Having two narrative streams running concurrently is perhaps an inevitable recipe for confusion, but a necessary one. Last week we caught up on events in Jigg’s life while Evelyn and Jack were concentrating on their return to the United States, believing (largely because Jigg had told them as little as possible about events in his life) that they would be reunited with him and his family on their return. This selection of letters highlights Evelyn’s disappointment at discovering Jigg was not in New York, and her continuing attempts to get news of him.
* * * * *
To Creighton and Paula Scott
26 Belsize Crescent
November 28, 1952
Darling Jig and Pavla-Paula:
In Pavla’s letter of April she spoke somewhat sardonically of her “bi-annual” letter, and alluded to your finances as preclusive of that visit to Jack and myself here for which we had hopedbefore we go home. However, as I myself continued to write frequently, and to inquire as to the receipt of the parcels sent to you both and the children and—like those sent to you at Grünwald, unacknowledged until I pressed to have news of them—I did not suppose even the “bi-annual” letter would fail me.
Nonetheless, it apparently did, and either was never written or was not delivered here; and my natural anxiety on behalf of you both and of the four children was so increased by this apparent silence that, a little over a week ago, I wrote to the American Consul in Munich, explaining that I am Mr Creighton Scott’s mother and that I have reason to wonder whether or not you have changed your address and informed me of it in some letter that has not yet got to me.
I asked the Consul to assist me as the American citizen I am to reach my son and daughter-in-law and four grandchildren. And I think it would be inhuman to refuse my request in view of the actual conditions against which we are all struggling and especially would it be inhuman because Jack and myself will probably have landed in New York within six weeks or a little over. I hope, therefore, that should the American Consul put me with Jack again in touch with my family, that you will not have been embarrassed by any misconstruction of what has happened about mail, for I also explained to the Consul that one of the three parcels sent since April was the carton of slightly worn clothing often mentioned by me in letters and mailed to you both August 1952 from Hamstead London NW3.
We hope to learn soon that you are all to return to the USA, and when. The clothes are of enough value to make a stink about if anything was done amiss respecting to the parcel, but Jig’s own personal communication with Pavla’s is the one thing that will relieve both Jack and myself of the feeling of downright oppression in having thus had communication either discouraged or deliberately interfered with there.
Please darlings do whatever you can on your side to assist us to be in touch with each other and in one country—the USA. Margaret De Silver has been the finest of real friends to us and, as she herself said, still wishes Jig and Harry De Silver could see more of each other. And a few others, as well, have helped Margaret to help by contributing to my “fund”. We will have to go on to the Huntington Hertford1 a few weeks after landing, but honestly I myself will be incapable of making full use of their generous and sustained offer of six months of free board and lodging at their California Colony unless our minds can be relieved in some measure by news of Jigl. Down and out with every bloody tote and dictator in the world. There we stood in the war and there we will always stand.
From Armies or any Government Department daring to direct individual human lives. It is a crime to attempt such things. And among the tools of totes is “economy”. So I herewith implore you both to be as candid as I am especially where money figured. [Remainder of letter missing]
1 After some effort, Jack had been offered 6 months’ visiting fellowship at the Huntington Hertford Foundation, founded by the eponymous heir to a major supermarket hortune.
* * * * *
The following letter was one of a number, discovered after Paula died, that had never been opened.
To Creighton Scott
February 4, 1953
Mr Creighton Scott
care Mrs Gladys Grant
For forwarding if necessary.
Darlings please answer. The American Consul in Munich gave your forwarding address to relieve my distress when the parcels then there were unacknowledged. He wrote me a very good letter. We think of you six and Dad and Louise all the time so anxiously. My mss is still where it was there, unread—why doesn’t Gladys write, we wonder, too. We will let you know when we know precisely when we will arrive. Love Mother
Two letters to you and Paula-Pavla and one letter to your Dad have been sent to Gladys’ address since you all six returned home, with the request to her that if you were not stopping at her house, these be forwarded. The letters before this one went early in January, and when sending them I, also, wrote to her at some length. But there has been no reply so far, and I am very naturally somewhat distressed as I would like to know your precise whereabouts, how you and your Dad are when we arrive home again.
