Volume XXIX · Summer 1976 · Number 2
Marianne Moore: Letters to Hildegarde Watson (1933-1964)
--EDITED BY CYRUS HOY
Marianne Moore and Hildegarde Watson met in New York City in the mid-1920s. Miss Moore had been living there with her mother since 1918, writing poetry and working in the Hudson Park Branch of the New York Public Library. Mrs. Watson was living there with her husband, James Sibley Watson, Jr., who was studying medicine at New York University. But Dr. Watson was also the joint-owner (with his friend Scofield Thayer) of the monthly literary magazine, The Dial, and The Dial was an early champion of Marianne Moore's poetry. Her poems appeared in it regularly between 1920 and 1925. In 1924 she received the $2,000 Dial Award by means of which the magazine annually acknowledged "the service to letters of some one of those who have, during the twelvemonth, contributed to its pages." (Before Marianne Moore received hers,Dial Awards had gone to Sherwood Anderson, T. S. Eliot, and Van Wyck Brooks; in subsequent years, they would go to E. E. Cummings, William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, and Kenneth Burke.) When, in 1925, Scofield Thayer resigned as editor of The Dial, Marianne Moore left her job at the library and joined the magazine's editorial staff, first as acting editor. She became full editor a year later, and continued in the post until the magazine ceased publication in the summer of 1929.
By this time, Dr. and Mrs. Watson had returned to Rochester, Dr. Watson's native city, where he engaged in experiments in photography, made the two "entertainment films" that were the subject of an article in the Winter 1975 issue of the University of Rochester Library Bulletin and became head of the Radiology Department of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. It is from this period that the correspondence between Mrs. Watson and Miss Moore fully begins. The earliest letter printed in the selection which follows is dated in the late spring of 1933, when Marianne Moore, her editorial duties behind her, had resumed the writing of poetry and would shortly be preparing the 1935 edition of her Selected Poems for publication (see Letter 7). The correspondence between the two women continued for more than thirty-five years, and it constitutes a remarkably full record of the life (virtually week by week and month by month for the period covered) of one of this century's most distinguished American authors.
The following selection of excerpts from 111 of Marianne Moore's letters to Hildegarde Watson is drawn from over 800 of Miss Moore's letters in Mrs. Watson's possession. It is a privilege for the University of Rochester Library Bulletin to be allowed to publish this material, and the editorial board is grateful to Mrs. Watson for her generous permission.
Since the present offering represents only a fraction of the total correspondence, some principle of selection was necessary. The tendency has been to concentrate on Miss Moore's comments on her own work and on the work of other artists, on her relations with other figures in New York's artistic and intellectual society from the 1930s to the 1960s, on her relations with the academic world as she visited college and university campuses throughout the country on her reading and lecture tours. But an attempt has also been made to suggest something of the shape of her own personal life as she moved back and forth between Brooklyn and Manhattan, of her close circle of friends of whom Hildegarde Watson was a principal one, of her strong family ties with her mother and her brother.
Miss Moore's letters to Mrs. Watson in their entirety will be an indispensable aid to any future biographer of the poet, and one of the features of her career which they will trace with admirable if unintentional thoroughness is the gradual emergence of Marianne Moore from the rather esoteric poet of the 1920s and '30s whose work always had the admiration of a highly discerning audience of fellow poets but whose name was hardly a household word, to the Marianne Moore of the 1950s and '60s who never ceased to be regarded as a great poet but who became as well a popular and widely loved personality, something of a cult figure.
In publishing materials that were never intended for publication, an editor is faced with a number of problems. In the early letters, Miss Moore's style is fairly formal, and problems of punctuation and syntax are minimal. But as the years pass and her friendship with Mrs. Watson continues and deepens -- also, one suspects, as her sense of her self and her manner become freer and more secure -- the style of the letters changes. The syntax becomes looser, more headlong, approximating more nearly Miss Moore's own torrential discourse in spoken conversation as it strains under the pressure of accommodating all the details that her fantastically inclusive eye has noted in a given scene, and which must be enumerated. These later letters (from the early 1950s on) are immensely animated, written with obvious fervor and vivid delight. But how to set them forth in cold print is something of a problem, for the punctuation is often inadequate or inconsistent, and Miss Moore often abandons complete sentences to write in fervent or agitated or droll phrases.
