27. Recovery, two deaths and a granddaughter

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

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

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

* * * * *

Will of Maude Thomas Dunn

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

Maude Thomas Dunn

April 6, 1937
Clarksville, Tennessee

MTD will

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

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

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

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

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

 * * * * *

To Louise Morgan

28 Craven Terrace, London W2
September 23, 1937

My Dear Louise,

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

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

Love, – see you soon,
John

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

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

Dear Lola,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

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

Darling Dear,

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

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

State of New Mexico
County of Rio Arriba

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

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

17th March 1930

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

And on back is “Marriage Licence”—No 4478

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

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

All all love
from your
Dickie1

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

1  Evelyn’s pet name for Jack

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Claygate, Surrey
October 15, 1939

Darlingest Dear,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 * * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Claygate,Surrey
October 19, 1939

Darlingest Dear,

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

Muscovites.jpg

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

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Claygate, Surrey
March 11, 1940

Darlingest Dear,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Claygate, Surrey
April 1, 1940

Darlingest Dear,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours
Dickie (W J Metcalfe)

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

* * * * *

Louise Gracey1 to Evelyn Scott

April 21, 1940

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

1 A Clarksville cousin of Evelyn’s

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

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

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

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

god bless, evelyn

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

NEWYORK NY FEB 10 857P

MRS W J METCALFE 150 REGENT ST SG

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

DSF West Union_20180325_0001.jpg

To Evelyn Scott

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

Dear Mother,

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

ES and DSF.jpg

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

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

Your affec son,
Jigg

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

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

DSF announcement_20180325_0001
Engraved announcement, by Jigg

 * * * * *

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

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Scotch Plains, New Jersey
May 25, 1941

Dear Evelyn:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,
Glads

* * * * *

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

26. A cottage by the sea

Evelyn and Jack left Yaddo for the last time in April 1934, Jack returning to London and Evelyn staying on in the US, staying first with her friends Gladys and Dudley Grant in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, and then with friends at various addresses in New York City. Very few letters of the period before Evelyn returned to England in 1935 to rejoin Jack have been preserved, and the narrative, with its themes of physical and mental ill health, resumes as Jack and Evelyn prepare to return to Suffolk.

 * * * * *

To Lola Ridge

[c/o Grant], Scotch Plains, New Jersey
July 13, 1934

Blessed, your letter is stamped June 22nd.  Well, I gave only the lighter reasons for my failure to acknowledge it on my postcard to Davy. The chief reason is another accumulation of a crisis in my perpetually critical personal affairs—not men, sweet one, nor book—money, health, things happening out west1.  I have simply been too harassed to write.  Am this morning commencing to circulate among the most possible another petition to borrow money for a two week trip to the west in September of October.  I thought to make enough by writing short stuff and (optimism) selling it in the three or four months in this place, but, alas, I fear me my mental state precludes such a solution.  I have attempted five short stories since I arrived and only one has got itself completed in any form approaching saleableness.  So in desperation I am going to try to get the fare more parasitically.

Jack writes from London in a cheerful tone about his treatment at the London School of Tropical Medicine2 which seems to be doing him far more good at once than the methods used here.  However, he is running up a large bill with a Harley Street specialist as well as a hospital bill for something called “Suda” baths, so when the Aunt Mary will is finally settled, as we hope it may be in about six months, he is certainly going to need the dab he will get out of it.  Yet we are infinitely lucky to have the dab in sight, I know.  The damndest irony is that Jack has been made trustee and has every month to sign checks for his Aunt Evie (aunt in law—widow of the parson) who is the beneficiary of the income we had hoped would be his.  Ha, Ha!

 evelyn

1  Cyril was in Santa Fe with Jig at the time.
2  
While working in the tropics some years earlier, Jack had contracted amoebic dysentery.

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge and David Lawson

Scotch Plains, New Jersey
September 29 [1934]

Lola and Davy dear:

I have been planning to get to Jack the middle of next month (leave then) but can’t go without that annoying object, cash, and [my publisher] is (CONFIDENTIAL) demanding $2500 for my release on the option clause on his contract.  I can’t write another book without financial support from a publisher and no publisher will give it and pay Smith and Smith himself (tho I loathe him and want to quit at any cost) won’t advance a penny himself.  I’ve got just enough left of the advance on Buts1 to pay the passage but nothing to live on.  Jack needs small ready cash for doctors bills and subsistence.  In short, while I never quite keep up with you and all that, darlings, I do my best to, as you can see.

I’ve had to go in town to the dentist and am going to stay two or three nights as Lenore’s guest this coming week.  Every day will be dentistry, but I’d make a hell of an effort to see you all for a little while if it is possible and darling Lola not very ill again.

Heaps love always, my darlings—hoping all is at least as well with you as when last heard from, evelyn

Evelyn’s acronym for Breathe Upon These Slain

* * * * *

Some time during the ensuing months Jack received his expected legacy.  The amount is not mentioned, but it was enough to buy a modest cottage in the small coastal village of Walberswick, in Suffolk.  Jove Cottage still exists, much as it was then, with nothing between it and the North Sea but marshland, fully exposed to bitter winds from Scandinavia.

DSCF3812
Jove Cottage today [photo: DSF]

Evelyn returned to England in the spring of 1935 to rejoin Jack at Jove Cottage. There don’t appear to be any surviving letters describing the reasons Jack chose to buy in this location, or her journey to England, or her first impressions of Walberswick.  The following sequence is interesting not only for its chronicle of Jack’s deteriorating mental health, but also for her descriptions of domesticity.


* * * * *

To David Lawson

Jove Cottage, Lodge Road
Walberswick, Suffolk
June 22 [1935]

Davy dear, you and your lovely flowers seem still both very near and far off.  I’m quite homesick as a matter of fact, though hoping to become readjusted and get over it.  But I am afraid I am very American.

We are making efforts to reinstall ourselves in our new abode but every conceivable power seems against it so far and we are sitting amidst innumerable boxes in the Bell Hotel, the local pub.  How long we shall remain in this suspension I don’t know.  It’s worrying about work, chiefly.

Jack is so-so, in some ways better than I hoped in some not so good.  The cottage itself looks rather sweet, with tiny rooms that are, however, adequate in number, a very steep roof with brown tiles, a white-washed brick outside and peacock blue window frames.  It is on the edge of town and has a rather sweet peep at the somewhat distant sea.  At present poppies are all over the fields and cheer the view considerably.  But the question of light (fireplaces really aren’t six inches broad) furniture and fixings as Woolworth in Britain is a more limited establishment than the same in USA.

As I have to type in my lap in a very dark room I’m not eloquent on letters but I send this ahead anyhow because I shall so very much want to receive them.  I’m just praying everyone will give me more than my own deserve as, during the next two or three weeks, I probably shan’t have any opportunity to write decently.

It is precisely a week since I landed and not one day has it failed to rain—that’s something else to get used to.  NO summer at all this year is the present prophecy.

Davy dear, the lovely roses were kept fresh in a vase in the cabin for a while and did once appear on the table upstairs.  And you and Lola are my dear, dear, dear, dear, dears forever and ever.  Always and always—and with Jack’s love, too,

evelyn

* * * * *

walberswick
Walberswick village, c 1930 [www.oldukphotos.com]

To MRG1

Walberswick, Suffolk
July 4, 1935

Dearest Mary:  July 4th and nobody knows it!  In fact I scarcely know what day it is at all.  But the day your note came was the red letter one for me, because I find myself rather low and homesick after my long sojourn in USA and mail a very reassuring celebration.  Especially mail like that from you.  One of the defects of temperaments given to immediate responses to scene is a tendency to interpret the future in terms of whatever moment it is, and I haven’t written a lick since the first week in May, when never was writing more imperatively needed.  Part of this is exigencies of any move, but a further extended part has been our effort to furnish this place cheaply from auction sale junk which looks presentable only if painted.  I haven’t taken my hands off a paint brush except briefly for two weeks and there is a lot more to come—painted two whole bedroom suites including a cursed wardrobe, and there are more living room cupboards and book shelves.  It occurs to me that women—or my sort—function much like insects in regard to houses. Obviously I should sit down on a packing box and write no matter what; but somehow, since this is presumed to be more than a transient habitation, I can’t rest without trying to give it, however, simply, a shipshape appearance of some sort.  Poor Jack (who was very bad when I came but is I think and hope improving) simply had left no reserve for furnitures, bedding, kitchen utensils—and British Woolworth’s sell few of these things.  It is most annoying to find that in England only the best is to be had and one pays six shillings for a bread box when a quarter one at home would do just as well—except that they don’t exist over here.

We have been everywhere in Suffolk looking for bargains and probably spent more in gasoline than we saved.  I don’t think either of us is very bright in a business way!  And now we are confronted with the how of paying rates and taxes, both on the car needed off the railway in the country and on the house damnation!  We’ve talked about selling at once, but it seems so lilly and as J says he would have to drop at least a thousand dollars on what he’s spent on such hurry-up things.  So I hope we can persuade ourselves not to worry for a while and enjoy the advantages.  The house is quite sweet—small rooms, but quite a number for its size, and J had it placed with the kitchen to the road and the living and bedrooms to the rear from which he have a sweet continuous glimpse of the sea.  It’s all done very nicely plain, with a brick floor in the best room and rafters and unpainted woodwork.  And J got four carpets for other rooms for practically nothing.

There are lots of psychological problems I scarcely dare write about.  Not people.  Just J’s need to be analysed which is very various and acute and much worse during last year3.  But better not refer to his in writing to me as he might read and be upset.

He sends his love and I send barrels.  Evelyn.

1 There is extensive correspondence between Evelyn and “MRG”, but apart from knowing her first name is Mary, it has not been possible to identify her.
Alfred Edgar Coppard, English short story writer and poet, who was a neighbour of Jack and Evelyn in Walberswick. They later became friends.
3 An early reference to Jack’s later breakdown and his continuing fragile mental health.

* * * * *

To Louise Morgan

Walberswick, Suffolk
August 4 [1935]

My sweet old whirlwind, what a week again!  Jack and I plan to come and put up on you all as soon as we get the car back, as it now seems we will in a fortnight or a little more, but we’ll give you ample warning as I realize it isn’t going to be any cinch for you to house so many even for a night.  And meanwhile don’t forget you DID say you could come up some Sat and go back Sunday even when not vacationing.  The “guest room” for one is done and we are scouting for a bed for the so-called maid’s room which will be two ample before long I hope.

I woke up with the most prime example of a Sunday headache and all my letters to do—Mother, Jig, and Charlotte every week but also about 25 more—so this is a scrap.  This morning a whole flock of pheasants in the—sic—“garden” and rabbits eating the wild daisies.  One shouldn’t get hectic in such a place.  However, except for likable Coppards, I suspect Walberswick is as foul a little village as every other little village, all the poison cunningly disguised by thatched roofs.

We wanna see you both SO.  LOVE!
evelyn

PS  Did I write Jig reputed by non-family to have brought back water colours that would make Winslow Homer jealous—from Dominica?

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

Walberswick, Suffolk
August 12 [1935]

All would be well with me except for time pressures.  This is a pretty house, an unimportant landscape full of nice detail—heather quite up to its most sentimental apologists.  So like the softest brightest poem of grief up and down everywhere—then the bracken going golden already and, after rain, bitter smelling divinely.  It’s been five weeks since I walked to the sea and the line of it is before my window daily.  That’s because I am working too hard, also perhaps dislike of the village which I have imagined a nastier community than I have proof of.  So when we do walk a few times we go away from town, of which we are the last house.  Barley and oats make fields full of moonlight of sunlight now the crop is dry, and this with a windmill and the water clear silver or metal blue behind.  And sometimes I feel as if I’d been born into a world where people weren’t and remembered through Karma the last warmer existence.  I never shall have a root here more than an inch below surface.  All my temperament against wanting one.  Makes me so apologetic to Jack.

Please write me if you can but don’t if it takes heart beats that belong somewhere besides letter. Jack’s love with mine toujours, evelyn

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

Walberswick, Suffolk
October 20, 1935

Sweetheart your understanding of Jack is movingly precious to us both.  He has the most huge capacity for suffering I ever saw, and that is all that defeats us in life even as it contributes to art.  The war cloud has done things to him too.  We don’t feel safe or able to plan.  We can’t write.  I try.   If he gets any money, we want Jig here.  I’m very worried all the time by Jig’s complete isolation, his temperamental resistance to contacts.  Next to Jack he is the most congenially suffering person—and so much my fault, early wounds, maladjustment, no sense of coherence in his background.  I made a mistake being so away from him—let superficial advocates of Freud persuade me it was bound to be good.  And really in twelve years he has had two productive years and both those he spent with us.  That isn’t because he doesn’t love Cyril—he does deeply and they have very deep rapports.  But I went away, and the psychic uncertainly in Jig traces to it most.  Also I wanted Jig here selfishly because of responsibility with Jack ill so much, much isolation and somebody to go to France with me for F[rench] R[evolution] material if I ever get there.

We want to rent this house but not yet able.  It would be lovely in summer months to people at ease in their minds but harder to rent in winter—bleak.  Gales over the marshes from the sea.  Chimneys shriek, walls rock and the dour neutrality of troubled English skies looks like the worst reflection of one’s own dead moods.

It was a lovely day when I left there—sunset and snow and pinons and a young winter moon.  I feel almost an exalting nostalgia when I remember.  Yes, it got me despite everything.  Here never does so much.  The Coppards especially Mrs have helped Walberswick for me but I don’t love it.  Only at times the commons with the raspberry rust of dead bracken, the pine trees and the marshes, are smally lonely in a sort of poignant way.

I signed the contract for the short book on Tennessee1 for McBride because must have money from somewhere when leave here, but shall be very disturbed if return to USA without french r[evolution] material after all.  Arms of both of us around our Lola.  Darling Cyril won’t tell when he has troubles so I never know.

God bless darling dear beautiful own lola from us, evelyn.

1Background in Tennessee, published in 1937.

 old w'wick

To MRG

Walberswick, Suffolk
November 10, 1935

I’ve been and still am laid low by a small rectal fissure, but an air pillow and care may ward off the depressing experience a nursing home is to me even when the occasion is trivial.  The real danger of it is that being physically a bit low inclining one to apathy and I seem able to work only in fits and starts—which is why the mss promised for Sept 15th may not be completed until after Christmas.  Once it is placed I am going home, because, no use talking, when I hear of Jig’s having bronchitis etc, I know that home is where the child is, no matter how often Freud proves motherhood to be the root of all evil.

Oh, Mary, Mary if you only could see the house!  I mean how inexpressibly more than a house it would become if some aura from the body presence of beloved people could be shed here!  The walls have been distempered now and all the furniture painting, to the so-called little maid’s room is over with—maid’s room my real triumph as its combine furnishings before painting cost exactly twelve dollars (including rug—tho we have no bedding yet).  Most frightful junk not even selected, just cast in an odd lot at auction.  But bright yellow and grey enamel with golden-brown trimmings, the rug blue and a very bright light blue mirror and candle stick with orange curtains look really sweet.  We’ve had half a dozen too expensive and tiring duty week-end guests, and not one person either of us cares two hoots for has ever crossed the threshold.  And soon it will we aspire to hope become the property of renters anyhow.  I’m too, too, too American after all to really ever want a home forever here..  Poor Jack—I wonder if he feels the same in US, and do we demand equally of the foreigner that he “spit in his own face”?  Or is that Ellis Island behaviour not current elsewhere?

We see the sea all the time–a rather remote troubled line which is very occasionally a bright blue.  We visit it rarely, and not for a month when we took our last walk down the lane, through the marshes and saw swans between the dykes.  The heather went, and the bracket is as rusty as old tomatoes, but looks fine in a sunset after rain.  Shooting at Blyborough Lodge finished the quail and pheasants who from being our tame backyard pests have become creatures who clack mournfully and rarely in some distant hedgerow.  Jack’s love and mine much, e

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

Walberswick, Suffolk
December 29 [1935]

Yes, we have had a hectic three seasons, but at present are calmer if not more settled as to futures.  I feel so touched by your understanding of Jack.  He is so kinky and so sweet both, so difficult to get to those who don’t give to comprehension with that unrestricted generosity you do.  His insides I feel may never be really first rate, but if—as for all of us—he could only make something from writing all the outgoing elements in his nature would have their real chance.

Jig had bronchitis and doctor thought even if money available he’d better not.  The houses are so cold and the climate so dreadful I expect it was sound advice, but great disappointment all around.  I worry a lot about all that, but can’t be helped.  Cyril has a makeshift job of some sort (please don’t tell it’s make shift) and what distresses me there is his prospect of old age and nothing.  However we all face parallels. . .  His book on art was so really profound I don’t see the usual editor understanding a word of it.

We went to the Coppards on Xmas day.  Do you remember Adam and Eve and Pinch Me in The Dial?  He has a very subtle intuition.  But he is also in hard waters financially and they are rather morbid there not seeing anything ahead with two kids.  Our most cheery Xmas visitor was the local chimney sweep who gave us parsnip wine and yarned about when he was in India in the Punjab.  He is very Kiplingesque.  He said of his whippet bitch:  She’s so intelligent it’s like lookin’ in a dictionary to look in her face.

Lovely I’ll be full of selfish aches of want when I arrive in NY and no you.  So I hope so hope this beautiful font of great profundity is flowing there, so we can all be glad even for our selfish selves of your absences.  Jack’s most love with all, all and forever mine, evelyn

* * * * *

In the summer of 1936, Evelyn returned to New York, leaving Jack in England.  There are significant gaps in the correspondence, but the remaining letters hint at Evelyn’s future mental and physical health as well as providing excruciating detail about Jack’s breakdown and Evelyn’s threat to leave him.

A theme of future letters, hinted at here, is Jack’s immigration status.  At that time US immigration laws required that prospective immigrants prove their eligibility by producing relevant documents and by remaining in the US for minimum periods.  In addition, Evelyn’s “common law” marriage to Cyril becomes, for the first of many times, a problem in its lack of the necessary documentation.

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

care Scott, 359 West 22nd Street, NYC
[early 1936]

My own my lovey my dear:  Next best to seeing yourself truly was seeing Davy who substantiates the link.  I love you. . .  whole letter full.

I don’t like New York again.  I mean the tastelessness of the people, the complete absence of any integrity, the casual view of brutality, have me down again.  But I shall have my nerves rubbed down and like it once more with time I’m sure.

I had flu on arrival, was in bed off and on for three weeks, and had to review my novel (not yet done) which has delayed my trip to Tennessee embarrassingly, as I am living on my travel money before I start.  You see I signed up with McBrides for a short book on the state—they have no connection with novel—and other money I get will have to be by immediate sale of novel elsewhere.  Nothing decided as to publisher for novel, nor can there be until the book is done.

Cyril is living uptown with Alice1, whose husband has died, while I am keeping house with Jig which is a great joy.  Jig is working for PWA2 and recently has done what I think some very fine painting for himself.  I see little of Cyril who works too hard.  Poor Jack has esophagitis (chronic esophagus irritation causing spasmodic contraction when swallowing) had his septic tonsils out under misapprehension it would help and other trouble worse in consequence.  I am deeply distressed by his being in Walberswick alone.  After two weeks hospital still sick with no help.  His novel Sally out soon but I daren’t hope it will make money fine as it is.

I’m working well five thirty every day and no holidays, so this isn’t much of a letter; but I hope it reaches the loveliest human sooner or later.  I’m simply an ache of expectancy to see what has come out of Mexico, which has better health behind it.   Love, evelyn

1 Alice Wellman, his only daughter, at the time a well-known concert pianist.
2
Jig was working for the Works Public Administration (WPA), an agency of Roosevelt’s New Deal which gave support to artists by employing them on public projects.

* * * * *

To Otto Theis

[c/o Scott, 359 West 22nd St, NYC]
[mid 1936]

Otto, old darling!  I have meant for weeks to write and thank you for sort of ministering to Jack.  Wynne Coppard1 has been writing me ever so pressingly abut psycho-analysis and if J has any money at all it will be the greatest act of friendship to encourage him, as while there is no advance proof of a cure, it is the only hope, apparently, for an existence not ridden by the cancer  bugbear (which in turn produces the drink one, though the cancer probably stands for the real complication).

These seven months (imagine!) have been grisly like most seven months during the last twenty years, but little distractions (by the way I howled in an unholy way which belied my sympathy when I heard Jack had a mutilated bottom too) like hospitals and work enough to kill will be nothing if this war business can only be lived down.  Jack wants me to come over immediately, and I want to and don’t.

I’m writing about New York, and the more I contemplate the place the more sinister it seems.  Insidiously so.  My friends who are here continuously don’t see why I feel it is.  Because it is so exciting.  So full of opportunities for mob hilarity and mob murder.  The Communists are much more cagey now and are gaining ground—though what ground it is I’m not sure.  Anyhow, my janitress, who is a “Limey” by ancestry, Brooklyn by all but birth, hints about the class struggle; and the Holland Dutch Jewess in the delicatessen speaks meaningfully of Andrew Mellon. The “Chelsea” communist centre gets out a newspaper calculated to appeal to Ladies Home Journal addicts—housing homeiness.

Otto, darling, can you suggest Jack might better come over here than get me caught in England in a war with mother minus any checks and Jig jobless:  I’m coming, end of October, if he hasn’t.  But he thinks Mussolini and Hitler will have run amok before then.

Awfully perturbed—that is to say normal—for me.

Heaps of love, evelyn

1 Wife of Alfred Coppard, neighbours of Jack and Evelyn in Walberswick.

 * * * *

To Otto Theis

[c/o Scott, 359 W 22nd Street, NYC
[Summer 1936]

Dearest Otto, old dear, gee, I feel grateful for the soothing sane feeling you always manage to convey.  Hearing from you about anything at all does me good, and hearing from you in connection with Jack does me good even though I don’t know what the hell and all to do about him.  The cancer of the spine1 is going strong according to his last letter, which I read between lines, as he is getting most temperate in statements, being, I think afraid I won’t show up or something.  But he sent me the address of his solicitor and has made a few light references to a “dying man”, deprecating the idea, but, actually, I suspect pretty well in its grip.  I am so sorry for him I could die myself if it would help—though contradictorally I’m sorry for myself, too, as my particular congenital brand of near christianity makes it almost impossible for me to know how to handle his fear problems with anything but emoting in response—and that of course isn’t therapeutic.   Between you and me strictly, Wynne wrote me I was going to be in for it if I returned to Walberswick alone this winter again—I mean she felt the cancer would be worse than ever and I would have a thin time handling (she speaking medically).  She tried to get Jack to an analyst in London, but he couldn’t afford even the clinic rates (he couldn’t in one sense, he is very hard up, but I expect he welcomed the rationalization of resistance); so she wanted me to get him over here where my few medical acquaintances might cooperate with me in psychiatric measures about the business. . .  I’ve done my damndest and I can’t budge him.  He professes sincerely (as far as he knows) to want to shift the focus of living here, but the fact that the house is there and rent free and we are both very poor justifies stalling about the expensive tourist entrance for six months (he not feeling desperate about him in my terms).   Jack’s previous expired application was pre-matrimonial—I didn’t come into it.  Now, ye gods (and what about penalizing “virtue”) since we are married the petition has to be mine, not his.  In order to pull it off I have to prove my marriage to Cyril (yeah—“fact”), produce divorce papers, subsequent marriage, etc.  I can supply everything but me lines preceeding my divorce, and there you are!  Wonderful irony that Jack can’t enter because I can’t prove I married Cyril don’t you think?

All this to tell you why I want very much to get J here and why I can’t. I mean I should be ready to go there at once if my book were done and there was heaps of cash.  I simply must have a found trip fare as well as arrangements made here, because if I get caught as last year with no money in that Walberswick isolation not knowing what to do for him I shall end by developing galloping cancer of my own. . . (it’s getting me, been smoking like a chimney and suddenly discovered what I thought a strange lump—cancer of mouth undoubtedly—telephoned May, without mentioning cancer, and she said go to Memorial Hospital and have them look, so I died overnight, went there the next day, and was told I had a bad case of smokers mouth but the cancer was just a congenital excrescence—like syphilitic shinbones or Hutchinsons teeth2 I suppose; very small and insignificant and unnoticed before.  With all this, I could wish Jack was nearer you than he is, because Otto dear, I simply can’t depend on his report of himself, and I get pretty piseyed trying to figure it out.

Jig and I are in suspense over WPA threat to fire 1400 non-relief people from painting project.  His job may only last until Nov 4th, and I don’t want to leave till I see either.  But he’s making chaos of the kitchen trying out technique of old masters studied through allusions in librarys (ies) and constant visits to Metropolitan.  I have about thirty letters to do and here I run on.  But I’m so grateful, and, as so often, rather drowning clutching at salvation.  Awful gossip about us here.  Suppose one shouldn’t care, but [Jack’s] failure to come over has stated some terrible tales—Mrs Ames leading, so very uncomplimentary to me.  Problem is to care about all the good things and not care about the rotten ones, instead of, as I do, caring indiscriminately about everything. Now you are much nearer my ideal in this respect. I don’t dare think about the war—but I do.  Love completely wholly to you and Louise,

evelyn

This reference to a diagnosis of cancer of the spine is puzzling. Three years later Jack, who was a Royal Air Force reservist, was called up to active duty: it is highly unlikely this would have happened with any cancer diagnosis. He didn’t see active service but was assigned instead to administrative duties; there is no suggestion either that he suffered from cancer in later life.
2
Hutchinson’s teeth are thought to be a sign of congenital syphilis. There is no suggestion anywhere in the letters or in the family history that any of Evelyn’s parents or grandparents was syphilitic.

