39. The Evelyn Scott Fund

In 1951 Margaret DeSilver, a wealthy and well-connected Manhattan socialite and a loyal friend of both Jack and Evelyn, decided to create a fund to clear their debts (the next chapter will include more information about these)  and bring them back to the United States. Evelyn welcomed this initiative, but she insisted on it being on her own terms.  These included, but were not limited to, the publication of two novels on which she was then working but which were never published:  Escape from Living and Before Cock Crow.  She was also determined (or maybe it was because of her increasingly obvious self-obsession) that potential donors were made aware of her difficulties in becoming united with her son and his family.

Evelyn also makes constant reference to a “precis” which was briefly referred to in my previous post (No 38).  This 74-page single-spaced document, headed “a precis of events indicative of libel”, conflated incidents in Evelyn’s life during the 1930s and 40s with her inability to restore contact with Jigg and his family.  It was her wish that this be circulated to potential donors who would, she assumed, would have a better understanding of her situation and would therefore be more likely to  contribute to the Fund.

Many of Evelyn’s letters are to literary figures with whom Evelyn had had relationships:  Waldo Frank was a novelist and early member of the Communist Part with whom Evelyn had an affair during the 1920s;  Allen Tate was a poet and essayist and a professor at Princeton University;  William Carlos Williams was a poet and doctor with whom Evelyn had had an affair during the 1920s.  These letters are lengthy and sometimes verging on the incoherent, and I have heavily edited them to improve readability.  What remains, I hope, gives an insight into the chaotic thought processes which possessed her at the time.

(Sadly, Margaret DeSilver’s original letter, which prompted the replies below, has not survived.)

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

Truro, Massachusetts
July 10, [1951]

Dear Margaret,

What a damn shame about Evelyn!  Of course, your idea is excellent. I’ll be glad to lend my name and help a little—how much depends on my own finances measured by my many great responsibilities. I should think the signers of the letter should include a number of our outstanding novelists who most admire E’s work—such as Dos Passos and Faulkner; and a few more critics—for instance Van Wyck Brooks and Lewis Mumford. I really don’t understand E’s utter neglect!  She is certainly one of the important American novelists of our generation!

When are you coming to the Cape? Do phone us and come and see us.

Always (hurriedly),
Waldo [Frank]

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

[Rutherford, New Jersey]
August 6, 1951

My dear Margaret DeSilver:

I shall be glad to read at any benefit you plan for Evelyn Scott, but I do not want my name used on your letter head.  Under such circumstances you may not want me to participate in the effort at all but it is all I am willing to do.

Sincerely yours,
William Carlos Williams

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

Princeton, New Jersey
August 7, 1951

 Dear Mrs DeSilver

I returned only last night from the Middle East to find your disturbing letter about Evelyn Scott.  You may certainly use my name in a campaign for her relief. I will try tomorrow to see the Secretary of the National Institute of Arts and Letters.1  If anything can be done there, it will be done at once.  I am at a loss to think of any other source of immediate relief, but I am sure that, given a little time, we can rally people to the support of the campaign. I will write to you again in the next day or two.

 Yours sincerely,
Allen Tate

1 This Institute (now the American Academy of Arts and Letters) was modelled on the Academie Française and included in its membership a large number of authors and critics. The Institute awarded grants to worthy individuals on the recommendation of its members.

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

26 Belsize Crescent
August 8, 1951

My Dear Maggie

I can’t tell you how much I thank you for your letter—enclosing check for $100 and how grateful we both are.  It really just about saves our lives.  And I’m the more appreciative since I do realise that you have many many calls upon your native generosity,-and many problems of your own.

I do think that, if you are so kind and unselfish in time, labour, and some incidental vexation (probably) as to undertake the organisation of an Evelyn Scott Fund, as you suggest might be possible, it would be a splendid thing.  I believe that Evelyn is of the same opinion, – providing, of course, that any funds resulting were not regarded as implying a cessation to writing, but rather as a help to further writing.  We know of course that there is no doubt about your regarding it in this manner, but a few others possibly might misconceive the object of such a Fund.  However, a suitable wording of the appeal would be adequate protection against this, I should say.  In any case we could certainly think of no one so fitted as yourself, in every way, to conduct the matter.  I myself, I may say right away, am unreservedly enthusiastic about the idea, and more than ever grateful to your for advancing it.  Even if the appear were only very moderately “successful” (and I should allow myself no higher hopes) it would be a godsend.

I won’t add more just now as I want to air-mail this off, – but I just can’t express my personal relief, and my gratitude to yourself.

Bless you, dear Maggie,
Jack

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Eastham, Massachusetts
August 14, 1951

Dear Evelyn:-

I’m pleased you and Jack are pleased with the idea of the Fund, but it is ticklish to keep it, as you so sensibly pointed out, from being just a substitute for real recognition and continued publication.  So later on I will write you in greater detail about so far rather vague outlines, and get your approval on any public letter before making a move.  I have had interested responses to the idea from Waldo Frank, Edmund Wilson, Lewis Gannett, Allen Tate.  I do not want to seem to be putting it up to others what I might be able to swing myself, at any risk to your basic welfare and to your proper pride.  But I feel you do also need more actual cash than I can manage.  But it must all be done JUST RIGHT.

Much love to you and thanks again for writing.  I’ll write you at greater length a little later.