This, then, was the solution:
Whimsies of punctuation, spelling, and grammar have been preserved where the meaning is clear (e.g., exclamation points and question marks in mid-sentence; helter-skelter dashes; inconsistent spelling and punctuation of titles of books, plays, periodicals, poems; interchangeable use of "&" and "and"; words now spelled out, now abbreviated; faulty syntax, and mix-up of verb tenses). But where they distract or confuse, it has seemed necessary to make slight alterations for the reader's ease and pleasure. The altering takes the form of supplying occasional commas or semicolons, for instance, or completing parentheses or quotation marks where Miss Moore has supplied only the beginning ones, or reducing multiple mixed punctuation marks to a single mark at the end of a sentence or clause.
All such changes have been made silently; to attempt to record them in the present format would be to load the texts of the letters with a useless apparatus. If the letters should ever be made available for further publication and printed in a more complete form, then a more appropriate editorial treatment would need to be adopted, wherein the peculiar features of the author's spelling and punctuation would be preserved. In a few instances, words that appear to be necessary to the sense have been supplied in square brackets. Otherwise, no changes have been made in the sections of the letters printed here. Omissions are indicated with an ellipsis. Unless otherwise indicated, all letters are understood to be addressed from Miss Moore's apartment at 260 Cumberland St., Brooklyn, where she lived from 1929 until 1965. Salutations and complimentary closes are ordinarily omitted.
If Marianne Moore's letters to Hildegarde Watson should ever be published in a fuller form, not the least of an editor's tasks will be the identification of all the persons to whom Miss Moore makes reference. To attempt to identify everyone mentioned even in the selections included here would be to swell an already swollen body of notes far beyond anything the present format can accommodate. It is hoped that the 169 notes provided at the end of the correspondence will enable the reader to identify at least the principal personages and events that contributed to making Miss Moore's life vivid and remarkable. The pleasure that she took in sharing her impressions of these with Mrs. Watson is evident, even in the selections of the correspondence printed here.
It is appropriate that Marianne Moore's letters to Hildegarde Watson should be made available in printed form. They can thus take their place beside the letters addressed to her by another twentieth-century poet, E. E. Cummings. Cummings' letters to Hildegarde Watson are now a part of American literary history, a selection of them having been published in 1969 in the collection edited by F. W. Dupee and George Stade, and published by Harcourt, Brace and World, Inc. Marianne Moore's letters to Mrs. Watson are the testament to a friendship that extended over half a lifetime, and which ended only with the poet's death in 1972. In Marianne Moore's 1944 volume of poetry, Nevertheless, there appeared one of her wittiest and most appealing poems, "The Wood-Weasel," with its upside-down acrostic on Hildegarde Watson's name. In 1961, the poet dedicated A Marianne Moore Reader to Hildegarde and Sibley Watson, her "particular and very special friends." The vast correspondence that Marianne Moore addressed to Hildegarde Watson over a period of three and a half decades bears witness to what a sustaining force this particular and special friend was to a poet of rare and singular vision.
May 25, 1933
. . .My brother1 feels that suffering -- if one takes it -- is like a raft which is able to carry one further than one would have been able to go without it. I said to my mother not long ago, "He has had that idea for years." She said, "And it does him a great deal of good, but I don't feel that he explains it fully." About my own work, I may not succeed, but I have come to the conclusion that I am at least going to try. William Carlos Williams says excellence restricts sales; and I was slightly encouraged last week by the moroseness of Edmund Wilson, who has written a play which he can't get produced. "Intrinsic merit of the thing has nothing to do with it; that's of no interest to producers; you might be Homer and it would mean nothing to them," etc. . . .