* * * * *

To Otto Theis

[c/o Scott, 359 West 22nd Street, NYC]
[October 1936]

Otto dear:

I enclose a note you may be able to give Jack before he sails.  I sent one to Bingham Hotel, Southampton Buildings, WC1, where he will presumably be until October 21st when he sails on the Montrose for Montreal.

The sale of the house,1 or its mortgage and proposed sale, was on impulse but it was best considering his terrible state of mind.  Wynne writes me he is in the most serious state she has ever know him to be and that it is acutely dangerous, I must do something.  I have no money but I’ll go to Montreal as soon as he sends some, at least to see him, hoping I can get him to enter here Tourist and return to Canada later.  He speaks in note today of buying a house in Canada as soon as he lands.  If you see him Otto please suggest not.  I’m terrified.  He has the idea he must save his money and it is so little only a house will hold it.  But that is quite mad and really as there is no reason on god’s earth for staying in Canada any longer than we can help, he’ll have to sell again and lose again.  I want him in New York where conceivably May Mayers2 will help me to get a psychiatrist for him. Meanwhile I’m on next to last chap of last draft of novel, and Tenn book not even begun and McBride already restive.  I’ll be the dotty one too soon.  Life always has another little trick up her sleeve worse than the last.  Wouldn’t it be funny to have something to be happy about!

Afraid those cheerful words go for all of us!  god bless and thank you.  Love to Louse.

Jove Cottage
May Mayers was not only a physician but a loyal friend

* * * * *

To Maude Dunn

[c/o  102 Greenwich Avenue, NYC]
November 29, 1936

Darling mother:  I hope the fact that my cheque to you can’t go until end of next week when I expect Scribners to have paid me some advance money won’t upset you.   It is coming all right.  I have my hands full as you can imagine, with Jack sick (and mental and nervous ailments take more of the nurse than most physical things).  Jig is trying to find a cheap place but at present we are all crowded together rather miserably.  Also there is a prospect of the complete collapse of the art project as enemies of Roosevelt are taking advantage of his absence in South America to shut the thing up if they can. The administration has received its heaviest criticism on the score of the wastefulness of the WPA and the most stringent technicalities are now being applied for a display of economy.  On the art projects one of every three is to be fired.  The directors (of whom Cyril is one) have refused to obey the order.  As they had no responsibility for hiring people they say they won’t fire them.  Either they are allowed to say who stays and who goes or they strike. The best artists were not on relief (the ruling is those not previously on relief have to go) yet all need jobs, and to run the project as an art project with only the dud ones left is a joke.  So tomorrow Monday, 68 directors and supervisors will refuse to obey the order to fire people.  Then Mrs MacMahon, the head of all the projects, will fire them (the directors) for insubordination.  That will bring matters to a head and the art projects will either have to be reorganized on different lines or will close up.  So Cyril and Jig may be jobless again or may not.  The whole thing will get publicity in London papers undoubtedly.  But you can see there never was such a piling on of crises in the personal sense,.

Yes, it is a breakdown easily explained and I’m sure he will recover.  You can tell Graceys he had a nervous collapse and is in a state of dangerous melancholia but not crazy, as he isn’t—I mean he talks rationally except that the worry mania is not off his mind more than half an hour at a time.

Love, love, love, Evelyn

* * * * *

To Otto Theis

[c/o Abrams, 66 Perry Street, NYC]
[December 1936]

I have not written before because things have been too, too dreadful.  Getting [Jack] into America was no cinch as my divorce1 and finances had to be scrutinized.  We are probably here only because our gratis lawyer knew the head of immigration.  Nothing illegal was done but it was all rushed through without any advantage taken of the occasion to quibble, particularly about my lack of cash.  All that lasting over three weeks was strain enough, but since arrival Jack has had a complete breakdown.  The difficulty of getting psychiatric treatment for a man whose mania is anxiety about money, so that he is almost afraid to buy a meal, has been ghastly.  Mental troubles are exclusive millionaire luxuries.  Poor people evidently just go plumb crazy and a shut up.  However a friend introduced us to a child analyst who has in turn written to the head of Cornell Psychiatric, who in turn may make some rate I can pay if Jack won’t. But the whole atmosphere of a small flat containing someone off their rocker, Jig by turns (in daily expectation of the collapse of the art project) and me trying to write has been morbid beyond expression.  Also Jack’s obsession is another house, to be bought with his mortgage money, and what was left from a precipitate sale of Jove Cottage (he now expects never to get that because of king crisis), and there has been the additional factor of train journeys here and there to find very cheap house we can move to next month.  But I want to delay until terms of his treatment are arranged.

I blew up myself two days ago and yesterday Jack made a mighty effort and visited [Davy] to show he could mix with people.  It was a good sign as far as it went.  I haven’t been able to have a soul come here and practically unable to go out myself as I find him a wreck when I return.  He never sleeps, cries all night etc.  So he did all the first part of Walberswick but he was drinking heavily then and now isn’t.  Still if we don’t die he can be cured, and in England he never would have been because I have to take the initiative and had no medical connections and only formal other ones.  If he could make money by a book, any money beyond the advance, it would probably do more than all the psychiatry in the world.

What Jack needs to think is he did the right thing in sacrificing Jove Cottage.  He dreams of it all the time with awful guilt—sure it meant perfect security.  He wants to think England sure of a war. I was horrified when he sold it tho relieved he cabled he was coming here because last year scared me so I was gritting me teeth to face isolation with someone whose mental health was so precarious.

Again loads love.  Jack sends his, too. He’s perfectly lucid but obsessed and chisophrenic.  How spell. evelyn

Evelyn and Cyril were never married. What she firmly believed to have been a “common-law” marriage had no status in law: there was no provision for common-law marriages in any of the jurisdictions which they might have been able to claim: Tennessee, Louisiana or Kansas (where Cyril’s existing marriage would have been an obstacle)

.* * * * *


To Otto Theis and Louise Morgan

[c/o 102 Greenwich Avenue, NYC]
January 11, 1937

Dearest Otto and Louise:

Jack has been in the Payne Whitney Psychiatric1 for a month and is scheduled for at least two months more before he will be considered a going concern.  The obsession is the loss of the house; and while he is definitely medically speaking no lunatic, the situation for the moment is as if he were.  It is such a long accumulated story, and I am so tired that I won’t attempt a resume of the “case” in full; but the matter of survival, and the constant fluctuation of plans between England and America play a part.  Jack is not the type to sacrifice his work for my support and neither am I capable of giving up my work to support him, if I could do so.  Then there is my mother.  Maybe we would have found a way out had our sexual attitudes been truly complimentary.  But while we are fond enough of each other for the alternative to carry considerable pain, there seems no question in the doctor’s mind any more than mine that it would be simplest if we were to separate.  Jack doesn’t know this.  He is still in a turbid, chaotic state.  He may not know it until a while after he leaves the hospital and America; because his feeling more me combines extreme dependence and extreme resentment in which such bewilderingly overlapping measures he himself cannot deal with his emotions at all.

So don’t tell what I feel is already decided: that he is to return to England as soon as able, and that I will not follow as he now expects.  So much of the neurosis concerns money, and his affairs are so precarious, the doctors consider it would be therapeutic if he got any sort of job for a while, though preferably one through literary connections.  He has lost nothing as to competence once he regains poise; and I believe, if the worst time can be got through, he is going to be far better off than for some years because the situation and his whole life will be clearer, less confused—invitation to chistophrenic behaviour less.  But I dread when I must write him the letter to say I am not coming back; and I beg and pray everybody who cares at all in friendship for either of us to stand by him and do what can be to make the terrific readjustment which will be demanded easier, so as not to throw him again into this utter defeat and collapse.  He could leave the hospital now if it were not for the certainty of suicide if he did.  Getting him to stay is made hard by his money terror, as the money expended for treatment is his, and I have none.   I don’t dare make the break in this country because he will not have recovered for long enough to bear it.  He cries continually that he cannot live alone.

So please, please, please do what you can for him.  You can imagine after Merton’s tumour2 how this hits, though thank god it is a different bag of tricks, being curable.

dearest love, evelyn

1 A psychiatric clinic in New York City.
2
Owen Merton had suffered from a brain tumour which caused his eventual death.

* * * * *

To Louise Morgan

c/o W O Tuttle, Esq
Corn Exchange Bank Trust Co7th Avenue and 14th Street
New York City
January 27, 1937

My Dear Louise.

May I, out of depths of the worst misery, recall a promise you once made me?  Evelyn has separated from me today.  I am (tho’ above address is for your reply) in a Psychiatric Clinic.  I have already lost my house, and now, when I was already so low, Evelyn has taken this time to decide we are “incompatible”.  I have pleaded with her in vain.  My fault was that the Atlantic between us gave me such jitters that I lost the house and came over here almost a wreck.  As a result I suppose my company was too depressing to bear, and now, while I am here in a Psychiatric Clinic she delivers this, to me, almost death-blow.  I cannot realise it yet.  I still hope the breach may one day be healed, but I don’t know.  I am coming back to England pretty well knocked.  I have to stay here in hospital for another month anyhow, but expect to sail for England about March 5th to 10th, arriving by 17th or so.

I’m not sure if E realises what she has done either to herself or to me.  I admit she is desperately overwrought, worried and fagged.  For the last six or seven months I have had blow after blow, and this is the last and worst.  I literally don’t know yet what it will do to me.

For pity’s sake do what you both can for me when I come.

Much love to all
John

* * * * *

To Otto Theis

Albert Hotel, 65 University Place
New York City (for some weeks)
February 18, 1937

Darling Otto, your blessed old letter doesn’t sound much more cheerful than I feel, but does me good just the same.  Poor you—except that you are so courageous us other poor critters keep turning to you so matter what you yourself face at times and say so little about!  After lying to Jack for weeks about England and the future, I found it made me so physically ill I couldn’t go on.  The three hourly, thrice weekly visits were grillings.  He went back on his promise to “go to England ahead of me” and said he would not leave until I did.  I wrote to the doctor, enclosing a frank statement to Jack I proposed the doctor should give him when he was well enough.  The doctor had Jack up before the “tribunal”—of doctors—who pronounced him fitter, and agreed with my suggestion it was better to deliver a blow while Jack was in the hospital then to wait until he was out and not protected against himself.  Jack was therefore given the letter before I was told and I arrived at the hospital to be informed by the doctor Jack knew my plans, had taken them badly, and was determined to leave the hospital that night.  The doctors felt if he did he would kill himself, and insisted I come upstairs and talk to him.  So there were 2½ hours hell, Jack hysterical.  I haven’t seen him since—12 days ago; but I agree to pay a few weeks if he would stay there until he got better.  I hope he will, though I scarcely know how to meet the bill.  He has to get back, Otto—the doctors think he simply can’t function here with his distrust and dislike of the country.  I am much distressed by your confirmation of the gossip I suspected.  I’m sure it is fantastically exaggerated, for I discovered in Walberswick the auld English have vile tongues.  I think Jack has told me most of what he did—bar maids, a few dives, night clubs, too much drink.  But the period was brief, I don’t think he indulged any perversities, and the great acquaintance with low life vernacular came largely from reading.  I know the books consulted and skimmed them myself.

However, the damage is the same and I shall feel pretty hellish from a distance until I know he is reestablished.  His effort to appear a rake, is entirely compensation for what has really been a very secluded narrow life—a sense of sexual inferiority among the bull-necked boastful type of males who object to him because he has such a childish streak.  Anything on god’s earth you and Louise can do—and oh, oh, oh if I could ever help you as you have me so often, Otto darling—will be so so gratefully received.

I forgot to say Jack tried to swallow the thermometer—bite off the mercury—three days after the separation was suggested.  The suicidal state may last.  But beyond that I think he is very capable of jobs and that.  The shock of my decision may stimulate recovery.  Whenever he has held a job he has been good and approved.  The last was 1928—nine years ago—Montreal and Wanstall the head of the school was enthusiastically glad to see him this year.

I wrote to Jack’s Uncle Jim and Aunt Millie and received cabled excuses for not helping—they are in a funk for fear they’ll be held responsible.  Oh these cold nice people

I feel low—though the statement about separation relieved a rather suicidy state of my own.  But at my age—44 last month—starting all over!  Very well for a man, or at least possible.  But a sex-suppressed, emotionally frustrate dame of the “dangerous age”, who still has too much hang over of romanticism to sell her fading charm to a gent of 90 with money (there are a couple near that), and who can’t sublimate in activities for the public weal, and who is too proud (too vain) to accept consolation from younger men who may rightly condescend toward a derelict, and who haven’t either the stoicism or the mysticism for  an adequate life alone—well, I don’t quite know what will become of her.

I think of all the brave people I know—like you—and say if they can come through trials as bad surely I can.  But at present all appears rather grey and desolate, not to mention the money fears which are intense, which you know so well.  For a female, these late starts are almost degrading—offering of wilted salad leaves with a sour cherry on top and rancid dressing and trying to pretend the banquet is fresh.  However, ca passe.  Matter of fact Jig at 22 is as lonesome as I am, poor lamb, and that is another self reproach for me–!  Every way I look, skeletons have bones or victims of starvation I have somehow helped produce.  But I realize those who have work—expression—which you were born to and ought to have, ditto L—are luck in the meagre measure of luck in this world.  I love you, Evelyn

* * * * *

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

25. Farewell to Yaddo

The spring of 1933 saw Evelyn and Jack at Yaddo for what would be their last sojourn.

In  2009 the New York Public Library mounted an exhibition entitled “Yaddo:  Making American Culture”, and a volume of the same title was published celebrating Yaddo, its guests and their achievements [McGee, M.  (2010) Yaddo:  Making American culture.  New York: Columbia University Press]. Yaddo welcomed its first guests in 1926 and continues today as a successful centre and retreat for artists of all disciplines, many of whom developed their early artistic promise while at Yaddo.

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge and David Lawson

[Yaddo]
May 15, 1933

It’s rather sad here this year.  The economy of regime, though all comfort within reason still exists, suggests too much an end.  Spring doesn’t belong—or else we don’t in spring.  Mrs Trask’s ghost no longer seems in opposition to other presences.  It’s ghosts meeting ghosts.

Or do I think so because I am as I am?

I’m working hard to rediscover my own land away from reviewers.  Gorham Munson1 says Migrations is my last good book, darlings, and E[va] G[ay] like a promising first novel.  Oh, curse all these fools for whom one would feel such a spontaneous indifference did not their folly grip the belly.

Mildly pleasant crowd here:  Philip and Penina Reisman, painters, rather sweet enfants terrible.  Ruth Suckow and her husband [Ferner Nuhn].  A plaintive sycophant with a resourceful wit and a bruised self-respect named Charles Yale Harrison.  A tall sea-going boy, intriguingly shy and to himself, who writes Conradish stories, Floyd or Lloyd Collins.  Grace Lumpkin, an elderly little girl, straightforward to bluntness and rather engaging.  Albert Halper, who is so completely an average American that he’s rather wonderful:  as if at last one had actually met—what!  A real cowboy, after the movies.  Or a real Englishman.  Or, or.  But he’s naively frank and all his mentality covers he regards from his own for him authentic angle.  Carl Carmer,7 who is kinder and more sensitively aware of social obligations than anyone else, with qualifications as an artist that remain ambiguous.  Louis Adamic lusting for revenge on capital.

For you two I hope and hope.  We love you so.  e

American literary critic and academic. He was very much part of the Greenwich Village group of avant-garde writers.
Two guests later became part of Evelyn’s life: Carl Carmer was an American writer whose most famous book was Stars Fell on Alabama and was later involved with The Artists League. Louis Adamic was born in Slovenia and emigrated to the US where he was educated and became a prolific writer and editor of a number of different publications.

* * * * *

To Maude Dunn

[Yaddo]
June 8 [1933]

Dearest Mother:  I think it too bad you have all that annoyance about the house.  And those family quarrels.  Looks as tho they never fail to occur when there is any disposition of property.

IMG_20180311_0006
Maude Dunn in front of Gracey Mansion c 1930s

Thank you again about the money.  I’ll wait, unless you have pressing need, until I get the Santa Fe trip paid for. It does cost as much to go there as to Cal.  You have to go via Chicago, and change to another road, and even some shortest way, it is three days and two nights.  There is a round trip slightly less but not much—I mean less in that it is a hundred and fifty for going and coming instead of eighty-five each way, but I don’t know that I can pay that out now.  Sure wish they lived somewhere else.

I gave the name of the donors of this place wrongly.  It was Trask.  Big portraits of them hang in the reception hall, and Mrs Trask’s grave is a lovely spot, the highest on the property, with a Keltic cross to mark it and very lovely pine trees.  She died in 1921.  “Yaddo” is a corporation now, but for the purpose of managing the estate only.  The name comes from Mrs Trask’s child’s mispronunciation of “Shadow”.  The child, now dead, heard her mother (who had just lost another child) say she had a shadow on her life.  Child called it “Yaddo”. It really is gorgeous.  I wish I could write a whole book here.  The country is superb, and Saratoga such a funny nineties looking place.  The races begin there next month.

I get very funny letters from strangers about my book.  Perfect cranks write to one just because of seeing one’s name in print.  Some sound like lunatics, tho occasionally a really appreciative letter.  And people here are autograph mad.  No indeed that picture is not Jack—only slightly better than of me.  Heaven forbid.

Well, lots love.  I have a frantic week ahead.  Leave here a week from Monday.  Have more interviews to give in New York.  Lots of errands and things to see.  Will be there three days.  I’ll send Santa Fe address as soon as it is exact.  I won’t stay with Cyril and Phyllis for fear of gossip.

Love again.  elsie

* * * * *

 

To Lola Ridge

Yaddo
June 12, 1933

Sweet light:  It’s two weeks since I had your beautiful letter—and it can’t be!

Sweetie, I guess I almost write, if for anybody but myself, for you and Davy and Cyril and Jig and Jack.  Glad and Dud sometimes, but I don’t believe they quite know what I’m driving at any longer.  Anyhow, you always, so that, though I know it a wickedness to want you to write to me ever while it’s so hard to write for yourself—physically hard—it very deeply answers something when I do hear from you about a book—or ever.

Yes, Munson wrote a large review in the Sun saying E[va] G[ay] was a promising first novel by a beginner. It didn’t get under my skin in the real way, but it did exasperate me, like another one I got today scolding me for trying to reveal America.  As if this book had been written to do that!

Sweetie, plans here alter a good deal.  We expected to move to the farm house July 1st and now may have another month at the mansion.  How glad we are, since the farm house would have put us on our own about providing food.  It is one belonging to Yaddo estate and is across the highroad, about a quarter of a mile down toward Saratoga Lake.

I’m glad you had a notice of Cyril’s show.  Watson Bidwell wrote me that Cyril’s pictures done in Dakota were the finest water colours he had ever seen.  But no one is going to appreciate them while Cyril is alive.  There’s so much bitterness and jealousy about the museum job and the other painters are always trying to knife him.

Au revoir my sweet and god bless you for giving me such sustenance from your spirit about my books.   Love, love love to you and to Davy, from us, deeply and from Mrs Ames deeply too.  evelyn

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

[Yaddo]
[July 1933]

Lola darling:  I misplaced Davy’s letter with the Mount Sinai1 address so I have to keep on bothering him!  We felt very happy hearing you had gained eight pounds, so I do hope Davy will let me know if you and the doctor manage the country sanatorium because that really might do a lot to set you up.

I sympathize with Davy about your darling squiggly handwriting!  I adore the sight of it, but I’m rarely absolutely certain as to the content of that inimitable calligraphy.  Still—I gathered you were up on the roof in the sun and that, as a general indication, sounded good.

Jack god-blesses you and wishes he had been able to look in.  He saw May2 who declares his liver a little worse than last time, but insists it is because he had to knock off the medicine and promises something better when it is resumed after a few months.  His general health does seem improved.

This will sound like a clinical report, for my foot is giving me the deuce.  I went to Schenectady to a specialist and he said I had a bone broken and wanted to “operate”.  I balked, called in another man here, and he said what nonsense merely a strain and gave me ice packs and icythyol.3  I’m a little bewildered between them and may surreptitiously call in a third opinion to arbitrate sub rosa on the others.  Anyhow I’m quite crippled for the present.  Am disturbed by fear of being an inconvenience to Yaddo, tho Mrs A has kindly let me use garden studio temporarily so I won’t have to walk.

Did I write you Jig and Cyril were in Mexico?  Seventy five cents a day room and meals!

Nothing in particular happens.  An increasing overdose of communism versus art4.

Yaddo guests

Love all around and around you and Davy both, evelyn

Mount Sinai was one of the larger New York hospitals: it appears that Lola was again in hospital.
May Mayers, friend of Evelyn and Jack and their doctor when needed
Ichthyol was the brand name of Ammonium bituminosulfonate, distilled from rich shale oil and used for the relief of skin conditions including eczema and psoriasis.
4 There was an active and continuing debate at Yaddo during the 1930s about Communism. There is an account of this in McGee’s book about Yaddo, from which this photo is taken..

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

Yaddo
July 3, 1933

Beloved dear:

I hope the heat lifted a little in New York, as I know how one feels the weather when in bed.

This morning Ferner Nuhn is in my studio doing a cartoon of me which he thinks won’t be any good.  So my letter writing day combining with posing has not yielded the crop it should.  However, and however uninspired my communications while I am assuming this dual role, I had to drop you a line.  Mrs Ames is much distressed to hear of your illness and Eloise even more so.

F Nuhn portrait

I haven’t any news except that the snowballs are blooming outside my window and look very New England cool in their green while.  I guess I told you of work:  four short stories and four articles and a longish poem and four chapters on final draft of kid book.  As for sales, quien sabe!

Sunday dinner is approaching my sweet so. . .  And don’t feel I ever need answering.  Just hope things go better.  Just wish and wish I wasn’t as always a useless friend.  And just bless you with my heart as you breathe because your existence is such a happiness to we who love you.

Jack is no better much, but May says couldn’t be expected for months to improve.  His dear love to you all with mine.  evelyn

American writer and editor, interested mainly in American literature. He was married to Ruth Suckow and made the sketch of Evelyn.

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

Yaddo
July 12 [1933]

Lovey, I had a note from Davy who says you’re gaining, which is something for us to be a little happier over though there probably doesn’t seem much for you in bed.

I wish I could walk in in visitor’s hour, and so does Jack who is going to NY in an hour to stay for the day and see May Mayers about the liver, again, and would so love to see you if he could stay longer.  He sends heaps love.

As a coincidence I am also doctorwards bound.  I sprained my foot on the tennis court ten days after I came, and, as I foolishly went on using it, it has grown persistently worse.  So Ferner Nuhn and Ruth Suckow are driving us to Schenectady today to see an orthopedic specialist.  I don’t look for anything very grave but am annoyed, as I was making up for past years by pretending to lead an athletic life.  We’re a bit alike in one respect, darling—sort of willing to ignore the obvious in health.  Though it’s heroism in your case and hardly that in the stance of a bad foot.

There is the usual ebb and flow of guests, and quite an exodus July 1st, with a new lot now installed.  On some days I feel the company as a mild pleasure, and, on others, face them and meals with nausea prepared.  Not that it is any especial fault in the gathering, but that communal life steals the need ineradicable in my nature, as in yours, for solitude.

Yaddo exhausts all one’s pence of small talk.  I sometimes marvel that, after more than two months, words come out of my mouth to say nothing at the dinner table.  It’s sort of depressing to meet so many people and, always, with each one, feel the pit which separates one’s self from the mass of mortals dug a little deeper.  That’s why I return again and again to you and Davy and Cyril and Jig and Jack and such very few.

Bless you, my lovey, bless you, bless you.  I’m so tired of the invisibility of my world to those here.

Lovingly, evelyn

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

[Yaddo]
July 28, 1933

Darling Lola, Dear.

I hope it’s been made possible for you to go away to the country.  I hope, as usual, everything.

I’m in bed at present, but only to rest, as limping strained my leg and produced neuritis in hip.  So one thing, small enough, leads to another!

Mrs A asks after you frequently.  Asked me again if you could come here.  I repeated I feared you were not strong enough.  Hope this is the answer you would have wished me to me, though I pray it to change.  There is embarrassment in being ill in an institution not meant for that, as I begin to realize.  Kindnesses are done but one feels as one feels nonetheless.

A mob expected next week—some 8 new people and only a couple leaving.  I wonder where they will be stowed!

Lovingly to you both from us, Evelyn

* * * * *

To David Lawson

[c/o Crawford, 286 W 11th St, NYC]
[August 1933]

Darling old Davy:

It was tantalizing to hear you and not see you, but in Phyllis’ tiny place with outsiders it didn’t seem any use getting you over.  I did hope to be back in town a night, but have decided it is foolish to climb stairs and start leg bad again, so am leaving for “Yaddo” from here.  May Mayers has helped mighty generously as I have been practically in bed and haven’t lifted a hand for myself.  (Especially, sweet of her as I owe her for doctoring anyhow!)

Well, it was a relief to know that Lola was in the country and doing fairly well—or going toward real improvement anyhow.  I shall write to her via you soon.  At present I find resting makes me so tired I can hardly scribble a note.  Fact.  I expect it’s relaxing after continued strain.  If you once sat down to rest, old dear, you probably wouldn’t budge for a year! I’ll be back in NY one of these days anyhow.

Heaps, heaps of love to you both,
Evelyn

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

Yaddo
August 27 [1933]

My angel-one, I’m getting better at it and there weren’t more than six words of your heavenly scribble I missed this time!  And it’s no spindly scribble either, but has the look now of the power they won’t let you put into writing.

Then there are the things you realize of crowds, which Jack, poor darling, feels as acutely as a physical pain.  They simply won’t let you get back in and down into yourself where the poetry lies.  It’s all got to go forth in extroversion and polite adaption to matters that don’t interest or move you or to combating tendencies you actually dislike.  The habit of being alone and depending on that for one’s strength, once it’s acquired, is certainly incurable.  So a lot of this association means loss—what might be a creative mood suppressed to make tea party chit-chat—or also gone into futile indignations better directed against universals than the accidental humans pleased to represent them at that moment.

