in Portugal three months, and before we left Cintra the time limit ended.  Since then feats of bluff have been in order.  First bluffing the officials at Vila Rial not to detain him on an expired license, and then—Well I will narrate in order.  Cooks told us Vila Rial was the best place to cross the border on.  We got there and found a large river and no bridge.  Were ferried over in a specially hired barge which consumed much of our wherewithal.  Cyril was ill with bronchitis and has been for a month.  Yesterday on arriving here he at last went to bed with thermogene iodine hot water bottles and all he has needed and hasn’t cotton.  He is there now and I hope he’ll stay some time.  At Sevilla I acquired the cold and not having his character and being blind with streaming eyes I laid down at once.  Saw Sevilla mostly from the window in the few days there.  It is a very cheery place despite colds, sunny, orange trees on the sidewalks, very new except for the vastly gloomy relic of the cathedral with a chaotic and occasionally impressive architecture and a very large bull ring also presumably dedicated to Christ.  We had intended to get a boat at Gib to Oran and from there to Alger, fairly short and inexpensive. At Sevilla received word that sailing was cancelled because of plague at Oran.  Could only get our money back promptly by applying at Gib.  We needed it so went on, via Jerez and some real sherry.  Andalusia in its extreme south is all sterility, sun, prickly pear corrals and brilliant sea.  Algiceras received our expiring bodies and John came down with tonsillitis.  We went to Gib Xmas Even and found the garrison thinking of merrie England and rum punch.  It was a fit place to nurture Mrs Bloom.  Sad English ladies with blond hair growing grey bought wild narcissus and berries to make things look like home tomorrow.  It must be a queer exile under that overweight of fortification with Spain seeping in.

We had to choose between traversing the north to Port Vendres in snow and an open car and trying Morocco.  No tryptichs issued for war zone.  But we tried it, going to Ceuta on Xmas and eating cold lunch for Jig’s plum pudding.  We landed safely but it took a long chat with commanding colonel or sumpin he was to get a letter to let us thru.  We were put under promise not to travel before nine or after five.  Soldiers looking statuesque and important on all the heights by road.  Bristley blockhouses—pickets in cocked hats and cloaks flapping dramatically in an icy wind.  Mountains all snow.  Tetuan is a motley hubbub of races.  From there to Alcazarquiver over a pontoon at Larache where this week there has been more ado with Rifs.  But once over the border we were in something more civilized than Spain. Good hotel at Kenitra where Jack was sick and we ran out of money and had to wait around until we could see the first of the month near and a wire possible.  Reached Fez New Year’s even and got our money there.  Saw all the French as drunk as the English at Xmas.  Had champagne gratis at the hotel and all got sick on it—it being gratis.  Saw wonderful walls and amethyst and jade gates (mosaics but fine) and an Araby Douglas Fairbanks never dreamed about.  After that Telemeen, en route went up mountains at dusk, motor lamps wouldn’t work, ran into clouds, night fell, couldn’t see where the cats cradle road went.  Had to get out and light matches to find mile stones.  Road leaped over precipices, but we didn’t.  Bumped into Tolemeen walls about eight pm with our nerves in ribbons.  Next day saw Cascades hanging in spun sugar over hundreds of feet of red and orange granite.  (And I forget desert around Guercif, camels again, mountains steely and snow dashed, nearer like a milky night).  Went to Mascarra where Jig was ill.  On to Orleanville which is like a dump yard inside a jail.  Reached Alger a week ago in a sleet storm that cracked the wind shield.  All dead tired, no clothes, no linen for housekeeping, no books for reference, more or less ill yet, and Cyril a good deal.  Conclusion that it was worth while but not for often.  Also that we are a good deal embarrassed for money.  But once having made the fool essay of Portugal we had to get out with the car.  Portugal is farther off than Mars.

My eyes won’t let me go on.  Cooking and house took too much of day.  But do write when you feel like it, if for letters one ever does.  Darlin, but for the hope you would I wouldn’t.  Jack is writing a very fine story—one of his best I think. All of us send our very, very, very much love and if you can deliver a kiss below the navel, please do it to J C.


* * * * *

These next letters refer back to the years Cyril and Evelyn spent in Bermuda with the wealthy Garland-Hale family.  Even though Cyril went there to be their estate manager, a friendship developed between the Scotts and the Garland-Hales, who built a cottage (known as “The Scottage”) for their continued occupation:  this was later withdrawn.  In addition, Marie Tudor Garland pledged them an income of $50 a month each for the rest of their lives, to be paid on her behalf by her solicitor, Walter Nelles.

* * * * *

To Louise Morgan

Kouba, Algeria
February 8 [1927]

Louise, old darling,  Well, a very heavy blow has just descended upon our solar plexus, and I want to quote to you and Otto, in moderate confidence of course,  the following letter received yesterday from Marie:

“Dear Evelyn:

“This is not an easy letter to write.  Chiefly because in the past you have misunderstood me and quarreled with me.

