35. London and second-hand clothing

Margaret DeSilver, a well-connected and wealthy Manhattan socialite, would soon be a major player in the lives of Evelyn and Jack. None of the letters in the collection gives any indication as to how they met, possibly in the 1930s or  early 1940s, but it is clear from the letters that have been found that their relationship had been in existence for some time and that it was close.  It becomes more and more important, as will be seen in later chapters.

The start of this sequence finds Jack visiting New York in order to maintain his right to residency in the United States.  He is also using the opportunity to seek employment, while Evelyn is taking advantage of his visit to try to gain information about Jigg’s whereabouts.

* * * * *

To Cyril Kay Scott

For Jack to send on to Cyril please
26 Belsize Crescent
August 30, 1947

My dear Cyril,

I am asking this to be sent by Jack who is now in New York, at Margaret De Silver’s, and who I know would like very much to see you herself for his own pleasure and because the affectionate regard of us both is the same as ever.

The object of this letter, however, is to implore you–and I mean implore–to relieve my distress and the distress Jack feels on my behalf and as one genuinely fond of Jig regarding his strange treatment of both of us, who have written to him repeatedly in the three years since I stayed with him and Pavla at their express invitation to do so; and had, except for the atmosphere imposed by war, a good visit and when I left took a most affectionate farewell of them and their children, anticipating that we would always be the good friends we have been throughout our lives.

I have been here three years and a few months, and for the first two years I wrote to Jig regularly every week (not very interesting letters, perhaps, but that was the war), and no reply did I ever have, except two brief notes from Pavla, which acknowledged by inference that my letters were being received in Tappan.

Jig and Pavla both know very well that my feeling for their three children is the normal affectionately interested one of any grandmother, and while Jack is, as he would say, “just a step-gran’pappy”, he also is interested in them and would enjoy meeting them and getting acquainted.

Knowing that every day during this long interval I have spoken of Jig and every day have thought of him and almost every day have asked aloud why Jig didn’t write, when Jack left the first thing he promised was to ascertain Jig’s address which has never been given us since they left Tappan and see Jig if he could in any case write to Jig there and get a reply which would clear the air of what has become a miasma of mystification and very positive unhappiness, which is the proof of my normality as a mother.

I have been, during all this last year, reduced to sending any mail I wanted to reach Jig to Ralph Pearson, who refuses to give Jig’s address, and offers no explanation whatever as to why, merely says he was “asked not to”.

I cannot force Jig to conduct himself like himself humanly generously decently scrupulously.  During his entire life he has always been good honest responsive sensitive and civilized, but to remember the evidence as we both do of that makes the present situation the less tolerable the more completely incomprehensible.  What suggestions have been made to him?  Who is inducing an attitude so at odds with what he humanly is.  And explanation of any sort would be a godsend.

I have been humiliated by having sent letters to the Broadcasting Company, registered which advertise to the public that my son for some good damn phoney suggested fool no-reason acts as if I were dead WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY.  We have never quarrelled, we have had a few “spats” that never lasted but we have never quarrelled.  Therefore Creighton, who has also experienced the war–this last war–not the other–cannot with his intellect possibly believe he can “lose himself” in that way.  There are all the ties he has to some extent chosen, in marrying Pavla, in the responsibilities resultant; but additionally he is in continual contact, whether he prefers it or not, with Pearsons, Hales, Brownells1 and Fosters, who, whether or not well-meaning (it remains to be proved that they are, except as regards Pavla) do not appreciate Jig, have NOT the brains the taste the perspicacity the insights into art and living that his father and his step-father and his mother have why the hell and in the name of all common sense then, should Jig be a sort of domestic martyr, to every sort of imposed family tie, and be cut off from the one assortment relatives with whom he has things actually in common. I resent the situation on Jig’s behalf just as much on my own.  Pavla is a good sensible girl, she has an average good mind but she is not profound, she is not extraordinary and she is in many ways lacking in perspicacity as regards the things in which Jig’s interest is most vital. [1952–Pavla intellect cannot be assessed as she was too young and immature at marriage for judgements–This was provoked by her then apparent exclusion of me–circumstantial only I hope]

This is not a mother-in-law’s opinion–I was very fond of Pavla and I will be easily fond of her again in a normal atmosphere with normal behaviour on her part towards ourselves.  But I have and do resent (with reservations, for the letter seemed so unlike herself that I have interpreted it in the light of various possible excuses or justifications of the moment, as she saw things, how wrongly–and certainly it was wrongly) the fact that I was sent a letter with such a content (I hadn’t known before the baby was expected) and with no address, and have been left in the period mental torment resultant from such a hiatus in communication.

If I could think of it as deliberate it would be hard to forgive but I think we have every one of us been so controlled and manipulated by every sort of force and influence during the war, that my view of what has happened is based on that, any my judgement of it is a continent one.

You can always assure Jig (though he should know it anyhow) that I will never be a “clinging” mother and that Jack any myself have our own careers work and interests and do not “batten” psychologically, or otherwise But normal human affection has its demands, too, and in a world all but ruined by the rotten putrid totes (and may they meet their annihilation), no one who values his or her integrity of individuality can afford to slight normal human feelings.

So let’s abolish “mystification”.

With the affection best wishes I know Jack shares I am as we both are again
Your very admiringly,

A reference to Paula’s maternal aunts, and particularly her great aunt Gertrude Brownell

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

Eastham, Massachusetts
September 6 [1947]

Dear Evelyn:-

I hope you got the $50 in time.  The mails are so slow and your letter had to also be forwarded from NY.

The reason I seem so unresponsive and do not answer your letters is because I am anyway rather confused politically and of course do not know the situation in England at first hand as you do, but my sympathies, as you must surely know by know, are with the Labor Party in general, and here in USA with the Socialist Party, so there really is not much that I can say.  As for the world of arts and letters, I certainly agree with you that it is in a woeful state, but I do not know what I, as a Philistine, can do about it except to buy the books and the paintings that I like and to protest that this and that are not published or exhibited.  My protests are, of course, entirely futile, as I am not a figure or a force in those worlds and have absolutely no chance of appearing authoritative, natch.

As for Jig, that is a personal matter about which I am also entirely incompetent, as I do not even know where he lives, and letters I have written to him in the past, merely friendly, neighborly letters, have gone unacknowledged.  Harrison1 has clear and friendly recollections of Jig and frequently says he would like to get in touch with him but it appears to be quite impossible. [She knows why I ceased to see them and I should think someone could have relieved my anxiety about taking “sides”.  Margaret is included in all I say of Jig—details different that’s all why guess]

Anyway, as you know, I love and admire you and Jack and do wish things were not so rotten for you.  But I think it unfair of you to make your friends responsible for all your troubles.  People really DO still protest, but the forces are such that their voices simply are smothered.

Margaret DeS

[They should have some sense about Jig.  These silences cannot be an advantage to him, they are a painful embarrassment  Jig is fine of spirit I say, and certainly they cannot deny he has intellect—his book]

This may well be Harrison, or Hal, Smith, who had previously published a number of Evelyn’s books.