Jack goes on on his nerves and with period discouragement and impulses to chuck his book (full of splendid writing) because of bad pages due to bad days.  I’m working in bed very comfortably and don’t quite know how I got into this short book (for me) on England, which I began in Lowestoft and is like a sort of Narrow House got cosmic, and I have no idea what it will be like in the end.  Jack loves its being English so that rules him out as a critic.  Also swatting when I can on the French revolution for the next one, but should like to write it in France which would appear impossible.

And so the days go.  So still now the pine trees give an occasional twitch just to assure you they’re real trees.  And hot again, with the clouds glaring darkly and the rain we have had all week getting ready to come down all over again.

God love you like we do.  He can do lots better by you—but can’t want too much more.

Bestest to Davy and to you from  us, blessed one, evelyn

* * * * *

To David Lawson

[Yaddo]
December 31 [1933]

Davy dear, it was a great relief to have your note.  I suppose by now you have got used to these brain waves of anxiety and, as they profit nobody anything and result in nagging about letters, you’d have a right to be impatient with them.  I’m so used to being remote from nearly everyone I care abut and periodic hauntings that something has gone wrong is a part of a well established and thriving old trauma.

We are, of course, very fortunate to have a comfortable roof with heat supplied and no rent to pay.  Naturally one does, as I have discovered of all things, pay in other ways.  I have decided that my temperament never suited me to be a member of the human race nohow, as my last experience of a group in Santa Fe was disastrous through indignations felt by me about gossip which still seem justified entirely, since the gossip was lies.  And living in a group up here ain’t no better.  Because of dedicating Eva Gay to Mrs Ames, so I have been allowed to gather, it was presumed by a group here that I was a sort of official Yaddo spy, and this story accumulated results which would be funny if one could look down as god instead of living in the midst of it.  The people who now occupy the lower part of this house were among the originators of the tale and it with my resentment of it and the fact that I deeply resent the orthodox communist stand on art and they are quite rabidly orthodox has been responsible for a feud to which there is no ending.  As I say, it am largely funny in its preposterousness.  At the same time it makes a rather depressing atmosphere when one is virtually buried in winter with this same group.

It was thirty-five below zero here yesterday, which means the coldest temperature I have experienced, though Jack knew colder in Toronto when he was there as a child.  However, considering, we felt it remarkably little.  At the present moment the rest of the household is away on holiday and we quite rattle around, though not unhappily in this place.  The icicles in front of our windows are some of them nearly three yards long and when the moonlight strikes them the diamond array is very exciting in a queer not quite believable fashion.  There are no birds, rabbits or anything else—just snow, snow, snow.

Jack was in New York for one day three weeks ago, and, feeling groggy, decided, while he waited for the hospital report on his blood test, to accept Gladys and Dudley’s invitation for doing the waiting in Jersey, as you know Margaret always has a house full and he wasn’t up to seeing people.  So the Grants fetched him out and he stayed there until he got his report on the morning of the day he returned here.  He wanted to call you all up but I, again, wasn’t able to find the number the day he left, as I had it in the notebook I used for addresses here in New York last spring and god knows where it is in the mess of moving.  So he asks me to send heaps of good wishes and love to you.  He was much distressed when he got back and found I had started this worry business about you, but then I regularly envisage calamities for everyone—Jig and Cyril of course and the few others I love most.

I have spent December getting over a job of stenography for poor Jack as because of his inability to work steadily his literary chores have piled up until he gets almost dotty about them sometimes—the four novels he is still working on none of which is yet finished.  Hope he never has such an idea again for it has delayed and discouraged him as working on one and getting it off his hands never would have.

Tomorrow I’m going to start on the final draft of my quite short book for Spring.  I have to turn it in on March 1st so it is rather sweat-shoppy as a prospect.  I almost hate having it short because [the publishers] will think they won in all this pressure brought to bear whereas it was conceived as short a year and a half ago, before me spirit has been attacked and, as they doubtless think, broken.  However it is economic pressures which made me decide to get it done at once and leave the long French revolution novel which is the next big job.  Maybe I’ve already written the title which is Breathe Upon These Slain.1

When writing to me please don’t say anything about my comments on the situation here.  I’ll explain why when I see you.  Mrs A has certainly been kind and generous to our material troubles, but there are lots of rather morbid concomitants for which I don’t hold her responsible but which exist just the same.  I think hers an impossible job—the sort of job which would work out tolerably only for a hard-boiled person who simply was oblivious to nine tenths of what went on and did not react.  By unconsciously ignoring simplification would be achieved.  For meself, I think I’d rather be a stenographer provided I could get a stenographer’s job, which I doubt.

Of course Jack and me wish, wish, wish everything for you, dear Davy, and our beloved Lola, but I’m almost ashamed to wish any more.  It’s too ironic.  We just love you and that’s that.

evelyn

The book Evelyn referred to as the “French Revolution novel”, published in 1934.

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

Yaddo
February 3, 1934

My own lovey, I hope, hope, hope, HOPE you were finishing all the attack you were going to have—not beginning another, when you wrote to me!  I think—feel—believe—through imagining—I know those awful black weeks of yours so well and it hurts all through me as I realize what you are going through.  If only sympathy weren’t so futile!

I have only 75 pages more of final draft to finish my book, and I feel glad to have done it.  However, it’s a kind of book I had to get off my chest—first person though with no autobiographical ingredients whatever.

Lovely, lovely, lovely, LOVEY, more love around you and Davy, and would it were a fairy ring that could keep pain and trouble out.  From me and jack, evelyn

PS Jack’s novel nearing completion is splendid.  He’s been reading it to me and Charlotte and we both cry all the time—no better sign!

* * * * *

This is the last letter in the collections from Yaddo, although there were very likely many more which have been lost over the years.  Next week we see Jack in London and Evelyn staying with friends in New York before rejoining Jack in England in 1935.

23. Back and forth

After a short stay with friends in New York, Evelyn and Jack returned to Yaddo, always a source of succour and intellectual stimulation.  But life was not good during this period and, apart from the spell at Yaddo, both Evelyn and Jack faced difficulties.

To Maude Dunn

66 Perry Street, NYC
Monday [June 22, 1931]

Darling Mother:

That racket business happens to half the foreigners that land.  When I landed two years ago I let Jack go on ahead in a taxi and came behind with remainder of luggage.  When I gave the porter a bill and asked him to change it he RAN OFF with the bill.  I suppose nothing is done because in the first place the real foreigners don’t know what to do and in the second people are afraid.  I thought of writing a letter to the Times and then got scared of revenge.  The police are too crooked to appeal to and most people would rather have a small sum stolen and let it go than go into court in a hopeless attempt to arrest.  There are no policemen near any of the piers, which makes it seem an absolutely put up job.

I talked to Ruth Whitfield1 and she says the same thing happens with business freight shipments.  They send their own men to hand stuff to ships or take stuff from the ship’s employees and the freight is grabbed by intermediaries who demand exorbitant fees for simply taking it out of the had of the ship people and putting it in the hands of the cartage people.  Nothing is too bad to be believed about petty graft in America.  Our big cities are simply criminal ruled.  Jack’s foreign accent makes him more liable of course as the great object of these games is to grab people who are new to America and not give them a chance to find out what’s what.  I wish you might have heard the way I heard a customs inspector speak to a woman with a German accent.  And then I overheard a nigger porter who actually had the Cunard label on his shirt talking to some foreign man as if he were dirt and ordering him about not giving him any say so as to the handling of his own baggage.  It’s no wonder new arrivals get a horrible idea of USA.

My dear, I don’t know whether Jig ever got your parcels or not.  I have been three months trying to find out if he got a cable I sent him to General Delivery in March.  Jig is in love2 and he seems as hard hit as I was with Tyler Miller and perfectly irresponsible for the time as regards anything else.  Remembering my own lapses of the past I can’t criticize but I certainly regret he has appeared so unappreciative.  Of course when I actually see him I can find out but I don’t believe I’ll ever get anything out of letters.

I forgot to say that Lady Alexandra Metcalfe did marry a distant cousin of Jack’s.  Her husband was aide to Prince of Wales for years.  Either his father or his grandfather was aide to Queen Victoria.  Aunt Mary has a picture of this cousin whatever his name was in the uniform as Queen Vic’s aide.  Jack is what is called “highly connected” but the hell of a lot of good it does us!  However, if he had money and ran where his cousins do I would not have met him.  It’s usually the poor branch of a family that turns out the most interesting people.

Love and love and love,
elsie

1Evelyn’s childhood friend from Clarksville.

2The object of his affections was Selma Hite, seven years his senior and his father’s secretary. They eloped shortly after this letter was written.

 

Yaddo rose garden
Modern view of the rose garden and fountain at Yaddo. [Mapio.net]

 To Otto Theis and Louise Morgan

Yaddo, Saratoga Springs, New York
September 14, 1931

Dear Peoples,

I trust the old address will find you.  How is life?  Bless you all three, and I hope the news is good.

Having failed to get any sort of possible job in this country, I am returning to England in November.  I hope to get a small sum from the Royal Lit Soc Fund,1 and to supplement this by occasional reviewing.   I must get cheap digs, somewhere, and, if I have rather more money than I now expect, join the Savile.2  Evelyn wants to see Jigaroo again, so she will go to Santa Fe for a few months and then come over to England and join me in London.  I imagine she’ll come over in Feb or March.

The news of Merton’s death has rather laid her out for the time being and I, of course, have had to pretend to be as surprised at it as she.  That is to say, I have not told her that I already knew of it from you, and it is rather important that she should not know that I did know of it all this time.  So will you please remember this in any letters to either of us?

This place, “Yaddo”, is excellent for work and I’ve written lots.  Evelyn’s book A Calendar of Sin, comes out with Cape-Smith in October over here.  We stay here at Yaddo till end of October, then go to New York for a week or two while I’m arranging my passage to England and my re-entry permit, etc, etc.  I fancy I’ll be in London in the latter half of November.

Well, much love to you all three, and I’m looking forward enormously to seeing lots of you in town.  Evelyn, if she knew I was writing, would of course send love hugs and kisses.

Yours ever,
John

The Royal Society of Literature describes itself as “the senior literary organisation in Britain”. Among other things, it awards grants to writers.
The Savile Club, one of London’s “gentlemen’s clubs”. Jack would have wanted to belong to a club: male members of his family would have joined clubs as a matter of course. The Savile Club was particularly favoured by literary figures and Jack would have seen membership as a valuable opportunity for networking.

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

[Yaddo]
October 4, [1931]

My dear lovely little big guiding flame:  I wonder where you are.  I had your letter from Nice a week ago and three days ago Jack heard from Otto who said you had written him from Corsica.  Will you be back in Nice and will the Poste Restante be called on?  I won’t ask you what is going to happen next, but I suppose even you don’t know.  So I has as well turn to our news.  It sends rather like a railway guide.

Next Wed, Oct 7, Jack goes to NY for his sailing permit.  He will stay two days at Margaret De Silver’s1.  Then he returns here.  On the 12th, I go down to have a party at Lenore Marshall’s.  I don’t know whether the social strategy envolved will net anything or not but I feel I can’t refuse it.  That will be for two days, also, and I will come back to “Yaddo”.  On the 28th Yaddo closes and we return to NY, to stay with Margaret until Jack’s boat leaves and I am off for Santa Fe.  Unless Calendar of Sin sells—at five dollars—I will only be able to remain in Santa Fe a few weeks, but during that time Jig has got to come down to see me.  He is feeling, I’m afraid, a little neglected. His love affair is a lyric and thank god has absorbed emotions that might have indigested, but just the same he isn’t quite able to envisage financial pressure and he thinks I am staying away a mighty long time.  Then I shall return to NY job hunting or waiting for heaven to open and manna to descend from somewhere.  If ever there were people born not to hold jobs it’s you and me and yet you have done so.  So I would actually like to prove to myself I could, provided it was not, as it is often liable to be, a life commitment.

Yes, it’s rotten in one way to have Jack return to London; but it is his only hope if he is ever to get on.  Constancy to me has made a real failure of his prospects up to date and I learned from Merton what the threat to ones art can do to ones emotions.  So while it is a risk in the personal, sexual sense, everything is a risk and from the choice of evils this seems to be preferred.  I think we will survive it.  Other men exist in my horizon and maybe other women will appear on Jack’s.  Maybe they will occupy the whole space.  There’s no way of saying.  But we have got our deep affection and there is Jack’s British devotion to the established to match with my growing and ever growing fear of fresh beginnings.  Anyhow, it has to be gone through Saith and left to the gods.

Yaddo has been a heavenly interlude, how heavenly I realize afresh as the time for making ends meet again draws near.  There have been nice people here.  Mrs Ames has been very fine to us.  I feel such complex things in my gratitude for it that I would rather talk them than write them.

Did I write you that Merton died in June of a tumor on the brain?  It explains many things, Lola dear.  I was awfully broken up for a few days because when you love people completely once you love them always and this is not incompatible with resignation and a real preference for not being with them in the flesh any more.  He left Cyril forty pictures and Cyril is preparing a Denver show for them.  Poor Merton.  All the purity that fumbled and compromised in life remained true in his work and I wish he had lived to reap the reward I think someone will have from it.

Bless my lovely and may I hear more and the happiest of her soon.
With all the love of me and Jack, evelyn

Margaret DeSilver, a New York socialite, was a staunch friend, supporting both Evelyn and Jack in numerous ways through difficult times.

 * * * * *

Meanwhile, Cyril had left Santa Fe and gone to Denver where he had been  invited become the Director of the Denver Art Museum, now a major cultural institution. The Museum’s history dates back to 1893, when a group of artists founded the Denver Artist’s Club  to sponsor lectures and exhibitions. In 1916 the Artist’s Club was renamed the Denver Art Association.  It later became the Denver Art Museum and in 1932 the city of Denver gave some galleries in the museum in the just-finished City and County Building, and it was at this time that Cyril was invited to join as Director. It is not clear how much this invitation was based on his painting or how much on his achievements as a teacher of painting:  perhaps on both equally.  Selma Hite became his secretary when he took up the post.

Denver City and County bldg 1932
Denver City and County building 1932 [Louis Charles McClure/Denver Public Library/Western History Collection]

To David Lawson

Denver, Colorado
January 19, 1932

Beloved Davy:

Well, Davy, my dear, the flu and all kept me abed until mid December, and I had just got my stride in work and settled to it when Jig, arriving for Xmas, told me (I asked him outright for it was stated in Santa Fe) that he and Selma had run away and gotten married last June.  This, for the present, is confidential with you and Lola (and I shall tell Gladys) though of course it will soon be out.  Jig had not told his father or me; but Selma had appendicitis soon after and wanted to see Jig, and she told the nuns, who told her aunt, and her aunt, of course, told the town.  And these infants believed they were keeping a secret.  Selma was twenty-three and Jig sixteen, so the marriage could be annulled if anything were to be gained by that.  We talked it over, and as Cyril was coming to Santa Fe in February, I decided to have the family conclave then when we could all be together.

Jig returned here after Xmas, but on Jan 7th first Selma then Jig long distanced and in quavering voices told me Cyril had been in bed a week with flu, had developed pneumonia and the doctor believed that his heart would not last out the ordeal.  I had just rented my house, paid in advance, and I would have come up here in a car and left my duds behind if there had been a car available; but the round trip is fifty dollars, so there was nothing for it but to pull up stakes.  I did and came here on the 10th.  Cyril has rallied a little, but the doctor still doesn’t guarantee a recovery and insists that Cyril must go to sea level as soon as he can travel to rest his heart (this is 5000 ft, Santa Fe 7100).

I hadn’t wanted to spring problems at this point but before knew of the illness I had written Cyril how important it was for him to get to Santa Fe as soon as possible for a serious discussion of Jig’s affairs.  So he immediately asked what I meant.  I then told him.  I have a feeling that Cyril’s illness last summer, which happened in June, combined with my failure to come to Santa Fe then, as I had promised (because of money and the “Yaddo” invitation) hastened the matrimonial Escapade.  Anyhow, Cyril has just weathered publicity given his divorce1 before this hundred per cent public, and nobody knows how the elopement and secret marriage of his young son and his secretary will be regarded by the mammas and papas whose sons got to the University of Denver.  There is a possibility, though I still hope not a probability, that the announcement may cost Cyril his job.  In his state, with Jig’s inexperience and ill-preparedness to make a living, and Selma (though I think she can hold down minor office jobs and she wants to work) everything is in the air; and of course anxiety as to Cyril’s recovery is the most serious problem.  He has gotten a good foothold here—just got 10,000 grant for the school from Carnegie institute, etc—and it will be rather too horrible if he gets knocked out by this.  It’s all ironical, as usual.  The family romanticism, always conflicting with the need to make a living.  Of course I hate seeing it happen because I judge from many opinions unaffected as mine might be by a maternal bias, that Jig has a very definite and extraordinary painter’s talent; and it is all he is interested in or shows a real aptitude for.  And how the hell can he, at seventeen, support a wife and make a career, or even support himself with a wife.  But there’s no use crying about it and one simply has to wait on fate.  As soon as Cyril is strong enough for company, we’ll make the announcement.  Selma is a sweet and attractive girl, though the degree of her practicality is I’m afraid, exampled in her marrying a kid of this age.  Aren’t we all brilliant that way!

The dearest love of all of us.  Jig was saying Sunday, my birthday, what a “grand chap” Davy was.  And please give all our devotion to Lola.

With heaps of love from
evelyn

From Phyllis Crawford, his third wife.

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

Forest Hill, London
April 24 [1932]

[Now back in England], where I found Jack in poor shape as HE had spent most of his money to join the Savile Club on the advice of several as to the political value of doing so.  The I think rather foolish dear had made all HIS economies on food and such things and grown very lethargic and unable to work—done frighteningly little for the five months time he has been here.  I set in to cure this state of mind with beefsteak and fresh vegetables, and three days has made some improvement already.  Now I’m wondering if Jig is behaving himself, though, I am glad to say, Selma seems to have a valuable sense of practical values and I believe I can trust her to see he doesn’t mope and starve without reason.  And I trust somebody or other will be doing the same for Cyril.  I feel I’ve grown very hard-boiled and untemperamental compared with what I used to be.  But the people I care for most don’t seem scared enough of what they may do to themselves.

Mauretania
RMS Mauretania, then the largest ship in the world [www.curbsideclassic.com]
I wished for your sea legs.  The Mauritania had a gale and a rough sea every day but one and the air simply resounded with retchings.  I Didn’t become actively sick but fell into a poisoned lethargy, nearly having my teeth shaken out by the vibration.  It is the worst tourist.England looked pretty in a blurred dream of the usual rain (which has continued sporadically) and the flat out here isn’t bad.  Two fair sized rooms, a small kitchen and an antique bath.  It will be the first time I have done my own work in England and may be no economy as my sense of values when buying has not been developed on this side.  However the privacy is more grateful than the advantage of lodgings for the present.  It takes an hour and a quarter to get practically anywhere, so we haven’t yet investigated friends and relatives.  A trip to Bosham and Aunt Mary may come very soon.

Jig and Selma are, I think, at 127 East 34th, though I forgot to write it down and am sending my letter to them care of Margaret.  Would Davy, being good to us in so many ways already, be further good and let the kids have the blankets out of the trunk I left on his hands?  I forgot to tell them they could and fear they may have bought blankets already.

I love you, I love Davy, Jack loves you both.  Dear, dear, dear
evelyn

PS  I’m keeping the Irish sweeps ticket preciously.  In the fantastic event of winning anything, Davy and me are going to divide it.  Why mightn’t a miracle like that happen now and then!

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

Forest Hill, London
May 20, 1932

Lola, blessed, not answering your letter yet (came about an hour ago) but thank you for telling me the truth about your health.  If only I could put a magic kiss on each lung.    However, IF there were any guarantee that you could take care of yourself, I would still expect, after what I have witnessed in Santa Fe in the way of recoveries made by people apparently much TBer than you, my darling, miracles ahead.  That’s what gets my goat—all our goats of course—about impecuniousness.  And IF I possibly win anything with our gamble, you must not object to sharing it.  You understand surely that money come by that way, so to speak, costs nothing.  So you can have fun with it, without concern.  Oh, dear if it weren’t such a frail chance!

Thank you for having Jig and Selma.  I do think Jig is a real painter, though, as Cyril says, in the making yet.  Selma has a lot of good qualities and I certainly don’t complain about her as a daughter in law in most ways.  Anyhow, as long as she and Jig are OK by each other what the hell.

I’m writing soon and loving you all the time.  Jack too.  He’s pretty low mostly.  I think it’s money and lack of success.  Disappointing year over here.  Snobbery in England makes a hopeless case for the little known and impecunious.  He hurts himself so much some times it’s hard to stand.  But I have acquired wither fatalism or optimism I don’t know which and am confident about everybody as long as starvation and death are held off.

devotions of us, darling
evelyn

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

Forest Hill, London
June 19, 1932

Beloved dear:

Jack and I have just returned from four days at Bosham, with Aunt Mary, who, poor soul, seems to me to be really failing in health, and thus, by foreshadowing her actual demise, rebuking us somewhat for our hard-hearted thoughts.  Preliminary to each visit there I get in a state of rebellion and animosity against the hypocrisy of keeping my opinions and habits under my hat.  However, I realise, too, there would be no possibility of Aunt Mary’s comprehending even the least significant of one’s opinions.  Eighteen-eighty was her last date and is going to remain so, and any more said merely fuddles her poor old head and without registering anything more definite than fear.

Bosham

She was very nice to us and the beauty of the weather, with a temperature of eighty, and the fields full of buttercups, obliterated to some extent my usual impression of life in a mausoleum.  Bosham always upsets digestion with too much starch and too frequent tea, but even that could be taken lightly because of the flowers.  Aunt Mary bestowed upon me a very old locket worn by her mother in memory of four dead daughters—all died in childhood.  One of them, Eveline, being confused with me.  Aunt Mary, instead of calling me Eve-lyn, in proper British style, invariably addressing me as E-ve-line.  The locket, which looks old and thin, contains a braided design of the intermingled locks of the four little girls:  In mo of Clara, Flora, Eveline, Rosa is graven on the back.  It was worn by Aunt Mary’s mother, one Charlotte Brindley, whose portrait, in a voluminous costume of wide stripes, with a phenomenal brooch and a cap with strings, hangs in the bedroom we occupy.

On the return journey we were advised at Chichester to take the wrong train and found ourselves en route to Brighton, instead of London, via Horsham.  As we had to wait at Brighton to re-establish ourselves on the correct route, we decided to skip a train and see the town where Jack used to live as a youth and where his mother died.  It was a gorgeous day, and the front with the elaborate parade and glinting glass and tin roofed pier and the plethora of humanity on the beaches, made the most colourful cockney England I have yet seen.  Under the arches of the parade terraces are numberless shops—souvenirs, fish, balloons, bars etc.  There is a miniature electric railway, covering the shore to a place called Black Rock, and we took a ride in it, and had a peep into numerous bathing huts where people were dressing or undressing or having tea.  At the station at which we descended a cockney adventurer with a banjo had set up his hat for pennies, and four girls, probably from factories in the White Chapel neighbourhood,1 Got out of the train and danced together in the street in a heavy but hilarious manner, joining in the chorus of the gentleman with the banjo.  It is the first time I ever saw Londoners dance in the street as the French do, though Jack says I would see it frequently if I had any habit of the East End.

We also saw a wonderful newly caught sea monster, very slashed about and bloody, exposed on a block of wood for the populace to guess what it was.  I couldn’t and am still wondering.  It was bulky like a porpoise but longer, with very little eyes set far back from its snout.  Would Davy know what it was?

Sweet dear, I have gone through life looking for people will pride, as the people I could best love; and I have met but four people—no five—with the pride that must be in a whole person.  You know who they are.  This is a lonesome world.  It is an ugly world, and I would be for any species of revolution which would not rob me of art.  Without art, I think all of us would wither and die.

Darling, darling, darling,
evelyn

1 Whitechapel; a district in east London then characterised by numerous small workshops.  Brighton was a popular destination for days out.

* * * * *

To Louise Morgan

[Forest Hill, London]
August 7 [1932]

Darling kid:   I have been in bed ever since I got back, sweetie.  In Paris all my insides got on a rampage and I had systemic poisoning and inflammation of the bladder.  The French doctor scared me to death—it’s part of their business I think—and when I got back here still very low we had a specialist, one Mr Palmer out, and he charged five guineas damn him, but it was worth it to relieve our minds.  None of those dumb bunnies said what poisoned me, but I have made my own diagnosis from familiar symptoms and decided the trench mouth germs I have carried in my system ever since Algeria (as I gathered from Santa Fe diagnosis two years ago) had got all through me.  However palmer said whatever pisined me, got the upper hand of me because I was suffering from complete nervous exhaustion.  Exhaustion had produced a slight recurrence of prolapsis here and there.  I was to stay in bed two weeks and do nothing at all.

Scuse such a long dissertation of innards.  I think it’s ghastly you don’t have no holiday.

Very lovingly from us both,
evelyn

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

Forest Hill, London
September 10 [1932]

Sweet:  We have had a middling summer.  I was ill through most of July, with nervous breakdown from overwork, and with some sort of systemic poisoning, not diagnosed which affected my innards various ways.  Much better since.  I rewrote Eva Gay entirely—and some chapters were rewritten three to four times also—this summer.