“I find that it is impossible for me to continue as a patron of the arts!  (Exclamation hers) I have come to the point where I am not only earning my own living, but am earning yours too.  I am telling you this because I think you may wish to earn your own.

“I am finding it increasingly hard since I gave half of what I had to Swinburne to make a living off an income dwindled to almost nothing.  Each year, to meet my obligations to you and to others, I have drawn upon my capital until that has almost disappeared. As I have a sense of humour I suddenly realized that I was trying to earn enough to take care of everyone but myself.

“I am in business, apart from everything else, and I may make good, but at present I am not making enough to go on with my annuities and I have to cut them out.  I wish to reduce yours to half this year and pay nothing next year.  This will give you a chance to look around and provide for yourself.

“I shall ask Walter to send you six hundred dollars this next year.  I think you know without my telling you how sorry I am to have to do this.

Your friend,
Marie T Garland”

Which leaves us where we were five years ago except that Cyril has a chronic pulse of about a hundred and thirty and we are in Africa instead of New York.

Cyril is in Bousaad so I can’t consult him yet.  The joke is that all the checks have gone to him for over three years but I guess she couldn’t forego a direct one at me knowing I was still getting my share.  Of course in winter I was with you I was able to hold off thanks to you and Franks, but Cyril did not use it all for him anyway and it was what he had kept out that he called mine that went on this unfortunately expensive journey from Portugal.  It has taken Jack all year to finish his novel so, tho he is working hard trying to get some short stories off to Peters, he has nothing ahead at present.  Africa is a fine place to spend a small income but a poor one to find a supplement for no income at all.  And even to get to Paris on fifty dollars a month doesn’t look optimistic.  If Migrations sells I may get a little from it next fall.  In the meantime—Well, here we am.  Of course I’ve got to get back to America tho just how ain’t very exact.  I’m going to collect all the good clippings I ever had of my work and try to put it up to somebody or other to give me another hand out for a few years.  Of course Cyril can’t support me as of yore (even not counting his own affairs and the sacrifice of great painting) with a heart at a hundred and thirty all the time and a bronchial tendency getting worse—tho I know him and expect him to be as prodigally inclined re me and Jig as he always was, bless him.  Nor do I see Jack, who is really very inexperienced in jobs and worldly things, very certain to contend successful with USA EVEN, which makes it a sickening thought, at the complete sacrifice of his imminent success.  Poor old Jig hears we are hard up and is a darling wanting to sell stamps and so on.  But I want him to be EDUCATED since obviously he is to receive no inheritance.  So its back where it was when Otto first knew us and Gladys took me to the general electric for a job I didn’t get.  of course if I get no help I’ll have to go to work, which seems sillier now than it did then after having got as the publication of seven books and the acceptance of eight (EVEN tho they ain’t sold miraculously).  I am still choking in the implacable fact—but there it is—and the funny thing is I have expected it in nightmares for four years at least.  And I still feel that it just couldn’t be true that I have to give up writing, and, maybe, from what I guess anyhow, Cyril painting too.  Of course the immediate problem is framing for Sug’s show, and the getting of all of us away from here and to America.  I have written asking Walter to try and get me the six hundred more of a lump instead of fifty per month, but he probably won’t.  We have just enough on hand to carry us thru the rest of time here with economy.  Cyril of course can sell the Renault but it was worth so little to start on it so won’t be no fortune.  Otto was right, they ain’t no quiet life for this crowd.

But something in my gizzard is so mad I don’t feel half as despairing as commonsense tells me I should.


* * * * *

To Marie Tudor Garland

Chez Mme. Kay Boyle
22 Boulevard du France, Monte-Carlo, Monaco1
February 19, 1927

Dear Marie:

I have just received your letter of December 5th which has been forwarded to me.

Of course I am terribly surprised since you said at Bermuda “I have done this so you needn’t ever have to worry again about your actual bread and butter”.  It simply never occurred to me after this that it was a contingent gift, otherwise I should never have come to Europe but should have made other plans.

I am very grateful for what I have received and am sorry to hear that your own resources have diminished.

During these years I have always hoped that some day we might come to a renewed understanding and friendship.

I shall get back to America as soon as I can, and try to make my belated plans for my future.

Again I thank you, and please know that I have always wished you happiness and good and always shall.

Very sincerely, [not signed]

1There is no evidence that Evelyn left Kouba to travel to Monaco at this time and this return address appears to be a way of concealing their whereabouts from Marie. Evelyn and Cyril had been giving Marie the Theis’ London address, and their dealings with her appear to have been via their lawyer, Walter Nelles.

