20. Woodstock to Felixstowe

Cyril had been in Santa Fe for some months when Evelyn and Jigg returned to New York from Montreal.  During this period Evelyn’s finances were even more precarious than usual, as the following sequence of letters illustrates.  [It is very possible that Evelyn wrote to friends whose letters have not made it into this collection, and equally possible that any such letters have been lost or destroyed.]

* * * * *

To David Lawson

[c/o Mrs Kate Russell, Woodstock, New York]
Saturday [August 1928]

Dearest Davy:

I am coming in with Jig on Wednesday instead of Thursday of next week.  Can you put us both up?  Will arrive on six oclock evening boat at Debrosses1 and go to you unless you phone Woodstock 5! [illeg] to say you can’t have us.  If I don’t hear I will think you expect us. I have decided to go to England if Margaret2 will pay my fare.  I don’t know that she will because I find after second letter from her that she meant to pay Jig’s fare if I should want him to join me.  I misunderstood her.  however I have asked her for mine and will begin negotiations anyway.

Jack seems in a state about quota and life in general. Tell you all about it.

dearest love you and lola.  evelyn

1The terminal for Hudson River ferries at Debrosses Street, then operating between Manhattan and points on the Hudson, including Woodstock.
Margaret DeSilver, wealthy New York socialite and loyal friend of Evelyn and Jack. She gave them significant material aid in a number of ways on more than one occasion.

* * * * *

To David Lawson

[Woodstock, New York]
August 9, 1928

Dear Davy:

I expected to come back to town this week:  but Cyril has written about Santa Fe and a new plan has developed.  Cyril hopes to have the fare for Jig in a couple of more week.  Or at least, he says, by September first.  I’m going to try to arrange with Hazel1 for some place to stay.  But if that fails, and Lola is improving, could Jig and I spend three days with you?  I would have to collect his clothes and attend to the removal of his tooth braces, and finally send him off.  Then, if I have no further plans regarding Jack and England, I’ll come up here again.  It’s cheaper than living in town of course, and will be much better for writing when vacations are waning—next month I guess.

It is nice here. At the present moment there is rather more “social life” than I had bargained for; but I will say it for the usage here, that people respect one’s writing hours.  That writing is truly acknowledged “business” is at least an accepted thing.

We miss you and Lola daily.  That’s the only waste of this arrangement.  As far away as Montreal you two were beyond regrets.  Here it is a bit distressing to feel that the boat goes to NY in a few hours every day and we don’t know anything.  As a matter of fact, the schedule is bad.  It leaves Kingtown everyday at one and does not arrive at Debrosses Street until six in the evening.  And the train journey is dearer and not much quicker—takes four hours.

Our very, very, very much love Davy from both of us
evelyn

Hazel Abrams was a friend with whom Evelyn often stayed while in New York. She had a flat in Greenwich Village.

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

[Woodstock, New York]
August 9 [1928]

Lovely girl:  I can telephone on a party line from out here; but there are twenty-one phones on the same line and the connection is terrible—and costs eighty-five cents.  That is why I have requested the aid of various unknown aides, who may annoy Davy with their telephone calls from town; but I am sure he will forgive me if he realizes what a relief it is to establish even that approximation of direct connection with what is going on.

My eyes are still wabbly; and if I ever get settled near an occulist I can trust, I’m going to take desperate measures.  As long as I don’t write I’m splendid; but I’m afraid that, even aside from economic pressure, I have forgotten how to enjoy literal idleness.

Cyril writes that he has Jig’s fare to Santa Fe—or will have it in a few weeks.  And when it appears I will have to come to town to send him off.  As he can’t prolong his treatments at the dentist anyway, I expect to bring him in a day or two ahead to pack and have the bridges off.  Hazel may be able to find some place for me to stay, but if she doesn’t maybe I will call on Davy’s charity again, if you are feeling better then.  I’m afraid I would have to allow at least three days for dentistry and packing.  Then, in the interval of uncertain plans, I guess I’ll come up here again.

Anyway—I love you (the only platitude I can’t withhold) dear, dear, dear, dear lovely thing.  evelyn

* * * * *

To David Lawson

[Woodstock, New York]
August 16 [1928]

Dear absolute brick Davy:  I was very much touched by all your generous alarm on my behalf.  You are a sweetie.  But it would not do much good for me to run away in a fashion that would prevent my knowing what happened.  You see my denial of mother is an intellectual matter, and while to have her with me permanently in one ménage would, as I know from past experience, end work and happiness; I have that subconscious affiliation with her than can not be eliminated by the mandates of reason.  When Cyril took charge of her letters he was doing his reasonable best for me; but it didn’t work.  I had subconscious horrors about her all the time.  To give you an example, while I adore Cyril so completely as a human that I could never resent his interference on my behalf, I never forgave Alfred Kreymborg1 for being rude to mother2.  This will show you that my personal pride as well as infantile affection is still identified with mother.  If it comes to the point of taking her on, the home must be found because, even discounting other reasons, I literally can not support her.  But it wouldn’t solve it for me to leave future history a blank.

I wrote Margaret DeSilver about the last news—which is that the Graceys3 are going to begin an action against my father.  If it works some money may be gotten for mother, tho I doubt it will be enough to solve things.  Anyway I believe they won’t ship her here until that is settled.  This gives me a few months leeway, I gather.  In the meantime, if there looms up, as I fear, the alarming possibility of me being involved as witness in the lawsuit against my father, Margaret says she will pay my fare to England, which would be a more effectual escape than hiding in New York. But I am also waiting to find out what comes of that.

However, the immediate favor I would like to ask is this.

Jig’s tooth straightening has been left in a mess, and he must have another visit to the dentist.  If I send him down to NY next Thursday on the boat, landing him at Debrosses street at six pm, can he spend Thursday night and Friday night in your place?  He would go to the dentists on Friday and return on Saturday morning with Hazel Abrams who is coming up here then.

I would be grateful if you could meet him at the boat; but if that is inconvenient, would you be in at six and have the outer door unlocked?

Dear Davy, again thank you from me heart for the real and beautiful friendship you so constantly show.  I will be in town in September when I bring Jig in, as I said, and will be very humbly receptive to advice.  I have been so worried and upset that I have done almost no writing, and would like to concentrate on finishing something before I bike off to England or somewhere else.

If I sent a small check by Jig—ten or fifteen dollars—could you cash it?  It is hard to cash checks here.

Best love of Jig to me and to you and her,
evelyn

American poet, novelist, playwright, literary editor and anthologist. In the 1920s he was associated with the same publications as Lola.
The letters do not include any information about this incident.
The Graceys were cousins of Maude Dunn, with whom she had been staying ever since her return from Brazil., The action against Seely Dunn was presumably for financial support for Maude, possibly to enable her to be financially independent of the Graceys.

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

[Woodstock, New York]
August 28 [1928]

Beloved:

Jack telephoned from Montreal last night and said he had got no job yet and his money was getting so low he thought he would have to return to England while he had the fare.  He was evidently pretty overwrought, and I have decided to leave for Montreal tomorrow night so that I can at least see him before he goes—or maybe we can fix a plan between us about coming here.

with apologies—no I won’t keep this up—and so much love
from evelyn

* * * * *

To David Lawson

611 Madison Street, Clarksville, Tennessee
September 8, 1928

Dear Mr Lawson:

I am enclosing a letter to Cyril, in the same envelope with this note to you, because I think it a better plan not to send a letter through the Clarksville Post Office addressed in his name.1  As you will see I have put his name on the envelope, leaving space for you to add the address, below, and forward to him.  The same plan ought to be followed with any letter he may send through you.

Thanking you for this courtesy.
Very truly yours,
Mrs M T Dunn

1vThe relationship between Cyril and Maude broke down entirely while they were in Brazil. It is possible that this ruse was adopted as her Gracey cousins would have welcomed learning Cyril’s address and pursuing him for maintenance for Maude.

* * * * *

Some time between late September and early October 1928, Evelyn and Jack returned to England and Jigg joined his father in Santa Fe, although the correspondence relating to this decision and their journey appears to have been lost. Evelyn and Jack appear to have stayed with Jack’s long-time friend C Thompson-Walker at his home in Kent; they later moved on to Felixstowe in Suffolk, staying in what had been Jack’s childhood home.

* * * * *

To David Lawson

care C F Thompson-Walker
Winsley, Red Hill, Chislehurst, Kent]
September 25 [1928]

Dearest Davy:

My time since arrival has been spent mostly in bed—throat chest eyes (due to unheated houses).  It is quite cold.

I am on edge about the mother thing.  Is she writing to Cyril via you?  Has anything happened?  I don’t want to be cut off from news.  I’ll just worry more.

Will you send me Cyril’s El Paso address as soon as you get it?  I want to cable him re Jack and I and job and don’t know where to.

Dear Davy, this has been an odd experience (the visit) which I will narrate for you and Lola’s delection some day.  It is seeing England for sure.

And no friends in the world were ever what you and Lola are and have always been to me.  I just relapse into weeping mistiness when I try to express it.  I love you both very deeply (and Pete knows I ought).  But you both know all that.

Darn if you are so good to me.  Wish I could ever be half.

England, my England
Of cold meat pie
Of raddled cheek
And haughty eye,
Of Indian Colonel,
Roman dame,
I sometimes wonder why I came!

(But I don’t—Jack is a good reason.)  Love, blessings, thanks to you and Lola from both

* * * * *

To David Lawson

[Chislehurst, Kent]
[October 9 [1928]

Dear Davy:

If Jack and I can raise the $500 to flash at the government we will sail Dec 14 or a little earlier—say 7th if Jack’s writing allows.  Will your 2nd studio be occupied or could you let it to us for four or five days?  We hope to be able to go to NO1 by freight boat almost at once but could find no sailings from her to NO that fitted in.  Anyhow if we get to NY Jack is in.

If that happens and you can take us in, I would ask you to leave your key with Lola and we could go from boat by her place, if she is well enough to give it us.

I’m kind of homesick and longing for you all.  I enclose a note to Lola [reproduced below] as I don’t know whether she is using Cox or house.

With very much love always
Evelyn

New Orleans

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

[Chislehurst, Kent]
October 9 [1928]

Beloved:

How I wish I could break down the doubt unplanted now of ever finding an ear for what gives me the word of poetry.  It makes my pen halt and refuse to write it.  If it were not for that, I could give you an adequate sense of a scene meant for you when, yesterday, walking over Westminster Bridge just as rain came over sun and sun burst faintly or the shivered rain again, we looked East along the solid low enormous ramparts of Somerset House, and below them to the embankment, faintly with scurrying red busses and then further to some grey shape of commerce that was probably a Brewery between us and London Bridge; and the gulls were whirling—like little rotating white machines—childrens inventions, I thought, and the barges at the South Bank—the dingy bank—lay stranded in a bramble bus of schooner masts, and the soiled Thames water tuned murkily a half-blue, as if peace had shone upon it an instant in passing on.

The other way the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Spire took that sonorous contour that fog and evening gives to everything here—and there was the intimation of sunset too reserved to flame forth.

Afterward Jack and I walked up the Strand and down to Temple Gardens where the flowers do credit—as it old English gardens—to that timid poetry too doubtfully expressed in other places.  The dahlias were a whole city up and down the wall—sulphur pale, end of a red that I wanted to call Charlotte Corday, if allowed to give them a name.

There was a little sunken garden, a nursery for baby asters, with a minute pool like a fairy’s sea, and a minute bronze cherub riding on top of it.

All of London I get thru the eyes, I love.  Its bulk, which is orchestral, and is always softened and liquefied by the gentle darkness of mists in sun.

Of the people I have a mood of weariness, due to meeting too many relatives.1  They make me like better to think of raucous New York and all our screaming rather ugly youth, where this is a at least no dry-rot niceness yet.

Love, Beloved, and anxious hopes to hear good of you,

Love from Jack too to you and Davy,
Evelyn

1Evelyn is probably referring to Jack’s maiden aunts.

* * * * *

To David Lawson

801 Austin Street, El Paso, Texas
October 14, 1928

Dear Davy:

Thank you for your letters and for forwarding Mrs Dunn’s letters and for everything.  I’ve been in a whirl.  Everything is going fine and I’d like to see you and Lola.  Please give her my dearest love, bless her—one of the dearest and most wonderful people who ever lived.  I enclose a letter, which please forward, as my address is a secret from the lady in question.

Jig is well and talks about you lots.

I’ll write later at greater length—just now am working day and night.

Best love to you and to beautiful Lola—the world is more bearable because she is in it.

Always affy and gratefully
Cyril

PS:  Please put the enclosed in an envelope and address it in your own hand to—Mrs M T Dunn, 611 Madison St, Clarksville, Tenn.  Cyril

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

Chislehurst, Kent
October 18, 1928

Sweetheart, I know you will be glad that I have recovered the use of a typewriter.  It at least eliminates for the time one of the lesser tests of our friendship for me.  As for the other way round, however, I am really so improving in capacity to decipher that it is a sort of a pleasure of sanity to peruse one of your distinguished flourishes.1

I love you and Cyril as I love some books, some pictures, some landscapes—because you represent in the organisation of your human life the kind of harmonies that, usually, are only wrung from the fact on paper or on canvas by the great especial effort of art.  Most people, even most artists, are only for moments as good as their best work.  Both of you I have seen for the space of years consistent with your own best achievement and with all the beauty that ever was designed to be eternal in such eternity as art allow.

It hurts me conscience that he paid for that garret longer with that vague intention on accommodating me.  I wish I could square it, but of course he wouldn’t.  I don’t even know the cost of taxi cab when he took my trunk—which makes it worse my asking other things.  I have had no word yet from Sophie, or from Cyril about mother, and wondering if it will all be hung up just as high when we get back.

No news on Wave. Jack and I hope to reach New York by mid December, depending on possession of the five hundred needed to show customs.  His passage has been advanced on condition he has three quarters of his new novel done before we sail.  I have mine.

Cyril has hopes of a job in west by Jan 1st.  There the remains problem of a week in New York.  For Gawds sake don’t let Davy rerent that place even if he can, but will you both inquire when it comes up if there is any place available to rent for a week at that time?  I’m leery of landing there with no place decided on if I can help it.  Shall write to the Waverly Hotel, in Waverly Place if there is no other way.  Scarcely heard from anybody.

felixstowe.PNG
Felixstowe Suffolk [www.oldukphotos.com]
And, oh, I forgot to tell you we have lodging at Felixstowe in a house where Jack lived in childhood—it was then his home not lodgings.  This is where the German Empress used to summer, but nothing remains but a mouldy dwelling, modestly regal, now hotel.  We face the North Sea and empty atrocities occupied by summer trippers but now abandoned to the gales.  It is like a locust shell that has been shed, this town in winter—all new and a perfect husk, but lifeless after summer.  Except that the sea stays cold and alive and yesterday was stormy with the sun brazening sulphur brown clouds and the gulls mewing, and a few nursemaids with prams running to escape the rain on the elegant promenade beach where nobody walks after Sept 1st.  It is all new here, with an after war newness that makes England the lame counterpart of Douglas Long Island, but it is very cheap at this season.  Love and love to you from us and to dear Davy

1 A reference to Lola’s unique handwriting.

* * * * *

To David Lawson

Chislehurst, Kent
October 27 [1928]

Dear Davy:

I am so sorry I have had to trouble you—or rather have troubled you so much.  I don’t know what has happened to Cyril unless it is he is just dotty with responsibilities and the effort to make things go for all of us.  I have had a cable of his address—801 Austin Street, El Paso, Texas—but have not had a line from him, Phyllis or Jig written since my departure.

