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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

16. Picking up the pieces

After the breakup with Merton, Evelyn and Cyril went their separate ways. There is no correspondence relating to Cyril’s return to North Africa, and  his later journey to Europe with Elsa Pfenniger, his Swiss mistress of whom Jigg was extremely fond.  In spite of this separation Cyril was willing to continue to support Evelyn financially, at least at first.

Shortly before this breakup, Evelyn and Jack Metcalfe had met at the home of mutual friends.  Jack recorded this meeting briefly in a diary entry which gave no clue as to the eventual importance of this meeting.  After the parting of the ways with Merton, she and Jack began living together–again, there are no letters in the collection referring to the development of this relationship.

A few words about Jack, full name William John Metcalfe.  He was born into a wealthy family in Heacham, Norfolk (Evelyn often claimed they were “minor nobility”) and was privately educated before studying at the University of London.  He wrote a number of works of science fiction (what might be called “fantasy” today) and was called to the Royal Navy Air Force during WW1.   After the war, he remained a reservist in the Royal Air Force, and supplemented his meagre royalties by teaching Latin and mathematics at a series of private schools.

We pick up the narrative with Evelyn staying in London with her good friends Otto Theis and Louise Morgan.  Again, none of the letters in the collection refer to the interval between the breakdown described by Gladys at the end of “Heartache” and this first letter.  Later, when she stayed in England with Jack for the first time, her letters reflect her bemusement at the British way of life.

* * * * *

To Maude Dunn

c/o Theis, London
September 17 [1925]

Dear Mother:

Again I have held off writing in the hope of having money to send but I must wait until next month again.  You see we have no fixed source of income of any kind, just depending on what sells and what doesn’t, so one month we have some money and the next we don’t.  I have been interested in all your letters and all the Clarksville news, but I get blue when I can’t send money and don’t feel it worth while for me to write.  I have had my tonsils out and that cost something, but it is a great relief.  I have been suspected of having TB and floroscoped and x-rayed and found a little doubtful but not a real case.  So it is a relief to know anyhow.  I’ve stayed in London in order to be doctored but it is much too like New York in expensiveness for a permanent residence and to make things cheaper Jigeroo and Cyril went back to Italy.  Cyril sends some pictures but exhibitions have to be about two years apart in order to accumulate work of the best quality and you have to live in between.  He is not at all strong any more.1  Of course I miss them terrifically.  London always seems like a city of the drowned after New York and the English are so impersonal and their desire to keep everything on a purely formal plane is almost an insanity.  Sport and politics have to take the place of everything personal, though of course underneath they are the most sentimental race on earth.  I don’t really like them or feel drawn to them.  In some ways even the French are much closer, though they lack a subtle kind of imagination and are too diagrammatic on a mental plane.

The weather here makes seven kinds of a day in one.  It is balmy spring at ten am, winter at twelve, a dreary rainy autumn at three and at six before the sun goes it may be spring again.  Not as disagreeable as it sounds really.  But oh the types, the stony blue-eyed wooden well bred usual men, so good looking and so uninteresting.  And the women with heavy chins, slab sided figures, lovely skins, and perfectly vacant personalities.  Naturally that isn’t all, but it is the average.  The shops are dreadful.  You don’t mind having no money for what you don’t want to buy.  Ready made clothes  [missing page(s)]

Jigeroo isn’t going to school now, but he has been to French, Italian and Arab schools, French spoken in the Arab school.  I don’t know where he will go this winter.  If I get rich ever I’ll put him in a boarding school in Switzerland.  He looks very much like me everybody says.  He is way above my shoulder, about to my chin, pretty solid, and has a fine color.  His eyes are not as blue as they were, and his teeth need straightening some.  Otherwise except for size he looks about as you remember him.  He speaks slowly and has a lazy walk except when he plays very hard.  His sense of humour is superb and he is chocked full of temperament.  His appreciation of pictures and books is five years in advance of his age.  In school he is no good at all, won’t concentrate and seems to think education a joke, partly because he is always changing schools and they are all different.  He draws astonishingly.  Almost everybody likes him and certainly he is a handsome kid, but I’ve got to get enough money to give him a more practical education so if he is ever up against it he won’t be at such a disadvantage.