* * * * *

To Louise Morgan

Kouba, Algeria
March 8, 1927

Very dear ginklet:  It was pretty darling of you to get angry and of course nothing could please me more seeing as I was angry myself.  Of course it doesn’t look hopeful.  I’ve never heard you and Otto speak of feeling close to any wealthy cousins, and my pa, who might at least have left me a fiver, has repented his weak access of mobility, and has refused to answer any of the four letters I have written him since July last.

Cyril was up for three days to frame some pictures for a show going on here, and they were wonderful—such an ache of subtleties of a robust—but not “red blooded” kind as braced us up.  Jig and I will stay in Paris till Cyril’s show is over, when it is hoped there will be the sponduliks for everybody’s fare to NY.  Of course Sug is determined to pay it, and I don’t see how to help it, if he finds he can, for it would not help his spirits much to leave Jig and me decaying there.  No fear Marie will change her mind as regards me I think.  I’m not asking her sure, tho even that may seem funny after one has digested so much for so long heartily.  Of course I’m going back to NY with every intention to try and play the “game”, and of course very likely I shall not be at it long before I put my foot in it.  Ever since I was fifteen I’ve been fighting to develop one way, against discouragement, and in consequence I haven’t developed the other.  I’m not clever and never will be.  I don’t either exalt the fact or indulge in humility regarding it.  But it is so hard to keep agile in a worldly minded way and to remain expressive in a quite other way.  And mostly only the few and rare achieve it.  And mostly only the few and rare keep their defense active and acquisitive and their deepest guts intact though mute.

Still, I’m older and less impassioned about the matter than I was when I first came to New York.  All the time I was ill and isolated in Brazil I lived on the plane of trying to write the best that was in me, and on no other.  It was a jump from the almost mystical solitude of Cercadinho to the intrigues of Greenwich Village—particularly as the lack of manners misguided me to imagine them the reflection of leanings toward honesty.  And of course the enemies made then will be the hardest to ignore now, as they won’t ignore me, in the wrong way.

However, for self centeredness I guess that’s enough.  Jack is a fine kid, and everything that any really generous temperament can be when it has absolutely no practical experience of being responsible for any living thing but itself.  I mean he wants to help me, but the only thing commonsense and facts allow is that he help himself as fast as ever he can.  He will have to get a job when he arrives I’m afraid at once, tho there is Bossun1 and the aunts for a couple of weeks.  I’m praying very heartily he can land on something half time so that he can go on.

We have just had Ram a din2 and hope the Arabs are happy.  Mutton went up six francs more a kilo in consequence.  It is beginning to be spring here very flagrantly with white flowers and bees and things and all the roses out tho chilly since the stone floors and fireless rooms are built for twelve above.  Please have Otto write us when the news arrives.  We think about it every day.  I dream of receiving five kids by parcel post, losing them in a tram, and finding them again under a seat in a locker.  Thinking they must be suffocated, I put them out on the ground when all rose and talked.  So I cut the strings and out jumped four dogs and a cat.  The street being full of such animals, I consulted five tintype photos of little girls in aprons and recognized one as a spits, one a greyhound, one a spaniel, one a terrier, and one the cat. Gad bless yawl and your works, internal and on paper.

love from us, evelyn

PS  You know I have in a Bermuda trunk stored alas in Marie’s house for the letter announcing the life gift of that money, and for Jig thereafter.

This is most likely a reference to Bosham (pronounced “Bossum”) in Sussex, where John’s Aunt Mary lived.

* * * * *


Some time during the summer of 1927 Evelyn and Jigg returned to the United States.  No existing letters give any reason for her return at this point, and the next post will see her in lodgings in New York City.








14. Heartbreak

In June 1925, Evelyn returned to the US on board SS Rousillon . It appears she may have been accompanied by Merton, but the gaps in the correspondence make it difficult to establish who was with whom when. Once in the United States she stayed for varying periods with loyal friends, notably Lola Ridge and Gladys Grant.  There is no indication of what took her to Westport, Connecticut in July, unless it was that she found that lodgings there were cheaper than in Manhattan.  But what is clear is her inner turmoil after Owen’s departure from Collioure.

NB:  These letters are heavily edited.  They are often repetitive.  Portions refer to Evelyn’s previous relationships and how they compare to her relationship with Merton.  There are also lengthy, not entirely relevant, passages about her relationship with Cyril.  And, considering her reputation as a novelist, poet and essayist, there are numerous long confused passages of almost random references to her feelings about Owen and Cyril.

* * * * *
To Otto Theis

Banyuls-sur-Mer, France
June 8 [1925]

Dear Otto:

I have made a mess of my affairs again.  My private opinion is that Merton’s collapse is due as much and more to the artificialities that have hedged in his personal life as it was due to worries about money.  He simply can not be anything but spontaneous and obviously honest.