One reason he may be extra harassed I found out today.  This mornings post brought me, ironically, as a birthday present for poor Jig, another letter from Marie [Tudor Garland], saying that, My marriage to Jack which she had just heard of making it “easier” for her to do it, she would have to permanently discontinue my income (and it is implied Cyril’s too) after December.  So I have two months of grace at my twenty-five a week.

Thank the Lord Margaret gave me enough for my fare home, or I would be in hell.  I suppose I will have to give up my frantic resistance to the sacrifice of writing and get whatever job I can.  If Cyril succeeds in finding Jack a job out west and can help us out there, I would rather work in Texas than in NY’s climate (been having chronic bronchitis here).  But in case he can’t then I must settle down to whatever brass tacks I can command there.  I wish I could get a literary job, but suppose I had better resign myself to waitressing or sumpin like.

The gods bless you and love from me and Jack to you and Lola.  I’ll be home first part December whether Jack can come or not.

kiss lola.  evelyn

* * * * *

To David Lawson

Felixstowe, Suffolk
November 30 [1928]

Dearest Davy:

Wondering in the major way how Lola is, I am also in the minor way asking you more favors.

It is pretty fierce to continue to trouble you, Davy dear, and none of these things matter compared to major worries; yet if anything can be done I will be obliged, as the loss of the clothes means the purchase of more and we are so hard up.  I thank you and do so apologise.

Jack and I are sailing on December 14th.  On the American Banker—American Merchant Line.  Jack is not allowed to buy a tourist third ticket when we goes as an emigrant, so we had to take a one class boat.  This is the same line I came over on.  We will get in on Xmas Eve if our journey is a lucky one; but more likely on Xmas day or the day after.  The weather has been terrible and nothing but wrecks off this coast, so I don’t feel very happy about it.  Vestris1 wreck impressed my imagination unduly.

Now Davy dear, the ever resourceful landlady, Hazel, had found a way to put us up in her place, so, thank god, we won’t have to camp on you.  You must want to poison me by now with all the changes of plan.  But it is so much better you don’t have to sleep with Lola, and selfishly, Hazel has steam heat.  My teeth chatter daily here.

Lots of love from us to you and her, dear davy.
evelyn

The SS Vestris sank on 12th November 1928. There was an outcry about her generally lax safety and as a result new laws regarding safety on merchant shipping were introduced..

* * * * *

To David Lawson

[Felixstowe, Suffolk]
December 4 [1928]

Dearest Davy:

Guess we all seem world’s worst pills in making so many demands on friendship and, technically, standpoint of letters, returning to little.  You see in one way you have kept far more independence than anybody ever does who tries to put over a business.  In America that is done, as you know, entirely and exclusively by bluff.  Virtue counts very little.  I only know because I have seen it what Cyril puts into starting these new enterprises that are to save us all from starvation—and that’s what his art school idea is intended for.  Just one year ago and the specialist Cyril had in New York said that his nerves were in a condition, with his heart, that would either kill him or land him in invalidism for life (this is confidential) and yet he is still going and having persuaded the unutterably hyde bound citizens of El Paso to send at least a fair number of their daughters to him, besides bucking the troubles that came when he and Phyllis went away from NY.  So, dear Davy, while there ain’t a leg to stand on in one way, please be forgiving.  Indeed I see you are.

Believe I wrote you last week that we are sailing on Dec 14 on The American Banker—due in with luck Xmas Eve.  Then to decide whether we go to El Paso or get jobs in New York.

Jesus bless you both as he would and do lots for you if he had more power on Olympus. Hope to see you and Lola Xmas day.  blessings again, evelyn

PS  I have finished the first draft of a 450 page novel1 in three weeks and four days, so if I get a job I can work on it Sundays.

1 Published in 1929 as The Wave.

* * * * *

To Otto Theis and Louise Morgan

c/o Abrams, 66 Perry Street, NYC
January 16, 1929

Sweet Peoples,

Evelyn maybe has told you I got job as captain of a coal-barge in East River, held the job 10 days and then got run-into by a tug or something one night1.  Three of us barges tied up abreast.  Tug hit outer boat and shock caused my lines to the dock to part, so we were all three carried upstream to Hellgate.  Were picked off by police launch just in time.  2 minutes later the barges hit rock and sank.  I lost my clothes and bedding but saved the novel.  Got back same night to E in Hudson St to find her ill with flue.  Now much worse, so she’s in hospital at New York Infirmary.  Don’t know what next.  Am using spare time in writing but may get another barge job if vacancy occurs.

How are you all then?  Write to us.  Forgive haste.  E sends bestest love and hugs to you both.   So do I.

Yrs ever,
John

Lots of nice free publicity for John Metcalfe in all the papers as result of barge mix-up.  Headlines “Two Saved from Hellgate” etc etc

1Hell’s Gate is a narrow tidal stretch in New York City’s East River, and is known to be dangerous to navigation. A search of online New York City newspaper archives for this date has not yielded any information about this incident.

* * * * *

To David Lawson

Cyril Kay-Scott School of Painting
East Yandell Boulevard at Austin Street
El Paso, Texas

January 23, 1929

Dear Davy:

Why haven’t I written?  Davy I’ve been up against it.  One is ashamed to write when things are bad.  Marie didn’t like Phyllis (she wouldn’t like any woman I married) and took my “income” away and left me heavily in debt and without a red cent.  I’ve paid off $2000 in notes and have only $200 more to pay, but it looks as if we were going to get through all right now.

I want to ask another favor from you.  There is a movement on foot to put my school on an official footing here.  Would you send me a letter addressed “to whom it may concern” saying nice things about me as a person, abut my prominence as a painter and my ability to talk sound principles of art?  Do you know anyone with a letter head who would vouch for me similarly?  As a matter of fact I am as reliable financially as the most conventional man in the US.

How are you Davy and how is dear Lola.  I think of you both so often even if I don’t write.  You know how one feels when one is with one’s back to the wall and don’t want to have even his truest friends feel sorry for him.

Don’t feel bad toward me because I’ve not written.  I consider you one of the few steadfast friends I have.  You’ve stuck to me all these years and my feeling for you is something few people have gained.

I’m nearly all in from overwork, but if this thing goes through, things will be easier on me.

Best love to you both
Affy
Cyril

All this is confidential

* * * * *

To Louise Morgan

449½ Hudson Street, NYC
February 10 [1929]

Dear Kiddie:

Lord deliver us,  don’t reproach yourself about writing.  As a matter of strict etiquette I should have written.  But life has been exhaustingly full since we got here and my inclinations, if I had the temperament would be to pass out like Merton in some sort of collapse that made it impossible I be supposed to think.  Now you have had your share of the same kind of reflections, so we ought to understand each other.  It is illness and money.

First there was the barge.  Today Jack is in bed with flu.  I had flue and went to hospital as you know, but which it was revealed that I have a tumour in the uterus (a small and tame one they say however) inflammation of the uterus (not due to tumour but to a hurt acquired in Montreal) diabetes (not advanced) an inflamed appendix, and a derangement of the liver probably due to the sluggish effects of my general prolapsis.  Also anaemia.  I’m taking iron injections and diabetic diet, but the real cure would be total irresponsibility—and for Jack as well.  You know all about it.

Cheerio and lots of ‘em, in other words as true but less nostalgic of Blighty—or thee—our best beloved love to you and very much adored Otto,

evelyn

* * * * *

To Otto Theis and Louise Morgan

449½ Hudson Street, NYC
April 7, 1929

Dear Peoples,

Excuse scrawl and great haste.  Evelyn now in hospital after operation (successful) and therefore unable to answer your nice, nice letters, – says she sends bushels and oceans of love, and will write when able.  Expects to be out of hospital in 10 days.  Then we hope spend a month in country—but this address will always find us.

Blessings to you all three, and I do hope things soon get cheerier.  You’re having a hell of a time just now I know.

E’s operation consisted in a complete remodelling of the vaginal landscape, general refitting and spring cleaning.  Involved great pain for a week afterwards, catheterizing only every 6 hours and of course, in rebellion, she wet her sheets all the time.  And more even than that.  Formidable and tumultuous movement of bowels while I was visiting her, – also in sheets.  Nurses dashing around with pallid smirks.  But enough of this—

Love and hugs to you all three,
Yrs ever,
John

* * * * *

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19. Interlude: A blog is born

I make no bones about it:  blogging does not come naturally to me.  Earlier I composed this piece as a crie de coeur, hoping that my experience might strike a chord with other “unnatural” bloggers.  If your experience is similar:  my sympathies.  If you have any thoughts that might help, please get in touch.

* * * * *

This is about my blog about my grandmother Evelyn Scott, a controversial modernist (and feminist 30 years before her time) American writer in the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s.

Ten years ago (!) I embarked on what I never dreamed would consume so much of my time and energy:  collecting as many of her letters as I could and turning them into her biography.  I have struggled with the vastness of the collection and the seeming impossibility of creating any sort of narrative from them.  [Skipping over about 8 years’ struggle], I was eventually persuaded that it would be difficult to get the result of my labours published by a conventional publisher, and that the key to getting anything published was SOCIAL MEDIA!

My book needed a presence on social media before any publisher would even glance at it.

In May last year, I decided to give a paper about my grandmother at the annual conference of the American Literature Association in Boston.  Deep breath: I paid my fee and bought a plane ticket, and then collapsed in panic.

Somehow I produced a PowerPoint summarising her life.  The discipline of a 20-minute slot focussed my mind, and eventually I summarised her life and letters in 40 minutes of hard-won distillation.  It went down well with the select audience.  And suddenly, I realised what I had to do to prepare for the publication of my life’s work (well, the last 10 years or so).  Distil it all into a much longer PowerPoint, which could serve as a first draft.  Enough to interest (or not) a possible publisher.  At least I would have something I could show.  Reflection persuaded me that PowerPoint might not be the best medium.  And how to share it amongst the audience I hoped would be interested?

Friendly advice prompted me to try a blog.  A what?  A bit of research persuaded me that WordPress was the one to use.  I bought a generously-illustrated “introduction”, complete with CD, and parted with £10.

If that was an introduction, I wonder what the advanced-level book would be like.  The pictures matched, more or less, what came up on my screen, but the words could have been mystic incantations.

“Only 5 easy clicks to get your new blog online!”

Yes, the easy clicks weren’t the problem.  It was the difficult ones leading up to them.

I am not a newcomer to IT.  Long ago, I even wrote in machine code!  However, WordPress does not understand machine code and insisted on terms like “plugin” and “widget” and, for the really advanced, “page jump”, also known as “infinite scroll”.

After a certain amount of screaming, tearing of hair, and kicking the cat, I produced my first post.  And posted it.  But how to make people aware that it was out there?  It would have to be the dreaded social media.

Now, I have a visceral objection to placing information about myself, however trivial, in cyberspace, and have studiously avoided anything to do with it. Facebook does not appeal to me, but I dutifully went out and bought the latest Dummies guide.  A gripping read it is not, but I did glean that you could turn on numerous “privacy” settings which would hide anything you posted from everyone. There seemed little point in that, so I carefully set my privacy to allow my next-door neighbour and my daughter to see what I was up to.

When I opened my new Facebook account I was invited to reveal “what’s on your mind?”  All I wanted to disclose was the fact that I had posted something on a blog.  What blog?  I entered the web address and, magically, an image of my blog’s title appeared!  Wow!

ALIL

I rashly clicked “post now” and “public” and waited.  Several days later I got a notification:  someone had liked my blog!  I was well on the way to publication!

Heady with excitement, it occurred to me to let my grandmother in on the act.  She died in 1963, and she was a bit of a troglodyte where matters literary were concerned, but she might just have been intrigued by the possibilities offered by social media.  I thought she might like her own Facebook account.

She could write from beyond the grave.

And indeed she does.  Each time I post a new instalment of her letters, she has something to say about what I have done.  She is not always happy, either.  She can be very critical of my selection from her letters.  (Did I mention that I have over 2000 of them?  And that some of them are very lengthy?  And repetitive?)

That, I thought, is that.  But not for Facebook.  How do you think they make those huge profits?

That is where the concept of “boosting” comes in. It is another word for paying them to make sure lots of people see what I have done. Or, more precisely, what Evelyn has written about what I have done.

Like WordPress, FB can use words in mystifying ways.  A few ill-judged clicks and I discovered I had almost committed myself to paying £790 to “boost” my post to over 1,000,000 potential “likes” in sub-Saharan Africa.  It was only because I had to go find my bank details that I was saved from making that payment.

Some careful clicking through the various options, and I have discovered that I can decide with whom to share Evelyn’s FB posts.  Everyone aged 18 to 65 seemed like a good start.  Interests?  Certainly not “celebrities” or “classic cars” or “eating out”.  Maybe “reading” would cover it. Geographic area? Tricky, but settled on England and a few US states.  I could always add to the list.

I have been “boosting” by paying small amounts for a few days’ boosts at a time.  FB helpfully sends me a daily summary of my measly statistics.  Bit by bit, I am getting more “likes”.  Now they send me regular reminders:  “You have 7 likes so far.  You could have 27 likes tomorrow if you pay us £xxx every day in perpetuity.”

As they say, every little helps.

I only wish I knew how many “likes” a publisher would consider sufficient interest.

The plan, dear friends, is to post Evelyn’s entire collection (edited just a bit) by the end of next summer.  That done, I can start thinking about how to get the material into print.  And to help, I (or more precisely, Evelyn) need “likes” and “shares”.  Lots of them.

* * * * *

18. Greenwich Village, Canada and divorce

Some time during the summer of 1927 Evelyn returned to the US from Europe. Jigg travelled with her, and they stayed with her friend John Crawford and his wife Becky Edelson in Greenwich Village, until a quarrel led her to seek lodgings, this time on Staten Island. After only a few weeks there she travelled to join Jack, who was applying for teaching jobs in Canada. Again, there are no letters in the collection explaining why he chose to apply for jobs there rather than in the United States.

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

[97 Steele Avenue, New Dorp, Staten Island]
[August 1927]

Beloved child:

I’m trying very hard to finish an appreciable portion of The Wave before mid September when roots have to be torn up again and something of the future decided, and that, with housework, uses up all too short days—especially since we have all had colds, trivial but wasteful of good energy.

I considered trying to persuade you to come out here, but decided it would be specious kindness with the row made by two kids in a not very large house, the increasing difficulty Becky has getting through with household duties in her state, and the general strain required to adapt one’s self to a heterogeneous household.  New Dorp has of course been very satisfactory in some ways.  There isn’t the temptation to waste one’s self in more or less surface contacts, and the sawmill next door is certainly insignificant after Bleecker Street trucks.

evelyn

* * * * *

staten island c 1920
New Dorp, c 1920.  It was very fashionable at that time.

