University of Rochester Library Bulletin: Dear Hearts, Clara Louise Werner Ward (1889-1973) and Charlotte Whitney Allen (1891-1978)

Volume XXXII · Winter 1979
Dear Hearts: Clara Louise Werner Ward (1889-1973) and Charlotte Whitney Allen (1891-1978)

For Marian Cooper 1

Mrs. Frank Hawley Ward was known as "Clayla" to the city at large, to the newspapers and television, and to the priest who elided her Christian names at her funeral in Christ Church Cathedral. In her early letters from abroad -- now in the University of Rochester Library and central to this memoir -- Clara Louise Werner's alternate nursery contraction is "Clarlie." Her friend Charlotte Whitney is "Chuck." Both girls grew into ladies who transcended a class no longer extant. They fostered music and art, promoted social tolerance, and catalyzed good talk in a town that must have disheartened less robust natures. Just before the First World War, when the Ward archive begins to fill out, Rochester, New York, must have looked like "Woollett Massachusetts" in the novel by Henry James that Mrs. Whitney Allen reread every year until her last illness. Lambert Strether, newly arrived in Europe, announces to Maria Gostrey:

"I come from Woollett Massachusetts." It made her for some reason -- the irrelevance or whatever -- laugh. Balzac had described many cities, but hadn't described Woollett Massachusetts. "You say that," she returned, "as if you wanted one immediately to know the worst."

If Rochester no longer needs to be declared with defensive pomp, like a cheap camera when you cross a border, it owes much of that to its ambassadresses.


In 1973, after the death of his mother, Hawley Werner Ward donated his parents' papers to the Department of Rare Books, Manuscripts and Archives, University of Rochester Library, which catalogues them as D.92, Frank Hawley Ward Family Papers, 1894-1965. There are seven boxes of personal correspondence, two of miscellaneous documents (calling cards, school reports, photographs, clippings, Christmas lists, diaries, commonplace books, and the like), and one box that covers the vicissitudes of the Lucky Strike and Only Chance mines in Colorado; 12 bound volumes of business and family ledgers and day books; and one oversize folder of blueprints, surveys, and maps.2 Although Clara Louise commands center stage in the archive, the drama is one of family and friends, their benign gossip, their clear eye to the world at large, their articulateness and loving kindness. "Dear Hearts," Clara Louise addresses her parents from finishing school in Paris, without a trace of generational difference or diffidence. The Werners are her easiest, earliest friends; she is their thankful and dutiful "chile." They are openly ambitious, musical and indulgent, German by heritage on both sides, members of the upper middle class in a town that has never had a gentry and was raw enough, 55 years old as a city, when their first daughter was born. A good point of entry to their world is Clara Louise's letters from abroad in the winter and spring of 1912. A good point of departure is Judge William Werner's farewell, which testifies more eloquently than any of my adjectives to the relaxed and literate intimacy of some extraordinary people:

Tuesday Jan 9. 1912

Dear Heart --

On the bench I am thinking of you, while the loquacious lawyers think I am recording their burning thoughts. My excuse for this reprehensible departure from the narrow path of judicial rectitude is that it's the last chance I shall have for many days to convey to you in tangible form the message of love which is always in my heart for you, but is not so often expressed. One of the compensations of parting is that our separations touch deep springs of affection which are beyond the reach of everyday events. I want you to know that all my love goes with you, over every step of your journey, and that in all the world there is no one who is more earnestly concerned in your real happiness than your unemotional and stoical dad.

Well -- dearest -- I wish you Bon Voyage, Bon Soir, Bon-bon and everything that will make your trip a present joy and a permanent source of happiness. Give my parting "greets" to Charlotte, and believe me

Ever your most affectionate


At noon on the tenth of January, 1912, the S.S. Adriatic of the White Star Line sailed from New York, bound for Alexandria, with seven intermediate ports of call. She carried a party of four from Rochester: Miss Clara Louise Werner, Mr. Warham Whitney, "Whitney, Miss/and maid." The list of first-class passengers (8:11)3 contains more opulent or otherwise distinguished names. Mr. and Mrs. Henry Clay Frick were aboard, with their daughters Grace and Elizabeth, a chauffeur, a valet, and at least three maids. The leader of the party, the king of coke and Andrew Carnegie's erstwhile partner in the steel industry, was perhaps in pursuit of the Holbein and the two Veroneses he would acquire that year. George D. Widener, Jr., a grandson of the Philadelphia streetcar magnate whose art collection rivaled Frick's, crossed on this voyage of theAdriatic. So did three prominent authors, forgotten today: Mrs. Helen Churchill Candee (Susan Truslow, An Oklahoma Romance, How Women May Earn a Living, Decorative Styles and Periods); Jacques Futrelle (The Chase of the Golden Plate, The Thinking Machine, The Simple Case of Susan, The Thinking Machine on the Case, Elusive Isabel, The Diamond-Master, The High Hand); and his wife L. May Peel Futrelle (Secretary of Frivolous Affairs). There were three diplomats of consular rank, including Peter Augustus Jay, returning to his post in Cairo. And there was the Right Reverend William Lawrence, Episcopal bishop of Massachusetts. But the most memorable name on the first-class passenger list appears in an advertisement for the White Star's Olympic and her "sister ship 'Titanic,'. . . approaching completion prior to entering the Channel Service early in April, 1912."

If the party from upstate New York felt like middling potatoes amongst all that (and there is no evidence that they did), back home they could more than hold their own. Warham Whitney, named for a miller-distiller-farmer grandfather who came to Rochester from Massachusetts in 1820, was the son and nephew of James M. and George Jay Whitney, major figures in the flour and grain trade here and in the development of William H. Vanderbilt's New York Central and Hudson River Railroad4 Like many a boom-town fortune on the near frontier, theirs so quickly turned into old money that by 1912 Mrs. Warham Whitney, the former Fanny Palmer Arnot of Elmira's leading family, reigned as the unchallenged doyenne of early arrivers. An invitation to her annual New Year's party at the house on Goodman Street South (later the Columbia School for Girls and now the property of the Rochester Museum and Science Center) was at once a command and a visa for the coming year in polite Rochester. Eighty-six years had passed since the stonecutter and Freemason John Whitney, a witness to Burgoyne's surrender and the father of the original Warham Whitney, had helped the kidnappers of the journalist William Morgan to tie and weight his flailing, biting body and drown it in the Niagara River.5 The brevity and compression of American time do not dizzy everyday American eyes. But Charlotte Whitney, sailing to Alexandria with her father, may well have reflected upon the thousand ages of dynasties and the evening gone of first families.

She herself would attain her majority at the end of the month. In nearly 21 years of life, she had not previously left the Rochester area, except for a term or two at the Spence School for Girls in New York City. Her expulsion from this toniest of finishing academies, with a long and wealthy waiting list, belies Miss Clara B. Spence's reported boast that she could make a lady out of anyone, if it were not for the Christmas and summer holidays. In a letter no longer extant,6 Miss Spence told Mrs. Whitney that her daughter was too "independent," which meant among other things that Charlotte had rebelled against chaperonage, as restrictive as Chinese bound feet for girls of the respectable classes before the Great War. The assessment was prophetic. Afternoons in the house on Goodman Street would soon be given over, alternately, to meetings of Charlotte's suffragists and her mother's anti-suffragists. And on a legendary day in 1921 or 1922, Charlotte lit up a Camel in the Century Club. Mrs. Whitney, the president, informed her that ladies did not do that there. "Very well, Mother, I'll found my own club." Thus, or so the story goes, was born the Corner Club, at the intersection of Grove Place and Windsor Street, in a house owned by the family into which Clara Louise Werner Ward had just married.7