I am enclosing a letter to him1 which I want you to deliver simply because you will be able to judge whether or not he is in anything like a condition for serious discussion, which I can not judge at this distance.  I can’t take any of his friends into my confidence.  I want you to read the letter, however boring and annoying the process, for Merton knows that you are the only person with whom I have always been quite frank and it may be a relief to him to talk to you.  I shall write him that, as soon as he is well enough to be about, he will please go to see you to talk over some plans, and you can go somewhere to lunch or tea and have the letter presented.  If you don’t want to do this, Otto, it will be alright.  But I am asking it knowing I impose a difficult thing on you.  Judging by what happened to Merton physically, this is really a matter of life and death.  I think it best he should not have come back here with an emotional elan and have a shock.  It might produce the same result as before.  I think it would be better to get the edge of the shock over while he is among doctors and friends.  If you disagree please tell me.

If you will read the letter you will have something of an idea of how things stand.  I really love Merton very much, but I love Sug more I know or I could not dream of hurting Merton this much.  But I won’t discuss it for I am in an utter inward mess—almost as bad as four years ago—and worse because it’s all happened before with no solution.  Merton is as thoroughly sweet and genuine a person as ever lived and I have three years, nearly, of knowing him to test my opinion by.  He really as been a constant pleasure to me.

If you don’t want, when Merton is better, to deliver this letter, or if you prefer to mail it to him, alright, only please be sure he is better.  But if you will let him talk to you I think it might do him good.  He is really very self-respecting and self-responsible—not an artistic monster—and I don’t think he will impose on you very much.  He may regard this quite sensibly or he may want to rush down here, but anyway it will, it seems to me, be good that he has some forewarning of what Sug and I have discussed.


PS  An hour later:  perhaps it Isn’t fair to you as Sug’s friend to ask you to do this, so will you keep up on Merton’s health and mail him the letter when he is much better?  That needn’t envolve you.  I wish you’d read the letter though.  Merton will never be nasty to Sug and he might need a friend very much who was also our friend.

1This letter has not survived.

* * * * *
To Lola Ridge

[c/o Grant, 31, W 14th Street, NYC]
July 7 [1925]

Darling darling Lola:

I hope you are better.  I am just as obsessed as ever and will be until I hear from or at least of Owen. I don’t know how mad I am, but I must pretend to hope for the present to save myself from literal almost physiological insanity.1  My depression has been the secret fear of losing him.  His depression has probably been largely the spectacle of my depression.  The reason I have been afraid is that I recalled the kind of brutal insanity which possessed him after Ruth’s death2 and I was afraid that trouble would, as it has, drive him into the same state again.  If he has been afraid of my dying like Ruth, that is nonsense.  I shall be quite well with time and something to start with.  And if he is too ill to bear me as a practical responsibility I will handle myself, given his psychic cooperation in doing it.  don’t threaten him with disaster for Gods sake, yet make him see that which I know, that his own sensitivity can not survive sanely the present method.  I want to help him anyway on earth.  If he really hates me then of course the help must be for me to disappear for him.  I must find out. [Remainder of letter missing]

1Although the “insanity” referred to here is actually the pain Evelyn was experiencing from the break-up with Merton, this sentence is prescient. In about 10 years’ time, her letters would be showing signs of the paranoia and obsessions which took over her life and so badly affected the lives of those around her.

2Owen’s wife, Ruth Jenkins, had died of cancer.

* * * * *
To Owen Merton

[c/o Grant, 31 W 14th St, NYC]
July 10 [1925]

Dearest love:

Please remember nothing is changed.  I am going up to Ellen’s to Nantucket Saturday.  I hope you will feel like telling me how you are.  I feel so calm somehow and as if I knew this gesture was only a phase though I suppose you will do your best to convince me it is a fact, and it does hurt very much. Remember the problem of the kids2 is not solved by giving me up.  It remains IDENTICALLY the same, and the Jenkins arguments are all unconsciously warped about that.  I have a lot of plans up my sleeve to get money for you and whether you want me with the money or not I am going to pull ’em as hard as I can.  Remember I am ready to compromise with the Jenkins as soon as you want me.  They will be ready too if you ever do.  Dear don’t think my hopefulness a compulsion.  Tell me you don’t love me and you know I don’t want a coerced lover, but I don’t see why I must be subjected to ignorance of your condition, darling, need I be?  I am going to work like bloody hell to set you free to paint and then you can live in Douglaston and refuse to speak to me if you like.  I mean it.  You can.  And I bet you a dollar I succeed.   The Jenkins would come around too if you took the bull by the horns and married me and that is the only reason I have wanted you to.  I have learned by experience that the world sure can cock you up if you are outside the pale.  Well by marrying you get inside.  I wouldn’t try to keep you if you turned agin me, but I would be in such a position I couldn’t be kept from seeing you if you were ill etc.  I have always known this, and when I spoke of deception I really uttered timidly my terror of just exactly what has occurred and what could not occur if things were so convention could not exclude me.