June 17, 1933
It is good news to us that Friday or Saturday will bring you to New York and we shall look for you any afternoon you say, for I know you will not let the many things you have to do defraud us of our visit.
You take any express -- 7th Ave. or Lexington Avenue line -- to Nevin's Street Station Brooklyn, avoiding trains marked South Ferry or City Hall. We are eleven blocks from Nevin's Street Station, but since time is precious I think it would be best then to take a taxi. Cumberland Street is a one-way street east & we are between DeKalb Ave. & Lafayette Avenue. The subway takes half an hour, and the taxi ten minutes.
I am going to send you the review of Eimi 2 as soon as it is out and hate to think of your looking for it and buying copies on the chance of finding it. But you may be disappointed; it is saucier than I meant it to be. I regard the book as one of the triumphs of my life-time; and I infer from a somewhat ominous letter received last week that Poetry's make-up involves clipping of prose contributions and that I may be cut....
September 3, 1933
We are overwhelmed by the film 3 -- by the strength of it and the interrelated beauty of the various high points; by the rapt listening effect and premonitoriness of your face and attitudes throughout; and one notices of course the harmoniousness with you -- of the daughter. The painting-and-poetry is very nearly too exciting for a patron of the old newsreel, and the general power and aesthetic correlation of the various influences literally overwhelmed us. As Mother remarked earnestly to Mr. Gale afterward, "It should be seen by a conventicle of scholars." He said, "Conventicle sounds Scotch but then Dr. Watson is Scotch, I imagine." . . . The angel surely realized the requirements of illusion; Lot was astonishingly real, and "Hebrew". The symbol of iniquity with beady eyes and the spots on the lily are dazzling; a chill passed over me as the blood wandered down the torso of the prostrate body, and I thought the use of slow motion and distortion, the Blake designs in the fire, and the Pascin, Giotto, and El Greco effects, wonderful.
I can't tell you how excited we are and in retrospect how peculiarly detached and judicial you & Sibley seemed about the film. . . .
February 25, 1934
The best color, I thought, in the Virgil Thompson opera,4 which I saw Saturday, was in the seaside scene, with ten or twelve saints in white, cross-legged on the ground, mending an orange net. A brown net hangs on the wall behind them; the bare arms are of the same brown as the brown net and the palm-trunks, and to the right stands a white coral King-Canute-like chair from which, wonderful to see, tan sponges of various sizes are budding.
The music is a triumph and I shall not be satisfied till I hear some of Virgil Thompson's organ music. Mr. Smallens 5 did well, too, growing upward on his stand from time to time, with every hair a-quiver. The adroit fitting of the phrase to the words is astonishingly skilful and a certain subdued forte in the net-mending scene greatly impressed me -- as I remarked to Mr. Thompson afterward. (Monroe Wheeler,6 who had invited me, introduced him -- and to Ellen Thayer7 and Miss Nagel 8 also. They had got three seats and, when Lucy Thayer9 couldn't go, had invited me to take her place; since I couldn't, having accepted Monroe's invitation, I suggested that we meet at the back of the theatre for a few minutes afterward.) Bryher,10 who went to Hartford to the permeer -- as the Sun reporter says they call it in Hollywood -- felt too that the music is the valuable feature. But I liked the cellophane scenery, the camera-tripod with the black lace mantilla over it for taking the picture of Saint Teresa 11 painting ostrich-eggs, and the crystal bead wire chairs -- each back a heart with a little heart in the middle.
It is not many friends wanting to be with me, but the mulish way I have of taking things hard that destroys me; my week in bed, and my Henry James frenzy for the April Hound & Horn11 and a little notice of William Carlos Williams for Poetry,12 of course have left things to do afterward, and our Samoan family13 are to arrive shortly. They are to be stationed in Norfolk but disembark here. But you would think I am a great fussbudget if you could see how calm things are: sun pouring in on everything and me not bothering to dust, and even handing a letter to mail to a child from a neighboring apartment. The extreme look of Winter, too, though intimidating, makes indoors seem very quiet. There is not a car to be seen in the street, and I shudder when I think of the hardships of the mail-pilots. Snow like white smoke is skimming in wefts and little clouds along the icy sidewalks...