Margaret

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

August 20, 1951

Margaret my dear

Not pressing for reply—not until there are some positive developments.  We hope Eastham Massachusetts is nice and you enjoy it–know your letters are forwarded

I don’t ask you yourself to do more than you have or anything that makes you shrink because you too have had your sensibilities hurt and can’t bear “foisting” yourself and must be re-assured.  But do please remember that I am a stickler for accuracy and that I cannot do other than conclude from the facts I myself know that, ever since the experiences of which I told you here, both Jig and Pavla and probably Margaret Hale Foster and Cyril, have been intimidated by rumour about me and—I think—about themselves and all my friends; and that, in consequence, they have been isolated over and over whenever they moved to any new address, and that Pitcher Lane1 has yet to prove different from Rutherford in this respect.

Mag my dear—the cable you sent has just arrived as I say on page one of my letter with this and Jack and myself are full of the utmost gratitude again and hope you will thank Allen as I will myself shortly as soon as you see him.  You are restoring my belief in humans and Allen is contributing to the revival of our optimism so genuinely that we will not forget this proof of his own sustained character of pure artist and will always remember his generosity as we do yours.  And this, of course, I will myself tell him when I write to him.

We are fed to the gills with guff so I cannot say I “pray” you may be rewarded for your goodness, but if I could “pray” in a world such as we have, I would insist Margaret De Silver among the first bloody old “God” should save.  My “blasphemies” have their justification, and are considerably less than those to which politicians are too readily inured.

 

1 At this time Evelyn was writing numerous letters to try to establish which of the three places named “Red Hook” her son and his family had moved to: she knew they lived on a road called Pitcher Lane. .

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

August 24, 1951

To be forwarded to Eastham Massachusetts.  Government gas1 took the whole of that other draught and I literally never saw a penny, once it was banked—but it isn’t Jack’s fault they are blood-suckers, he is supporting me and is in terrible difficulties YET we have to pay or be sunk

Maggie darling—

You cannot over-estimate the good it does Jack as well as myself to know you are being sustained in your generous and lovely effort to really get us home.  I can see Jack improving in spirits already and in health with this, and I have now written to Allen Tate and hope he will show you the letter, as William Rose Benet approached “The Institute for Arts and Letters” on our behalf in 1948, and he succeeded in obtaining five hundred dollars for me, which is the sole help anybody in the States has given us since years before the war, with exception of yourself and of the two or three checks Lenore has, also, sent.

When “The Institute’s” cheque arrived here with a “promissory note”, I refused to sign it, as I knew by then we could not re-pay as we had first hoped when Jack originally appealed to you.  And I was in a dither until, after an air-mail letter from me, Benet cabled that I would not be required to sign anything; adding subsequently, in his own letter that it was a formality which did not really apply to me as I am not a member.

However, the experience especially re-impressed me with the fact that we must save in the States in order to return home there, because the five hundred dollars—like most of your help—went bang into the house, almost to the final penny.  Nor was there any alternative for us.  And this five hundred will have to go into the house, too.  We will be jailed for debts otherwise so I am told.  We are in arrears with everything, including “income tax” on this property based on a theoretic “income” although we have been losing two hundred pounds a year on it during some years.

Would you be willing to become the official “Trustee” of my “Fund”?—I have suggested to Allen Tate that I hope you will because you grasp the situation completely now I think—you will respecting Jig Pavla and Cyril too when you have my letter mailed yesterday—and you and Jack can consult as to the minimum we can peg on with here once anything is accumulated.  It is the one way of getting out of reach of tyrannical extremists who—as I have often seen indicated—bitterly resent one’s normal determination to resume the life normal to one’s self and to see one’s family in person.

This is the Truth again.  We’ve loved you for so long it’s not “new” to say we do now, but you are certainly re-endearing yourself to us Maggie dear more than ever.

One of the causes of Jack’s indebtedness was the escalating bill for gas for heating the house. He was not permitted by law to raise the rent to cover these increased charges.

 

* * * * *

To Allen Tate

August 24, 1951

Dear Allen Tate:

I know Margaret De Silver will have passed on to you the burgeoning appreciation elicited by her cabled news that you are especially exerting yourself so generously on behalf of Jack and myself; and as her cable was preceded by an air mail letter in which she mentioned, as well, the generous interest in our predicament evinced, also, by Edmund Wilson, Waldo Frank and Lewis Gannett, we are cheered, indeed.

Margaret De Silver has proved she is the friend in a million every human being would most like to have.  And Lenore Marshall, too, has twice helped in our rescue from imminent eviction from this house and a literal threat of starvation; and Dr May Mayers of New York, though unable to do anything financially, has shown a concern for our re-establishment as authors which is indisputably genuine.

I hope Margaret will accept the trusteeship of any funds accumulated toward our return, sending on whenever available just enough for us to peg along on here.

Jack and I are so grateful to you and to all our genuine friends.  Most most sincerely

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

August 25, 1951

Maggie darling—

Would you be willing to become the “trustee” of any fund accumulated in the bank there for our return?  I hope so because your grasp of our financial plight is I think complete like Jig’s when here, and your grasp of our situation will probably be even better when you have the letter respecting Jig Cyril and Pavla which I mailed to you day before yesterday, and which had to do explicitly with badgerings endured in the South by everybody not moronic.

We are both so grateful—I don’t want to tire you with reiterating it, but it gives us a fresh sense of moving toward the end, and not just stagnating in poverty.

I am more than obliged to Waldo for offering to draw up a letter to be circulated on our behalf—on mine especially as an American but Jack should be included as artist and as the quota resident he was for so many years.  And to re-assure those whom gossip may have boggled as to my standing the cable sent Allen was signed with my Passport Signature in full—Evelyn Dunn Scott Metcalfe—and the American Embassy clerk has seen my birth certificate with my baptismal name of Elsie on it and the names of both my parents in full and my place of birth and affidavits as to my identity, some still such as can be checked on, though the wife of the doctor who attended my mother is one and she has, since, died.