Lots of love and hopes for your health, and do forgive the hard time about money.  We are still gamblers and paupers about that.  Only there are bound to be streaks of luck.

elsie2

1Cyril was then 54 years old.

2Evelyn continued to use the name she was christened with when writing to her mother.

* * * * *

 To Manager, Chatham and Phoenix National Bank

Hotel de France
Gafsa, Tunisia
December 1, 1925

Mr Stuart B Plant, Mgr
Chatham and Phoenix National Bank
14th St and 8th Ave, New York City

Dear Mr Plant:

Evelyn Scott is coming to New York for reasons of health, and will probably be in need of funds in addition to her own.  Will you therefore please transfer at any time any amount she may specify from my account to hers.  This letter is authorization for this operation which please repeat as often as she may desire.  In other words, I wish her to have the benefit of my account as well as her own in case need arises during her stay in New York.

Yours very truly
C Kay Scott

* * * * *

Again, there are gaps in correspondence clarifying the decision Jack and Evelyn made some time during that December to go to England rather than return to the United States.  Jack had family connections in England and the couple found themselves in the Scilly Isles, a popular holiday spot, living out of season in a boarding house.  (Apologies to my British readers if they find some of the explanations in these letters unnecessary.)

* * * * *

To Otto Theis

[c/o Mrs Clark, Palace Row, Tresco, Scilly Isles]
January 24 [1926]

Dear Otto:

I don’t want to wear you out with correspondence, but you were so good about the check and medicine and so on as you are about every damn thing you get axed when anybody gets in a hole, big or little.  I do think you are pretty gran’, Otto, and so do John1, and there ain’t no good way to tell you about it.  It must be the bloodiest nuisance in the world to have all the endless perpetual things on you, and this week there will be another, as by the beginning of next week I will want the check for five guineas (guineas,2 not pounds—and I will make him wait a bit longer for the next payment), and at the same time ten pounds more for myself as we pay board in advance.  Will you please send the money cash registered but not in 5 lb notes3 as one pound is all they can cash here.  If it gets here next Mon or even Wed will do.

I never saw such a tiny place that gave such impression of variety.  Down where we were today there was a waste looking flat, faintly blooming, with moss on the sandy earth.  It had the suggestion, where the sea was hidden, of a vast desolateness like the Campagna at Rome, and over toward the water long rolling hummocks were covered with a yellow grass, shining as blond hairs, dry but unseeded, and bristly-stiff, but growing thick as the fur of an animal.  When we climbed the summit of the last point of land, we could see a rocky nudity of beach exposed and on one upstanding boulder a very large gull, very still and alone, presiding over the reflections in the brackish puddles that the sea had left.

We made a detour around the governors bloody “abbey” which looks like the ancestral castle of a Long Island millionaire, and passed a large pond or small lake, according to your temperament from which a pair of wild ducks darted with their nasal cries.  And when we had got back on the more trodden road that would take us home it was nearly dark and what is called the Round Island Light, that John is very fond of and will put in a story, was making a pale ember in the ash of the [illeg].  Then all at once it swelled like a window into the lovliest rosiest depth of hell, and was the most beautiful red red red menace I have seen in a long time.

Well—here we are again.  The food is per usual and one grows used to it—though I do miss coffee of which I have not had a drop, and the missing of which makes me think much of you.  I would also appreciate one of Louise’s most divine salads as but for fresh meat and the oranges we have got ourselves we would sure have scurvy.

Well, I do wish this was a lesser run from London.  Mr A Burdett has not shown up yet—but I wish you could.  The great bird life in the spring and the feathered population now is limited (no personal reference meant).  But I have had great pleasure from the cormorants, who have necks as long as baby swans but not sinuous.  Their black feathers are usually so wet they seem like eels in a dripping fleshiness.  They swim with their bodies mainly submerged, and when they dive it is in the neat pointing attitude of a human swimmer, for they leap an inch or two out of the water, and spring with a half somersault on the fish they’ve sight.  They look so like pogy sly old men in wet bathing suits, but with a sinister agility.

Maybe birds won’t interest you, but the surf yesterday in the storm would have.  We were on the rolling moor that is at this end and on a pinnacle the wind almost took me off.  The harbours all around are full of small mountains like miniatures of Rio and on these a perfect fury of lashing vapour at a gigantic height.  Thank Pete we brought books tho work goes fine, but stops at noon, tho John does another batch of typing by the shades of night.  His book seems to me to be doing well.

