6. Escapade . . . and a child is born

In 1956 Elsie prepared a lengthy account of her early life, to be given to her son on her death, and I have used this as the foundation for this account of her early years.  Last week I shared with you photos,  including images of her mother Maude Thomas Dunn and her father Seely Dunn, from the album her mother kept during her babyhood which I hope helped you to visualise, literally, where Elsie Dunn came from,.

We have been introduced to Dr Frederick Creighton Wellman, the dashing older, twice-married friend of her father’s who was about to travel to Brazil and who wished not to travel alone.  His wife in Kansas had refused to accompany him, and young Elsie was passionate and more than willing to escape from what she found the stultifying atmosphere of conventional Southern society.  What follows is her description of the start of their adventure which she later wrote about in her autobiographical novel Escapade.

I have not found any letters from their years in Brazil. Evelyn did, however provide a lengthy, if slightly fictionalised, account of those years in her autobiographical novel, Escapade.    This work, published in 1923 and still in print, was a literary sensation, attracting opprobrium and praise in equal measure—but more on that later.  Similarly, Cyril wrote extensively of his time in Brazil in his autobiography, Life Is Too Short.

[NB:  Escapade is easily available via Amazon or AbeBooks, and a translation by Graca Salgado into Portuguese will be published later this year by Versal Publishing in Rio de Janeiro.  Life Is Too Short (Lippincott, 1943) is now out of print and copies are difficult to fnd.  If a copy can be found it is an engaging account of Cyril’s six careers prior to its publication.]

We now take up Elsie’s account.

* * * * *

Dr Wellman and myself left New Orleans on December 26th, 1913.  But we did not leave together.  I told my parents I would like to spend the Christmas holidays at Pass Christian, where I had spent two summers with the maiden ladies, the Misses Sutter, aunts of the late Fanny Heaslip Lea[1], Mrs Agee, the magazine writer.  Heart-strings were torn on my side, too, when I said goodbye to my mother.  My father took me to the train and bought my ticket to Pass Christian.  Dr Wellman—knowing he would be struck from the medical register, as he was, though, later, he was professionally forgiven in several quarters—had taken an earlier train to Gulfport.  He boarded my train there, and we both alighted at Pass Christian, and took a streetcar to Biloxi.  From Biloxi we went to Mobile, and at Mobile we spent the night, I as literally virginal as ever, and having bought my own ticket, though I had just the money needed for a vacation and the Boston Club dues handed over to me by Dr Wellman.

At Mobile we bought tickets for New York, via Washington, DC.  All went well as to our arrangements, but one of the Tulane professors, we discovered, at Washington, had been on the train.  We changed at Washington, and as we alighted on the platform, we encountered him and I was introduced as Miss Foster, a friend.

We went to New York and were in New York several days; at first at a hotel I think I have since identified as the Prince George, but before we sailed, as we had to begin to count our money, at a rooming-house somewhere in the forties.  I wrote to my parents from New York City, telling them what we were doing but saying I could not give our destination as yet, though I would write again soon.  We called on my childhood friend, Ruth Whitfield, of  Clarksville, Tenn and New Orleans; who was then at a Catholic boarding-house for office-workers on 14th St.  She was called to the telephone as we sat in the parlour, and when she returned to us, said she had talked to my father, but had not said we were there and we had just asked her to say nothing until we were aboard our steamer.

I discovered, later, that the second Mrs Wellman had found out that I, too, was not to be located, when a young doctor who was working on mosquitoes under Dr Wellman and who was one of her friends and sometimes took her out, had phoned me at my home to ask whether he could take me to a Christmas dance; my mother had said I was at the Sutters’ in Pass Christian; he had phoned Pass Christian and put the Sutters in a flutter.  They had phoned my parents.  By that time, Edna Willis, as she was at first, had read Dr Wellman’s letter, and had decided for herself—as far as we know—that we had eloped.  She first insulted my distracted mother by phone, by insulting me; then called in the newspapers.[2]  Of the newspaper scandal we knew nothing until we reached Brazil.  My grandfather, temperate by nature, and with unusual poise of manner, went to the editor of one of them to try by every means to put a stop to sensation that was entirely libel except in respect to the elopement itself.