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

I AM OFFICALLY EVELYN SCOTT AS WELL AS MRS W J METCALFE

Reynolds, Richards & McCutcheon
Attorneys and Counsellors at Law
68 William Street
New York 5, NY

September 22, 1947

[1952—London they were at first reluctant to cash anything for Evelyn Scott legal professional signature as author—Evelyn Scott Evelyn D S Metcalfe was Margaret’s gift I was here alone and literally without a cent Jack was trying to get job in the States]

Dear Madam:

Herewith, draft No D-14306 for $50 drawn on the Central Hanover Bank & Trust Company, 7 Princes Street, London, England, to the order of Evelyn Scott, which is sent at the request of Mrs Margaret DeSilver.

Very truly yours,
REYNOLDS RICHARDS & McCUTCHEON

Cc:  Mrs Margaret DeSilver

[1952 The Bank here has since cashed checks to Evelyn Scott but Jack had left me access to his account with the signature Evelyn D S Metcalfe.  Everything, in 1947, was a bloody mess.]

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

[October 8, 1947]

EVELYN METCALFE 26 BELSIZE CRESCENT HAMPSTEAD LONDON NW3

SAILING OCTOBER 8 ARRIVING OCTOBER 17 POST OBTAINED LONDON CORRESPONDENT OF NEWYORK PERIODICAL  DEAREST LOVE.  JACK

[They went back on this offer letting Jack work at it 6 weeks pallid also racket]

* * * * *

To Evelyn Scott

[October 10, 1947]

EVELYN METCALfE 26 BELSIZE CRESCENT HAMPSTEAD LDN NW3

NOW SAILING ON QUEEN MARY ARRIVING SIXTEENTH OR EARLY SEVENTEENTH LOVE. JACK

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

October 11, 1947

My dear Mag,

The Reynolds, Richards McCutcheon letter with your gift was received by me just a few days after you wrote yourself you were sending it, and is now with the bank, having arrived in the nick of time, when, again, due to “this and that” (and god rot this and that) I had just two pounds cash left to draw on.  [1952—I had not a cent left in the house–literal]

Yes it was the first time (barring five dollars sent once, which insulted me) that I have received any money whatsoever since I have been in England this time.  When I was here as a Guggenheim Fellow1 I cashed checks here of fund money, and when Jack had enough, in Suffolk, he opened an account for me so that whether the money was for my books or his I would not have to consult him about what I spent for personal necessities.

Mag darling, I told you, I would write you more about what’s wrong with “this and that”, and I am doing so.  And my situation as it has been so far is especially unjust as regards Jack himself, on whom has devolved the responsibility for maintaining us both, which he has done impeccably; but it has been often by “odd jobs” which sacrificed the time he requires for creative work; and as normally I earned as much as he did (sometimes one more sometimes the other) also at creative work, there was never a more senseless and inexcusable waste of two talents.

I will go to the Bank again to make sure the gift has been cleared (I went there on Thursday and they thought so, but I didn’t try to do anything as to drawing on it), and if it is and I am pretty sure it must be, I will mail this then with my very great and continued affection, because the most important thing to say here really is that you have again done something generous and genuinely good that is just Margaret and thank you very much.

Evelyn

Evelyn had received a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation in 1932 and, exceptionally, a further grant a year later. These were intended as financial support to enable her to write, and did not carry any duties with them.

* * * * *

 To O  C Reynolds

October 11, 1947

Mr Oliver C Reynolds
Reynolds, Richards and McCutcheon
Attorneys and Counselors at Law
68 William Street, New York City USA

Dear Sir,

Mrs Margaret De Silver has just written me enclosing the carbon of your original letter of September 22nd, 47, containing draft No D-14306 for $50 dollars drawn on the Central Hanover Bank and Trust Company, 7 Princes Street London, England, at the request of Mrs Margaret De Silver and made out to myself Evelyn Scott

Your letter and the draft would have been acknowledged earlier, but I did not receive it until about eight days ago and the Bank, when I last called there, on Thursday (this is Saturday) had not yet cleared it, but were sure it was all right and will be cleared when I go there to draw on it or before.  As a gift I am sure it is all right, but the longer time it has taken to clear it may have been due to its having been sent to me in my professional name which was my legal name when married to Cyril Kay Scott, and which is still my legal name as regards books contracts and anything of a business nature appertaining to my literary career, but which, incredibly, I have not used officially since I arrived here during the bombing phase of the war, as the literary careers of myself and my husband have been very much interrupted until recently.

However, we are beginning to re-establish ourselves normally, and while Mrs De Silver has apologized for having sent the draft that way, she need not have done so, as after all, the preservation of my continuity as a writer in an official as well as unofficial way is important to me, and especially as my son Creighton is also a Scott.

The draft was deposited in the account of my present husband W J Metcalfe, who is John Metcalfe the British author and publishes in the USA.

Thanking you for having sent Mrs De Silver’s generous and appreciated gift.

Very truly yours

I am very explicit, because I dislike “pokers, pryers and snoopers”, and if it is actually true, as is published in the papers, that the Government reads your mail, I just think it best to tell everything relevant.

* * * * *

To Margaret DeSilver

October 17, 1947

Margaret my dear

Jack arrived yesterday evening full of good news of yourself as the best friend ever was.  I did not know you had again helped out about the Queen Mary and my gratitude is reintensified.  These have been a very long two months and a half, and when Jack cabled about the change of boats, I was relieved for his sake and my own that he was not obliged to put up with the terrible accommodations of the previous voyage.  But I did not know it was entirely due to you yourself that he was able to arrange the transfer and actually, as your air mail saying he was “on his way” arrived last Tuesday or Wednesday, and I thought the Queen Mary took just four days, I didn’t believe Jack was here until he was at the front door.  And my delight was all the greater, and I have been wishing all day I knew what I could do for Margaret De Silver that was half as good as what she has been doing for us both.

He feels very much encouraged about things as a result of this renewed contact with USA friends and so do I, and the one thing yet to be solved in personal relations is how to re-establish normal communication with Jig, but I am certain that it will be re-established and we will be all three good friends and able to express what is our fundamentally affectionate attitude given a little time.  I have my own idea as to how a situation as a-typical of ourselves has come about, and of course while I won’t blame anybody until I am quite sure about blame, I think it probable Pavla has been stuffed with absurd suggestions, which may or may not have been absorbed.  She is herself honest, but is susceptible to suggestion, an she may have been jealous because of misinterpreting various things due entirely to the war.  She may have actually told Jig a whopper, also as a result of her excitability, and I think the difficulty probably is just that, as it explains by inference some comments Jig made while I was there that I did not understand. But he himself is so completely honest, that, as she was originally, I hope it will clear up.  (Margué may be the nigger in the wood pile, as she is ridden by fake theories of behaviour, and was continually inventing “complexes”, just fool in my opinion.)

I wish I could, I say again, do half as much for you as you for us.

1The preface to Life Is Too Short was written by Cyril’s eldest son, Paul I Wellman

* * * * *

From John Metcalfe’s diary

Jack earned his modest living as a teacher in a series of private prep schools or “crammers”, teaching mainly algebra and Latin.  He kept a diary for many years, recording in his neat schoolmasterly hand each day’s events in a kind of staccato narrative. His life was ordered and orderly, and this was reflected in the diary entries, often brief and very similar from one day to the next.  Sometimes they varied .  .  .