I said in the other letters that we were to sail on February 15th in the boat that would take about a week. This was the Ryndam, old Holland-Dutch Line. But we were counting on the letting of this re-furbished flat to complete the financing of our move; and as it is not rented yet and we have no cash for our train-fare to Southampton, for baggage mended and a little bought, for socks, stockings, warm undervests, an overcoat for Jack that will be presentable among social equals—he still has just his re-made service coat, recognizable as such and worn badly—and for baggage transport, porters’ tips, and the alteration of the second coatsuit sent to me, etc, etc—as all these items are lacking yet, we cannot sail until either the flat is rented and paid in advance to supply these needs, or somebody with some money helps again with two to three hundred dollars. Two hundred would do it, but three would allow less skimping.
The reason I write you again without waiting on an answer is that I do not wish you to be alarmed, as you well might be with all these floods and a Dutch boat arriving without us in it. We are still hoping for some cancellation that will permit us to transfer to the Veendam of the same Line, or to some larger boat tourist. But the larger boat will require slightly more fare, hence the hope of the three hundred, which—and I implore it—you and Paula are not to worry about even to the extent of regretting that, as I know, you can do nothing.
Our steamer fares at the lower rate are paid. On December 1st, 1952, Jack secured his quota entrance—or re-entry as his eighteen years prior residence there counted preferentially—and the health certificates required as to his normality in every way. And thinking then we would soon be out of the woods, expected by the school to give notice of his voluntary resignation, when the Christmas holidays came, he resigned his job, as, in any case, also, he would have had to do to see tenants with whom I cannot discuss the business aspects of tentative offers.
The renovation of the flat has been achieved in a very niggling way, as he had to pay in most of the help we have had, in the Fund Margaret set up for me, to clear up tax arrears and maintenance bulls; and the entire situation has been atrocious in that every delay has meant a re-accumulation of heating bills, small or large repairs, and, of course, taxes, also, mounting; and the sums at Jack’s disposal have been, as far as renovation went, too small to do everything at once, as we would have thought best. In December he secured the permission—maybe it was before December—of the Bank of England to reckon anything accruing on this house once the flat is rented as a transferable asset. He in this way satisfied the American Consular stipulations as to his finances; though had he been justly dealt with as the great author he actually is, he could have referred to his publishers there and here in proof of his comparative solvency.
But Jack MUST be in New York before April 9th, when his visa expires. Otherwise everything would have to be done again; there would be as much to clear up as before; and—beside—we are now without any source of income, and to take up a school jobherewould be a complete defeat.
I am, therefore, writing again to the few people I can think of who might know someone able to supply two to three hundred dollars more, so that we can GO HOME NOW without waiting on the rental of the flat. Jack has applied to the Admiralty about the Coronation, but they advertise only short period rentals for the Coronation proper. He has applied to the American Embassy’s Consulate and find they do not advertise flats except for Army Officers, and it is against regulations for these to pay more than a month in advance, though in Britain people often pay a quarter’s rent or six months when they have the funds and it is mutually convenient. A few people have looked at the flat, but left undecided and did not return; and yet there is a big demand for flats and this is comfortable with the central heat, plenty of hot water, three bedrooms, one large, one moderate and one small, a now largish hall dining-room, a large living room, a pretty bath and re-done lavatory, and a garden that—though not much cultivated now—can be made very nice. The furnishing is complete except for the dining room chairs to be bought with the rent. Once we have all travel expenses we can leave renting to the real estate agent. The rent is not in excess of other flats, and we have dropped a guinea a week off because a Frigidaire will have to be installed and rented, too, by those who feel they cannot do without one. It is our need for rent in advance at once that handicaps us. So we do implore “the gods” to supply what is lacking for travel independent of the flat as it will undoubtedly be taken with time. [Remainder of letter missing]
* * * * *
To Creighton Scott
March 27, 1953
Your mother presumably left for California at 3PM on Wed Mar 25—in all that downpour! I saw her several times + she does talk more reasonably than she writes, altho rather buttonholing type of talk like the Ancient Mariner, + after 2 hrs the conversation gets more paranoid. However, she seemed pretty well + calm—but will it last!? She told me Miss Allin [?] had told you you were at the Chelsea [Hotel], + she went there + they were very vague as to when you had left + where you had gone. . . I began to feel pretty low + horrible when she talked lovingly about “my son” + about “The Muscovites” + how she was using your agent Russell. However, I’m sure I did right. She saw Charlotte Wilder + May Mayers—who seems to be a good egg– + Dawn was hospitable + helpful. Jack got an agent, too, + registered at several teachers agencies, so here’s hoping!