Love to Louise Evelyn.  John sends love too.

John Metcalfe, with whom Evelyn was then living.

The guinea, a unit which is no longer used, was 21 shillings, or one pound one shilling.

The unit of English currency, the pound, is written as “£”, but Evelyn is writing it as it sounds. The correct representation would have been “£5 notes”.

This amount, four pounds 10 shillings, would be more correctly written “£4 10s”.

 

Tresco, Scilly Isles
Tresco, Scilly Isles

To Louise Morgan

[Tresco, Scilly Isles]
April 7 [1926]

Louise, darling, you can not hope to keep quantitive pace with my corresponding.  Until I get hold of a History of the Civil War to begin book two1 on, I have all my mornings for letters.  John is helping me correct spelling and punctuation in the afternoons.  He has laid off his novel for a bit and is beginning a short story which has a very spirited opening and promises to be both good and saleable.  We are still in the air about plans, for the air ministry had an Easter holiday and has not answered his inquiry about training camp.

Beloved, when you say have an idea, and especially about Staples2, I would not be right bright if I did not have a vision of Louise sweating on the floor of the living room and Miss Staples being guiltily nice and ineffectual and looking at a [dressmaking] pattern as if it came out of a menagerie.

As for having the specific things altered, I am afraid everything is past altering but the green dress Whitehead5 made, and that I am having let out here as it is a very simple matter.  The skirts are being ripped but they miss three or four inches in the belt and I don’t think the seams will do it and there is no more to do to them.  That leaves the green dress and the grey coat (which, by the way, has lost somewhat by having the buttons moved to their last extremity) to travel in, which would do except that it is going to be hot in may when we hit Marseille.  I have that old black crepe de chine of Phyllis Crawford’s3 which it may be can be ripped to make a skirt.  Do you think it would go with a green crepe de chine jumper?  I got some samples from Peter Jones4 and figured out the cost of a cape dress (they are very a la mode again)—short cape, plain skirt with one pleat in front, and tailored silk jumper—with, possibly, as it only takes three eighths of a yard and the pattern comes with the dress, a soft hat of same stuff as the skirt, and it came to a little over five pounds, figuring on Miss Whitehead’s possible price.  If I had the money here I might have tackled asking her, but I don’t know yet whether we can get thru month (I begin to see Otto’s troubles—John had another income tax, and had to gibe three pounds for a contribution for a grave stone for his uncle Reggie just departed).  Also another payment to Haire5, and we must have two hundred dollars clear just to reach Marseille.  John will get some and me some next month and we can do it, but five or six pounds on a dress is a plenty so I thought of writing to Miss Whitehead just before I leave and asking her if she could cut over black crepe de chine and make a blouse.  I’d rather give the work to poor old Staples, but if I did, at your house, you know as well as I do that you would but in and she would look on.

For the green dress I didn’t consider her, for, had it cost less and I gotten it,  I imagined she couldn’t tackle it-or feared that, even sending it to her house, you would somehow assume responsibility.  I don’t trust you in these ere matters.

Please don’t cry when you think of me, for I would feel comfortabler if you laughed.

I now and then have very vivid dreams of Owen and wake up in a state of sentimentality that, if painful in a way, is nice, for my subconscious doesn’t seem to have retained any bitter impressions and I always feel afterward that I pray really honestly that he is happier and not worried, and I hope thinking of me isn’t ugly to him.  If its now ugly, distorted with pain impressions, I don’t want more.  Goodness knows.  Nothing stands between us and kindly feelings except (for me) his tendency to be injust and even, latterly, monstrous in misinterpretations of Cyril.  This I understood at the time, but I hope peace of mind restored a point of view that would make me feel that old having to chose between Cyril and Owen even in friendship—tho of course nothing would ever deviate my comprehension of Cyril’s beauty.  However, Owen may be recovered in his mind, and if so blessings upon him with all my heart and no bunk.  I guess he hit my maternal instinct as no adult ever did.