Confidentially, I’m worried about Jig, who doesn’t seem to be happy; and waiting for further data before definitely deciding whether I should return to NY to look over his and Selma’s affairs in the capacity of a detached (if possible) advisor.  There have been rifts, though please never mention, for they may be made up by now, and I don’t want to anticipate.  I never had a chance to talk it all over with you fully, as I do most of my affairs.  It seemed to me a mistake on both sides, but a mistake I wouldn’t interfere with.  Selma’s role at twenty-four as the wife of a seventeen year old child as unlike her as possible, with no money and no future assured, and nothing much to flatter her where she need flattery or to secure her in life, demands a nobility of her I never could quite believe in.  However, I am saying nothing yet to anyone.  Jig would not like to have anyone suspect unless, of course, the time comes when things have to be said openly; and the present unhappiness may be transient.

I never hear from Cyril.  One note in answer to RSVP so for some Umbundu (Bantu) words for Eva Gay.  He is living with a young painter named Watson Bidwell1 and thru him I get occasional and not too good health reports.

Dear, dear Love.  And if you are still at Yaddo, all our affection and love to Elizabeth2, too; and to Eloise and John, who are among our fondest memories and our worst correspondents.

Jack’s and my devotions, dear one, and may your health be strong again as your art always will be.
evelyn

1American painter who studied with Cyril at Denver and went on to become a teacher himself as well as a critic and curator.
2Elizabeth Ames, the Administrator at Yaddo

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

care Gilbert F Wright, Authors Agent
37 Museum Street, London WC 1
October 6, 1932

Lola, precious, I don’t write oftener because I keep waiting to have something nicer to write; and things don’t get better so I just send this to let you know I am thinking of you all the time anyhow.

Mrs Ames said you weren’t very well at Yaddo, and referred to your bronchial trouble; so I am afraid your dear and blessed chest is acting up again.  I wonder if you have gotten any work done, and ever so much else.

For you and Davy alone to know until more do, Jig and Selma have busted up and Jig is back in Denver.

Jack and I are leaving Forest Hill next week, and above is temporary address.  I expect to be back in NY in January, completely broke as usual.  The gods never willed a peaceful time to any of us, did they!

Anyhow, we love you and Davy, and it will always comfort us to know you are, and I shall always wish I had more than words with which to prove how much.

I think we will move to the seaside town of Lowestoft [Suffolk] which may be cheaper than London in the winter.

With love and love from us to you two,
always, evelyn

* * * * *

Not long after this letter, Evelyn and Jack were in Suffolk, on the English North Sea coast, and beginning what was the most settled period of their life to date.

 

22. Cornwall and Wiltshire

Some time in the early autumn of 1930 Evelyn and Jack sailed to England. There are no surviving letters about their relating to their decision to return at this time:  it is possible that these were destroyed by Jack after her death.  After a short stay with Jack’s friend in Kent, they spent a few weeks in Falmouth, in Cornwall, before leaving for Salisbury in Wiltshire.  There are no letters from this period in Cornwall (most likely these were among those which were destroyed), but the letters from Salisbury evoke England with the same vividness as her early descriptions of Algeria and France.

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

c/o C F Thompson-Walker
Red Hill, Chislehurst, Kent
October 17, 1930

Sweet one:

I wonder whether or not you have returned from “Yaddo” and what great poetry has come out of your stay?  And how are you in health, my dear?

We leave for Falmouth in Cornwall tomorrow, darling, thank God!  Jack wrote his last line on July 20th and I mine on August 8th.  The frittering away of time and shrinking cash on travels and diplomatic errands puts fear into one.  Anyhow next week begins the building up.

The boat trip was ten days instead of eight, and part of it was very rough and left us ennuied of this world and squeamish.  I haven’t really got my bearings yet.  We had a week in London (last) and this week an ordeal at Bosham with the aunt, returning here last night, and tomorrow to Falmouth.  I’ll send our permanent address as soon as I get it.  Darling, I have 56 letters to write.  That leaves only dregs of expression for my dearest ones.  A note from Cyril says nothing and no letter from Phyllis or Jig.

London is all wet wool enveloping the spirit.  Only sometimes toward evening the lights burn in tearful drama on a chiaroscuro that excites one mystically, as though life in this cockney region where our hotel is were some great ceremonial of the people in a medieval church.  Barrows of fish glitter like salty carnage.  The cake shops drape sticky offerings.  The flower stand smells of violets and chrysanthemums acrid and flaunting.  Then the bold signs: Ladies Lavatory; Gentlemen’s Lavatory, Hot and Cold Water, out of the street and people scurrying in and out of tiled caves, seem as lively and peculiarly London as the fish barrow and the flower sellers.

There is misery everywhere.  Bedraggled dames of unfathomable age nodding over match boxes and pencils, drunks abandoned in doorways, sidewalk artists announcing their peculiarly stark observations on life in impermanent mediums of charcoal and chalk.

Jack and I frequent pubs, upstairs the pub dining room with flowered paper and great domestic-looking sideboards suggest French provincial hotels. Downstairs it is all beer and chatter, but up there family life reigns.  There is no place more sacred to the memory of Queen Victoria than a pub dinning [sic] room.  Choice of “veggies”!  That means cabbage or sprouts!  Twice since I came I have had spinach.  This was a triumph.  There are French restaurants where they speak of salad, but meals there are too expensive for us.  We have to stick to British standard and there are filling viands for 2 bob1.  But oh this queer, mystical unimaginativeness!  This thought that is thoughtless!  This instructive meditation on the past!  This solidarity that equals nature’s own.  I marvel at Jack’s comparative elasticity.  He’s done great things, really, in even half adapting himself to me.  What an over-subtle, the English.  A savage waste.  An Englishman’s self-deprecates.  That is the sign.

Love love love and hope of all the best for you my angel and anxiety for news of health and work.  I’m writing Davy.  Do you think Miss Ames really means to have us again next year?

Always and always,
Evelyn

1 Colloquial term for two shillings.

* * * * *

To Maude Dunn

c/o Mrs M Sweet
7 Glenmore Road, Salisbury, Wiltshire
February 16, 1931

Dearest Mother:

At last we are in our new lodgings, as advertised before we left Falmouth and had several answers but this one the only endurable one.  Unfortunately we could not get into it until today which made five days in hotel and though we went to cheapest here our bill for room and board was forty dollars.  We had not enough money on hand to pay it, not having calculated on that but my advance came and saved us.  Wasn’t that luck?

Falmouth docks

Falmouth was so low and wet it made Jack ill, and while I am more used to low levels I found it enervating.  Salisbury is colder but we feel much peppier here so far.  Our rooms are very plain and there are inconveniences re bath etc, but we are buying our own coal so as to have good fires and it is apparently not going to be any dearer than Falmouth.  Also while at Falmouth we did have a sweet view of the harbour our rooms faced the street and we had no privacy.  Here we have no view but overlook a cute little garden and it is very quiet, though there is one child—two children, but one at school.

The hotel we stayed at which so nearly proved our undoing was The Old George, built in 1320.  It has housed Cromwell and Samuel Pepys and Dickens etc.  Salisbury is so stodgy that Falmouth in retrospect seems as gay as Paris; but it makes up for that by its archaeological interest.  The cathedral, while not so fine as Chartres, is very beautiful—built in the eleventh century, and with romantically ancient tombs.  There are many very old houses in town.  Lots of Tudor fronts and overhanging first stories.  Meandering through the streets are four small rivers which give a Holland like appearance to certain spots.  The cathedral close is a very fine green faced with Tudor and Queen Anne houses occupied by clergy.  The close had a fortification surrounding it.

But far more exciting than town or cathedral was the expedition to Stonehenge on Saturday.  We took a bus to Amesbury and walked the two miles to our destination.  Those Egyptian looking ruins, more like a crude Karnac or Phylae than anything English or even European, standing out against the desolation of Salisbury Plains (a slightly rolling plateau like that on which Madrid is built) gave me a real thrill. Of course they aren’t as large as a modern dwelling house of good size, but the individual measure of the stones raised by hand is as incredible as the pyramids.  Three hundred burial barrows have been excavated in the immediate surroundings, and crude implements, jewelry and funeral urns brought to light.  We saw some of the barrows but the things they contained are in the museum we have not yet visited.  I always thought Stonehenge was druidical but the guide says it is pre-druid, about four thousand years old.  They were sun worshipers at any rate and the great stunt is to see sunrise on midsummer’s day when it strikes the entrance stone before the temple and thus is the longest day of the year marked.  Under each of the small stones that made the outer circle lay a charred skeleton indicating propitiatory sacrifices made during the building.  The big stones—twenty-five or thirty foot each—were local, but smaller ones seem to have been brought from Wales—a job at the time.

The rest of Salisbury Plain2 is given over to army depots and airplane hangers and it is an exciting incongruity to see this other thing.

The country around here has fine aspects but on the whole is much less picturesque than Cornwall.  However, except for expense, I am very glad of the move.  It’s nice to have seen it and Jack can go up to London from here cheaply.

Just as would happen—the day I arrived my elbow went through my coat and I split my hat trying to pull it over my growing hair.  Then I tried to buy another hat and found none in town I could get on my head.

elsie

PS yes Lady Metcalfe is a relative tho not a close one.  Jack’s dad’s first cousin was the earl of pawsomething Kintaw (can’t spell it) and he has various other titles3 on that line.  Also his mother was Irish nobility on one side.  Speaking of that, I have discovered titled Dunns in London.  Never would have believed it as Mr J Gracey’s early teasing gave me a complex about the name.

Maude was translating a number of Brazilian classics into English, and it appears Harrison Smith was interested in publishing them.
2 Salisbury Plain was then and still is a major training area for the British army.
It does indeed appear that Jack had illustrious ancestry. One, Charles Theophilus Metcalfe, 1st Baron Metcalfe, had a distinguished career in colonial government in Canada and India in the 19th century.

* * * * *

To Louise Morgan

[Salisbury, Wiltshire]
February 25 [1931]

  Jack will be seeing you in a little over two weeks.  I wish you could come stay with me while he’s up there.  Not that the attraction when I’m working constantly and must be very boring as society would be so great, but this place, so like a two dimensional landscape—worn tapestry with only a few bright threads supplied by the sky at sunset—it gives me a worse pipp than Cornwall.  It’s beautiful at times but too much like a bloody gawddamned grave.  There’s the cathedral, not for use—a huge monument to things all dead.  The town has that cemetery in its heart.  I can’t see any life in it.  We walked to Stonehenge there again real antiquity so much more rooted than aerodromes around.  I feel as if I’m not seeing this, but millions of dead eyes are using me to see it.  there are lovely sallow downs around us and four little quiet rivers, and we walked over to Old Sarum1 and saw the Roman city with the grass on it.  English people so nice but I could stay here twenty years and be swallowed in this vast, formal indifference and lose all hope.  I hate being like this—I mean not fully appreciating after vulgar, hideous screaming America.  but there is also warmhearted young America.  This country seems to me rotten with moral cowardice—and feeble with caution.  maybe its working much too long and hard.

Anyhow, I shall look back on it with certain aesthetic thrills but not wish to repeat them for a very long time, not until I feel very powerful myself—if I ever do.  London seems much more friendly because there is a slothful current from outside.  But here its all so stagnant, so gorgeously miasmic.

I’ll write again soon because I want to hear from you.  Blessings.  Love and much from us both.  Good luck.  Thanks for book.  Hope you get somebody replace Larry morrow.  How come he disappeared?  Ta-ta

eveline

PS Our digs are incredible.  Jack will tell you.  Landlady asked me if American accent came from the pilgrim fathers.

1 The ancient centre of modern Salisbury

* * * * *

To Maude Dunn

[Fragments of an undated letter from Evelyn to her mother, probably written while she and Jack were living in Salisbury in 1931]

I went out to Winterslow Rectory1 and stayed two days.  There was so much sociability I couldn’t write.  Still it was a help.  England is the most dismal country on earth when you’re alone in it.  There have been two days of sun in the two weeks Jack has been gone.  I had a lovely room at the Rectory,.  It looked out on fields and had fine old fashioned furniture that suited the country surrounding.  Tall elms outside the window were inhabited by rooks that kept up such a din I thought more of them than my book.  The country had the grave, resigned look I haven referred to.  No bright colors, but a very subtle sobriety.  The church next door is fourteenth century.  The Rector and I don’t get on well; and I soon found myself arguing with everybody there—my great failing.  Of course they were all polite but I landed one bomb after another.  They are hidebound reactionaries—dyed in the wool Tories. First it was Gandhi I defended; then Einstein; then the Germans; then modern art, etc etc.

Winterslow
Modern image of Winterslow Rectory [geograph.co.uk]

Jack’s near relatives are only moderately well off.  The forty room house “goes with the living”.  All those things are bequests of the church for the use of incumbent.  At Winterslow are Jack’s Cousin Gertrude (the old lady who came through Santa Fe last summer from California) her husband, Cousin Edward, and her unmarried daughter, also Gertrude, besides the rector and his wife.  The two Gertrudes are very discontented as a country rectory seems to them gloomy after California where they lived nine years.  It is very stuffy and over proper, though pretty, the little church dating from thirteen hundred.

I am also suffering from a hurt to my operated innards again, so we are very topsy turvy.  Hope all better next Sunday and a better letter.  Very very much love.

hug and kiss, elsie

I’ll have to cut this short.  Never saw anything except the outer site of Old Sarum—a moat surrounded hill with the fragment of a church and a couple of towers on it.  The castle on the second hill we have never yet visited.  Hope we have time before we leave.

1 The home of Jack’s elderly relatives.

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

Salisbury, Wiltshire
March 4, 1931

I have an abscessed tooth which gives me for today a kind of germy passivity.  I feel as if I were lying on my back in hot grass looking at clouds that went by ever so slowly and thinking about you, as if it would be too much trouble to move for a cyclone.  I wouldn’t care.  But at the same time caring a lot about everything nice.

Salisbury is the greyest place I ever visited.  There’s no actual death here—but a dream that is much deadlier.  The country is all pale sad grass and sombre ploughed earth and very old too sturdy trees.  Nothing could move the trees, they are so rooted in the deathliness of the landscape.  There is the cathedral spire dominating the houses and it is exquisite, but it looks through the mist like somebody else’s dream, that of some poet who never knew of us or even guessed that we could be.  The sky is the only alive thing over these old houses, muffled in their thatch, and these little rivers that are so indifferent to the sea.  There are all sorts of heroic dramas every day between sunrise and sunset, between rain, snow, sleep and abrupt pallid sun.  Sometimes the downs across the railroad cut looked as if the soil in them was powdered coral, it shines so rosy though the yellowed grass under the sunset that is blue and rose.  The little rivers are sown into everything with threads of red.  Last night it snowed under a new moon—thin snow that showed the garden through.

But I don’t like England this year.  It’s too discouraging.  I feel so sharply having been cut away from this two hundred years ago and left with the crude earth of such an unenglish world.  And never can go back.

Workpeople in England look whipped, belly driven.  They lack the pride in economy of the French, and don’t seem to feel in their hearts that the have a right to anything better—so they have no right.  And the stupidly privileged, with their biological instincts so keep and their minds so mazed, and the thoroughly nice english who are liberal but have clammy hands, afraid of taking hold on anything for fear it mayn’t be nice.

Jack’s a dear but he isn’t well and his country seems to make him too sadly his own.  I don’t think he’s any happier over here.

Sometimes I absolutely hate this place.

Love you and davy, love and love.  Jack’s too.

Shall return US instant book done.  Money situation bad and shall be hard put to know what to do there.  Get my advance but that settles nothing and must see Jig.  He is so lonesome with the world he’s just discovering isn’t his as he thought, Loves his dad but his own generation surprises him by its unlikeness to himself.  He blames Denver for the world as I once Clarksville Tennessee.

love again, evelyn

PS shall let you know first minute I do when arriving NY. Jack goes to london for two weeks soon.  His book coming out—short stories only1.  Done in last several years.  Hope better money than last time.

Judas and Other Stories, published by Constable in 1931

* * * * *

To Maude Dunn

Salisbury, Wiltshire
March 7, [1931]

Dearest Mother:

Just had your sweet letter and thank you for your compliments.  You make me feel uncomfy saying you want to imitate my example; but I think it is good in part in a purely practical sense, for you do let inferior people make you suffer a lot more than they ought, and as they can’t be altered or made any bigger in their outlook it would save you a great deal if you could will yourself into a certain amount of indifference to them.  I hope you will for our sake and for my own for it is painful to see you constantly upset by folk inferior to you.

What is really distressing is this problem of your moving next fall with the extreme difficulty of securing privacy in Clarksville. With all the drawbacks, it was a good idea on Donie’s1 part and I wish she would become inspired again, for my ignorance of people there makes me a shadow for an advisor.  It makes me fed up with myself that I haven’t a suggestion to make and have to leave it in your hands not giving you one helpful idea!

I am losing three precious days from work through a visitation from Jack’s friend, Philip Burton2, who was to have come down to Falmouth with his wife at Xmas but did not arrive.  His wife is now in South Africa.  Phil is a very nice person who used to write but had his career stopped by his financial difficulties.  We like seeing him but it is hard not to stew about losing time.  I console myself thinking it all for the best because I have had tonsillitis part of this week and no doubt a rest will improve matters next week.  It’s rather bad policy to get as wound up about work as we’ve been latterly, because you can’t do more than so much however great the will.  Nature just fails.

I wrote you how Stonehenge thrilled us.  And of the beauty of the Cathedral.  I also believe I spoke of Old Sarum which antedated the present Salisbury and was built in Roman times—a double moated town on an eminence of which nothing remains but a fragment of the church and the foundation of the castle and a tower or two.  But even that is enough to reconstruct a picture with; and I imagined very easily rude armies besieging it.  The outer moat has an earthen parapet about eighty or ninety feet—maybe a hundred—high—so it must have been a job to get into it against archer on the towers on the top.  When we were there on the other occasion, the castle had the gate locked so we only saw the outside; but this week we will take Phil over and try to get in so next time I can describe it more accurately.

Yesterday evening (first social do we have had since October) we went to see Jack’s relatives at the country parsonage five miles from here.  A nice old Georgian house with FORTY rooms.  Some of them are cold and unusable, but the central portion of the house has radiators as well as fireplaces and the rooms have huge windows triple glasses looking on big old fir trees and a garden.  The parson’s study has sixteenth century carvings on mantle and dado that are very interesting.  But he is a study—about six feet two and very good looking, with a lined Roman senator sort of face, he dresses like a clerical fashion plate and wears a monocle.  He is very suave and the last thing one thinks of as a preacher from the circuit riding fundamentalist point of view.

Am interrupted so no more now.  March check enclosed.  Dearest love, elsie

PS  My throat infection is trench mouth and not cold—hard to treat.

1 Donie DeBardeleben, a member of the extended Gracey family.
2 Philip Burton was an old friend of Jack’s with whom he had been living before he met Evelyn.

* * * * *

To Maude Dunn

Salisbury, Wiltshire
March 10, 1931

Dearest Mother:

Sunday is my Jonah day as well as my letter day.  This week I have an abscessed tonsil and may have to go to the doctor to have it lanced.  So again my correspondents get the worst of it.  I shall at least answer your questions, my dear.

Delay about money was my bank’s misunderstanding.  They mailed it instead of cabled it but it came OK.

I cried with cold in London when I was first there with Cyril and again when I stayed with the Theises in the Temple about six years ago.  I didn’t happen to have a very heavy coat and hit a particularly damp and bitter spell.

Did I write you that my landlady asked me if I got my accent from the Pilgrim Fathers?

There were twenty one unsolved murders in England last year and eleven were attacks on women.  I really am nervous when I go out alone.  Two months ago a servant girl was found dead and horribly mutilated on Blackheath near London and about same time a middle aged woman in Lincolnshire and a girl was burned in her car and died when she was rescued though she told of attack by man beforehand up in Scotland and a woman was attacked in a railway carriage and decapitated.  None of this is anything compared to the wholesale murders in USA but they do affect the imagination.

I’ll ask Jack about the Salisbury plane [sic] battle.

It’s very sober around here—what with the town full of parsons and the landscape a monument of antiquity.  We have a lunatic asylum nearby and there is another at the other end of town.

Lots of love, elsie

* * * * *

To Maude Dunn

Salisbury, Wiltshire
April 12, 1931

Dear mother:

Jack has been sick a bed, with, I think worry.  The combined effort of job and teaching in Montreal almost did him up.

I’ve had a bad time with me innards again, but that is getting run down from fatigue and worry and is improving.  I suppose I always will have such lapses.  Yes, I wish my tonsils were out, but you remember trench mouth as well as your advice discouraged me.

The streams around Salisbury are just natural water—four little rivers that break and join around several midget islands.

Old salisbury.PNG

I do need clothes altered and can’t seem to find a decent sewing woman in Salisbury.  And the ready-mades are a fright.  It’s getting warm and I can’t get out of a jersey and skirt.  Almost as bad as in Bezier.  I couldn’t buy anything there.  French winegrowers wives dress like mutes at a funeral.  Heaps love, elsie check enclosed

* * * * *

To Maude Dunn

[Salisbury, Wiltshire]
May 3 [1931]

Dearest Mother:

Thank you for all your sweet letters.  Jack and I are still fagged and not too well but I think we are recuperating gradually. It isn’t that Jack needs to be in England specifically for the writing of his books, but to follow up contacts that will be valuable in making a success of its publication.  We could have stayed nearer London this winter if we hadn’t been fools and assumed that Jack was bound to get a Guggenheim.

I am very concerned about being nearer Jig,1 but of course will have to spend next winter wherever Jack finds a job.  Meanwhile I am consulting with Cyril re schools and all and the expense of having Jig stay with me somewhere either part of this summer or next winter.

It has been raining here for three solid weeks without four good days in all.  But I don’t think its much worse than Clarksville from what you say.

Perhaps we will have a few days free before we leave here.  I don’t know.  I would like to investigate that castle and write you about it.  Jack mailed you the views and you can get some idea of the place at its best.  The newer part is hideously commonplace but the old landmarks are very lovely.  Also the downs2 around delight me.  All green with crops, they are less subtle than they were last winter but very sort of virginal and untrodden upon.  Then the hawthorn is in leaf and will be out next month and there is a huge quantity of it.  The garden here is very seedy but forget-me-nots still survive and wall flowers are blooming profusely, as well as primroses.  Primroses are everywhere.  Boys on bicycles have primroses fixed on their handle bars.  The English express their whole sense of poetry in love of flowers.  The chestnuts are in leaf and bud, everything looks tender and lavish, if only only it were not so wet.  Swallows have arrived and thrill me as always with their scissor winged darts between earth and sky and the violent blue that flashes from their throats and under wings.

I wonder if Irene was fooled as I was at Madame Tussauds.  You remember I thought the dummy maid was alive when I was there with Cyril?  Of course these things are only replicas of the old stuff.  The place was destroyed by fire a few years ago and practically all of their valuables lost.  But I understand they reproduced them almost indistinguishably.  Haven’t had any more spiritualistic sittings yet.

Did you get delayed April check?  Time to send another and I want to be sure.  Maybe you acknowledged it and I have just forgotten as I can’t keep all your letters, but I don’t remember.

Dearest love,
elsie

PS  After June 1st, write me care Miss Abrams, 66 Perry Street, NYC, as I hope by then to have started to New York.

1 Jig was then aged 15 and living with his father in Denver, Colorado.
2 Salisbury is on the edge of the Wiltshire Downs, a chalk habitat characterised by rolling hills and sheep grazing.

* * * * *

In June 1931, 20 months after their arrival in an autumnal England, Jack and Evelyn returned to New York where they were re-united with Jigg and with old friends.  It was, however, not to be an entirely happy period.

 

20. Woodstock to Felixstowe

Cyril had been in Santa Fe for some months when Evelyn and Jigg returned to New York from Montreal.  During this period Evelyn’s finances were even more precarious than usual, as the following sequence of letters illustrates.  [It is very possible that Evelyn wrote to friends whose letters have not made it into this collection, and equally possible that any such letters have been lost or destroyed.]

* * * * *

To David Lawson

[c/o Mrs Kate Russell, Woodstock, New York]
Saturday [August 1928]

Dearest Davy:

I am coming in with Jig on Wednesday instead of Thursday of next week.  Can you put us both up?  Will arrive on six oclock evening boat at Debrosses1 and go to you unless you phone Woodstock 5! [illeg] to say you can’t have us.  If I don’t hear I will think you expect us. I have decided to go to England if Margaret2 will pay my fare.  I don’t know that she will because I find after second letter from her that she meant to pay Jig’s fare if I should want him to join me.  I misunderstood her.  however I have asked her for mine and will begin negotiations anyway.

Jack seems in a state about quota and life in general. Tell you all about it.

dearest love you and lola.  evelyn

1The terminal for Hudson River ferries at Debrosses Street, then operating between Manhattan and points on the Hudson, including Woodstock.
Margaret DeSilver, wealthy New York socialite and loyal friend of Evelyn and Jack. She gave them significant material aid in a number of ways on more than one occasion.

* * * * *

To David Lawson

[Woodstock, New York]
August 9, 1928

Dear Davy:

I expected to come back to town this week:  but Cyril has written about Santa Fe and a new plan has developed.  Cyril hopes to have the fare for Jig in a couple of more week.  Or at least, he says, by September first.  I’m going to try to arrange with Hazel1 for some place to stay.  But if that fails, and Lola is improving, could Jig and I spend three days with you?  I would have to collect his clothes and attend to the removal of his tooth braces, and finally send him off.  Then, if I have no further plans regarding Jack and England, I’ll come up here again.  It’s cheaper than living in town of course, and will be much better for writing when vacations are waning—next month I guess.

It is nice here. At the present moment there is rather more “social life” than I had bargained for; but I will say it for the usage here, that people respect one’s writing hours.  That writing is truly acknowledged “business” is at least an accepted thing.

