41. Farewell to all that

On 12th March 1953 Jack and Evelyn boarded the TSS Veendam of the Holland-America line en route to New York.  In the absence of correspondence from this period (the reason for this is explained in the next instalment), Jack’s detailed diary entries give a flavour of their first fortnight back in the United States.

TSS Veendam
TSS Veendam (Holland-America Line)

* * * * *

Excerpts from Jack Metcalfe’s diary:

12 March 1953:  LANDED IN USA 7.30 breakfast,- then a flurry of packing, assisted by steward.  Long waits for immigration.  Over at last and landed Hoboken about 12.  Maggie met us, left dollars etc + then went off.  We got our baggage into a couple of cabs + and got it  + ourselves to Hotel Earle for some thirty dollars!  A nice suite, but expensive, + I got the rate reduced from $8 to $7 a day.  Phoned Maggie, who will call us on Sat morning.  ‘Phoned May [Mayers], Review, Davison.  Supper at “Southern Inn”.  Back to hotel.  Bed about 10.30.  Very rainy.

13 March:  Still raining in morning.  E + I breakfasted off coffee + doughnuts at Waldorf Cafeteria.  Wrote letter to Lt Cdr St Pierre + Mr Gaszinki [sp], + air-mailed them.  Went Dept of Naturalizati0n + Immigration, 70 Columbus Avenue, then to Grand Central,-where enquired re fares etc to Los Angeles.  Then walked to Cooks  + got remaining English + Dutch money changed.  Back by subway to 14th St + found E in Waldorf Cafeteria, where we had lunch. Back to hotel where had nap.  Set out for May’s at 3.30 + reached there at 4.  Cocktails, in which Lan later joined us.  E, May + I then dined out,-v. good steak.   Returned to May’s, + finally left at 9.30 and walked back to hotel.  Bed.

14 March:  Breakfast.  Called in vain on Charlotte [Wilder], who is still in hospital,-then called in vain on Hazel + on Fanny.  Back to hotel.  Maggie called and gave me cheque for remainder of Fund money.  After she had left E + I took laundry to “Joe’s” at Bleecker St.  Lunch at Cafeteria.  Back to hotel.  Doze.  Went Davison’s, then on to Bernice Elliott’s, where we had dinner.   Back at hotel by about 11.  Bed.

15 March:  Wrote letter in morning.  Nap after lunch at cafeteria.  Typed out copies of testimonials + of house-statement.  Dinner at Hazel’s.  Walked back to hotel through pouring rain.  Bed.

16 March:  7.30 breakfast at cafeteria.  Arrived late at dentist’s (Dr C I Stoloff).  Paid him $35.  Came back to hotel.  Out again and air-mailed letters to Uncle Jim and Mr Coleman (3s/9d cheque enclosed).  Cashed Margaret’s Fund cheque at Amalgamated Bank, Union Sq, + then put most of it into new a/c at Corn Exchange Bank, 7th Ave + 14th St.  Went 25 Broad St, + had lunch with Walter who will send $75.  Back at hotel by about 3.45. Nap.  Supper at Cafeteria.  Bed.

17 March:  Paid hotel $40.70. Breakfast at cafeteria.  Posted letter to Maggie.  Went to No 1 Wall St.  Left testimonials for photostating.  Dr Stoloff 1.30 to get dentures OK.  Back to hotel.  E + I to 5th Ave Hotel for cocktails with Elmer Rice.  Called on Fanny Sammes [sp?] at 27 Greenwich Ave.  Then had supper at Southern Inn.  E unwell.  Back to hotel.  Bed.

18 March: Air-mailed cheque for £2 to Hobson.  Went downtown and saw Mr Beamand’s secretary, + then made enquiries at Hanover Bank, 70 Broadway, 7th floor re sending money to England by “letter of delegation”.  Collected Photostats + came back to hotel. Lunch at Waldorf cafeteria.  Walter’s cheque (for $70) had arrived and I paid this in to my a/c at the Corn Exchange Bank.  Collected laundry and returned to hotel.  (Our luggage has been brought up from “cellar” for repacking). Had nap till about 5.30.  E wrote letters while I smoked.  Supper.  Bed.

19 March:  Took train tickets to Grand Central for changing to later date.  Lunch at Cafeteria.  Nap.  Dawn and Cully came at 5, with whisky.  Supper.  Continued re-sorting and –packing of baggage.  Lan came to hotel with car at 9 and took luggage (+ us) to May’s,  Left 7 pieces there.  Cocktails.  E + I walked back to hotel.  Bed.

20 March:  Cheque $25 from Hal Bynner via Margaret. Have nasty cold.  Got haircut after breakfast.  Went Grand Central,-but tickets not ready yet.  Visited three teacher agencies:-Stein (no good), American + Foreign, and Albert.  Lunch at a Horn + Hardarts.  Went one more agency (Miss Watson).  Then back to hotel.  Nap.  Supper at cafeteria.  Bed.

21 March:  Breakfast.  Bought small trunk on 3rd Avenue.  Walked back to hotel with it.  Went Grand Central and changed tickets OK at last.  Posted letters from E to Miss Sillcox + to Hal Bynner.  Bought Dutch tobacco.  Back by subway + bought little parcels [?] for dentures.  “Home” to hotel.  Nap.  Supper at Dawn Parnell’s.  Joe Gallacher came in later.  Back to hotel,- bed.

23 March:  Went Grand Central + arranged for luggage (6 pieces) to be called for tomorrow.  Paid $12. Back to hotel,-then called on literary agent, Margaret Chrintra [?] at 37 Madison Ave (Madison Square hotel, Apt 1220).  Left MSS with her.  Back to hotel, + found E had already lunched.  I went out + had lunch at cafeteria.  Back to hotel.  E set off with her MSS to Mr Russell, literary agent, + returned about 4.30.  After supper we took two more pieces of baggage (purple-lined & Hazel’s) to Lan + May.  Walked back to hotel.  Bed.

24 March:  Drew money from Corn Exchange bank.  Saw Mr Beamand at 10.30 + sent $40 to my Hampstead bank via Hanover Bank, 70 Broadway.  Very rainy.  E had had her lunch when I returned, so I lunched alone.  Van came for our 6 pieces of baggage at about 2.10.  Maggie called at 2.30.  I let at 4 + got receipt from Hanover Bank.  Returned to Hotel.  E + I had supper at cafeterial.  Went to May’s.  Left 2 packages.

25 March:  Wrote + posted letter to Westminster Bank, (air-mail), + to PO Station O, 217 W 18 ST re re-direction + letter from E to Paul, c/o Doubleday’s.  Registered at British Consulate.  Confirmed spelling of ‘Christie’.  Called on Mrs Walcott at St Luke’s School re teaching post notified by Albert Agency.  Finished packing + topping.  Lunch of stuffed pappers.  Taxi to Grand Central.  Left on ‘Pacemaker’ at 3 pm. ‘Dinner’ of a sandwich each + coffee cost us $2.50 plus 40c tip. Very little sleep.

26 March: Arrived Chicago 7.30 am.  Checked some baggage at Dearborn Station + breakfasted off bacon + eggs at ‘The Streamliner’.  Returned to Dearborn Station.  Wired Dr. Vincent.  Posted letter from E to Hal Smith.  Smoked in waiting-room. Left Chicago on ‘El Capitan’, 5.45.  Drunken man a nuisance.

27  March: On train all day.  Drunken man got off at Albuquerque.

28 March:  Breakfast at 6.  Got off train at Los Angeles at 7.15.  Contacted Huntington Hartford driver.  Got 5 of our 6 pieces of luggage from station, + were driven to the Foundation.  Had coffee.  Unpacked.  Lunch brought to our cottages at 12.30. Rang up station + found we have to pay $41 excess to get wardrobe trunk. Nap till 5. Supper at 6.  Got 2 blankets,-but heat not functioning.  E wrote ‘Min Tom’, + I put the letter in mail-box. Bed

JM diary 12 Mar 53
Jack Metcalfe’s diary entry for March 12, 1953

* * * * *

Jack’s financial problems were not resolved with the final payments from the Evelyn Scott Fund, and before they could leave London for New York, it was necessary to Jack to clear the debts arising from his ownership of No 26, a process that continued well into the 1950s as the attached correspondence shows. Inflation since the late 1950s has increased the value of these amounts:  £100 pounds in 1958 would be worth roughly £2200 in today’s money.

Warning to readers in the US:  At the time of this correspondence  British currency was “old money”:  pounds, shillings and pence.  There were 20 shillings to the pound, and 12 pence to the shilling, and these were written in the form £pp.ss.pp, the components separated by full stops.  In order to make sense of the figures it is probably easiest to ignore all figures after the first full stop.
In July 1952, Jack enclosed the following statement of his financial liabilities in a letter to Margaret DeSilver.  This includes a reference to the “Carnegie Fund”:  the charitable payment made to Jack and intended to cover the expenses associated with their residency at the Hartford Harrington Foundation in California.

