32. Is life too short?

Cyril’s autobiography, Life Is Too Short, was published by Lippincott in 1943.  It detailed what he described as his six careers to date and was greeted with moderate critical approval. It included an account of his “elopement” to Brazil with Elsie Dunn, the adoption of their new names, the birth of their son Creighton (who was known by his infant nickname “Jigg” throughout his life), the years of poverty in Brazil and their return to the United States in 1919.

Evelyn did not see  this book until 1945, although she knew it had been published.  When she did finally see a copy she was angered to read what she considered to be distortions.  She could not believe that Cyril would have written some of the descriptions of her and their relationship which she considered to be libelous, and the only possible explanation she could imagine was that some one, unnamed, had altered the text between the proofing and printing stages.  That person had somehow got into the print works and  had altered the passages she objected to with libelous intent.  This suspicion, which developed in her mind into a certainty, was a central theme in her letters from then on.

[NB:  I have a copy of the original typescript and have been able to compare it to the published version.  The only small differences between the two are typographical or grammatical.]

This is important because it marks the beginning of Evelyn’s continuing and increasing conviction that she was being libeled, and this in turn fed her conviction that she was being kept from her son and grandchildren.  I am introducing it here because 1945 is the point from which Evelyn’s gradually deteriorating mental condition can be most easily dated.

In 1951 Evelyn prepared a lenthy (70 single-spaced pages) document in support of efforts by friends to raise funds for her return to the United States.   The heading on each page reads:

Précis of events indicative of libel, to be read as SOON AS POSSIBLE BY CREIGHTON AND PAVLA SCOTT AND JOHN METCALFE AND, if possible, by CYRIL KAY SCOTT WHOM EVELYN SCOTT IS CONVINCED HAS BEEN VICTIMIZED WITH HER AND THEIR SON AND DAUGHTER-IN-LAW in consequence of a tampering and tinkering with LIFE IS TOO SHORT either when it was in manuscript or was being sent to press which either was unauthorized and completely illegal or was done without consultation with the author respecting facts involving both him and Evelyn Scott and their son when a child which are misrepresented and are sometimes fantastically untrue and as much to the disadvantage of the author as to Evelyn Scott and their son and his wife–the aim of this precis, which is a condensation of a longer precis to be completed in consistence with it, the restoration of the Integrity of American and British Artists and Art.

The entire document is prefaced by the following handwritten note:  “This MS contains an enormous amount of inaccuracy and I can only caution any reader to check almost any statement in it.  Paula Scott”

* * * * *


She is NOW, in 1951, convinced that the distortions of the truth respecting her Passport Document Common Law Marriage to Cyril Kay Scott, one of the earliest of the steps taken in Brazil the registration at the American Consulate in Recife, of the birth, on October 26th 1914, of their son, then called “Seely” Scott and afterward Creighton Scott—that this legal marriage was misrepresented to and by the Church, and that this also was the case respect­ing the divorce obtained from her as Mr Kay Scott’s Common Law wife, in 1928, in Chichuaua County Mexico, where divorce and marriage Laws are consistent.

Mr Cyril Kay Scott himself registered for himself and for Evelyn Dunn Scott as his wife on their arrival in Rio de Janeiro from New York, via London, on as he says the Hamburg-American liner Blucher, in the spring of 1914, before Passports were required by the States, Britain or Brazil. And that everything concerning the steps which documented the establishment of the Common Law Marriage which was absolutely concluded in Chichuaua County1 in 1928, were, between 1939 and the present, being libellously distorted and to some extent deliberately and by intention, she has not a doubt since she re-read Mr Cyril Kay Scott’s mangled autobiography, into which have been interjected misstatements in respect to everything appertaining both to her and her son that he himself, with his innate high qualities of character, the fineness of mind proven in his paintings and his novels filled with psychological insights which could NOT have written, and which are completely at odds with many comments on life philosophy and art that are recognizable as his by everyone who ever knew him well, and are scattered throughout the book. The book, Life Is Too Short is completely veracious in regard to facts which concern his scientific career and his careers in the arts and in business, including the war industry of which he was a competent administrator though he trained himself. But there is NO emotional or personal truth in the book; and it cannot be credited that any man of Mr Kay Scott’s wisdom and good sense, who, as well, has been the most understanding Father of his son and Evelyn Scott’s could concoct a cock-and-bull story about “secret agents” and “murders” as a pseudo-explanation.of the issuance of the Emergency Passport given him for himself and Evelyn Dunn Scott and Creighton Seely Scott as the Scott family, by Ambassador Morgan, when the real reason was Evelyn Dunn Scott was in seriously bad health, physically, and NOT mentally, as other libels in this book imply.