William Edward Werner had prospered in his profession, but he was entirely self-made and by no means rich. He was self-educated too, although one would not guess that from the elegance and erudition of his judicial writings, which became law school textbook models. Born in Buffalo in 1855 to immigrant parents who died when he was 12, he survived as an errand boy, foundry hand, and chore-boy on a farm. While working in a tin stamping factory, he took night classes in accounting and commercial law. These enabled him to become a bookkeeper for a wholesale grocer and then to read law in two offices in Rochester. Admitted to the bar in 1880, he progressed rapidly from trial lawyer to county judge to justice of the state Supreme Court. Governor Roosevelt appointed him in 1900 to a vacancy on the Court of Appeals, to which he was elected in his own right four years later with bipartisan endorsement. He might have risen higher if he had not died at 60 and if he had been less honorable when he ran in 1913 as the Republican candidate for chief judge. According to his obituary in the Rochester Evening Times (2 March 1916; 8:20), "a leader of the misguided ones who then constituted the late Progressive party" offered to support Judge Werner if he would repudiate the Court of Appeals' decision in the Ives case, which had invalidated (as written) the Workmen's Compensation Act of 1910. Werner, who had written the majority opinion, refused; the Progressives fielded their own man as a spoiler; the Democrat won. An awesome figure on the bench, he was as renowned for his compassion as he was for his learning and probity; rather than sentence juvenile first offenders, he would parole them to himself. 8

Judge Werner married the vivacious Lillie Bolier ("Lillie B."), daughter of a Buffalo lumberman, in March, 1889. In a comfortable, unpretentious house at 399 Oxford Street they reared three daughters: Clara Louise, born the December following their marriage; Marie, later Mrs. Douglas Castle Townson, nicknamed "the Blonde" or simply "Blonde"; and Caroline ("Cirrie"), who would marry the newspaper magnate Frank Ernest Gannett. Although they did not play favorites, the Werners recognized their first-born's literary precocity and her flair as a comedienne. "Don't take part in any vaudeville," Lillie B., away in Albany during court session, admonishes her 15-year-old child, "as I don't want you before the public in any way. You are too young" (1905; 1:6).9 She presumably refers to such amateur star turns as the "cinematograph" pantomime (CLW vamping to hurry-up piano accompaniment) that convulsed junior parties at the Genesee Valley Club (1:10). Absolute imperatives are rare in the parental letters. From an early stage, the Werners address Clara Louise comfortably and as an equal, almost as a contemporary. And when she won a school prize for her essay on Dickens (8:9), they decided to reward her with an additional "finishing" year in Paris.

During the Winter of 1909, Isadora Duncan danced with her "children," and Coquelin, the great Cyrano, died. The 65-yearold Bernhardt continued to play L'Aiglon to disrespectful audiences in order to meet the debts of a wastrel son. Maggie Teyte succeeded Mary Garden as Debussy's Mélisande at the Opéra Comique. Clara Louise comments vividly and sympathetically on it all (1:9, 10). The after-Christmas holiday was spent in Algeria and Provence, Easter in Italy, and a few days of late spring in the Touraine. Coached by a retired actress from the Comédie, Clara Louise triumphed as a valet-impostor in a school production of scenes from Les Précieuses ridicules. That year was followed by yet another of language and music study in Munich. By Carnival of 1910 she was fluent in her grandparents' tongue and threatening that 1950 would see her as a grey-haired Wagnerian spinster ("You know the type"), spiting everyone's pleasure in last night's performance with invidious remembrances of the singers of 40 years past (1:12). She was now all of 20, a traveler, and a speaker of accentless French. Many years later, Charlotte Whitney Allen would ruefully recall her emulation of that skill, and how it was punctured: "Madame, vous êtes belge!" exclaimed a French railway porter.

Clara Louise's letters home from Egypt, Italy, and France fall into two categories, gossip for the family and finished vignettes, sent by invitation but on speculation to theNew York Times. The latter attempt grand historical gestures -- an everlasting British presence in Egypt, "the Big Wheel of Fate." All of them express a class and time so close to late-twentieth-century bourgeois experience that we can easily misunderstand them. Jokes about native "slaves" and the comparative stench of Arab quarters and Roman Catholic churches may lead one to forget that the "Third World" had neither that name nor a glimmer of a future in 1912, and that a birthright Republican and Presbyterian was heiress to a radical tradition in politics and religion. "Doing" the mosques and ruins was a recent touristic cliché. And no finely bred girl could have recognized the butcher of Homestead, the crippler for a generation of the labor movement, in Frick, "the big financier from New York," an amiable and "chatty" shipboard companion. Here are excerpts from the letters, which, as Clara Louise admits, sometimes read "like an engagement pad or a guide book."

January 31st.
Semiramis Hotel

Dear Ones,

At last here we are in this interesting Cairo! For the first day or two we had that strange feeling that often overtakes one upon arriving at a world famed place, that we weren't really in Cairo at all and that the true Cairo that we had read so much about was off somewhere else. But as we go about the feeling of strangeness wears off a bit. This is such a nice hotel, right on the bank of the Nile looking toward the West.  From our balcony we have the most perfect view of the sun setting over the Pyramids every evening. There's not nearly so much life here as at Shepherds [sic] which is the center for tourists from everywhere. It is on the main street very near the shops and Cook's office and except for Arab quarters absolutely the busiest place in a busy city. At some hours of the day it's killing to see people just falling over each other, bustling about like mad. We went to the Grand Cotillion ball there last night and of all the funny things I have ever seen! The English officers are stunners, and of course there were some lovely gowns but of all the women there only three or four seemed even passably good looking. Such frumps! The music was lovely and people were dancing in two large ballrooms, just like two entirely separate balls. After the eighth dance there was an ominous pause in the chatter and then suddenly there was that awful din that only bagpipes can make, and down the hall came a procession headed by the two bagpipers and consisting of those couples who had been lucky enough to push thro' the crowd and get anywhere near the favour table, triumphantly bearing big paper parasols. They paraded all over the hotel even upstairs. Think what it must have seemed like to have been peacefully sleeping and then suddenly awakened by that mad parade. We had supper with some Columbus Ohio, people, a Mrs. Brown and her two daughters, school friends of Charlotte's, and the Byrne Brothers.10 Mr. Whitney calls them the Columbi. They are absolutely the most natural souls on this earth I think. They say just what comes into their minds and since it's their first trip abroad some of their thoughts are rare. Harry Byrne says that the only reason he came to Egypt, is to smoke a Ramases [sic] cigarette over the old boy's tomb. We keep seeing people from the ship at every turn and always the ones to whom we had the strongest aversion. The Smith Bros. of North Dakota are ever present. Mr. Henry Frick, the big financier from New York, and I are very chatty whenever we meet, which is often. He used to stop me every day on the ship and talk to me. E. Berry Wall is still our very faithful swain too. He is the loveliest soul. You've seen him in New York haven't you. We're doing the museums today to get them off our minds as Mr. Whitney says. We did the Big Egyptian Museum this morning and wonderfully interesting it was. This afternoon we're going to get the Arabic Museum done, and tomorrow we go off for the day to see the Pyramids and the Spinx [sic] and then Mr. Whitney thinks that he will feel easier in his mind.

We had such fun yesterday. Our bathroom smelled just like the Arab quarter, due to the cooking smells from the court. You know the type. So we hied us to the Arab Quarter itself for the remedy. We bought all the heavy smells and incense in sight, then came back and burned them, with the result that now it smells overpoweringly like the Catholic church and we don't know which is worse.

So much love to everyone
Ever your own devoted

Semiramis Hotel
February 1st 1912.


Now at last a quiet moment in which to answer one of my dearest possessions, your steamer letter. It is just as you say, and I too as you very well know, have such a wealth of feeling stored away in my heart for you, and such a meager expression for it. It's there anyhow, and I know that you know it, so there now Monsieur....

At last we have seen the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx. They are at Gizeh, about forty minutes by train from here.