* * * * *

Statement of debts which must be cleared before leaving England

Sheet enumerating specific debts which must be cleared before we can extricate ourselves from stay in England:

Gas owed at the moment—further quarter’s bill will  not be due until Sept 18th

129.18. 9

Repair of wall:  still owe Hobson

55.17. 6

Repair of roof:  still owe Taylor

10. 0. 0

Repair of floors removal of shelter—this is the work now under way, the estimate is approximate but can’t be more and is being done with proven real concern to cut the costs when possible Colman

45. 0. 0

Income Tax, approximate—have asked chartered accountant for statement—Preston

130. 0. 0

370.16. 3

or approximately $1033

Apart from Income Tax, could probably just manage to “get away” with the payment of half of debts now deferring remainders for instalments sent when we are free of the house.  Income-tax, however, as you probably realize must be paid in full and is in arrears.  Remember this house is taxed on its rentals and the frozen rents began this situation.

The Carnegie fund $500 was disbursed on house-debts and instalments on rugs and a few other things for renting as soon as it arrived, recently.  We haven’t bought any clothes or personal articles of apparel etc yet.  I am still wearing the shoes too worn-out to re-soled.  This is typical of conditions during these eight years since 1945.

Half the payments on non-income or tax debts plus full income tax as above would be about 250 pounds or $700.

* * * * *

After their return to New York Jack engaged in an effort to finally clear his debts and to sell the property that had proved to be such a millstone. The following correspondence between Jack and Mr Brimblecombe of Match & Co, the managing agents whom Jack had retained for years to manage the house and its lettings, set the finances out in great detail.  This correspondence highlights the consequences of Jack’s rash decision to install, unmetered, gas central heating and hot water in all the flats:  As Mr Brimblecombe points out several times, the cost of the gas represents the greatest part of Jack’s indebtedness.  The correspondence refers to the “furnished flat” (the flat occupied by Jack and Evelyn and rented, furnished, to tenants on their departure for the US) and the “unfurnished flats” or the three flats which were let out to tenants.

* * * * *

To John Metcalfe

Match & Co, Ltd
14 & 15 College Crescent
South Hampstead, NW 3
October 22, 1959

W J Metcalfe, Esq
The Benjamin Franklin Hotel
222 West 77th Street
New York 24, NY USA

Dear Mr Metcalfe,

re:  26 Belsize Crescent, NW3

Thank you for your letter of the 21st instant which I showed to Mr Jellis as he has been managing the property for a number of years, and I cannot do better than enclose his comments.

You will see, therefore, that you are under a misapprehension as to the costs involved in running this property and unfortunately the net income is nothing like £697 as stated by you.  As you will see from Mr Jellis’ report, the true net income is approximately £328 per annum.  This is subject to income tax and does not take into account any repairs of a major nature, replacements or repairs of furniture in the furnished flat, or loss of income whilst the furnished flat is vacant, and in considering these figures you must really bear in mind we are now obtaining for all of the flats  to-day’s true market rents and there is little likelihood of the net figure ever being increased.

In working out the figures, we have only allowed £100 a year for repairs which, on a building of this size, is small and if building costs do increase it might mean a further reduction in the net income.

Unfortunately, you are not now in a position to purchase the Freehold.  The Company who did buy the Freeholds from the Church Commissioners have now sold sufficient and are not prepared to consider disposing of any more.  This means that you must treat your investment on an investment basis only and bear in mind that the present term has only 18 years to run.

Taking into account the repairing covenants under your Lease, and here again I must emphasise that it is a full repairing one, this means complete re-decoration at the end of the term.  Depreciation is extremely high.  Taking a figure of only £2500 as the purchase price, this would mean, even ignoring interest, that this capital sum would be reduced each year by £140 and no tax allowance is ever made on a sinking fund.  In other words, if one takes the figures as supplied as being correct, you have a net income of £328 and with income tax at the standard rate, say £110, this leaves you approximately £200 a year and if yo deduct the loss of capital each year of £140 it seems that your true net income is negligible.

I do feel, as I have stated in my previous letters, that it is in your interests to see as if you do keep the property I cannot see any real income for you in the years to come.

Yours sincerely,
L S Brimblecombe

[The following is the attachment referred to in the letter above.]

 re:  26 Belsize Crescent

SECTION I

(a)  The rent of the furnished flat includes rates and water, central heating and constant hot water.

Net Rent   £409.10. 0

Less rates and water

£ 60.14. 5

1 qtr of central heating and hot water

110. 0. 0

£170.14. 5

Net income

£248.15. 7

(b)  The increased rents for the unfurnished flats are exclusive of rates and water, but inclusive of the cost of hot water and central heating.

SECTION II

(a) Electricity  The cost for the past year has been £2.10.0.  This, of course, covers only the landings and staircase.  Electricity in respect of the furnished flat is paid by the tenant.

Ground Rent  £32.2.0.  This is the gross amount before deduction of tax.

Water Rate  Furnished flat only—£4.12.5 per year.  This is the only charge payable by the landlord.

Insurance  £14.10.0.  This includes insurance of the furniture in the furnished flat.

(b) Gas  The new rents for the unfurnished flats include the cost of hot water and central heating, but are exclusive of rates and water.  The net increase, therefore, is not as much as £226  per year, as mentioned by Mr Metcalfe.

(c) Rates  The sum of £28.10.0 is for one half-year’s general rate in respect of the furnished flat.

SECTION III  Income Tax  The amounts shown as having been paid are agreed, but Mr Metcalfe’s accountants have not yet settled all tax liability for periods beyond 1945/55.  However, we have recently paid on the accountant’s instructions £142.1.9 representing the tax they have agreed for the years 1955/56 and 1958/59.  They are still negotiated with the Inspector of Taxes concerning the years 1956/57 and 1957/58.

SCHEDULE OF INCOME AND EXPENSES submitted by Mr Metcalfe

INCOME  The rent of the furnished flat is £409.10.0 (the sum of £419.8.0 includes telephone rent, which is not included in the schedule of outgoings).  The total income is, therefore, £1079.10.0.

OUTGOINGS

General rate of furnished flat

£ 56. 2. 0

Water rate furnished flat

     4.12. 5

Gas

  440. 0. 0

(All borne by landlord.  New unfurnished lettings are inclusive of the charge for gas.  The Housing Repairs and Rent Act 1954 does not apply to these lettings.)
Cleaner

32.10. 0

Cleaning material

4.10. 0

Insurance-building and furniture in furnished flat

14.10. 0

Staircase lighting

2.10. 0

Ground rent and garden rent

32. 2. 0

(Gross figure before tax deducted.)
Commission—Unfurnished flats: 5% of £670.0.0

33.10. 0

Furnished flat 7 ½% of £409.10.0

30.14.03

£751. 0. 0

This leaves a net income subject to tax of £328.0.0.

* * * * *

To L Brimblecombe, Match & Co

September 21, 1959

Dear Mr Brimblecombe,

Re: 26, Belsize Crescent, NW3

I.  I thank you for your letter LSB/JMC dated 8th September 1959, but am somewhat aghast at the figures given, and would need clarification of certain points before reaching a decision.

The position now as compared with the position just before I left England in ’53 has been improved by

(a) Letting of furnished flat at £419.8.0 (Since, previously, I occupied it myself “rent-free”

(b) Increased rents under Rent Act, gaining me £226.

(c) Recent termination of mortgage, relieving me of £210 p.a.

These three improvements total £855.8.0.

From ’39 to ’53 the house remained “solvent”, at least/.

I am getting £419.8.0 for the Garden Flat; and I wasn’t then (i.e. before leaving England).  I am getting an increase in rents of £226; and I wasn’t then.  I am relieved of the £210 mortgage; which I wasn’t then. . .

II.  Notes on certain specific points in attached list

(a) My figures for Electricity, Ground Rent, Water and Insurance are those for ’52.  Electricity and Water may now be higher, but not Insurance or Ground Rent.  Regarding Ground Rent, I used to pay Messrs Willett a quarterly sum of £4.9.3.

(b) GAS (and most importantly)
Under the Housing Repairs and Rent Act, 1954, tenants pay the increase in cost of services over (in my case) the 1939 figure.

III.  Apart from Schedule A and from Repairs etc, there should be, according to my figures, a yearly profit of nearly £700.

IV.  Certainly there will be some considerable expenses, the heaviest of these, for painting, re-pointing etc, having to be met quite soon, say during the next three years.  Putting these really major expenses at, say, £540, this would mean, on average, £180 pa for the next three years, cutting down profit, during those next three years, to £410 (£590 les £180) pa.

In ensuing years the repair expenses should not be so heavy—say £100 pa—leaving a yearly profit of £490.

My profits over the next eighteen years should therefore be:–

3 years at £410 £1230
15 years at £490 £7350
£8580

If these figures are anywhere near correct I should think more than twice before selling the house.

V.  It remains my hope, especially, to accumulate enough to purchase, if possible, the Freehold.  You will recall that it was offered me, shortly before I left England in early ’53, for £1300—and how I wished I had been able, then, to acquire it!  (See my letters of Novr 16 ’52 and Feb 13 ’53, and yours to me of Novr 18th, ’52.)

However we return to England we would not necessarily re-occupy the Garden Flat.  Our idea might well be to find cheaper accommodation in the neighbourhood, leaving the Garden Flat at least for a time still let,—and while also I resumed employment at my old school.  The figures I have given would thus be left undisturbed.

VI.  To sum up:–

The points I stress and on which I want enlightenment are:

(a) Gas has always been the most worrying item of expenditure,—and your quarterly statements, of course, do not show, in detail, how the gross gas-bill was diminished by the Tenants’  Contribution of £165.1.10.