December 25, 1947: Breakfast. Work. Coffee. Work. Lunch. Felt mouldy and went to bed. Got up again and had tea. Supper of steak. More work at Maths. Cake and bed.
January 28, 1948: Gladys has sent a box of typewriter paper, very welcome; – and the paper is excellent quality.
March 12, 1948: E’s teeth troubling her greatly of late.
April 18, 1948: E still very poorly with jaw-ache.
May 10, 1948: Letter to E from B Baumgarten asking E to employ another agent.
June 25, 1948: Letter from Gladys with $50 arrived just as I was leaving for school.
July 12, 1948: Posted letter to Maggie, also letters (3) from E to possible agents

* * * * *

No letters from or to  Otto Theis or his wife Louise Morgan for the 20 or so years prior to this letter were found during the search for Evelyn’s correspondence.  This does not mean that there were none:  it is clear from the tone of the letters that were found that the relationship continued and was warm. 

* * * * *

To Louise Morgan

August 13, 1948

[First page(s) missing]  Standing as regards clothes any one of these acceptable and every one needed.  I have a pair of slacks and some old blouses for wear indoors.  I have a coat ten years old and somewhat out of style for very cold weather (worn but usable if not smart)

I have not a pair of shoes—brown or black or both very acceptable, size five-and-a-half c last, for highish heel dress, five d last for a tennis or heelless shoe (and in espadrilles I wore four and a half d—I like low or moderate heels (very high, tire) wear sandals indoors when I have them, and though having no dressy shoes, would still find good black grey or brown evening shoes second-hand acceptable, as of possible use with all future dress (have an old blue dressing gown and no slippers, by the way).

I have no moderate weight or light coat, nothing for moderate winter weather or coolish summer fall or spring; and either a sports coat or a dressy coat (or of course both) would be most welcome—size thirty-six bust gives a good coat shoulder (the best jacket shoulder is thirty-four, but usually the skirt measures don’t g, being larger in waist, and longer in skirt than a misses size)—and as becomingness is as important as warmth, I may say, that I can wear to advantage brown black sage green medium green (can’t wear acid green or bottle green) tan, beige, fawn, and any subdued mixture of tan or beige with green or blue or yellow or orange, or any very small pin-stripe on a tan or brown or fawn base, also russet and deep wine (not bluish) and navy blue, but don’t like, and I can’t wear (beside bottle and acid green) black-and white (hideous), white (horrors), very pale fawn (terrible) and though I can wear navy blue, it is not really becoming, just passable, and lacks interest when you have few clothes as it is more difficult than brown black and beige to combine with various other colours, can’t wear grey (atrocious).

I have no suit except one bought in 1938 and darned, as well as démodé, the skirt conspicuously short.  So a coat suit would be very very very acceptable; and the range of colour is about the same as for coats, although the matter of combining other colours with it figures more importantly than as regards coats, and I can wear yellow blouses with brown, green blouses with brown, pink and cherry blouses with brown navy blue and black, and pale blue blouses with all three; and, as well, especially with black blouses in any interesting floral strip or check if it is small, the more colours combined in one textile subduedly the more interesting the effect with a plain suit.

I have no dresses whatever; neither for hot or cold weather sports or afternoon or evening, so every sort of dress is a fine fine fine if in style, with a close-fitting blouse or top and a longish, flaring skirt.  A black dress with subduedly vivid colour touches, or a black dress with cream (can’t wear white touches, hideous), or a dress in a very small and intricate floral pattern on a black brown or green base.

I have not any stockings, I have no underwear nor rags, especially step-ins and bras (a few frayed, 6 slips, all much too short to be of any use now); my stocking size is eight and a half, step-ins with elastic 28 waist without elastic 29, brassieres 34 bust.

I also greatly appreciate elastic step-in girdles without bones but with hose-supporters, price new one dollar and a half, 28 waist, like the step-ins, slips 34 bust.

I have not a hat of any sort, but hats are something you have to buy yourself, in most instances, though sometimes toques or tie-on turbans or comprise headgear can be used second-hand.

Well there is the situation and of course blouses in any of the colours mentioned as becoming would be gratefully received—thirty-four or thirty-six (thirty-four not washable, thirty-six washable).

Slacks eighteen year size (I have a pair, but just one) twenty-nine waist, brown black blue dark (not bottle) green, pin stripes in same, and any material including corduroy which I like very much in most colours.

I don’t expect any one source to supply all these, nor do I anticipate a full supply from every available source combined, but it does seem possible some could be acquired and sent over, if I do not over-tax, the generosity of those to whom I appeal.

I didn’t mention the evening dress, but if any are going and in the mode, all the better; but I cannot wear a real decolette now, having got too “old and skinny”; and I actually cannot stand the temperature indoors here well enough to wear thin clothes without an evening jacket—so that ingredient is more complicated.

A black brown or green dress, or a black dress with touches of interesting colour, just decolette enough to not to be mistaken for a “day dress” is what I would buy if I could buy one and with it, either as part of a costume, or as combinable with the dress, a short wrap of the jackety order, with a touch of trimming in colour if it were black, or perhaps if the dress were black the jacket could be one of the becoming colours subdued but contrasting. [remainder of letter missing]

* * * * *

To Louise Morgan and Otto Theis

Personal
August 15, 1948

My dear Louise and Otto

I have written to both Lenore Marshall  and to Margaret de Silver and shall write to some others, asking them to try and locate friends who will donate me some second-hand clothes in good style, so I can make a front here and get about some.  But we cannot pay duty and I can get no assurance that any clothes will reach me really free, and I am therefore trying to find somebody who is coming to England to visit and could bring a few things second-hand with her own clothes (a woman, it would have to be).  And as you two have mentioned seeing Americans, and brought the California girl here, I have wondered if yourselves or perhaps Sophie and Ruth might not know somebody who was about to visit England who would be willing to include such gifts for me with their belongings and deliver them on arrival.

It is a favour I dislike asking, but the situation fully justifies it I think; otherwise, I might as well be in prison.  I haven’t even marketed since May.  Not a step can I stir from the house under these conditions.

Perhaps Sophie and Ruth themselves might know somebody who had something used but not worn and in good style and though I know this is chance, I include with this a list of needs of measurements to send on to them if you yourselves consider it fitting.

I stress style because I want to put up a good front, and I don’t want just “kivver”1, as per charlady, as that would defeats the real purpose of being decently dressed again, but though it is a lot to ask, I know Sophie is already au courrant with some of the charitable wealthy and as I have written Margaret, Marie Garland supplied me with half a wardrobe of very expensive good quality clothes which were not entirely satisfactory only because I had to have them altered; which I couldn’t now afford and which seems about the hardest thing to get done in London there is, judging by our previous experiences in that line.

So if Sophie or Ruth know anybody with clothes to contribute and also know somebody who is soon to arrive in England that would be splendid.  And if they know somebody who would bring clothes and would be good enough to communicate with Lenore Marshall (better post than phone) and with Margaret in case they have anything to contribute—then that will again be good and whatever we do eventually get on books will not have drains on it, to the same extent, for to solve the problem, we actually require several thousand dollars (house repairs, painting, etc, a good sale, not a sacrifice, taxes, and things including clothes and dentist needed by Jack too.