I think Mr Cyril Kay Scott incapable of mean falsehood of a petty order such as pervades those portions of Life Is Too Short which concern the life we shared during our Common Law Marriage of Fourteen Years; and as the decree which was granted him for the “desertion of bed and board”, in 1928, in Chichuaua, was consistently sanctioned by the American State Department the decree itself signed by the American Consul then at Juarez who was Mr John Dye, there was no point whatever in such a lie, unless inserted there by those whom the war had made the enemies both of the author and our son and of Evelyn Scott and JohnMetcalfe, Evelyn Scott’s second husband; who is NOT the “Father of her son”, as she has vaguely gathered some have had it.

But just before she returned FROM Canada to Tappan, New Jersey, to await her waiver and obtain the British Passport required before she could sail as an “RAF” wife into the War Zone and which she resigned immediately on landing in Britain, Mr Paul I Wellman1 had been at death’s door. And she learned this, and that Mr Kay Scott, too, was then ill, from her son and daughter-in-law in Tappan. And as she did not as was usual after her absences see Mr Kay Scott in person, and Mr Creighton Scott expressed himself in her hearing as “not interested” in reading Life Is Too Short—he and his wife were probably repelled by gossip of its vicious attack on her, Mr Creighton Scott’s Mother, but this, then, she did not know—and she herself had no opportunity to read what had been said of her until Mr Lewis Gannett, in 1947, loaned Mr Metcalfe his copy of this book and it was brought to her to England by him and she, in turn, was so revolted by the passages that libel both that she could scarcely read it,—the full and clear comprehension of the real extent of damage which may already have been done to her and her son and her daughter-in-law, his stepfather, and Mr Kay Scott himself—awaited the re-reading of Life Is Too Short in 1951 which she has just recently completed.

In 1943, she had no money to buy the book without a sacrifice of necessities she would gladly have made, had it not been that Creighton and Pavla’s aversion to it decided her that it might be best to read it at some other time; and now that she no longer doubts that libellers must have set to work on her and her son her daughter-in-law and her present husband during the war, she is too impoverished to bring libel charges against anyone, even should she wish to; and this, she is certain, is the truth regarding all concerned.

Think of having failed to warn Mr Kay Scott, when he acknowledged minor kindly practical aid, that, by listing his own and Evelyn Scott’s son and their son’s wife as among those who had “confirmed facts” in Life Is Too Short, he was allowing for the inference that she had neglected or shown little love for her only child, though there are many, and he above them all—who can attest that her concern for Mr Creighton Scott’s happiness and talents has been unremittingly proven her life long, and that as soon as he so much as contemplated marriage it extended to his present wife as well. Think of these things, and of an mss sent on probably unread after these passages were re-done by a “proxy”—possibly “authorized” but not “specified”—and think of the dismay Mr Kay Scott must have felt on reading them himself, and discerning a baseness towards him which, by seemingly reflecting on his son Creighton Scott and Creighton Scott’s wife, was like a criminal cancellation of his own generosities of a lifetime. Slanders inception is always among congenitally de­praved types, and, doubtless, in America, that system introduced with gangsterism, which allows criminals to batten on their moral betters, and is designated “police protection”, has fostered slan­der as convenient to extortion. And even as Evelyn Scott conjectures that slanderers must have battened obliquely, probably in contexts of the war and immigration, on a defamation of herself by which it hoped to embarrass the British and American consuls of 1943 and 1944, she is as con­vinced that Mr Kay Scott, also, loving very genuinely the children of his first marriage, was as much tricked into their inclusions in “Acknowledgements” as on the score of Mr Creighton Scott and his wife; as wilful insult was, to superficial minds, even more easily attributable to the Wellmans and especially because both Mr Paul I Wellman and Mr Manly Wellman1 have been newspaper men and are inured to some extent to the hardness expected in newspaper work.

Evelyn Scott does NOT believe they would be capable of vengefulness toward her, as she likes all of them, nor that they, any more than their Father, would allow any book by Mr Kay Scott to be cheapened by the atrociousness of those passages in Life Is Too Short which are most at variance with everything else Mr Kay Scott has written. So in her estimate, all concerned are victims!

1Chihuahua, Mexico. This is typical of Evelyn’s repeated misspellings of names.

Next week — back to normal!