I won’t be in Paris, honey.  John finds we can go through from Callais to Marseilles and that a couchette costs no more and less than the hotel in Paris, so we are planning to check luggage from London to Marseilles.  Thus, London leave 11 am, Callais, 2.15, leave 2.55 arrive Paris 7.30 (hour and a half wait in station but no change of cars), then arrive Marseilles next morning 9.30.  Fare for both of us comes to about 150 dollars, counting excess luggage, meals, etc.  I know I can buy in Marseilles, except that for the minute I won’t have money enough, as I have to take enough to live in there until I can get another check from America, which is about a month.  However, I’ll have another check from Sug first next month (Marie hundred) and if I have to will cable for it before leaving London.

Oh, well I could talk on all day.  I’ll spare you.  Thank you for the Butterick address, and I’m glad—or hope—it sounded so—that you are feeling a bit more chipper.  I want to hear any news from the kids.  Give Otto a hug, beloved, and for yourself all my lesbian outpourings which, by the way, John has by no means overcome.  John says to give you both a handsome lot of love from him.  We had a wonderful scrap last night, of the only kind we have had since we came, about the bedclothes, and me turning over in bed when John can’t sleep.  I wish I had had a dictaphone.  John accused me of “sighing” and keeping him awake.  It’s a species of tyranny that must proceed from his subconscious as he has never showed it except when half asleep.  Then he says I have all the sheet, when I have three eighths of an inch and so on. It is screamingly funny, and shows the subconscious of a bachelor I think with thirty four years of managing his own bedcovers.

I bobbed the daughter in law of my landlady and am now being solicited by a neighbour, it having gone abroad, John says that before I married him I worked in a beauty shop.

agin, love, evelyn

1Evelyn was at this time working on the book which would be published in 1929 as The Wave.

2Miss Staples appears to have been Louise’s seamstress. At that time it was not uncommon for women to have their clothes “run up” from patterns (including Butterick) by a seamstress.

3Miss Whitehead appears to be another seamstress.

4A fashionable London department store

5Dr Haire, Evelyn’s gynaecologist. She had had recurring problems ever since the birth of her son, perhaps compounded by the inept repair surgery performed in Brazil. ~6Even though they did not marry until 1930, Evelyn and John posed as a married couple so they could live together without exciting comment.

* * * * *

To Otto Theis

[Tresco, Scilly Isles]
April 19 [1926]

Dear Otto:

This besieging is not an attack but an apology.  John is so sensitive on the money question that he slurred our difficulties and I did not realize that when the board was payed this am we wouldn’t have anything to buy matches, cigarettes, or oil for the stove—which last is serious as we are both laid up more or less with flu.  So I’m writing this because I axed for money for the end of this week and now, want to let you know the boats are changed and to get it here Friday it must reach Penzance in time for a sailing at 9 Friday morning.  Otto, when I get to France I won’t devil you no long.  I wrote to the bank on the thirty-first about cabling that money.  Certainly looks as if they’d had time.  What do you think?  I gave them the Fleet Street address?1  Oh damn money, it do make the future look uncertain.   But I’m letting off steam to you, it can’t be done before John, as he already has a COMPLEX and wonders what Cyril will think of him, and so on.  I trust Cyril’s understanding but am by no means sure John and me and Jig, half time Jig, can subsist very comfortably on our twenty five a week.  However there’s always hope.  Otto its no longer a question of a grand gesture about this money, but that I owe you in plain cash just for electricity and gas and you’ve never said how much.  Sometimes when you think pisin (I don’t mean that) poison is so cheap and life is so dear you wonder why you do it.  But it is and you do, and if I try to “wish I was dead” I ain’t sure I mean it.

I hope my groans don’t hit you at a hard time.  If they do throw a brick at me.  I can’t mention money in any ordinary tone of voice.

Lots of love from both of us to yawl.  evelyn

The address of The Outlook, where Otto worked

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

Tresco, Scilly Isles
April 23, 1926

Beloved dear, I had such a vivid dream about you last night and yet I haven’t the faintest idea this morning what it was about—just the strong impression of you that held over until morning and made me feel like writing to you.  I sent a letter through Glad and hope you get it, but I don’t know that she has your address, so this through Ellen who, last letter, mentioned having heard from you.