And so I throw myself on your generosity, for the time—if you can do anything, as I say, well and good and whether you can or not it is very much to be appreciated that I can discuss things with you both with complete candour.

our love
Evelyn

1Cod-Cockney for “cover” or clothing.

* * * * *

To Louise Morgan

September 13, 1948

My dear Louise

I am glad you did not phone, again.  Often here, too, the phone rings, just as Jack is about to call somebody for me—I do so less often), and we have also been treated to hocus-pocus, by way of tangled wires, on so many occasions, a few weeks ago, we had to leave the phone off the hook overnight and a good deal of the day, until whatever flim-flam corrected it was summoned, to have any peace whatever.  This has occurred so many times, in the last four years, if a normal telephone service were not a great convenience, in emergencies, I would get rid of it.  But of course normally it can be useful, and I just wish, too, the public knew what shenanigan went on to produce, repeatedly, such silly business.

I am obliged for suggestions about where to get clothes cheap, and hope these not utility1, for as I said, when dressed at all, I want to be dressed as suits myself and not as the government dictates, or anybody dictates.  We haven’t got six pounds.  We have under five a week, and most of it goes on the house so we just can buy food and some smokes. But when we make some money I can apply to the place you mention.

But I admit fit is the second-hand problem, though it is difficult to believe Sophie would be anything but willing to inquire of the millionaires she knows when opportune.

And again this brings us back to the vital issue, and the sensible view abut publishing and selling enough in both Britain and America to render charity to authors superfluous.  If it weren’t for racket controlling, I think every one of us be already without the necessity to ask the favours.

Everything good to yourselves to Jack’s book my book and the book about which I am eager to have clear facts—here’s hoping we soon have true facts about public matters, too, and give up huge plans, and a power war which is affecting us everyday, largely because the public is ignorant of the techniques and methods by which it is promulgated, and electorates can’t yet and should demand responsibility of irresponsible governments and forces.

Evelyn with love

During and for some years after the war, clothing was rationed and what was available met standards designed to reduce the use of fabric: these “utility” standards sometimes but not always affected their stylishness. Evelyn clearly thought them not stylish.

* * * * *

From John Metcalfe’s diary:

September 13, 1948: Letter from Gladys enclosing $25.
September 24, 1948: E got cheque for $50 from Maggie, which I paid into bank (it was made out to me)
October 14, 1948: Went into town and bought children’s book for Denise at Foyles. E got first parcel of clothes from Maggie today.
October 15, 1948: Bought more children’s books at Foyles.
October 16: 1948: Further parcel of clothes came for her today from Maggie
October 29, 1948: E got another parcel of clothes from Maggie.
November 26, 1948: . . . also packet of typewriting paper from Gladys.
December 25, 1948: At home all day, working mainly on Scilly novel. Removed teeth after tea, as very sore. Supper of steak. Work. Bed.March 14, 1949: Got letter from Margaret with $100
April 4, 1949: In evening found out we had run out of American-size typewriter paper, – and E accordingly depressed.

* * * * *

In November 1949, Jigg decided to try to find employment in Europe, and sailed to London en route to Paris. He had been given some small commissions in England and hoped to find work at the BBC or, failing that, a post in Paris, for which he felt he was well qualified with his fluent French and his extensive experience in radio journalism. The family had moved to Rutherford, New Jersey, where they lived at three different addresses during the following 18 months, including the period Jigg was in Europe.

 

* * * * *

From John Metcalfe’s diary:

November 17, 1949: Found E had opened in error letter for me from Pavla to say Jig coming to London.
November 20, 1949: Jig rang up from Regent Palace Hotel and arrived soon afterwards, bringing whisky. He stayed the night, company retiring, after coffee, at about 1.30

* * * * *

To Paula Scott

Regent Palace Hotel, London
Monday, November 21, 1949

Dearest baby—

I had a very severe shock a while ago.  The telephone in my room rang and when I answered it, it was my mother.  The letter you sent care of Jack was the means by which she knew I was coming; and they found out where I was by the simple expedient of calling up the Cunard line every day and asking where I would stay until the right ship came in.  Naturally I had to go out there, which I did last evening.

It was awful.  E Scott is much better—in fact, she is quite changed.  But they are both living in a state which I can only describe as near-destitution.  The house is up for sale.  For a while they hoped to live on some money the government allotted them to repair bomb damage; but that was not allowed.  Jack is very sick with the same thing Dad had—an infected prostate, but he can’t have it out because he does not dare give up the occasional tutoring jobs by which they keep body and soul together and take the time to be operated on.  They are both almost emaciated and so shabby they are quite ragged.  The rent from the house is no longer enough even to keep the house going, and the price of fuel and repairs, etc, has skyrocketed in the last few months so that they are heavily in the red.  Lately they have been unable to pay for the gas which heats the house, and the tenants are threatening to leave.  If that happened, they would have to leave themselves, with no place to go.  Jack has been trying to look for a job, but he can’t because he has no decent clothes, and all he has been able to get is a few kids to tutor.

I went out last night and stayed until midnight, then found that the underground closes and that there are no cabs late at night, so I slept on the couch.  But they no longer have even enough blankets to keep warm, and I slept under a coat.

I couldn’t stand it.  The upshot is that I lent them fifty dollars, mostly to pay the gas bill, buy a few clothes, and get something to eat.  They will also be able to fix up one of their 4 rooms so that they can take a lodger.

I’m sorry, baby.  It is really appalling.  Nobody asked me for anything but I just couldn’t stand it.  Blood is a little thicker than water, and it’s hard to watch anybody living on oatmeal.  I am sending out some of the grub I brought with me.

If you can raise the missing fifty I will be all right.  My room here is paid for until Wednesday—that is, Thursday morning, when I shall be able to go to a pension and live much more cheaply.  However, I find I can’t do that until they give me my ration books, which won’t be until Wednesday.

Try to raise it from two sources, on the grounds that my going to work is delayed by red tape.  It seems to me that Glads and Julia could do that between them.  I shall be in a frightful jam if I don’t get it, but I will do the best I can.  You should get a bank draft and send it to me here, or wire it here (to this hotel).  Even if I have moved, I can always get mail from the hall porter after I have left.

I am terribly sorry, baby.  The letter care of Jack was a mistake, and I should not have gone out there, but I didn’t know what I was getting into.  And I just simply couldn’t take it all in my stride.

I have told them that I am leaving for the continent on Wednesday, so they don’t expect to see me again excepting perhaps for a brief visit, which I can’t refuse.  I have between 35 and 40 dollars left, and that will do the trick if I can get the other fifty.  I would think up any reason but the real one, if I were you.  Tell them I have to pay for a laboring permit—anything you decide is propitious. I will avoid pitfalls hereafter.

The other thing I am in a hurry about is the letter to the Newsweek man in Paris.  I want to start planning to do something about that if life here seems too rough.  Paris is, I am told, quite comfortable, and we may be happier there.