Dr Wellman and I had not yet decided what name to take, though we had discussed the inadvisability of travelling under the names ours hitherto, and I had definitely decided to drop Elsie and become Evelyn, not merely for practical reasons, but because I had a strong dislike of my baptismal name.  At the steam-ship office we asked first for tickets to Rio, direct, but there was no boat sailing for sometime; and we were offered, as a bargain, tickets to Southampton, a stay of seven or eight weeks in England, and the tickets from Southampton to Rio as one fare; and as Dr Wellman was fond of England, was a graduate of London University’s College of Tropical Diseases and Preventitive [sic] Medicine—he had gone there when fully trained medically in the USA—and was indebted to Sir Patrick Manson for his appointment as medical director or supervisor for the Portuguese Crown when laying out the first railway in Loanda[3], he was eager to show me London, and there we went first, en route to Brazil.  This was January 1914.

No Passports were required in January 1914 either for England or Brazil.  We sailed for Southampton from Hoboken—where my father was to be stationed when in the US Army in the war—on the President Grant, of the Hamburg American Line.  We had called ourselves, for a few days, in New York, Mr and Mrs Watt; but we did not like this impromptu name, and when the steamer-tickets were being signed for in New York, Dr Wellman was drawn aside by me with the plea not to be Mr and Mrs Watt any longer.  I suggested Scott as better.  Cyril came as a matter of association, though we did not consciously remember Cyril Scott the composer until it was too late to retract.  The Kay was inserted then by Cyril Kay Scott himself, for ever after our afternoon of decision in Audubon Park, I had called him Kay, after the Kay of Hans Anderson’s Snow Queen.

The President Grant was more than half empty; such passengers as there were beside ourselves, mostly German.  It impressed me deeply with the sting of bitter winds, salty rails, etc; for it was my first crossing.  But the deck-space was ample, though we were second-class.  Plymouth, or rather the Cornish coast, offered me my first view of surf, as there is no surf on the Gulf Coast.  My first glimpse of London was of Trafalgar Square in rain, as Cyril Kay Scott and Evelyn Dunn Scott emerged from the tube in coming from the station, where we left our baggage for collection.  We found a bed-sitting-room in Torrington Square, not far from the boarding-house in which Cyril, before his change of name, had resided for a time with his first wife and their son, Paul I Wellman, the novelist, near the College of Tropical and Preventitive Medicine and the British Museum.

We began to sign our names as above in New York City and have continued to do so ever since.  My twenty-first birthday was celebrated in mid-ocean; and on ship-board we discussed alternately possible marriage should the second-wife divorce her husband, or, if she refused to for some interminable time in spite, whether or not we could defend our relationship with a Common Law Marriage in Brazil.  We were resolved on a life-long association as we were, whether we were approved of or not, and were then of half a mind—indeed it was taken for granted at first—that we would never return from Brazil to those who had no sense of real values.

In London, we went to Richmond Park and Cyril Kay Scott carved the initials CKS and EDS intertwined within a heart on a tree that may yet be standing.  We went to Kew Gardens and on some pretext asked for the catalogue of their botanical specimens, and I read with much pride the listing of several Wellmanii.  I had read in New Orleans as much as I could of some two hundred medical and botanical monographs by Fredrick Creighton Wellman.

In London, we went to Covent Garden to hear Tristan and Isolde and Siegfried.  We saw Granville Barker’s production of The Wild Duck and of The Death of Tintaigille—spelling seems correct!  We ate at very cheap places, and I never had enough, nor did Cyril Kay Scott probably, though he never said so, in various languages.

It was plain to me that his disassociation from his children had been the most painful aspect of his life; and to myself—no doubt “Freudianly”—as a reader of Shaw, Russell and Ellen Key, that justified continuing to take the attitude of the married even as to children; and Creighton’s—registered first Seely, after my father—Seely Scott—at the American Consulate in Recife, when an infant—Creighton’s birth, October 25th, 1914, in Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, followed naturally.  We ourselves were very happy in our relationship of that time.  I dare to speak for Cyril Kay Scott, for his attitude throughout to me was perfect.