We left here about ten this morning, alighted from the train upon arriving at Ghizeh [sic] and mounted camels for the tour of the Sphinx. Those vast constructions are certainly marvellous but we had read so much about them and seen so many pictures that we weren't a bit surprised. Still we weren't disappointed and that's a good deal. There was a very strong wind blowing and every now and then a real cloud of sand would blow over us, beating on one's face just like so many pebbles. We shuddered as we thought how fearful a real sandstorm would be.

We start up the Nile on the seventeenth of this month on a steam dahbeeyah [sic] called the Natocris [sic], with a crew of twenty Arabs. I know that I shall feel just like the Queen of Sheba with so many slaves about. We are going straight up to Wâdi Halfa then turn around and come back, making the stops on the way back instead of stopping as we go up. Several people who were on the Adriatic are going to have dahbeeyahs but they are all starting before we do so we probably shan't see much of them en route.

Write me when you can for your letters are a joy.

With my heartful of love



[9 February 1912]

. . .Charlotte and I have had a real vacation today. Mr. Whitney and Harold [Jenkins] went off to Helouan for lunch so we slept til ten then rose and breakfasted leisurely, dressed and took quite a long walk in the Ghezirah, by far the most attractive quarter of Cairo. It's an island in the Nile connected with Cairo proper by bridges, and is just a succession of beautiful gardens and nice villas, most of them occupied by English people. The Khédival Sporting Club and the Ghezirah Palace hotel are both there, both great rendez vous for the English sporting life. There is tennis and golf and excellent polo every day. I think as a whole the English are very attractive. They are such good sports and have such an easy manner and best of all seem so natural, I suppose that's what gives them the easy manner isn't it? There are times tho when the women annoy me. At the weekly ball here the other night one after another seemed to take special pains to pass in front of me when I thought that I had been careful to select an out of the way place to sit and not one begged my pardon, even after knocking against my foot as several did. The men with them were always polite but I could have thrown something at those old hags, until at last I reflected that if they were going to bother me so I'd better move, which I immediately did, thereby preventing an international "Batailles des Dames."

We sat and read on the front terrace of the hotel after luncheon until four when the men got back from their excursion. Chuck and I had both gotten to the stage where a day of sightseeing would have made us hate the place. We have gone religiously every day since we arrived and really needed a day off. There is a sameness about things that maddens you if you get too much of it. The Arabs are so fearfully dirty, really I have never seen or imagined anything like the Arab quarters of this city, and they're always doing exactly the same things and you know as you see them that they've been doing them in just that way for years. At first it's all so new that it fascinates one but it is only the fascination of novelty for it all wears off after a few days. I suppose it's because all their ideas and beliefs are so exactly opposite to ours, that we can never really like or understand them. There are wonderful sights to see tho'. Some of the mosques are perfect marvels of workmanship and the Sphinx and Pyramids are wonderful. I never dreamed of anything so glorious as the Pyramids at sunset and later by moonlight....

[13 February 1912]

. . .Mr. Whitney says that "there are seven hundred mosques in Cairo, and we have seen eight hundred of them." We certainly have done this town and if our trusty and very zealous dragoman, Soliman, were to have his way, we'd keep right on till we stepped onto the dahabeeyah, but we decided that a few days of loafing about just absorbing sunshine and local color wouldn't hurt us so this morning we went thro' the very last "most interesting old hous" [sic] that we're going thro' I think. We've had quite a nice time in a social way with some people whom we knew on the ship, the Hartzorns, Mr. and Mrs. and Miss from New York.12 Last Monday night they dined here with us. On Thursday we dined at Shepheard's with Harold, on Saturday we dined with the Hartzorns at the Savoy and watched the dancing. It was the big night there and was quite brilliant. We actually saw some good looking and smart women. We had begun to think that except for New Yorkers, the species was extinct. The Duke of Westminster was there with a large party. He is here with his polo team. The other night he sat next to me here in the lobby of our hotel and as the place was crowded and he kept leaning half on the arm of my chair I poked him in the back everytime either he or I moved. We all had such fun over my taking such liberties with a celebrity, when we found out who he was. He's rather nice looking, fairly tall and athletic looking, with a nice red face and light hair.

We dined at Shepheard's night before last and then went to hear a Viennese company do "Der Graf von Louxombourg [sic] ." The staging and costumes and chorus were hideous but the principals very good and the music lovely. We are trying now to get places at the grand opera. It's rather hard to get them for it's run on the subscription plan. Verdi was summoned to come here and write an opera for the opening of the opera house, by the very gorgeous Khédive who had had it built, and Aïda was the thing he wrote. So we feel that we must get into the opera house, besides really wanting to hear some music.

This letter sounds either like an engagement pad or a guide book to me but at least it tells you that I am thinking of you all with all my heart full of love.

Ever so devotedly


Luxor Winter Palace
Wednesday, February 28th


. . .We went on such an interesting excursion to Thebes the other day and did it up in such grand style. Our dragoman off the boat called for us at ten. He is a Syrian and wears the loveliest clothes I have ever seen. He conducted us down to the water's edge, where instead of being taken across by the tourist launch, we were rowed over by our slaves in the little boat off our dahabeah. Our dragoman had a carriage waiting for us and took us about seeing the ruins of Thebes, the Tombs of the Kings, the temple of Hatasu and the Ramesium and things til lunch time when we drew up at Cook's rest house, and there, away from the motley throng of tourists who were feeding at long tables, was a little table all spread with stuff from our boat by our dear little waiter Philippe, who was standing guard, ready to serve us. We were perfectly overcome.

We have been having such fun with Mr. Charles Wimper, an English artist who does very good things of birds.13 He is the lovely, jovial sort of Englishman who says "Oh he's really a human being not a silly ass," or "He's a rum bird" perfectly naturally. He has one of the most delicious senses of humor that I've ever known. He made a spurious antique and keeps passing it off on people and taking them in, just the way these funny natives do. It was a highly colored piece of wood with a handle and a place the size of an eye cut out, and the entire thing painted with sacred symbols, cats, moons, suns, etc, and inlaid with glittering stuff, with a large piece of mother of pearl inlaid at the top. He came sauntering down the hall and sat down next to me carefully opening the box in which this thing was laid. "Are you interested in antiquities" he said. "If so this curious old thing might interest you. It is said to be Queen Thi's eyeglass and the owner values it at a thousand pounds. I am the owner." At that I tumbled for until then I thought that he really was taking the thing seriously. When I laughed he saw that I was on and told me that he had not only concouted [sic] the thing itself but had invented the idea himself just for fun out of an old peice [sic] of wood, a bit of mommy [sic] cloth, and had inlaid it with a flat collar button (i. e. the bit that reflected the light of the sun as he had carefully pointed out) and the glittering stuff was "tinfoil off a penny cigar that I had once." I didn't know that such beautiful souls existed outside of books....

Clara Louise reports on 25 February that she has "written two or three bits and am sending them to Louis Wiley tonight so shall await developments with interest." Again, on 22 April: "Did Louis Wiley tell you that the times had taken my squib about J. P. Morgan's buying the island of Philae in Egypt. They made quite a thing of it. Louis wrote me a very nice letter about it and said that he had sent me a check for it to our London address. . . . I've sent him more things, not quite of that stamp for one doesn't come upon such bits of news every day."14 Partly through Judge Werner's influence, Wiley had become business manager of the New York Times after he lost his job with the Rochester Post Express. The following item appears to be a draft of a piece for him. Although written on hotel letter paper, it lacks both a salutation and a closing, and Clara Louise's fine hand is more than usually clear.

March 29th 1912.
Excelsior Naples

The last stragglers have come over from Egypt and for those who must stay the year round, things must seem rather dull and a bit lonesome, for "the season" is decidedly over. As I look back over a very pleasant two months there, one of my most distinct impressions is that of the very solid way in which the English have made themselves at home. In spite of its Eastern and very cosmopolitan aspects, Cairo is really very English in tone, and I suppose will become more so as time goes on, for of course the English will never leave Egypt. Their very well set up officers and soldiers, certainly lend a smart air to the general picturesqueness, and the English occupation makes Cairo and Egypt generally, a far more attractive place to visit, than it would be otherwise.