We miss you and Lola daily.  That’s the only waste of this arrangement.  As far away as Montreal you two were beyond regrets.  Here it is a bit distressing to feel that the boat goes to NY in a few hours every day and we don’t know anything.  As a matter of fact, the schedule is bad.  It leaves Kingtown everyday at one and does not arrive at Debrosses Street until six in the evening.  And the train journey is dearer and not much quicker—takes four hours.

Our very, very, very much love Davy from both of us
evelyn

Hazel Abrams was a friend with whom Evelyn often stayed while in New York. She had a flat in Greenwich Village.

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

[Woodstock, New York]
August 9 [1928]

Lovely girl:  I can telephone on a party line from out here; but there are twenty-one phones on the same line and the connection is terrible—and costs eighty-five cents.  That is why I have requested the aid of various unknown aides, who may annoy Davy with their telephone calls from town; but I am sure he will forgive me if he realizes what a relief it is to establish even that approximation of direct connection with what is going on.

My eyes are still wabbly; and if I ever get settled near an occulist I can trust, I’m going to take desperate measures.  As long as I don’t write I’m splendid; but I’m afraid that, even aside from economic pressure, I have forgotten how to enjoy literal idleness.

Cyril writes that he has Jig’s fare to Santa Fe—or will have it in a few weeks.  And when it appears I will have to come to town to send him off.  As he can’t prolong his treatments at the dentist anyway, I expect to bring him in a day or two ahead to pack and have the bridges off.  Hazel may be able to find some place for me to stay, but if she doesn’t maybe I will call on Davy’s charity again, if you are feeling better then.  I’m afraid I would have to allow at least three days for dentistry and packing.  Then, in the interval of uncertain plans, I guess I’ll come up here again.

Anyway—I love you (the only platitude I can’t withhold) dear, dear, dear, dear lovely thing.  evelyn

* * * * *

To David Lawson

[Woodstock, New York]
August 16 [1928]

Dear absolute brick Davy:  I was very much touched by all your generous alarm on my behalf.  You are a sweetie.  But it would not do much good for me to run away in a fashion that would prevent my knowing what happened.  You see my denial of mother is an intellectual matter, and while to have her with me permanently in one ménage would, as I know from past experience, end work and happiness; I have that subconscious affiliation with her than can not be eliminated by the mandates of reason.  When Cyril took charge of her letters he was doing his reasonable best for me; but it didn’t work.  I had subconscious horrors about her all the time.  To give you an example, while I adore Cyril so completely as a human that I could never resent his interference on my behalf, I never forgave Alfred Kreymborg1 for being rude to mother2.  This will show you that my personal pride as well as infantile affection is still identified with mother.  If it comes to the point of taking her on, the home must be found because, even discounting other reasons, I literally can not support her.  But it wouldn’t solve it for me to leave future history a blank.

I wrote Margaret DeSilver about the last news—which is that the Graceys3 are going to begin an action against my father.  If it works some money may be gotten for mother, tho I doubt it will be enough to solve things.  Anyway I believe they won’t ship her here until that is settled.  This gives me a few months leeway, I gather.  In the meantime, if there looms up, as I fear, the alarming possibility of me being involved as witness in the lawsuit against my father, Margaret says she will pay my fare to England, which would be a more effectual escape than hiding in New York. But I am also waiting to find out what comes of that.

However, the immediate favor I would like to ask is this.

Jig’s tooth straightening has been left in a mess, and he must have another visit to the dentist.  If I send him down to NY next Thursday on the boat, landing him at Debrosses street at six pm, can he spend Thursday night and Friday night in your place?  He would go to the dentists on Friday and return on Saturday morning with Hazel Abrams who is coming up here then.

I would be grateful if you could meet him at the boat; but if that is inconvenient, would you be in at six and have the outer door unlocked?

Dear Davy, again thank you from me heart for the real and beautiful friendship you so constantly show.  I will be in town in September when I bring Jig in, as I said, and will be very humbly receptive to advice.  I have been so worried and upset that I have done almost no writing, and would like to concentrate on finishing something before I bike off to England or somewhere else.

If I sent a small check by Jig—ten or fifteen dollars—could you cash it?  It is hard to cash checks here.

Best love of Jig to me and to you and her,
evelyn

American poet, novelist, playwright, literary editor and anthologist. In the 1920s he was associated with the same publications as Lola.
The letters do not include any information about this incident.
The Graceys were cousins of Maude Dunn, with whom she had been staying ever since her return from Brazil., The action against Seely Dunn was presumably for financial support for Maude, possibly to enable her to be financially independent of the Graceys.

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

[Woodstock, New York]
August 28 [1928]

Beloved:

Jack telephoned from Montreal last night and said he had got no job yet and his money was getting so low he thought he would have to return to England while he had the fare.  He was evidently pretty overwrought, and I have decided to leave for Montreal tomorrow night so that I can at least see him before he goes—or maybe we can fix a plan between us about coming here.

with apologies—no I won’t keep this up—and so much love
from evelyn

* * * * *

To David Lawson

611 Madison Street, Clarksville, Tennessee
September 8, 1928

Dear Mr Lawson:

I am enclosing a letter to Cyril, in the same envelope with this note to you, because I think it a better plan not to send a letter through the Clarksville Post Office addressed in his name.1  As you will see I have put his name on the envelope, leaving space for you to add the address, below, and forward to him.  The same plan ought to be followed with any letter he may send through you.

Thanking you for this courtesy.
Very truly yours,
Mrs M T Dunn

1vThe relationship between Cyril and Maude broke down entirely while they were in Brazil. It is possible that this ruse was adopted as her Gracey cousins would have welcomed learning Cyril’s address and pursuing him for maintenance for Maude.

* * * * *

Some time between late September and early October 1928, Evelyn and Jack returned to England and Jigg joined his father in Santa Fe, although the correspondence relating to this decision and their journey appears to have been lost. Evelyn and Jack appear to have stayed with Jack’s long-time friend C Thompson-Walker at his home in Kent; they later moved on to Felixstowe in Suffolk, staying in what had been Jack’s childhood home.

* * * * *

To David Lawson

care C F Thompson-Walker
Winsley, Red Hill, Chislehurst, Kent]
September 25 [1928]

Dearest Davy:

My time since arrival has been spent mostly in bed—throat chest eyes (due to unheated houses).  It is quite cold.

I am on edge about the mother thing.  Is she writing to Cyril via you?  Has anything happened?  I don’t want to be cut off from news.  I’ll just worry more.

Will you send me Cyril’s El Paso address as soon as you get it?  I want to cable him re Jack and I and job and don’t know where to.

Dear Davy, this has been an odd experience (the visit) which I will narrate for you and Lola’s delection some day.  It is seeing England for sure.

And no friends in the world were ever what you and Lola are and have always been to me.  I just relapse into weeping mistiness when I try to express it.  I love you both very deeply (and Pete knows I ought).  But you both know all that.

Darn if you are so good to me.  Wish I could ever be half.

England, my England
Of cold meat pie
Of raddled cheek
And haughty eye,
Of Indian Colonel,
Roman dame,
I sometimes wonder why I came!

(But I don’t—Jack is a good reason.)  Love, blessings, thanks to you and Lola from both

* * * * *

To David Lawson

[Chislehurst, Kent]
[October 9 [1928]

Dear Davy:

If Jack and I can raise the $500 to flash at the government we will sail Dec 14 or a little earlier—say 7th if Jack’s writing allows.  Will your 2nd studio be occupied or could you let it to us for four or five days?  We hope to be able to go to NO1 by freight boat almost at once but could find no sailings from her to NO that fitted in.  Anyhow if we get to NY Jack is in.

If that happens and you can take us in, I would ask you to leave your key with Lola and we could go from boat by her place, if she is well enough to give it us.

I’m kind of homesick and longing for you all.  I enclose a note to Lola [reproduced below] as I don’t know whether she is using Cox or house.

With very much love always
Evelyn

New Orleans

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

[Chislehurst, Kent]
October 9 [1928]

Beloved:

How I wish I could break down the doubt unplanted now of ever finding an ear for what gives me the word of poetry.  It makes my pen halt and refuse to write it.  If it were not for that, I could give you an adequate sense of a scene meant for you when, yesterday, walking over Westminster Bridge just as rain came over sun and sun burst faintly or the shivered rain again, we looked East along the solid low enormous ramparts of Somerset House, and below them to the embankment, faintly with scurrying red busses and then further to some grey shape of commerce that was probably a Brewery between us and London Bridge; and the gulls were whirling—like little rotating white machines—childrens inventions, I thought, and the barges at the South Bank—the dingy bank—lay stranded in a bramble bus of schooner masts, and the soiled Thames water tuned murkily a half-blue, as if peace had shone upon it an instant in passing on.

The other way the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Spire took that sonorous contour that fog and evening gives to everything here—and there was the intimation of sunset too reserved to flame forth.

Afterward Jack and I walked up the Strand and down to Temple Gardens where the flowers do credit—as it old English gardens—to that timid poetry too doubtfully expressed in other places.  The dahlias were a whole city up and down the wall—sulphur pale, end of a red that I wanted to call Charlotte Corday, if allowed to give them a name.

There was a little sunken garden, a nursery for baby asters, with a minute pool like a fairy’s sea, and a minute bronze cherub riding on top of it.

All of London I get thru the eyes, I love.  Its bulk, which is orchestral, and is always softened and liquefied by the gentle darkness of mists in sun.

Of the people I have a mood of weariness, due to meeting too many relatives.1  They make me like better to think of raucous New York and all our screaming rather ugly youth, where this is a at least no dry-rot niceness yet.

Love, Beloved, and anxious hopes to hear good of you,

Love from Jack too to you and Davy,
Evelyn

1Evelyn is probably referring to Jack’s maiden aunts.

* * * * *

To David Lawson

801 Austin Street, El Paso, Texas
October 14, 1928

Dear Davy:

Thank you for your letters and for forwarding Mrs Dunn’s letters and for everything.  I’ve been in a whirl.  Everything is going fine and I’d like to see you and Lola.  Please give her my dearest love, bless her—one of the dearest and most wonderful people who ever lived.  I enclose a letter, which please forward, as my address is a secret from the lady in question.

Jig is well and talks about you lots.

I’ll write later at greater length—just now am working day and night.

Best love to you and to beautiful Lola—the world is more bearable because she is in it.

Always affy and gratefully
Cyril

PS:  Please put the enclosed in an envelope and address it in your own hand to—Mrs M T Dunn, 611 Madison St, Clarksville, Tenn.  Cyril

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

Chislehurst, Kent
October 18, 1928

Sweetheart, I know you will be glad that I have recovered the use of a typewriter.  It at least eliminates for the time one of the lesser tests of our friendship for me.  As for the other way round, however, I am really so improving in capacity to decipher that it is a sort of a pleasure of sanity to peruse one of your distinguished flourishes.1

I love you and Cyril as I love some books, some pictures, some landscapes—because you represent in the organisation of your human life the kind of harmonies that, usually, are only wrung from the fact on paper or on canvas by the great especial effort of art.  Most people, even most artists, are only for moments as good as their best work.  Both of you I have seen for the space of years consistent with your own best achievement and with all the beauty that ever was designed to be eternal in such eternity as art allow.

It hurts me conscience that he paid for that garret longer with that vague intention on accommodating me.  I wish I could square it, but of course he wouldn’t.  I don’t even know the cost of taxi cab when he took my trunk—which makes it worse my asking other things.  I have had no word yet from Sophie, or from Cyril about mother, and wondering if it will all be hung up just as high when we get back.

No news on Wave. Jack and I hope to reach New York by mid December, depending on possession of the five hundred needed to show customs.  His passage has been advanced on condition he has three quarters of his new novel done before we sail.  I have mine.

Cyril has hopes of a job in west by Jan 1st.  There the remains problem of a week in New York.  For Gawds sake don’t let Davy rerent that place even if he can, but will you both inquire when it comes up if there is any place available to rent for a week at that time?  I’m leery of landing there with no place decided on if I can help it.  Shall write to the Waverly Hotel, in Waverly Place if there is no other way.  Scarcely heard from anybody.

felixstowe.PNG
Felixstowe Suffolk [www.oldukphotos.com]
And, oh, I forgot to tell you we have lodging at Felixstowe in a house where Jack lived in childhood—it was then his home not lodgings.  This is where the German Empress used to summer, but nothing remains but a mouldy dwelling, modestly regal, now hotel.  We face the North Sea and empty atrocities occupied by summer trippers but now abandoned to the gales.  It is like a locust shell that has been shed, this town in winter—all new and a perfect husk, but lifeless after summer.  Except that the sea stays cold and alive and yesterday was stormy with the sun brazening sulphur brown clouds and the gulls mewing, and a few nursemaids with prams running to escape the rain on the elegant promenade beach where nobody walks after Sept 1st.  It is all new here, with an after war newness that makes England the lame counterpart of Douglas Long Island, but it is very cheap at this season.  Love and love to you from us and to dear Davy

1 A reference to Lola’s unique handwriting.

* * * * *

To David Lawson

Chislehurst, Kent
October 27 [1928]

Dear Davy:

I am so sorry I have had to trouble you—or rather have troubled you so much.  I don’t know what has happened to Cyril unless it is he is just dotty with responsibilities and the effort to make things go for all of us.  I have had a cable of his address—801 Austin Street, El Paso, Texas—but have not had a line from him, Phyllis or Jig written since my departure.

One reason he may be extra harassed I found out today.  This mornings post brought me, ironically, as a birthday present for poor Jig, another letter from Marie [Tudor Garland], saying that, My marriage to Jack which she had just heard of making it “easier” for her to do it, she would have to permanently discontinue my income (and it is implied Cyril’s too) after December.  So I have two months of grace at my twenty-five a week.

Thank the Lord Margaret gave me enough for my fare home, or I would be in hell.  I suppose I will have to give up my frantic resistance to the sacrifice of writing and get whatever job I can.  If Cyril succeeds in finding Jack a job out west and can help us out there, I would rather work in Texas than in NY’s climate (been having chronic bronchitis here).  But in case he can’t then I must settle down to whatever brass tacks I can command there.  I wish I could get a literary job, but suppose I had better resign myself to waitressing or sumpin like.

The gods bless you and love from me and Jack to you and Lola.  I’ll be home first part December whether Jack can come or not.

kiss lola.  evelyn

* * * * *

To David Lawson

Felixstowe, Suffolk
November 30 [1928]

Dearest Davy:

Wondering in the major way how Lola is, I am also in the minor way asking you more favors.

It is pretty fierce to continue to trouble you, Davy dear, and none of these things matter compared to major worries; yet if anything can be done I will be obliged, as the loss of the clothes means the purchase of more and we are so hard up.  I thank you and do so apologise.

Jack and I are sailing on December 14th.  On the American Banker—American Merchant Line.  Jack is not allowed to buy a tourist third ticket when we goes as an emigrant, so we had to take a one class boat.  This is the same line I came over on.  We will get in on Xmas Eve if our journey is a lucky one; but more likely on Xmas day or the day after.  The weather has been terrible and nothing but wrecks off this coast, so I don’t feel very happy about it.  Vestris1 wreck impressed my imagination unduly.

Now Davy dear, the ever resourceful landlady, Hazel, had found a way to put us up in her place, so, thank god, we won’t have to camp on you.  You must want to poison me by now with all the changes of plan.  But it is so much better you don’t have to sleep with Lola, and selfishly, Hazel has steam heat.  My teeth chatter daily here.

Lots of love from us to you and her, dear davy.
evelyn

The SS Vestris sank on 12th November 1928. There was an outcry about her generally lax safety and as a result new laws regarding safety on merchant shipping were introduced..

* * * * *

To David Lawson

[Felixstowe, Suffolk]
December 4 [1928]

Dearest Davy:

Guess we all seem world’s worst pills in making so many demands on friendship and, technically, standpoint of letters, returning to little.  You see in one way you have kept far more independence than anybody ever does who tries to put over a business.  In America that is done, as you know, entirely and exclusively by bluff.  Virtue counts very little.  I only know because I have seen it what Cyril puts into starting these new enterprises that are to save us all from starvation—and that’s what his art school idea is intended for.  Just one year ago and the specialist Cyril had in New York said that his nerves were in a condition, with his heart, that would either kill him or land him in invalidism for life (this is confidential) and yet he is still going and having persuaded the unutterably hyde bound citizens of El Paso to send at least a fair number of their daughters to him, besides bucking the troubles that came when he and Phyllis went away from NY.  So, dear Davy, while there ain’t a leg to stand on in one way, please be forgiving.  Indeed I see you are.

Believe I wrote you last week that we are sailing on Dec 14 on The American Banker—due in with luck Xmas Eve.  Then to decide whether we go to El Paso or get jobs in New York.

Jesus bless you both as he would and do lots for you if he had more power on Olympus. Hope to see you and Lola Xmas day.  blessings again, evelyn

PS  I have finished the first draft of a 450 page novel1 in three weeks and four days, so if I get a job I can work on it Sundays.

1 Published in 1929 as The Wave.

* * * * *

To Otto Theis and Louise Morgan

c/o Abrams, 66 Perry Street, NYC
January 16, 1929

Sweet Peoples,

Evelyn maybe has told you I got job as captain of a coal-barge in East River, held the job 10 days and then got run-into by a tug or something one night1.  Three of us barges tied up abreast.  Tug hit outer boat and shock caused my lines to the dock to part, so we were all three carried upstream to Hellgate.  Were picked off by police launch just in time.  2 minutes later the barges hit rock and sank.  I lost my clothes and bedding but saved the novel.  Got back same night to E in Hudson St to find her ill with flue.  Now much worse, so she’s in hospital at New York Infirmary.  Don’t know what next.  Am using spare time in writing but may get another barge job if vacancy occurs.

How are you all then?  Write to us.  Forgive haste.  E sends bestest love and hugs to you both.   So do I.

Yrs ever,
John

Lots of nice free publicity for John Metcalfe in all the papers as result of barge mix-up.  Headlines “Two Saved from Hellgate” etc etc

1Hell’s Gate is a narrow tidal stretch in New York City’s East River, and is known to be dangerous to navigation. A search of online New York City newspaper archives for this date has not yielded any information about this incident.

* * * * *

To David Lawson

Cyril Kay-Scott School of Painting
East Yandell Boulevard at Austin Street
El Paso, Texas

January 23, 1929

Dear Davy:

Why haven’t I written?  Davy I’ve been up against it.  One is ashamed to write when things are bad.  Marie didn’t like Phyllis (she wouldn’t like any woman I married) and took my “income” away and left me heavily in debt and without a red cent.  I’ve paid off $2000 in notes and have only $200 more to pay, but it looks as if we were going to get through all right now.

I want to ask another favor from you.  There is a movement on foot to put my school on an official footing here.  Would you send me a letter addressed “to whom it may concern” saying nice things about me as a person, abut my prominence as a painter and my ability to talk sound principles of art?  Do you know anyone with a letter head who would vouch for me similarly?  As a matter of fact I am as reliable financially as the most conventional man in the US.

How are you Davy and how is dear Lola.  I think of you both so often even if I don’t write.  You know how one feels when one is with one’s back to the wall and don’t want to have even his truest friends feel sorry for him.

Don’t feel bad toward me because I’ve not written.  I consider you one of the few steadfast friends I have.  You’ve stuck to me all these years and my feeling for you is something few people have gained.

I’m nearly all in from overwork, but if this thing goes through, things will be easier on me.

Best love to you both
Affy
Cyril

All this is confidential

* * * * *

To Louise Morgan

449½ Hudson Street, NYC
February 10 [1929]

Dear Kiddie:

Lord deliver us,  don’t reproach yourself about writing.  As a matter of strict etiquette I should have written.  But life has been exhaustingly full since we got here and my inclinations, if I had the temperament would be to pass out like Merton in some sort of collapse that made it impossible I be supposed to think.  Now you have had your share of the same kind of reflections, so we ought to understand each other.  It is illness and money.

First there was the barge.  Today Jack is in bed with flu.  I had flue and went to hospital as you know, but which it was revealed that I have a tumour in the uterus (a small and tame one they say however) inflammation of the uterus (not due to tumour but to a hurt acquired in Montreal) diabetes (not advanced) an inflamed appendix, and a derangement of the liver probably due to the sluggish effects of my general prolapsis.  Also anaemia.  I’m taking iron injections and diabetic diet, but the real cure would be total irresponsibility—and for Jack as well.  You know all about it.

Cheerio and lots of ‘em, in other words as true but less nostalgic of Blighty—or thee—our best beloved love to you and very much adored Otto,

evelyn

* * * * *

To Otto Theis and Louise Morgan

449½ Hudson Street, NYC
April 7, 1929

Dear Peoples,

Excuse scrawl and great haste.  Evelyn now in hospital after operation (successful) and therefore unable to answer your nice, nice letters, – says she sends bushels and oceans of love, and will write when able.  Expects to be out of hospital in 10 days.  Then we hope spend a month in country—but this address will always find us.

Blessings to you all three, and I do hope things soon get cheerier.  You’re having a hell of a time just now I know.

E’s operation consisted in a complete remodelling of the vaginal landscape, general refitting and spring cleaning.  Involved great pain for a week afterwards, catheterizing only every 6 hours and of course, in rebellion, she wet her sheets all the time.  And more even than that.  Formidable and tumultuous movement of bowels while I was visiting her, – also in sheets.  Nurses dashing around with pallid smirks.  But enough of this—

Love and hugs to you all three,
Yrs ever,
John

* * * * *

* * *

*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11. Bou Saada (2)

The first three months in the Algerian desert have been difficult for the Scott household as they adjusted to a new and completely foreign culture.  Evelyn’s letters reveal her desperation to see her friends as she pleads with them to visit, and the new year, 1924, begins with worries about money and poor health.

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

[Bou-Saada, Algeria]
January 3 [1924]

Dear DEAR, your letter just five minutes ago, and I shall answer instanta because it happens to be a moment between laps of writing and I like to talk back as your letters come.  Thank God, the Garland fund seems to be some use.  Merton was saved from the pit of destruction and landscape gardening for the time being, though having to pay two life insurance policies and send monthly money to his kids has made it go almost as fast as yours.  The Jewish woman who cooks for us was in a state today with Pyorrhoea and all her teeth falling out and it gave me the hump about what a lack of money does to you.  We all need the dentist some and I swore by my pet gods that any money we ever have over living had to go to dentists first.  You do too, Lola.

I appreciate your writing that letter when your fingers—or FINGER—had been at it all day.  I’m afflicted with a wart on my best type finger—the one I had before I went away—which is like a hoof and hurts so I can’t use it.  When the weather gets warmer I’m going to have an operation.  It came from typing on that one finger to the exclusion of all others and ought to be photographed to advertise good methods for stenographers.

One thing is disappointing.  I do WISH you could come over here for two or three months.  If not now later when we are back in France and the weather warmer.  You wouldn’t be annoyed with company, Lola dear, for I work six hours every day and Sug and Merton are gone all morning and all afternoon until tea at four thirty.  We never see a soul and it would be practically the same in France.  We live very cheaply and five dollars a week would cover any possible expense for you here, really it would.

Well, I ain’t guv the idea up.  Maybe the woman book will be finished and the library superfluous before we get back.

Did I did you that Sug and I are writing a child’s story together?[1]  It is a commercial effort in a sense as we all have no call of inspiration to kids, but I think you will all rather like it.  It is laid in Algeria and I have put, with Sug’s help at translating data, a lot of native customs etc in it, we have an exciting plot and a fantastic element, all the ingredients which Jigeroo approved. it was read out to him for criticism.  Merton is doing some delightful simple drawings for it.

We all love you and if your liver incites you to blue letters why for gods sake write blue letters.  We want most of all to hear from you.  Bless you and your art, Lola, and may the New Year do more for it what it deserves.  Bless your insides and make them behave as they should.  Bless Davy’s health, jobs, and university sources.

And please God, let Lola come to France sometime.
Most, most affectionately from all of us,  Evelyn.

[1]     In The Endless Sands

 * * * * *

To Otto Theis

[February 1924]

Dear Otto:

Don’t attempt to keep up with me, I answer all your letters five minutes after receipt.

This has been a kind of “old home” week, reviving habits and associations of the past.  Merton has a lame back gotten while day labouring, and his back went wrong, and the illustrations for the kid book, because he has never done such before and didn’t know how to make magazine cover pretty faces, nearly drove him wild.  Then we went over money accounts and I discovered that I had used some of the money Merton was going to send his kids in keeping house here (we run the accounts joint), and that we were in his debt (when he ain’t got a cent) and that we didn’t have enough money to go to Paris as Sug had hoped, and Sug had the worst nervous collapse of a day I’ve seen him have in a year—and—we’re still alive and love each other—but Gosh everybody is tired. We all, even me, behave better than we used to, but then moments of weakness ain’t entirely overcome.

Sug is crazy for you to see some of his pictures and so am I.  I hope you will honestly find in Siren some of the things I do, and golly—I hope—you will even see a faint practical chance.

Bou Saada 4 (2)
Bou Saada: The house of Master Dinet [Alamy stock photo]
Sug has suffered a lot lately from severe pains in his bladder and scared me to death, but he recuperates so whenever he does a good picture that I’ve decided that he has no ills but mental ills.  However their consequence may be as dangerous as any other, and Sug’s longevity depends on whether he can put over something, either books or pictures this year.  He is nearly destroyed by taking money from Marie as well as afraid it will be cut off, and the only justification to his pride for doing it will be putting over this work.  As for his going back to work as he talks of at times, he simply couldn’t.  He wouldn’t last a week.  He is acutely neurotic and his heart is worse and worse.  He continues to exhibit demoniacal energy by spurts, and if he has any luck he may begin to live more calmly, otherwise not.  Merton’s being with us which began for me as a doubtful and perhaps selfish experiment, has been entirely justified I think even for Sug, for Merton is sincerely devoted to Sug and admiring of him and appreciative of his qualities and is a perfect angel at helping to remove from Sug’s shoulders practical burdens concerned with the details of living.