March 18, 1934
. . . In the 42nd Street library . . . there is an exhibition of illuminated books, Dante, Aesop, Dioscurides and many Bibles. The designs are full of animals, ostriches, pelicans, caterpillars, fish in streams and on one margin two tentative pencil sketches had been made -- a dog's head and a seated pig depicted as a trap player -- a flute in one hand, and a bass drummer's implement in the other against a little drum. He was in a sitting position with the tail in a complete curl, and was wearing a hat. . . .
May 23, 1934
. . .We like, too, the pictures of Henry James by Miss Boughton 14 -- and the uneven enlarged snapshot taken by a gamekeeper, in Mrs. Wharton's A Backward Glance. (I curse without shame or fear a review like the one by Isabel Paterson of Mrs. Wharton, in the Herald-Tribune.) I am grateful to you both for taking me seriously in the Hound & Horn, and to Mr. Cummings for noticing the quotations. I very nearly can't eat when I think of the good ones I had to omit.
Appalled by the hairy legs of the monsters in the English Active Anthology,15 I had thought I would not contribute to the American Active Anthology and finally wrote the editor a ferocious letter saying, "My Mother and I have been annihilated by illness and I must ask you to regard this statement as final," but he kept egging me on by news of his progress! "E.E. Cummings is going to contribute" "E.E. Cummings has given us five interesting new poems," etc.
. . .There is a thrilling double page of pelicans in the Illustrated London News for March 24th showing how a pelican lights on the ground, and how capacious the pouch is. . .
("Marianna of the Moated etc" as Ezra Pound remarked, misprinting every word in the phrase but "of".)
June 24, 1934
I have thought of telling you something and held back for fear you and Sibley feel the thing a superfluity, but can I do anything behind you? Faber and Faber, that is, propose publishing "in the autumn" a book of Selections for me -- Macmillan to co-operate with them and issue the same material here and in Canada.16 I enumerated objections and thought the matter concluded, but suppose it is the old story of refusing what one secretly wants.
When it is convenient but not till it is convenient, I wish you would tell me if Sibley remembers in my "Octopus" anything egregious that ought to be corrected besides the error of "badger" for "marmot";17 and of course I should be most grateful to have either of you suggest other improvements or omissions.
1 August 1934
. . .It is a comfort that Sibley looked at my Octopus and says I needn't mind repeating it. Being sure he had suggested that I meant a marmot when I said a badger, I had changed to marmot before hearing; and had cut a page. (The uncut insouciance of the whole book worries me.)
It is a pleasure to hear from Morton D. Zabel of Poetry19 that Lot was given recently at an independent film theatre in Chicago. He said it makes him want to see The Fall of the House of Usher. He would have liked "singler terms", seemed impressed by the close-ups of Lot and the flowing water effects of persons and water and by the individual peaks of beauty. . . .
December 19, 1936
I went last night, out of respect as I thought to the hospitality the Hound & Horn used to offer me, to hear a lecture by Lincoln Kirstein20 on The Dance; but instead of being able to feel courteous I came home under a deeper debt than ever. I have never seen such pictures, so learned and so beautiful, of dancing steps and handshaking movements, and savage formalities concerning the "round of the seasons". I wish you might have seen it. . . .
January 1, 1939
Christmas Day, I went to a (noon) eggnogg party (though for me tomato juice in a kind of child's egg-cup) at the Barrs', and James Johnson Sweeney21 was there. He spoke of going to the Fair22 recently and I said I had been there when it was a swamp -- when the structural iron work was partly erected and the trees had been planted with rubber hosings on the main branches, but that, in driving home, Flushing Bay, bordered by driftwood and very old roots on which seagulls were perching, was one of the most remarkable color pictures I had ever seen. "Well that exhibit has been closed," he said. . . .