True to the advertisement "Shepheard's has meant Cairo" for years, but the "Semiramis," a newer hotel run by the same company, has become very popular among English people who "go out" to Egypt for the season. At times there was a goodly sprinkling of celebrities in the company there, and I found it very diverting to watch them. Watson Pâsha,15 was often to be seen dining with friends. I was surprised to notice one day that by comparison with the other officers about him he really was rather short, for he gives the impression of being a very commanding figure, is as slight and trim as a young fellow and carries himself better than most of them do. It was interesting to see him one moment stern and overbearing with servants and the next charming and delightful with his friends. The alert, keen faced person in the dark, gold braided uniform of the Egyptian army, with the string of medals on his coat, was always an attractive on[e] to watch.

The Duke of Westminster and Lord Rocksavage were also often to be seen. At one of the Wednesday evening dances, my chair was next that of a tall fair haired young man, with a frank cheerful looking, rather red face. The room was crowded and as the chairs were close together, at every move I made, I seemed to jab my neighbor with my elbow. He was very good natured and polite about it and later I learned to my amusement that the gentleman whom I had so rudely jostled was no one less than the Duke of Westminster to whom everyone was trying to be so polite. The Duke and his polo team played some very good matches altho' they had not their best ponies with them. He was quoted as saying that they are not ready to challenge their american rivals just yet, but when they do the battle will be a grim one.

Four Turks who always sat together at a table in a corner of the dining room, talking intensely and looking suspiciously at every newcomer, aroused my curiosity which finally got the better of me. Upon inquiring I learned that the patriarchal looking one, with the long white beard was the "Head Tormentor" under the deposed Sultan; that during the recent political disturbances in Turkey, he and his three companions had been forced to flee for their lives and as exiles they were leading rather an uncomfortable sort of existance [sic]. They were so suspicious that they constantly summoned the waiter and demanded information about everyone who came into the room.

But of all the personalities, my chief delight was a bald and bland western American who had evidently "made his pile" and had decided to see the world before he got any older. He appeared every night at dinner in checked trousers, a white tie and a dinner coat, and always that heavenly smile on his fat face. After he had been in Cairo a day or two, he walked up to the Hall Porter with a brotherly air and in tones warrented [sic] to reach all who might be interested he remarked -- "Nice city you've got here. I like it better than Madeiry!"

The draft of what seems to be another dispatch to Wiley is dated "Nice, April 16th 1912." Clara Louise and the Whitneys had motored to Monte Carlo for lunch and dinner and to see "Nijinsky and the Russian dancers do some wonderful things." But the Ballets Russes did not hold center stage that day:

The tragic news of the sinking of the "Titanic" reached us here by cable today and fearful as it must seem everywhere I really believe that its effect here where every thing is done to make life seem gay and carefree, is the more sinister. Two of our friends had engaged passage for her next voyage from this side, and were in the office this morning making the final arrangements when the blow came. For several hours we could learn nothing except the bare facts. Toward evening however more detailed accounts have appeared from time to time, and about every bulletin board are crowds of people of every nationality eagerly but quietly spelling out the reports, for the disaster is so overwhelming that even the crowds are awed and subdued. What can the agony have been for those who are waiting, helplessly in suspense, for reports of relatives and friends.

Tonight we went over to the Monte Carlo Casino. There too the telegrams were the chief center of interest and for once the alluring tables have had to take divided attention. Everywhere that same restless spirit prevails and people have not been able to stay away very long from the reports, which seem to become more and more appalling.

Those inveterate players who stop for nothing were more than ever a hideous sight tonight with their intense gaze always following the little wheel, while the eyes of the world are fixed on the Big Wheel of Fate which has played so terrible a stroke.

Six days later she wrote to her father, "It was very weird and dreadful to see the telegrams giving details of the Titanic disaster. So many of the Adriatic people were aboard but seem to have been saved." In fact no more than five to seven of their shipmates on the voyage out had sailed with the Titanic: Mr. and Mrs. George Harder, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Sleeper Harper, and the three novelists, Mrs. Churchill Candee and the Futrelles; possibly also John B. Brady and Mrs. Thomas Potter, Jr.16 All were saved except Brady and Jacques Futrelle, who, according to his widow, had given up his place in the lifeboat. George D. Widener, Jr., returned by a different ship, but his parents and his bibliophile brother were not so fortunate. In Harvard Yard the following February George would turn the first spadeful of earth for the Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library.

As the Whitney party turned homeward to a town that lacked such amenities as a symphony orchestra, an art gallery, a resident theater, and a true university, a five-year-old boy, Lincoln Kirstein, got his first look at what there was:

APRIL, 1912: Rochester, New York

Ma took us to the Lyceum. We sat in Uncle Mart's box. Red and gold; everything, red and gold. Drapes on this box, the front curtain; red. Gold fringe flopped when the curtain went up and down. Hundreds of people singing, whirling. One man in a black moustache, red-and-gold uniform, sang; not very funny. A lot of girls kicked very high in black garters. They were fast. Ma says I should say rapid, or quick. "Fast" is wrong. They moved faster than any bodies I've ever seen.

An uncle, Martin Woolf, controlled the Lyceum Theater, a provincial opera house built in the Teutonic taste of the sixties, a not too distant cousin of the San Carlo, Fenice, Maryinsky, as well as my ideal for a State Theater which Philip Johnson would build for us fifty years later. The Merry Widow was performed by amateurs for charity; its cancan was a shocker. "Fast" then implied loose behavior. My first contact with stage dancing introduced me to a preoccupation, commitment, or addiction. Cocteau named it the "red-and-gold disease."17

The major palliative of that incurable illness has been, of course, the New York City Ballet.

Returning in May to the same cultural desert, Charlotte, Clara Louise, and their friends decided to produce a musical comedy. The result was Betsey Abroad, with a book by Elizabeth Granger Hollister and music by John Adams Warner (a son of J. Foster Warner, George Eastman's architect), who would later head the New York State Police under his father-in-law, Governor Alfred E. Smith. This too was done for charity (Rochester General Hospital) in Uncle Mart's Lyceum: "Exclusively High Class Attractions," his program cover boasts. The local press extolled the "bright" dialogue, the "dash and swing" of the music, and went out of its way to commend the show as "a delightfully refreshing tonic" to "the commonplace folderol of the present day musical comedy."18 Even when one concedes that the critics wrote with an eye to the sold-out, socially "brilliant" houses for the four performances in November, 1912, there seems little reason to doubt that it was in fact "the best-staged, best-acted and most elaborate amateur theatrical entertainment ever put on in this city." Between the matinee and final evening performances, Mrs. Warham Whitney gave a dinner in the ballroom of the Hotel Seneca for the cast of 300.

That cast featured Hildegarde Lasell as the "unfortunate heiress" of the title and a trio of Werners: Clara Louise as "a pessimistic aunt," Marie as "an ambitious mother," and Lillie B. herself as "Countess de Berenstoff, a visitor at Hotel Axenstern." Charlotte Whitney played "Florette, Queen of the Nymphs." Atkinson Allen, whom she would soon marry, was "Sir Nigel Rutherford." The photographs of their waltz scene speak volumes. They are light and sure on their feet, poised in every way, and they look levelly and searchingly at the camera: here we are and who are you?

They became the Prince Street Players, a resident and traveling company that lasted six seasons (1917 to 1922). Their repertory included one-act plays or single acts of full-length plays by Oscar and Percival Wilde, Masefield, Schnitzler, Lady Gregory, Synge, Granville-Barker, Henry Arthur Jones, and writers forgotten today. Caroline Werner joined them, as did Roy Ellis Bartlett, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Beardsley, Andrew Jackson Warner, and the architect Herbert Morland Stern. They put on benefits for the American Ambulance in France and for the Soldiers' and Sailors' Tobacco Fund, and twice they performed a "saynette" in French: Georges Courteline's Gros Chagrin, with "Mlle. Clara Louise Werner" and "Mme. Atkinson Allen."