We sailed from Southampton for Rio, on the Blucher, of the Hamburg American Line, sometime in March.  We had as yet no presage of the approaching war that was to intern this ship but the Germans aboard, unlike the amiable Germans of the President Grant, were an aggressive and unpleasant lot.  There were heavy storms, one in the Bay of Biscay, went over the bridge in great waves.  I saw Lisbon on a day at shore, even then more the old Lisbon Dr Fredrick Creighton Wellman had known when working for the Portuguese Crown and presented with a decoration—the Order of Jesus, I think it was called, by Queen Amalie, than the Lisbon seen later by my son and his, myself and my present husband William John Metcalfe, when we were travelling together years afterward.

Cyril Kay Scott and myself arrived in Rio with no arrangements for our livelihood beyond one with Janson, the naturalist, behind the British Museum—or in front of it—who had agreed to handle insect specimens for us if we were able to obtain those in demand.  Our arrival in Rio, in hot weather, in the season of the temperate zone’s spring, is alluded to, and described in part in my Escapade.

Cyril Kay Scott went at once to the American Embassy Consulate and we registered there as Cyril Kay Scott and Evelyn D Scott.  We had been told of names changed by documented usage in the USA, and of Common Law Marriages established by consistent agreement between the man and woman to their status as that of man and wife in Common Law.  But we were not well-informed as yet and merely did what seemed to us logical in view of our resolve to remain united, and to exact from others respect for our status.

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[NB:  I have researched common-law marriages and have not been able to find any reference to their having legal status at that time in any of the jurisdictions that might have applied to Evelyn and Cyril:  Louisiana, Tennessee, Kansas or Brazil.  Nevertheless, it was widely believed that these relationships had legal validity, and Evelyn clearly believed it to be so.]

The end-papers of Life Is Too Short comprise maps showing Cyril’s travels around Africa (before he took up his post at Tulane University) and South America.  This map of his South American travels may be helpful in following the narrative of their 5 years in Brazil.

More images0002

We were in Brazil from the spring of 1914, to August 1919.  I think our landing was in April, but it may have been May 1st.  We of course signed everything that required signing by the names which were legally becoming ours.  Cyril Kay Scott, for instance, was bonded by the Singer Sewing Machine Company, when he went to work for them as an unknown new employee, first a bookkeeper, then travelling auditor.  He was with them over two years.  In Escapade I tried to telescope events to preserve a story form.  Time intervals in it are possibly less exact than here, though the facts in it were actually the facts, and when the war broke we began to be troubled indeed by the fact that we were there without Passports and that the time-period we had gathered to be essential in American Law both for changes of name and Common Law Marriages was possibly far from sufficient yet.

I wrote to my parents from London three or four times, but it was not until my mother was invited by myself and Cyril Kay Scott to visit us in Natal and see Creighton—Seely as yet but Creighton added when we returned to the USA in 1919—that we had the full account of what my parents and grandparents had been put through in persecution and horror; reporters besieging them, and when they would not be interviewed, inventing lies defamatory to our characters.

* * * * *

Evelyn was pregnant when they arrived in Brazil.  The couple had very little money and they lived first in a poor district of Natal, to the north of Rio.  Evelyn sketched their home in the “baby book” she kept of their child’s first year: vivid evidence of their straitened circumstances.

Baby book


The birth of their child was difficult and left Evelyn with gynaecological problems which troubled her for the rest of her life.  The baby boy, however, was healthy.  He was named Creighton (after Cyril’s original middle name) Seely (after Evelyn’s father) Scott.  The baby was soon known as “Jigg”: as a baby he played in the garden of their home with the family’s maid-of-all-work/nursemaid, Stephania, and became infested with a locally common insect. chigger.  From this he acquired the nickname “Chiggeroo”, often shorted to “Jigg”, and he was known as Jigg for the rest of his life.

Jigg aged 2.JPG

My mother landed in Brazil at Recife, Cyril Kay Scott had gone there from Natal to meet her, and it was then, when she, too, registered herself—Mrs Seely Dunn of New Orleans—that the birth of our son was registered.

Before proceeding North from Rio for the Singer Company, we had rented a room for a few weeks at the home, in Cascadura, of two American Vice-Consuls, Mr Heubner and Mr Momsen, and as they were decent agreeable young men, it was the suppressed private wish of us both to be frank—but of course at that stage we did not dare trust to comprehension, though we may have had some later.