* * * * *
To Ralph Pearson
The Huntington Hartford Foundation
2000 Rustic Canyon Road, Pacific Palisades, California
April 6, 1953
Mr Ralph Pearson
Lecturer on Art
The University of
New Mexico Arizona or New Mexico Phoenix or Albuquerque–we don’t know which
Jack and I have been assisted by some generous friends, of whom Margaret De Silver, is the chief, to return home. We sailed from Southampton, on March 1st, on the Holland-American Liner “Veendam”, and were in New York just under two weeks, at the Hotel Earl off Washington Square, in Waverley Place.
Can you, if this reaches us, send Jig’s address to his mother? If so Jack and I both will take it to be a human and kindly act.
After that period in which I sent letters to Jig in your care, at 288 Piermont Avenue, Nyack, our contact was re-established; and both in Rutherford–at both their addresses, Hawthorne and Ridge Streets [sic]–and in Red Hook, at their Pitcher Lane address, we corresponded at intervals. And we continued to correspond when Jig and Pavla went to Munich, while they were both at Grunwald and at Grafelfing; Pavla writing most of the letters but Jig signing some with her
I had, as their forwarding address, the address of Mrs Gladys Edgerton Grant, RFD1, Scotch Plains; and sent a letter to her in which I mentioned what was then a hope–that we might be in New York by early January. We were unable to leave when we had thought we woud, and the very letter in which I first told the date of our sailing–that it would be March 1st, and our passages were certain–was the first letter returned unopened of course to Mrs Grant by Free Europe New York office; to which she had been asked to forward Jig’s mail and Pavla’s.
I telephoned the Free Europe Radio Service in NY twice; and realize now I should have gone there. But their pleasant promise to do everything possible to locate him again in the USA put me off, so to speak. I know Jig’s job was not “hushy” and was ordinary civilian radio. Free Europe assures me he is in the USA, was seen on his return, had been “in the office” but is not there now. They also said he had stayed at the Chelsea Hotel on 23rd Street with his family on landing last autumn–September probably1. I don’t know what you think of the fact that we communicated when I was in London with Jack and Jig and Pavla were in Germany, yet are cut out of context with them the moment we set foot on the soil of the country of which I am native, but we regard such a contretemps as sheer barbarity–and not on Jig’s part or Pavla’s.
If you can help me, and care to take a human view, we shall be more than obliged.
We have Fellowships here, but no money whatever; and will return to New York in the late summer, as our fares back are guaranteed and Jack must have a school-job and is the one of us best qualified by experience and degree.
I have no reason to suppose you feel any longer any interest whatever in us; but–again–I appeal to you on the basis of human feeling. I think the fact that we have four grandchildren–all American born–in common, should be enough to suggest loyalty to us as Jig’s near family as the most normal attitude. But goodness knows what anybody thinks of anything, since a disastrous metamorphosis has been wrought in so many of the country’s views. I am just hoping.
Evelyn Dunn Scott Metcalfe (Mrs John or Mrs WJ)
1 Jigg and his family returned to the US in August 1952
* * * * *
To Creighton Scott
April 20, 1953
I enclose a letter from your mother [missing]which I hope you’ll read. I’d like to suggest that if + when you get yourself a far distant post office address, you write her a small non-committal letter telling her you’re alive + well. It is going to be increasingly difficult for me to keep my up-to-now successful dead-pan front when they come back in the Fall. Her address is:–
2000 Rustic Canyon Road
Pacific Palisades, Calif
Best wishes to you!