The only difference I make in your life is that I am an obstacle to a natural desire to keep any woman out.  Giving me up because it is your duty sounds like insanity even to people who realize completely the problem of the children in its most tangible sense.  I simply couldn’t complicate it.  And you poopooed Elsa3 sharing the responsibility of the kids.  That is not foolish at all.

Bless you and let me kiss you forever because it is until death do us part for me.  I can’t give myself utterly and change.

Goodbye dearest Muttsie, but I hope you will write.

[This letter was never opened by Merton]

Michael Theis, Louise and Otto’s son.

Evelyn is referring to Owen’s two children and his dispute with the Jenkins about their upbringing.

Cyril and Jigg were at this time living in Switzerland with Cyril’s current lover, Elsa Pfenniger.

* * * * *
To Louise Morgan

c/o Grant, 31 W 14th St, NYC
July 11, 1925

Dearest Louise:

I have been very ill.  Owen is ill and in anguish of mind.  The Jenkins have landed on him with threats and reproaches and rubbing in of obligations and he has been told how the children cry for him, little John does.  The Jenkins have now set out to separate Owen and me and may succeed.  They won’t allow me to speak, write, or even indirectly communicate with him.  They won’t let me know of his health and God knows what they tell him of me, and I have no legal recourse.

I have been under drugs myself and am pretty ill.  If we had had money and had defied them it wouldn’t have happened.  I feel as if my world had smashed—but most a perfect agony of anxiety about him.  Forgive him you two he has a terrible lot.  I’ll have to tell Suggie, but must think out how to make it easiest for him about me.  I am pretty ill and bust for cash.  Evelyn

* * * * *

I considered carefully whether to include the next letter, from Evelyn to Merton via Otto, an anguished paean of guilt and passion of  some 4,300 words.  In the end I decided not to, and instead have concentrated on a sequence of shorter letters, the next one of which appears to have been written about the time Evelyn and Owen were together sailing to New York.


* * * * *
To Louise Morgan

[Westport, Connecticut]
July 17 [1925]

Dearest Louise:

I have been through hell since I saw you.  Owen was an angel all the way here, but as we neared New York he sank into the most morbid state I ever saw, looking at me in a kind of anguished way and repeating, Yes, you are beautiful.  Yes, I love you.  I love you very much, and so on, so irrelevantly and with so little joy in making love I had the horrors again.  I asked him if he was anticipating trouble with the Jenkins1 and he would not answer.  When we were on deck he used to look at me and walk away, and seemed trying to hide some horrible depression he didn’t dare express.  He wasn’t never away from my side for a moment.  I was seasick and he seemed to think I was going to die.  Just before we arrived he insisted on repacking all the bags, gave me in mine all the letters I have written him, and some letters he wrote to his mother when he was a boy that I had asked to see.  Then he put the ring I had given him in my bag too.  Valid excuses of precaution were given for all of this.

On the morning we left the boat he made me stay on board while he did my bags for me in the customs.  Mr Jenkins had come to meet him and was frankly mad because he was delayed by Owen’s attentions to me.  When I spoke to him he was rather rude.  That gave me a premonitory fear.  As Owen said remember we are going to be separated but we are very close and together.  And I said, yes, forever.

Then Owen said, Those steady eyes, as if he were trying to remember something, and about to break down.

I didn’t see him until the next day.  Hell had broken loose.  Little Tom crying all day when his father spoke of France, Mrs Jenkins telling him she had guessed this and he was sacrificing his children for a wicked woman.  Pa Jenkins had a bad something and would go off if he knew Owen had committed adultery, and so on.  In short it was me or the kids.  Take your bloody kids and go to hell—if he don’t stop you by interfering legally for your own good—or but that low down whore ruiner of homes in her place.  Owen went off his head in the interview I wrote you about.  With no money he couldn’t move and kids with their rejoicing over him had broken him down anyway.  He took the step he threatened in Beziers, for ever since I tried to commit suicide the conviction of the hopelessness of money has become a mania with him.  He left me, by telegram, not a word to say where he was.  Just—to Gladys—I don’t think Evelyn and I should meet again, schemes won’t work, please don’t write.

Then he disappeared.  The Jenkins put a block on communication and he concurred.  He couldn’t stick it otherwise.  Today Harold Jenkins sent me a note he had written by Owen in a wabbly hand saying, I am sorry you have been made to feel responsible for my affairs, for of course the break in my relation with Evelyn Scott was my own decision.  I did it to avert a worse calamity later as no possible plan could be made to work.  I have behaved inhumanly again but it was because there was no way out, etc.