Before the passing of the Act my tenants paid me, under a “gentleman’s agreement”, a voluntary contribution towards the constantly increasing gas expenses,—which contribution was, however, always considerably less than what I might equitably have asked.

Since 1954 the contribution has become mandatory instead of voluntary, and I would like to be assured that my tenants have actually been paying this since ’54, as this is not, of course, apparent in your quarterly statements.

Quoting again from your letter to me of 1st July 1954, in which you told me how the provisions of this Act applied to a particular instance:–

At the present time Mrs Hopper” (one of my then tenants) “is paying £30 per year towards the cost of services, and we therefore propose that the rent should be increased by a further £11.5.6.”

There is, further, the question of possible extravagance on my tenants’ part while I am not there to control, in person, the setting of the gas-clocks.  The price per unit no doubt has gone on rising, but not, I hope, the consumption, in therms.  Your quarterly statements, naturally, do not tell me this.

(b)   The question of acquiring the Freehold (dependent on all of the foregoing)

With all good wishes,
Yours sincerely,
W J Metcalfe

* * * * *

To John Metcalfe

October 22, 1959

Dear Mr Metcalfe,

re:  26 Belsize Crescent, NW3

We have been carefully considering whether it would be in your interests to sell the above.  We would like to draw your attention to the following:

1) Even with the increased rents the true net income is extremely small.  From our figures the gross income is about £1080, but the outgoings are over £700 a year and after payment of Schedule ‘A’ Tax, we doubt very much whether you receive more than £150 a year on the property, and this does not take into consideration any sinking fund for loss of capital or for dilapidations at the end of the term.

2)  The present Lease has now only 18 years to run.  It is, therefore, a rapidly decreasing asset and it might be that in a few years time the lease will be so short that you would be unable to see even if you so desired.

3) It must also be borne in mind that we  are dealing with a house now which is about 80 years old and the cost of maintenance is extremely high.  Owing to the very low rents obtained since the war, it has not been possible to repair the house and it will be necessary to spend quite a large sum on it during the next few years to put the house in good condition.  As you know, the Freeholders are already insisting that the exterior be repainted and from a brief inspection made by our Surveyor, there are several other items in need of attention, such as pointing, repair of window frames, doors, re-decoration of the staircase etc.

In other words, apart from ordinary maintenance, there is in our view a figure of something like £500 to be spend on the house during the next two or three years.  This means that the whole of the income is going to be swallowed up for at least three years and then you are left with a house with only a 15-year term.

We gather that your Accountants are sending you a full report as it is their view, as well as our own, that you would be very wise to try and find a purchaser.

With regard to price, it is a little difficult to say but we should imaging that the house in its present condition would be worth something in the region of £2000.  Thus sum could, of course, be invested by you with 5-6% interest and you would have no worries and your capital would remain in tact.

Perhaps you would like to consider the matter and let us have your views.

Yours sincerely,
L S Brimblecombe

 * * * * *

To L Brimblecombe, Match & Co.

October 5, 1959

Dear Mr Brimblecombe,

Re:  26, Belsize Crescent, NW3

Further to my letter of 1st October, which replied to one only (re painting estimates) of your two letters dated 25th September, I now take up again the question of the possible sale of the house, with which your second letter was concerned.

I see, of course, from Mr Jellis’s figures, that I was wrong in my own estimate of income, but before coming to a decision would like to make the following queries.

(a) Gas remains the villain of the piece.  It appears that the Rent Act, in my case, took away with one hand much of what it had given with the other.  The Rent Act increased my rents by £226 but deprived me of the £41.5.6 per unfurnished flat collectable from tenants under the Housing and Repairs Act 1954.  I had had no idea until now that this was so, and it does certainly rather upset the apple-cart.

(b)  Considering the fact that (with a present total gas-bill of £440) no less than £110 per flat, for this one item, must be borne by the landlord, I feel that, from the landlord’s point of view, the present rents are uneconomic.  In the instance of an unfurnished flat let at £225 virtually one half of his goes in gas alone,—and worse, of course, if gas-prices still increase.

My now unfurnished lettings, after the passing of the Rent Act, were for a period of three years, now beginning to draw towards its termination.

What are the prospects of an increase of these rents when the three-years period has elapsed?

Other landlords, besides myself, who provide central heating, will be feeling the pinch of exorbitant fuel-costs and will undoubtedly have to raise their rents; so why not I:  Since I bought the house, the gas-bill has more than quadrupled itself!

(c) None the less, the position now, as compared with the position in early 1953 when I left England, should show the following improvements:

(i) £226 increase in rents under Rent Act
less the £125.16.6 formerly collectable from three flats (at £41.5.6 per flat) under the Housing & Repairs Act 1954

£ 102. 3. 6

(ii) Net income, by Mr Jellis’s figures, from furnished flat .

£248.15. 7

(iii)  Relief from mortgage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

£210. 0. 0

£560.19. 1

I still cannot quite see (without at all contesting Mr Jellis’s figures) how so much of this gross gain of £560 odd has been absorbed an nullified by other, adverse, developments.

(d) Agreeing, however, the figure of £328 as the net income for the whole house, subject to tax, and calling the tax £100 pa, a “net-net” income of £228 pa would remain.  Eighteen years of this would represent £4104.

(e) The approximate figure, mentioned in your letter of September 8th, of £2000 as a selling-price for the house “in its present condition” would be disappointingly low.

If I did sell, my intention would be to leave the capital intact (and gathering utterly safe interest) until I returned to England.  I should then plan to use the money, or most of it, in purchasing some smaller place in, or within easy reach of, London (even as far out, perhaps, as Southend or Brighton, though I hope not).

Please forgive these personal details,—but the feeling of eventually having our own roof-tree is, of all things, most important to me.

For a somewhat higher price than £2000 (when the painting job is done that, anyhow, should increase the value of the house) this might be possible.

I should be deeply obliged to you if you could give me, quite unofficially and as a personal favour, even the roughest kind of idea as to the possibilities of purchasing a small freehold for, say, from £2000 to £2500.

With all good wishes,
Yours sincerely,
W J Metcalfe

* * * * *

To John Metcalfe

November 10, 1959

Dear Mr Metcalfe,

Re:  26 Belsize Crescent, NW3

As you know, we act for the Freeholders of the above and they have instructed us to put forward an offer of £2250 for your interest, subject to contract.  They will be paying our fees so this figure would be net to you.  They have also asked us to state that they would be quite prepared to delay completion if this would suit you, say, until next June.  This would, therefore, give you the benefit of the rents for another six months.

I do not know if this is their last work but I would be only too pleased to approach them again to see if I could get a slightly better offer, though I did not think they would exceed £2500.

You will remember that I have written to you fully on several occasions stating that in my view it would be in your own interest to sell, especially having regard to the fact that the income you receive is now very small and you are faced with the fact of having a very short leasehold property which will depreciate rapidly if you retain the premises.

I hope by now you have received a full report from your Accountant and I await your instructions,.

Yours sincerely,
L Brimblecombe

* * * * *

To L Brimblecombe, Match & Co

November 14, 1959

Dear Mr Brimblecombe,

Re: 26 Belsize Crescent, NW3

I.  Many thanks for your letter LSB/JMC dated October 22nd 1959, which I am sure gives a very clear, fair and well-considered picture of the position.

In view of all you say I have now decided to seek a purchaser for the property at a price of £2500 (Two thousand, five hundred pounds).

Supposing the £2500 to be obtained, I should do as you suggest,—invest in 5% gilt-edged.  I could then, as you also point out, realise at any time after we returned to England for the purpose of buying a property.  It was never my idea to re-invest in property now.

II.  Meanwhile, and if the house is still unsold for £2500 near the time when the present unfurnished letting-agreements will expire, I do think we should very seriously consider the question of increasing the rents.

I am most indebted to you for the careful thought that you have given to the matter.

Yours sincerely,
W J Metcalfe

* * * * *

To John Metcalfe

Match & Co
November 17, 1959

Dear Mr Metcalfe,

re:  26 Belsize Crescent

Thank you for your letter of the 14th instant which crossed my recent letter.

I am pleased to say that I have spoken to my Clients and they have instructed me to say that they are prepared to pay £2500, subject to contract, and I gather from your letter that at this figure you would like to proceed.

Perhaps, therefore, you would let me know the name of the Solicitor who will be acting for you and also when you would like completion.

With regard to the re-investment of the capital you may be aware that most Local Authorities, including the Hampstead Borough Council, are now offering 5½% and this, of course, is not only gilt-edge but you are in a position to withdraw your money at any time.  As a matter of interest I have asked the Local Authority to send you full details, although naturally it is up to you to invest where you think best.

I await to hear from you.
Yours sincerely,
pp L S  Brimblecombe

* * * * *

It appears that the house was finally sold in late 1959, although there is no information as to the eventual buyer who probably decided, due to its poor condition and the likely cost of maintenance if it were to be kept as a dwelling house, to sell the house to a property developer.  In any case, when I decided in 2005 to visit Belsize Crescent to see the property for myself I was surprised to find not a spacious Edwardian family dwelling on a generous corner plot but a 1960s block of flats bearing the uninspiring name of “Akenfield House”.  A sad end to part of London’s literary history.