I’m a fiend to make money now.  Kid book first commercial job of my life, and we honestly think it is valuable that way.  Jigeroo loves it.  Merton’s pictures go with the book but he wants a flat price and not a high one, they are seven colored drawings and very good and atmospherey of this place, done from Algy models.  If this kid book goes Sug and I will write one every two years.

Letter as usual all about us, but one important item, wither we get as far north as Brittany or not you and Louise M and kids gotta come.

           LOTS OF LOVE evelyn

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

February 24 [1924]

[page 1 missing] We agreed to pay half a gardeners wages to get our winter food supply out of this backyard and all we have had so far has been the violets a bowl of salad and a reddish or two.  And the old gardener, whose wages are two dollars a month, has every day another child die so he wants about two months in advance.  And to show he is worth it he picks me bouquets that are as compact and indestructible as indoor baseballs, and as sedate and defiantly surrounded by prickly foliage as a maiden Victorian with hairpins and frills.  If we could find the Arab secret of subsistence on nothing this place would be ideal for us.

But it isn’t ideal, and we don’t like Arab life a little bit.  It snowed today (Feb 24) though all the fruit trees are in bloom, peaches mostly, and only last week were warm and wonderful little shaggy powder puffs on stems in which blood seemed to run instead of sap, and bees and flies crawled and hummed, and the sky was like a blue rock and there were some little snow-foam of cloud right over the trees and it was like snow in the garden of Paradise.

You will wonder then why we don’t like Arab life.  It is because there is no intensity in it, even of machines, except the depressing intensity of sordid Arab religion?  Even if we can’t be rich I want to see somebody who is.  Never in Bou-Saada have we seen one woman in anything more regal than calico, never one child who wasn’t dirty and out at heels.  Occasionally a man is impressive by the height of his turban and the whiteness of his linen and the gorgeousness of silver embroidery on his velvet jacket.  But you know even he lives in a mud hovel and starves his wife.  We were almost swamped last month by trying on a little meagre charity, but it is another grain of sand in all the sand there is, and I don’t think the people are very unhappy anyway.  They don’t protest or want to.  And this stupid Koran which is going to take them all to heaven and such a dingy heaven anyway.  We think of Romanism as formulated, but that ritual gives much more than this deathly penance of learning parrot wise verse and lines verse and line and droning it morning and night.

Bou Saada 2 (2)
Bou Saada [Delcampe.net]
Today the administration is trying to make a hit with tourists and has arranged a falcon hunt. Lots of stodgy French and English from Alger down and have gone out thirteen kilometres to see the falcons loosed on some poor hares and pigeons.  There is also a dance of the Ouled Nails tonight and if I hadn’t got sick we would have gone. But I think the weather will cook that too as it is in a tent.  You see the Ouled Nails used to be almost like sexual priestesses but now they live in a licensed house of prostitution and are just a lot of mangy bitches as hard as nails and not much more lovely.  A funny thing is that the fact that they are femmes public has not modified certain religious modesties. A Mahomden may sleep with one of the ladies but he may not see her unclothed, nor any women than his wives.

Arabs have this awful puritan license, but it remains puritan for they condemn this world and the flesh and woman as a minister to the flesh.  See a ragged ragged old man, a man of fabulous rags, going by with a ragged dirty woman whose slippers are falling to pieces and held on with string, and she has her face as carefully veiled as if most of her anatomy wasn’t leaking through the rents and wears.  Wish people could see their own conventions in the light of others, but British etc come here, shake their heads, and go back to worship the Virgin Mary and attend balls with ladies nude, so to  speak, on the upper level.

Bou Saada 6 (1)
Bou Saada: Dancing  girls and women [Past-to-Present.com]
Yet Arabs aren’t a bit mystic.  Their God is sensual purely in the sense of external sensational non-subjective.  And their music so crass and terrible, their way of singing like brass—the brass city of Solomon in the story—a brazen external impenetrability.  Only difference from our puritans is that their contempt for this world is perfect and negative and not a living torturing effort at contempt.  And their next world has not such a poetic hell nor such a rapturous and complacent heaven.  Heaven you reach by hard work in reciting Koran and prayers, not passion, just rote.

They are so very mental and so naïve as well—but it is not emotional naivete, and their conventions have the perfection of fixity.  Their shoes which are the only pretty thing the women wear (the few women who wear shoes) of red leather have a touch of green thread a bit of silver embroidery very conventionalized and supplied with a restraint, a mental correctness, which would be westernly impossible to people twice as sophisticate.  The jewelry is fine in only a few cases, but mostly quite crude and heavy, of metalled five franc pieces and really made into jewelry as an easy way to preserve wealth among people who have no banks or closets or drawers or trunks to lock thinks in.  No furniture in their houses, in poor houses nothing at all but a pile of dry grass to sleep in, in rich houses a rug or two and maybe rugs on the wall, a taboret for coffee, brass trays to carry food in, no knives and forks.

Little girls have a nauseating and unpleasant precociousness and a total unintelligence, just a kind of suspicious cunning and no more concentration than rabbits.  They are never, in the country, educated at all, and as most boys learn only the Koran they are as bad.  Last week Merton walked out to a small oasis near here and was accompanied home by the son of the caid who was fifteen and had been married three years, and whom in spite of his distinguished lineage, begged old shoes old clothes penknives anything from Merton.  All children beg.  Even rich people’s children.  It is quite convention for a child to beg.

Our house is opposite the filthy jail and the overnight cell opens on the street twenty feet from my bedroom window.  So funny and so awful the continuous occupants.  First place every morning the French Jew police sergeant goes in to the CELL to pea [sic], there being no toilet in the police station, and comes out arranging his trousers with an entire complacency.  Stink ferocious.  Most Arab men object to being locked up (they are awful thieves and tricksters but have the self-esteem of red Indians, only the women crassly) and they pound and shake the door all night.  Twice recently raids on unlicensed brothels (Tom can tell you of one down on the motor road for he was pursued from there) have filled cells with ladies glittering with tinsel and tinkly with necklaces and bracelets.  When the door is opened I see inside dark shiny unrelated spots as if there were Christmas trees inside.  Then make out a fat woman having a drink of water out of a galvanized scrubbing bucket.  Some of the raided ladies insisted on their respectability and emerged to go to magistrate with their faces fully veiled.

Bou Saada 8
Bou Saada: Native dwelling [Delcampe.net]
Ellen also sent me her address so I imagined you wanted me to write to her, and the mood of response is certainly in me, yet I do make such a mess of new contacts that I feel somehow I ought not to take a risk that might spoil the possibility of a friendship when we meet.  You tell me exactly how you feel, but anyway please let her know that though I should be humanly flattered by a poem to me if it were banal.  I feel a very different and more profound appreciation when the poem is like this to stimulatingly harsh and yet lovely.  You see Lola I suppose if I have an ideal esthetically it is of the combination of the harsh consciousness, harsh because of its definition, emerging from the undefined and carrying with it a kind of intimation of its source that is even more unescapable than the definition.  Her work, to judge from one small specimen is less poignant less matured in consciousness than yours, but it has a good deal of your flavor—only don’t tell her that, for I don’t mean she imitates, only that one reason you like her is natural response and one reason I should undoubtedly like her (IF my judgement is right) is this identity of a quality in her with a quality in you which I consider precious.

CKS Sand Dune
“Sand Dune”: Cyril Kay Scott watercolour  [North Caroline Museum of Art]
Cyril and Merton and me and Jigeroo all love you so very much and so very much want you to be well and to finish the book but not to finish the book until you ARE well.  And our dearest love to Davy, please, and, and, and lots of things I don’t know how to write—

MY EYES FEEL BETTER FOR HAVING WRITTEN THIS
Evelyn.

* * * * *

To Otto Theis

March 3, 1924

Dearest Otto;

Gee, you have had a siege from Bou-Saada.  I’ve written Otto about one problem a week, maybe two, for the last month.  And listen, Otto, for Pete’s sake don’t worry about having had to turn the article down.  The reason I haven’t written any since you first asked me last year, is that I knew only too well what would be the result.  You see I can’t write with emotional vividness unless I have an emotional reason for doing it.  When you write a book, you always have a mystic belief that somewhere somebody is going to “understand you”—in other words accept your particular affirmations and denials.  Well, what you write for a journal that has a definite policy you know this wonderful understanding can’t be your object and so you (meaning me) feel cold to start on.  I haven’t any dash at all.  When I try to limit my own explorative function I just diminish my work without being able to make the oratorical bridges in which bunk is scarcely perceptible as bunk in which is the talent of the real journalist.

Bou Saada 2 (1)
Bou Saada [Past-to-Present.com]
What I feel behind your letter and your constant lovely decency to us, is that you are a damn tired man—lots tireder than you admit—and that we do wish vacation times weren’t so far away.  I think what you say about the crowded house is truly a lovely compliment to a finely satisfactory relation, but I don’t care how much you and Louise love each other, London is London and winter and measles and flue are such, and I’m sure you are all in deadly need of a change.  The cottage in Kent will help I know, but you must take that vacation, and damn it we insist, with us.

This seems to have been contradicted by my last letter which I wrote as a climax of a months fret over money.  What we said, or I said, holds good as commonsense, except that it will be probably next to impossible to arrange steamer fares just so, off the bat, so we had as well settle down to leaving in the very late summer or the fall.  In the meantime we are quitting Bou-Saada on the seventh and our address until we get a house will be care Mme Catherine Ramone de l’Homme, Faubourg, Collioure, Pyrenees Orientales, France.

We hope to get a cheap place at Banyuls where there is fine swimming or if not there Arles or Amelie le Bain.  Well let you know at once when we do.

Merton will be in London in May and give us mutual news of each other.  Cyril may get as far as Paris but I am going to stay down south.

Of course as a person I think Cyril has the most titanic personality, the most instinctive profoundness of emotion, the most mental stretch of almost anybody living and it will be to me another proof that utter cynicism is the impossible unattainable answer to life if he does not find any sympathetic channel of expression anywhere.

Of course one of the reasons I was most upset by the news that Seltzer would send me a hundred dollars on March 1st (haven’t gotten it yet, by the way) was the news I had that Escapade was selling.  I’m afraid that the Seltzers are not deliberate crooks but just are in such a hole that I may get nothing at all out of my work.

Now if you and Louise will come to see us we will talk of something beside ourselves.  And we will find a cheap place for you to stay. And I think we will all have a nice time.

Don’t feel my heavy correspondence a burden.  We see nobody at all and it is a relief to talk and I do it on paper but with no idea that a busy man ought to respond in kind.

Now, Otto, I ain’t as dangerous as I seem .  Love to you all.  Jig is in ecstasies over the stamps and will write to you.  I sent an order for the money on the books, thank you just the same for your generosity, and you must tell me what lacked, if anything.

Good luck and blessings, Evelyn

 * * * * *

The next letter in the collection is written from Banyuls in May 1924, after the arrival there of the Scott household. And soon their lives begin to collapse, beginning with Merton being taken to hospital in London, seriously ill.

 

 

 

10. Bou Saada (1)

Last week I posted a small selection of Evelyn’s letters from Collioure, on the Mediterranean coast of France, near the Spanish border.  Cyril was painting the coast and the countryside surrounding the picturesque ancient town and Merton, his New Zealand friend and protégé, was developing his talent as a watercolourist.  This lasted throughout the summer of 1923, until the decision to move to the north coast of Algeria that autumn.

Bou Saada
Image from Google Earth, with Bou Saada marked by a dot in the centre of the image. Even now it is isolated–how much more so it would have been in 1923!

The following letters, full of vivid descriptive language, record a way of life that Evelyn finds  different and sometimes repugnant, but her evident disapproval does not affect the clarity of her language.

* * * * *

To Otto Theis

Rue Coumes
Bou-Saada, Algeria
October 11, 1923

Dear Otto:

I haven’t heard from you in ages and I have the PIPP so I won’t write a long letter, but I want you to know our new address which is Rue Coumes, Bou-Saada, Algerie, via Alger.

We couldn’t get another house in Collioure, it turned very cold, and we came the twenty-four hours to Alger.  But Alger was so damp and expensive that we are trying out here, two hundred and fifty kilometres without a railway.  I suppose it is the fatigue of travel but right now I have the worst hump I ever had about a place.  There is nothing but sand and mud houses and dirty Arabs and women without faces and I don’t think it interesting or picturesque or anything is obviously is, but just dismal.  You feel squashed by the inertia of the landscape and the inertia of the people.  All the kids have sore eyes and flies on their faces like they were pastries in a window.  I don’t like it, and more not because I don’t think Cyril does and I know Merton doesn’t and we haven’t enough money to move again inside of six months.  In fact we had to take the only house there was here for six months.  But for Gods sake don’t come to Bou Saada except as a wealthy tourist who is going to motor back in two days.  This is an oasis and there is very little water but not enough to commit suicide in at that.  There are some date palms but they don’t excite you.

Lots and lots of love, Evelyn

PS Marie [Garland] took care to mail the snottiest review of Escapade and to write that she has inquired around it wasn’t selling.  Maybe that’s why I don’t like Bou Saada.

* * * * *

To Otto Theis

October 19, 1923

You are a sweet thing to say what you do about me and writing and things and next to Cyril’s faith in me there’s nobody I want to live up to more than you, and I am certainly trying damned hard right now to do better than I ever have done, lots.  I naturally want Escapade to sell but am scared to trust it will.  You see I would like most awfully to get Sug a new suit, and lend Merton some money (he is in an awful fix and deserves a lot) and (A-las, human weakness again) send mother a little, and pay back one seventeenth of all the incredibly awful debts I owe.  Well there doesn’t seem much immediate chance of that.

I had no mail in three weeks and got it all forwarded today, so I have several letters to answer, but I had to say something to you first.  And I will write again more elaborately when we are really in routine.  I don’t care how many sins of correspondential omissions you are guilty of, I can’t keep from writing to you.

Evelyn

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

[October 1923]

My dearest dear Lola:

Well, honey.  We are all stuck out here in the middle of nowhere having come in quest of a cheap winter in dry climate.  Merton is in an awfully tight box financially and we are trying to invent some way to help him stick it through the year.  He has to send money to his kids and that makes it a tight pull.  Tom was up at Buzzards Bay but has been returned and that leaves two with Mrs Jenkins so we don’t know whether it will be too much for her or not.

I think after we are settled in a place that is liveable we may be able to do a lot of work here, though as a place to paint it presents, once you abandon the obvious picturesque, the most difficult and subtle problem I ever saw.  The general neutrality of the landscape makes it about as easy as discerning forms in a white sheet.  It is the kind of place that no Anglo Saxon wants to get close to.  It repels with its alien quality the most pronounced of which is dirt.  Just sand wastes, a few low sand hills, and mud houses so low and flat that they are submerged in the general indefiniteness.  Then the people all reduced to a more than conventional uniformity by clothes all white all flowing, or all once white for they are all dirty, the faceless women with their muslin window curtains held up so that only one eye is exposed.  I don’t feel capable of writing immediately about it yet, but I will later.  And so let us know how you are, and have so very much love from all of us, and lots of love to Davy.

Evelyn

Another Note for Lola

Dear Lola, dear.  I wrote you yesterday and feel inclined to add this note.  I went out with Cyril and Merton when they sketched today and some faithful nuisances in the way of Arab kids followed us about half a mile.  When I sat down a little distance from the men said Arab kids began to cluster around me and chant something that went like ah-ou-ou-aaaaa-ouy-a as loud as they could and to throw stones as close to me as they could without hitting me.  Then in French they said if I’d give them a cigarette they’d leave me alone, but I wasn’t going to offer bribes so, though I had anticipated the request for a cigarette and had intended to bestow one, I didn’t.  So the au-ooo-auuu stuff went on until Merton came over to rescue me.  They are little devils alright.

CKS desert wc
Photo of a watercolour by Cyril, presumably of landscape near Bou Saada

Yesterday afternoon we saw the dancing at the baptism again and the most charming little girl in a ragged Mother Hubbard who had unbelievably large eyes bewitchingly biased and painted green underneath.  She was only about eleven and with an unhealthy delicacy, a premature sex consciousness mixed with inevitable gaucherie.  She did the bird movements with her hands exquisitely and gave a dance du ventre which was to me not the mechanical sex it is supposed to be but a kind of saint vitus dance of the guts.  It reminds me of all the stomach aches I ever had.  The courtesy in these affairs is for the audience to supply one hundred franc bills to paste with spit on the forehead and turbans of musicians and dancers.  Then when the show is over the money is returned.  None of the ouled nahils[1] will dance until somebody has put at least two hundred francs in their bonnets.  As we weren’t used to it we watched this weeks board a bit nervously until the show was over, but it came back properly and we had only to buy three bottles of beer for the star performing ladies.

PLEASE WRITE HOW YOU ARE.  Evelyn

[1]     The Ouled Nail are a Berber tribe in the Sahara Atlas mountains with a distinctive dance tradition.  The dancers are heavily made up and their costumes are richly ornate.

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

[October 1923]

Beloved dear, too funny that the very morning I wrote to know what had happened to you, I got your letter.

My dear, I wish I had really been able to pass on more of my experience here.  For the first month I was simply paralyzed by strangeness.  I was never anywhere before that every single detail of existence was alien and I couldn’t identify myself with it.  Then we have all been and still are sick.  Sug, Jigeroo, and I were all ill at once and poor Merton got so many responsibilities on him that he had a general nervous blow up and can’t paint, but I feel somehow or other that it isn’t nearly as serious as it appears but only a kind of accumulated general panic from too much worry about practical things.

SCK City Scape
Cyril Kay Scott: “City Scape” [North Carolina Museum of Art]
It is cold here and the desert is twice bare with the falling of the leaves on the few trees of the oasis and the palms all getting papery and dull.  The poor Arabs are dirtier and more miserable looking than ever.  Such pathetic creatures, the women all braceleted and veiled in inappropriate accompaniment to the nakedness of poverty that they can’t conceal.  We live opposite the police station and last night a drunk or a lunatic was shut up there and spent the whole night quavering out something that sounded like ci-ci-moi, in a thick broken voice, pounding and kicking the door, and beginning this curious monotonous song of misery again with an occasional sobbing cry interspersed.  The cell they put him in is on the street and I have seen in the stone floor and no furnishing of any kind, but when I began to think how awful it was I had only to recall the home interiors here that are just a muddy darkness, a hearth, a pot, and a rag in a corner to lie on.  Only the children of marabouts or priests are rich.  There is a big monastery near here which owns many herds and houses etc.  The dream of an earthly heaven is gained at the expense of almost all the necessity which the dream promises to supply.  As for Arab women, the French schoolmistress says that an Arab boy of twelve will beat his own mother, and women have no authority over their own children after the age of two.

Evelyn

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

[ Autumn 1923]

Precious Lola:

Having unearthed your address from long hiding, I will enjoy a direct communication.  I sent you two letters already via Gladys[1].

Since you won’t tell me your news, here’s mine.  I have finished the new novel, The Grey Riddle[2] (name out of a quotation from the Boyg scene in Peer Gynt).  It is to the mind of Sug, Merton, and myself, not just better, but INCOMPARABLY better, than anything I ever wrote.  It owes the basis of its technique to Siren and I acknowledge that in the dedication (though as much as I want it to appear the fact Siren, its inspiration, has no publisher is TOO ironical).  The technique is more elaborate and conscious by indubitably evolved from that.  I tried to make the book like an Ibsen play, in that the drama of the present is the unfolding of the past.  But of course, being a novel, the unfolding is in peoples minds, in memories and the like.  I use parenthesis, dash, italics, capitals, and small type as I never found out how to use them before, and have combined all my usual addiction to objective detail subjectively perceived (or so attempted) with a much freer emotional expression than I ever dared out of shadow play.  I do HOPE you like it.  You gotta be godmother and  assist at the accouchement anyway.

It begins in France with France with two people struggling in the vacuum of alien surroundings, goes to New York and evolves their inward struggle in the factual struggle of material circumstance, and the last part, after the woman’s death, is in the man’s mind only.

Then Lola about Sug[3].  Well, the promise of fine things in the Bermuda stuff, has been justified and exceeded a dozen times.  His last work is exquisite, such a perfect harmonization of sensuous full emotional quality with delicate mental perception I ever saw.  I don’t believe any water color except Cezanne has ever been as good.  The only draw back is his very punk health lately.  In fact Bou-Saada has laid us all out with grippe and bronchitis almost continuous.  Merton is doing himself wonderful justice, with very exquisitely realized things, with the most sensitive minute perception which locates emotion in time and space and yet does not remove it from the artist’s subjective.  He is pretty worried about money, but we hope he can stick it out until he has given himself a real chance.

Jigeroo speaks French and goes to an Arab school.  He has been ill but happy otherwise.  So you see despite inwards this time as you said, darling, is a beautiful time.  If money and health permit we will justify it.  Our regret is that you and Davy aren’t here, and oh, again if we COULD get you here.

OM Bou Saada view1 (1)
Owen Merton: Undated desert landscape, possibly Bou Saada [Thomas Merton Society]
The Arabs are dirty and miserable looking, but there is a fine arid landscape of fleshly hills, a huddle of frail walls and of dead dry mud, a hurricane of dark palms against a sky that (when it condescends not to rain) is hard with light.  There is the wonderful sinister importance of the women all in red (all the married women of some tribes wear red) shrouded, holding with their palms fan-wise a screen of draperies across their faces.  They don’t wear veils as in Alger, but are even more concealed.  There are the cupolas of marabout tombs that are somehow more voluptuous than she ever imagined plaster, and float above the flat houses like tight bruised lily buds stained with brown and pink.  There is on market day always some man from the desert who seats himself in the dust of the Place and recites endless songs that have a slight half-moon rhythm which swings back and back on itself, the choruses accompanied by the holly agitation of the tambourine drum which he beats as if encouraging himself.  Then there are pipes always being played somehow, how querulous whistles, equally monotonous.  In the evening the muezzin on the roof of the mosque calls, cries out it seems, to Allah.  Men along street corners, removing their shoes, make that perfect complete gesture of abasement of which we have no counterpart, laying dust upon their foreheads and bending again three times to place their foreheads in the dust.  Then the brazen chanting of the Koran, little boys voices hurrying shrilly, men’s voices calling nasally above them.  On Thursdays we walk by the synagogue and the Jews in the light of many candles are chanting so differently with a soft vague intonation of breathed solemnity.

Bou Saada 4 (1)
Bou Saada: An Arab street [Past-to-Present.com]
However Mohamedism is horrible to a western mind.  Poverty accepted, slavery of women accepted, disease accepted, and death just the tossing of unconfined bodies into the scratched earth where the rain and the dogs go later to dig it up.Later I shall maybe get something out of this beside the picturesque.  Just now it is the sense of alienation which is satisfying, for one can work with it.

WE LOVE YOU AND DAVY.  Please get well. Evelyn

[1]  Gladys Edgerton (later Grant) was a fellow poet and faithful friend of Evelyn’s.  They met in New York shortly after Evelyn’s return to the US.
[2]    Evelyn never published a book under this name:  it is probably The Golden Door, published in 1925 by Thomas Seltzer.
[3]   Evelyn’s pet name for Cyril, short for “Sugar”.

* * * * *

To Otto Theis

December 31, 1923

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO BOTH OF YOU.

Dear Otto:

Bou-Saada is a microcosm of society presented with a crudeness and simplicity that a child would get.  In looking at Arabs you see why and how people arrived at a respectable ideal, at the feeling that it was better to have some decent hypocrisy about yourself than to be simple and blatant in cruelty as the Arabs are.  They just never need to excuse themselves for doing what other races do under cover, and I find myself anglo-saxon enough to get the hump when I contemplate it.  Natural selection functions here without any Christian modification.  The biggest most brutal males get the best food and the warmest clothes and look like Jesus Christs of healthy stock, gods all mighty in their own minds without any sickness of the imagination to identify them with their inferiors.  They are probably very kind and condescending to the women who are pretty and submissive enough to deserve it, and throw all the best bones to the children that cry the last.  But a great many of the children cry most of the time.  Every evening you can hear all up and down the streets the little girls sent to ask alms of prosperous relatives.  They sit in the doorways sometimes for hours together wailing a stereotyped plea with a monotony and persistence that compliments the nerves of the people indoors who seem to pay no attention to it.  The men wear wool burnouses, but I have yet to see any but the Jewish women who have changed their red calico robes for anything more suitable to the winter climate.  It snowed here last week and barefooted girls without any undies (quite visibly) were running around in it.  Not that the men don’t suffer too in their degree for some of them are the most artistic collections of rags I ever saw, and there are dozens of the nomad variety camping around here in exposed tents with no covering but their skins and no firewood but what they can collect in a place forty kilometres from any woods.  The fact that we live opposite the police station doesn’t add to our cheerful impressions.  It is a French police station and the Arab policemen are too unimaginative to keep up with the New York variety, are really very nice men (honest)—I don’t think Arabs have any lust for creating suffering like the Spaniards do—but the collects of rags and dejection that are hauled in there every day make we want to make sententious remarks about the failure of a civilization being proven by the populousness of the jails, or something.  There’s only one cell (quite as comfortable as an Arab home) and quite unfurnished, and men women and children are all stuffed into the same darkness.  Just what this proximity does to divert them I don’t know, and it may be the kindest method, only sometimes there are crazy men and very crazy drunks who wouldn’t be attractive companions for the ladies even in the dark.