Result of this experience I have been in bed two weeks taking the stuff they give to DT patients, and with the doctor threatening to put me in an asylum where I could be watched.  But I guess I’m coming thru.  I don’t know quite.  I love Owen just as much, and understand the terror that has been growing in his mind because it was what did make me take poison and made me so anguished in London—there really is no cure to the money and children with the Jenkins attitude of stop at nothing to kill me confronting us.  So I quit and start somewhere else for the present.  If Owen pulls out and wants me later and I ain’t took I am his because I never loved Sug more nor anybody else as much, and with money to relieve worry we had everything in common to make us happy and the happiest sex I ever knew.  But so it goes.

Owen is a good kid and I loved him because he was so naïve in being sweet as well as brutal—Otto will kick me—but they go together.  And I wouldn’t lose my own kids either, so that’s that.  Anyway looking back London seems like the garden of paradise.

Love and au revoir, I hope Evelyn

Merton’s in-laws, who were looking after his two children.

* * * * *
To Otto Theis and Louise Morgan

c/o Grant, 7 East 14th Street, NYC
July 19 [1925]

My sweet old Louises and Ottos:

The course of true love certainly has been a hellish one in this case, and I am so obsessed and depressed and ill that I have to write about it or talk about it, and someone writing about it to you is most relief.

You see a three years struggle on my part to break with Sug before a world, a three years struggle on Owen’s part to subdue jealousy and just hang on to respond to whatever decision I made, and a three years struggle on the part of dearest Suggie to discover whether or not he must resign forever the hope he has held on to—well all that did what you saw physically.  But we would all have survived if there had been rest of external problems to allow us to recuperate.  When I tried to kill myself in Beziers1 I was in the frame of mind Owen is now—only I am afraid, this being his second despair, he has gone further than I did inwardly, and perhaps to an irrevocable point of rejecting me.

When Cyril and I went away [to Brazil] we just dodged all that end of it and had only a terrible practical problem to confront—till mother2 came.  But Owen, because of the children, his own weakened health, and a temperament really not gratified by ruthlessness, has had something that, at the moment, is much harder to confront.

Shall I be able to keep her or shan’t I, must have been in his mind as an undercurrent every moment since March.  His despairing attitude on the boat was of course anticipation of this break.  The Jenkins had simply made up their minds that he must stay on Long Island with them and of course the justice of their demand was ethically obvious.  Here we have kept the children in health and happiness while you were selfishly (and wickedly) living with the wife of another man.  She is ill from worry, you are ill.  She has sacrificed a fine man to her selfishness as you admit.  She has no thought of her own child and she demands that you have no thought of yours.  We are ready to nurse you back to health and provide for you and your children until you are well enough to earn for them yourself.  No use making any temporary resolutions.  Pop has bad health.  He may die in a few years.  Then where will you be.  You have the responsibility of the children anyway.  You can’t escape it.  You are not the kind of a man who could.  Tom is only happy with you.  He hates France.  He did not like Mrs Scott.  Mr Scott did not like Tom.  Yet you have proposed that Tom spend part of his time with Mr Scott and his new wife.  The only financial support you can possibly get is thru us and you will not get that unless you once and for all renounce that woman.  We will not reproach you and it will all be as if it had never been, but you and your children—and the woman too—will be saved from ruin.  In a few years you will forget all this and we want you to marry sensibly a healthy strong competent woman for your children who thinks of you and them and not herself.  (This last has probably  not yet been sprung on Owen but it is what Mrs Jenkins told Dr Mayer.3)

Take a sick sensitive man already half insane with worry and land upon him a primitive and cunning old lady in love with him (Mrs Jenkins) two children weeping because father may leave them again, and the implacable fact that you haven’t got a cent and you and the woman are ill, and see what happens.  It just did.

His present intention is to give up the struggle and stay on Long Island with the kids until he gets well.  My opinion is that no matter what his effort to accept Mrs Jenkins solution, he won’t be able to stand it, and will end by going off with Tom, maybe to be a day laborer, maybe to take Tom to England.  But he will still be bound to the Jenkins by John Paul4.

As a painter, Long Island will kill him, so my opinion is that, painting having always been his strongest motive in life, the things that overpower him now will not keep him there always for the suicide of his talents.

For Owen himself the Jenkins home, the Jenkins manner, the Jenkins imposition will destroy his self-respect and kill him.  If I am ever to see him again he has got to get away from them—with Tom.  If I am never to see him again and he is going on to paint pictures I think ought to be painted, he must be helped to leave America which is to him a place a hell and oppression because of what he has been thru here.  I am not going to pursue him, except from a distance, and not at all, once I am convinced by something other than despair, that he has a happier life in some other circumstance.  But I do want to help him—to help myself by regaining him, or to help myself by escaping from the hallucinations I have all the time of his face in suffering, and all he has confided in me of the effect of the Jenkins, America, and lack of money on his mind.

Please save Owen from the curse of America and money.  Maybe I love him too much and he is, without knowing it, frightened of the too naked and intense exposure of longing for him.  But I will keep absolutely out of it unless I am asked to come back.  I have simply shared his horror of what might happen—what has happened—until I share involuntarily every torture he is going through and will go through.  Please help him.