How is Paula? I regret that it is impractical for us to meet.
* * * * *
To Margaret DeSilver
April 24 [?1953]
Sorry my letter threw you, as it appears to have done, and which I didn’t intend. Your letters have never bored me, although I admit they have scared me at times. I don’t think it’s correct to say that you have been stupid about bringing E Scott and Jack to the ‘States. What I do contend is that you, and the others involved, have failed to take into consideration that she is, in the strictly clinical sense, insane.
As you say, my mother was a bit of a witch hunter in her time. I can remember when she approached the (then) Dies Committee1 with considerable zest. Everybody who knew her at the time realises that she went quite overboard on the idea that there was a terrible conspiracy afoot to repress True Art, and that the super patriots, as represented by the Hearst Press, the un-American Activities Committee, etc. were natural allies against such a conspiracy. The logic of this did then, and still does, escape me altogether.
As I say, everyone knew, or suspected, that she was doing a bit of witch hunting. What nobody knew, and what the people I told have steadfastly refused to believe up this moment, is that she was nuts.
At the time in question, for example, I spent many hours trying to convince her that she was wrong in supposing that there was in existence a machine (a kind of telepathic radio) which enabled malignant influences(at that time communist, but today God knows what) to tune in on one’s thoughts. A little later, I tried to talk her out of the notion that this same device had been improved to the point where it could not only be tuned in on one’s thoughts, but used to twist, pervert and direct them as well. In 1943, at a time when she was considered to be quite sane, and when my own rationality was called into question for suggesting that she was not, she was urging me to get rid of my wife (Paula), by poison if necessary, because, she claimed, Paula was a robot under the influence of this contraption. It was later perfected, as she took pains to inform me, to the point where it could make people ill (How’s your arthritis?). Not only that, but it soon transpired, as she made clear, that there was no such thing as a germ or a virus, or what have you. All diseases, mechanical fractures of the bone possibly excepted, were induced by this super-gadget. There was, however, a counteragent. If you thought “right” thoughts, and repeated the word “Peruna” frequently enough, you could outwit the gadget.
This is merely by way of illustrating the point things had reached ten years ago: they were plenty bad before that. I recall suggesting to various people that she might not be all there, and all I got was a sweet, sceptical smile—the smile one accords to someone who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. As a result, I tend to laugh a little bit sardonically, which I think I am entitled to do, because I have lived in a sweat for a good many years, with nobody to give me any advice.
Here is something else which will give him some intimation of what may—or may not—happen. One day I was called up on the mat by the President of the National Broadcasting Company, of which I was a rather humble employee. He had received a letter which was not easy for him to understand, from my mother. The gist of the intelligible parts was that NBC must be exerting some malignant influence over me, otherwise I would write more often (in those days I still wrote occasionally). I apologized to him and shortly thereafter found it convenient to find a job elsewhere, with ABC.
At ABC two things happened. Firstly, I found that my mother had a reputation among persons of more or less liberal complexion as their sworn enemy, and that it was assumed that I was her staunch supporter in this. My rather timid intimations that this was not so got me nowhere. The second thing that happened was that my boss at ABC goat the inevitable letter from my mother, asking, indirectly, that some kind of beat be put on me to make me a better correspondent, and suggesting that ABC was preventing me from writing. You can imagine what a difficult thing it was to explain to the foresaid boss. He is a pretty decent guy in many ways, but not subtle.
From ABC I moved to CBS. Ed Murrow is probably still puzzled by the letter he got from my mother trying to enlist his help in making me a more dutiful son. My mail was opened in Germany by the CIA, and I have often tried to imagine what General Walter Bedell Smith, or whoever my mother’s letters (forwarded from the ‘States) finally reached thought about their contents.
As far as I know she is still a confirmed letter writer.