26 Belsize Crescent - google maps
Site of 26 Belsize Crescent [Google street view–image taken July 2017]

 

 

 

 

 

40. The house at Number 26.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Margaret DeSilver

26 Belsize Crescent
June 8, 1952

My Dear Maggie,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Very much love, from
Jack

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

June 9, 1952

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

Maggie darling: 1952 Now November 7 months since sent

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love Evelyn

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

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

[June 29, 1952]

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

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

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

Your really loving and grateful
Evelyn for Jack

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

July 4, 1952

Maggie darling:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our love Evelyn for Jack too

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver


July 18, 1952

Maggie my dear:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *
To Margaret DeSilver

July 18, 1952

Darling Maggie-Margretta-Margaret-Maggie:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

July 27, 1952

Darling Maggie,

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings be upon you!
Jack

* * * * *

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

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

The following is Evelyn’s response to these comments.

* * * * *

To David Lawson

August 26, 1952

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

Dear Davy:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

To Charles Chaplin

September 23, 1952

Mr Charles Chaplin
Savoy Hotel
London

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

Dear Mr Chaplin:

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

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

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

 October 19, 1952

Maggie my dear Maggie:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love Maggie darling love
Evelyn

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

December 14, 1952

Darling Maggie,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

Lt Commander and Mrs Saint-Pierre1

March 1, 1953

Dear Mr and Mrs Saint-Pierre:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

 

30. Home again

No sooner had Evelyn returned to England than Jack (who was still a serving RAF officer), was posted to a series of RAF training schools, leaving her alone in the garden flat at 26 Belsize Crescent. This created a number of difficulties: Evelyn would have had no experience of being a householder in England, nor of managing a house full of tenants. And the house, instead of providing them with an income, as Jack had hoped, was fast becoming a massive financial drain.

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

No 1 RAF Instructors’ Course, Officers’ School
RAF Station Cosford, Wolverhampton
November 9, 1944

Darlingest Dear,

Just a few lines further to my telephone call yesterday, – and I do hope you are feeling fairly well and comparatively free from interruptions from the Pirunas, Gefunkuses and Hoci Poci generally.

All very oke with me, except, as I told you, carting that heavy suitcase was the very devil.  However, I’ve now got it all right.

I have a quite comfortable room containing only six beds, – and only one of these beside my own is at present occupied by a quite decent fellow.  The room has central heating and is quite decently warm.  Forgot my dressing-gown, but it doesn’t matter as I wear great-coat in lieu when going to shave etc, – so don’t send it on.

Had our first day’s work today—all quite interesting.  I’ve just had tea, and there is just a spot of evening work from 6 – 7, after which we have supper.  Breakfast is at seven and lunch 12.30.  We have “practice lessons” etc to give to the rest, so I’m now busy preparing mine.

Judging by yesterday I’m eating an awful lot! – a big tea at 4.15 just now.  Maybe it’s the colder weather.  Anyhow I’m very fit, – except for a recurrence of blisters on feet produced by lugging that suit case.  Pricked ‘em last night, and now almost oke.

But I’ll be awfully glad to be back home again you bet with my own chookie.

No more now darling,
All blessings forever from your own
Dickie

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

RAF Station Cosford
November 12, 1944

Darlingest Dear,

I hope you got my letter mailed on Thursday fairly promptly-though I’m told the post is rather slow here, out and in.

I have quite a light week-end, – from Saturday lunch to Monday morning free, – though of course I am employing it in swatting up for my next “practice lesson”.  None the less, I have got a couple of books out of the library just for relaxation, – one of them an excellent Freeman Willis Crafts called Found Floating, which I have just finished.

And yesterday I walked (in the afternoon) into the neighbouring village of Allbrighton to get a new bulb for my electric torch, and torch is pretty well a necessity here, since there is no way of getting up at the right, early time except by looking at one’s watch with the torch, – and of course my new torch went on the blink after two days use!  It’s all right now.  I also bought a ruler and boot-polish, having forgotten to bring them.

I’m still eating an awful lot!  It’s partly the colder weather, I think.  Yesterday, for instance I ate, – breakfast; eleven o’clock snack; lunch; large “high tea” with bacon chops etc; and then supper. . .!  So, like the missionaries of the ballad I am “keeping up my pecker”.

The nice Squadron Leader who shares this room with me leaves on Thursday, and then it seems likely I’ll have the room all to myself.

No more just now darling.  Look forward to the 22nd, junket!

All dearest love from your own,
Dickie

PS  No letter from you yet, but expect I may get one tomorrow, Monday

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Royal Air Force Station
Staverton Near Gloucester
July 1, 1945

Darlingest Dear,

Here is Sunday and thank goodness the weather today seems better.  It’s been pouring with rain recently but this morning there’s a bright sun.  I hope you got the letter I posted on Thursday. This, though posted today, won’t actually be collected till Monday so you won’t get it till Tuesday I fear.

All well with me.  The work is interesting and there’s a fair amount of free time in the evening.  Today, Sunday, we have a short period of work in the morning only.

Yesterday (Sat) afternoon I and another chap went into Cheltenham by bus between 4 and 6, – shopped and had tea.  I needed some ink, also toothpaste.

Thanks for your two letters (so far) darling.  Hope the kid1 is not being too much of a nuisance.  If we should stay at 26 Belsize he will have to go, – but supposing I am amongst those selected for this job it will almost certainly mean posting away in a few weeks time.  The temporary dislocation, getting accommodation, etc would of course be a nuisance but the job would be worth it and we might be quite comfortable for a year in new surroundings.  We should then be able to put by money for purchase of small house at end of it, and then put up No 26 for sale.

I expect to have a week or so anyhow free, after conclusion of course and before being posted (if I get selected), in which to do packing etc (as well I hope as some writing!)—but there would be no harm in your doing a little preliminary sorting and tearing-up of papers etc whenever you liked, to avoid rush at end.  Though I don’t think there will be a rush, and anyhow I may not get the job.

All love and blessings, ever your own
Dickie

PS  Ask Hobsons to repair cracked lavatory pan and give them the broken pieces.
PPS Send me on Ogg’s2 receipt, and other letters, please.
PPPS  You should get your new ration books soon, – but not on July 4th or 5th because of polling.

It appears the child of one of Jack’s tenants was being a nuisance.
Hobson and Ogg were tradesmen who did various repairs at No 26

* * * * *

26 belsize cres
Jack in front of 26 Belsize Crescent

To John Metcalfe

26 Belsize Crescent
July 10, 1945

Beloved Dickey  The job in your room is varnished and ready for your occupancy as soon as it is straightened—the room I mean.

The sensible solution will be for you to continue to live in your own house and of course the only ultimately sensible solution for us is the opportunity to proceed with your books and I with my books as literary value is our real contribution to any decent future.  The hell with “mass handling” any way!  War conditions may have imposed it to some extent but nonetheless true recovery depends on giving each man or woman the opportunity to pursue the work to which he and she are suited by reason of natural abilities.

I wish you were getting a longer rest between the end of the course and the posting but in any case hope your job will be near home.

I asked about the riveting of the toilet bowl that was broken and was told by Hobson’s man that riveting would cost as much as a new one, but he is to ascertain the price shortly.

I have been trying to shop and tried to get a pair of shoes at John Barnes without success my feet being a size smaller than anything suitable they had.  But I shall continue and will get something eventually I am sure.

I will not seal this until tomorrow as I won’t be able to mail it today and I will follow your instructions and forward nothing after the twelfth.  I don’t quite understand what sort of job the job is1 and shall be interested in what you have to say about it bless you and good luck

Evelyn

Jack had completed an instructors’ course at RAF Staverton which prepared him for a position counselling airmen about to be demobbed on their career choices. He appears to have enjoyed this work very much and to have been good at it.

* * * * *

To John Metcalfe

July 10 [1945]

Darling Dickie, Splendid that you have successfully completed your course and I am sure congratulations are well deserved.  I shall be seeing you soon and am very happy thinking of it.  That you indeed for phoning to let me know.

Fisher is writing to Ogg and says he has also phoned him and satisfactory arrangements will be made.  But I won’t attempt sending the letter as you will be here so soon.

Yes I hope we may be able to stay here too.

Bless you, Evelyn

Too much “pooh-pooh” and “awful brat” but otherwise all well.

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

RAF Staverton1
July 24,1945

Darlingest Dear,

As I told you yesterday on the ‘phone, I got here all right, though the taxi failed to show up and it was an exasperating job getting another one.  However, I arrived in time for dinner, so no harm was done.

So far, Hornchurch still stands, as the selected base, and I do hope it so remains, as it is so close in to London as to enable me to live at home, – though there will be occasional nights away when I am visiting some station at the other end of the country.

Probably, I shall have the driving test, final billeting, etc tomorrow, Wednesday, and may be able to get home on Thursday for one night, before reporting to Hornchurch on Friday. Then (I anticipate) I can get home again Sat afternoon, or Sunday anyhow, after spending either one or else two nights at Hornchurch.

Then, for the two following weeks probably, my job will simply consist in visiting each station in Essex so as to get to know the CO, etc at each one, preparatorily to starting in as the actual Advice Service which is not due to begin till August 7th or 10th.

There has been a hold-up in the supply of cars, which will not be delivered till the actual job starts, – so this preliminary “tour” of the area will have to be done by train and bus etc.  Rather a nuisance, since it means paying fares out of one’s own pocket in the first instance, and claiming for expenses later.  Also, no arrangement has yet been come to for the designation of an accounting unit to pay all our allowances, which may be held up some time in consequence.  One or two fellows here have had no allowances since April!  Of course it will be all right ultimately, but until it is fixed up current “income” is only about two thirds of normal.