Evelyn had taken an overdose of codeine linctus.

2 A reference to Maude Dunn’s arrival in Brazil shortly after Jigg’s birth.

Dr May Mayers, general practitioner specialising in public health working in NYC. She was a loyal friend and provided medical advice to Evelyn throughout her life.

Owen’s younger son, who was living with the Jenkins on Long Island at this time.

* * * * *

There are many more letters in the same vein.  As the Jenkins forbade communication between Owen and Evelyn, she wrote to him care of Otto and/or Louise, sealing the letters in inner envelopes which were not opened until the 1980s.  Meanwhile, Evelyn was staying with, among other friends, Gladys Grant.

* * * * *
To Lola Ridge

[Long Island]
August 16, 1925

Dear Lola

When Evelyn has so much to forgive me will you please not be too hard on me for not opening letters from you or for not replying to them.  It is hopeless to try and explain why one feels one must do certain things to anyone else—and I have the worst conscience in the world anyway now, only may I say that in doing a great wrong—I am avoiding doing a much greater one.  I wish I could have seen you—only now that everything is changed I don’t feel I should see anyone.

I can’t say anything Lola, that is why I did not write to you before.

Yours truly,

 * * * * *

To Otto Theis

31 West 14th Street, NYC
August 27, 1925

Dear Otto:

For Evelyn—and you and Louise, too—I’m so afraid!  If she gets another shock and goes to pieces as she did here, I don’t know how she is going to stand it.  At the same time it is terrifically hard on anyone and everyone around here.  She has no thought for or mercy for anyone else1.  Please don’t think by saying this that I mean it as harsh criticism.  Evelyn was in an abnormal state and could not be held responsible.  Also we could not blame her for anything in such a terrible situation.

I am not outlining the facts as you undoubtedly know them and I don’t want to be an alarmist.  At the same time Evelyn’s mind still harps on the one thing—Merton, Merton, money for Merton, letters to Merton, etc.  If that string breaks, I’m afraid she’ll break too.  And both Merton and she are so twisted up with resentments, complexes, emotional difficulties, in their relations with each other that I am in serious doubt if it can ever be patched up.  Intellectually Evelyn see this, too.  but she won’t and dare not realize it emotionally.  Tom, who is with Merton, is one difficulty, Cyril another.  Merton has come out with jealous resentment and hatred of him and God knows whether Merton can even stand Evelyn’s remaining Cyril’s friend.  This is understandable after the situation in southern France and Algeria which Ellen Kennan sketched to us.  Ellen has little in common with Merton but she said he bore almost more than any man could—responsibilities for all the practical things to the minutest details, constant encouragement and patient criticism for Cyril’s painting, acknowledged love of Evelyn but never daring to show affection and Evelyn sleeping in the room with Cyril every night, etc, etc.  Cyril accepting everything and doing nothing—(I can’t blame him either after what he has been through.  The whole thing was too awful for everybody.)  Of course this last is entirely confidential.  Even Evelyn doesn’t know I know it.

Evelyn is with John Crawford and Becky Edelson2 now.  She is there because they have an extra room and she simply can not stay alone.  She was with us, as you know, for the first two weeks.  That time was a nightmare for all of us.  Merton’s interview and abrupt leave taking—futile attempts to reach him by telephone—his brutal telegram to me for Evelyn—her complete hysteria complicated by her taking all the sleeping tablets in a bottle—(This was not a suicidal attempt.  I had given her a large dose and it had not taken effect at once, so when I was out of the room she took the rest.  The result was almost like a stroke.  She lost control of her limbs, her mouth, etc. Her legs, arms, everything gave way and she could talk only with guttural swollen syllables.)  Then literally she nearly went mad.  She tried to dress and go to Douglaston and had to be restrained by force.  She begged piteously for something to kill herself with.  Later, when strong, she beat her head on the piano and took the dull grape fruit knife to bed with her.  (Fortunately I had hidden all the other sharp knives.)  She had to be watched every minute and was quiet only when given dope at night (until about 4 AM or when planning some way to reach Merton).  The minutes she had started something, she wanted results and started something else.  She would not wait and her various plans marred each other.  She turned against her various friends and a few times grew suspicious that we were not mailing her letters, sending her telegrams, telephoning her messages, etc.  That worried me more than anything as I was afraid of persecution mania.3  The doctor, May Mayers, a friend of Dudley’s, was a marvel.  She held Evelyn’s confidence until just before we had to leave.  Then Evelyn turned against her, too.  But during the worst time the doctor was the one person who could calm her and reason with her.  And May was a wonder about coming whenever I grew desperate.  She even went out to Douglaston and spent three hours talking to Mrs Jenkins.  Lola, too, did everything in the world to help, and Martin Lewis4 went out to Douglaston although he disapproved of the whole thing.