October 30, 1939
Your power of bringing to others the good they might have if they would, Hildegarde -- and never saying "since I thought of it, they have it" -- fills me with wonder. .
The flowers are also disturbing -- as new and straight and aromatic and pristine in their madders and pinks as if they were the first ever brought in from the garden. What a picture, the chrysanthemums with the medicinally green and sturdy geranium and the long bouvardia -- flowers intermingled -- the roses by themselves on the round table with the light on them -- each spray a person; there is such difference and feeling in their shapes and tints. . . .
Don't disapprove of the recklessness that impelled me to take Mother to the Fair today in a mist that became a Victoria Falls of solid rain this afternoon. She made me think of Scotch coaching-horses that automatically trot forward like water-rats neither fast nor slow -- avoiding no puddles and half-closing their eyes as they travel. She had no wishes nor choices. Finally it seemed so chilly and unreasonable I said, "We'll go to the subway. The masks (from the Congo) and the diamond-cutting aren't anything you can't imagine or see in some Geographic magazine."
We had a good time, though, among the French "scrap-book" charts of French authors and actors and linguists and scientists -- Montaigne's chateau and Daudet's Moulin. . . . The food, and the pyramids of stuffed pheasants, peacocks and woodcocks, interested us -- and the Camembert cheeses looking like aged English muffins or Assyrian clay tablets. A man at the entrance to the pavilion had been selling cellophane rain capes with pointed hoods attached, and various people that came in reminded you of the rigid locust-shells you see clinging to tree-trunks. . . .
Jan. 10, 1941
. . .We too have a collection of starlings (that occupy a catalpa tree) and are so polite as always to face this way. I love to hear them whistling and whirring at one another and to see their equanimity in a brisk rain, as they sit, putting their feathers in order, and ignoring the intrusion of various sparrows. I saw a most wonderful set of night animal pictures Tuesday. A Mr. Howard Cleaves has devised a kind of wearable chandelier of three lights, which connect with a little 50 pound utilities plant that he transports about with him. In this way he makes pictures that are not flashlight pictures, and his views of sleeping birds and fishing herons are more than exciting. He also had a reel of diving ducks, [pictured] from below so you can see how they paddle and how buoyant the bodies are, rising like little balloons to the surface the moment the birds feel like stopping work on the lake-bed. A very interesting effect was this, of light from below rather than of sunlight from above....
As for me, I have been writing about an ostrich,23 considerably retarded by Christopher Smart's better style of allusion -- in "the tall ostrich"; but having started, I persevere. My Dial reminiscences have partly come out and are to be continued -- by Life and Letters24 -- and when the continued part has appeared, I shall send you both copies, concerned though I am about various stupidities and crudities that in all my readings and re-readings of the text I might have seen and didn't. I, of course, made the corrections you and Sibley helped me with.
I have been reading Walt Whitman's Workshop (Clifton Joseph Furnace) -- ashamed of my hitherto persistent avoidance of Walt Whitman. There seems to be much there, that one would not insult by calling brilliant, on religion, public spirit, lecturing, and especially writing, as where he says you get the main idea and fill in, cell by cell. .
May 23, 1941
I wonder if you have been to Vassar, Hildegarde, besides being with me on Wednesday! It was all so nice -- despite premonitory agues of unconfidence. And as I journeyed away from New York, in my azure dress seated on a new piece of cheese cloth I had taken along -- with the left side of the blue hem folded over the right side, and my arms stiffly extended like a puppet's to prevent wrinkles in the sleeves -- a young woman next me, said "I am so interested in your dress." I explained that I was going to give a talk to some students and that my dress had been given to me, as was evident possibly, for I was afraid to breathe for fear something would happen to it. The woman said, "You'll make an impression. You wouldn't need to tell them anything." She then said she was going to give a talk herself, to some boys at Napatuck about the Chambered Nautilus. After a little she asked what I was going to talk about. I said originality as a by-product of sincerity, and said I was going to read E. E. Cummings' "little man in a hurry" ; and then recited it. Nodding fervently, she said, "Would you mind if I wrote that down?" Not at all, I said, and I then produced the manuscript so she could copy it.