I will be very appreciative if you will yourself read Waldo’s draught of a letter and will let me see a copy.  I thought that letter circulated about Patchen1 was not good—and sometimes people with the best intentions don’t realize possible angles of the impression likely to be created by the manner of presentation.  I would like to be assured that by no possibility can anything said on my behalf reflect on Jack Jig Pavla or Cyril.  Jack has supported me here at some sacrifice to himself and Jig and Pavla have done no more because they just couldn’t, though Jig’s visit proves his real concern and we know Cyril’s character so well we have never doubted he, too, would have assisted our return had not conditions there been made as hard for him as ours for us here.

We always love you but you endear yourself again

1 Margaret DeSilver had suggested a funding letter based on that of a similar fundraising campaign for Kenneth Patchen, an American writer who became poverty-stricken due to a spinal injury.

* * * * *

To Allen Tate

August 25, 1951

Dear Allen Tate—

Margaret has proven she is the friend-in-a-million every human and especially every creative human, would like.  And as she writes Jack and myself that Waldo Frank, Lewis Gannett, and Edmund Wilson have, also, generously offered to do anything they can toward our return to the States, I think it likely she has by this recounted to you the hellish conditions which have kept us as we are yet; though we did have one bit of help—good in intention—in nineteen-forty-eight, when the late William Rose Benet, on his own initiative, obtained five hundred dollars for us from “The Institute” as a gift.

It was, however, immediately swallowed by this house, and the truth is that neither Jack nor I had the use of more than a few pounds of the draught once it was cashed:  my reason for suggesting to Margaret that it would be better if possible to accumulate something in a bank in New York which would finance our return and our sojourn there pending the full solution of our problems; which, like those of Creighton Scott, my, son, by my first marriage to Cyril Kay-Scott, can—like his father’s—only be really solved with re-establishment in the arts.

Margaret De Silver, however, has, also, at times, come to the rescue in assisting us to just peg along when eviction was staring us in the face.

Again our gratitude to you personally, our cordial good wishes to the Tate family, our genuine thanks to the “Committee” should it decide to supply any further aid.

Most most sincerely yours

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Princeton, New Jersey
August 28, 1951

1952—What about John Metcalfe’s art—he is British born

Dear Evelyn:

I am of course glad to get your letter but distressed by the news it brings.

I am sure that Mrs DeSilver will succeed in getting up a fund to bring you back to this country, but as you know such a campaign takes time; and we are of course anxious about your immediate plight.  If any other resource suddenly appears I will take advantage of it on your behalf.  Meanwhile I am joining Mrs DeSilver’s campaign.

You are quite right about the more fundamental need of getting home where you can participate again in the literary world.  It is almost impossible to do this abroad, where one’s connections, however god, are never quite adequate.  The British publishers quite naturally feel little obligation to do well by us unless they are certain of getting a lot of money out of the connection.

I can scarcely believe that this $100.00 will go very far.  I can only hope that you can old out until more effective aid can be organized.  Please give my regards to Jack.  Caroline joins me in warm regards to you both.

Sincerely yours,
Allen Tate

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

Princeton, New Jersey
August 29, 1951

Dear Mrs DeSilver:

I am at a loss to know what else to do at present, but I shall be glad to join you in any concerted effort on her behalf.  A long letter from her, received yesterday, tells a very sad tale.  I can well understand her desire to come back to this country, and I think she would be better off here.  At the same time one must remember that she has been away so long, she has not published a book here in so many years, she has been virtually forgotten:  the public and the publishers have a very short memory.  It is by no means certain that a publisher would undertake the task of rehabilitating her as a writer; and even if this could be managed, there would still be, as in England, the problem of a steady livelihood  Very few writers make a living out of their books, even if they have a best-seller or two from time to time.

Sincerely yours,
Allen Tate

* * * * *

To Allen Tate

[September 1951]

Dear Allen:

We have the utmost confidence in Margaret De Silver, and once having promised to attempt to arouse greater interest in our plight here and in the accumulation of funds to admit of our return to the States to see Creighton and his wife and children and Creighton’s father and to re-establish ourselves in our normal milieu among the literate, I know she will adhere to her word as given.  And this is as true of yourself and, I am sure, others who are our friends, we are hopeful of solutions.

I do thank you especially again and again.  And because I know the value of friendships in these days, I add to the more personal content of the communication a sort of precis of the most serious aspects of our predicament, which relate to the books we have ready to publish and sell NOW, and to possibly libellous misinterpretations of an absence from the States which has been made “economically compulsory” both by the abrupt and also compulsory stoppage of our literary earnings since 1939, and by the war against private property ownership which has been remorseless here since 1945, and has largely immolated Jack.

Margaret De Silver knows these things, but she may not yet have every detail, and as the death of my parents during the war has resulted—possibly because they were divorced and my father had re-married—in a degree of senseless mystification regarding my father’s last years and the disposition of his estate, I shall include data on Cyril’s change of name from Wellman to Scott and on the conceded legality of my continued fight to claim as an American citizen aid from American Foundations should any evince an inclination to help.

A copy of my precis, which here follows, goes to “The National Institute of Art and Letters” for the Committee, as well; as I wish no one to be in doubt as to the facts which have driven us to appeal for assistance which would have been superfluous had we been allowed to publish and sell normally during these twelve years since 1939, and Jack to maintain his house here, rent this flat, and go back with me to the States, as was our original intention.

Everything good to you and Caroline,

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

Personal
September 9, 1951

Maggie darling

I sent yesterday letters of thanks to Allen Tate for his appeal to “The National Institute of Art and Letters” on my behalf, and, also, a letter to Committee who granted me the gift of a hundred dollars, but I realize you are the benign instigator of Allen’s move to assist and my gratitude and Jack’s goes to you again.