Algerian village by OM
Algerian Village: watercolour by Owen Merton [Thomas Merton Society]
Oh, gee, well anyway this is a roundabout way of saying that one winter in a Muhamadon town is enough for a while.  We want to go to the Grand Kahyble (can’t spell it) April and stay there through May as the scenery is very different from this, mountainous and luxuriant and the Khablye people are not Arabs but Burbers[1] (as maybe you know) and have different customs.  And then June to go back to France.  We’ll have to return to Port Vendre and Collioure to collect maroquette[2] if the poor thing isn’t dead and then we thought we would go to Brittany and stay two or three months.  Merton and Sug then, IF our money is any more than now, want to spend two weeks in Paris.  After that the problem of a warm cheap winter somewhere and we have thought of Corsica, the Belleryic islands,[3] or trying Sicily again, whichever lives up to our ideal of prices and weather, and our last spring of freedom we want to go to London for two weeks before we go home.I wrote the first draft of the kid story[4] and handed it over to Cyril who is helping it out with the addition of a trick dog, helping me to kill a lion the way it should be killed, and translating a whole lot of stuff about Arabic customs to put them in the book correctly.  He has already put in thirty pages of notes so I shall insist on calling it a collaboration whether he wants to or not.  My part of it was the most rapid fire work I ever did, one hundred and seventy four pages in eight days.  But don’t let that prejudice you agin it, for I think it will be a very amusing little book when it is did, and Merton’s illustrations are excellent.  It is one of the many little boy lost stories, but this time the little boy lost collects an Arab girl and is, because of his ignorance of Arabic, tangled up in Arab weddings, Arab mosques, all kinds of Arab customs, walks off with a tame lion, and has two dreams in which camels and desert tribes in rebellion and drums and spahis are all mixed up.  The skeleton isn’t original.  I didn’t have it in me to break ground that way for kids, but I think the detail is for kids very fresh and exciting.  I don’t know what my arrangement with Seltzer is because my contract was left with Walter Nelles in New York, but I want to find out their attitude about Escapade, The Grey Riddle etc, and if I tactfully and businessly can, I should be grateful to use the introduction you could give me to your literary man.  Merton as the illustrator is much in favor of it.  I shall be quite set up if John Lane[5] takes on Escapade as I know he is more punkins than Duckworth, but I haven’t heard anything of it so I won’t hope too much.

In the Endless Sands

Otto, we do wish that your vacations came oftener and that you and Louise Morgan[6] could come here now.  If she isn’t well London weather is the worst that I can think of for her, and this place, though cold, is mostly so sunny, and really cheap when you get here.  It has the best hotel I ever saw in a small town, Hotel Petit Sahara, and when we were there was twenty-five francs apiece a day for all of us, a hundred francs for all, and very good food.  The bus ride from Alger here is hellish but only costs thirty-three francs each first class.  For a brief stay ANYWAY, even if you didn’t love Arabs, it is frightfully interesting—a beautiful oasis as far as palm trees go, wonderful desert and low hills around it, and every detail of native life as strange and picturesque as possible in more than obvious ways.  Oh, I do wish you could come.  If we had beds you could stay with us.  We have lots of room but no beds.

Lots and lots of love from all of us. Evelyn

[1]     Berbers, the nomadic people of the African desert
[2]     Evelyn had always liked animals and had kept a number of them in Brazil.  It appears she was still keeping pets in France, including a parrot, Maroquette.
[3]    Balearic
[4]  In the Endless Sands, written jointly with Cyril and based on Jigg’s account of the nine days he spent in the Algerian desert without being missed by his parents!  Jigg would tell his children about this episode but Evelyn never states that the book is based on Jigg’s disappearance.
[5]   British publisher.  He co-founded The Bodley Head and specialised in controversial works.
[6]   Otto’s wife

* * * * *

Next week will follow the Scotts and Merton through the remainder of their time in Algeria, ending with Merton’s sudden illness and the dramatic return to Europe.

 

 

 

9. Collioure

In the summer of 1923 the relationship with the Garland-Hales had broken down to the extent that Evelyn, with Cyril and Jig and their new friend Owen Merton, left Bermuda to find warmth and painting opportunities in, they hoped, the cheap and warm climes of southern France. I have not been able to find any letters relating to their leaving Bermuda and their travel arrangements, and so the story resumes when the family are in Collioure, in the foothills of the Pyrenees near Marseille.

Map

Collioure is a medieval fishing port, the harbour dominated by the church of Notre-Dame-des-Anges with its distinctive bell tower at the water’s edge. In the early 1920s the town nestled by this church and the Villa Tine, where the family lived, would have been in one of the narrow medieval streets surrounding the church. The soft Mediterranean light, the medieval architecture and the stark countryside were attractive to painters of the day, and in the 1920s the town was host to Georges Braque, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and André Derain, among others.

The letters that follow illustrate Evelyn’s ability to evoke, with few words, the colours and smells of her surroundings. Her opinion of those with whom she travelled with are also made explicit. We begin today’s collection with her description of their stopover in Naples, en route to France and written after their arrival in Collioure.

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

Villa Tine, Collioure, France
July 7, 1923

Precious Lola:

I want to make note of what has happened and I do it in letters to me friends.  Is that a cheap economy of invention?  I know you want to hear and I simply can’t write it twice.

We were docked at Naples at eight o’clock and I was too lazy to witness the approach.  What I saw when I came on deck was a hot hill of houses with the Castle of Saint Elmo resting rather bleakly on the top of it, and on the other side only a large dim outline of a Vesuvius which the fog had almost obliterated.  There was a great stir of people landing.  Out of about two hundred second class passengers all but fifteen got off here, and Italian ladies who had luxuriated in soiled matinees for the past fifteen days appeared suddenly in evening dress, the scent of garlic more piquant for the usual perfume of the bottle which accompanied it.  Merton had horrible recollections of Naples where he had sunstroke and was often robbed and he awakened in a high key of antagonism which later precipitated itself.

Ellen1 loves the Italians and you can imagine how that irritated him.  Especially when the ship began to be overrun with dark shoddily neat gentlemen who would take us all to Pompeii for the day almost for the pleasure of doing it.  Lola, never let any brave man mention in my presence again the materialism of my native land.  At least we do our thieving in the grand manner.  Naples had an atmosphere of meagre financial desperateness.  It isn’t the war at all, but these are people who are temperamentally incapable of industry and initiative who are caught in the struggle and can’t get out of it.  They are like women who have led easy lives, whose soft bodies can not compete and yet they must compete.  They must get money somehow in the domesticated wildness of alley cats where they exist.

We had no sooner set our feet on the glaring dock to which we were drawn up when more hungry creatures offered their services, their carriages, their bought advice with a kind of illicit hungriness.  We did get a carriage and Ellen, who speaks Italian well, was scheduled to pilot us.  We wanted first to see the meanest streets.  But driver took us wherever he would—many halts, Ellen rising converses with him volubly.  He is agreeable, he wants to take us the longest way—and after the greatest moral exertion we go where we want to and come out right.  Merton’s eyes ache.  He exhibits an evasive tensity.  When the driver asks him if he likes Naples he replies baldly that he hates its stinks.  The driver looks unabashed and yet abashed.  He is agreeable.  We must be pleased.  He is like a kindly whore who is accustomed to being beat, who steals a little from the gentleman’s pockets and is ashamed of it.

Such streets, Lola.  Palermo had the same narrowness, the same tortureness, but its filth was new and bright and unsubdued.  Old Naples was a decayed body—sharp and strong with people living in it as in maggoty meat—people that ran in and out of dark windowless holes that were meat stalls and butcher shops.  In every shop a shrine like a kind of ikon with an electric bulb glaring stodgily in front of it.  Such meat shops—harsh pieces of red flesh, dingy tiles, crusts of flies, and always always, visible in the shallow depths as we stared in from the carriage, the worn picture of the saint on the wall above the counter at the back.  Such cadaverous women, such anemic children, such an absence of any joy in light or life—nothing anywhere but a rich and crowded hideousness.  There were shrines on the outsides of houses too, shrines that were dingy and fly specked, and beneath them also burned and electric light.  The vegetables exposed were sold and old and there was charcoal dust.  Some of the streets like the ones I remember in Lisbon climbed endless stairs with the banners of laundered clothes rising tier on tier till they waved at last in the merciless light.  Palermo reminded me of Rio de Janeiro on a smaller scale.  It was young.  Naples was used as I never saw a city used before.  There was not a fresh face, not a fresh house front–nothing that had not come to the end of itself and sprouted again like a tree that is half felled but struggles yet to a little harsh growth.  The stinks I had anticipated I didn’t find in actuality.  It was a visual aroma that I mostly get—black olives, wine jugs, basket makers, chair weavers, cobblers, smithies, wood sellers, all crowded in one street—court yards that had the faint illumination of decay-and people, people in rooms the depth of a wall, people who were crowded helplessly into the street while those in Palermo willingly lived in it.

The fine gardens and drive along the sea are a slightly less impressive counterpart of Rio since the mountains behind the city are further back.  There the same bald elegance of expensive passions.  We went to a restaurant on the waters edge where we could look directly at Vesuvius which had emerged from its pseudo mystery and looked fine but rather obvious with houses clustering at its gradual feet.  Maybe I had seen it too often on the walls on Italian restaurants but it was so exactly what I had anticipated that its actuality did not affect me until that evening when the ship was going out.

The restaurant had a wide veranda and an empty unluxurious appearance but we were very well served with some breaded cutlets, salad, and a kind of short cake with cherries in the middle of it, black bitter cherries that had been steeped in wine so that their acridness was subtilized.  The wine was bad here and in Palermo it was excellent.  We disgraced ourselves by misunderstanding a charge for services and not leaving any tips.  Our vanity was darkened for the day when we discovered it.  By this time Merton and Ellen had already disagreed as to Italian charmingness.

I was reckless enough to ask to go to the toilet and a small boy who could speak English escorted me up a torturous spiral staircase above the bar and stood politely outside the Johnny door until I could be admitted.  He waved his hands gallantly toward it as the last occupant came out.  Such a toilet.  A darkness almost complete but animate with smells, a toilet more used than Naples herself and uncleansed by the rains of heaven, a toilet without a chain to pull and with every evidence that the chain had not been pulled that week.

We had another ride in a taxi out the sea way, another past some fine old palaces, and another through some rich and substantial looking squares and business streets.  There were huge arcades with rich shops, but the prices were very cheap.  How I would have loved to buy presents for all of us.  Silk was next to nothing.  The dust and heat were terrible.  The taxi drivers quarrelled with each other.  We were continually being spotted as tourists and asked to see Pompeii.  There were beggars on the streets.  By the water we were besieged with proffers of boats.  There is nothing in Naples that can not be bought.  Nothing that isn’t trying to see itself.

1Ellen Kennan was a friend of both Evelyn and Cyril; she had been Cyril’s lover during the early 1920s.  She was travelling with the Scotts to France.

* * * * *

To Otto Theis

Collioure, France
July 9, 1923

Beloved Otto:

I had your letter a couple of days ago. . .The second class of the Patria was horrible, we almost died of starch poisoning and the general literal putrefication of the grub.  Jig had croup and I had a bass cough and a sore chest, and the passengers, Italians going home and a few rotten Americans were the very worst.  No lounge only a smoking room very dirty with dirty people and indigestibable babies and gentlemen who could spit farther and louder—much louder—than a southern Colonel in a Bret Harte story.  No permanent deck spaces, herding on and off decks partially possessed by the first class.  We rented five steamer chairs and spent most of the time looking for them and removing them from Italians who had escaped the property sense except as it related to the belongings of other folks.

However we did have two whole days in brilliant sunshine running a moving picture distance from Moorish castles and Algerian villages on one side, and the slow fatigued landscape of burnt Spain opposite.  Also the Azores, very kind hills and funny zig zag cultivation like an infantile insanity.  Dutch windmills very calm in the midst of it.  Also a day at Palermo which is like Brazil, gaudy, ennuied, and ingenuous.  Sicilians seem to like bright irrelevant things, wonderful gay sweetmeats, marvelously naïve carts, a new looking city and very old alive hills burning above it.  A day in Naples where, thank God, most of the passengers got off, a rapacious Naples rich with filth, and dingier in its richness that I knew a Southern city could be.  Everybody wanted to sell something, services, information, taxi cabs, and Pompeii was hawked about like a Coney Island commodity.  It did look beautiful though when we were leaving it.  Sorrento and Capri were all brittle houses small and white in a kind of winey light, Vesuvius immensely still, and a very dramatic sunset where the sun stood over the water in a huge sphere that had detached itself from the sky and seemed to float.

Marseille was stupe, very bourgeois and middleaged, very commercially cosmopolitan in the population of the streets.  The lots of plane trees looked strong and composed and heartily green and there was a quiet color in flower markets and zouave soldiers, but I didn’t feel in it any France more subtle than the naturalists.1

We had a wild trip to Port Vendres with one parrot and twenty three pieces of small baggage and three unexpected changes of train en route.  Port Vendres is one street around a well in port and the ships from Algeria dock under the hotel windows.  The Pyrenees are heavy and close above the stodgy houses.  There were some sailing ships that on moonlight nights were a labyrinth of stiff frost white ropes against a deep space of dark-lit sky, strangely intimate and close to us.  They had sour smelling cargoes that were loaded, unloaded and mysteriously loaded again while we were there (the same black beans sold, docked, resold and returned to the hold to be taken to Barcelona) by strong looking girls and lean strong old women who swung sacks with a rhythmical easiness.  We couldn’t find a house to rent and as our money was being eaten up in the hotel we came over here to Collioure and took the only place available, still much dearer than we had meant to pay for it.

The Villa Tine is a miracle of perfection, an ugliness that is above reproach.  But it is comfortable, has a charming garden in front and back garden of orange and magnolia and is five minutes walk from a swimming place.  Also, if you don’t mind slight inconveniences, it has room enough to put you and Sophie up.  Ellen Kennan is here with us till about the end of the month and after that we will have a room free.

Collioure old town
Modern photo of Collioure old town

We have a sternly shy maid who cooks very bearably though she isn’t the miracle of efficiency tradition had led me to expect and doesn’t do much else.  Merton manages the housekeeping and I clean up.  If we weren’t always nervous about money we could settle down to a wonderful year.  Merton only has a few hundred dollars and a month was wasted before we even got here (eighteen days on ship, three in Marseille, one traveling, a week in Port Vendres, and two or three days of getting settled in this place).  He is a remarkable water colorist Otto.  He has wasted six years doing manual labor, gardening, digging, anything, until his wife died last year and left him with two kids, who, fortunately are with their grandparents for the time.  We hoped Marie would do something for him, but alas she has the bug that labor in the soil is holy and that he needs it to purify his art.  He is pretty blue about the prospect of having to go back.  When you come down I want you to see his stuff and I have wondered if you knew anyone in London who had any money and would be likely to be interested in it.  He had a show at the Daniels gallery just before we left but it netted him only about a hundred and fifty dollars and he only got as much more from a little private thing we arranged at Marie’s Washington Mews place.  Except him and Marie and Charlie Demuth there aren’t any and they are older men who have gotten a certain influence through Steiglitz while he as a foreigner is just breaking in.

 Escapade was held up because I had to make cuts.  This was sprung on me when it was in page proof.  I spent four days more or less with a fool lawyer-was told it was a borderline book, a plea for free love, and would be considered a menace to American institutions.  I was made to cut out all statements that I was proud of my relation to Cyril, that I didn’t want to marry, in fact every positive assertion of my belief in my own decency.  Also all physical statements about sex and maternity.  An unmarried mother, so the lawyer told me, can’t be allowed to nurse her child.  He said I made myself “too attractive in bed” (mind you I was convalescing from Jigeroo and had him in bed with me but I had to cut that out).  I was sick.  I never would have done it but that Cyril advised me to because the Seltzers have my other book and if I break this contract they can break that, because there are no other publishers left, because they had Cyril’s wonderful Siren though I doubt now if they will publish it.  I never remember being so sickly humiliated, so futile rebellious, so utterly robbed of the kind of pride that supports you against the world.  I left New York feeling as thoroughly licked as I ever did.  And yet I know the book wasn’t ruined.  It is the personal element in the demands for exclusion to which it nearly killed me to submit.  I am grateful of the space between me and Puritan hideousness and in my present mood have a long tired ennui of attempting to put other things.  Of course I shall get over it.  If only we can afford to stay here long enough.

The nightmare atmosphere culminated in watching a blackmail trial for prostitution in which the woman was convicted because she was really too scared to risk the fight that it made me want to put up when I listened to it.

Well, about Collioure.  It is on the Midi railway and is about an hour from Perpignan.  It is very filthy and very beautiful.  It is very near the Spanish border, about seventy-five miles from Barcelona.  The Pyrenees have a luxurious severity like the richness of ecclesiastical voluptuousness.  The bathing is good.  The town is without a WC (our house has one thank god) and there are amorous cats in the streets by the hundreds.  There is a fort full of Senegalese.  Matisse and some of the pointillists painted here.  It is worth seeing and we WANT to see you.  I don’t know how you would come from Paris but we took the Paris express at Marseilles, then changed at Contrast, at Cette, and at Narbonne.  Expresses stop at Port Vendres for the Algerian boats and you could go to Port Vendres and drive about a mile over here or else take a slow train that stops at Collioure.  Everybody knows the Villa Tine and already the Anglaise that live in it.

Love to you both.  Evelyn

1The group disembarked at Marseille and travelled by train to Collioure, stopping en route at Porte Vendre.

* * * * *

To Otto Theis

Collioure, France
August 15, 1923

Dearest Otto:

This is the poorest saddest little town but very stark and lovely too.  The heat has dried up half the grapes and the fires on the mountains have burnt the cork trees and it just is rich massive flowing lava-like sterility, burnt colors with thick dry shadows in the high hollows and moorish watch towers very bleak on the bleakest heights.  I hasn’t rained for two months.  To recover me from the fatugure of the book we went to Arles Sur Teche for three days.  The scenery is absolutely different though only an hour and a half away—mountains covered with greenery that looks young and full like spring and torrents of mountains water rushing to fountains in the streets.  All night in the quiet you hear the think cool rush of water going past.  The teche is like an Alpine torrent Sug says, white round boulders and cataracts.  But it is really a less individualized place than this.

Escapade is out but I’m not reading reviews of it until I finish my book.1  If it does sell it will be—oh, irony—for scandal’s sake anyway.  Wonderful to write with religious solemnity of the most actual thing that ever occurred to you and only repeat the success of a sunday headline in it.  I have had no copy yet but will mail you one when I do.  The astericks indicate omissions and I imagine look queer but I wanted it to be known that the book was mutilated.  Mr Seltzer2 is indicted by the grand jury on last summers charge.  I may be next.  God knows I don’t believe in freedom as hesitant here more than there Otto.  The French are a niggling lot of commercialists and the Americans at least do it in the grand manner.  There is nothing but solitude and a few friends.  Today is a fete day and Jigeroo has gone with two kids unknown to ride on the merry go round.  He is learning French anyway—much more than I am.  Merton keeps house and I simply don’t speak.  Sug is a wonderful and lovely person—the most I ever knew or ever will know—and Merton with a much more limited sweep as he knows himself is absolutely genuine and sensitive and kind thank heaven.  Life is complicated but compensating mostly.  Money of course still annoys.  With Escapade at three dollars I may make something.  Marie didn’t make the allowance permanent after all.

Our very very most love to you and do come here.  We have to get a new place before October but I think it will be in this district.  We would always have room for you.

Evelyn

The Golden Door, published 1925
Thomas Seltzer was a Russian émigré who became a successful translator and academic. In 1919 he founded the publishing house, Thomas Seltzer Inc, which not only published Escapade but also works by D H Lawrence. These works brought him to the attention of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice and led to charges of publishing “unclean” books, which he fought vigorously: the legal battle resulted in his bankruptcy.

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

[Collioure, France]
[September 1923]

Darling dear, I tried to write this yesterday when I was out painting with Merton and had to quit because it was giving me a pain to sit in a squidged up position on the hard earth.  I wish I could have stayed because I was looking at a funny caravan drawn up below us, a blue caravan with nice little Nottingham curtains very clean in the window and, now that they had unhitched their horse and settled down, two little canary bird cages hung on either side of the front door with little birds singing very at home on them.  Through the open door I saw inside a wonderful dresser with dishes hung in racks and three bunk beds one under the other covered with red spreads and lace coverlids, as clean and cute as anything.  A big woman with blond hair and a red face was watering the donkey that belonged to the outfit and another old woman very shriveled and hearty looking was making a fire.  If I had sat there longer I could have told you a whole story about them, but as it was I only learned that they came from Normandy.  I don’t know for why or what.

collioure harbour
Collioure harbour [AKPool.co.uk]

There was a fete here two weeks ago and the fishing boats were decorated with paper lanterns and the harbour very lovely in the vague night with floating flat-radiance of the candles.  We thought about Broadway and how this childish illumination in one key has such a naïve timidity while that other childish illumination is so wonderful bold and varied to such violence.  For some funny reason I never thought about America as America, a unit, a country with people in it, not people in a country, as I have since we came here.  I suppose I had no sense of America when I left New Orleans and this is really the first time I have felt absolutely removed from it since I felt New York for Bermuda was too close.  It is voluptuous like an old ladys memories.  I used to feel that way about Brazil but didn’t know it would come so quickly about this.  I don’t think I ever knew there was a racial America before.  Lower Broadway with a lost gull I once saw fling over it has become as symbolic as the mountains we saw along the African coast.  I suppose this is the first time I ever indulged romanticism about my native land.  Anyway the more I see of other countries, or this one other countries, the more magnificently awful my own country appears to be.  Not in any way that makes me want to go back.  I don’t want to go back for a long long time, not until I get all I can out of this distant appreciation.Cyril and Merton have done marvels in paint.  Merton’s best work and Cyril away ahead of Bermuda as good as that was.  Merton says Cyril’s painting has a stark profundity and I think it a wonderfully exact phrase for it.  Yes, Lola, we are having a good life now, and when I feel physically well I am awfully happy (when Sug is well, for a times all three of us have been sick).  Merton has a weak back he got while day laboring and sometimes when he lifts too many things it upsets him.

What you write about Escapade cheers me, but I don’t want reviews and I think I am wise.  It, or they makes you want to hit back to decent yourself and I don’t want to be stirred by them while I am in the new book.  But I liked the little clipping and thought it a very sweet generosity from somebody I don’t know, and I will be obliged if you will keep any clippings that you get.

I have finished the first draft of the new novel and am half way through the second, or perhaps a third through.  It is certainly a culmination of all other experiments in technique I have made and I believe embraces a lot more.  I think I am at least learning how to use analytic and emotional qualities in a real synthesis.  I hope you think so.  don’t tell anybody (especially Waldo, ha, ha, secrecy).  I learned something from reading Sug’s Siren and instead of waiting for critics to find out indebtednesses I haven’t got am going to acknowledge it in my introduction.  I do think you will like the book.  It is about Merton and his wife (that is really confidential), and what I had of her character from reading old letters and talking it over with him.  I take them through their experience here and then in the United States.  After that I don’t know what.  I would like to write really of this place but that will come later when I am intimate with it.

The French people are the most quintessence of individualism.  The way they do stand back and allow murder and anything else and never interfere with it.  Superficially they are the rudest people, or rather fundamentally for it is their real indifference, I ever saw.  Might know a popular fallacy would be undone once you looked at it.  They butt through crowds, knock you over, never apologise, stare unmercifully at any woman they don’t know, and never do the least curtesy for anybody except purely formally for very definite effect.  On the other hand their leaving you alone has its advantages.  This town is miserably poor and now at the end of summer is haunted by devastated artists who are going to get one picture in the salon before they die or die at once of a starch diet.  Some wear Pilgrim Father hair and blue coats, some fence with their palettes, as Sug says, and some trudge to painting armed like Tartarin on his hunting expedition with a meek little wife and three daughters to assist.  You never saw so many awful pictures as are being painted in Collioure at the present moment.  We like it though and are in great distress because we have not yet found a house to move to when we give up this.  The town is so old and so crowded that there is not but one garden beside ours and ours is THE ONLY HOUSE THAT HAS ANY SORT OF A WC IN IT.  Every morning ladies going to market carrying on the left arm the china slop pail with the offering to the all consuming sea in it.  Gentlemen trouble themselves less and merely squat.  God help me, I shall return to America and light an ikon in the bathroom.  The smell of merde is on the breath of the sea and is almost everywhere that a female in a clean dress would like to sit.  (I didn’t put an h in it Lola, excuse my vulgarity.)

collioure 1927 martin hurliman print
Collioure c 1927 [Martin Hurliman print]

Just the same I wish you could see now in the rain le Chateau2 with a wall like a mountain out of the sea and a fig tree dripping in a cranny of it quite high up.  The town is crooked streets that at night are dramatic and abrupt, very badly lit, and old woman in black resting in a crooked doorway, a black cat (there are lots of cats and lots of rats) slinking past her, and a man with a red sash around his waist carrying a sack of charcoal up up into the darkness where a blood and thunder cut throat ought to be hid for some better loot.  The Pyrenees really begin here and they are the saddest most austere mountains I ever saw, burnt colored and grassy bleak, with some rocky peaks far off, the peak of the Canigo which is really a very high mountain, just visible sometimes when there is no mist.  Over toward Argelesse it begins to flatten and there is that variegated landscape the French make because of cultivating so many things in such small space, vines and olives and little garden plots diminutive in a large plain with a ribbon of blue haze making it perpetually remote like a veiled picture with the sun on it.Please write to me again and say how you and Davy are, and remember we love you both and THINK of you and TALK of you just about every single day, all three of us, and I do hope you are not ill now and are getting on with the book.  Remember anytime you want to be our household you are wanted above everybody and Lola it would be so wonderful if you can come over because living here though not as cheap as we had hoped is better than New York and easier on the nerves (provided you aren’t directly in the upset labor market here).  Very big hugs and kisses and love to you and to Davy, and darling I wish I had some pet deity to pray to that you would NOT be sick.  Let us know how the book gets on.