Now I realize that the foregoing may sound completely incredible to you, or anyone else. Nevertheless it is true. However, about the only thing I have ever asked anybody to do about it is (1) kindly not hold me responsible for what my parents did—the sins of the fathers may be visited upon the sons in the bible, but this is supposed to be a non-biblical age; and (2) that someone look into the matter, with the aid of competent and qualified medical men, without automatically assuming that it couldn’t be true because it was I who said so. If I am wrong, I shall be happy to abide by the decision of an unbiased judge, but I’m afraid I’m right. I have been for fifteen years, and the fact that I spent 25 of my 38 years dancing attendance on my mother and father gives my opinion some weight.
So much for that. You now have the main facts in fairly comprehensible form. Sorry to bother you with it all, but it seems easier to state the whole case in one lump that to try to explain it piecemeal.
I’m very grateful to you for what you are trying to do for my mother, and I’ll do anything I can to help. Frankly, however, it presents certain problems. But don’t let it get you down. Best of luck from Paula and myself.
Incidentally, you are the second person who asked me to write my mother in a week. Gladys Grant was the other. The letter is in the works.
1A predecessor of the House Un-American Activities Committee
* * * * *
To Creighton Scott
April 24, 1953
Your letter just received so horrifies and fascinates me that I hasten to answer it, even tho a letter from me must always scare and bore you! What fascinates me is the revelation of my own stupidity, and what horrifies me are the implications involved in E’s remarks to which I scarcely paid any attention!
First let me hasten to say that my arthritis—the present—was only mentioned to Evelyn because I was bored with hearing of her complaints and thought I’d just stick in one of my own. But I see that that is dangerous as, like other mentally ill people I know, Evelyn never forgets a damn thing. I have always assumed it was Evelyn’s enormous vanity that made her unable to admit that you of your own free will wish NOT to communicate with her, but had not the heart to come right out and say so—she would not have accepted it anyway. BUT I did NOT know she was so thoroughly au courant as to your ideas and intentions.
Plenty of people DID warn me against trying to bring Evelyn here are plenty are hiding out in fear and trembling, all of which makes me feel an utter ass, softy, simpleminded “Do-Gooder”—such always mess things up for all concerned. But I did somehow think that if E got out of that hideous environment she might be able to do some creative work again.
It was very sweet of Paula to write me a few lines. I did not know Margaret1 was so ill, and feel rather guilty because I did not answer a letter she wrote me about Foster’s book. Evelyn had also assailed Margaret as to your whereabouts and she had answered she did not know where you were. Knowing how Margaret has always felt about Evelyn, I was surprised that Evelyn would communicate with her. Dr Mayers, by the way, seems to have remained discretely loyal to you. She also told me that Paula is a beauty.
Yes, Cyril and E both sure have outsized egos but I sort of assumed that was a disease of artists—that they had to have egos to buck all sorts of things. But I must say when they get top-heavy, one certainly ceases to function and instead does only endless damage.
Well, that’s enough. Good luck to you both. And thank you for writing Evelyn.
1 Margué Foster, Paula’s mother.
* * * * *
To Evelyn Scott
Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico
May 24, 1953
As I wired you, it is absolutely impossible for me to see you at any time. This I explained in my wire. Joe also feels as I do that there is no use in post mortems.
So please do not come to see us at any time. I hope all goes well with you.
I have had no word from Pavli for months.
* * * * *
To Paula Scott
September 6, 1953
This is not an answer to your and [Denise’s] wonderful letters. That will come later.
This is on a subject I have held off writing you about since last March. Evelyn has written Frieda LawrenceD H 1 Ravagli a six-page letter like all her others to me trying to get her to get your address from me. It gives her father’s date of death and name and all his jobs, her mother’s etc. The exact words of her wire to me and may answer that I didn’t have your address.
So I am sending you her address and perhaps you can just write her you and Jigg are well and the children. You need not send your address but you could get her off our backs.
Frieda sent me the letter and said she could not make head or tail of it and what should she do. I’m sorry she has been bothered.
So no more of this. I’ll write soon.
Love to you, all of you,
1 D H Lawrence and his wife Frieda lived in Taos during the 1930s and in this small community would have known Margué and her husband.