I am still awaiting Jig’s and Pavla’s further letters and some idea as to their health and whether Pitcher Lane is in one of the Red Hooks in Dutchess County—or is it Duchess?—near Rhinebeck.  I am very worried about them and wonder whether you contacted Margaret Hale Foster1.

You know our history of our poverty and the clothes!  I was not out of the house more than a few times last summer, 1950, and this year had hoped for an improvement; but my teeth are still raising hell plates won’t stay in and gag and I am as penned as ever and except for the visit to Ewell just before we saw you in June, I have not left the house, again, except during my seven weeks of dentistry, so it looks as though even that “pleasure” was taken advantage of.

So please swear for me!—even though I don’t yet know at whom to swear!  In 1949 I lost a carbon of my book of children’s verse, which, this summer, I have re-typed, so that I NOW have THREE copies.  However, today, Jack went through every book in the flat, and as I did the same yesterday, he agrees with me that these three books were swiped since May; and that they could have been swiped at no time except when I was at the dentist’s, unless a nasty electrician who was very offensive when working in the study where they were, and who boasted that he had been employed by Agatha Christie, took them in spite, because I admitted to him I had no tip for him and could not afford any.

There have been Jig’s Cyril’s Merton’s and other water-colours, the original mss of my French Revolution novel, the carbon of the children’s book, and now these three valuable and necessary books—and as all these thefts have an important bearing on our careers and restoration to publication, I call it crime.  And when Jig was here he said he had nothing—not one thing to show for the fifteen years he has given to painting or the several years in which he was writing three novels of which “Scribner’s” published one.

I think the time has come to demand Governments that do not allow scoundrels of any persuasion—call them “right” or “left”—to meddle with personal property and I know you will agree, too.

So when you are discussing me I hope more than ever you will tell people there all these things and mention Jig and Pavla, who should NOT be left at the mercy of crooked “policemen” of the sort who protect crooks and allow thefts. They had begun in Tappan. I would like to see thieves who take such things as paintings and mss electrocuted—and I am not by nature fierce.

Our love and our gratitude, for any help.

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

October 11, 1951

Maggie darling

Will you be good enough to hand the letter in this envelope to Waldo or mail it to him as convenient to yourself—first reading it, as it is about the precis of events which I may one day include in a memoir of New York and of the war, as I have yet to write in the first person of the literary world.

The precis is to be regarded as AUTHOR COPYRIGHTED just in case—for I do not wish and WON’T HAVE good book material spoiled by any newspaper distortion.

We just must put an end to the idea that no body should think, and that original inferential comment on contemporary happenings has to be in those political terms extorted by military dolts.

Please go on helping where you can Maggie darling for you are one of the few good fighters I know

We love you—everything lately has been hell again, but probably bloody politics has been figuring more than ever, and what we should like would be what I call PINK CONSERVATISM— by which I mean a CHANGE better minds more intellect and MORE TRUTH, and an end to hocus-pocus fears about jobs, which just keep political scoundrels in the saddle to eternity.

Everybody should know by now that bureaucracy has victims in its own ranks and that vast numbers of unemployed can’t be afforded so it is good sense to restore competition gradually and work out the means of removing a fair number of Government employees into other local occupations, little by little.  People don’t want directing they will RAISE HELL as long as control goes on.  This Government is a combination of feeble well-meaning and brute power.  And something just MUST BE DONE with America backing.

Our own fortunes reflect what goes on publically and we should love to be SAVED AS AUTHORS and go home to the States and help to restore Jig and Cyril and other artists of high type to the ARTS

We love you for everything you do and are doing.

 * * * * *

To Waldo Frank

October 11, 1951

Sent to Mrs Margaret De Silver 130 West 12th Street, Apt G, New York City with the request to pass it on to Mr Frank.  Love to Maggie.  Please see people read precis when it gets to you don’t just glance.  Grateful  Evelyn

Dear Waldo,

Margaret De Silver has certainly proven herself again the fine friend we always knew her to be.  Jack and I are both so grateful to her for trying to get somebody interested in financing our return home, either by means of publication resumed with conditions that are a guarantee against “token” handling such as killed every possibility of sales when The Shadow of the Hawk and The Muscovites—my book and Jig’s1—were published by Scribner’s during the war.

The appreciation goes to you here unreservedly, but as we have not had the letter yet, it occurs to me you—and perhaps Margaret and Allen Tate and Edmund Wilson—may have been waiting at your end for what I referred to as a precis of events since 1939, which I propose sending in original to Margaret and in carbon to Allen to be read privately by Margaret and yourself and anyone whom any of you know who can be guaranteed to read it without political bias and to neither “hush” me up about things I object to in the current scene because these are destructive of pure art value, nor let us in for the sort of libellous misconstruction on the happenings set forth which is an invariable result of journalistic intrusion on the art world. I disapprove of cuts and won’t stand them again and am adamant against editing.  I did not want it known I had tried cutting but I did once—it is hopelessly wrong!

The precis—a carbon is to go to “The National Institute of Arts and Letters” too —the precis, as I have been going over the material of the mangled preface and elaborating it, seems to be to be that of a potential further volume of memoirs to be written in the end about the art careers of the Scott-Metcalfes and their friends and acquaintances in the art world, and so I also wish to have the content accepted as already copyrighted by Evelyn Scott and NOT for the public prints until the time arrives to re-write it at leisure and incorporate it with experiences which long antedated the war, here covered and including Britain but unconnected with any damn “war secrets” as I know nothing of them, thought I was with Jack during all his 1939-46 service with the “RAF”, in Canada and here, and wasn’t in Scotland where he was the first year because I was economically trapped as a “neutral” in New York and he couldn’t send me any money.  This precis will be ready in two or three weeks but meanwhile we are pretty desperate again.  So please please pester anyone you can—I think Allen could show my precis to Mr Epstein as I have “altercated” with him about art. Anyhow we won’t despair.