To Louise Morgan

Staten Island, New York
September 13, 1927

Louise, beloved kid:

I don’t know who “owes” a letter, but I must regale you with Montreal.  It has made a patriot of me.  All the most brutal part of France become American!  A large flat city with more miles of double two story houses than ever existed even in London, and dingy shops from which skyscrapers spring like dreary aspirations.  There is a big “mountain” quite alone and butt on the town.  You gaze upward at it and think there midst natures solitudes will be escape from the eleven thousand rubber neck wagons taking the eleven million boozed Americans on tours which respectably excuse their presence above the line.  You climb through seedy suburbs and seedy intimations of a park, and the world lives before you—as wide as it looked at Bezier, with the Saint Lawrence [river] broken up in bits of canal like looking glasses, and smoke from factories adding something sumptuous to the general magnificence of distance.  But beside you, to support you in your Byronic contemplation, have appeared miraculously all the eleven million Americans, appropriately, interested in “nature”, and buying birch canoes and “moccasins” to take home to the little ones, who are as yet too young to escape the Volstead act1.

There is a tourist tram, so called, in which, for twenty five cents, you can make a belt tour of the city.  All the buildings not two story tenements, are orphanages, catholic day schools, or hospitals.  For every twenty houses there is some barracks like institution.  And for every institution there is a brand new baroque catholic church, than which there is nothing worse.  Everything exists except libraries.  Cheap department stores are almost as numerous as Woolworths, grands, and shops in which to buy pious tinsel religious junk.  The place is in the spittoon age.  The most delicate gesture any landlord or landlady can make to a guest is to present a cuspidor to him.

But Jack was darling, and while low when I sent the postal, has a job at last and is bucking up.  Jig and I may go to stay for a while at Xmas.

Cyril is having some good publicity which I hope means a very good show after all this wait.

Always our ardentest affection to Otto, and to you armful.

evelyn

1The National Prohibition Act. which was initiated by Andrew Volstead, then chairman of the House Judiciary Commission

 

Montreal
Dorchester Street was lined with a number of large buldings similar to this. [McCord Museum]

To Louise Morgan

Apt 12, The Hollywood, 800 Dorchester Street West
Montreal, Canada

January 22 [1928]

Louise, dear, I think I wrote you from the much upholstered boarding house in which we first landed amidst Pekinese dogs, radios, and Nottingham lace.  But we are moved now into a comparative privacy that seems luxurious.  As our flat is smaller than seventeen Cliffords Inn1 I rather dreaded the accommodation of three people to it.  But somehow, despite its being in Montreal, it embraces so much more convenience than we’ve dreamt of in the last years that we don’t get in each other’s way—not very much.  It is warm.  The double windows open when it is desired and the sealing away of the winter is not final and exclusion of fresh air.  And the water for baths is almost always hot.  And one can pea at leisure, without having to wait until some of the other boarders ain’t doing it.  And there is a kitchenette for breakfasts, though for the other meals we still go out.  I write from nine to one and from two to four.  Jack gets up—me with him—at half past five, and writes from breakfast after six thirty until school time at eight-fifteen, and for a couple of hours at night, from seven to nine o’clock, and on Saturday and Sunday.  Jig is going to a tiny English school and has a gymnasium twice a week and ice hockey.  And somehow our schedules are so neatly joined that even the fact that Jack and I sleep in the living room makes no crowdedness.  And it’s only now and then that I get fretful with not making money for more.  partly because the older I grow the more I like indulgence of the flesh, and partly because, as usual, Cyril is the one person who can make anything.  He lectured at Amherst last week most frightfully successfully, and tomorrow morning he is starting west.  Of course there will be more show for the rest of us when this quota business is settled, but salaries in Montreal for anything are most economical.

As usual in this perpetual foreignness of environment, I get most of my dramatic effects from the weather, and I am still as much enraptured with the coldness as I dreaded it.  It snows every day, a little.  I don’t care for the insipid brilliance of what is called the best weather, when the streets look like the careful blue and white and lilac of Academicians who are just beginning to realize that Renoir lived.  But I do love the warm, secret, indoors feeling of the greyest days.  And a kind of delicious insipidity in the white ornaments of trees and bushes, and the especially private look of yards and gardens, while the sky is such a lurid darkness, and I think that the little lambs are gambolling somewhere down in hell.  The icicles on the eaves make all the roofs like pantry shelves in frilled paper.  And when even the inside of your nose has a medicated sanitary feeling as any little drop of moisture you are breathing freezes.  There is a sweet bitterness over everything like a very innocent perfumery.  You don’t get cold, because everytime you poke your nose out of the house, you get such a slap from the elements that you can walk about for an hour or two quite numbed and peaceable.  Then suddenly you are reminded because your ears begin to ache.

Lots and lots of love, darling kiddie, from all of us
evelyn

* * * * *

On March 19, 1928, Judge Jose Amador y Trias, of the Civil Court of the Bravos District, City of Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, heard a petition from “Cyril Kay Scott against his wife, Mrs Evelyn Dunn Scott”.

juarez courthouse
Juarez courthouse and jail, c 1920

Cyril and Evelyn were never married, although she always stoutly maintained theirs was a “common-law marriage”. Although common-law marriages are recognised in some states, they were not in any of the states Evelyn or Cyril had lived in prior to their elopement, nor in Brazil, thus begging the necessity for and the legality of this “divorce”. Nevertheless, Cyril’s deposition states “or unjustifiable abandonment of the home by his wife resolving not to return thereto” and of “denial of bed and board” by his wife, and further that ”his marriage with Mrs Evelyn Dunn Scott was celebrated in the United States and was a common law marriage perfectly valid and recognized by the laws of the country wherein it was celebrated, and gave this as the reason why he could not produce a marriage certificate of any kind, as none existed”.

In response, Evelyn attested “that she is acquainted with the laws of said country, and that the statements made in the complaints [ . . .], are entirely correct”; and that an order be issued “declaring the marriage bond existing between the plaintiff and defendant, dissolved”.

Although there is reference in the letters to Cyril’s travelling to Juarez from Santa Fe, where he was then living, for this hearing, there is no evidence that Evelyn was there: in fact in March 1928 she was writing letters from Montreal. Nor is there any correspondence about how Evelyn received the news of the “divorce”.

* * * * *

To Louise Morgan

[Montreal, Canada]
May 2 [1928]

Dearest Louise:

Well, my dear, if wishes were—not horses (why horses anyhow)—but could produce the hard cash.  Jig and I would come over with Jack next month, rent a flat with Mrs Dewey,  and give ourselves ample opportunity for witnessing the reunion.  Hang it, of course it is the usual thing.  Jack sails on June twenty-eighth.  We are all hung up until after the quota and might as well, in theory anyway, spend the interim in economy comparative in England, as dwell in New York.  Only the lump sum for the fare over is lacking.

Did you know blessed Cyril has gone and went and got married again?  Otto will faint when he hears to whom, because if he remembers her at all, it will be as a rather round and distinctly noncommital kid about twenty.  John Crawford’s sister Phyllis1.  Get the smelling salts—for you can see with the horrible awful rage against me of John C at present how he must enjoy that.  Phyllis is really matured into a complete and lovely astonishment.  She had her hair bobbed a few years ago and suddenly seemed to reveal her personality at the same time, has grown awfully pretty I think, and is as quick as a whip and as detached as most of us aspire to be.  I think she has always adored Cyril, at first via John, and the more ardent turn of affairs was in the air when the ‘orrid quarrel about Jig2 precipitated my departure from John and Becky’s establishment last fall.  John C, in his usual way, lost his head, and carried his indignation to ridiculous lengths, trying to make a major affair of it all around; and Phyllis has been marvelous.  I know she has always had a small sister’s devotion to John, and that makes it all the more remarkable that she has not allowed him to envolve her a speck in his spite-jab.  Actually she never has mentioned a word of the mess to me, but has gone on with a divine appearance of not knowing it existed.  And then she went down to Santa Fe with Cyril and they got married.

I don’t really believe any tragedys will result from this.  Phyllis is sincere, honest, has a lovely sense of humour, can earn her own living if she has to—has done so for a long time and is an expert in library work, is in good health, is irreligious, is only thirty years old, just, and has had enough troubles of her own to have come comprehension of other people’s.  So that’s that again.

Now we have resumed the old plan of settling temporarily anyhow in the same vicinity, with Jig to have the right of way with both.  Where that will be the lord yet probably doesn’t know.  Cyril got started on his western lecture tour, but his dates were so inconvenient with breaks in between that, having to halt and spend money in the intervals, it was not turning out as well as he had hoped.  He arranged for a show in the State Museum at Santa Fe, and went to fix it up and discovered there was a very good opening for a class there.  So at last accounts he was trying to get the lecture bureau to transfer the dates they had made for next fall, in the hope they could make an intinery that would keep him busy steadily for a short time instead of sporadically for a longer time.  If it pans out he will spend the summer teaching painting at Santa Fe which will allow him to paint—he has hardly touched a brush for one year—the very type of country he most loves. Then about October try the lecture game again.  I think this is much better than the original—because of the paint—and hope it pans out.  But in the meanwhile none of us know where we are at.  As soon as Cyril gets enough ahead he offers to pay the fares of all of us out west, but that ain’t yet, and anyway would be wasteful until he himself is certain he will find it worthwhile to stay at least a year.  Jack is sailing for your shores June twenty-eight, and hasn’t the faintest idea whether the quota will let him out in three weeks or six months.  Jig and I are hung up.  What we plan vaguely is to spend July in NY with the dentist, then find a place out of town.  But places out of town near New York and economical are sure scarce.  Also to find a two room flat to sublet for July, and find it before we leave here.  For pete’s sake tell us if you hear of any.

By the way, Jig is a man3—puberty and all.  He has a moustache.  Next yet at the limit he will have to shave it.  He is a little over five foot seven how, with a bass voice.  I don’t know what to do.  And so nice, and so lonesome, and no exercise at all now the skiing has stopped—Margaret gave him skis and a ski suit which touched me like hell.  He looks far more like Cyril than he does like me.

evelyn

1 Phyllis Crawford was the sister of John Crawford, the friend with whom Evelyn stayed in New York. She trained as a librarian and wrote a number of children’s books as well as adult fiction. She became Cyril’s fourth wife.
There is no information about the reasons for this quarrel. Jig would have been 12 at the time, and in his unpublished memoir Confessions of an American Boy writes in scathing detail about his treatment at the hands of his parents’ friends as well as his opinions about Phyllis.
Jig was 13 years old at this point.

.* * * * *


To David Lawson

[Montreal]
[Summer1928]

Davy, me dear, will you do this?  I am enclosing a check for ten dollars made out to you.  Will you accept it and in exchange mail your own check for ten dollars to Maude T Dunn 611 Madison Street Clarksville Tennessee.

My uncle is very disagreeable about me and about the small sums of money I send mother and when such sums pass thru the bank of which he is director in my name he always finds out.  So mother does not want me to send her money as direct from me.

I will very greatly appreciate it, dear davy.

Four weeks and I’ll be back.  Got the place at Perry Street for twenty-eight so won’t need to bother you.  Bless you and thank you just the same.

I do pray things are going well, and that Lola is continuing to improve.  Shall LOVE seeing you.

all my love, to you and her,
evelyn

PS Jack and I both po’ly.  Do us good to move from Montreal but I’m missing him already.

* * * * *

Some time between June and August, 1928, Evelyn returned to the US with Jigg, now 14 years old, and found lodgings in Woodstock on the Hudson River north of New York City. This move was probably the result of Jack’s need to maintain his right to live in the US, necessitating a return to London to apply under the National Origins Quota system which required him to apply from outside the United States. Jack’s immigration status was to become a constant theme throughout the remainder of his life.

 

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.

evelyn

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.

Evelyn

* * * * *

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.

Sintra

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.

Guadaloupe.PNG

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
evelyn

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.

Kouba
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.

evelyn

* * * * *

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.

We LOVE YOU TOO, YOU BET.
evelyn

* * * * *

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.
Ramadan

* * * * *

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

16. Picking up the pieces

After the breakup with Merton, Evelyn and Cyril went their separate ways. There is no correspondence relating to Cyril’s return to North Africa, and  his later journey to Europe with Elsa Pfenniger, his Swiss mistress of whom Jigg was extremely fond.  In spite of this separation Cyril was willing to continue to support Evelyn financially, at least at first.

Shortly before this breakup, Evelyn and Jack Metcalfe had met at the home of mutual friends.  Jack recorded this meeting briefly in a diary entry which gave no clue as to the eventual importance of this meeting.  After the parting of the ways with Merton, she and Jack began living together–again, there are no letters in the collection referring to the development of this relationship.

A few words about Jack, full name William John Metcalfe.  He was born into a wealthy family in Heacham, Norfolk (Evelyn often claimed they were “minor nobility”) and was privately educated before studying at the University of London.  He wrote a number of works of science fiction (what might be called “fantasy” today) and was called to the Royal Navy Air Force during WW1.   After the war, he remained a reservist in the Royal Air Force, and supplemented his meagre royalties by teaching Latin and mathematics at a series of private schools.

We pick up the narrative with Evelyn staying in London with her good friends Otto Theis and Louise Morgan.  Again, none of the letters in the collection refer to the interval between the breakdown described by Gladys at the end of “Heartache” and this first letter.  Later, when she stayed in England with Jack for the first time, her letters reflect her bemusement at the British way of life.

* * * * *

To Maude Dunn

c/o Theis, London
September 17 [1925]

Dear Mother:

Again I have held off writing in the hope of having money to send but I must wait until next month again.  You see we have no fixed source of income of any kind, just depending on what sells and what doesn’t, so one month we have some money and the next we don’t.  I have been interested in all your letters and all the Clarksville news, but I get blue when I can’t send money and don’t feel it worth while for me to write.  I have had my tonsils out and that cost something, but it is a great relief.  I have been suspected of having TB and floroscoped and x-rayed and found a little doubtful but not a real case.  So it is a relief to know anyhow.  I’ve stayed in London in order to be doctored but it is much too like New York in expensiveness for a permanent residence and to make things cheaper Jigeroo and Cyril went back to Italy.  Cyril sends some pictures but exhibitions have to be about two years apart in order to accumulate work of the best quality and you have to live in between.  He is not at all strong any more.1  Of course I miss them terrifically.  London always seems like a city of the drowned after New York and the English are so impersonal and their desire to keep everything on a purely formal plane is almost an insanity.  Sport and politics have to take the place of everything personal, though of course underneath they are the most sentimental race on earth.  I don’t really like them or feel drawn to them.  In some ways even the French are much closer, though they lack a subtle kind of imagination and are too diagrammatic on a mental plane.