Anyhow, I shall hope, during the next twelve months, to put by as much as possible for eventual purchase of cottage2.  On Monday, when I had cloaked my stuff at Paddington, I saw Smorthwaite, the Bank Manager of the Westminster Bank, Haverstock Hill, – and started a small account.

I hope you have not had too much Piruna, – and down and out with all Totes.  No totes. . .!!! – Wonder what the election results will be.  We shall know on Thursday evening, – or Friday morning anyhow.

Bless you always, – All dearest love from your own
Dickie

Although headed RAF Staverton, it appears Jack had arrived at his new posting in Hornchurch, Essex.
Jack had hoped to use some of the proceeds from the sale of Jove Cottage to buy another cottage in the country. This hope proved to be unrealistic.

* * * * *

In January 1946 a third child, a son, Matthew, was born to Jigg and Paula.  Jigg was working in Chicago at the time, and Paula had been staying with her father and stepmother in Nyack, New York, a small town on the Hudson River not far from Tappan.

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott and John Metcalfe

Tappan, New York
April 10, 1946

Dear Evelyn and Jack,

The first thing you will be interested to know is that our third baby—a boy named Matthew was born in Nyack on Jan 21st, 1946.  He is now aged roughly two and a half months and is doing fine.

I haven’t written before now for several reasons, mostly illness for one or the other of us—the winter has been a long series of colds and flue, for all of us and I’ve had my hands full.  Also we are in the un-enviable position of having the house we are in sold and although under law they can’t put us out for three months after they start trying, we’re looking for a place to live without buying, which is so nearly impossible as to be almost funny.  We’ve been hunting for six months, in spurts, and not one single house for rent.  They’re all for sale at high prices.  The situation is so desperate that people are being forced to buy whether they want to or not, which if we can possibly avoid it we are not going to do.  And it’s like this all over the country—the housing shortage here is worse than it is in England, in spite of the destruction of the bombings.  It would be unwise of you people to come to the States at this time, since you would have one hell of a time finding a hole in the wall even, in which to live.  Congress is about to pass a bill putting a ceiling on the prices of already built houses, and encouraging the building of new houses, which will help.  But the situation will probably not ease up for a year at least.  We, along with everybody else are caught in the jam, and yet we at least have a place to hang on to by the skin of our teeth if necessary, but heaven help the ones who don’t.

As for the rest there is not much.  As for a job for Jack, Jigg has absolutely no contacts with the academic world.  The best thing we can suggest is applying direct to schools and colleges—they are having a boom—college attendance is at an all time high now and it probably wouldn’t be too difficult to land something.  Best of luck.  Love, P

These letters fill me with loving distress on hearing of her Jig and the now four [sic] children—they have endured brutal injustice.  Jig’s Mother, London 1952, November

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott and John Metcalfe

[Scotch Plains, New Jersey]
May 9, 1946

Dear Evelyn & Jack:

I am ashamed to have waited so long to answer your good letters.  The truth is I’ve been suffering from pip about the world and even my own work and haven’t been fit company either in person or by letter!  Please forgive me!

There is little personal news except that my job is completely over1 except for occasional work.  I’m glad in a way and ought to get back to writing.  I hope I will.  But there are so many things that must be done—Dudley called them the mechanics of living.  And when I’ve done the minimum, I seem to feel just too tired.  I’m hoping it is just the reaction and that I’ll soon get a little pep and will power again.

Then, too, I do want to get in touch with friends again.  I did get over to Tappan a week or so ago and had a grand visit.  I don’t know any place that has a friendlier and happier atmosphere.  They were all well.  Denise is always growing lovelier and Frederick was amazing.  The baby was very sweet though he was away asleep the greater part of the time.  He looks somewhat like Frederick at his age, but has a personality of his own, too.

I’ve been too self centred and haven’t asked a thing about you two.  Please write anyway.  I will again and soon.

Love
Glads

1 For years after Dudley’s death, Gladys worked as a freelance parfumier. She had a fully-equipped laboratory in the basement of her house in Scotch Plains.
There was a paper shortage in Britain during and for some time after the war. Gladys, among others, sent supplies to Evelyn when she could.

* * * * *

In May 1946 Jigg left his job at ABC. He had been offered a job at WBBM in Chicago, part of the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) and went on his own to Chicago, hoping to find accommodation which would allow him to bring his wife and children to Chicago to join him. This proved not to be possible: as Paula wrote, “Housing was available, but not to people like us. To get an apartment in the city one had to pay a year’s rent in advance and buy the landlord a new Chrysler or Cadillac. New-car prices were still very inflated because production had not yet caught up with demand.”

WBBM
From “WBBM Listening Guide”, June 1946

Meanwhile Cyril had married for the seventh time. His new wife, Louise Lotz (known as “Weecie”), owned a house in the pleasant little town of Pine Bluff, North Carolina, not far from Chapel Hill, and the couple moved there. It was decided that Paula should take the children to live near Cyril, and that Jigg should fly down to join them whenever he could at weekends. This separation continued for a year, until Jigg joined his family permanently in Pine Bluff in August 1947. The family stayed there until August 1949.

At this time, too, Cyril had reverted to using the name of his birth, and had personal stationery printed “Frederick Creighton Wellman”. Paula writes of this, “When I arrived in Pine Bluff, Dad [Cyril] immediately introduced me to people, without any warning whatever, as his daughter-in-law, Mrs Creighton Wellman. There was nothing I could do about it, and Daddy [Jigg] was suddenly Wellman, too. We had to spend our entire three years there as Wellman, which produced awkward moments for us. . . . Even getting mail meant that we were accepting mail for a cousin, something, when addressed to “Scott” and all our friends had hurriedly to be told to use Wellman. Dad, however, kept to Wellman for the rest of his days. . . Dad hoped that we would make the change permanent, but we reverted to Scott as soon as we left in August 1949, with a great deal of relief.”

Jigg left his Chicago job after a year and came to live in Pine Bluff full time where he and Paula tried to set up a creative business; Jigg drawing and painting and Paula designing and making greetings cards.  No doubt the idea for Paula’s enterprise came, at least in part, from the fact that when she was a child her parents had created a successful greetings card business from their home in Taos, New Mexico. Although Paula’s ideas had a good deal of approval and practical support from many of their friends, the business never took off.

At this time, Evelyn writes on a number of occasions that the family went to Lumberton, North Carolina, about 200 miles from Pine Bluff,, to live rent-free on a farm owned by a Negro in return for labour. There is no evidence for this unlikely scenario:  neither of the two eldest Scott children has any memory of this, though both would have been old enough to remember it. However, years after his death, large detailed maps of Lumberton were found in Jigg’s papers: he may have considered this course of action, and never actually gone.

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

RAF Staverton
July 3, 1946

Darling Dear,

Just a note to say I love you and look forward to Saturday next!  It was nice to speak to you on the ‘phone.  Hope you got your dress OK.  All well here.  V hard at work.  I expect a week at home before being posted; and then, if it is not London, I must find accommodation for us as soon as I possibly can.  Of course I hope it may be near enough to London to go on using No 26, – but it’s just a chance.

If selected, I shall be in charge of an “area” or “parish”, and go from station to station in car which will be provided.  Each “area” has a Headquarters Station to which I shall be attached, – and if the area is not London it means that I shall have to find accommodation for us there.

Down and out with all totes!

Dearest love always from your OWN
Dickie

PS  Better not forward anything after July 12th at latest.
PPS  Don’t forget your new ration book!

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

RAF Staverton
July 3, 1946

Darlingest Dear

Just a scribble to follow up letter posted yesterday.  The mess and everywhere is clean out of cigarettes. Can’t get them anywhere, or of course I would send some.

Thanks for letter and enclosures.  If you have not already sent it, you may as well keep Ogg’s receipt, very preciously, – but if you have already forwarded it, never mind.  Shall write Fisher.

All well here.  It has been cold and rainy, but today quite hot and I hope it will keep so.  If I get this job there is just a chance that I may [bottom of page torn off] . . . mentioned my circumstances to the powers that be, and they hope they may be able to take them into account.  The job itself, as a job is a good one and better than I could get elsewhere, and, thank goodness, two novels only need revision and Scilly perhaps ¾ done.

The course, I find, was supposed to be a three weeks one, – but someone made a mistake, – so now, as a compromise, it will be about 2 ½ weeks, – and will end on Saturday July 14th, – i.e. Saturday week, – two days later than we thought.  Then, as I said, I hope for a week or so before posting, – and then (if it is not London area) must find accommodation for us.

All dearest love and blessings from
Your own
Dickie

* * * * *

As the war drew to a close and the  world was learning to cope with the aftermath, Evelyn’s letters became more and more critical of post-war politics.  Her letters included lengthy, sometimes incoherent, passages attributing political decisions to vague forces emanating largely from socialism or communism or a mixture of both.  Her vocabulary, also, began to include words without dictionary definitions whose meanings were crystal clear from the context.

* * * * *

To Creighton and Paula Scott and three children

July 4, 1946

Dear Creighton Pavla Denise Freddy Mathew

Soon we hope to be writing of real peace with NO repetition of last spring’s fiasco.  I sent you a number of clippings last week, but this week seem to have accumulated nothing of interest.  However, Paris peace conferences must have a result shortly when there will be something to write about that isn’t drivel.

