18. Greenwich Village, Canada and divorce

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

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To Lola Ridge

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

Beloved child:

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

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


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

To Louise Morgan

Staten Island, New York
September 13, 1927

Louise, beloved kid:

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

To Louise Morgan

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

January 22 [1928]

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

juarez courthouse
Juarez courthouse and jail, c 1920

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

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

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

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To Louise Morgan

[Montreal, Canada]
May 2 [1928]

Dearest Louise:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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To David Lawson


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

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

I will very greatly appreciate it, dear davy.

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

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

all my love, to you and her,

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

* * * * *

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