* * * * *
To Creighton and Paula Scott
The Benjamin Franklin Hotel
222 West 77th Street
NYC 24, NY
March 31, 1954
Creighton and Paula Scott
care Mrs Gladys E Grant
We have arrived in New York again and will be here at shortest a week, at longest a month to six or seven weeks1, all depending on what is done for our financing, beginning today with Jack’s trying to connect with teaching posts, some for tutoring higher mat here as well as permanent for next autumn.
I have applied to other Foundations and am hopeful, as the responses have been kind cordial and remembering of everything we have done and will do soon with enough to complete our books own—nominally to me but actually saving two authors at once.
Ever since the letter each—one Jig’s and one Paula’s—in December and January we have been awaiting your address so we can stop this damnable nonsense of having to ask Gladys to forward all our letters to you. She is good about it but it makes no sense to us, and when we have every so often to admit to others this is the case, it makes no sense to them either. Give Jig’s Dad our love—on this we insist and will always insist as it DOES MAKE SENSE TO DO SO.
If there is any way at all that we can see you or you us as soon as we have any money to go anywyere for a day with you all and to see the five grands we will save for this really GREAT EVENT. Think how nice it will be for us all and for JACK TO MEET HIS STEP-GRANDCHILDREN.
I have not yet seen Mathew, Julia or Robert—please darlings let’s end a situation that is senseless and is bound to be equivocally interpreted by poison-minds—it just makes no sense and never will. We are all so lovingly well disposed—you, us and your Dad I am sure.
We are concerned as to your health, prospects and as to the mutual preservation of the dearest of our human contacts—one of the chief reasons we were so distressed that it took so long to finance our return from England.
I am naturally going to go on telling every body until we actually have your addresses—but we don’t want candour exploited either.
Jack may get a job near Chicago for next fall, though whether this is the best place or not we dont know until we know where you are—NOW NOW NOW tout de suite.
Remember your health and your prospects are one with ours to us because affection does just that—human attachments are at least half the value of every life.
We hope to see Gladys but she is Mrs Sherlock Holmes where any of you are concerned. I suppose that to her is loyalty. I don’t agree with it, because it implies you have “chosen” where I know damn well you cannot have “chosen” as you have far too much real sense to have done anything so stupid about addresses.
We left The Huntington Hertford Foundation in good standing and on an amiable footing with the Director Dr John Vincent;, his wife, his son and daughter—children—the Assistant Director Mr Proctor Stafford, and all the present Fellows. We have really liked a number, and most of the incomprehensions we first encountered were due to foreignness and poor English. Dr Vincent is tops as a classical composer.
We have been told several people were “dead” who have turned out to be still among the living. Once you hear that, you are in a spot as to saying the wrong thing. It is a lousy rumour unless well verified.
WE AIN’T LICKED YOU AIN’T LICKED CYRIL AIN’T LICKED.
Love love love love love love love
to Paula Evelyn—to Jigg Mother
Love from Jack
1 Despite this hopeful statement, they remained in the Benjamin Franklin Hotel until late 1963.
* * * * *
[The first pages of the following letter were torn up by Gladys, but the parts that remain are worth recording as they express her feelings, perhaps more forcibly than the undamaged letter would have done.]
To Evelyn Scott
June 28, 1954
I am answering at last after tearing …
us answers because I love you and …
of everything, hard as you may find …
Can’t you realize how much easier …
me to give you the old and probably …
that I have instead of keeping …
You have a right to feel that …
not to accuse me of injustice …
matter. I have forwarded you …
…itten appeals of my own to Jig and
… se were either never received or
… s for your other accusations and
… s ironic that you accuse me of
… ing a letter when I did so almost
The letter arrived late Monday …
was out and did not get home until …
but I answered first thing on …
Your postcard arrived here on
.. ng. Neither I nor the PO could
… answer to you in that short time.
…uch impossible demands on your other .
.. en scold them, no wonder you get no
…You are quite right that I avoid
… about Jig and Paula.
It is not that I don’t want to, but because you ask impossibly intimate questions that I have no way of answering and then accuse me of lying or concealing. For instance I have no possible way of knowing about Jig’s health. Even on the few past occasions when I visited them, I could only tell you what I saw or they volunteered. Evidently Jig told you much more when he saw you in London and this was only natural.I can’t possibly remember how many times I saw Jig or the family since 1941. Not many and we did not discuss you or Jack or any of them. And all you wrote abut 22 years ago was completely new to me. I was either selfishly absorbed in my own first love affair and did not know what was going on or was away in Darien. Both probably.