Down and out with tote systems
Cause and effect function just the same
Regardless of the political game!
You can’t make a world of dupes and fools,
You can’t save anything with racketeers tools!
Down and out with the totes NOW NOW NOW
SPEAK SPEAK SPEAK SPEAK SPEAK SPEAK SPEAK

Further political mummery is simply ruin anywhere and everywhere!

Every shopping tour I am bombarded by inanity which is attributable to political symbolics, as you might say, the soap situation being an example, as there is almost no soap to be had and those who are actually not allowed free public expression of opinion and whose views are therefore to be summed up as a mere x or zero make euphemistic capital of a literal lack–and it is all very stupid!  Inexcusably so!

But the nostalgia for civilization is growing and as uno1 seems to be a complete failure–and world economic control such as it has proposed can be nothing but a damnable extension of the disasters of present experiments–somebody and anybody must surely take a decisive stand SOON and we hope it will be sensibly moderate, neither the foolish “umbrella” policies of Chamberlain, nor the quite as foolish extreme opposition.

Did you get the letter asking about my father2 and if you had any recent news of him?  I have been thinking of the unnecessary difficulties extremists of both persuasions have made in the South, and that this has probably complicated the problems of the USA which, in turn, delay peace.

Pavla’s letter is something for which I remain grateful and the other letter we hope Jig will write us is also going to be much appreciated.  It is a damnably wicked and inevitably disastrous thing when circumstances resulting from politics interfere with human relations and individual careers, and the indifferent service of the post office is illustrative.  The American typewriter paper Jack and myself need has been sent us by three individuals and some of it has been over three months en route and isn’t yet delivered, and that is just one item in the general inefficiency and confusion that still prevails everywhere.

No nation, race, country, people can afford any further war and the solution must be NOW if we and the USA are to escape from chaos  No rings and no rackets!  Without controls these won’t exist.  No living under the political eye–that’s hell!!

Affectionately

This appears to be a reference to the newly-created United Nations Organisation. Evelyn clearly disapproves.
Evelyn had just discovered that her father died three years previously. The letters relating to her search for information about his death and his will will be presented in a future instalment of this blog.

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

RAF Staverton
July 5, 1946

Darling Dear,

Thanks for letter and Ogg’s receipt.  I have written to Fisher to tell him to put in hand the Discharge of Mortgage as soon as possible before he has to rejoin the RAF.

All well here, and I hope you are.  Have you been able to get your new dress yet?  I wish I could have left you more for it darling, but I thought I had better clear all Ogg while I could, – and for that I had somewhat to overdraw at the bank, so I have not so much in the pot at the moment.  If it so happens that we are able still to use the present house, then Derek must go, of course.  But the probability (barring specially favourable treatment, which of course I am trying for) is that I should be appointed to some other area, in which case I should have to go ahead to the station, and find accommodation for us as quickly as I darned well could:  I imagine a week or so might elapse between July 14th Saturday, when the course here ends and I come home, and my posting to an area.  If I am appointed it will mean catering for the requirements of a county or so, with a staff of 5 or 6.  A car is provided and I must dig up my driving licence again.

Lectures very interesting and a healthy bias against robotism.  Psychometric tests used with plenty of salt.  Chief Instructor an excellent type and most humanely and culturally minded.

I do hope you are getting on with what, pro tem, we call the “novelette”.  As soon as we are settled, after the interval of dislocation, we can both get on with our books I hope.

All, all dearest love, and DOWN and OUT with the Totes!!!
Yours
Dickie

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

1952—This letter without address other than the “Col Broadcasting System” Chicago on her envelope relieved yet distressed me.  We heard nothing more for three years thereafter.  Evelyn D S Metcalfe—Evelyn Scott author

[Pine Bluff, North Carolina]
July 11, 1946

Dear Evelyn,

As to your enquiries about us—we couldn’t very well be worse placed, within reason.  Jigg’s NYC job with American Broadcasting Co (ABC) came to an end last March, and it took a long time to get another, which he finally did, in Chicago.  He is living in a hotel because apartments and houses are not to be had without paying an exorbitant price for the furniture on top of the also exorbitant rent, and in view of such a profitable racket there are no unfurnished places to live.  He’s managing on 30 dollars a week, sending me what’s left.  I am living with friends who kindly offered me and the children sanctuary until the housing shortage is over.  I can’t find a place in NY because although not quite so bad as Chicago, it is bad enough to be out of the question.

We are all well and looking forward to bring reunited—probably in Chicago wherever and whenever the situation lets up sufficiently for us to afford a house.

Good luck to you both, and to Jack’s book.

Paula

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

RAF Staverton
August 21, 1946

Darlingest Dear,

Just a scribble—My release date is Aug 28 Wednesday (a week today) and I’m afraid it means staying here until then, as my leave entitlement is now exhausted, – unless I come up just for “the day” on Sat or Sun.  But even so I have have to be back here Sun evg.

But I expect to be home late on Tuesday evening (the 27th), – then I go to Uxbridge for actual release on the following day, Wed.

So it means six days from today before I’m home.  I hope you won’t get too lonely darling, – anyhow it’s for the last time.  And I do hope you can manage to get some cigs and to do some writing.  As for me, I have a fair amount of form-filling and “clearing” to do.  Saw Accts Officer at Barnwood yesterday, who were v nice re my claims.

Also of course I am idle of an evening to get on, to some extent, with the book, – in pencil, – so I need only “manually type” it when I get back.

Bless you and bless you
All love darling
Dickie

* * * * *

Cyril’s autobiography, Life Is Too Short, was published in 1943, but for a number of reasons Evelyn did not see a copy until 1946.  When she did finally read it, she was incensed by what she saw as Cyril’s defamation of her character, and she wrote numerous letters in protest.  Some of her letters offered her own (highly unlikely) explanation of how the manuscript might have been altered.  Next week all will be revealed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

27. Recovery, two deaths and a granddaughter

Very little correspondence remains of the period between Evelyn’s separation from Jack and the summer of 1937, when Maude Dunn died.  During this time Jack managed to sell Jove Cottage and returned to London and to the Royal Air Force.  It is very likely that, as a former reservist from World War I, he was called up when it looked as though Britain would be involved in a second war, although he may have rejoined voluntarily.  The tone of his letters indicated a much improved mental state.

Although Jack was stationed at RAF Kinross, he used the address of his old friends in Claygate, Surrey during this time for security reasons. Letters from this period also include references to his house in London, which he presumably bought with the proceeds from Jove Cottage.  This property, 26 Belsize Crescent in the pleasant suburb of Hampstead, was a large house on three storeys plus a basement. Jack planned to let out flats on the three floors and to live with Evelyn in the basement, using the rental from the flats to service the mortgage and to support himself and Evelyn. For reasons that become obvious later the property became, instead of a source of financial security, a huge financial drain which will merit a chapter on its own.

Following her return from Brazil in 1917, Maude lived with her Gracey cousins in Clarksville, Tennessee.  She was effectively a pauper and Evelyn supported her when she could with a modest monthly allowance, scraped together from her small earnings from her writings.

* * * * *

Will of Maude Thomas Dunn

I want my only child Evelyn D Scott Metcalfe (novelist) to have everything I possess.

Maude Thomas Dunn

April 6, 1937
Clarksville, Tennessee

MTD will

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

c/o Abrams, 66 Perry Street, NYC
Sunday [Summer 1937]

Darling, I hate this awful building up of days and distances between us but I know nothing can affect our very deep fundamental rapport and that love once felt for a person wholly though it may sleep in expression can rise when called for from whatever apparent tomb of silences. No dearest I am not ill, but just sapless.  Some days I think I must have TB1, again that I am on the brink of declining from some unnamed obscure malady; and in the end when I rest it is just that—fatigue—and rest is really all I need.  Jack’s situation is very, very tragic; and I can’t quite recover from my own decision, which my mind still approves, to save myself at the risk of his own chance of complete reestablishment.  He went back to England, and I won’t write to him until he is thoroughly in control again as it only harrows under the circumstances.  He has every logical chance of being OK, again and greatly improved before he left; but finance and discouragements to writing are dreadful things for a man to bear alone who has just been through his ordeal—psychological collapses are worse than anything physical and I say that knowing at least enough of the physical not to be a fool of unimaginativeness.  But at the worst if you are ill in body you die.  So I was very glad the doctors so conclusively diagnosed him as not a case of insanity, but just break down, which is vastly different in the medical meaning.

Jig is writing a novel,2 Lola—don’t tell.  I think it is marvelous in lucid, lucent reticent style.  Lots of sad things come out in it however and the theme may make it difficult to sell today.  [remainder of letter missing]

It is very possible that recurring references to chest problems indicated early symptoms of the lung cancer which eventually killed Evelyn. 
Jig’s only novel, The Muscovites, was published in 1940

 * * * * *

To Louise Morgan

28 Craven Terrace, London W2
September 23, 1937

My Dear Louise,

I meant to write or ‘phone you for several days, but have been rushed.  Darling, something you said over the ‘phone annoyed me, and I prefer, particularly in my present irritable mood, to get my little “mads” off my chest.