The weather here makes seven kinds of a day in one.  It is balmy spring at ten am, winter at twelve, a dreary rainy autumn at three and at six before the sun goes it may be spring again.  Not as disagreeable as it sounds really.  But oh the types, the stony blue-eyed wooden well bred usual men, so good looking and so uninteresting.  And the women with heavy chins, slab sided figures, lovely skins, and perfectly vacant personalities.  Naturally that isn’t all, but it is the average.  The shops are dreadful.  You don’t mind having no money for what you don’t want to buy.  Ready made clothes  [missing page(s)]

Jigeroo isn’t going to school now, but he has been to French, Italian and Arab schools, French spoken in the Arab school.  I don’t know where he will go this winter.  If I get rich ever I’ll put him in a boarding school in Switzerland.  He looks very much like me everybody says.  He is way above my shoulder, about to my chin, pretty solid, and has a fine color.  His eyes are not as blue as they were, and his teeth need straightening some.  Otherwise except for size he looks about as you remember him.  He speaks slowly and has a lazy walk except when he plays very hard.  His sense of humour is superb and he is chocked full of temperament.  His appreciation of pictures and books is five years in advance of his age.  In school he is no good at all, won’t concentrate and seems to think education a joke, partly because he is always changing schools and they are all different.  He draws astonishingly.  Almost everybody likes him and certainly he is a handsome kid, but I’ve got to get enough money to give him a more practical education so if he is ever up against it he won’t be at such a disadvantage.

Lots of love and hopes for your health, and do forgive the hard time about money.  We are still gamblers and paupers about that.  Only there are bound to be streaks of luck.

elsie2

1Cyril was then 54 years old.

2Evelyn continued to use the name she was christened with when writing to her mother.

* * * * *

 To Manager, Chatham and Phoenix National Bank

Hotel de France
Gafsa, Tunisia
December 1, 1925

Mr Stuart B Plant, Mgr
Chatham and Phoenix National Bank
14th St and 8th Ave, New York City

Dear Mr Plant:

Evelyn Scott is coming to New York for reasons of health, and will probably be in need of funds in addition to her own.  Will you therefore please transfer at any time any amount she may specify from my account to hers.  This letter is authorization for this operation which please repeat as often as she may desire.  In other words, I wish her to have the benefit of my account as well as her own in case need arises during her stay in New York.

Yours very truly
C Kay Scott

* * * * *

Again, there are gaps in correspondence clarifying the decision Jack and Evelyn made some time during that December to go to England rather than return to the United States.  Jack had family connections in England and the couple found themselves in the Scilly Isles, a popular holiday spot, living out of season in a boarding house.  (Apologies to my British readers if they find some of the explanations in these letters unnecessary.)

* * * * *

To Otto Theis

[c/o Mrs Clark, Palace Row, Tresco, Scilly Isles]
January 24 [1926]

Dear Otto:

I don’t want to wear you out with correspondence, but you were so good about the check and medicine and so on as you are about every damn thing you get axed when anybody gets in a hole, big or little.  I do think you are pretty gran’, Otto, and so do John1, and there ain’t no good way to tell you about it.  It must be the bloodiest nuisance in the world to have all the endless perpetual things on you, and this week there will be another, as by the beginning of next week I will want the check for five guineas (guineas,2 not pounds—and I will make him wait a bit longer for the next payment), and at the same time ten pounds more for myself as we pay board in advance.  Will you please send the money cash registered but not in 5 lb notes3 as one pound is all they can cash here.  If it gets here next Mon or even Wed will do.

I never saw such a tiny place that gave such impression of variety.  Down where we were today there was a waste looking flat, faintly blooming, with moss on the sandy earth.  It had the suggestion, where the sea was hidden, of a vast desolateness like the Campagna at Rome, and over toward the water long rolling hummocks were covered with a yellow grass, shining as blond hairs, dry but unseeded, and bristly-stiff, but growing thick as the fur of an animal.  When we climbed the summit of the last point of land, we could see a rocky nudity of beach exposed and on one upstanding boulder a very large gull, very still and alone, presiding over the reflections in the brackish puddles that the sea had left.

We made a detour around the governors bloody “abbey” which looks like the ancestral castle of a Long Island millionaire, and passed a large pond or small lake, according to your temperament from which a pair of wild ducks darted with their nasal cries.  And when we had got back on the more trodden road that would take us home it was nearly dark and what is called the Round Island Light, that John is very fond of and will put in a story, was making a pale ember in the ash of the [illeg].  Then all at once it swelled like a window into the lovliest rosiest depth of hell, and was the most beautiful red red red menace I have seen in a long time.

Well—here we are again.  The food is per usual and one grows used to it—though I do miss coffee of which I have not had a drop, and the missing of which makes me think much of you.  I would also appreciate one of Louise’s most divine salads as but for fresh meat and the oranges we have got ourselves we would sure have scurvy.

Well, I do wish this was a lesser run from London.  Mr A Burdett has not shown up yet—but I wish you could.  The great bird life in the spring and the feathered population now is limited (no personal reference meant).  But I have had great pleasure from the cormorants, who have necks as long as baby swans but not sinuous.  Their black feathers are usually so wet they seem like eels in a dripping fleshiness.  They swim with their bodies mainly submerged, and when they dive it is in the neat pointing attitude of a human swimmer, for they leap an inch or two out of the water, and spring with a half somersault on the fish they’ve sight.  They look so like pogy sly old men in wet bathing suits, but with a sinister agility.

Maybe birds won’t interest you, but the surf yesterday in the storm would have.  We were on the rolling moor that is at this end and on a pinnacle the wind almost took me off.  The harbours all around are full of small mountains like miniatures of Rio and on these a perfect fury of lashing vapour at a gigantic height.  Thank Pete we brought books tho work goes fine, but stops at noon, tho John does another batch of typing by the shades of night.  His book seems to me to be doing well.

Love to Louise Evelyn.  John sends love too.

John Metcalfe, with whom Evelyn was then living.

The guinea, a unit which is no longer used, was 21 shillings, or one pound one shilling.

The unit of English currency, the pound, is written as “£”, but Evelyn is writing it as it sounds. The correct representation would have been “£5 notes”.

This amount, four pounds 10 shillings, would be more correctly written “£4 10s”.

 

Tresco, Scilly Isles
Tresco, Scilly Isles

To Louise Morgan

[Tresco, Scilly Isles]
April 7 [1926]

Louise, darling, you can not hope to keep quantitive pace with my corresponding.  Until I get hold of a History of the Civil War to begin book two1 on, I have all my mornings for letters.  John is helping me correct spelling and punctuation in the afternoons.  He has laid off his novel for a bit and is beginning a short story which has a very spirited opening and promises to be both good and saleable.  We are still in the air about plans, for the air ministry had an Easter holiday and has not answered his inquiry about training camp.

Beloved, when you say have an idea, and especially about Staples2, I would not be right bright if I did not have a vision of Louise sweating on the floor of the living room and Miss Staples being guiltily nice and ineffectual and looking at a [dressmaking] pattern as if it came out of a menagerie.

As for having the specific things altered, I am afraid everything is past altering but the green dress Whitehead5 made, and that I am having let out here as it is a very simple matter.  The skirts are being ripped but they miss three or four inches in the belt and I don’t think the seams will do it and there is no more to do to them.  That leaves the green dress and the grey coat (which, by the way, has lost somewhat by having the buttons moved to their last extremity) to travel in, which would do except that it is going to be hot in may when we hit Marseille.  I have that old black crepe de chine of Phyllis Crawford’s3 which it may be can be ripped to make a skirt.  Do you think it would go with a green crepe de chine jumper?  I got some samples from Peter Jones4 and figured out the cost of a cape dress (they are very a la mode again)—short cape, plain skirt with one pleat in front, and tailored silk jumper—with, possibly, as it only takes three eighths of a yard and the pattern comes with the dress, a soft hat of same stuff as the skirt, and it came to a little over five pounds, figuring on Miss Whitehead’s possible price.  If I had the money here I might have tackled asking her, but I don’t know yet whether we can get thru month (I begin to see Otto’s troubles—John had another income tax, and had to gibe three pounds for a contribution for a grave stone for his uncle Reggie just departed).  Also another payment to Haire5, and we must have two hundred dollars clear just to reach Marseille.  John will get some and me some next month and we can do it, but five or six pounds on a dress is a plenty so I thought of writing to Miss Whitehead just before I leave and asking her if she could cut over black crepe de chine and make a blouse.  I’d rather give the work to poor old Staples, but if I did, at your house, you know as well as I do that you would but in and she would look on.

For the green dress I didn’t consider her, for, had it cost less and I gotten it,  I imagined she couldn’t tackle it-or feared that, even sending it to her house, you would somehow assume responsibility.  I don’t trust you in these ere matters.

Please don’t cry when you think of me, for I would feel comfortabler if you laughed.

I now and then have very vivid dreams of Owen and wake up in a state of sentimentality that, if painful in a way, is nice, for my subconscious doesn’t seem to have retained any bitter impressions and I always feel afterward that I pray really honestly that he is happier and not worried, and I hope thinking of me isn’t ugly to him.  If its now ugly, distorted with pain impressions, I don’t want more.  Goodness knows.  Nothing stands between us and kindly feelings except (for me) his tendency to be injust and even, latterly, monstrous in misinterpretations of Cyril.  This I understood at the time, but I hope peace of mind restored a point of view that would make me feel that old having to chose between Cyril and Owen even in friendship—tho of course nothing would ever deviate my comprehension of Cyril’s beauty.  However, Owen may be recovered in his mind, and if so blessings upon him with all my heart and no bunk.  I guess he hit my maternal instinct as no adult ever did.

I won’t be in Paris, honey.  John finds we can go through from Callais to Marseilles and that a couchette costs no more and less than the hotel in Paris, so we are planning to check luggage from London to Marseilles.  Thus, London leave 11 am, Callais, 2.15, leave 2.55 arrive Paris 7.30 (hour and a half wait in station but no change of cars), then arrive Marseilles next morning 9.30.  Fare for both of us comes to about 150 dollars, counting excess luggage, meals, etc.  I know I can buy in Marseilles, except that for the minute I won’t have money enough, as I have to take enough to live in there until I can get another check from America, which is about a month.  However, I’ll have another check from Sug first next month (Marie hundred) and if I have to will cable for it before leaving London.

Oh, well I could talk on all day.  I’ll spare you.  Thank you for the Butterick address, and I’m glad—or hope—it sounded so—that you are feeling a bit more chipper.  I want to hear any news from the kids.  Give Otto a hug, beloved, and for yourself all my lesbian outpourings which, by the way, John has by no means overcome.  John says to give you both a handsome lot of love from him.  We had a wonderful scrap last night, of the only kind we have had since we came, about the bedclothes, and me turning over in bed when John can’t sleep.  I wish I had had a dictaphone.  John accused me of “sighing” and keeping him awake.  It’s a species of tyranny that must proceed from his subconscious as he has never showed it except when half asleep.  Then he says I have all the sheet, when I have three eighths of an inch and so on. It is screamingly funny, and shows the subconscious of a bachelor I think with thirty four years of managing his own bedcovers.

I bobbed the daughter in law of my landlady and am now being solicited by a neighbour, it having gone abroad, John says that before I married him I worked in a beauty shop.

agin, love, evelyn

1Evelyn was at this time working on the book which would be published in 1929 as The Wave.

2Miss Staples appears to have been Louise’s seamstress. At that time it was not uncommon for women to have their clothes “run up” from patterns (including Butterick) by a seamstress.

3Miss Whitehead appears to be another seamstress.

4A fashionable London department store

5Dr Haire, Evelyn’s gynaecologist. She had had recurring problems ever since the birth of her son, perhaps compounded by the inept repair surgery performed in Brazil. ~6Even though they did not marry until 1930, Evelyn and John posed as a married couple so they could live together without exciting comment.

* * * * *

To Otto Theis

[Tresco, Scilly Isles]
April 19 [1926]

Dear Otto:

This besieging is not an attack but an apology.  John is so sensitive on the money question that he slurred our difficulties and I did not realize that when the board was payed this am we wouldn’t have anything to buy matches, cigarettes, or oil for the stove—which last is serious as we are both laid up more or less with flu.  So I’m writing this because I axed for money for the end of this week and now, want to let you know the boats are changed and to get it here Friday it must reach Penzance in time for a sailing at 9 Friday morning.  Otto, when I get to France I won’t devil you no long.  I wrote to the bank on the thirty-first about cabling that money.  Certainly looks as if they’d had time.  What do you think?  I gave them the Fleet Street address?1  Oh damn money, it do make the future look uncertain.   But I’m letting off steam to you, it can’t be done before John, as he already has a COMPLEX and wonders what Cyril will think of him, and so on.  I trust Cyril’s understanding but am by no means sure John and me and Jig, half time Jig, can subsist very comfortably on our twenty five a week.  However there’s always hope.  Otto its no longer a question of a grand gesture about this money, but that I owe you in plain cash just for electricity and gas and you’ve never said how much.  Sometimes when you think pisin (I don’t mean that) poison is so cheap and life is so dear you wonder why you do it.  But it is and you do, and if I try to “wish I was dead” I ain’t sure I mean it.

I hope my groans don’t hit you at a hard time.  If they do throw a brick at me.  I can’t mention money in any ordinary tone of voice.

Lots of love from both of us to yawl.  evelyn

The address of The Outlook, where Otto worked

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

Tresco, Scilly Isles
April 23, 1926

Beloved dear, I had such a vivid dream about you last night and yet I haven’t the faintest idea this morning what it was about—just the strong impression of you that held over until morning and made me feel like writing to you.  I sent a letter through Glad and hope you get it, but I don’t know that she has your address, so this through Ellen who, last letter, mentioned having heard from you.

I hope spring is there.  March gave here fallacious hints, and April has been one succession of hair and wind storms, of chill unimpassioned moodiness.  Scilly is such a Noah’s ark of a place, but with most of the animals left out.  Just a few human breeds in twos and twos in squat little stone cottages, neat like ships at seas, but as plainly adorned.  You’d be amused with the interior of the room we have to work in.  It is very tiny, very low ceilinged, and, like all Scilly houses, with a window not much bigger than a porthole.  The furniture (it is a dining room) is broad striped plush and ornate machine carved backs—three chairs, two arm chairs for head and foot of table, and a chaise lounge about big enough for one of Snow White’s seven dwarfs.  On the chaise lounge is a red sofa pillow covered with a Nottingham lace tidy.  The sideboard is red, imitation mahogany.  On it repose a cracked Sunday teaset of royal blue and gild, mended with liquid cement and non-usable; two “hand painted” bowls (non used) and a huge imitation cut glass bottled revolving silver-plated canister.  All the bottles except the mustard pot are empty but everyday it is put on the table for every meal, presumably, because it is so heavy, to keep the tablecloth from blowing off.  On one wall are three hunting prints, pink coats, hounds etc, one without a glass, and two with glasses cracked.  One the sideboard wall is another chromo of Highland Cattle in a Turneresque debauch of sunset and water.  On either side the sideboard hang two green plush mats triangular in shape framing small round mirrors.  Again, on the third wall, is an enlarged photograph of my landlady’s father-in-law and mother-in-law—an old lady like a mild and Christian monkey, a cocky obstinate looking little white haired man who obviously takes to himself full credit for his wife’s faithfulness.  There is, too, an enlarged and colored photo of the landlord and landlady—she, wearing a knit jersey and pince nez (all highly tinted) and he, with his moustache bright gold, standing beside her and looking a bit of a beau.  On the mantel shelf are three vases decorated with Watteau figures, all the vases as tall as funeral urns, with huge gilt urns, the one in the center mounted high above the others on a base of china that is like a tower.  Mingled with this adornment are crowds of adenoidal family photographs, some framed, some unframed, some passepartoured,1 and the mantel shelf has an embroidered linen lambrequin.  The highly polished brass fire set adds the last note.  Through the window, Tresco harbour looks like a pan full of blue water with some funny paper sailing boats on it.