I have a terrible pip at the moment, and I am sorry to afflict you with this dismal letter.  By the time I have seen BBC and so forth, I will feel better.  I have to get started pretty soon.  I intend to take a nap and then start on my rounds—I didn’t sleep at all last night.  I’ll let you know what I find out pronto.

When you send money or the letter to Jess Jones, send it airmail, or if you find it cheap enough, wire to me.  Perhaps you can send money with the message.

Once again my humble apologies.

I read your beautiful letter, and the letters from Freddy and Bumpy, and they made me break down.  Don’t give up hope or anything—it’s not that bad by any means.  And the 50 will put us back where we were before, so that nothing will really be changed.  Perhaps you can raise it in small chunks—I think the cost of a labor permit is the best excuse.  50 dollars is 15 pounds fifteen shillings, an enormous sum in England at the moment, the minimum wage being 6 pounds a week.  It represents a month’s wages to quite a few.

God bless you, baby.  I love you better than anything in the world.  I’ll write you again later, when I am more myself.

Your devoted husband,
Jigg

* * * * *

From John Metcalfe’s diary:

November 21, 1949: Jig left after breakfast, I putting him on right track for a taxi.
November 24, 1949: School–and lunched there. Tea. Nap. Jig arrived.
November 25, 1949: School as usual. Tea, Work. Nap. Supper of corned beef. Read stories etc to Jig. Bed.

* * * * *

To Creighton Scott

Rutherford, New Jersey
Saturday November 26 [1949]

Dearest Angel—

Today I got your letter about your mother and Jack.  I put a PS on the letter I was about to mail to you—about it–but this is the real answer.  And yet I don’t know what to say—except that until we have some money of our own we can’t help them any more—after than perhaps we can—at least enough for Jack to have his operation.  I was sorry to learn that they are so terribly up against it.  But we can do no more now, so please don’t get into anything more.  I have enough for myself and the kids with Julia’s and Gladys’ help, but if I have to send you more (not counting the other twenty you’ll get next week) before the normal need for more arises, if it does before you can get things started for us, the kids and I will be up against it.  So stretch it, will you, honey?  I’m dying to know how the BBC thing works out.  It’s the limit that your letters take so long to get here, but I suppose that regular mail would be 10 days instead of five.

I told [Deo1] and Aunt G that you had to pay 50 bucks for a labor permit.  They helped out, but we can expect no more from them for quite a while.  Julia and Glads are doing their best.

Dorothy McNamara, Paula’s maternal aunt.  This passage makes it clear just how dependent Jigg and Paula were on financial support from Paula’s family.

* * * * *

From John Metcalfe’s diary:

November 26, 1949: Walked home, and all three had lunch of soup, – no, mistake, – Jig didn’t want any! Nap.
November 27, 1949: Work most of day. After supper read aloud to E and Jig from This Emergent and from 1926 diary. Bed.
November 28, 1949: Morning school. Jig just leaving when I came home for lunch.
December 25, 1949: Spent all day quietly at home. After tea read E’s MS to p 515. Steak and Christmas-pudding for supper. Work. Bed.

* * * * *

In spite of some had seemed positive interviews in England and in France, Jigg did not secure employment in Europe and returned to the United States some weeks later. Evelyn had been very hopeful of his success in finding employment in Europe as she saw this as bringing her son and his family within easy reach of London and Jigg, realising this, did not tell his mother that he had returned to the United States jobless.

* * * * *

 

 

 

 

 

26. A cottage by the sea

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

 * * * * *

To Lola Ridge

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

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

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

 evelyn

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

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge and David Lawson

Scotch Plains, New Jersey
September 29 [1934]

Lola and Davy dear:

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

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

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

Evelyn’s acronym for Breathe Upon These Slain

* * * * *

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

DSCF3812
Jove Cottage today [photo: DSF]

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


* * * * *

To David Lawson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

evelyn

* * * * *

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

To MRG1

Walberswick, Suffolk
July 4, 1935

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

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

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

He sends his love and I send barrels.  Evelyn.

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

* * * * *

To Louise Morgan

Walberswick, Suffolk
August 4 [1935]

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

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

We wanna see you both SO.  LOVE!
evelyn

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

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

Walberswick, Suffolk
August 12 [1935]

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

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

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

Walberswick, Suffolk
October 20, 1935

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

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

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

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

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

1Background in Tennessee, published in 1937.

 old w'wick

To MRG

Walberswick, Suffolk
November 10, 1935

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

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

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

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

Walberswick, Suffolk
December 29 [1935]

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

To Otto Theis

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heaps of love, evelyn

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

 * * * *

To Otto Theis

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

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

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

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

evelyn

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

* * * * *

To Otto Theis

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

Otto dear:

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

To Maude Dunn

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

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

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

Love, love, love, Evelyn

* * * * *

To Otto Theis

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

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

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

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

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

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

.* * * * *


To Otto Theis and Louise Morgan

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

Dearest Otto and Louise:

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

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

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

dearest love, evelyn

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

* * * * *

To Louise Morgan

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

My Dear Louise.

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

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

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

Much love to all
John

* * * * *

To Otto Theis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10. Bou Saada (1)

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

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

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

* * * * *

To Otto Theis

Rue Coumes
Bou-Saada, Algeria
October 11, 1923

Dear Otto:

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

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

Lots and lots of love, Evelyn

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

* * * * *

To Otto Theis

October 19, 1923

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

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

Evelyn

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

[October 1923]

My dearest dear Lola:

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

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

Evelyn

Another Note for Lola

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

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

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

PLEASE WRITE HOW YOU ARE.  Evelyn

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

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

[October 1923]

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

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

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

Evelyn

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

[ Autumn 1923]

Precious Lola:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WE LOVE YOU AND DAVY.  Please get well. Evelyn

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

* * * * *

To Otto Theis

December 31, 1923

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO BOTH OF YOU.

Dear Otto:

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

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

In the Endless Sands

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

Lots and lots of love from all of us. Evelyn

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

* * * * *

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

 

 

 

9. Collioure

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

Map

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

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

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

Villa Tine, Collioure, France
July 7, 1923

Precious Lola:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

To Otto Theis

Collioure, France
July 9, 1923

Beloved Otto:

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

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

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

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

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

Collioure old town
Modern photo of Collioure old town

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

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

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

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

Love to you both.  Evelyn

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

* * * * *

To Otto Theis

Collioure, France
August 15, 1923

Dearest Otto:

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

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

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

Evelyn

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

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

[Collioure, France]
[September 1923]

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

collioure harbour
Collioure harbour [AKPool.co.uk]

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

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

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

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

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

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

Evelyn

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

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

* * * * *

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

 

8. Bermuda

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

* * * * *

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Elys Bridge
Contemporary image of Somerset Bridge

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

 [Greysbank, Bermuda]
[January 1922]

Lola, darling:

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

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

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

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

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

[1]Escapade

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

Greysbank, Bermuda
January 7, 1922

Dear precious Lola:

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

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

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

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge and Davy Lawson

Greysbank, Bermuda
[January 1922]

Darlings:

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

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

swinburne hale
Swinburne Hale

To Otto Theis

[Greysbank, Bermuda]
January 27, 1922

Dear Otto:

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

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

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

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

[1]Siren, published in 1924

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

 [Greysbank, Bermuda]
January 1922]

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

To Otto Theis

[Greysbank, Bermuda]
[February 19, 1922]

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

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

Goodbye till next encyclopedia from me.  Evelyn

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

Owen Merton
Owen Merton

To Lola Ridge

Ely’s Lodge, Bermuda
[August 1922]

Beloved dear,

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

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

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

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

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

Love you.  Cyril and Jigeroo do too. Evelyn

  • * * * * *

Maude Thomas to Evelyn Scott

[Clarksville, Tennessee]
March 26, 1923

Dear daughter:

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

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

With love to you and dear Jigaroo, Mother

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

* * * * *

From Owen Merton

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

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

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

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

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

from Merton

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

* * * * *

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

And so the relationship between Evelyn and Merton developed.