You said I made “excellent first impressions”. What I would point out is that even that is pretty darned good for someone who, ill-advisedly, sought a better world, or no-world, only a few months back, and was told by his doctor that he was foolish to think, as yet, of so much as applying for a job.  The whole business in NY took me at a most staggering disadvantage.  I’d given up the house [in Walberswick] for what seemed, after weighing pros and cons, the joint good of both, but the actual doing of it was such a fearful wrench that I arrived a temporary wreck and said and did utterly misrepresentative things which precipitated the break.  The break itself was hardly therapeutic with effect and the vicious circle was prolonged.  It’s completely unjust, my dear, to judge a still-sick, if recuperating, bloke by standards applicable to the quite robust.  I’ve survived enough to tip the strongest, let alone someone taken between wind and water in the middle of a nervous breakdown.  I consider the whole thing a most grotesque pity, and an enormous waste of time, nerves and emotions.  I want, of course, to cut losses as much, and as soon, as possible.  Evelyn’s action is historically and psychologically comprehensible, and while I think it misguided and quite as much of a pity for her as for me, I see how it happened detachedly enough, and leave it at that pro tem.  Meanwhile, I can, with recovered health, live my own life, and get as good milk as has been spilt.

Love, – see you soon,
John

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

Officers’ Mess, No 14 FTS
RAF Kinross, Morayshire, Scotland
July 23, 1939

Dear Lola,

I’ve been meaning to write for a long while, and wondering how you are getting on.  I do so hope you are feeling fitter than when I last saw  you, and that you are able to work some.  The way you have carried on all these years in the face of so much illness and discouragement should be an example to anyone.

As for me, I’m back in the Air Force as you see and comfortable enough.  I came up here in May.  I was hoping to be posted nearer London, so I could use my own house1, but this station has its advantages.

Work is varied and interesting—but leaves little time for my own writing.  However, I manage a little now and then.

The country round here is quite lovely in its way, but we’ve been having an awful lot of rain;—it’s been general, all over England too.

I wish I could have remained longer in New York and seen more of you and of Davey while I was there.

Over here there is, of course, the usual talk of war.  There’s no telling really what will happen.

RAF Kinross
RAF Kinross, c 1935 [commons.wikimedia.org]
This station is quite new, and only partially built.  At present we are in hutments.  It’s all very familiar though it’s twenty years since I was demobbed and twelve since I came off the Reserve.  The CO is a very decent sort of bloke and the crowd as a whole not at all bad.

Ever so much love to you dear Lola, and all the best to Davey from
Jack

PS  Am worried about Evelyn who seems, from her recent letters, to be having a hard time of it.  And I, at the moment, have to put every cent from my pay into the house or, if I miss a payment, lose the whole thing.  But if I can hang on for a few months longer I will have rounded the corner.

This is the first reference to the house in London, 26 Belsize Crescent.

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Care of F Walton, Esq, MA
Lime Cottage, The Avenue,  Claygate, Surrey
September 6, 1939

Darling Dear,

Hope you got mine of yesterday, explaining that, as serving officer, my address, in all letters written to “abroad” has from now on to be care of “relative or friend”.  Uncle Frank’s is above, so write to me care of him, in care of Cousin Gertrude (Winds End Riding School, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire), or at Uncle Jim (27 Viceroy Lodge, Hove 3, Sussex).

The particulars of our marriage certificate which, as I told you, I may have to forward to Air Ministry are:–

State of New Mexico
County of Rio Arriba

William John Metcalfe       of Alcade, New Mexico
Evelyn D Scott                      of Alcade, New Mexico

Sixto Espinosa Justice of Peace
Witnesses:  C K Scott, Phyllis C Scott

17th March 1930

Marriage Record Book No 8 Page No 637
Jose W Valdez County Clerk

And on back is “Marriage Licence”—No 4478

So I should think all you need quote for 2 certified copies is—the names, date, Marriage Record Book No 8, Page 637, and Marriage License No 4478.

Darling dear, this has to be just a “business” letter written in an awful scramble.  Will write better later.  All my heart and thoughts are with you and I’m yours for ever and ever, and we’ll get together sometime.

All all love
from your
Dickie1

Shall try to write lovey whenever I can, – but without [illeg] all the circumstances you could hardly credit how difficult.  If letters are delayed, don’t worry.  Yours to me, too, may be held up or undelivered now and then.  But one thing you may always be sure of, – that I love you with all my heart and soul and life, and we’ll be together soon or late, according as the situation shapes out.

1  Evelyn’s pet name for Jack

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Claygate, Surrey
October 15, 1939

Darlingest Dear,

Just got two letters from you—one dated October 1st and the other October 3rd.  I have got a letter or letters from you every week except one, so far.  In regard to putting “per USA boat”, if repeal of Neutrality Act involves cessation of USA boats’ running to England you will of course not put that.  Anyhow, the letter you didn’t put it on arrived OK.

I do so hope your cold is quite gone, and that you won’t catch more and get down.  And don’t add worry about me to your own other troubles, lovey.  I am quite oke and going strong.  And for Pete’s sake don’t stew if letters don’t arrive sometimes.  There may be long gaps now and then and it can’t be helped.

Whether there are or not you know that all is fine and strong between us.  It may be possible for you to come over later on, if and when that can be done safely, but length of parting makes no difference to what we are to each other.  I wish I could tell you!  I have such a welling and overflowing of love and everything,—as you say, it is like an “ache”,—but it will be all the sweeter when we are together.  I think of you constantly, of all sorts of things that bring you vividly back—the Yaddo W African negroes and their “Jeem-jeem, Jeem-jeem-jeem”; and the Spanish records at Santa Fe “That’ll be delightful, delightful, delightful”, and the “Valse Ananas” etc, etc.  And that isn’t just “sentiment” at all because it is all integrated with a purpose for existence, with a steady realisation of you-and-me as persons with an identity-in-differences whose actual practical living-together means intelligent understanding and work as well as love.

Send the marriage certificate whenever it comes along.  Yes, these things are slow, I know.

Dropped Jig a line for [his birthday on] the 26th (late 27th). Do hope he keeps fit and well, and all blessings on the novel.  Cyril too.  Do trust things aren’t too hard if his job ends.

So, darling, darling, darling—don’t worry—not about me anyhow.  As to war, it may be shorter than we think and after it (if not before) we’ll be able to enjoy all those things we’ve looked forward to.

All, all, all love for ever for my darling dear,
YOUR
Dickie
Love as always to Jig, Cyril
(William John Metcalfe)

 * * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Claygate,Surrey
October 19, 1939

Darlingest Dear,

Just a very hurried note to tell you I have been promoted to Flight Lieutenant (i.e. equivalent of “Captain” in the Army).

All oke.  No time for more at the moment. – tho just a very very hurried scribble that you knew.  And send marriage certif. as soon as possible.  Shall write you soon, – all dearest love and adoration from

Your
Dickie
(F/Lieut William John Metcalfe, RAF)

* * * * *

In the summer of 1940, Jigg married Paula Pearson, the daughter of Ralph Pearson and Margaret (Margué) Hale. They met when living in Greenwich Village, Jigg with Cyril, and Paula with a friend, and the newly-weds lived for a month with Jigg’s half sister, Alice Wellman Harris in Teaneck, New Jersey, before moving back to Greenwich Village. where their first child, Denise, was born in February, 1941.

At around this time, Jigg had found work in radio news, based on his experience on the Rocky Mountain News, where he had been a reporter while living with Cyril in Denver. His first radio job was with in the newsroom of the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), where he was able to make use of his excellent French by broadcasting in both English and French. He remained with NBC until March 1943.

Muscovites.jpg

Before his marriage, Jigg had been working on his first and only novel, The Muscovites, published by Charles Scribner and Sons in 1940. Although it was well reviewed, it sold very few copies.  His mother, perhaps naturally, considered it to be a work of great artistic merit.

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Claygate, Surrey
March 11, 1940

Darlingest Dear,

Nothing fresh since my last of a day or two ago.  Am hard at work as usual, – though there may be a lighter week-end soon over Easter, – weather and other things permitting.

Times goes slowly-quickly, in the funny way it always does, and by the time you get this it’ll be a year since I sailed last from New York and ten since our marriage, on the 17th.  Oh, golly, I think we are the funniest people out, – but I feel that after all these vicissitudes we are closer, and so much much more understanding than ever before.  How I wish I could talk to you, – just for 10 minutes, even.

Well, I’m glad winter’s over anyhow.  I thought of you when I read of the New York blizzard in the papers, – and of course (now it’s two months old, and the press has published weather-stories, it’s permissible to mention it) it’s been pretty cold here too.  Many nights really darned cold, and with my shoes comically frozen to the floor next morning.

Oh, dollink, how swell, some time, to be together again and write our books.  All blessings to your own novel.  It will mean frightful hard work under unfavourable circumstances, I know.

Thank Jig and Pavla1 (is it Pavla or Pavli?) so much for their message, – and much love to them.

Where is Cyril now and what is he doing?  What is latest news of your mother?

All dearest love, always from
Your
Dickie (W J Metcalfe)

Paula was born in Spanish-speaking New Mexico and originally christened “Pavli”, the Spanish form of Paula. After her marriage to Jigg in 1940 and their move to the East Coast she adopted “Paula” to avoid the need for constant explanations of the origin of her name.

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Claygate, Surrey
April 1, 1940

Darlingest Dear,

I have just got your sweet letter of March 14th.  I hope you have been getting my recent letters OK.  There are bound to be gaps in between, – I mean, a number of letters, written on different dates, arriving in a bunch.  That’s the way with yours, and I guess it is so with mine to you, also.