By the time we leave we will have been here almost four months, so we know it well.

But the island sensation is growing strong.  An island must be tropical if it is anything.  This is often too much like an ocean liner in the North Atlantic.  Bermuda had twenty miles.  Tresco has three.

John and I are only waiting for enough cash to move.  I don’t want to crush Cyril with responsibilities, and I hope to Pete to get something soon from the advance on novel—if there is any.  And then—oh, it will be joy to see Sug and Jig again and Elsa, too—but especially Jig.  I think, I hope, John will like them and they him.  Now I still wish that you, dearest honey, were coming to spend the summer with us.  There’ll always be a place if you get enough just for fare.  I truly think you’d like John.  I don’t know anyone just the same type—a little like Cyril, a little like Martin, more callow than Cyril, and less hardened thru bitter experience than Martin.  But he has been good to me, Lola, very, very, very.

This is just little more than gossip.  I don’t know what I want to talk to you about, further than I want to talk.  I wish we could all see you.  Darling, your transparent alabaster red-hot furnace fire warms a lot of space over the chill Atlantic.  I wish I knew how to send warm back.  And I do long to see the poems.  If you can’t write please delegate somebody to tell me how you are, something about practical happenings, your health, and so on.

Love and love and love.  This year in general counts up a good number 1926 = 18 = 9.  Good year for your book.  I am trying to arrange to go to a spiritualist seance in London.  I’ll write you about it.

evelyn

Passepartout is a black paper tape which was used to bind the edges of pictures as a cheap alternative to framing

No letters survive which record the departure from the Scilly Isles, of the decisions that led to Evelyn and John ending up in Cassis-sur-Mer on the south coast of France not far from Marseille, or of their journey there. Nor is there any account of how it was that Jigg, who was then 12 years old, came to them from Tunisia, where he had been living with Cyril and Elsa.

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

[5 rue Victor Hugo, Cassis-sur-Mer, France]
[June 1926]

Beloved Lola:

John, Jig and myself are at Cassis, a village one hour from Marseille.  Cyril and Elsa are at l’Estaque, two hours away.

If you can get the fare, won’t you come stay with us.  Our flat has only two rooms, but we can get you another outside where you can have breakfast in bed and bigger meals with us—only walking a step so to speak.

It is warm, but there is the sea and calm, and we love you so—John and Elsa both want to know you so.  Jig sends his dearest love to you and Davy.  So do I.

Blessed, you could take a boat to Marseille, wireless us the day before you get in, and Cyril, John, Elsa, me and Jig all meet you easily at Marseille.  You need a change beloved as well as you need many other things.  The boat fare, second class, is about $145, but you must have fruit or something of your own.  In summer the journey is not rough.  You could see Gibraltar, Paloma, Naples en route as we did and we’d bring you right here.  If I get anything on my novel you won’t need any money here.  I doubt living with us won’t cost you with room, more than a dollar a day.  Please we all want it.  Evelyn

entrance to Cassis harbour
The entrance to Cassis harbour

* * * * *

Not long after this Evelyn and Jack left Cassis for Portugal and then back to Algeria and Cyril.  All of this in next week’s installment.

 

 

15.Intermezzo

Now, after Evelyn’s emotional anguish following the break up with Merton,  seems a good place to take stock.

The next selection of her letters will see her travelling around Europe, first with Cyril and Jig and then, after a year or two, to England with Jack Metcalfe.  This change of pace in her life offers me an opportunity to take stock of the story still to be told.

This story, is primarily, of her family relationships:  with her only son Jigg and, later, his wife Paula; with the married man she considered to be her “common-law” husband, Cyril; and with the man she did eventually marry, Jack Metcalfe.  The 2000+ letters in my collection cover much more than this aspect of her life.  She had lasting friendships full of mutual support with other women .  We have seen some of her correspondence with Lola Ridge, but these letters included much more mutual support for their writings.  Charlotte Wilder was another important figure in Evelyn’s life: the sister of the American author Thornton Wilder, she was often institutionalised with mental and physical ill health.  Charlotte was a poet to whom Evelyn gave unremitting support.  Kay Boyle and Emma Goldman were important in shaping Evelyn’s political views—and they hers.  Although I have collected some of this correspondence, I am only including that correspondence which directly refers to the central family story.

Evelyn’s continuing financial problems during this period and later were made worse by the increasing difficulty she had getting her books published.  Many letters to, and about, her publishers refer to this deteriorating relationship.  And so I am leaving much of this correspondence out of this account.

This is not to  say that these are not important parts of her story.  They are just not parts of the story of Evelyn and her immediate family.

NB:  For those who wish to follow other aspects of Evelyn’s life story, these are excellent accounts:

D A Callard:  Pretty Good for a Woman:  The enigmas of Evelyn Scott.  Jonathan Cape, 1985

Caroline Maun:  Mosaic of Fire:  The work of Lola Ridge, Evelyn Scott, Charlotte Wilder and Kay Boyle.  University of South Carolina Press, 2012

Dorothy Scura and Paul Jones (eds):  Evelyn Scott:  Recovering a lost modernist. University of Tennessee Press, 2001

Mary Wheeling White:  Fighting the Current:  The life and work of Evelyn Scott. Louisiana State University Press, 1998

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.

Affectionately,
evelyn

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

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,
Merton

 * * * * *

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
Gladys

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

13. Heartache

The following letters are focussed on the deteriorating relationship between Evelyn and Owen Merton.  It is likely that Owen’s precarious health was worsened by the stress of pursuing a physical relationship with Evelyn while Owen, Evelyn and Cyril were living in the same household.  In addition was the pressure put on him by his late wife’s parents, who lived on Long Island, to return and take responsibility for his children, Tom and John Paul.

The first time I saw these letters I had an almost visceral response to the desperation and heart-ache they convey.  I hope that you, too, can appreciate the vividness with which she expresses her confusion, desperation and pain.

There are no images in this post.  Evelyn’s pain is beyond depicting in images.

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

Beziers, France
October 15, 1924

Darling Lola:

Gladys[1] must have told you all our news, the wonderful hit Sug’s pictures made in Paris etc.  Several critics used the strongest terms of praise and in a discriminating way, for Parisians are at least mentally sensitive to the new experience if not themselves very richly creative. Sug wrote that the gallery has been crowded straight along and the show will be extended for a few days.  As we didn’t know any newspaper people we have been quite surprised at all the press attention too.  Merton thinks such a thing never happened at a first show before.

Well, back to Beziers which is like a little Toledo on a high hill, very beautiful from a plain and canals bordered by huge hundred year old cedars formally planted.  But OH what swinish people.  The dregs of French peasant winegrowing commercialism without any picturesque much less aesthetic elements.  Rich wine growers and wholesale grocery men.  Its a nasty place, even after Paris which I found absolutely vacant and formal over a commercialism less romantic and titanically grotesque and even more cruel than New York.  Notre Dame is a banal tradition, but the only beauty in the place is there in a however inferior gothic remnant.   Sug’s things are really beautiful enough to make you cry, Lola, the best, and Merton had evolved from that youngness and fresh virile color into an infinitely greater complexity of organization without losing the powerfulness of a youthful experience.  He will always be of a more lyric bent than Sug, but it is wonderful to note the fine point of divergence—Sug’s toward an exquisite mental balance evolved from hair-trigger emotion and full of emotion, and Merton always clinging to the emotional vision with the mental subtlest intimated but not stated in such exquisite fullness.  Well I’ve had fun out of seeing them.

Merton’s rather ill yet, in fact damn wobbly, but I think a year will see him his old self. [Remainder of letter missing]

[1] Gladys Grant, a life-long and loyal friend of Evelyn’s

* * * * *

To Otto Theis

[Beziers, France]
January 25 [1925]

Dear Otto:

Sug has been here for about three weeks but has gone away again and it may not be convenient for him to be here when Merton has to go to London, so I have almost about made up my mind to go to London too—probably leaving Jig with Sug where Sug expects to be.  In that case won’t I be so horribly disappointed if, after all the near chances, I don’t have a chance to see either of you at all.

For reasons which I could explain if I saw you two, I am going to America for six weeks when Merton goes[1], so maybe I’ll get you at that end anyway.  But this is the deadest of dead secrets.  Nobody but Gladys and perhaps Lola is to know I’m going to A until I get there and this is most practically important.  For a while it seemed impossible, but to get the fare for one person may not be an unattainable accomplishment.  I hate the thought of New York in which everybody—tho they ain’t—seems engaged in proving to anybody trying to do what I want to do that it can’t be done.  But it will be nice to see a few people again.  In twenty months I have talked—really talked—to one woman, Louise last summer—and one man beside Merton and Sug—Tom Cope last winter—and I’ll be getting as queer as the family I left behind if I don’t rub up on society a little however informally

But Jigeroo is developing more and more in sensitivity and responsiveness and I hope to Christ he doesn’t have a hard time.  I’ve often thought, supposing I do utterly fizzle for me, maybe I can give Jigeroo a background which would be some slight help twenty years from now in letting him get started as an artist.  After you’re dead you may be a great hit.  You never can tell.

            Love to you and Louise and thanks for the splendid review.  evelyn

[1] This would probably have been to see his in-laws and his children on Long Island.

* * * * *

To Louise Morgan

Beziers, France
January 28 or 29 [1925]

Dear Louise—

The complications to be settled at this end are the following:  Sug, who is back in the Riviera again, may or may not have to be in Paris at the time Merton goes to London.  If Sug is at that rotten studio it is obviously no place for Jigeroo and I would have to stay over here somewhere with Jig until time to go to America (don’t tell anybody in USA that I am thinking of going there, please.)  If Sug is not going to be in Paris then he can take Jigeroo while I go to London.  In case Sug can’t keep Jig the whole time I might just possibly be able to come over for a short while which would do me lots of good.

You don’t know what a treat it will seem to see you.  I expect as a result to emerge into an entirely human condition again.  Last night I dreamed I was dying of some lingering illness and that ants were eating me up.  This was due to a remark made yesterday to the effect that the French people always moved like ants.  If I didn’t remember that last winter at about the same time the same conditions were produced I would regard this as a prophecy.  But spring is just going to be coming alive again.

 Lots of love and good luck and so much gratitude that I would sound mushy if I tried to state it.  Love to Otto.

* * * * *

To Louise Morgan

[Beziers, France]
March 12 [1925]

Dear Louise:

I am in trouble again, as Otto would expect, and this time I don’t see any cure.  Merton has left here in a condition that looked near insane and is bound more or less for London, but I don’t know whether he is desperately ill on route, has committed suicide, or has breathed a first sigh of relief in freedom

Our mutual problems have worried him unbearably.  They are these:

–The Jenkins[1] have his kids.

–He has no money to support his kids.

If the Jenkins learned of our relation even respectably as marriage they are so jealous of him and devoted to the memory of their daughter, they might likely prevent him from seeing his kids at all.

I  It is made harder in that he is fond of the Jenkinses, and they of him, he owes them money and they have been lavish in solicitude since he was ill.

II  If he was known to be married to me or living with me his aunt and uncle in London would withdraw the help they give such as financing his show etc. They may help substantially if he is tactful but he would have to pay them long visits and jolly them.

III  His health and emotions combine so that to give up painting for a job would finish him—at it alone would me to have him.

IV  I won’t live with anybody unless I can see and be with Sug frequently, leaving Sug free to form his own alliances but with the same proviso.  This is Sug’s wish as well as mine.  Constant difficulties in manners make this difficult.  Jig calling Sug father and me living with Merton make servants etc difficult to both Sug and Merton.

V If Merton gets his own kid with him and he broods all the time because the kid loves him and is away from him, the kid will get wise.  The kid incidentally showed a wild jealousy of me in Bermuda—Merton adores this kid.

V [sic]  My health is horrible and I am a physical coward beside.  I can’t be left entirely alone while Merton either goes to America to see his kids or to England to say with relatives.

VI  Merton has to provide for his kids and he can not do so thru his earnings.  Anything complicating diplomacy complicates this.

VII  Merton is unconsciously respectable and resents an equivocal relation. He adores Sug but is jealous of him—I don’t wonder.

VIII  My bad health and depressions are a strain on anybody.  Merton has worked hard taking care of me when he wasn’t well himself.

IX  Ill health hampers sex the original basis of our alliance.  I am getting fogged out and prematurely old.  I am an awful pessimist.  I am no worldly help.

Thus, Merton finally decided he wanted to quit.  Except for a completely insoluble sexual miss I would try hard to make all with Sug.  But we don’t get over the mess.  I want him to be free in that way.  He is less able than Merton to see after a semi-invalid.  I love Merton very much, only less than Sug, and as a sex mate he makes me very happy.  I’d give all but very beautiful demi-semi non sexual so called free relation with Sug to have Merton.  But I can’t kidnap him and if he doesn’t want me I gotta accept it.

But I am worried off my head about his health and state of mind.  Will you phone L Bennett[2] to see if Merton is there and pretend it is not on my account.  Then wire me if he is there or expected and if you can speak to him how his health.  I won’t bother or pressure but I shall be dotty if I don’t know he is alright.  I am here alone.  Oh Louise I will be so grateful.  I do love him very much—[illeg] will cure me—[illeg] that’s the awful nothing lasts with me.

Love Evelyn

[1]  The Jenkins were the parents of Owen’s late wife and since her death from cancer had objected to his having care of their elder son Thomas.  Tom was about the same age as Jigg and the boys were inseparable while the family were living in Bermuda; Tom had not been well-behaved towards Evelyn.
[2]  Dr Bennett, who had accompanied Merton to the US the previous summer.

* * * * *

To Louise Morgan

Beziers, France
March 16, 1925

Dearest Louise:

Can you convey this letter[1] to Merton by hand?  Is that asking too much of you?  We did have such an awful explosion I can’t bear quitting or not quitting to finish in excitement.  I want to be calmer and more decent about it.  I will be so grateful to you if you can convey this letter.  I know where  Merton is because the postman was confused about the mail address and showed me a telegram Merton had sent him.  I would prefer it not to have Tom Bennett no that I made any further communication with Merton.

Probably you and Otto have a nausea of these perpetual seances, and I hope someday I can give you a kind of apologia por vita mia which will make them less revolting as a spectacle?  Sug is the greatest man that ever lived, and I love Merton very dearly, and I can’t change these two feelings.  Well you are a kind and beautiful and generous friend, and thank you dear dear Louise.

[1]  This letter has not been preserved.