When I did not recover from the aftermath of my son’s birth, I went with my first husband, to the Presbyterian Mission Hospital in the interior of Pernambuco for a needed repair operation, and was operated on by the Mission Head, Dr Butler, who had come there from South Carolina, and was a student of the Mayos.  We were, again, of course, Mr and Mrs Cyril Kay Scott; and our names so registered and sometimes signed by both must have been scattered over all the North of Brazil between Rio and Natal.  As for Cyril Kay Scott himself, he was constantly engaged in work that required his signature.  When, even after being operated on, my health remained bad, and he decided to resign from Singer employment and invest in a ranch he had heard of in the interior of Bahia, about a hundred miles from Minas Geraes, he, so that he could be with me and Creighton all the time, he had the thousand acres of Government land we eventually acquired to the extent of having it surveyed and paying something down, registered as his in the name of Cyril Kay Scott.

* * * * *

Cercadinho was about 6 miles from the town of Lamarao, in the heart of Bahia province to the southwest of Rio.  The area was isolated, rural, and poor, as illustrated by this undated photo of the railway station.  Both Evelyn and Cyril describe it in their respective books, and Jigg later referred to it as “a healed volcanic pustule, the ridge walling it around notched where a river drained weepings from the surrounding bluffs plushy with hanging forest”.  The enterprise was not a success, and the family endured increasing poverty as their crops failed and the livestock died from lack of food.

Lamarao station.JPG

When the ranch life proved too precarious a livelihood for a man with a semi-invalid wife, a child and a mother-in-law to support–for my mother never went back, or rather did not until we did, return to the USA—Cyril Kay Scott obtained employment with the E J Lavino Company, owners of manganese and copper mines in Brazil, who had opened an office at Villa Nova da Rainha; a town about thirty-five miles from the ranch; and there, again, he was Cyril Kay Scott, and re-affirmed his change of name with every business signature.

He was first employed as an office assistant by Mr William Staver, who directed the mining of Lavino in that part of Brazil.  Mr Staver, already dissatisfied, but liking Mr Scott and finding him unusually competent—though he was just beginning to learn the ins and outs of mining—resigned after less than a year and recommended Cyril Kay Scott as his successor.  Cyril Kay Scott was, in due course, promoted to an office in Sao Salvador, Bahia’s chief and coastal city, and had charge of all the manganese mined by E J Lavino, which, either just before, or just after this promotion, merged with W R Grace and became the International Ore Corporation.  As their representative, his signature of Cyril Kay Scott must have become well-known, not only in Bahia and Rio, but in the USA, as manganese mining was an asset in winning the 1914-18 war.

From the ranch, Cercadinho—a very beautiful place—I had written to Miss Jane Addams,[4] whom I had seen only once in my life, at the Era Club in New Orleans, where the Gordon sisters presided—and asked her to help us to ascertain whether or not Cyril Kay Scott’s second wife had divorced him.  I had written to other people the same question, and could get no reply.  My father, in my mother’s absence, had divorced her on grounds of desertion, and she communicated with no one in New Orleans, except her old friend Mrs Richard Hyams and her daughter, Mary Ianthe Hyams, who, shortly, left there, as Mr Richard Hyams died.  The Hyams did not know what had been done by the second Mrs Wellman; but Miss Addams was good enough to have a Hull House lawyer inquire into the situation; and had written us, or me, that the second Mrs Wellman had threatened to invoke the Mann Act[5], to have her former husband extradited, etc and though it was also said—to quote the lawyer—that the second Mrs Wellman was, since, herself contemplating a re-marriage and had sued for divorce, it was, it seemed, in some other state than Louisiana, and while the facts were uncorroborated, we were advised to take nothing for granted.

In 1919, the doctor of the Presbyterian Mission of Sao Salvador, having agreed with Cyril Kay Scott himself that Evelyn Dunn Scott was unlikely ever to recover her health in a tropical climate in a place where medical and surgical facilities were still very poor, signed a certificate to the effect that she must go back to the USA for medical reasons.  This certificate was presented by Cyril Kay Scott at the American Embassy Consulate in Rio, where he was now known as the chief representative of the International Ore Corporation, and an emergency Passport was issued to the three original Scotts, Cyril Kay, Evelyn Dunn, and Seely Scott.  We returned to New York in August on a Lamport and Holt boat, I think it was the Van Dyke—it was not the Vestris.