I wrote you a few days ago, – and had hoped to have any leisure to write a longer letter on Sunday (yesterday).  Vain hope indeed!—And today is as bad.  I want to read your poems properly, – but nowadays I have hardly time to think at all.  This is just literally so, – No time whatever for leisure of the mind or for “souvenirs”.  But I hope to be able to get a moment to myself (and you!) before long.  My letters, such as they are, have often to be written in a noisy, crowded room, – and this is one of them.

Oh dear, – I’m so sorry, – but know, beloved, that nothing alters and one is each’s for always.

Tho only a tiny note to let you know I’m well and loving you.  Shall write better letter the moment I can.

I am so sorry for your poor mother—do hope the operation will relieve her somewhat.

All blessings on you, on your novel, – and for Jig and Pavla

Yours
Dickie (W J Metcalfe)

Do forgive this note.  It’s not my fault, love, and unavoidable—but all OK Love you!!!

* * * * *

Louise Gracey1 to Evelyn Scott

April 21, 1940

MISS EVELYN SCOTT 18 GROVE ST NYC.  MOTHER PASSED AWAY EARLY THIS MORNING FUNERAL MONDAY MORNING.  LOUISE.

1 A Clarksville cousin of Evelyn’s

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

[18 Grove Street, NYC]
[May 8, 1940]

Yes, Lola, dear, losing mother did strange things to the emotions and still does.  Death is wonderful clarifier of feeling.  Mother was so oddly, too, both the same hen-headed person she always was, and quite different toward the end of her life.  When she was ill, she had the most really aristocratic dignity and reticence.  I don’t think she ever complained except occasionally in a rather sharp joking way; and the only time she was furiously angry was when some nosey church members she didn’t know butted into her room.  I was there and she quashed them far better than I could in a highly dignified way, although she was so ill.  Her face changed, too; and got a curious aquiline contour, different from the one it had when the bones didn’t show.  And she always thought I did everything for her, whether I did or not—other people got no credit for their flowers, these all came from me.  It was very touching.  So I knew in the end that I really did love her, and that seeming not to was an instinct of nature in defense against a temperament too unlike my own to be lived with.  It was my piece of sentiment to arrange what was to be read at her funeral, even though I couldn’t be there.  They read the Episcopal service at the cemetery, and Saint Paul on charity and the last chapter of Ecclesiastes, those being the loveliest things I know.  So I hoped the petty little townsfolk would hear about charity for once.  I don’t like rationalistic funerals, in which death and garbage collection are on a par.

Now I’ve got that out of my system I won’t talk about it again.  I don’t think I need to be pampered with visits.  Just know I love them when they come.

god bless, evelyn

* * * * *

At some point during the winter of 1940/41, Jack, whose work experience was mainly as a teacher, was stationed in Kingston, Ontario, where the RAF was providing training for the Canadian Air Force. Evelyn was at this time teaching writing at Skidmore College and took the opportunity to visit Jack when she could, and eventually to live with him once again. There are only a few letters describing these events in a period during which Jack’s mental health appears to have improved and he and Evelyn to have been reconciled.

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

NEWYORK NY FEB 10 857P

MRS W J METCALFE 150 REGENT ST SG

MISDIRECTED ANNOUNCEMENT DUE TO EXCITEMENT VERY DISTRESSED DENISE EIGHT POUNDS ONE OUNCE PAULA DOING FINE LOVE AND REGRETS

DSF West Union_20180325_0001.jpg

To Evelyn Scott

[269 West 10th Street, NYC]
[February 12, 1941]

Dear Mother,

I have sent you the same birth announcement which I mis-addressed in the excitement, by air mail and special delivery.  If it does not reach you, I shall print another as soon as I have time.  I’m desolate that you, of all people, should have been neglected.  I have intended to write you a full and complete letter about anything and everything when I recovered.  This is to tide you over.  The bathtub, a beauty, came; and I shall express my gratitude later, in full.  Denise was born on Saturday, Feb nine, at approx 11:30 pipemma, after twenty-four hours of labor pains.  She weighed eight lbs one oz, has dark green eyes, a dark brown pubescence on the scalp, and a fresh, not to say choleric, complexion; but less raw looking than the average.  The medical verdict is that her health is absolutely perfect.  Appetite and voice both phenomenally powerful.  I saw her for one minute on Sat, and am not allowed to see her again until she leaves hosp.  Pavli is much admired for her stoicism and fortitude.  The house physician, an assisting intern, and our own doctor all paid visits for the express purpose of telling her she was an ideal patient.  The doctor who officiated did not realize her pains were labor pains because she minimized them so.  He’s used to Jewish mamas1 who raise hell.  P had to be told that she could scream if she liked.  She was very slightly torn, but only to the extent of a mild discomfort, and nothing more:  one small stitch.  She feels like a new woman.  Plenty of milk, and enthusiastic about the baby.  This is just a measly note, but honestly, I’m a ruin pro tempore.  I’ll write you more later.

ES and DSF.jpg

You’ve been angelic, which forcibly comes upon me by contrast with MY mother-in-law.  You may be an arch-loony, like me and the rest of the litt profession, but you’ve got taste.  Margué2 gets in my hair a little, especially as she’s being very ladylike in order (I suspect) to show me up as an oaf.  Or maybe she is just ladylike like a lady.  I don’t know.  This Freudian instant-calculators gives me indigestion.  I haven’t enjoyed my meals since the lady came, although she is being very pleasant.  But whatever you say or whoever you mention, she has a bright explanation for.  For example, if you remark that Churchill said so and so, the instant comment is that, Oh, Yes; that’s probably because he has no hair on his balls, or because his grandnephew was buggered by the choir master, and so whenever he (C) has pickled beets it aggravates his Agamemnon complex so that he resents Germans.  It’s a mania, sort of an intellectual dysentery, the diarrhea of which cannot be relieved except on somebody else’s shirt.  However, she has been trying hard to be nice, and don’t ever quote me.

As I said, the bathtub is supercolossal and hyperprodigious, and I will write again.  Denise received your valentine, in what spirit I am not able to say.  My best love.

Your affec son,
Jigg

1 The baby was born at Beth Israel Hospital, a Jewish hospital in Greenwich Village.

2 Paula’s mother, Margaret Hale Foster (Margué)

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Engraved announcement, by Jigg

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For many years Lola Ridge had been a friend and close confidante of Evelyn’s, and had long suffered from a form of tuberculosis which affected her digestive tract.  She died in May 1941. Gladys Grant was also a long-term friend of Lola’s as well as a member of her larger circle and was able to attend Lola’s funeral.

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To Evelyn Scott

Scotch Plains, New Jersey
May 25, 1941

Dear Evelyn:

Just a short note to let you know as much about Lola as I do.  But in the first place I will have to forbear taking credit for telegraphing you.  I would have done so anyway, but it was Laura who specifically asked me to and did so in Davy’s name.  So you see you were not forgotten, but they did not know your address.

I know very little about the last sickness even though I rode in the car with the nurse.  The nurse had been called in a few weeks before the end, first temporarily, then again and finally asked to stay.  She seemed to think there was no one ailment, just a complete break down of everything.  And after Lola’s life and many desperate illnesses this seems very possible.  Martin told me that Davy would not believe it until it actually happened.  Lola had recovered so many times before that he was sure she would again.  But Martin said he knew it was the end when he was called.  I don’t quite know when this was, but some time before Lola’s death.  He had apparently been around as much as he could and been a great help to Davy.  He and Laura both told me that for a year or more Lola had been in utter seclusion, seeing no-one and just saving all her little strength to write.  This as well as Davy may have been why none of us even heard from her.  In your case Lola may have been just too weak to combat any opposition of Davy’s.

I went to the funeral last Thursday.  Except for the actual service, which was merely a prayer, excerpts from the bible and some reading from Lola’s poems, it was the conventional funeral which surprised me.  I really thought there would be only a reading of her poems or something of the sort and supposed she would be cremated.  I don’t know whether it was Davy or the Benets or Lola herself who arranged it otherwise.

There were a lot of people for their apartment, but few that I knew and a few others I knew neither by face or name.  The place was full of flowers and everyone was taken to see Lola.  I do not know the name of the clergyman who was evidently some friend of a friend of Lola’s if not of Lola herself.  After the service quite a few drove way out to the Evergreen Cemetery where she was buried with almost the usual rites.

Funerals are always very unreal to me.  I could not feel Lola at all in the conventional apartment room suffocating with flowers or see her in the doll like image, even though the place was full of pictures of her and the walls covered with her and Davy’s books.  The only time I seemed to feel her presence and loss was when we were sent into the bedroom to wait for the coffin to be taken out.  Here the austere simplicity and something about the windows open and looking far out over the roofs gave a sense of Lola.  Everything was bare except for the winged victory by her bed and one sprig of flowers on her pillow.  Here I almost made a fool of myself while the others were praising the service.

The day was one to the two terrifically hot ones we have had here so you can imagine how worn out I was on my return.  Friday I was all in.  I tell you this to explain why I did not write before.

Excuse tired and confused letter.  It brings lot of love to both of you.  As always I wish I could see you and have a good talk.

Love,
Glads

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Next week we see how Evelyn came to live with the young Scott family, and of her increasingly desperate attempts to cross the Atlantic and rejoin Jack during the early days of the war.