Then at Vassar, I mentioned (at supper) the enthusiastic teacher who was going to Napatuck and one of the members of the English Department said, "Three of us once had a suite together, and a maid in partnership, and this maid used to amuse us by saying 'When I was to Napatuck' -- and she always kept a poem pinned to the curtain over the sink in the kitchen and changed the poem from time to time." So you see it was a harmonious day, Hildegarde.
Helen Sandison, who had invited me to speak -- whom I had known at Bryn Mawr -- head of the English Department at Vassar -- met me in her car and took me a tour of the campus; showed me the archery field, (surrounded by dense trees so that, in earlier days, the men of the faculty would not be outraged by feminine participation in a sport!) the pond, the outdoor theatre, the golf course, the swimming-pool which is a deep turquoise -- in a new building edged by beds of juniper or ground cedar that sent up an aromatic scent in the early afternoon sun; then the "science of living" building, and finally the Library, where a friend who is a librarian there took me about. It is a most intimidating, intricate, orderly, inebriating place with a magazine room, and a history corridor & a sculpture room in white, and an Italian room in pink, and some other room in blue, and hundreds of alcoves and seminaries and reserved book shelves and "new book" shelves. My talk was in a room used for faculty meetings, in a building formerly the gymnasium. Beside the door was a slab of fossil limestone covered with what looked like a moulded Georgian ceiling, in a pattern of odd raised interacting Y's and equilateral triangles.
The walls of the room are brick, painted a dull turquoise, with a rather big landscape portrait (chiefly blue) at one end. The furniture is of light wood upholstered in pale blue or dull rose and there is a beige rug on the floor and a pale thing almost like it on the wall behind the dais. No artificial light was needed for there is a skylight; and the side and one end of the room have windows the height of the wall. The platform -- a rather low dais -- is almost the length of the room and a refectory table of whitish wood had behind it a blue chair and 2 rose ones.
I began with the "fear of the already said" and quoted Mr. Updike's25 statement that style depends not on decoration but on simplicity and proportion; that originality is not within our volition and so on; read a little of Wilfred Owen's Strange Meeting and Vernon Watkins' Ballad of Dundrum Bay, and mentioned W. H. Auden's statement that poetry has always in it a tempting doubleness, "the immediate meaning and a possible meaning" and spoke of his paradoxes.
Whichever way we turn we see
Man captured by his liberty26
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
The feminine which bids us come
To find what we're escaping from.27
Little man in a hurry, Shakespeare's line "the urchin-snouted boar,"28 and the first stanza of Burns' To a Mouse were liked best, I think. There were some very nice questions afterward and talk of Vassar magazines.
I left home on the 1:30 and came back by the 6:59, and despite the speedy schedule, Helen S. had arranged that four or five members of the faculty, and we, should have dinner at Alumnae House. The Dial was alluded to in as lively and natural a way as if it were going on now, and I was given some entertaining reminiscences of undergraduates: how when Elizabeth Bishop29 was chided for not producing a long overdue paper, and Miss P. said, "You are working on it, I suppose?" she was amazed to hear Elizabeth say, "No I'm not, I've been working on the Year Book," (but it was admitted that not all the students are so candid). . . .
December 13, 1941
. . .I ought not to give it away, but Harvard was devastating, from the time I arrived until the last touch when Professor Packard 30 said, "These things have to be rehearsed." I had attempted to find my train, The Owl, without taking the elevator down to it. You see, I had persuaded him to leave me in the waiting room so as not to be made later still in reaching home than he would have to be, for it was midnight; but feeling a little uncertain of me he had come back to ask if I had exchanged my reservation for a berth-receipt.