It was as courageous as it was small-town. Sooner or later they went their separate but parallel ways. Hildegarde Lasell married James Sibley Watson, Jr., co-publisher ofThe Dial, and the Watsons recruited "Herbie" Stern and Alec Wilder as actor and advisor for two classics of the late silent cinema, The Fall of the House of Usher and Lot in Sodom.19 Charlotte and Clara Louise devoted much of their energy and limited means to such emergent institutions as the Civic Music Association, the Rochester Museum and Science Center, and the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester. Clayla (as she is henceforth decisively known) had also found time during the First World War to teach French and German to soldiers leaving for the front and to drive trucks transporting the wounded.


Triumphant as an amateur, Clayla decided to attempt a professional stage career. When she left for New York City in October, 1921, she was "provisionally" engaged to marry Frank Hawley Ward, a 45-year-old widower with a six-year-old daughter, Elizabeth Milne Ward ("Betty"), later Mrs. John R. Adams. Hawley wrote daily to his fiancée on the stationery of Ward's Natural Science Establishment, of which he was vice-president under his father Frank Addison Ward (a cousin of Henry Augustus Ward, the founder). Even after their marriage on 6 February 1922, he maintained a faithful correspondence. In 1924 and again in 1925 Clayla was confined by an unspecified illness to private sanatoria in Katonah, N.Y., and Baltimore; she spent the Winter of 1927 recuperating in Bermuda from the birth of her first son, Hawley Werner Ward ("Michael" or "Mike"). On all three occasions she received letters from her husband virtually every day.

For sheer bulk, Hawley's letters are rivaled by those of the New York financier O'Donnell Iselin ("Don Didie" at first, but soon, mercifully, "Don"). A scion of the great Swiss-American banking house of Adrian Iselin, and the son-in-law of Hiram W. Sibley, he invited Miss Werner to a Christmas party in 1913 and thereafter wrote regularly for 52 years. His letters break off when the archive does, in 1965. Although there was nothing to hide, so to speak, and although Urling Sibley Iselin seems not particularly to have minded when she found out about the correspondence in 1933, prudence at times dictated that Don address Clayla from his office and receive her replies at the Union Club. More than once he urges her to destroy what he has written:

"Whether you want generations to come to have this damn poor letter in your letter files is up to you of course, but I recommend that for your own big & fine history you just get rid of this flotsam & jepsam (that is certainly not spelled right. Who cares" (8 December 1943; 5:10).

The greater part of the Ward archive -- slightly more than five of the seven boxes of correspondence -- dates onward from the time of Clayla's engagement. Not only the two major letter-writers but the larger circle as well, family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers, create a group portrait of a privileged class, conservative in politics, socially assured but unstuffy, curious, literate, sharp of eye and pen. They comment upon such trivia as the suitability of beaux (one wretched young man is "the Carpet Slipper," in Lillie B.'s phrase) and upon world events. They are at their best when the public world touches their private one, as in Caroline Werner Gannett's 1929 note on White House stationery, suggesting that the Wards christen their second child " 'erbert 'oover," or in her reports on her husband's 1940 candidacy for the Republican Presidential nomination. Hawley Ward prefers the "old classics" to "ultra modern music"; in that context we hear about internecine pushing and shoving at the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Eugene Goossens' victory over Eric Coates, and the appointment of the 29-year-old Howard Hanson as head of the new Eastman School of Music (1924-25, passim; 3:10-4. 3). A number of lively minor characters emerge, including the landscape architect Fletcher Steele, who regards Clayla as "grand good company -- & much besides -- about as honest as I am & much more clever" (undated; 4:11). Then there is the journalist Andrew Jackson Warner ("Jack"), namesake of his architect grandfather, a waspish, dandified figure, who likes and dislikes strongly and vociferously. He detests opera critics and Frank Gannett (1943; 5:10); he adores cats, his mother, and the former Mrs. Wallis Simpson. A delightful Iselin letter of 1937 shows Jack bracing for the arrival of the Windsors in New York, where a check for $150,000 also awaits them. Or so rumor has it. In return for that honorarium, they will drive only Buicks while in the United States. Don glowers: "It would be the height of folly for us quiet folk to get even slightly mixed up with that gang" (5:4).

Clayla was 32 at the time of her engagement and a leader of the "older younger set." She had attracted other men, but none of them, however sentimental, proposes marriage in his extant letters. "I could transfuse my very soul with yours to-night," an admirer writes; however, "There is no place in a modern world for such love as this" (1919; 2:4). One of Clayla's followers was already married. Others would never marry anyone. By far the most eminent of them was George Eastman, 35 years her senior, who enters the archive with an engraved invitation, one of perhaps 1,200, to a ball at his mansion on New Year's night, 1914. That was the evening on which old Rochester traditionally went to Fanny Whitney's. It was no coincidence. Eastman intended his party to shatter her hegemony, and it did so. Clayla has written "answered" in the upper-right-hand corner, but not whether or not she accepted.

The next item from Eastman, dated seven weeks later, is an almost illegible postcard from the Augusta (Georgia) Country Club. It appears to read, "The Hyena is still grinning and the ground covered with snow" (1:16). Then there is silence until 26 December 1919, when this wintriest, most laconic of industrialists warms up perhaps as much as he ever did: "As I have come to know you better I have grown more and more fond of you and I want you to know that I welcome your friendship more than I can say -- If the New Year allows me to see you oftener it will be just so much happier" (2:4). The Werners had influenza that Winter, as did much of the country. Eastman writes on 7 February 1920, "I hope you will let me know as soon as the bad fairy sets you free because I want to see you." In spring Clayla kissed him bon voyage on a business trip. He compliments her "method of saying goodbye" and hopes that "the same technique [will] be used in the ceremony of welcome home" (20 April).

Clayla's younger sister Cirrie had just married the 43-year-old Frank Gannett, and there had been talk. "Nothing really matters," comments Lillie B., "except that she and Frank love each other and of that there is no doubt. What anyone else even we --

says     does    thinks

or   or   is secondary and certainly unimportant"

say do  think

(12 March). It is hard not to suspect a family pattern here, originating in the mother's own marriage and mandating that Clayla would prepare a line of retreat, a "provisional" engagement, before she set out 18 months later in pursuit of a "chance" in the New York theater. Her friend Roy Bartlett guesses shrewdly: "You were going in for the artist and Bohemian life to such an extent when I left [Rochester]! To counterbalance your some times forced presence at Horseback Hall I take it" (19 June).

By midsummer Clayla has lamented the difference in their ages. "Alas my dear Clara Louise," Eastman replies, "it is not that you were born too late but that I was born too early -- I would not have you changed a hair line -- " (13 July). And on 11 August:  "You surely have a kind heart to sandwich a letter in between warships submarines motor boats air ships dancing and -- perhaps -- flirting." Sometime this year Eastman invites her for "a ride in the 'Clara Louise," an automobile he has named after her. And then she oversteps an unmarked latitude. Lacking her side of the correspondence, one can only guess what she suggested they do in order to stop the gossip. In Eastman's final letter, he is moving full speed astern:

Nov 9th/20

900 East Avenue.

Dear Clara Louise,

I think you take the affair too seriously. The rumors will die away and people will realize that they have been fooled again by the busy-bodies. The only thing we can do is to follow a course that won't keep them alive. I have been keeping away from you on that account. Of course I don't intend to let such a lot of foolish stuff interfere with our friendship. That is up to you. I can only say I hope you won't cut me off.

You and your mother are on the invitation list for next sunday for the music. You will of course use your own judgement about coming. If you don't come I shall miss you, but understand the reason. If you do come I shall be delighted to see you.