* * * * *

To Louise Morgan

Beziers, France
March 17 [1925]

Dearest Louise:

Thank you thank you thank you for your telegram.  I am still a little lightheaded with worry as I haven’t had any word as to what happened after the departure and I still can’t believe that my invariable messes prove me all wrong, but it is a pretty sickly feeling to have got to this again.  Poor Merton has about as hard a practical problem as could exist.  In the letter I sent you I told him to wait six months to settle it, if he emotionally wanted to.  But anyhow there is the chance.  Of course what is making fatigue now is simply not knowing whether Merton is ill or well or glad or sorry or how much in need of practical looking after.  I judge he ain’t dead or I’d have heard of it.  I’m amused at my own suc [sic], as last night I woke up with the absolute conviction that Merton was alright and everything would be adjusted, and then suddenly realized how when you are too tired to think any further your mechanism makes you believe what you want to believe.  But anyway if I am not running up too big a bill for telegrams, will you wire me again if ever you do have any news?  Or if you should actually see Merton too write me your opinion of how he is.  Maybe he is fine and anxiety wasted, but until you know you can’t keep your imagination quite under.  This is six days of silence.  The postman showed me a wire from Montpellier last Thursday in which Tom Bennett’s mail address was given, and yesterday I tried to follow that up by wiring to some friends Merton has who were at Montpellier and had expected to come over here on friday last, but didn’t show up so he must have stopped there to head them off, which looks as if he was all there on thursday last anyway.  I wired the friends that I had lost Merton’s mail address and could they supply it, a very diligent telegrams, signed Scott only, and they know who we are.  I also paid a reply, but no answer came so I guess they had left town.  they were only transients.  I also wired to Merton himself care of Francoise at Coullioure as he had intended going there to pack up his things, and asked him in wire to acknowledge the message, but there was no answer to that either.  I don’t dare wire anybody in Paris for fear of making a scandal.  So there is nothing to do but wait and see what happens.  I guess I am a pretty thorough idiot alright, trying to make life square with things nobody else can, and thinking all the time next year next year when everything is settled everybody will be happy again.

You are sick.  Ordinarily I would remember that first.  Dear Louise, I hope it wasn’t a real sick but only unwell or something.  You didn’t say.  Oh, I do hope you are alright.

* * * * *

To Louise Morgan

Beziers, France
March 18, 1925

Dearest dear Louise:

Day before yesterday I wired Merton’s English friends to know if they had his address, said we had lost it and had important mail.  Yesterday noon an answer from Merton said, leaving for London address care Bennett.  So he had been in montpellier all the time I was reading the newspapers to see if any suicide or accident had happened to a foreignor.  Well the fact he did something awful is nothing in my life if the reasons for doing it were the obvious ones.  I have done too many awful things myself to judge without corroboration.  It all began when Merton first showed uncertainty about our future and his capacity to adapt himself to it.  He went to Cette to collect himself, and I would not have minded his going if he had not gone leaving me so many suggestions that his worries connected with me were too much for him.  When he came back without telling him I drank a whole bottle of codeine and took twenty-four heart depressing pills.  I had worked myself into a state that I thought I was killing Merton and Sug both.  I’m ashamed of having done it since it didn’t work and only gave me pains in the heart and Merton the worst scare he ever had in his life.  Then his assurances that things would work out right bucked me up again.  I guess he never got over the suicide scare and subconsciously turned against me from that moment, for almost ever since everything he has said about our future has been unhopeful and uncertain.  I guess he has been trying to break ever since and couldn’t bring himself to it.  Please don’t ever tell about the suicide thing because Sug doesn’t know of it and I never want him to.  it would only give him another trauma, and as far as I can tell about myself I never want to do any such again.  That the third real time in my life I ever did.  Once Otto knows.  Twice was three years ago in NY when Marie butted in.  And this time.  And I am heartily ashamed of things like that that go no further.

When Merton said he was going to break for good I went clean stark mad, not that I didn’t know what I was doing, but I was frantic to keep him, and I can’t do tricks to charm, so I took it out by saying I hated him (when I love him) that he was a fiend from hell or something equally polite (when he is a fuddled, oppressed, perplexed and in many ways lovely person) that I felt like murdering him (that was almost true) that I hoped he would go thru as much hell as he was causing me that moment (and as soon as he left if wrote to the Garland fund to see if I could get him any money and I haven’t an ounce of revenge in me overnight) and then I struck him (something I never even wanted to do to anybody but mother when she and Sug quarrelled, then sometime both) and in trying to keep me from hitting me in the face I mean me hitting him, he pushed me back with so much force that I fell on the floor (it just happened to be slick tiles) and my hip and back have been all over bruises.  After which he rushed out of the house like a lunatic and I heard trunks going out tho there is no train at that hour to Paris, but must have been one for Montpellier.  Jig was sent to call him as he left the house, and he came back and said I was “beautiful”—god knows why—and offered to kiss me goodbye—which I wouldn’t accept.

Well, that is the whole nasty story, except that I spent all night praying he would come back, and all the next night imagining the doorbell had rung and he was there, and got so superstitious that I looked in the Bible every day to see if it prophecied that he was coming back.

Louise nothing has ever altered my feeling for Sug, who is the most beautiful and noblest and strongest person I ever saw and a wonderful artist as well.  But I can’t help the sex sidetrack.  It is very complex.

* * * * *

To Louise Morgan

Beziers, France
March 19, 1925

Dearest dear kid, the daily bulletin in which you can trace conditions of mind evoluting, but with a good deal of conscience for having made a sick wimmins telephone all over town, tend to be telegrams etc.  Dear Louise, please forgive it, but I simply didn’t know what else to do.

I guess I want now to win you over to my state of mind about Merton.  Please don’t blame him.  If it is true and it seems that he doesn’t love me that is hardly a matter for condemnation on any grounds but taste, and if he took a long time to find it out and did so inconveniently, I guess there is no propitious moment for doing exactly the opposite of what the other fellow wants you to.  As to the way it was done, taking into account that Merton never is clearheaded when he is confronted by a lot of unanswerable problems, and very few people are, with the other fact that I went wild at once he suggested that he felt he had to quit to save himself from assuming something he couldn’t carry thru—will those things combined, always accepting his temperament and not criticising it by an ideal, explain to me pretty thoroughly his taking the worst way to do it.  Any way would have seemed bad to me.

I still want him and I still offer the six months to find ways, but the answer to that is so simply does or doesn’t he want me and will pretty soon be answered I guess.  Naturally all my reason tells me it is in the negative, tho I hope differently.  We weren’t unhappy except during the last month when he was stirred up by the Jenkins about his kids and by the faint hope of money on this show.  Then every day there were arguments as to how this could be settled, and as the arguments never got anywhere it was like taking fifteen minutes a day for both of us to butt our heads against a stone wall as hard as we could.  The result was a bruised brain a piece and absolutely no capacity for anything but negative measures.

Yes, Sug, is here and as always as near perfect in understanding and exquisite in tolerance and a gently ironic benevolence as any human being could be.  It’s up to me to make my selection, which I still must in confessing I want Merton, but nothing can ever break down my love for Sug or mar his beautiful attitude toward me, and Merton never wanted that no matter how hard things were I know.  being calmer only makes me clearer in knowing how much I do want Merton and how very unlikely it is that he will care to resume anything he has made such a struggle to break from.

Merton was always very frank in saying he could not bring idealism into any relation without sex, and maybe my being ill just killed his feeling for me of which sex was a symbol.

As soon as I hear about him, Sug and I are going to Collioure for a few weeks as I am too disturbed to write any more and Beziers is hard on both of us.  Then sometime in April I will come up to London if I may, and gee I will be glad to see you both.   If you see Merton don’t fail to tell him please that there are no hard feelings or misjudgements of him no matter what he decides.  evelyn

* * * * *

To Louise Morgan

Beziers, France
19 [March 1925]—two hours after other letter

Dearest Louise:

Just had a beautiful wire from Merton from Paris where he had had my letters forwarded by T Bennett.  Oh, dear and patientest of friends, and I am so sorry I couldn’t help coming to you.  But please don’t misjudge or I might say judge Merton.  He is a dear and good person however mixed up.  I don’t by any means know whether anything can be done, but at least nothing is going to be nasty and ugly, and it oughtn’t to be where people really have loved and trusted each other.  Bless you and bless you and bless Otto and bless dear dear Sug, and won’t you tell Mutt when you see him I say bless him too with all my heart.  It’s so awful to take things out when it is circumstances that are hard and not ugliness in the people, so I guess right now I never loved more the people who are good to me, dear dear Sug, and you and Otto, and blessed confused and pained Mutt.

I LOVE YOU
evelyn

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

EVELYN SCOTT
23 PLACE EMILEZOLA BEZIERS MARCH 22 1925

PARIS
LOVE YOU PLEASE TRUST ME LEAVING MUTT

* * * * *

To Louise Morgan

Beziers, France
March 26, 1925

Dear Louise dear, I wouldn’t blame you if all the hullabaloo made you dread another letter from me.  I still don’t know where I’m at except I know I love Merton and I believe he loves me, so I don’t know anything to do but wait around for everybody to feel better before thinking begins in earnest.  I get the worst willies over having punk health.  Don’t know how Lola has kept on with her handicaps.  Sick people too half dead anyway, and now I’ve got the gripp, and I wonder if you have anything there for Merton says it is as cold as Labrador.  We are going to Collioure middle of next week and it is now snowing at Perpignan.  I wanna live in new guinea, never been happy as to weather since we left Brazil.  Between being dead or cold rather be dead. How Scandinavia was ever settled god knows.  Breed more different from me than apes love hot places.

Well, dear honey, I hope by now you have seen Merton and I will be so thankful for your own private report on his health, state of mind, and what he thinks he thinks if anybody knows now.  He’s writing very calmingly but I don’t know at what expense to feelings.

          lots of love from me and Sug to both of you evelyn

* * * * *

To Owen Merton

Beziers, France
[March 29, 1925]

OWEN MERTON
CHEZ MICHEL BERAUDI FAUBOURG
COLLIOURE

UNLESS BREAK FOR YOUR PERMANENT HAPPINESS PLEASE RECONSIDER AND COME BACK TO MAKE PLANS WITH CYRIL ME LOVE YOU DON’T BELIEVE THIS NEEDED WIRE NOW IF DECISION MADE IS FINAL ALSO YOUR HEALTH

* * * * *

Next week, more letters conveying Evelyn’s heartbreak as she tries to persuade Owen Merton that their relationship need not end.  A truly heartrending sequence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12. Merton

After an isolated winter in the fastness of the Algerian desert, the Scott household returned to France on the spring of 1924.  Evelyn’s letters give no clue to how they found themselves there but it was clear how difficult she had found it being so far from her dearest friends (Lola in New  York City and Otto in London) and it would have only been a matter of time before they found their way back to Europe or, more precisely, the Mediterranean coast of France.

 

In the spring of 1924 Merton returned to London on his own, for reasons that are not specified but probably had to do with his attempts to have a gallery mount an exhibition of his paintings.

* * * * *

To Owen Merton

[Banyuls-sur-Mer, France]
[May 1924]

Dear Merton

Your note just received.

As the mails seem to be terribly slow, I am telegraphing you another 200 francs today.  I don’t like to send it in this lest you might need it before this arrives.

Evelyn is not writing because she is in bed with the stomach ache peculiar to ladies chaque quatre semaines.

I’m glad you’re finding something to paint and shall look forward eagerly to see the stuff you bring back.  I continue dutifully to cover Archer paper with water colors every day.  I’ll let you decide when you see them whether or not the material is wasted.

My Archer paper came so I’m all right for materials till we leave.  I got a letter from Marie yesterday (don’t tell Evelyn!) quite friendly and nice.

Don’t worry about anything here.  Everybody is well (except Evelyn’s unwell and that will be over by tomorrow).  My neuritis is better.  Jig is fine.  We’ve had rain twice—once all day.

Thanks awfully for the pipe—it’s a nice one and I like it.  Have a good time and do some ripping things and we’ll all be glad to see you when you get back,

Everyone sends love, Cyril

banyuls
Mediterranean coast near Banyuls [Google Earth]

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

[Banyuls-sur-Mer, France]
[May 1924]

Precious Lola, HOW ARE THE STITCHES?

I just wrote Ellen privately that I thought sea voyages hard on new operations, and I’m not pleased to hear before you go that you felt them wobbly.  Thank goodness your letter was stamped Bermuda so you did arrive whole.

Now, angel, to say I was touched at your writing that note in bed in pain doesn’t express it, but you should be spanked.  I wish we were all prize fighters and then we’d lick the world.  But we will anyhow.

I am excited because Merton took the last cash he got and is off today to London on it to try to clinch the interest that has been stirred up there to try to clinch some sales.  He is one of the sweetest people alive and with the worry of poor Suggie’s side should have turned my face to the wall ere now without him.  Suggie is just himself, a marvel and lovely, but he certainly has gone through a hell of a lot of pain lately, and as soon as Merton gets back from London Sug will leave for Paris to see a specialist.  I’m divided between a desire to know the worst and a cowardly horror of the possible seriousness of the diagnosis.  I just try for the present not to consider possibilities.

I can’t write a letter today because I went to the hospital and had that miserable wart thing taken off my typing finger.  I had it last year and didn’t do anything and then putting vitriol on it made it worse so finally had to cut way under my nail and take five stitches on my finger and it makes me lame at typing.  But gee I’m glad to get of it.  Lord, this little operation reminds me most vividly of what you have just been through.  Oh, God damn it, there is too MUCH pain in the world.

Well, honey, so long as you ain’t here I’m glad you are where you are.  It’s prettier here in one way, but golly we want to see you.  This is a very decent little flat, funny and dingy and cheap French formality but has a view of the sea and nice gay painted fishing boats and on the roof a lovely terrace that is quite private with a view of piled up mountain and little villages.

When we left Bou-Saada we came back a new way on the train and for four hours saw gorgeous aloof snow mountains like the Alps and June fields of wheat and olives spread out in tired youngness of afternoon light, really wonderful.  Alger is beautiful land, but in much of it savagely poverty stricken.  Only along the coast the French have made it prosperous.  We all arrived ill and Merton again an angel of kindness.  If everybody was strong it would be a nice world.

I’ll write again when my finger gets more fluent.  Please let us know how you are as soon as you can.  I’m so glad you are seeing that nice place.  We all have occasional homesicks for the mermaid water.

Love and love and love and to Davy please when you write, Evelyn

PS  Banyuls is ten miles from Collioure where we were last year, is a larger town and cleaner but less picturesque.

* * * * *

To Louise Morgan[1]

[Banyuls-sur-Mer]
June 6 [1924]

Dear Louise:

Dr Bennett carried Mutt[2] to London to put him in a sanatorium and have him examined by a nerve specialist.   He’ll probably stay a month.  It is supposed to be a secret that he is there and Dr B has promised to tell no one and let no one come near him, but if you will telephone and ask how he is I’ll be much obliged.  Phone is Langham 1190.  He went off doped.