Please forgive the tone of this letter. I am no longer angry, but still deeply hurt. I do realize that you and Jack have been and are still going through terrible times and wish I could help. Yet you have your work and you have each other which is so much much much more than many of the rest of us. It is tragic that your work is not appreciated, but isn’t that always the fate of true artists? Not that that makes it any easier! But you have Jack’s love and I still and have always known that love is the greatest thing in the world!
Love to you both—
* * * * *
To Paula Scott
July 5, 1954
No news is good news I trust, in this case, on your part.
Perhaps you already know the following—that Evelyn Scott has placed a notice in the NY Times asking anybody informed of it—to let her have the address of her son—someone sent the clipping to Gertrude—who I think mislaid it—Does Creighton know her address?
I am still here, you see—but improving—beginning practicing walking. I still have to push a chair before me—and have a nurse beside me—but the time is near when I shall be able to go home.
I save clippings for the children without being sure that they care for them.
Love to you all
* * * * *
[The following two letters are linked: Margué included the handwritten postcard from Evelyn in her letter to Paula.]
To Margaret Foster
August 1, 1954
I am still hoping, as Jack does, that you may, by now, have the address of Paula and Jig, Denise, Fredrick, Mathew, Julia and Robert, and will send it on to use for the sake of our love for themall. We havent been able to locate Ralph and family either. Evelyn.
To Paula Scott
August 19, 1954
I’m so sorry for the delay in sending this card. I was up to my ears in work and forgot it! I’m so glad you are better. But sorry you had pneumonia! Even mildly. I’m feeling a little better since the cooler weather. And since all this work gets me more active. But, alas, I must stop and get this off.
Best love to you all,
* * * * *
[It is not clear who the Herman Rappaport of this letter is, although it appears from the letter that another of a similar name helped Evelyn during the 1940s. This letter and the following give an insight into life at the Benjamin Franklin Hotel.[
To Herman Rappaport
November 14, 1954
Mr Herman Rappaport
125 Eastern Parkway
Brooklyn 17, NY
Dear Mr Rappaport:
I trust the misleadingly “businesslike” look of this typewritten letter, will still allow me to say convincingly that my husband and myself both continue to be touched by your kindness, and that we are already thinking of you as someone we hope to meet in person in the spirit that can develop long-range acquaintance into friendliness on the firmer foundation of mutual personal knowledge.
I write on the typewriter because I always allow my personal mail to accumulate to be answered on Sunday, as the one way to get on with a novel that has suffered an infinitude of set-backs. But I ask you to believe, as it is the fact, that your gift to me of my first novel, The Narrow House, has been in my mind ever since it was delivered at the hotel on Tuesday or Wednesday, with the cheering effect you, in your generosity, of course, intended.
As it would have been natural to do so, I hope you read the letter that was missent, and for our very good old friends, the Rappoports, with your initials: Mr Harry Rappoport our lawyer of other days and, again, now, as we have recovered the contact. And the reason I especially hope you read it is that it conveyed something of our difficulties after 1945; which have been very little ameliorated since we came home.
So you see the real extent of your kindness! Here at the hotel we are still in one room, and as it is of moderate size and has just one table fit to type on, you can, I am sure, imaging the problem for two writers. That I have had the advantage of the table during much of the time is, by no means, a cause for congratulation on all scores, as John Metcalfe’s teaching job takes all his time from between 7.30 am, when he leaves here, and after six when he returns—this including those “descents into the maelstrom” that describe subway travel today, in New York. And on Saturdays and Sundays, he is usually too tired to do much more than correct pupil exercise books.
This is a state of affairs for which we are trying to find some solution in publication and revivals—our new books the main issue at stake at present—and in saving pennies so as to be sure of enough to live on next summer. That this particular aspect of artist-predicament is not peculiar to ourselves we well realize. I am an American citizen and have been continuously so all my life, and after Mr Metcalfe’s long familiarity with the country of eighteen years pre-war residence he was as shocked as I am to see how much the cultural scene had deteriorated since “planned living” became the rule. But we just don’t “give up the ship”.