I hope spring is there.  March gave here fallacious hints, and April has been one succession of hair and wind storms, of chill unimpassioned moodiness.  Scilly is such a Noah’s ark of a place, but with most of the animals left out.  Just a few human breeds in twos and twos in squat little stone cottages, neat like ships at seas, but as plainly adorned.  You’d be amused with the interior of the room we have to work in.  It is very tiny, very low ceilinged, and, like all Scilly houses, with a window not much bigger than a porthole.  The furniture (it is a dining room) is broad striped plush and ornate machine carved backs—three chairs, two arm chairs for head and foot of table, and a chaise lounge about big enough for one of Snow White’s seven dwarfs.  On the chaise lounge is a red sofa pillow covered with a Nottingham lace tidy.  The sideboard is red, imitation mahogany.  On it repose a cracked Sunday teaset of royal blue and gild, mended with liquid cement and non-usable; two “hand painted” bowls (non used) and a huge imitation cut glass bottled revolving silver-plated canister.  All the bottles except the mustard pot are empty but everyday it is put on the table for every meal, presumably, because it is so heavy, to keep the tablecloth from blowing off.  On one wall are three hunting prints, pink coats, hounds etc, one without a glass, and two with glasses cracked.  One the sideboard wall is another chromo of Highland Cattle in a Turneresque debauch of sunset and water.  On either side the sideboard hang two green plush mats triangular in shape framing small round mirrors.  Again, on the third wall, is an enlarged photograph of my landlady’s father-in-law and mother-in-law—an old lady like a mild and Christian monkey, a cocky obstinate looking little white haired man who obviously takes to himself full credit for his wife’s faithfulness.  There is, too, an enlarged and colored photo of the landlord and landlady—she, wearing a knit jersey and pince nez (all highly tinted) and he, with his moustache bright gold, standing beside her and looking a bit of a beau.  On the mantel shelf are three vases decorated with Watteau figures, all the vases as tall as funeral urns, with huge gilt urns, the one in the center mounted high above the others on a base of china that is like a tower.  Mingled with this adornment are crowds of adenoidal family photographs, some framed, some unframed, some passepartoured,1 and the mantel shelf has an embroidered linen lambrequin.  The highly polished brass fire set adds the last note.  Through the window, Tresco harbour looks like a pan full of blue water with some funny paper sailing boats on it.

By the time we leave we will have been here almost four months, so we know it well.

But the island sensation is growing strong.  An island must be tropical if it is anything.  This is often too much like an ocean liner in the North Atlantic.  Bermuda had twenty miles.  Tresco has three.

John and I are only waiting for enough cash to move.  I don’t want to crush Cyril with responsibilities, and I hope to Pete to get something soon from the advance on novel—if there is any.  And then—oh, it will be joy to see Sug and Jig again and Elsa, too—but especially Jig.  I think, I hope, John will like them and they him.  Now I still wish that you, dearest honey, were coming to spend the summer with us.  There’ll always be a place if you get enough just for fare.  I truly think you’d like John.  I don’t know anyone just the same type—a little like Cyril, a little like Martin, more callow than Cyril, and less hardened thru bitter experience than Martin.  But he has been good to me, Lola, very, very, very.

This is just little more than gossip.  I don’t know what I want to talk to you about, further than I want to talk.  I wish we could all see you.  Darling, your transparent alabaster red-hot furnace fire warms a lot of space over the chill Atlantic.  I wish I knew how to send warm back.  And I do long to see the poems.  If you can’t write please delegate somebody to tell me how you are, something about practical happenings, your health, and so on.

Love and love and love.  This year in general counts up a good number 1926 = 18 = 9.  Good year for your book.  I am trying to arrange to go to a spiritualist seance in London.  I’ll write you about it.

evelyn

Passepartout is a black paper tape which was used to bind the edges of pictures as a cheap alternative to framing

No letters survive which record the departure from the Scilly Isles, of the decisions that led to Evelyn and John ending up in Cassis-sur-Mer on the south coast of France not far from Marseille, or of their journey there. Nor is there any account of how it was that Jigg, who was then 12 years old, came to them from Tunisia, where he had been living with Cyril and Elsa.

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

[5 rue Victor Hugo, Cassis-sur-Mer, France]
[June 1926]

Beloved Lola:

John, Jig and myself are at Cassis, a village one hour from Marseille.  Cyril and Elsa are at l’Estaque, two hours away.

