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.