We take this to be so of you, also, as of our other Rappoport friends; who, like you, staunchly support cultural values—or so I trust we rightly gather in view of your specific kindnesses to us. And knowing, because of your mention of it, that your interest in serious writing has weathered the illness to which you referred, we will, indeed, look forward to the long-deferred breathing-spell for us that will include an opportunity for us to come together in person at tea or over drinks. I trust this is not taking too much for granted. We, on our part, should like to know more of you.
I thought I would write, this time, one of my periodic long letters that really is intended for Mr Herman A Rappoport, to whom we are now both sincerely indebted for copies of our books.
With every appreciation and good wish, in which John Metcalfe joins me,
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To Herman Rappaport
December 4, 1954
Dear Mr Rappaport:
We have read with interest, as my postcard, I hope, indicated, your sympathetic account of our own difficulties of so many years in finding satisfactory quarters in which to make a home. It was just a usual run of “bad luck” that put me to bed temporarily just when we might have been meeting you and Mrs Rappaport. You are both generous again to proffer your hospitality in that full measure which includes cooking a dinner; especially when all we could—and it really is could—offer was eventual drinks in our room or near. This one of those ambiguous hotels that have the part privilege of an apartment-house, in that those who have no kitchenette in their rooms are at liberty to use the “community” kitchens on each floor. But we were in such a spot for a means to live during the summer, before my husband’s job began, that we have not yet invested in anything but some crude Woolworth cups and exactly two plates, and knives and forks; and haven’t even a saucepan other than one very small one.
This is a state of affairs we had vaguely assumed would be ended with the autumn, but there have been—as I suppose every one finds—drains on salary that have caused us to postpone the purchase of our kitchen equipment while we make sure—if we can—that next summer’s school vacation does not land us just where we were when we came back from the year at The Huntington Hartford Foundation that began our experiences since we came home.
This is all very elaborate explanation; but having been touched by the books, I feel niggardly and almost “mean”, in being unable—both of us—to respond with the hospitality that would be as “symbolic” as your gifts of our books.
However, indeed we do accept, as perhaps I have already made clear. But still we cannot set dates as John Metcalfe has about a week to do everything he should in respect to seeing people about the publication of new novels by him and the revival of old; and as a matter of diplomacy we have to leave it to others to decide first on convenient meetings.
Can you descent [sic] to my use of postcards, and sometime drop us a line indicating how many days notice you and Mrs Rappaport should have beforehand not to conflict with your own engagements, which may be complicated by Christmas, when everybody asks everybody somewhere, it still seems.
I don’t say telephone me because the public telephone is outside my door and has no box around it, and I am developing an anti-telephone phobia, the constant chatter of voluble ladies is so obstructing to my writing. I can hear everything they say, try NOT to though I do. This is nothing to sit on–they stand an hour at a time, like cows.
Your library, as you describe it, has a sound or look of healing. I used to be like Mrs Rappaport and say once I had absorbed the content of a book ownership mattered little. But I have become now, as John Metcalfe always was, like you; and as the good books published become fewer, have returned to that prizing view of my adolescence when my own—very own—carefully chosen small library was the most precious of my personal possessions. The horrible atrocious paper books with horrible atrocious bindings have tended to encourage the discarding of all books, after readings as cursory as the make-up. Even libraries can’t stock—public libraries—paper books until they are re-bound, hence often just don’t.
You write in the civilized way with a pen, and I don’t—so please don’t again feel you have ever to tax your strength—which I gather is not much—by replying in kind, unless you deeply wish to.
I write letters on Sundays, but this, too, is my substitute, a good part of the time, for conversation.
With sincerity, and many thanks to Mrs Rappaport too—from us both.
Of course telephoning is not tabooed—just we don’t prefer it. The number is Endicott 2-1100, and by all means use it if it would save you inconvenience, but phoning is best around five pm.
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