Dear Louise, you are sweet to have written so nice a letter in such a nasty place and to cheer me up about the awful end of your so-called rest, and I could hug you for what you say of Suggie, who I do think with all my heart is one of the greatest men that ever lived and a very great artist.  [Just as great an artist as a man, emphatically.] [3] I am convinced that it will some day be recognized, because the proof is so indestructible and beyond contention, but I love you for seeing it now when it hasn’t become a fashionable thing to see.  Warm genuine appreciation like yours is a great help, and Sug has had to stand alone in every way more than anybody ought to.

I am so all in I can scarcely write, In ashamed to say that before doctor B had got out of the house I collapsed and behaved like a regular Victorian.  I think I cried for eight hours at a stretch and would have graced the pages of Dickens, though I had the grace to do it in my own room.  Today I have my monthly visitor and am generally so low that a mere boo frightens me.

I wish you could have stayed to see the circus that was perpetrated the night you left and every night since, a wonderful little two by four show right under the window.  They had a caravan in which they carried a pig, five chicks, and a dwarf, and there was a poor tiberculor lady with a baby who did bareback riding in a lachrymose way, a plump and sprightly lady who was a tight rope walker, and a papa who could turn somersalts and juggle barrels on his feet.  The dwarf was the clown.  One joke was to select five small boys from the audience, offer to take their pictures, and pose them thus [series of stick figures drawn here].  First little boy is holding his nose.  Second boy has his head in the air very proud and his fingers in the armholes of his vest and is watching the sky.  Third little boy is pointing disdainfully.  Fourth little boy squats on his hams.  Says boy one, Mon Dieu, what a smell.  Says boy two, It wasn’t I.  Says boy three, there he is.  Boy four says nothing.  How is that for French rural wit to be exhibited at Collioure.

As for our part of the visit, we loved you and having you.  I wish it could have been for a long, long time [you are writing.]

Our love to Otto.  I’m going to write decently when I recuperate. Evelyn

[1]   Wife of Otto Theis
[2]    Evelyn’s pet name for Owen Merton
[3]    Passages in square brackets were later inserted by Evelyn in her spiky hand.

 

banyuls beach
The beach at Banyuls-sur-Mer   [Andre Guarne]

The following letters focus on the relationship between Evelyn and Owen Merton and, in my next chapter, its eventual end.  It is likely that Owen’s precarious health was worsened by the stress of pursuing a physical relationship with Evelyn while Owen, Evelyn and Cyril were living in the same household.  Evelyn’s letters have given very few hints as to the physical arrangements which allowed this relationship to continue, or to why Cyril tolerated it, if indeed he did.

* * * * *

To Otto Theis

Banyuls-sur-Mer
June 8 [1924]

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 him[1] 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 élan 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.

I can trace a great deal of the depression and overkeying of last winter to incidents relative to myself and him.  I hadn’t considered enough what it was doing to Sug, but now I see the whole thing, in spite of Merton’s protests, is a physiological and psychological impossibility for Merton to.

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 has been a constant pleasure to me.  Sug, of course, remains the man with the most titanic pride, the greatest moral and mental strength, and the most infinite capacity for tenderness and self-immolation without bunk I ever saw, also the most wonderful theoretic foresight based on sensitive intuitions. But—My defect is that I had too much of an analytic bent to accept the usual self-deceptions, but nothing wherewith to conquer my most ordinary of human nature.  Anyway Merton will get over it.

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.

Affectionately, evelyn

Just say no flat if you want to keep entirely out and mail the letter back, but there won’t really be a mess.

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.

[1]This letter has not survived

* * * * *

There is a gap in the collection between this letter from June 1924 and the next, when Evelyn writes again to Louise in October from Beziers, along the coast from Banyuls. She had visited Paris with Jigg, then 10 years old, while Cyril was setting up an exhibition of his watercolours.

* * * * *

To Louise Morgan

(Chez Madame Leclerc}
23 Place Emile Zola, Beziers, France
[October 1924]

Dear Louise:

This was what happened in Paris (of course).  Jig and I had only been there three days when Jig acquired one of his old bronchial colds.  The dampness of that place is simply poisonous to us.  He was sick for a couple of days, too sick to go anywhere and then I came down with the same germs and an attack of grippe that gave me fever and made me so ghastly if unimportantly ill that I imagined I’d have to go to a hospital or something to get out of the hotel.  As a matter of fact I was only really ill a little longer than Jigeroo, but as we had planned a week in Paris you can see how our time was chiefly occupied. I was so all-in and discouraged I didn’t budge except to go out and get my meals and two expeditions in those first two days when we went to the Louvre and to Les Invalides.  Then as the devil would have it, I hit town the same day as Roger Fry[1] and Sug was seeing a lot of him and not at our hotel either and we only saw Sug for dinner.  Then Merton came up to take me back—you’ll hardly believe me if I go on with this tale of woe, but its all true—(AND THIS IS A SECRET WHICH WOULD RUIN Merton IF KNOWN.  NOBODY HERE OR New York TO KNOW HE WENT TO Paris)—Merton came up after a week with his aunt and uncle seeing the Midi, took leave of them and came on the same route on another train, to go back down south with me because traveling distances makes me ill and I can’t risk them alone.  Well Merton is still in miserable health and aunt and uncle, who travel well when alone, are so afraid he will come at them for money that they travel cheapest when with him.  We was sightseeing on his feet and had to stand on several crowded train trips, did their errands, and missed some of his meals and his heart gave out, so he reached Paris sick too.  He had to lie down most of the time between packing and was really ill when he got on the train with me.  For cheapness in seeing France and with the idea of avoiding fatigue we came via Dijon, spent the night there, were misinformed about trains, and even at the station (which we went to with our lunch only started because the train left an hour earlier than time table said) had a practical joke played on us by some railway employees who told us our train was in and about to leave when it hadn’t even come (was a half hour late) so that as a result my trunk was left behind to be shipped petit vitesse by a hotel employee (it has all the clean clothes in it).  Aboard the train there wasn’t a seat in the second class (the PLM is a hellish rich man’s road, only one second class car in a long train) so we bought first class on the train (if we had bought first class before we left we could have caught a later express and saved half the journey).  All of us had colds and were fagged without lunch.  Arrived at Avignon at eight-thirty that night (trip one thirty to eight thirty) the town had three hundred pilgrims in it and no hotel room, so we all had to go in one room (something discretion disapproves) and the beds were impossible for two, so, Jig and Merton getting to sleep first, I spent the night coughing on a chaise lounge.  Well Avignon was charming to see and we sight-saw the whole day, but left at five that evening expecting to get a dining car dinner.  Diner was taken off and we bought ham sandwiches, after eating them had to wait a half hour at Cette where we might have had dinner anyway, and did try, but I was so tired it made me lose it.  Arrived at Beziers at nine and I was unwell and so sick I could hardly get to the hotel.  Spent the next day in bed and Merton rushing around to try and get some kind of servant to help out in this flat.  Yesterday I revived and here we are.  (It wasn’t time for me to be unwell either, moving did it, so not imprudence.)

You will understand I am in no state to judge of the beauties of Beziers, which Merton picked out because it was the only big town in a hot climate in which he was able to find a flat for three hundred francs a month.  Place Emile Zola is appropriately surrounded by wagon yards, wood yards and alcohol manufacturies.  In the space before our domicile Nick Carter’s youthful associates play bowls all day.  Otherwise the flat is a shrunken edition of Banyuls, very decently furnished in an impossible style, and has running water and a two burner gas stove.  This place is like a mixture of Spain and my own dear southland.  It is a big and rather ugly middle-sized city where bullfighting is the chief interest of the population.  The leading citizens look like retired planters and never seemed to wear clean collars, but there are a great many of them, a place de theatre, innumerable newly decorated movies, and lots of cafes.  Its amusing really, but I haven’t yet seen the wonderful subjects which Merton promises to disclose for painting.

Oh, dear Louise, I will write a nicer letter later.  I am not pippy but feel expressionless from having received too many impressions in quick fire when I was in no condition to register them.

Sug was lovelier an’ ever and I wish you had been able to come over.  Just now Merton has an extra hard row to hoe because of the trouble in getting back enough health to get any work done but it hasn’t hurt his sense of humour or his disposition, and I guess we are all going to be rich and famous yet.  Only damn mortal flesh.

I wish you would feel sometimes later that a trip to France was what you needed.  You’d like to see this funny

More and more love to you and Otto.  evelyn

[1]  British artist and influential critic and member of the Bloomsbury Group.  Evelyn later maintained that he had praised Cyril’s painting.

beziers
Beziers [Alamy stock photo]

To Lola Ridge

Beziers, France
October 15, 1924

Darling Lola:

Gladys must have told you all our news, the wonderful hit Sug’s pictures made in Paris etc.  Several critics used the strongest terms of praise and in a discriminating way, for Parisians are at least mentally sensitive to the new experience if not themselves very richly creative.  And Roger Fry is such a staunch believer in him that it does your heart good in a day when nobody in power ever seems to bet on anything but the safe thing.  Sug wrote that the gallery has been crowded straight along and the show will be extended for a few days.  As we didn’t know any newspaper people we have been quite surprised at all the press attention too.  Merton thinks such a thing never happened at a first show before.

This brings me to the bullfight I went to see.  This beastly town is half Spanish and has Spanish matadors and things.  I saw six bulls killed—there were two more to be—and four horses, and never saw anything so ghastly as the CROWD.  I think the Spanish are drunk of drama and the dramatic element in appreciation is aesthetically non-valid.  I think Spanish art and life goes to pot in drama—even El Greco is tainted—and in the mass it’s a mess.  Picasso’s real aesthetic sense is limited and utterly lost in the grand gesture though that gesture is concealed under the prose nicety of cubism—naturalism of the arts.  The ultra cubists are utter if sincere fakes.

Well, back to Beziers which is like a little Toledo on a high hill, very beautiful from a plain and canals bordered by huge hundred year old cedars formally planted.  But OH what swinish people.  The dregs of French peasant winegrowing commercialism without any picturesque much less aesthetic elements.  Rich wine growers and wholesale grocery men.  Its a nasty place, even after Paris which I found absolutely vacant and formal over a commercialism less romantic and titanically grotesque and even more cruel than New York.  Notre Dame is a banal tradition, but the only beauty in the place is there in a however inferior gothic remnant.  The only art I like is gothic art and Chinese classic and Egyptian.  We were too bust to see theatres and things, but I went a lot to the Louvre which is inhabited by American ladies’ sewing circles and culture clubs, and to the Luxembourg which is the rottenest piffling gallery I ever saw, except for one room with two Cezannes and a few impressionists.  And we saw the modern show in some board barracks uptown, and it was a mess of conflicting formulas—not three pictures that had any relation to immediate seeing.  The French have forgot that the living eye is the basis of the visual experience and are more literary than the Academicians, only Academic literaryness is at least sometimes amusing as anecdote and these things are charts.  Sug and Merton simply rose to the gods after such a sight.  Sug’s things are really beautiful enough to make your cry, Lola, the best, and Merton had evolved from that youngness and fresh virile color into an infinitely greater complexity of organization without losing the powerfulness of a youthful experience.  He will always be of a more lyric bent than Sug, but it is wonderful to note the fine point of divergence—Sug’s toward an exquisite mental balance evolved from hair-trigger emotion and full of emotion, and Merton always clinging to the emotional vision with the mental subtlest intimated but not stated in such exquisite fullness.  Well I’ve had fun out of seeing them.

Merton’s rather ill yet, in fact damn wobbly, but I think a year will see him his old self.  [Remainder of letter missing]

* * * * *

To Louise Morgan

[Beziers, France]
January 28 or 29 [1925]

Dear Louise—

You sure are a brick, honey, to offer to put me up when it means, I can guess, considerable inconvenience NOT to me, as you suggest, but to yourself.  However, I am so grateful for the chance to be seeing you I can’t refuse it.  I could come for a little while anyway couldn’t I, and then if it didn’t seem fair to you to hang on for the whole time I must be there, Merton could help me find another place later?  Dear Louise, take into account however what it will mean to have your bathtub invaded—maybe just at the moment you want to use it—and a typewriter going three or four hours a day in the place you have to eat in.  Please do think well whether you could stand it or not, and be FRANK BEFOREHAND (tho frank after too) if it really, on serious consideration, seems too much for you.  For course I don’t give a damn how small the bedroom is so long as there is something to lie down in—even a bathtub, and that is absolutely true.  I don’t.  And bringing my table I think I will have a perfect place to write, provided I don’t feel it is playing hell with the household, in which case I won’t enjoy doing it.  I would drop writing for the time, but I simply have to get this first draft done in more or less of one stretch or it will be hell to resume it in the same key after months of changed focus.  For a second draft a delay is good.  So I would be writing a lot of the time—so much the better in one way as you needn’t have any fear of a bored idler demanding amusement.  Only will it get on your nerves?

The complications to be settled at this end are the following:  Sug, who is back in the Riviera again, may or may not have to be in Paris at the time Merton goes to London.  If Sug is at that rotten studio it is obviously no place for Jigeroo and I would have to stay over here somewhere with Jig until time to go to America (don’t tell anybody in USA that I am thinking of going there, please.)  If Sug is not going to be in Paris then he can take Jigeroo while I go to London.

In case Sug can’t keep Jig the whole time I might just possibly be able to come over for a short while which would do me lots of good.

NOTE:  If I come to your house for any time really you must be sure and let me know just exactly what one third of your housekeeping is and let me pay it sensibly.  This has already been talked over and agreed on if you remember so don’t do any lady tricks about it.

Now—your hint of spring air, fogs, and doves in old building gives me a thrill of anticipation.  I know I should love it.  I probably won’t be very diverting company and would prefer, if convenient, to be left out of the social activities you and Otto may be engaged in.  This, not from crankiness, but because, though I don’t think I will be an invalid that will need any attention beyond three meals a day, I really am going to arrive in an invalided state.  There is nothing the matter with me but winter and habits of worry, but I simply live so tired I can hardly wiggle, and I have acquired lately a very middle aged ailment in insomnia, for I stay awake about half of every night for some reason or other.  It doesn’t make me cross next day, honest, but it makes me darned disinclined to exert myself, and this feeling is emphasized by purely nervous heart fatigue and short breath that makes me behave when I have to climb a hill as if I weighed two hundred and eighty anyway.

Now is all this an alarming description of anybody you expect to have in your house?  I think a change of scene and an addition to the company will improve all those apparently physiological symptoms at once, but feel it my DUTY spelt thus, to let you know the worst before it happens.

           Lots of love and good luck and so much gratitude that I would sound mushy if I tried to state it.  Love to Otto.  Evelyn

* * * * *

Next week, Owen ends his relationship with Evelyn.  The heartbreaking correspondence vividly records Evelyn’s total devastation at this and the huge demands she made on her friends as she struggled to come to terms with its inevitability.

 

 

 

 

 

11. Bou Saada (2)

The first three months in the Algerian desert have been difficult for the Scott household as they adjusted to a new and completely foreign culture.  Evelyn’s letters reveal her desperation to see her friends as she pleads with them to visit, and the new year, 1924, begins with worries about money and poor health.