[1] American novelist and poet.  She studied at the Sophie Newcomb School at the same time as Evelyn.
[2] An article from the New Orleans Picayune is reproduced below.  It has not been possible to locate any other  newspaper items about this “scandal”
[3] Now known as Luanda, the capital of Angola.
[4] Jane Addams founded the first social settlement, Hull House, in Chicago.  As both women were in public life, it is likely that she and Mrs Wellman had shared contacts.
[5] The Mann Act of 1910 made it a Federal crime to transport a woman over a state line for “immoral purposes”.

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From New Orleans Picayune, January 13, 1914

Resigns as Tropical Medicine School Head, Giving Ill Health As Reason
Unusual Manner of Withdrawal Starts Rumours, But Regret General

Sickness is given as the cause of Dr Creighton Wellman’s resignation, as head of the School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine,of the Medical College of Tulane University, but added to Dr Wellman’s sudden resignation is the fact that he is rather strangely absent from the city, and last night the rumours which had been whispered in certain circles became loud of voice, and it was said that the eminent scientist, in leaving, had neglected to settle certain debts owed to gentlemen of this profession and others.


The official notice of the doctor’s departure, given by Tulane University, last night, read as follows:

“Owing to protracted illness, Dr Creighton Wellman has found it impossible to continue longer the arduous duties of his position in Tulane University.  He has, accordingly, tendered his resignation, which has been accepted with much regret.

“Dr Wellman has contributed services of great value to the university, through his aid and counsel in the organization of the school of hygiene and tropical medicine, in the establishment of an infirmary for sick students and in many other activities.

“His department will, for the present, be conducted by Dean Dyer of the School of Medicine.”

Dr Robert Sharp, present of the [missing text] Dr Wellman.  Dr Dyer stated that there would positively be no interruption in the school and that the lectures and laboratory work would be continued as usual.


One of the rumours heard was to the effect that Dr Howard King, prominent because of his work and research in tropical diseases, had resigned from Tulane because of friction with Dr Wellman, friction which had brought abut open hostility from the medical teaching staff.  Dr King was seen after much difficulty at his residence in St Andrew Street, by a Picayune representative last night and interrogated as to his connection with Dr Wellman.  Dr King very emphatically refused to throw light upon the affair, and when asked if Dr Wellman had borrowed any money of him, said, with some show of heat, “That’s nobody’s business.”  The doctor’s refusal to say anything further was peremptorily, even surlily, put.

Another rumour that some had heard last night was that Dr Wellman had contracted several debts with personal friends in the profession Christmas Eve day.  He told a few acquaintances that he was going for a little rest, and even mentioned that he would visit Covington to hunt bears. As bears are never seen in Covington or its vicinity outside of a circus tent, the statement was taken as being facetiously put.  Dr Wellman, it is said, has been in failing health for some time past, and was granted a leave of absence by Tulane shortly before Christmas.  He stated at the time he would be in need of a rest, and would be back in a few weeks, ready for the late winter’s work preceding preparations for the student examinations in the spring.  It was not known that Dr Wellman was in the East until the letter containing his resignation was received.

Dr Wellman and his wife reside at Mrs Gomilla’s fashionable apartment house, Prytania and Philip Street, and a call by a newspaper man at the house late last night established the fact that while Dr Wellman was absent from the city, his wife was still here.  The lady who answered the summons at the door said, however, that Mrs Wellman was not at home.


Dr Wellman is from Kansas City and a graduate of the University of Kansas Medical School.  He had two years’ valuable experience in Portuguese East Africa, where he studied beri-beri and the sleeping sickness, and returning to the states became well known as an entomologist.  He was in charge of the school of tropical medicine at the University of California, and came to Tulane from that university in 1910.  He was a brilliant speaker, and with Mrs Wellman, who is an accomplished musician, was popular in society.  He was at work on a textbook, took the lead in teaching hygiene in the Normal School, and was very active in every department of medical education.

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