If you can get the fare, won’t you come stay with us.  Our flat has only two rooms, but we can get you another outside where you can have breakfast in bed and bigger meals with us—only walking a step so to speak.

It is warm, but there is the sea and calm, and we love you so—John and Elsa both want to know you so.  Jig sends his dearest love to you and Davy.  So do I.

Blessed, you could take a boat to Marseille, wireless us the day before you get in, and Cyril, John, Elsa, me and Jig all meet you easily at Marseille.  You need a change beloved as well as you need many other things.  The boat fare, second class, is about $145, but you must have fruit or something of your own.  In summer the journey is not rough.  You could see Gibraltar, Paloma, Naples en route as we did and we’d bring you right here.  If I get anything on my novel you won’t need any money here.  I doubt living with us won’t cost you with room, more than a dollar a day.  Please we all want it.  Evelyn

entrance to Cassis harbour
The entrance to Cassis harbour

* * * * *

Not long after this Evelyn and Jack left Cassis for Portugal and then back to Algeria and Cyril.  All of this in next week’s installment.

 

 

5. The family scrapbook

One fine day a few years ago there was a knock on my door and I opened it to a FedEx delivery man, a commonplace event in the US, but in Britain a rare event indeed, and I was intrigued by it.  The plastic envelope gave me no clue except that on the customs declaration it said “scrapbook”.  It seemed a bit bulky for a normal scrapbook, and I opened it carefully and with huge anticipation.

Inside, a leather-bound volume.  It was indeed a scrapbook, but an old one, in poor condition.  The gold-tooled leather binding was scuffed at the corners, and very fragile.  The card which accompanied it was from Ned Crouch, director of the Clarksville Museum at the time of my first visit there.  “This scrapbook really should remain with you” it said.  The flyleaf bore an extravagant signature:  “Maude T Dunn”.  It was the Dunn family photograph album.  Its pages are full of sepia-toned prints of the young family, mostly of the baby Elsie during the first years of her life, with an equal number of shots of railway lines and railway bridges (Seely was, after all, a railway man).

Many of the images are so faded as to be indistinguishable.  In 1883, Eastman Kodak introduced a dry gel paper as a medium on which to capture images from a light-tight box, and the Eastman-Kodak camera brought photography to a larger public.  In 1893, when Maude Dunn was taking pictures of her baby daughter and young husband,  the process had been refined and the Kodak camera was being marketed with the slogan “You push the button, we do the rest”.  Even so, photography was an expensive hobby, and the number of snaps in the scrapbook bears testimony to the relative prosperity of the Dunn family.

 

.

* * * * *

Next week, we shall take up the story at the point at which Elsie Dunn and Frederick Creighton Wellman leave New Orleans for the next chapter in their lives.

 

 

 

 

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3. The story begins

Evelyn Scott was born Elsie Dunn (her change of name is explained later) on 17th January 1893 in Clarksville, Tennessee to Maude Thomas, from an established Southern family, and Seely Dunn, a Yankee railwayman.  Her earliest years were spent in the home of her mother’s Gracey cousins:  the photo shows it at its height in the 1870s.

In 1956, she prepared a long document, addressed to her son, stipulating that it be preserved with her will and handed to him at her death.  It is presented here as it summarises, in Evelyn’s own words, the years which precede the earliest of the letters which have been preserved.

* * * * *

“I was born Elsie Dunn and so baptised at Trinity Episcopal Church, Clarksville, Tennessee, where the parish registry contains both the record of my baptism when an infant, and of the marriage of my father and mother, Maud Thomas and Seely Dunn, then of Clarksville.  The date of my birth was Jan 17th, 1893.  The date of the marriage of my parents was Feb 4th, 1892.  My father was then twenty-one and was division superintendent of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, his headquarters Clarksville.  He was written up at the time in the Railway Age as the youngest division superintendent of any railroad in the world.