I am going south for a month and by the time I get back I should think people will have something else to gossip about. In the meantime don't worry about it.

Ever your friend

G Eastman

Here, from the same period, are a letter and the poem it enclosed:

Silver Lake, N. H.
Tel. Tel. R. R. Madison

Dear Clālă (?)       

I    am/ always will be/was very sorry you went away over Sunday. The rose (do you remember? no, of course.) lived till I went away (last night). It was a wonderful rose. It, + the nice old man (Stebbins?) who dined with us all at the Sibleys, = the poem. (You won't like it -- write and tell me so.) Be very good till next year, when you may marry, if you like -- But let it be a Count, or somebody who will appreciate your charms, please. . .

Hoping you may be "annoyed" as often as you may like, I am

Everlastingly yours,

Estlin C.

The Rose.20

Dying is the rose.
A tired whiteness slopes along the jar,
Of cringing petals.
Limply upon the water sags a heart.

Round about, mysteriously,
Invisible mourners move,
With prose faces and sobbing garments.

The symbol of the rose,
Motionless, with folded feet and wings,
Mounts, against the margins of steep song
A stallion sweetness.

The dead lips of an old man murder the petals.
His faded eyes green with tears,
He is silent.
And looking upon the punished neck and stumbling shoulders of a young man,
And beholding a girl's blind lips and groping body,
Over the old heart
Come curves and draperies of forgotten dreams flooding,
Sudden roses.

Estlin Cummings

The phonetic spelling of her nickname suggests that Clayla Werner had met E. E. Cummings for the first time at the Sibleys' dinner party. They were probably the younger Sibleys, Harper and Georgianna, of 400 East Avenue, and the "nice old man" was perhaps Dr. Henry H. Stebbins, who lived around the corner at 24 Prince Street. Although filed in 4:11 (Correspondence, 192-), the poem and covering note were almost certainly written in 1919. Demobilized in January, Cummings spent the remainder of that year putting together the original manuscript of his first book of poems, Tulips and Chimneys,21 whose sexual frankness and vers libre scared off many a publisher. Thomas Seltzer brought out a volume of selections in 1923, with a shorter version of "The Rose" as Portrait XIX. It is typographically unorthodox (Cummings' hallmark for the casual reader) and varies in several interesting though minor details. Not at all minor is the omission of the last seven lines that appear in Clayla's copy. By 1922 Cummings had cut the heart out of the poem he had perhaps written for her, and if so, perhaps to tease her. Gone are the false springtime of senile lust, with its tinge of sadism, and the astonishing rhetoric that conveys it, a flood of participles and words that sound like participles: "green," "young," "blind," "sudden."

Poets so rarely intimate the origins of particular lyrics that the double document at Rochester can be called a treasure. Cummings' deeper and more durable local relationship with the Sibley Watsons is beyond the scope of this essay.

Here is another artist:

501 W. 110th St., New York City.

April 3, '25

Dear Mrs. Ward,

You say you and your friends missed me on Mr. Whiteman's return to Rochester. Well, I can assure you I'm sorry I wasn't there, for of all the cities I visited on my three week's trip with Mr. Whiteman, the one I enjoyed most was, please believe me, Rochester.

I hope I shall be able to see you all again soon. It can't be very soon, however, as I leave for London on the 18th to help put on an English production of "My Fair Lady," (a musical comedy I have just completed which opens on this side April 6th, in Atlantic City).

About the "Mischa" song, I'm afraid nothing can be done just now. It has been promised to Aarons and Freedley, producers of my "Lady, Be Good!," for their new Fall production, and of course it would be unfair to them to have the song get around before being introduced in their show.

Incidentally you may be interested to know that Mr. Damrosch has asked me to write a Fantasy for his orchestra for next November. I hope, if it gets over, Mr. Goos[s]ens will ask me to play it in Rochester.

George Gershwin.22

Clayla had asked for a copy of "Mischa, Toscha, Jascha, Sascha," Gershwin's send-up of violin prodigies, perhaps for use in an amateur show. My Fair Lady became Tell Me More, one of Gershwin's few unqualified flops. The orchestral fantasy debuted at Carnegie Hall on 9 December as Concerto in F, with Walter Damrosch on the podium and the composer at the piano. The tone of Gershwin's letter is correct, though friendly, as befits so new an acquaintanceship. Nevertheless, if we may credit Elbert Newton's arch comments on the subject, he was on his way to becoming a Claylaphile: "I hope Herbert was decent enough to tell you that George Gershwin specially liked you. Maybe he didn't, meaning Herbert, because he was peevish because I didn't say that G. G. adored him! Foolish Herbert, for G. G. wouldn't have accepted his many invitations if he hadn't immediately liked him. I regard it as fin de saison mood on H.'s part. If I didn't, I should say the dear thing was getting old, which you needn't tell him" (17 June 1925; 4:5).

Clayla's closest ties in the world of arts and letters were with her second son Addison Werner Ward ("Ad" or, jokingly, "George") and his friend and mentor William Meredith, who was a 28-year-old instructor of creative writing when Addison entered Princeton in 1947. So successfully did they bridge the gap between their ages and that between teacher and student that by the end of the spring term Ad could report to his parents that "Bill. . . has asked me to spend part of the summer with him -- the place hasn't been chosen as yet, but will probably be New York or his native Darien, Conn. The object of the sojourn will be to, as he put it, put in a six hour day learning how to write poetry. This is being interpreted as reading and writing" (28 May 1948; 6. 4). An accident in June ("Ad got broken," says Meredith) shifted the locale of the project. His pupil was confined to Grove Place and the cottage in Canandaigua, so Meredith came to Rochester in July, at Clayla's invitation. Their work prospered. Before the end of the year Poetry agreed to publish a fine lyric by Addison:


Monsters in their grottos are protected
From children and policemen, but the delights
Of safety are overrated. Summer nights
Bring back the human errors once corrected
By being a monster; drive them forth, expected,
To streets which empty at their approach. The lights
Expose perhaps one child untutored in fright
Who stays and smiles as if nothing were suspected.

It is agreed that parents should be able
To give a simple name to everything,
And smile when children ask too many reasons:
Psychology instructs us. But in the fable
A young girl's kiss brought sudden, lancing spring
To a frightened mind that had put away its seasons.

After graduating summa cum laude, Addison took a master's degree in English at the University of Rochester in 1952 and a Ph.D. at Yale, where he taught for five years. His letters home, even the earliest of them from St. Paul's School, are full of dash and brio, but he is especially entertaining on graduate studies in the middle 1950's. On 12 June 1954 he married Mary Helen Chappell, and William Meredith wrote them a poem as a wedding gift. The inscribed presentation copy is in the archive (6. 9):

To Absent Friends24

It may be no one is absent who is thought of:
This wordy game -- the Bishop and the Quad -- 
Beguiles departed lovers, who may be said
With a certain accuracy to exist through love[.]
But how we others are gathered under the sky,
Welkin-friends, ruined or happy, alive or dead,
Doing each other favors, praising god,
Is in a droller, more than verbal way.

Like Irishmen, we only think the best
Of people, once inside the smokey bar
Of our regard. Firelight makes us tall,
As close to heroes and heroines as yeast
Will leaven fact. And though we drink no more
Together, the straight roles affection cast
Us in, the brave lines, stick with us still
And friend acts out friend's hero to the last.