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

 

7. Back to the USA

The Scott family left Brazil in August of 1919 and returned to the USA and to New York City.  Their passport photo shows Jigg not quite 5, Evelyn aged 26 and Cyril aged 46.

passport image

I have found very few letters from their first years in New York, although I have found empty envelopes amongst the various collections I visited, which provide an incomplete record of where the family lived, sometimes together, sometimes with one or other of a series of Evelyn’s and Cyril’s lovers. The spreadsheet which I created to keep track of the letters, their addressees and recipients illustrates graphically how peripatetic  these years were.

letter ss

During this period Cyril resumed the writing he had started at Cercadinho and his first work of fiction, the novel Blind Mice, was published in 1920.  Although it did not sell well (and is now out of print), Evelyn was hugely excited by this as her letter to their good friend Otto Theis illustrates.

There is very little information about Otto, but he appears to have been an American of German origin, and the first mention of their friendship is Cyril’s dedication in Blind Mice to “Otto Frederic Theis, friend of this book and of its author”.  Otto later moved to London to become editor of The Outlook, a popular weekly news sheet.  Over the years Evelyn wrote frequently and at great length to Otto and, later, to his wife Louise Morgan: they both appear to have offered her considerable practical (and financial) support.

NB:  Evelyn’s letters were often lengthy and were concerned with news of other friends as well as commentary on current artistic trends and accounts of her relationships with her publishers. Quoting these letters in full would be beyond the scope of this blog, and they have been heavily edited.  It is accepted good practice for editors to indicate excisions with diareses – [. . . ] – but the number of these would be distracting and I have therefore omitted them.

* * * * *

To Otto Theis

 [Barrow St, NYC]
April 17 [1920]

Dear Mr Theis:

Cyril is in bed with a return of something—influenza maybe—at any rate pretty sick but—BUT—Doran[1] has accepted his books—DORAN HAS ACCEPTED HIS BOOKS—D&O&R&A&N has A&C&C&E&P&T&E&D his books—Blind Mice at once and the others later.  Now dear unofficial godfather of literary ambitions, I am sure you will rejoice with us that the almost impossible seems to have occurred.  I don’t think Jigeroo has measles any more but he has a complication with his ears that is worrying him a lot and he is as cross as hell and both of us are sick of spending two weeks in a back bedroom but we still love our friends.  I hope you will come to see us SOON.

That Long Island idea is – – – – – – -![2]

Evelyn

            My inexpressible opinion of the plan of sending Jigeroo to Long Island—too deep for words is represented below- – –  [bottom half of page contains a huge explanation point]

[1]George H Doran and Company, at the time one of the major American publishing houses.  In 1927 it merged with Doubleday, Page and Company to become Doubleday Doran.
[2]After the Scotts returned to the US, Jig caught one illness after another; this may have been the reason for considering this.

* * * * *

During those years Evelyn and Cyril also met Lola Ridge who, with her husband Davy Lawson, became staunch friends. Lola was a passionate avant-garde feminist and an influential modernist poet.  (Terese Svoboda considers Lola’s work and correspondence in much greater detail in her recent book, Anything That Burns You.[1])  Evelyn’s relationship with Lola was hugely important to both of them, and each supported the other in a lengthy correspondence which lasted until Lola’s death in 1941.

[1]Svoboda, Terese, Anything That Burns You.  Tucson:  Schaffner Press, 2015

Lola
Lola Ridge

To Lola Ridge

[Barrow Street, NYC]
[Summer 1920]

Dearest Lola:

I wrote to you and now Davy says you get no letter from me.  Isn’t he mistaken?  I did not answer your last letter, dear, because I have had news of your health from Davy every few days and have been so exhausted with Jigeroo (he was with me four days) my teeth, and a feverish attempt to write and to find a place to move to that (though I have thought of a letter every day) my hand would not move when the time came to write.  He says you are better and I hope that means you are at work.  I am selfish and can hardly wait for you to get back.

Did I write you about our (Cyril’s and my) resolution to live apart this winter?  It does not grow out of misunderstanding but the contrary, and I think as always that he is the biggest and best and truest ;person that—well male person anyway—I have ever known.  I love him so and I will hate to hear the nasty things that will undoubtedly be said by the crass minded individuals who observe the outward change in our way of life.  He has a room above Dudley’s[1] and I am trying—as yet without success—to discover an unfurnished room for me.  I want to get this last months rent off my hands and it is difficult.  We have been flat as you may imagine and so many personal readjustments to make that it has depleted our earning capacity.

Do you remember the dark spots on my two front teeth?  I have had them sawed off and two spotless false ones—what fate for a poetess—put in their place.  As a result—it was done without cocaine—my nerves have gone bad and every tooth in my head (I have sixteen cavities, by the way) has ached like fun all week.  In spite of that I am writing novel.  I do not know what the immediate expression of toothache will supply to art—but we will see.

Lola I have been through all the different kinds of emotions I hadn’t experienced already since you left.  I would love to have a compassing talk with you about the inconsistency and cussedness of the human race of which I seem to be a prime representative.

I can not think of anything unpardonable I have done lately except that I have bought me a cloth suit for fifteen dollars which makes me look like a poor but honest working girl.  My black silk suit with holes worn through it could be described with the first adjective but not the second.

It is now after twelve and I am soaked in the sticky atmosphere of Barrow Street on a hot night.  The curtains are dank.  The air is thick so that it squeezes my thoughts out in niggardly fashion—no room to flow.

I will go and jump in the new bath tub for my landlady—the one who has bought the house—has built a tantalizing bathroom in the place where I pay to have a dressing room and for a week I can look at it and develop a strong and resigned nature as I contemplate the bathless winter before me.

Well, dearest, write to me and WRITE.  We love you. Evelyn

PS  Jigeroo is in Greenwich Connecticut where by becoming eternally grateful to a stout lady with a desire to enlarge her personality to the dimensions of her corset he is being boarded at next to nothing on a farm[2] intended to be at the disposal of orphans.