” When I was 3 years old, my father was promoted and became division superintendent of the L and NRR at Russellville, Kentucky.  I lived in Russellville with my parents until I was nearly 7.  We then moved to Evansville, Indiana, where I first attended School, a public school, and my father there, also, was Division Superintendent of the L and N, the job larger than his two previous ones, as Evansville was the office for a larger division. Not long after McKinley’s assassination, my father resigned in high standing from his position with the L and N, and we moved to St Louis, Missouri, where my mother and I resided while he went to Oklahoma and supervised the building of a new railroad, the Blackwell, Enid and Southwestern, of which, on its completion, he became Vice-President for the short time before it was sold, as had been originally hoped, to the Frisco System.

“He had become interested in railway building and promotion, and from Saint Louis, where we were between three and four years, and where I attended the Marquette Public School, earlier the home of my grandparents, Mr and Mrs Oliver Milo Dunn; my grandfather having been Superintendent of the L and N R R in my father’s earlier days.  My father, while in Memphis in this period, was interested, with several men of greater wealth than he himself had amassed, in building a railroad to be a link between Memphis and Pensacola.  I cannot remember whether it was to be called the Memphis, Pensacola and Gulf, or whether it was to rival that road, which may have already been built.  A Colonel Pond was one of the promoters and my father and he quarrelled and the promotion scheme fell through; though my father, a few years later, took up a segment of the same general idea in connection with the promotion of a small road between New Orleans and Grand Isle, an island in the Gulf once famous as a summer resort.

“I, with my parents, were in Memphis more than a year, and I went to the Public School there, too, and completed the eighth grade.  The school was near a Miss Sally Gentry’s where we boarded most of the time, but we were, also, briefly, boarding with a Mrs King.  I did not like Memphis and I cannot remember even the name of the street in which we lived.

“From Memphis, I moved with my parents to New Orleans, then back to Memphis for a short period, and back to New Orleans, again.  My father, I should add, was of Yankee birth, born in Toledo, Ohio, but his parents had come South for the L and N R R when my father was a child, and had lived successively in Pulaski, Tennessee, Mobile, Alabama, Memphis; my father having attended, in Mobile, the Mobile Military Academy.

“My grandfather Dunn—Oliver Milo Dunn—was, when we first moved to New Orleans, General Superintendent of the Southern Lines of the Illinois Central Railway; a position his for many, many years—about thirty-five years, as I remember it.  He was born in Terre Haut, Indiana; his mother was English.  Elizabeth Troubridge was her name.  The Dunns had come to the USA somewhat earlier, and were from Manchester—I now speak of my great-grandparents on the Dunn side.  My grandmother, on the paternal side, had been Harriet Seely, commonly called Hattie.  She was born near New York City, in New Jersey.  I think the place may be the one still known as Seely’s Mills, a hamlet.  My grandmother Hattie Seely Dunn was of older American stock.  Her mother was Harriet Marcy before her marriage, and when, in Evansville, my father belonged to the Sons of the American Revolution, the near kinship of the Marcy of the various forts, who had been minister to Spain for the USA and a Cabinet Minister under President Buchanan, was often referred to.  My grandmother’s family on the Seely side was one well-known in New York and Massachusetts, many of the Seelys wealthy in the era of my childhood.  However, I cannot remember, and have always lacked the money to have the family-tree re-traced, whether the Hutchinson killed at Bunker Hill from whom she was directly descended was a Marcy or a Seely.  I do recollect, nonetheless, that he was a near relative—nephew?  Younger brother?  Of the last British Governor of Massachusetts.

“I lived in New Orleans with my parents continuously, with the exception of the few months of return to Memphis, from the time I was 12 years old until I lacked three weeks of 21.  In New Orleans, my father held several positions connected with railroads and railroad building.  He was, for a time, General Manager of the International Car Company; founded by a millionaire and his son, to manufacture railway cars.  Doubtless several had invested in it, and I am sure my grandfather must have, though perhaps to a limited extent.  It did well at the outset, and my father added to its possibilities by inventing and patenting a new sort of self-closing freight-car door.  But my father fell out with the chief investor’s son, whom he thought too inexperienced to be as autocratic as he was as either President or Vice-President—he was much younger than my father—and the Car Company, after a couple of years, failed.

“My father, while my mother and I stayed in New Orleans, also went to Spanish Honduras to supervise the building of the railroad from Porto Bello into the interior.  I think this was actually after he had been State Head of the Interstate Commerce Commission his office in New Orleans.  The Honduras road was a success, like the Blackwell, Enid and Southwestern.