For M. H. W. & A. W. W. from W. M. with fond wishes

Rochester 12. vi. 54

On Palm Sunday, 1965, a line of tornadoes took about 250 lives in the Midwest. One of them flattened every building in the farming hamlet of Pittsfield Center, Ohio, and killed nine of the 50 inhabitants. Among the dead were Dr. Addison Ward, a 35 year-old assistant professor of English at Oberlin College, and his son Peter, aged seven. Mary Helen was buried up to the shoulders in the pile of bricks that had crushed her husband and child, but she survived, as did another son, Andrew, and the five-year-old Edith, who was blown out of the house and later found in the road.25

Hundreds of cards, telegrams, and letters of sympathy fill the last box of Ward correspondence. They make harrowing reading and remind one how difficult it is to find fitting words in that genre. The strongest letters come from literary men, and even they grope for metaphors that can partially contain the uncontainable. Not unexpectedly, the Book of Job is never very far away. "Out of the dark (not out of the blue) comes this dreadful stroke. . . ." George Ford writes, much as Meredith does to Clayla:  "Addison made a lovely thing of his life, and he had faced up to life in so many surprising ways that it was almost in character, as you suggested, that it finished in a whirlwind, bleak as it is for those of us who in our various ways loved him." And Bernard Schilling refuses to be a "comforter." Here is one paragraph from his altogether magnificent letter:

It is idle, however, to speak of consolation -- there is none. A measure of ironic comfort only may be derived from so bitter an absolute. The spectacle of waste and loss is so unrelieved, the cruelty so gratuitous as to mock at the ordinary human resources of endurance. I shall not insult your bereavement by pretending to make it less.

Yeats's "Gratitude to the Unknown Instructors" was read at the memorial service in Oberlin. When the widows parted (Frank Hawley Ward had died in 1958), Clayla urged Mary Helen to marry again (7:19). Back home, she sent out printed cards:  "Clayla Ward and her Family / are deeply grateful /  For your beautiful expression of sympathy /  which meant more to them than you will ever know." Inside is the poem by Yeats:

What they undertook to do
They brought to pass;
All things hang like a drop of dew
Upon a blade of grass.

The year 1965 and the Ward family archive end on a note of recovery. Mary Helen writes of her engagement to Henry Pope, the son of an English professor at Yale, and the Rochester Museum and Science Center names Clayla for the Rochester Civic Medal. There are letters of  congratulations from the city at large, an outpouring of love as intense as the grief of five months before.

The award ceremony took place in the Civic Auditorium on Friday evening, 6 November. Charlotte Whitney Allen was there with Fletcher Steele. For all their joy, they were old people now and went home early, right after Clayla's speech of thanks.


The custom of the country dictated that proper girls get married in St. Paul's, so Charlotte Whitney had her wedding held at home, with Clara Louise Werner as bridesmaid and, without precedent, a Jew, Herbert Stern, as an usher. The groom was Atkinson Allen ("Rap" or "Rappy"), vice-president of the Allen Woolen Mills and later an employee of the Manhattan Storage Company. The childless union lasted 20 years, from September, 1914, until their Mexican divorce in 1934.

The Whitneys built them a house on a 90- by 200-foot lot at number 2 (now 32) Oliver Street, and in 1916 Fletcher Steele submitted the first drawings for the city garden that he considered his masterpiece. Although it could have fitted many times within his celebrated Naumkeag Gardens in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, it was, like its owners, elegant and compact. Work went slowly; both client and architect were perfectionists. Mrs. Allen banished all but a few flowers, not on the reported sentimental ground that "they always die," but because in doing so they make a clutter.

Money, or rather the lack of it, also delayed construction. Charlotte Whitney Allen did not come into her full share in the Arnot family trust until her mother's death in 1936, and Steele put a high price on his talent and time. Gaston Lachaise was commissioned in 1926 to sculpt the heroic nude that dominated the garden from its roofed niche on the fountain terrace. In 1937 Steele completed his designs for the chain-mail Saracen tent that he called the "swimming pool shelter" and Mrs. Whitney Allen called "the drinking pit."

On his way home from Chicago in 1935, Alexander Calder looked in on the work-in-progress and took an historic step in his own career:

On the return trip I stopped off at Rochester to see Mrs. Charlotte Allen, who had been introduced to me by Fletcher Steele, the landscape architect -- he had been interested in my show at the Galerie Vignon in 1932.

Mrs. Allen wanted a mobile for her garden which Fletcher Steele had designed -- this was the first object I made for out of doors. As I remember, it consisted of some quite heavy iron discs that I found in a blacksmith's shop in Rochester and had them welded to rods progressively getting heavier and heavier.

Fletcher had laid out the garden so that it made a zigzag labyrinth round three sides of a pool and then back again, and ended up behind a hedge. By the pool was a large oak tree, and we were very much amused when Charlotte told us one day -- Louisa [Mrs. Calder] and me -- that she once had a bill from Fletcher:

$50. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Concentration on tree.26

Three years later Calder sold her the delightful "Flat Cat" (remembered by him as "The Flattest Cat"27) that sat on a table in the drawing room, flattened perhaps by boredom with the muddy Matisse landscape that hung on a nearby wall. He made jewelry for her, too, and other minor, impromptu objects: during conversation, his restless hands would fish wire from one pocket and pliers from another.

Charlotte and Clayla remained traveling companions and lifelong confidantes. In June, 1921, they sailed to England on White Star's Celtic, where Clayla "had some parleying with Einstein who is homeward bound after his meteoric career. He found it bewildering since he speaks no English. . ." (13 June 1921; 2:7). The single extant sheet of this letter breaks off here, but we may assume that it was America, not the trilingual Clayla, that disoriented Einstein. Three days later the women crossed the Channel by airplane. Near the end of their lives Mrs. Ward would insist that they had been bounced somersault out of their wicker chairs upon landing in Paris, and Mrs. Whitney Allen would insist that they had not been. (The Ward archive corroborates Charlotte.)

This was the summer that followed Clayla's involvement with Eastman and preceded her bid for a stage career and her "provisional" autumn engagement to Hawley Ward. An undated note (4:11), probably from this time, and perhaps indicating that Clayla had stormed Kodak to tell its tycoon off, may be assigned one absolute provenance, the surety of friends:

2, Oliver Street
Sunday Morning.

Clay dear, I wonder if you realize that during your recital in the bath room the other night (how unromantic!) about your visit to the office of "G. E."(!) that the expressman drew up in his largest wagon but the packages for you were so large that he could not deliver them -- Now with the aid of his fountain pen he wants to deliver some of the smaller ones at least. It was a superb thing to do, my dear, and one of those rare episodes that effectually take the curse off this more or less difficult experience -- la Vie -- Thank you --


Although leisured, they both kept busy, not only with their numerous philanthropies, but also at actual jobs. With the boys away -- Hawley in the Navy and Addison at prep school -- Clayla in 1944 joined Sibley, Lindsay and Curr as a public relations consultant. Sibley's would eventually name its fifth-floor Ward Gallery in her honor. In 1936 Charlotte inherited a bookstore from her stepfather, Clarence W. Smith, whom Fanny Whitney had married after Warham's death in 1929. For many years, a sight to see in Rochester was the chauffeured Ford touring car, then the Daimler, and at last the Checker that carried the self-styled "working girl" down East Avenue to her shop in the basement of Woodside, the Rochester Historical Society.

Intensely patriotic, she was especially proud of her role as cofounder and "custodian" of the U.S. Sinking Fund. Between January, 1942, and August, 1945, over a luncheon table at the Corner Club, Charlotte raised $100,000 in war bonds. Admiral Nimitz became the Fund's sponsor, and General Eisenhower sent his personal thanks.

Every afternoon came a pause in the day's occupations that Mrs. Whitney Allen called "the chilled-glass hour," with no apologies whatever to Longfellow. At four-thirty or thereabouts the heavy outer door to 32 Oliver Street would open and callers would begin to arrive. On a given afternoon one might meet the surviving friends of her youth; artists, writers, musicians, and other professional people; and neighbors. The categories overlapped, and the number and mixture of visitors varied daily, but the martinis were always very dry, the cheese had been flown up from Maison Glass in New York, and the talk was witty and fluent. The hostess observed certain ancient proprieties: she never addressed by his or her first name anyone she had not known most of her life, and she sometimes switched to French when a servant entered the room ("Vous connaissez ces espèces de domestiques!"). It could not rightly be called a salon. It was too homely, one may say too American, for that. But it could sparkle and enchant.