I left home on the 10 AM express and arrived at Back Bay about three, and my travelling technique having improved since I went to Vassar, I put newspapers on the floor of the train, where I was sitting, and so was able to give my mind to something besides deciding between having the hem of my dress soiled or making wrinkles at the waist.
At the Spencer's, before my talk, I persuaded Mr. Spencer 31 to play some recordings of his poems and to tell me a little about the courses he is giving; met Mrs. Spencer and also made friends with the black poodle who mercifully permitted me to hold his paw, after trying to sit in close to my knees -- despite proper admonitions from Mr. Spencer.
Bee32 arrived from Wellesley in time to go with Mr. Spencer and me to a rather solemn little tea in what resembled a small schoolhouse. Sibley will know what it was. . . .
My talk had been transferred from the Library to Sever Hall and the room was ideal -- like an operating amphitheatre with rather steep aisles. One girl left during the talk but that was the only departure, and Mr. Spencer had kindly immunized me beforehand to possible dismay, by saying, "You must pay no attention if people go out, they behave at these meetings as if they were in a railroad station."
I spoke on aids to persuasiveness. (I did not announce the title.) The points were humility, concentration, and gusto.32a James Angleton, studying law at Harvard and editor of Furioso -- though he says his sister is now doing most of the work -- took us to the Spencers' in his station-wagon; that is, Professor Hi1lyer,33 the Henry Eliots,34Bee and me. . . . Stewart-Mitchell 35 wrote me that he had heard I was coming to Harvard, that he would not be at the tea, but would be at the Hillyers' later. Mr. Matthiessen36 was there, there was a Mr. James -- brother of Henry James, junior -- Mr. & Mrs. Richards,37 & Mr. John St. Edmunds who is deep in music. . . .
Mr. Hillyer took me to his house for dinner, and he and Mrs. Hillyer were so really kind, I marvelled, the more, that Mrs. Hillyer has work at Houghton Mifflin and on the Boston Globe and must have been tired, having been in town all day. They gave me a book, The Phoenix, by Maurice B. Cramer, to take to Mole.38 And I thought this most kind -- they had orange juice in reserve for Stewart Mitchell and me, instead of cocktails. .
Have you ever, Hildegarde, approached the bronze rhinoceroses in front of the Biological Laboratories at night? or seen the heavy bronze filigree inserts against the glass of the doors just behind? The ant's eye, though just a hole in the bronze, had such a personal look. . . .
June 21, 1943
The shoes fit me exactly but what a thought of yours to fly them to me so unselfishly. And what inexpressible "lizard skins" they are. I have wanted all my life to have a pair of lizard shoes, and the exquisite mitre-ing of the rows at the back, like a zebra's chest, and the little double blucher of the fine black, edging the lizard -- and the miniature tongues? I can't tell you how I feel -- that you should want to do this. So entertaining too, the Goodrich wingfoot rubber heels about the size of a large dime -- and did you ever see such stamping? as the Pinet and the medals inside with a little eagle in separate feather pantalettes between two cupids! How dear of you it is, Hildegarde, to do this.
Those titles of mine were Originality -- as a by-product of Sincerity (something of what I said at Harvard) -- and Feeling & Precision.39 This is what I am going to talk about, this last, and it is to be at Holyoke (the week of August 8 to 12). Wallace Stevens, Andre Spere and two or three others are to speak, I believe, in outdoor meetings in the mornings as I understand it. The Entretiens de Pontigny is the name of the enterprise. Professor Jean Wahl is in charge I think. Mother is deploring me for being so slow. Our love and ever-lingering thoughts. I am beyond belief benefitted that Sibley sees something in the poems.
August 27, 1943
. . .As I guess you know, I might not leave it to chance for you to see my elephants and other experiments if it weren't that I feel doubtful of them and inclined to be clandestine. It gives me hope and ambition for some other attempt to have you imply that you aren't estranged by this piece, and that Sibley isn't. I am so conscious of the weak parts and the overdone lines, I can't overcome a sense of restiveness about it all. I suppose you have seen Mr. Cummings' Gravenstein apples? over a wall, the red and the round, Gravensteins fall,
with a kind of a blind
on the ground.