Evelyn

Thomas Seltzer was a Russian émigré who became a successful translator and academic. In 1919 he founded the publishing house, Thomas Seltzer Inc, which not only published Escapade but also works by D H Lawrence. These works brought him to the attention of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice and led to charges of publishing “unclean” books, which he fought vigorously: the legal battle resulted in bankruptcy.

 town of Collioure nestles around a mound surmounted by a Crusader castle.

* * * * *

This is the last of the letters from Coullioure. A month later the family and Merton were in Algeria, where the story resumes next week.

 

8. Bermuda

After a year working at Buzzards Bay, the Scott family were invited to join the Garland-Hales at their estate in Bermuda, and Evelyn again takes up the tale:

* * * * *

            In 1921, the Hale-Garland couple went to Bermuda, and the three Scotts were soon asked to proceed there with travelling expenses paid.  And though Cyril Kay Scott’s duties were lighter in Bermuda than at Buzzard’s Bay, and his remuneration for these less, the first year in Bermuda could well have been termed a genuine success, as he received enough to rent a small cottage called Greysbank, and to keep his family fed, and in his free hours was not able to write and paint to the extent we had hoped for at Cercadinho, where his acute genre study in the novel, Blind Mice, was written on boards spread on improvised saw-horses, and mostly at night, after farm work, by the dim smoky flare of the sertao’s primitive oil lamp, a tin lamp without chimney described in Escapade.

In the summer of 1922, the three Scotts returned to New York City, briefly, but went back to Bermuda; and meanwhile, Mr Hale—an uncle of my daughter-in-law, Paula Pearson Scott—had evolved a plan for a cottage to be built on the property he owned called Ely’s Lodge, at his expense, to become, with fifteen acres of the ground on which it stood, his gift to Cyril Kay Scott and Evelyn Scott, a capital of fifty thousand dollars, which they would be unable to diminish in their lifetime, but would be the inheritance of their son Creighton Seely Scott—affectionately called Jigg by them, also—on their death, and which, while they lived, would yield them approximately a hundred dollars a month each, and so permit them to sustain independence as creative against all commercial attacks.

 

This combined generosity was to have made come true the dream of every author, writer and composer of integrity.  It was, in fact, put into effect to the extent of the building of the cottage of Bermuda’s native stone according to an architectural drawing by Cyril Kay Scott, who had practical architectural advice on some details; and of a letter sent to Cyril Kay Scott and Evelyn Scott by Marie Tudor Garland-Hale’s lawyers, Hale, Nelles and Shorr, saying that their client, Mrs Hale, was making over to us in permanence fifty thousand dollars on which they were to draw, during their lifetimes, the income its investment then netted of two hundred a month.

We were overcome with gratitude.  The cottage, named by Marie Tudor Garland Hale, The Scottage, was completed, and we moved in and found it charming, Ely’s land-locked harbour just beyond our windows, a private pool to bathe from, and our good friends as our nearest neighbours, owning the two estates on both sides of the highroad.  Creighton Seely Scott, also, was delighted by the sea at this door, and his friend, Thomas Merton,[1] for his daily playmate.

However, a rift had presented itself even before the hundred a month each had materialized; as, while in New York City, the summer before, Charles Garland had quoted his mother to me as having said that she expected to settle this money on us, but was doing so primarily because of Cyril Kay Scott, as I would have amounted to little without him, was “lazy” and “entirely selfish”.  In fact the description of me conveyed by Charles Garland as from his mother’s lips was very similar to that in the Cercadinho section of Cyril Kay Scott’s cut, edited, and in parts re-written by out outsider, Life Is Too Short; not then extant even in mss[2], and filled with absurd misstatements as to statements about our lives, characters and relations beginning with the Cercadinho section and continued to the end; and exemplified in a purported attributing to himself, by the author, of the author, of the dolls—two in fact and referred to in that book as published as one—I myself made for Creighton Seely Scott on the ranch, from rag, embroidering one crudely with features, and giving the largest—as large as the child himself then—“hair” of the sepoia that held in place the palm thatch on the ranch house roof—tiled just before the ranch was abandoned, half-paid for.  The dolls were brought back to the USA, and were left packed in one of the several crates we had to leave behind when we left Bermuda, with books, many personal records—books some of my childhood recovered for me by my mother.  Of an inexcusable treatment of Life Is Too Short I will say more in conclusion.

[1]Thomas Merton’s father, Owen, was Evelyn’s lover while they were in Bermuda and later in Southern Europe and North Africa: more on this in the next post.
[2]Cyril’s autobiography, published in 1944.  Evelyn took great exception to some of the statements in it about herself and her relationship with Cyril; there are many references to this in her letters in the late 1940s and after.

Elys Bridge
Contemporary image of Somerset Bridge

I here return to the Hale-Garland rupture, as, during our second year in Bermuda, Swinburne Hale and Marie Garland decided to part; and as I, after the disclosures of Charles Garland as to his mother’s view of me, had, in New York City before going back to Bermuda for the winter of 1922-23, insisted on seeing Marie Tudor Garland—as she soon became, again—with Cyril Kay Scott present, and telling her exactly what her son had said in quoting her to me.  I said I could no longer feel grateful for my share in her part of the benefits we had been about to receive, and I did not want assistance at the expense of self-respect.  Cyril Kay Scott assured her he was with me in my candour and that any self-respecting person would feel as I did.

Marie Tudor Garland wept.  She said she did, frankly, think Cyril Kay Scott a wonderful man.  She did not know, she said, whether she had been unjust to me or not.  But as to the money, which had just begun to be sent to us, it would continue ours, as she had given her “promise” and “never went back on her word”.

Cyril Kay Scott, when she had left the sublet apartment in Patchin Place in which this interview took place, reiterated to me that I was never to doubt his loyalty, but the situation being what it was, I should take the money already arranged for, and especially for Jigg’s sake, put aside  a justifiable hurt to pride.

In the second and last winter in Bermuda, 1922-23, we still saw both Marie Tudor Garland and Swinburne Hale; she as cordial as ever, on the surface to Cyril Kay Scott, but somewhat more formal with me; and Swinburne Hale the same to both of us.  They were then living apart, he in Ely’s Lodge, and she at Parapet.  When we left in either late April or early May, for New York City, we had our personal belongings crated, hoping to be able to have them freighted to us once we found an abiding place elsewhere that would allow us to rent The Scottage in due course when legalities relating to Bermuda law were sorted out, as the Hale-Garland divorce decree was imminent, and, for the time, had all but spoiled the idyllic atmosphere for work The Scottage represented.

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

[Ely’s Lodge,  Somerset Bridge, Bermuda]
[late 1921]

Lola, Darling:  There isn’t a book shop in Bermuda!  The only place mildly like one is a store called The Tower where you can also buy toys, stationery, and a little hardware.  Bermuda consists of about one hundred diminutive islands.  The entire population is twenty-thousand and twelve thousand of these are blacks.  At least a quarter—maybe a third—of the remaining eight thousand are semi-literate Portuguez immigrants.  There is no system of free education, no divorce, no anything later than eighteen twenty.  The English here are the Governor a number of bone head military officials and the people who run the naval yard.  They are scandalized at mixed bathing, at women who smoke etc.  Art has just passed the chrome stage.  Among the tourists (and there is about two thousand a month during January February and March several hundred during other months) there are mostly rich Jew clothing store families and tired American business men who come to play golf.  The Bermuda public library has Edgeworth, Dickens, Scott, etc etc     Gladys[1] also departed and I told her to be sure and go to see you and not be afraid to show you some poetry. She is being annihilated by a kind mother and a hyper-bourgeois home and it would be a godsend if somebody could get her to run away from it.  Too much to hope I expect.

Say, dearest, I almost forgot, another lost soul we are sending to you.  A little man called Owen Merton[2], about thirty I should judge, a Scotch Welshman from New Zealand who has been for the last year living in Flushing where his wife recently died and left him two children.  He is very hard up, very naïve and genuine, as obscene as Bill Williams, and in all respects an interesting child with real if not stupendous talent.  He has been working fiendishly hard at water color and some of his things are very successful.  He is as poor as the rest of us and has been trying to eke it would with landscape gardening.  It would mean tremendous things to him to be reproduced in Broom as he has been snubbed by some of the people—Daniels Gallery etc.  he is bugs on Cezanne and says very illuminating things about him.  Admires Charles Demuth[3] very much.  Not all of Merton’s stuff would reproduce among modern stuff but a few would.  We want him to show them to you  I would give more than I have to be able to have a jaw with you and Davy.  Just think—a whole year saved up to talk about!  Love and love, Evelyn

[1]Gladys Edgerton (as she was then) was writing novels and poetry.  Evelyn was very strongly supportive of her efforts and used her influence wherever she could, unsuccessfully, to help Gladys get published.  In later years Gladys was a staunch friend of both Evelyn and of Jigg and his family.
[2] This first mention of Owen Merton does not give any hint of the importance of the relationship that will develop between him and Evelyn. Much will be made of this in the next post.
[3]American watercolourist who developed a style of painting known as “Precisionism”.

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

 [Greysbank, Bermuda]
[January 1922]

Lola, darling:

Lola, we need you two just as much as you need Bermuda.  Cyril is a dear angel and has finished a novel full of beauty.  I have almost finished the SECOND novel[1] since the Narrow House.  So this is a workable place.  But toward mankind in general I have more and more an acidosis of the heart.  My experience of a little notoriety has been to intensify and perfect the Poe-esque conception of the blind hostility of the human race toward anything that disturbs it

I hope the sea trip here won’t make you give up any more of your self.  My dear, I know, despite jokes, what a terrible strain must be journeying to you.  But I see poems and poems everywhere that are made for your pen.  When the weather is good, Lola, the sea here is really unimaginable—the sunlight gets caught in the clear amber shallows in a strange kind of lace like gilded honeycomb—that’s how the light spots are reflected.  Further out a little green glass, then jade, then a violent glassy blue spotted with purple or a lighter streak like Verdi-green spotted with a green almost black.  It is just color rampant.  We have nothing to give you but that and ourselves, but I do think you’d like it for a while.  You can work.

Dearest, please write and tell me when you can come and more about you—more news.  Love to Davy  Evelyn

PS  You and Davy better reserve steamer room on a Royal Mail Boat ($70 round trip) now with understanding that you can transfer sailing if you are delayed.  Kisses to both

Dearest Lola, Please come.  don’t worry about details.  We see our way through by getting you here, you staying as long as you want to and getting you back.  And I think Davy could easily get work here.  I love you both but I’m a rotten correspondent.  I want to see you. We’ve a little good luck since and its half yours.  This is the Brazilian trip that fell through—you must come.  Please, Please, Please.  Love to you both, Cyril

[1]Escapade

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

Greysbank, Bermuda
January 7, 1922

Dear precious Lola:

Your letter came an hour ago.  I must say AT ONCE how relieved I am.  Listen, sweetest, I hope by next boat to be able to send some definite information—or shall I say orders—as to how you and Davy are to come here.  I am going to get a man here to look up all the passages and tell me when boats sail where from and what we will need to put it over.  Anyhow, March is beastly enough after all for you to want to get away from it and while here it is cold and blustery now, it will be July weather by then.  The thermometer has been registering fifty which sounds mild but with a ceaseless sharp wind off the sea and no means whatever of heating it is much worse than one would think.  I’m saying this maybe to persuade myself that every cloud is silver lined but it does happen to be true.  Now whether you get to New York before I can get you here or not doesn’t matter.  You are to come here anyway.  If possible you and Davy both.  We want Davy terrifically,  I only put that if in because you are not to escape through Davy having a job he can’t leave—if such should be the case—this being something you owe to your health.  I can imagine what a comfort Davy has been to you.  Tell the dear boy that I would rather come to him in trouble than any other man than Cyril and from me nothing more intensive can be said

When I wrote you last we were all in a cottage with Swinburne’s parents who are here.  They are the sort of people who think that the Dictionary was delivered into the hands of Daniel Webster on Mount Ararat or something like that.  Modern art shocks them unless it is in French.  They think ladies don’t use rouge and have various other illusions about the human race.  The time spent there—three weeks in all—was hell.  Afterward we went with Marie and Swinburne into their house which was and still is on the build and overrun by workmen.  Swinburne has been ill—had a curious partial paralysis of the face, they were both very nervous and full of domestic complexes (so were we, I suppose) and inclined subconsciously to consider the fact that they were helping us as an excuse for superficial lacks of consideration.  I nearly blew up.  Hell again.

Well, now we are in a cottage which has five—six with kitchen—fair sized rooms in semi tropical style—that is whitewashed inside and out.  The floors are bare and unpainted and the modern plumbing is represented by a hole in the ground.  But it is-when the weather is warm—very comfortable with a sweet view of an inlet and a tiny far off perspective of seas sweeping a reef.  The yard too is graciously green with a red leaved hedge they call match-me-if-you-can and numerous hibiscus bushes.  It is as quiet as a deserted grave yard—except for Jigeroo (who has had the croup and still joins me in a consumptive chorus of hacks).  Cyril and I write most of the day and usually until about eleven at night and he is accomplishing more than he had time to in years.  I am already at page one hundred and two on novel number three, having done most of it at night when somehow the world lets you alone and there ceases to be even the pull of things.  Then in that abysmal midnight quiet which seems to be in you you can dive into a quiescent sub-conscious and pull up plums by the handful—psychological plums of the first order.     [remainder of letter missing]

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge and Davy Lawson

Greysbank, Bermuda
[January 1922]

Darlings:

Now you may wonder why, if Bermuda only produces Englishmen and bad colds, I am so hellbent that you two whom I most want to save from such things, should come here.  But this is January—the worst of all Bermuda months—the time when the ghost of New York in February is floating out even this far on the Atlantic.  In six weeks the natives inform us it will make good all the promises it gave us when we landed here in opal colored sunshine on waters that looked like a lake of Hudnuts toilet water mingled with best bluing.

         LOVE AND LOVE AND LOVE and thank you for your sweet sweet sin on my behalf.  Evelyn

swinburne hale
Swinburne Hale

To Otto Theis

[Greysbank, Bermuda]
January 27, 1922

Dear Otto:

We are still in the rented cottage, the foundation of our prospective home not yet being above ground.  Either we were mistaken or Swinburne has recanted for the house is not to be ours in any sense of gift.  We are to live in it only as long as we get on with our friends.  Sometimes things are rather strained with us.  Charity is an unsatisfactory solution of the financial problems of one’s life.

I will tell you tell you something to marvel over though.  Cyril is four fifths through with the manuscript of another novel[1] in which he uses an almost perfectly subjective method full of almost idyllic delicacy.  I haven’t read it consecutively but I think it will be the best thing he ever did.  He writes sometimes a dozen pages in a day.  Now Otto take note of this and know that it will never be too late to begin your novel.  He thought he was written out—that all the juice of creation was squeezed dry.

But you must have more than enough of these shop opinions.  Please write and tell us the details of your scene.  We will be interested in everything.

Lots and lots of love from all of us, dear Otto. Evelyn

[1]Siren, published in 1924

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

 [Greysbank, Bermuda]
January 1922]

My precious dear, what a perfect hell you have been through.  I wish I could give for it something beside cuss words and indignation.  Merton wrote me of meeting you and how beautiful you were. We are expecting Swinburne on Monday and hope to find out what will happen to the property down here and consequently to us.  Bermuda has been very awful since Christmas in some respects.  I am ready to move but except to seeing you and two or three others I wish it were to some place other than New York.  I went to New York with such a romantic feeling of discovering and of course only discovered myself there and that mostly so inappropriate to the environment.  Wish we had money to take you and Davy to France.  God knows if we will get there.  Cyril and I have been thinking that rather than come to Bermuda again we should like Martinique or some other hotter queerer place.

Bermuda is in so many ways exquisite and it scarcely affects me any more.  Yesterday though I had a thrill out of it.  Mary and I canoed outside the islands and saw those wonderful birds again.  I think last year I told you of them—long tails of the full family.  They are as large as small hawks with a long forked tail and are snow white with red beaks and black dashed wings and black underscored eyes.  They fly low over the green water and their breasts are like translucent jade, while the thin edges of their wings pierced by the glare remain a fiery and immaculate white.  The tails are blood rose, like flesh held against a lamp.  They have the most beautiful swallow flight.  In front of us the waste water of a still Atlantic, no land, green and peacock water darkened with shadows, a hot blue sky smutted a little with clouds, and in this stillness that gull mew, far, high up, like the call of a Valkyrie on a mountain top, and those birds passing each other in the amazing stillness, passing and re-passing with the look of delicate and evil angels, strange eyes, black dashed wings, and jade bodies outlined as with a heavenly flame.  Oh, Lola, I wish you and the few other people with lovely insides could have looked at it.

We may be up any time.  We shall have to find some place cheap to live and somewhere to park Jigeroo.  I wrote Gladys that to begin with I would borrow her place.  She says you are working on your poems again.  Lola, you are one of the wonderful people of your time and you MUST write God damn it, I WISH that I was rich.

My love to Davy and to You.  I love you  Evelyn

* * * * *

To Otto Theis

[Greysbank, Bermuda]
[February 19, 1922]

Beloved Otto:  I feel like celebrating when your letters come.  Because you are so much yourself in such a self responsible way I find you suggest to me the same kind of equilibrium.  They have pulled me out of lots of incipient jimmies.  Besides that they are extremely interesting in the facts implied.  You have actually started me reading world news again and I enjoy the Outlook[1]every week it happens to come (convey same to advertising manager to be used when they have some real influence).  Imagine us in Bermuda reading the Outlook avidly, snapshot same.  Read in the Colonies as well as in London and the Provinces.

Merton maybe I described.  Anyway he is five feet seven and slight with a wirey muscular body because for the last five years he has done manual work in order to get enough money to paint periodically.  His face doesn’t look like anything much until there is emotion in it, and then his eyes which are brown and set under his brows are very warm and kind and alive.  He was smooth faced when he came here but is raising a browny blonde moustache which doesn’t grow evenly because he has a scar on his lip.  When he is estranged from his surroundings he looks like a lonesome monkey.  Sometimes he reminds me of Harry Lauder because he chews a pipe in a funny way and thrusts out his rather full under lip.  He was born in New Zealand and studied water color in London and Paris and lived Paris five years with his wife who died of cancer a year and a half ago.  She was an American girl and her family live in Douglastown Long Island.  He has two kids, boys, and one of them is here with us now.[2]  When he was a kid he went in for Tolstoy and it spoiled his paint.  He came to New York had no money and has been a gardener for some rich people who patronized him because they thought it was piquant to have an educated man in that capacity.  The wife of the household tried to flirt.  He adores Cyril in the most sincere way.  And he is himself the most honest to god sincere person I ever saw.  Cyril is quite fond of him.  He is so emotional that he may talk like a damned fool or he may get off remarks in painting which Cyril says are the most profound he ever heard.  He is easily bluffed and the world has put it all over him.  I haven’t any illusions about how long this idyllic situation will last and sometimes I want very much to laugh, it is so absurd, and in view of my disgust with Garland messing, so ironic.  But Cyril and I know an awful lot about each other and what ever happens to the other two I don’t think we are going to lose each other ever.

Goodbye till next encyclopedia from me.  Evelyn

[1]Otto had recently become editor of The Outlook, a popular weekly news magazine published in London which ran until 1928.
[2] This is the first mention of Merton’s son Tom, who was about the same age as Jigg.  The two boys were left to their own devices a good deal of the time;  Jigg later spoke of the period in Bermuda with Tom as the happiest time in his life.

Owen Merton
Owen Merton

To Lola Ridge

Ely’s Lodge, Bermuda
[August 1922]

Beloved dear,

I was SO beastly disappointed not to see you and Davy again, but Lola if you WOULD have seen those last few days!  Thursday all day packing and shopping, Friday a whole afternoon at the dentists, more packing and shipping.  Friday night and I was so tired I could not go out.  I would have telephoned and asked you to come over but I had no phone.

I can’t write a decent letter yet a while, for we are camping out in Ely’s Lodge and in a frightful mess.  The hurricane carried off half of the fine cedars on the lawn and a part of the roof so that some of the inside must be done over and many of Marie’s lovely belongings are injured.  Our house had just been finished, but the leaky roof has damaged the walls and floors so that all the labor spent there has gone for nothing.  It may be three weeks before we can get into it.  I am trying to fight off the restless suggestion of upset surroundings and live out of doors in the brilliant peace, heat, blue water, and an atmosphere of indolence.

Cyril has brought a cold with him but he is mentally relaxing and I think we both love to come home to rest in each other after our periodic flirtations with chaos.  He is sculpturally perfect and at the same time so warm—finished and yet living, I tried to put in a poem.  Cool and warm, white, and warm at the same time.

And Jigeroo is maturing so I feel absolutely humble with pride in him.  The summer has improved him wonderfully.  I sort of feel all at once face to face with a grown-up mind, lacking the defense of facts but quite equal to any I can supply.

Well, as you will see my spirits, considering that I am unwell, are pale rose that may later mount to crimson—this certainly if you come to see us.

Love you.  Cyril and Jigeroo do too. Evelyn

  • * * * * *

Maude Thomas to Evelyn Scott

[Clarksville, Tennessee]
March 26, 1923

Dear daughter:

Just a note to tell you that I asked J[1] if he would find out if Seely would help me, and relieve him of the job, but he declined to communicate with S, and said I could write to you to do so, as you were the only person who had any influence on him &c.  He spoke of my being “on the edge of the brink”, and other cheerful things.  I never felt more energetic than I do now, and am anxious to get work, or training for something to do, away from here, if I get out of this deadly atmosphere my health with improve, or my nerves, that’s where the trouble is.  But I can get no assistance from J.  It has been made plain that I am not wanted here, except that I have not been told so, and if it is humanly possible I want to leave before I am invited to.  I cannot blame J for wanting to free himself.  I know that I am a helpless sort of person, and have not taken responsibilities, but you may be sure I will learn to take care of myself, and not worry you if—I can get some financial help, but how can I accomplish any thing without a penny?  It tickled my sense of humour when I found I was so near dissolution.

I understand that Seely has built some apartments, in Washington, also his home, and that he has a life job with a fine salary, and that $30,000 worth of gems were found in the big safe in your grandfather’s house, which he gave to his wife, and the home place is for sale in Nov at $20,000.[2]

With love to you and dear Jigaroo, Mother

PS  Seely’s address is “Interstate Commerce Commission Statistical Department, Washington, DC”

I have been working hard on Portuguese translations, but am waiting on Nettos “O Sertao”, that was ordered from Brazil for me two months ago, and over, and still has not arrived, and later I may find that copyright laws prevent its being published  I thought of selecting one or two things from it to add to the five tales I have finished, and perhaps translating the whole book next.  Copyright, bars the outside translator, most awfully.  As far as I know it has never been translated in America, though Dr Isaac Goldberg has translated one of the tales in it, that The Four Seas Co published.

            J did you the honor to say that you had a “brilliant mind”.

[1]Julian Gracey, Maude’s cousin, with whom she was sent to live after the family returned from Brazil.
[2]After divorcing Maude, Seely married Melissa Whitehead, about whom much will be written in 1947. Later, after Seely died, Evelyn based her quest for her father’s will in part on this information.

* * * * *

In early 1923 Merton returned to the US and to Buzzards Bay to see his older son, Jean Paul, who had been staying with Merton’s in-laws on Long Island. He was conscious of being indebted to Cyril and was trying to find galleries which would exhibit, and sell, his paintings in order to repay this debt.

* * * * *

From Owen Merton

Owen Merton
Landscape Designs Color Schemes for Flower Gardens
57 Hillside Avenue
Flushing, L I

Bay End Farm, Buzzard’s Bay, Massachusetts
April 19. 1923

My dear Cyril—
From what Gladys said to me in a note I had yesterday I think Evelyn must have been pretty depressed.  I don’t know exactly why except that Swinburne’s visit must not have turned out well.  Look here—I wish I had better news of large sums of money, from here, but I am really doing as well with landscape painting as I had any reason to expect to, this spring—and I did very damned thing I could to try and arrange that sales of pictures will take place.  You know you can’t rush in somewhere, and simply say “give me 100 dollars for this”.  By the end of this month I shall have at least 500 dollars—and what I want to say is, “For Gods sake take it, and get away as soon as you want to.  I know you won’t either of you want to stay in New York.  If you could borrow a little of the money you could stay quietly in France until I am able to come, and I shall certainly get in some more.  I know damned well I can get 2000 dollars if I try hard enough.  I have never been licked yet at any special thing I set out to do, and I can certainly do this.

If my failure to get in a lot of money might away is responsible for some of Evelyn’s depression—cheer her up—because I have not done every damned thing I can yet—and I am really more vigorous and strong after this, than I have ever been after anything.

I want to come down and meet you, and I hope Tom[1] is not complicating things too much by his disobedience.  Damn it, Scott, I will fix things.  Don’t be disappointed with me, if things are not too hopeful on appearances so far.  They really are more hopeful than they seem to be.  Bon courage.

from Merton

[1]Owen’s elder son, who was near Jig’s age and was  living with the Scotts.  Tom and Jig were close playmates

* * * * *

Not long after this the Scott family, plus Owen Merton, decided that they would be better off in Europe.  Southern Europe offered not only a warm climate but the opportunity for Cyril and Owen to develop their painting styles in the landscapes afforded by the medieval towns along the Mediterranean coast.  

And so the relationship between Evelyn and Merton developed.

NB:  Evelyn’s letters were often lengthy and were concerned with news of other friends as well as commentary on current artistic trends and accounts of her relationships with her publishers. Quoting these letters in full would be beyond the scope of this blog, and they have been heavily edited.