[1]Evelyn’s friend from early years, he later married another of Evelyn’s friends, Gladys Edgerton.  Dudley was employed as an industrial chemist and developed, among other things, DDT.
[2]Creighton  described this “baby farm” in his unpublished memoir Confessions of an American Boy, written in 1960.  He writes:  “The unpredictable supperlessness at the farm, the ostracism every Saturday, the fear of being locked up for saying something Portuguese by mistake, and the lunges Mr. Harper made at my pants buttons when he still thought I was a girl because of my bobbed hair, all combined to bring on melancholia. . .  As soon as I came back to Brooklyn . . . I discovered how keenly I missed the formerly detestable cycle of bacchanalian exhilaration, clammy sentiment and shrill re-awakening from opiates and alcohol. . . At about the time I would have been dosed if I had still been on the farm, I found myself on fire with thirst for the contents of brown bottles—any brown bottles—then gruesomely depressed, and at last dreamily tranquil for a minute or two as I counterfeited in imagination how consoling it had been to give up fighting against the ghastly taste, resign myself to the necessary interval of nausea, and yield up my will to that of the bottle.”

* * * * *

In 1920 Cyril found employment with the Guaranty Trust Company, a large financial institution based in New York City, and through this employment became acquainted with members of the Garland-Hale family, well-established and prosperous members of New York society.  While in Brazil Cyril had acquired a number of practical skills, which led to his being offered a position as general handyman for the Garland-Hales at their property in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts.  I have not been able to find any contemporary images of Buzzards Bay, but this modern map gives an idea of why Buzzards Bay, with its waterside properties, would have been attractive to wealthy families.

Buzzards Bay

This  excerpt from Evelyn’s lengthy document of April 1956 is a narrative of the years in Buzzard’s Bay and later Bermuda and of Evelyn’s relationship with Marie Tudor Garland and Swinburne Hale and the various members of that family.  Although she does not mention this, during this period Evelyn was writing and published numerous critical essays and a large number of poems in the so-called “little magazines” as well as her first three novels:  The Narrow House (1921), Narcissus (1922) and Escapade (1923).

* * * * *

            In 1920 Cyril Kay Scott, though writing novels, went to work for the Guaranty Trust Company of New York City; where he, also, gave satisfaction, as expressed in their approval, and especially the approval of Mr Henry Theis[1], who occupied a high position in it.  Cyril Kay Scott resigned because of poor health.  He was, however, assured, before he did so, of a position as superintendent of the estate of Marie Garland[2] and her third husband, Swinburne Hale,[3] the lawyer, at Buzzard’s Bay, Massachusetts.  The Garland-Hales, though not then long known to us, had speedily become friendly; we had confided our history to them, and being interested in artists and unusual people, they had suggested that work in the country might be the solution.  We went to Buzzard’s Bay in the spring of 1921.  Cyril Kay Scott, in his new position, utilized his experience of farming at Cercadinho, the ranch in Brazil, and, with this, his experience in auditing; and though we were on the Hale-Garland estate only a brief time—less than a year—before the Hale-Garlands invited him to superintend their recently acquired properties in Somerset, Bermuda, Ely’s Lodge and Parapet, Cyril Kay Scott had already reduced the expense of maintaining the Buzzard’s Bay farm by five thousand dollars when compared with the maintenance for the same period under previous superintendents.

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge and Davy Lawson

[Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts]
[April 1921]

Dear Lola and Davy:

We arrived here per schedule on Friday night in the rain (rain not per schedule) and it has been raining almost ever since.  The surroundings are beautiful really—poetical, desolate, only we have all been so sick with colds and throats that the poetry is waiting for appreciation.  The Garland-Hales have been very lovely to us and after I get used to the unlimited bestowal of favors I shall be really glad.  Just now I feel that it is very much more blessed to give than to receive.  However as soon as we take root we can begin to imaging that this lovely cottage is really ours and that the charming little water view we have from it is a gift of the gods and demands no gratitude.

We spent the first three days at Mrs Garland’s large and very beautiful country house surrounded by automobiles and Arcadian millionaire children who go barefoot and wash their own dishes.  Mrs Garland has two picturesque silent sons and one young viking daughter—altogether the most characterful examples of the idle rich I ever saw.  I really like them.  Though of course things will be nicest when we settle down into our own little rut and write.  I think we shall lots.

We love you both terrifically and shall want to know how you are and what you are doing every minute hence.  When my tonsils stop demanding my attention I shall write you a letter of more length and I hope more interest.  This is only to tell you we are thinking of you as nearly continuously as life allows and that we would like to experience the phenomena, as yet unheard of, of a real letter from Davy and are avid for the consumption of any chirographical enormities Lola is willing to perpetrate.  I still insist on hugging Davy even at this distance and we mutually kiss Lola a hundred and eighty times.

Jiggeroo too sends love, Evelyn

* * * * *

To Otto Theis

Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts
May 3, 1921

Otto, dear:

Your letter received the day we arrived.  Contents appreciated and needed.  We have spent three days in over opulence at large country house where millionaires go barefoot and wash the dishes for the good of their souls or the soul of the butler I know not which but are nice and very silent boys and girls very much like Indian princes and princesses.  We have large luxurious room and opulent bath in wonderful comfort and a good deal of taste but not enjoyed because of inevitable feeling of poor relation one has in these circumstances.  It is as cold as Labrador—no spring whatever yet and has rained every day, but we are at last in own cottage and feel it more possible to take roots.  Mrs Garland and S[winburne] H[ale] have really worked terrifically getting this place fixed up in three days and if I did not appreciate it too much I could enjoy it, but even gratitude will pass and they are really exceedingly nice and kind not to mention lavish.  From our veranda we have a charming landscape vignettes of water and pines only slightly obstructed by a neighbors barn.  There is lots of milk and automobiles and Sunday we went to Sagamore and could see the surf and I believe Provincetown only twelve or fifteen miles off.  I do not like to think of being so close to Boston which is only two hours because there is something about sandy soil and large cold houses which was too much like Boston must be.  Anyhow- –

When the weather gets warm this will be a very wonderful place.  Mrs Garland’s estate is enormous and each member of the family has his or her own little cottage tucked somewhere in the woods.  There are several tiny lakes and from all most all the verandas one has some sort of glimpse of black pine trunks against blue water.

Of course I’ve been blue (I would be) and of course have worried Cyril (I always do) and waked up at three am to wonder if I was quite mad. Yet I do think coming here was the only sensible thing left and after all readjustments are made may be wonderful.  I shall not one moment stop hoping and wishing and willing that you may spend your vacation with us.  By that time the Garlands will be in Bermuda and we shall be quite alone and I do believe you would be rested by lovely calm surroundings like these.  Also both of us may be better company by then.

Love from all of us, Evelyn

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts
June 3, 1921

            Sweet, sweet, sweet girl, hello!  Gee!  IT LOOKED GOOD TO SEE A LETTER FROM YOU WITH AN ADDRESS ON IT!!!!!!!  (I’m hugging myself.)  Well, beloved, life is same as ever (more or less hell) and you are sane as ever (more or less heavenly).  It’s good getting where you can feel the world is mathematically larger—and has new houses and people you hadn’t seen before anyway, even if you know that the same sort of bunco is being cultivated by said people in said establishments, ain’t it?  Darling, what a pity that bed bugs and cooties can’t be trained to eat each other instead of us!  Therein is a parable.  Practically speaking I have been afraid to unpack my clothes since I hit the place for fear some of the denizens of Jones street has stowed away in my trunk.  So far all the bugs are in the woods where they ought to be.  THINK A bugless bed   After all one gets much closer to nature in town than out here.