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

[Bou-Saada, Algeria]
January 3 [1924]

Dear DEAR, your letter just five minutes ago, and I shall answer instanta because it happens to be a moment between laps of writing and I like to talk back as your letters come.  Thank God, the Garland fund seems to be some use.  Merton was saved from the pit of destruction and landscape gardening for the time being, though having to pay two life insurance policies and send monthly money to his kids has made it go almost as fast as yours.  The Jewish woman who cooks for us was in a state today with Pyorrhoea and all her teeth falling out and it gave me the hump about what a lack of money does to you.  We all need the dentist some and I swore by my pet gods that any money we ever have over living had to go to dentists first.  You do too, Lola.

I appreciate your writing that letter when your fingers—or FINGER—had been at it all day.  I’m afflicted with a wart on my best type finger—the one I had before I went away—which is like a hoof and hurts so I can’t use it.  When the weather gets warmer I’m going to have an operation.  It came from typing on that one finger to the exclusion of all others and ought to be photographed to advertise good methods for stenographers.

One thing is disappointing.  I do WISH you could come over here for two or three months.  If not now later when we are back in France and the weather warmer.  You wouldn’t be annoyed with company, Lola dear, for I work six hours every day and Sug and Merton are gone all morning and all afternoon until tea at four thirty.  We never see a soul and it would be practically the same in France.  We live very cheaply and five dollars a week would cover any possible expense for you here, really it would.

Well, I ain’t guv the idea up.  Maybe the woman book will be finished and the library superfluous before we get back.

Did I did you that Sug and I are writing a child’s story together?[1]  It is a commercial effort in a sense as we all have no call of inspiration to kids, but I think you will all rather like it.  It is laid in Algeria and I have put, with Sug’s help at translating data, a lot of native customs etc in it, we have an exciting plot and a fantastic element, all the ingredients which Jigeroo approved. it was read out to him for criticism.  Merton is doing some delightful simple drawings for it.

We all love you and if your liver incites you to blue letters why for gods sake write blue letters.  We want most of all to hear from you.  Bless you and your art, Lola, and may the New Year do more for it what it deserves.  Bless your insides and make them behave as they should.  Bless Davy’s health, jobs, and university sources.

And please God, let Lola come to France sometime.
Most, most affectionately from all of us,  Evelyn.

[1]     In The Endless Sands

 * * * * *

To Otto Theis

[February 1924]

Dear Otto:

Don’t attempt to keep up with me, I answer all your letters five minutes after receipt.

This has been a kind of “old home” week, reviving habits and associations of the past.  Merton has a lame back gotten while day labouring, and his back went wrong, and the illustrations for the kid book, because he has never done such before and didn’t know how to make magazine cover pretty faces, nearly drove him wild.  Then we went over money accounts and I discovered that I had used some of the money Merton was going to send his kids in keeping house here (we run the accounts joint), and that we were in his debt (when he ain’t got a cent) and that we didn’t have enough money to go to Paris as Sug had hoped, and Sug had the worst nervous collapse of a day I’ve seen him have in a year—and—we’re still alive and love each other—but Gosh everybody is tired. We all, even me, behave better than we used to, but then moments of weakness ain’t entirely overcome.

Sug is crazy for you to see some of his pictures and so am I.  I hope you will honestly find in Siren some of the things I do, and golly—I hope—you will even see a faint practical chance.

Bou Saada 4 (2)
Bou Saada: The house of Master Dinet [Alamy stock photo]
Sug has suffered a lot lately from severe pains in his bladder and scared me to death, but he recuperates so whenever he does a good picture that I’ve decided that he has no ills but mental ills.  However their consequence may be as dangerous as any other, and Sug’s longevity depends on whether he can put over something, either books or pictures this year.  He is nearly destroyed by taking money from Marie as well as afraid it will be cut off, and the only justification to his pride for doing it will be putting over this work.  As for his going back to work as he talks of at times, he simply couldn’t.  He wouldn’t last a week.  He is acutely neurotic and his heart is worse and worse.  He continues to exhibit demoniacal energy by spurts, and if he has any luck he may begin to live more calmly, otherwise not.  Merton’s being with us which began for me as a doubtful and perhaps selfish experiment, has been entirely justified I think even for Sug, for Merton is sincerely devoted to Sug and admiring of him and appreciative of his qualities and is a perfect angel at helping to remove from Sug’s shoulders practical burdens concerned with the details of living.

I’m a fiend to make money now.  Kid book first commercial job of my life, and we honestly think it is valuable that way.  Jigeroo loves it.  Merton’s pictures go with the book but he wants a flat price and not a high one, they are seven colored drawings and very good and atmospherey of this place, done from Algy models.  If this kid book goes Sug and I will write one every two years.

Letter as usual all about us, but one important item, wither we get as far north as Brittany or not you and Louise M and kids gotta come.

           LOTS OF LOVE evelyn

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

February 24 [1924]

[page 1 missing] We agreed to pay half a gardeners wages to get our winter food supply out of this backyard and all we have had so far has been the violets a bowl of salad and a reddish or two.  And the old gardener, whose wages are two dollars a month, has every day another child die so he wants about two months in advance.  And to show he is worth it he picks me bouquets that are as compact and indestructible as indoor baseballs, and as sedate and defiantly surrounded by prickly foliage as a maiden Victorian with hairpins and frills.  If we could find the Arab secret of subsistence on nothing this place would be ideal for us.

But it isn’t ideal, and we don’t like Arab life a little bit.  It snowed today (Feb 24) though all the fruit trees are in bloom, peaches mostly, and only last week were warm and wonderful little shaggy powder puffs on stems in which blood seemed to run instead of sap, and bees and flies crawled and hummed, and the sky was like a blue rock and there were some little snow-foam of cloud right over the trees and it was like snow in the garden of Paradise.

You will wonder then why we don’t like Arab life.  It is because there is no intensity in it, even of machines, except the depressing intensity of sordid Arab religion?  Even if we can’t be rich I want to see somebody who is.  Never in Bou-Saada have we seen one woman in anything more regal than calico, never one child who wasn’t dirty and out at heels.  Occasionally a man is impressive by the height of his turban and the whiteness of his linen and the gorgeousness of silver embroidery on his velvet jacket.  But you know even he lives in a mud hovel and starves his wife.  We were almost swamped last month by trying on a little meagre charity, but it is another grain of sand in all the sand there is, and I don’t think the people are very unhappy anyway.  They don’t protest or want to.  And this stupid Koran which is going to take them all to heaven and such a dingy heaven anyway.  We think of Romanism as formulated, but that ritual gives much more than this deathly penance of learning parrot wise verse and lines verse and line and droning it morning and night.

Bou Saada 2 (2)
Bou Saada [Delcampe.net]
Today the administration is trying to make a hit with tourists and has arranged a falcon hunt. Lots of stodgy French and English from Alger down and have gone out thirteen kilometres to see the falcons loosed on some poor hares and pigeons.  There is also a dance of the Ouled Nails tonight and if I hadn’t got sick we would have gone. But I think the weather will cook that too as it is in a tent.  You see the Ouled Nails used to be almost like sexual priestesses but now they live in a licensed house of prostitution and are just a lot of mangy bitches as hard as nails and not much more lovely.  A funny thing is that the fact that they are femmes public has not modified certain religious modesties. A Mahomden may sleep with one of the ladies but he may not see her unclothed, nor any women than his wives.

Arabs have this awful puritan license, but it remains puritan for they condemn this world and the flesh and woman as a minister to the flesh.  See a ragged ragged old man, a man of fabulous rags, going by with a ragged dirty woman whose slippers are falling to pieces and held on with string, and she has her face as carefully veiled as if most of her anatomy wasn’t leaking through the rents and wears.  Wish people could see their own conventions in the light of others, but British etc come here, shake their heads, and go back to worship the Virgin Mary and attend balls with ladies nude, so to  speak, on the upper level.

Bou Saada 6 (1)
Bou Saada: Dancing  girls and women [Past-to-Present.com]
Yet Arabs aren’t a bit mystic.  Their God is sensual purely in the sense of external sensational non-subjective.  And their music so crass and terrible, their way of singing like brass—the brass city of Solomon in the story—a brazen external impenetrability.  Only difference from our puritans is that their contempt for this world is perfect and negative and not a living torturing effort at contempt.  And their next world has not such a poetic hell nor such a rapturous and complacent heaven.  Heaven you reach by hard work in reciting Koran and prayers, not passion, just rote.

They are so very mental and so naïve as well—but it is not emotional naivete, and their conventions have the perfection of fixity.  Their shoes which are the only pretty thing the women wear (the few women who wear shoes) of red leather have a touch of green thread a bit of silver embroidery very conventionalized and supplied with a restraint, a mental correctness, which would be westernly impossible to people twice as sophisticate.  The jewelry is fine in only a few cases, but mostly quite crude and heavy, of metalled five franc pieces and really made into jewelry as an easy way to preserve wealth among people who have no banks or closets or drawers or trunks to lock thinks in.  No furniture in their houses, in poor houses nothing at all but a pile of dry grass to sleep in, in rich houses a rug or two and maybe rugs on the wall, a taboret for coffee, brass trays to carry food in, no knives and forks.

Little girls have a nauseating and unpleasant precociousness and a total unintelligence, just a kind of suspicious cunning and no more concentration than rabbits.  They are never, in the country, educated at all, and as most boys learn only the Koran they are as bad.  Last week Merton walked out to a small oasis near here and was accompanied home by the son of the caid who was fifteen and had been married three years, and whom in spite of his distinguished lineage, begged old shoes old clothes penknives anything from Merton.  All children beg.  Even rich people’s children.  It is quite convention for a child to beg.

Our house is opposite the filthy jail and the overnight cell opens on the street twenty feet from my bedroom window.  So funny and so awful the continuous occupants.  First place every morning the French Jew police sergeant goes in to the CELL to pea [sic], there being no toilet in the police station, and comes out arranging his trousers with an entire complacency.  Stink ferocious.  Most Arab men object to being locked up (they are awful thieves and tricksters but have the self-esteem of red Indians, only the women crassly) and they pound and shake the door all night.  Twice recently raids on unlicensed brothels (Tom can tell you of one down on the motor road for he was pursued from there) have filled cells with ladies glittering with tinsel and tinkly with necklaces and bracelets.  When the door is opened I see inside dark shiny unrelated spots as if there were Christmas trees inside.  Then make out a fat woman having a drink of water out of a galvanized scrubbing bucket.  Some of the raided ladies insisted on their respectability and emerged to go to magistrate with their faces fully veiled.

Bou Saada 8
Bou Saada: Native dwelling [Delcampe.net]
Ellen also sent me her address so I imagined you wanted me to write to her, and the mood of response is certainly in me, yet I do make such a mess of new contacts that I feel somehow I ought not to take a risk that might spoil the possibility of a friendship when we meet.  You tell me exactly how you feel, but anyway please let her know that though I should be humanly flattered by a poem to me if it were banal.  I feel a very different and more profound appreciation when the poem is like this to stimulatingly harsh and yet lovely.  You see Lola I suppose if I have an ideal esthetically it is of the combination of the harsh consciousness, harsh because of its definition, emerging from the undefined and carrying with it a kind of intimation of its source that is even more unescapable than the definition.  Her work, to judge from one small specimen is less poignant less matured in consciousness than yours, but it has a good deal of your flavor—only don’t tell her that, for I don’t mean she imitates, only that one reason you like her is natural response and one reason I should undoubtedly like her (IF my judgement is right) is this identity of a quality in her with a quality in you which I consider precious.

CKS Sand Dune
“Sand Dune”: Cyril Kay Scott watercolour  [North Caroline Museum of Art]
Cyril and Merton and me and Jigeroo all love you so very much and so very much want you to be well and to finish the book but not to finish the book until you ARE well.  And our dearest love to Davy, please, and, and, and lots of things I don’t know how to write—

MY EYES FEEL BETTER FOR HAVING WRITTEN THIS
Evelyn.

* * * * *

To Otto Theis

March 3, 1924

Dearest Otto;

Gee, you have had a siege from Bou-Saada.  I’ve written Otto about one problem a week, maybe two, for the last month.  And listen, Otto, for Pete’s sake don’t worry about having had to turn the article down.  The reason I haven’t written any since you first asked me last year, is that I knew only too well what would be the result.  You see I can’t write with emotional vividness unless I have an emotional reason for doing it.  When you write a book, you always have a mystic belief that somewhere somebody is going to “understand you”—in other words accept your particular affirmations and denials.  Well, what you write for a journal that has a definite policy you know this wonderful understanding can’t be your object and so you (meaning me) feel cold to start on.  I haven’t any dash at all.  When I try to limit my own explorative function I just diminish my work without being able to make the oratorical bridges in which bunk is scarcely perceptible as bunk in which is the talent of the real journalist.

Bou Saada 2 (1)
Bou Saada [Past-to-Present.com]
What I feel behind your letter and your constant lovely decency to us, is that you are a damn tired man—lots tireder than you admit—and that we do wish vacation times weren’t so far away.  I think what you say about the crowded house is truly a lovely compliment to a finely satisfactory relation, but I don’t care how much you and Louise love each other, London is London and winter and measles and flue are such, and I’m sure you are all in deadly need of a change.  The cottage in Kent will help I know, but you must take that vacation, and damn it we insist, with us.

This seems to have been contradicted by my last letter which I wrote as a climax of a months fret over money.  What we said, or I said, holds good as commonsense, except that it will be probably next to impossible to arrange steamer fares just so, off the bat, so we had as well settle down to leaving in the very late summer or the fall.  In the meantime we are quitting Bou-Saada on the seventh and our address until we get a house will be care Mme Catherine Ramone de l’Homme, Faubourg, Collioure, Pyrenees Orientales, France.

We hope to get a cheap place at Banyuls where there is fine swimming or if not there Arles or Amelie le Bain.  Well let you know at once when we do.

Merton will be in London in May and give us mutual news of each other.  Cyril may get as far as Paris but I am going to stay down south.

Of course as a person I think Cyril has the most titanic personality, the most instinctive profoundness of emotion, the most mental stretch of almost anybody living and it will be to me another proof that utter cynicism is the impossible unattainable answer to life if he does not find any sympathetic channel of expression anywhere.

Of course one of the reasons I was most upset by the news that Seltzer would send me a hundred dollars on March 1st (haven’t gotten it yet, by the way) was the news I had that Escapade was selling.  I’m afraid that the Seltzers are not deliberate crooks but just are in such a hole that I may get nothing at all out of my work.

Now if you and Louise will come to see us we will talk of something beside ourselves.  And we will find a cheap place for you to stay. And I think we will all have a nice time.

Don’t feel my heavy correspondence a burden.  We see nobody at all and it is a relief to talk and I do it on paper but with no idea that a busy man ought to respond in kind.

Now, Otto, I ain’t as dangerous as I seem .  Love to you all.  Jig is in ecstasies over the stamps and will write to you.  I sent an order for the money on the books, thank you just the same for your generosity, and you must tell me what lacked, if anything.

Good luck and blessings, Evelyn

 * * * * *

The next letter in the collection is written from Banyuls in May 1924, after the arrival there of the Scott household. And soon their lives begin to collapse, beginning with Merton being taken to hospital in London, seriously ill.