“It was when my father was living temporarily at Porto Bello that Dr Fredrick Creighton Wellman, then the Dean of the College of Tropical Diseases and Preventative Medicine of Tulane University—the first college of Preventative Medicine in the USA—went, during a vacation to Honduras to diagnose a plant disease that had attacked banana, and met my father.  My grandfather Dunn, at that time, was a Director of the United Fruit Company, and as it shipped many bananas, this led to the introduction.  My father admired him, and had reason to.

“In New Orleans, in my adolescence, my grandfather Dunn was reckoned a millionaire.  He had made his own way, having begun, like a maternal great-uncle, as a printer’s devil on a country newspaper, and from that progressed to railway telegrapher, I think, though as my father was a train-despatcher at Paris, Tennessee, as his first job, I may be inexact about my grand-father’s railway beginnings.  My father attended Tulane University, but he and his mother had never gotten on well, and he left the University before his graduation because he preferred to be entirely on his own, and in New Orleans this was not possible, as my grandfather disapproved of his impatience with my grandmother; who was, indeed, a “difficult” woman.

“In New Orleans I attended Newcomb Preparatory School, Newcomb Art School, and Newcomb College.  I was the youngest student ever to matriculate at the college, having then been fifteen.  My father did his best to try to persuade me to be inducted into the formal society of the day, but I developed very early, the typical society misses bored me and aroused a contempt that may have been in part defensive.  I could not take everything lightly, as they seemed to.  My parents were an ill-matched pair, and I had become aware of their incompatibility when I was seven years old.  They did not admit it to me, but it was obvious.  My grandfather belonged to the Pickwick Club, and my father to the Louisiana Club.  I was sometimes, in my teens, taken to Mardi Gras balls at the French Opera House, but my mother had entirely retreated from that social life among the wealthy and would-be wealthy and I soon hated what I saw.  I had been writing at intervals since I was 7 and was the winner of a prize given by Little Folks’ Magazine for a story entitled “Helen’s Wonderful Dream”. In New Orleans, after one unhappy infatuation in Clarksville on visits during my fifteenth and sixteenth years, I put aside even boys for books, paintings, Saturdays and Sundays at the French Opera House, Philharmonic Concerts and every concert I could hear

“I write this as if in the third person because I am trying to document a few facts, but the first creeps in, and probably doesn’t matter.  Anyhow I am attempting factual explicitness intended as the record of why myself, when Elsie Dunn, eloped with Fredrick Creighton Wellman.  I did not attempt this in Escapade [her fictionalised account of the years in Brazil and the birth of her only son].

“I was restless in an unhappy household.  My father, when compelled to realize it, tended, I think, to blame my mother altogether.  I was the Secretary of the Woman Suffrage Party, already, at seventeen.  I had written a number of immature stories, had sold two—under the pseudonym Hiram Hagenbeck, the name given by my father to my fox-terrier, and one had appeared—or maybe two—in the New Orleans Picayune.  I had also sold a story about Creoles to the John TrotwoodMoore Magazine but before its publication the magazine failed.  My father was bewildered by my views, which then included some on philosophy, and an inclination to become a socialist stemming from reading Shaw and seeing Shaw first played, and a general conviction that the world’s ways were wrong—as of course they often are and always will be.

“My parents were, I thought, wretched; and my grandfather Dunn, who had always been a voluntary martyr to an adored and compassionated wife, was, also, I could see, not happy, after having voluntarily resigned his position with the Illinois Central in consequence of a quarrel between my grandmother and Mrs Stuyvesant Fish, during one of Mrs Fish’s visits to New Orleans.  My grandmother could be outrageously arrogant, and she mistook something Mrs Fish said as insulting.  And at this point, my grandfather, after some years of entirely amiable relations with the Fishes, took my grandmother’s “side” and decided to retire.

“My father, thinking me about to be victimized by my grandfather’s devotion to his mother—my grandmother had essayed to have me at her beck and call—offered to allow me to attend the Sergeant Dramatic Academy in New York; and I was on the verge of doing so—as I had stopped college in disgust at the limitations of the Victorian view of literature—when my father invited Dr Fredrick Creighton Wellman and his second wife to dinner.”

* * * * *

Next week, Evelyn’s own account of that first meeting, and what it led to.

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