All this happened in our one back room.  Evelyn’s bed was right there and she was crying or moaning most of the time.  It took time to get her quieted at night even when she was given medicine.  Then she woke about four and began crying or smoking.  The result was that Dudley nearly broke down, too.  He was worn out to start with and we were to start on vacation the Friday after Evelyn arrived.  It was utterly impossible to leave her, then, so he managed to put off his vacation one week.  But that finished him.  By Friday of the following week he got the worst attack of nervous indigestion I ever saw.  I had to send for the doctor for him and had two patients on my hands in the same room.  All this time I was supposed to be feeding Evelyn egg nogs, cooked cereals and cream, vegetables, etc—all on one gas burner and with practically no cooking experience!  You can imagine that I was ready for vacation, too.  (Fortunately I was extremely well to start with.)

I had made up my mind, selfishly and cruelly perhaps, that even if Evelyn had to go to a sanatorium, we had to get away!  It was literally a choice, for me, between sacrificing ourselves futilely for Evelyn, and saving Dudley’s health and perhaps our future.  Evelyn was better and realizing how hard it was for us.  She was beginning to get response to her telegrams.  Her father came up from Washington5 and she made him take her to a hotel—where however she didn’t stay.  Saturday morning we heard Evelyn was going to Lola’s who was in no fit state to nurse her.  Dudley got up, sick as he was, and went to interview Mr Dunn who promised to get Evelyn an apartment.  Then, in spite of everything and to our utter amazement, we actually found ourselves on the boat for New Bedford.  We went to Sconset on Nantucket Island where we stayed with a good friend.  Dudley was all in and I was nearly as bad.  It took us ten days or so to recover and I managed to persuade Dudley to take an extra week.  It is a marvellous place to rest and build up.  We came back much better to find Evelyn better, too.  She had her tonsils out and recovered marvellously.  Becky and John have taken good care of her and John actually succeeded in getting the first word through to Merton.  The rest, and probably this, you know or Evelyn will tell you.  I don’t know why I have bothered you with all these past troubles unless to justify myself to you.  I don’t want you to think that I ran off leaving Evelyn in the lurch too cruelly or that she and I have had any falling out.  We are better friends than ever, if possible.

Please forgive this letter and writing.

Very sincerely yours

In his unpublished memoir, Confessions of an American Boy, Jig describes his mother as being “completely self-absorbed”. Although the break-up with Merton would have made this self-absorption understandable, her later letters repeatedly demonstrate this trait.
Becky Edelson was then living with and later married John Crawford, the friend with whom Evelyn had been staying.
Another hint of what was later to become more markedly paranoid.
4 It has not been possible to identify Martin Lewis.
This may have been the last time Evelyn saw Seely; this meeting is later referred to repeatedly in her search for information about her father’s death and his will.

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

c/o Theis, London, EC4
September 10 [1925]

Sweetest goodest dearest Lola dear, I hope by the time this gets to New York you will have gone up to visit Ellen.

Well, I have seen Owen and we have talked, and things are still suspended, though I see his side so plainly.  You see Martin and dear ol Davy and so on are unjust to him only through disbelieving in his inevitable naivete.  He is SO simple.  Quite cunning sometimes about plotting how he is going to keep himself from exposing his simplicity, but very very forever simple, because he can’t help it.  So the poor child states the case thus:

If Tom is to live with him, he and I, living together, would need to marry at once.  If we married at once there would be no help whatever either from Jenkins or people there.  If I were Owen’s wife he would not want Cyril to support me.  Therefore:  he, Owen, must put himself in a position of worldly power if we are ever to solve anything. evelyn

* * * * *
To Lola Ridge

[Long Island]
[September 1925]

My dear Lola,

I have wanted to write you a letter, but it is so bewilderingly difficult to know just how to say what I want to.  Even to say how grateful I am that you were so good to Evelyn when she was in New York, sounds something I should not say.  Only I do bless you for being, Lola—you are too good and fine, and made of the truest Spanish steel.  You see, I don’t feel I ought to explain—what I want to write to you now is, that I know what is the right thing to do, no matter how cruelly incomprehensible it appears to other people, and I know that when  the time comes to show what a real friendship for Evelyn means, that I shall be able to do it.  I don’t know whether there is any use in saying this, only I do want to say again how I appreciate what you are, and what you were at what cost—in July and August in New York.

I won’t say any more—I seem unable to say anything.  Can I send Davy my best wishes.

Yours very truly, Merton

* * * * *

After a brief visit to New York in 1925, Owen, accompanied by Tom, returned to Europe for the last time. He built a house in Saint-Antonin, in southwestern France, and travelled and painted widely in southern France. He also played the piano in the Saint-Antonin cinema and was president of the local rugby club. He died in January 1931 of a brain tumour.