I have written a bushel on the new novel.[1]  I know it is infinitely subtler than The Narrow House but of course more elusive—bits slip between my fingers and I think it will need more going over and around before it is finished than the other did.  I have now had sixty reviews (and a great many more notices) that I have actually seen and I have been compared to Dorothy Richardson[2] until my naturally benevolent regard of the lady is about to be converted into a desire for her complete extinction in the minds of men and book reviewers.  I never read even one of her novels—just two instalments of her Interim thing in the L[ittle] R[eview].  I must be SOME virtuoso to acquire her so indelibly on such superficial acquaintance.

I don’t know how this extremely personal venture is going to pan out.  Marie Garland is a real person, a dear, whom you would like I think as well as we do. Swinburne is clever but more difficult.  We may be here till next winter as planned or we may be back in New York in a month. God knows—if he does.

Jigeroo is with us and that is a help—though not toward writing.  We have a nice little house, or did I write you about it?

Oh, Lola, if we could have had you two out here a little while how selfishly nice it would have been!  When shall we have our tea and talk together again?

Somebody at Playboy wrote me that James Harvey Robinson[3] gave a lecture almost exclusively on the N H and praising it.  And still I get sore at the world.

Well, darling, lots of hugs and goodbye and good wishes and please write us MORE IN DETAIL ABOUT YOU.

Our best love to Davy. Evelyn

[1] Narcissus, published in 1922.
[2] She is credited with the first novel of the “stream of consciousness” genre
[3] American historian and founder of the New School for Social Research; editor of several historical journals

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge and Davy Lawson

  [Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts]

My sweet children, there is nothing I want, beyond just being able to live, so much as to see you both.  I feel that when I do I shall be wild—jubilant.  It will be a dozen Christmases of the kind that children dream rolled into one.  Hear the condition of our affairs.  I was in New York ten days—at the dentists almost every one.  This much I owe to the Narrow House.  And next week I am going up there again and to a hospital to have my tonsils out.  This much again.  Cyril has been so unwell that Marie and Swinburne have (or did I write to you) offered us a trip (at their expense) to Bermuda for two months.  We will start in a few weeks and I pray with all my heart to return somewhere the time you do.  If you come before Christmas I may not be here but after yes, and YOU MUST STOP HERE.  Darling, if anything happens to prevent this I am going to get you and Davy up here away from New York if need be.  Our future as usual is strange and dim. Passing the winter in part in Bermuda makes us able to get through on very little money even though Cyril has given up his work.  What will happen afterward I don’t know.  Being here has been spending in the way of life saving, and yet as you know dependence, partial dependence and favours, have their draw backs even you your patrons are delicate of perception.  Its been an ordeal at times and a relief at others.  I’ll tell you about it.  Of course this arrangement was understood to be temporary and what happens next is in the lap of the gods.  I feel too that if we can hang on AND ARE BOTH ABLE TO WRITE for two years we will probably be earning a livelihood in the moderate salary way.  Just two years more!  One can’t give up with a possibility so near.

I think sometimes with you Lola that “the curse is on Jigeroo”.  He is a weirdly dualistic little soul.  When he isn’t well he is sweet, and soft and occult in his subtleties and far wiser than Jove, and when he feels all right he is just an impish little boy in the street with no subtleties at all in the way of mischief.  I want him to be strong and oblivious—safe in the crasser outlook.  Yes, I do.  I can’t biologically wish him to go through the initiation that you and I have had.  And yet of course there is profound appeal to my vanity in the nearness and understanding of him when he is not in a state to cope with a fool world.

 

Now in a comparatively short time I want us all to eat dinner together with lots of red wine (only it will be almost superfluous to me good spirits).  And I want us to walk up that seething pinch beck Fourteenth St and up that long stair where Davy’s studio (unrecognisable in the hands of Dud) will become recognizable again.  It is grey here today.  I see Lola in a painters smock all white (except for smut) and tea with orange peel in green cups.  I love you both.  Evelyn.

* * * * *

To Lola Ridge

 [Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts]
July 30 [1921]

My own Lola:

Two weeks ago [Mrs Garland] and Swinburne took Cyril and I on a motor trip to Cornish New Hampshire, about fifty miles from where you were in Peterborough.  I enjoyed the thirteen hour motor trip while it was taking place but spent four days in bed up there as a result.  We came home again day before yesterday and I am knocked up again, though not so badly.  There’s no good my trying to pretend I’m as good as knew where any real test of endurance is envolved.  I start in to be as sick as I was in Brazil, though thank heaven it doesn’t last now.

You know New Hampshire so you can imagine the trip—lovely hills, Mount Sutney and Sunapee in the distance, mirage effects of clouds, and on this occasion—a fortnight without rain—a sultry stillness like a sullen obsession possessing all those tired heavy hills.  Marie has a cottage that she bought from Maude Howe (daughter of Julia Ward Howe).[1]  It is fortunately isolated but not particularly attractive in other respects.  The Winston Churchills, Maxfield Parishes, Norman Hapgoods, and other popular celebrities (St Gaudens old home is here) are close about.  Your friends the Mackayes have a place a few miles away.  However we did not visit any of these though Marie is acquainted with all of them.  I just can’t bear prosperous art.  It is far worse than any other type of prosperity.  However, I wish that we might command some of its demoralizations.

I have longed—Cyril has longed—we all both have (as Jigeroo says) to have you and Davy come down.  The humid heat—rains daily—here is agreeable to our tropical constitutions and we go in the bay rather often.  Lewis Gannet[2] just called Cyril on the phone announcing his return from his three months sojourn in France, Germany, Austria and Russia.  He and Mary are now over at Quinsett, Mass, with Margaret DeSilver.[3]  Margaret has motored over here several times and brought four or five wives of the pillars of New Republican liberalism with her.

I have finished the first draft of my next novel,[4] but Cyril hasn’t had an opportunity to do half the work expected.  However, it would have been infinitely worse in every way if we had stayed in New York.

When you get something done, dear child, won’t you please send us a copy or something to read.  Lola, I love you—Cyril loves you—we love Davy, and we are anxious for news of you continually.  Dearest, dearest, I want to get somewhere, have influence enough to choke your genius down more throats than have swallowed it yet.  I wonder if I ever can!  It’s not a very wicked vanity, is it!

            Kisses and kisses from us both, and hugs (and might I kiss you once, Davy) for Davy. Evelyn

[1]Author of “Battle Hymn of the Republic”.
[2]Gannet was an American journalist and editor. Evelyn and Cyril first met him when they rented a flat from him on their return from Brazil.
[3]Evelyn and Cyril also met Margaret DeSilver when they returned to New York in 1920.  She remained a loyal and firm friend throughout Evelyn’s life.
[4]Narcissus, published in 1922

                      * * * * *

Next week we learn of the years in Bermuda, and the increasingly difficult relationship between the Scotts and the Garland-Hales  And we are introduced to Owen Merton and his relationship with Evelyn.