1Jig’s only novel, The Muscovites, was published in 1941.

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott and John Metcalfe

Eastham, Massachusetts
October 12, 1951

Dear Evelyn and Jack:

My “Evelyn Scott Fund” is turning out to be far more complicated that I realized.  First of all, to have it NOT have a PUBLIC and OFFICIAL look involves a good deal of very delicate planning.  Waldo has been most fine and generous about ideas and suggestions, and one was that each of the four persons whom I first approached and who responded warmly and eagerly, make up a list of people to whom each of them might write a personal letter.  This will take time, as these people are all busy people and also because it is very difficult for any one person, judging by my own experience, to think up a likely list of people who have not already been appealed to for this that and the other project many times over.  Secondly, I myself feel that coming to the States would be an impossibly large and expensive undertaking unless Jack FIRST had a job lined up here, and unless you sold your Hampstead house, or leased for a long term.  Living here may not involve quite as much red tape as England, but it is actually more expensive, as to rent, food and clothing (partly, of course, because we do not have any regulations).  Then, too, the publishing business here is even more cautious and wary than in England, in spite of the fact that we do not have your crippling paper shortage.  Instead, we have inflation, which makes everything very expensive.  Also I would say that the mood of America is at the moment far from adventurous, intellectually speaking.  In plain language, dear people, I think when you get here you are going to be as angry and troubled about conditions in general as you are in England, and I am afraid the struggle to heat will be about the same.  On the other hand, the market is certainly here, and also family and friends.  That I know is your crucial consideration.  But I just feel the raising of enough money to get you here and launch you, so to speak, is going to be difficult and slow.

Later  Waldo corrects this somewhat by saying he had in mind a form letter that would not look like a form letter, which each of us would sign and send off to a small list of prospects.  Or else that a list could be bought or borrowed, such as the Patchen list, but still signed individually.  Well, we will try to work out some sound and respectable method.  In the meantime, much love—

Maggie DeS

* * * * *

From John Metcalfe’s diary:

October 16, 1951: Letter from Maggie re ES Fund, – not altogether satisfactory

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

Truro, Massachusetts
October 29, 1951

Dear Margaret

Herewith Jack’s letter, and a rough draft of the Fund letter, for which you asked me.  I have no doubt it can be improved.  I suggest that you and Lewis Gannett whip it into shape—or discard it altogether if you think proper  You see, I have stressed E’s need to get home. This necessitated focussing on her alone; one can hardly appeal to Americans to help an Englishman get away from home.  Of course, if she gets here, as Jack suggests, nothing more natural than that her husband should follow her.

As usual, I have difficulty in learning exactly what E in her letter to me is talking about.  Dimly, I descry that there is a finished novel—all typed and ready to be read.  What publisher has seen it?

I’m enclosing a small check to you, which you can turn into money to send to her—from a “friend” — please don’t mention my name.  Perhaps it will help pay a gas bill or something.  It’s not much but it’s really more than I can afford at present.  I hate to think of Evelyn worried in that dark enveloping London winter.  If we get her out of this, she may write the best book of her life.

Waldo Frank

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott and John Metcalfe

130 West 12th Street, NYC
[November 1951]

Dear Evelyn and Jack:-

I enclose a copy of an appeal letter drafted by Waldo Frank.  Will you let me know what you think of it?  If you approve of it, I shall try to get in touch with Julien Cornell,1 who engineered the Kenneth Patchen Fund, to see if he will let me use that list.  If he will, I’ll undertake to weed it out and to plan to whom the three or four people who helped me start this project will each write or rather sign this letter.

Winter is here.  I expect you folks are pleased with the Conservative victory.  Well, Winnie is a character and may get more generous cooperation from those in power in this country, which would be a blessing.

Much love to you both—
Maggie DeS

American lawyer and pacifist who refused to serve in the military during World War II

* * * * *

Evelyn Scott comments on Waldo Frank draft letter

Hotel Continental
Bogotá, Columbia
Waldo Frank
Truro, Mass

[November 1951]

See final page of this and precis sent with more details later on.  Please Waldo use the facts—they are EXACT Evelyn

The purpose of this letter is to win your interest in the plight of Evelyn Scott,—one of the small company of truly distinguished writers of our time.  During the 20s and 30s, Evelyn Scott’s novels were widely known and greatly admired, although their uncompromising character kept them (with one or two exceptions) from the best-seller lists.  Their fate was that of so many important books within a few years of publication:  they went out of print.  Most good writers circumvent this common event by publishing new books—or by dying, in which the date of the “rediscovery” of their work becomes unimportant to them.

I have visited England many times on my American Passport— British by marriage, but chose to retain citizenship as native-born in 1930.  Stop this token discretion!

Miss Scott, having married the English novelist John Metcalfe in 1930, he was a quota resident US & then moved to England during the last War.  this about “last war” and second marriage ambiguous, married twice, second 1939—“RAF” service brought us here 1943-44 I travelled British as an “RAF” wife—passport resigned on landing—families should NOT be separated by fools, is Evelyn Scott’s opinion.  The unfortunate effect of this was to put her out of touch with American publishers.  She feels strongly—we believe correctly—that if she could return to her own country with second husband, she could place her new work and resume her position as a producing American novelist. why the hell should it!  But penury keeps her in England, and both published in USA as before 1937 would end her worst penury and his he has books to publish 

We do not ask for charity for Evelyn Scott (she would probably be too proud to take it).  We wish to raise a Fund of money which will enable her to come home and to find living and working and publishing conditions at home.