For all her erudition, Mrs. Whitney Allen felt keenly her lack of formal education. In an effort to lighten that sadness, a kind young friend informed the alumnae office at the Spence School that an old lady in Rochester, who had given generously throughout the years and had even been named class representative, had not in fact graduated. Certainly she had lived up to their motto: "Non scholae sed vitae discimus." A diploma was issued forthwith. On 24 January 1977, three days before her eighty-sixth birthday, Charlotte Whitney Allen became a high school graduate.

She received most of the year in a small, panelled library, dominated by her collection of works by or about Henry James.28 An autograph letter by the Master, framed with a portrait, hung on a wall; around the corner, in the passage that leads to the dining room, was Max Beerbohm's 1913 cartoon of James entering heaven ("The Old Pilgrim comes home"), whose skyline is that of New York, London, Paris, and Rome.29 Occasionally there would be a piano recital in the drawing room. The music stand permanently displayed manuscript waltzes, a gavotte and a pas seul by Alec Wilder, who inscribed them "To a valued friend & wonderful correspondent," "for Charlotte with deep affection," "For Charlotte Allen /  A Small Tribute to Elegance." The loveliest of them, to this writer's ears, is called "Boston Lullaby Waltz," a gift "For a Dancing Friend."

Toward the end visitors climbed the stairs to her bedroom. Most will prefer to remember fine summer weather, when they sat on the verandah overlooking the garden. On a perfect day, when the jets d'eau played and the mobile plunged and swiveled as a sparrow landed or took off, it would be said that it did not seem like Rochester.

Inevitably, plans had to be made for the disposition of property. Reserving lifetime tenancy, Clayla gave 18 Grove Place in her husband's memory to the Landmark Society of Western New York. It is now leased as the headquarters of the Civic Music Association, of which she was a founder and long-time officer. Charlotte gave 32 Oliver Street to the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, with the same lifetime provision, three-sixteenths of her fortune, and the wish that it become the permanent residence of the Director. That did not happen. The pictures and sculptures were removed to University Avenue, and the premises were sold.

She willed an equal amount to the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, whose Thursday night concerts she had attended from their inception until the failure of her health. Thus it was that the two friends came together one more time. On the first afternoon of spring, 1979, the Civic Music Association gave a cocktail party at Clayla's house to honor the Charlotte Whitney Allen Principal Flute Chair and its first incumbent. It was an altogether ghostly and joyous occasion.

They have passed into memory, into the life of this city's endowed institutions, and into a garden that holds its begetter's ashes and will fade. They have also moved into an archive where they remain forever young ladies, the best of chums, Clarlie and Chuck ascending the Nile.



  1. As a point of editorial policy, articles appearing in this journal do not carry personal dedications. The rule has been suspended in honor of the lady who more than anyone ensured the pleasure and dignity of Charlotte Whitney Allen in old age. If Mrs. Cooper had not been there, this article would not be here -- J.R.
  2. For more detail, see Alma Burner Creek's sketch of the life of CLWW and analysis of the Ward papers, on file in the Department of Rare Books, Manuscripts and Archives, University of Rochester Library.
  3. That is, collection D. 92, box 8, folder 11.
  4. Maude Motley, "The Romance of Milling: With Rochester the Flour City," in Centennial History of Rochester, New York, I (Beginnings), ed. Edward R. Foreman,Rochester Historical Society Publication Fund Series, 10 (1931), 191-92, 214-16.
  5. See Robert Daniel Burns, "The Abduction of William Morgan," in Rochester Historical Society Publication Fund Series, 6 (1927), 220, 229-30. Although Burns stresses that John Whitney's confession exists only in the autobiography of Thurlow Weed, "the most rabid anti-Mason in the United States," Charlotte Whitney Allen accepted it as a family tradition.
  6. Unlike Mrs. Ward, Mrs. Whitney Allen did not preserve her correspondence or that of her immediate family.
  7. The entire preceding paragraph is oral history of a kind, blending ear-witness with hearsay. Lacking a Whitney archive, I have had to rely here and elsewhere on late-afternoon reminiscences at 32 Oliver Street. Some of it I heard myself, and some of it has been reported by mutual friends of CWA, who know who they are and whom I wish to thank again.
  8. See The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 29 (1941), 142-43.
  9. Here and elsewhere in quoted correspondence, I have silently corrected the punctuation, adding apostrophes and periods where they were omitted through obvious inattention or haste. I have not recorded overwritten or crossed-out words.
  10. John Joyce and Harry R. Byrne, fellow passengers on the Adriatic.
  11. Judge Werner, whose "steamer letter" appears on page 4.
  12. The J. M. Hartshorne family.
  13. Charles Whymper, whom the D. N. B. mentions in passing as "an animal painter." His brother Edward (1840-1911) was the Alpine traveler and wood engraver who conquered the Matterhorn.
  14. I do not know whether or not the Times printed any of Clara Louise's dispatches. The New York Times Index for 1912 lists many stories about Morgan, but nothing about his purchase of Philae.
  15. Colonel Sir Charles Moore Watson (1844-1916) had headed the small British force that captured Cairo in 1882. At present he was chairman of the Palestine Exploration Fund committee. He also published The Story of Jerusalem in 1912.
  16. If they were the same Mr. J. B. Brady and Mrs. Potter who appear on the Adriatic's list of first-class passengers. The Titanic's list has been reprinted in Walter Lord, A Night to Remember (New York: Henry Holt, 1955), 185-187.
  17. Thirty Years. Lincoln Kirstein's The New York City Ballet, expanded to include the years 1973 to 1978, in celebration of the company's thirtieth anniversary (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978), 3. Copyright © 1979 and reprinted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
  18. My information on Betsey Abroad and the Prince Street Players derives from Mrs. Whitney Allen's scrapbook, now in a private collection in Rochester.
  19. See James Sibley Watson, Jr., Herbert Stern, Alec Wilder, and Lewis Whitbeck, Jr., "The Films of J. S. Watson, Jr., and Melville Webber: Some Retrospective Views," The University of Rochester Library Bulletin, 28. 2 (Winter 1975), 74-86.
  20. Previously unpublished text of an early version of "The Rose," poem and covering letter by Estlin Cummings, copyright © 1979 by Nancy T. Andrews. Published by permission of Nancy T. Andrews.
  21. The history of this volume is a bibliographical nightmare. See Richard S. Kennedy's Introduction and George James Firmage's Afterword to the latter's edition of the fuller manuscript of 1922 (New York: Liveright, 1976).
  22. Previously unpublished letter by George Gershwin, April 3, 1925. Published by permission of Ira Gershwin.
  23. Reprinted from Poetry, 74: 1 (April, 1949), 87, by permission of the Modern Poetry Association and the editor of Poetry. Copyright © 1949 by the Modern Poetry Association.
  24. Published in The Open Sea and Other Poems (New York: Knopf, 1958), with three substantive variants: "more than verbal" has become "much less verbal," "us" has become "them," and "the straight roles affection cast/Us in, the brave lines" now reads "those grave and blarney roles we cast/ Each other in years since." An explanatory note (p. 59) traces the allusion to the Bishop and the Quad to a pair of satiric limericks on Bishop Berkeley's idealism. Copyright © 1957 by William Meredith and published by his permission.
  25. See the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, 13-14 April 1965.
  26. Calder, an Autobiography with Pictures, 2 ed. (New York: Pantheon, 1977), 153-54. Reprinted by permission of Pantheon Books.
  27. Calder, 169.
  28. The collection was fine generally. Among its treasures were scarce, early publications by T. S. Eliot, Hemingway, and her friend Edward Gorey.
  29. CWA presumably bought this drawing at the Leicester Galleries, London, in 1921. It is reproduced in miniature in Beerbohm's A Survey (New York: Doubleday, 1921), 47.


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