Please bear in mind that Evelyn Scott’s situation is not intrinsically rare.  What would have become of Henry James, after his early successes, without a private income?  And what did become of Herman Melville, when his books stopped selling?  Evelyn Scott’s need to get home is, we are convinced, the intuition bleak eventual need for justice of a creative artist who—if again in touch with the milieu of her work—should have good years of work before her.  In a sense, both psychologically and economically, she and John Metcalfe are is “marooned” in the unsustaining world of post-War England, which has yet to be culturally restored

We in the US today, who are concerned with the cultural health of our country surely should feel that our good fortune places many responsibilities upon us.  The practical hand held out at this hour to Evelyn Scott, in order to help her return home would hearten her and would give a new hold on life and work to a significant American artist.

Please press for our resumed publication—the antidote for “charity” is to SELL US—they can sell us if politics can be made to stand aside—and give art a chance.

Thanks for letting me see the rough draft of your letter. 1942—which began the near-debacle of onslaughts—read precis—long and short when these arrive.

WBBM_20180722_0002.jpg
Scanned photocopy of first page of Evelyn’s annotations to Waldo Frank draft appeal letter.

* * * * *


From John Metcalfe’s diary:November 5, 1951: Letter from Maggie enclosing $25.
November 8, 1951: Letter from Maggie enclosing draft letter re fund by Waldo Frank

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

November 12, 1951

Maggie darling

The check or cheque for twenty-five dollars adds to the sum of gratitude both to yourself and the donor, who probably thought I might be embarrassed should I be told who he or she was—so do please, you think them for me in all sincerity.  And as we thank whoever gave it we thank you again even more.  I don’t see how anyone could have been a better friend to us both than you have, and while it is difficult to receive money at times it is very difficult to ask for it also as I KNOW—so bless you.  In the long precis of events, as I call it, which I shall soon complete and is in sum as regards legalities and war conflicts,  I have mentioned the possibility of including the material in a future autobiography which will be my own entirely in respect to literary struggles.  And whenever I do that book everybody who has given or will give anything toward this fund which we hope book publication will make superfluous in the end, will have the TRUTHFUL PICTURE of the situation of the emotions of Evelyn Scott and John Metcalfe both as she sees them.  Not everybody will be fatuously “complimented” but I think most of them will be “able to take it” if they really like our books and the sort of candours that pervade my own writing.  It is the one way I can show appreciation, and I am not ignorant of what is being done so I think the public gesture will eventually be due.

I thought Waldo’s letter well expressed and full of good intentions, but NOT SPECIFIC ENOUGH—and as I write with this to thank him too, perhaps he will grasp my explanation, which has to do with the WAR.  He mentions in it that I married Jack and was stranded in England, as if I had never been there or as if Jack was to be disassociated in going to the States and it isn’t POSSIBLE NO DO EITHER OF US WISH IT.

MUST BE EMPHASIS ON BOOKS READY FOR PUBLICATION NOW EMPHASIS MUST BE ON THAT FIRST—why NOT charity  Everything public except libel stemming from “ghost” passages in Life Is Too Short—consult Jig and Pavla or Cyril and Pavla as Cyril himself delay here.

Dear Maggie—The front page and the above should be the FACTS PUBLIC NOW WHEN APPEALING FOR HELP FOR US I THINK—it is much more interesting as the Truth than generalized as Waldo had it though his belief in me is appreciated.  It must also be KNOWN that Jack and myself return together and have NO INTENTION of parting and that the fact that he was British-born and still a British subject though an American quota resident has been “used against” him and me should at least be implied I think.  You will grasp why when you read the precis.

WE STAND FOR PURE ART DETACHED FROM POLITICS AS MUCH AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE, but beside all the general handicaps which now afflict pure artists, we are a SPECIFIC INSTANCE OF WAR ABUSES.  It will I consider be a more effective appeal if the FACTS IN THIS LETTER ARE PUBLICIZED FREELY.

But my problem is about the libel.  I want that combated and will go on fighting it where I can.  That is why I document as reference Common Law Marriage and Divorce, for these involve the real legality of Scott as our name Jig’s name Pavla’s name the names of Denise Fredrick Mathew and Julia, and actually, Jack and I were married as William John Metcalfe and Evelyn D Scott legally in Tierra Amarillo in 1930 when I elected to retain my citizenship.

Tell our friends we surmise his FC Wellman copyright ruse of false rumour by Pavla and Cyril too.
Love Evelyn

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

Truro, Massachusetts
November 16, 1951

Dear Margaret,

The enclosed1, just received, makes it clear, I’m afraid, how hard it is going to be to help Evelyn.  I don’t know what truth there is in her charge that Cyril’s book was tampered with, but these points are clear:

1.  To put any such statement into a general letter would be libellous unless legally proved in advance, and even Cyril’s statement would not be legal proof.

2.  It is very dubious that even if the book was slanderous, this has the slightest relation with Evelyn’s present condition—the book was read by very few, and those few certainly would not on that account have “plotted” against Evelyn.

3.  To bring such matter into an appeal, in any case, would I think frighten people off, rather than make them open their  purses.

Personally, I refuse to get embroiled in this sad personal quarrel. I found Cyril’s book disgusting, but I am certainly not ready to get involved in why it was so—and it all seems irrelevant to the simple wish of friends to get E back to the USA since she wants to come.

Do what you want about this; but if the letter is to be amended to include these “personal” matters, someone besides me—who know nothing and am in no position to sift the facts—will have to do it. Moreover, such an amended letter might readily be one I simply could not sign, not knowing the facts, first hand.

What think you?  Is there a “plot” or is all this Evelyn’s obsession?

Waldo

Evelyn’s revisions to his earlier draft of the appeal letter.

* * * * *

 

To Margaret DeSilver

November 18, 1951

Dear Margaret:

Waldo’s letter was generous and very good but it was so much too generalized that it conveyed a wrong impression as to why we have been stranded here so long.  And I therefore have asked Jack to bind with the precis a sort of summary more pertinent to precisely the situation ours, which, in the main, is we both consider the result of the war—after all Jack and I have been married twenty-one years and we never got stranded in Britain when conditions were those of times less ridden by politics.

Love and gratitude and hope.  We are very desperate at this moment, gas, rates, etc again.

Evelyn

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

130 West 12th Street, NYC
November 20, 1951

Dear Evelyn:-

You certainly have every right to object to the form of appeal letter presented to you and to prefer your own approach.  But as a person on the receiving end, who am on every known list, I can tell you that most of the appeals I receive go straight into the scrapbasket unopened and the art of getting letters opened by the recipient is quite a fine one.  And Brevity and Simplicity is of the essence.  So that I have to say that I could not undertake any such letter as you propose, for purely practical reasons.  Besides this, I myself feel that Cyril and Jig are not in the least concerned with this specific problem.  Jack, of course, is, and the only reason he was not brought in was that it was thought it would be easier to appeal for just one person, the American writer, and that if enough money was forthcoming of course Jack could be included in the deal.  And of course, harsh as it sounds, you are the American Novelist in this case, and not Evelyn Scott the human being.  Of course actually the two are inseparable, but artificial divisions sometimes have to be set up in the practical world.  As to the Kenneth Patchen list, my only idea was to get ahold of it or the Authors League list, and weed out likely names for each signer to send the appeal letter to, some for Waldo, some for Lewis, some for Bunny, etc, etc.  Kenneth Patchen’s virtues or Bollingen politics has nothing to do with it.  It was just my idea of a way to get ahold of some names.

So, Evelyn dear, I guess I’ll have to go back to sending you money when I can and asking other people to do so when I see them.

Love to you both—
Margaret

1952—November 24th, London.  I think Jig is concerned with every publically circulated word about his mother. Evelyn Scott

* * * * *

To Waldo Frank

December 4, 1951

Please remember we can’t wait on dickerings of foundations, and this shouldn’t be regarded as replacing anything else anybody is willing to do—we are just hanging on from week to week.

Dear Waldo:

I don’t like burdening our friends with letters, but as we are determinedly making a stand for our survival as living authors and for our living human relations, I don’t know how to avoid a correspondence relevant to sustaining us.

Perhaps Margaret has sent you by now the letter you first wrote for me with such real generosity but without, apparently, having taken stock of some aspects that might have been misinterpreted, and which I, therefore, tentatively altered, with the proviso that you see it and pass on using any part of yours before it was sent it.  Should it be that you disapprove, then probably someone else can paraphrase its content and retain those statements of fact respecting myself and Jack, which, though not many, I insist on because of the legalities involved, which are all legal legalities, documented on file and correct, but must be recognised as existent or the entire business of trying to help me will result in a humiliation which I think you yourself would not tolerate and I cannot.

Best regards

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

130 West 12th Street
[December 6, 1951]

Dear Evelyn

I have received the “precis” which I have forwarded to Jig at Red Hook, NY as you requested.  I also got your amendments to Waldo’s letter, which I will communicate with Waldo about as soon as possible. Maybe eventually we’ll get this business straightened out!

Maggie

This note on December 6th 1951—I have precise facts, irrefutable facts in respect to criminal interference received here December 8 1951

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Truro, Massachusetts
December 28, 1951

Dear Evelyn,

I have just yesterday received your letter of Dec 4.  I enclose a copy of my word to the Foundation:  good luck to it!  I should have loved to say something for Jack, but how could I conscientiously, since I have never read any of his books?

Last week M deS sent me your revised version of the letter.  I returned it, saying I had no objection but that I thought Allen T and Gannett should compare the two versions and possibly make up a third.  I entirely disagree with your notion that personal details should go into this letter.  To begin with, these matters which loom so large in your mind and heart are not known and even less cared about by practically anyone.  These controversies and data are irrelevant, and to throw them into the consciousness of persons appealed to can in my judgement only confuse and deter.  The appeal for you should be made upon clear simple cultural facts; your marriages, your relation with Cyril, the state of your teeth and even of your mss is of no importance, from the standpoint of presenting a persuasive objective picture.  Even your “insistence” that it MUST be stated that you both have books ready for publication is in my judgement an error of objective view.  If such an item had any effect at all on readers it would be to deter them from helping, for they would say—“Well then, if she has a book ready why not send it to a publisher and get an advance?”  I think dear Evelyn, you would be wiser if you simply let Margaret and her friends handle this matter as they (we) judge best.

May 1952 be good—a better one for you both.

God be with you,
ever affectionately your friend,
Waldo

* * * * *

From Margaret DeSilver

THE EVELYN SCOTT FUND
Margaret DeSilver, Treas
130 West 12th Street
New York 11, NY

[February 1952]

The purpose of this letter is to win your interest in the plight of Evelyn Scott—one of the small company of genuinely distinguished American writers of our time.  During the 1920s and 1930s, Evelyn Scott’s novels were widely known and greatly admired, although their uncompromising character kept them, with a few exceptions, off the “best seller” lists.  Their fate was that of a number of important books; within a few years of publications they were allowed to lapse from print.  This is a common calamity.  Most writers circumvent its effects by publishing new books, some, gain, die, thus rendering the date of their “rediscovery” unimportant to them.

Evelyn Scott is the wife of the English author John Metcalfe, and as a result of his “RAF” service which took them to Britain during the war, they have been stranded there ever since, and Evelyn Scott is under such economic duress that she feels strongly it is essential she return home and recover her American contacts.  She was victimized during the war, and requires practical help in a re-beginning that financially is from rock bottom.  We wish to raise a fund of money for her which will tide her over to a fresh start in her own country.  This is not proposed as a “charity” but as restitution for a form of neglect Americans cannot afford.  If offered as “charity” our aid will be spurned and rightly.  She has many books in her yet to be written.  What would have become of Henry James, after his early successes, without a private income?  What became of Melville when his books stopped selling?  That the creative suffer most in the aftermaths of wars is in the nature of things, but to save wherever we can those whose cultural outlook is unique and can never be duplicated is to the advantage of al who realize intrinsic values in art must be revived and preserved for the cultural health of the country.

Waldo Frank
Dawn Powell
Allen Tate
Lewis Gannett
John Dos Passos
Edmund Wilson

[Duplicated typed letter with signatures duplicated. The typed slip below was included with these letters:]

Recently both Miss Scott and Mr Metcalfe have been granted Six Months Fellowships at the Huntington-Hartford Foundation in Pacific Palisades, California to take effect October 1st.  Their immediate need, therefore, is for clothing, transportation and enough money to tide them over the intervening months.  Please help us.

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

The Saturday Review of Literature
45 West 45th Street
New York 19, NY

February 4, 1952

Miss Margaret DeSilver
130 West 12th Street Apt 12-G
New York 11, New York

Dear Miss DeSilver:

I am heartily in sympathy with the idea of aiding Evelyn Scott in her time of trouble.  Last year I received several letters from her which distressed me.  They were not incoherent, but they betrayed what I thought was a mild, or perhaps a serious case of persecution complex.

I would be willing to sign the letter you suggest and am sending you a small check to start with.

Sincerely yours,
Harrison Smith

* * * * *

To John McGovern, Carnegie Fund

[130 West 12th Street, NYC]
[Late April 1952]

Dear Mr McGovern

I forwarded your questionnaire to Evelyn Scott in London, and she has filled it out, as you will observe, in elaborate detail.  Under the circumstances, her own troubles have naturally become something of an obsession with her, and she added to the explanation on the back of the questionnaire several pages of further notes which I am inclined to spare you but will gladly forward if you care to see them.

Of course you will in any case disregard Miss Scott’s request that you forward any possible sums through me.  Doubtless she hoped thus to facilitate the transfer, and did not understand, as I did from your letter to me, that your grant, if made, should be sent direct to her in London.

* * * * * 

To Evelyn Scott

Carnegie Fund of the Authors’ Club

May 6, 1952

Mrs Evelyn Scott
26 Belsize Crescent
London WW2 [sic]

Dear Mrs Scott:

Inclosed is cheque to your order for $500.00.

The trustees wish you to be informed that this Fund is not part of any group.  It is an independent Fund set up to relieve temporarily competent and experienced authors who are in emergency distress.

This cheque to you is greater than I had thought the trustees would approve since it is about 10% of the entire annual income of the Fund.

The grants usually run from $100 to $250.00.

Please sign and return the inclosed receipt.

Yours cordially,
John T McGovern
Chairman

* * * * *

From John Metcalfe’s diary:

June 3, 1952: Letter from Maggie to say Fund established and most of the money in.

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

215 East 18th Street
January 26, 1953

Dear Mrs DeSilver

In the process of distributing to some of my friends the letters you sent me re Evelyn Scott’s fund, I somehow slipped up on making my own contribution—small as it is.  You will find ck for $25.00 which I hope will help a wee bit, added to what you now have.  I wish I could make it larger.

Unfortunately, the letters I sent out met with no response.  It is too bad.

You sure are a good Samaritan to have made it possible for Evelyn and Jack to return to their family here.  I shall see, them, of course, and if there is anything I can do to help, I shall do my best.

Sincerely yours,
[Dr] May R Mayers

* * * * *

List of Contributors to the Evelyn Scott Fund
(compiled by Margaret DeSilver)

May R Mayers, MD
John K Kutchens, Book Reviewer, New York Herald Tribune
Katherine Dunlap
Lewis Gannett
Witter Bynner
Allen Tate
William Carlos Williams (did not want name used)
Jean K Nevius
Sophie Kerr Underwood
David Davidson
A R Wylie
Henry Steele Commager
Van Wyck Brooks
Jerome Weidman
Elmer Rice
John Robert Coughlan
Max & Gladys Eastman
David & Jean Lerner
T S Matthews
Alice Port Tabor
Julian Gumperz, (Pres., Hillaire Foundation)
Irving Stone
Mrs W Murray Crane
Berry Fleming
Rita & Werner Cohn
Frances E Blum
Jane Hudson Davis
Rita Halle Kleeman
Dr Sol Wiener Ginsburg
Laura Wood Roper
Marjorie Griesser
Alfred E Cohn, MD
Vincent McHugh
Robert K Hass (Vice-President, Random House)
C Kempton (sent snide letter!!)
Inez Haynes Irwin
Harrison Smith (Saturday Review of Lit)
Louise Bogan
Luise M Sillcox (Author’s League of America)
Mrs James H Scheuer
Lewis Mumford
Lewis Galantiere
John Dos Passos
Dawn Powell
Waldo Frank
Edmund Wilson

* * * * *

Next week I will share details of the problems (and debts) associated with Jack’s ownership of his house at 26 Belsize Crescent in Hampstead, in London.