I am murdering it, so forget that I quoted it. 40
. . .Every day I have wanted to write to you about various aspects of that "French School"41 as the taxi-man called it. Wallace Stevens,42 who appeared a few moments before his address and left soon after, made me think of Sibley more than almost anyone could.. . . He spoke on "The Poet and his Art" and although he looks nothing like Sibley, his way of launching innuendoes in an innocent manner -- with a kind of delayed-action fuse -- as if some other topic were now in order, so that everybody was inadvertently capsized, made us think of Sibley at once. The sad part was he is so natural and dislikes loudness so much, that about three fourths of his doctrine and innuendo were lost. He said, "If we are sceptical of rational ideas it is because they do not satisfy reason. If the philosopher comes to nothing because he fails, the poet comes to nothing because he succeeds." With regard to spoiling things by dissecting out every mystery, he quoted someone's statement: "He that has only clear ideas is surely a fool." And said, "Honors can only be for cretins, rogues and rascals."
One of the prettiest parts of his lecture was when he illustrated something (for which I have lost the connection) by "a rock that sparkles, a blue sea that lashes, a hemlock in which the sun merely fumbles." . . .
We stayed only a day & half of 2 days -- partly because uneasy on Warner's account; I mean afraid we might miss a chance of seeing or hearing from him (he has just left for Honolulu, is to be with Admiral Nimitz) -- and partly because we are disabled by solitude and immediately begin to die when in the environs of any excitement at all, let alone part of it. I vowed -- on our arrival home Thursday evening -- that I would not go adventuring for Mother's "good" in any more pussy wants a corner ways. Yet an unselfish experiment like that of the Pontigny committee leaves a certain memory of exaltation and a great desire to be of service to those who have suffered and fought so well. And always the country leaves a charm that brightens as vicissitudes are forgotten. The white pines and infinitesimal hemlock cones, and an occasional squirrel on the speaker's table before anyone human was stirring, we shall remember, and the New England flowers and a huge white birch on the way to the Library. . . .
April 23, 1944
. . . I went to Bryn Mawr Thursday -- a mild sunny day -- and the blue dress was my talisman. Paralyzed and all but effaced by apprehension -- for we had had many detainments such as plumbers who destroyed things they were essaying to fix, and two unexpected literary tasks that couldn't be postponed -- I started off, feeling like a mouse that had miraculously escaped from the jaws of a cat; but had not got to Trenton before I was nearly revived, still concerned about Mother, of course, for all the pressure had seemed to settle on her, besides what my frenzy added. When I hurried in again at half past ten, however, she was all right, and aglow with eagerness to hear of my adventure.
All trains are late these days, it seems, but I had time to spare at 30th Street Philadelphia where I changed to a local for Bryn Mawr. As I was puzzling over the non-appearance of the train, W. H. Auden 43 and two friends of his at Swarthmore, a Dr. and Mrs. Mandelbaum,44 appeared, and we took the local in a moment or two -- we four being a most unwelcome addition to the overcrowded car. As we clung helplessly to the backs of seats, two sardonic citizens arose and Mrs. M. and I were obliged to take the seats offered; but after a station or two there was plenty of room for all. (Dr. Mandelbaum teaches philosophy, and has written something about a theory of values.)
I had been invited to Bryn Mawr by Miss Edith Finch of the English Department and Miss Donnelly who for years was head of the Department -- now retired. They live in a most romantic stone house -- built recently -- amid forest trees and wildflowers not far from the college. I was conveyed from the station by Miss Finch and her car, to a little cell in Pembroke East (dormitory) where a speech specialist with a microphone vainly tried to make me sound human. . . . I discovered that by holding the text about two feet (!) higher than my head and attempting a very light nursery-like tone as though cajoling a baby bird from a tree, I did change the gruesome air of demise by adhesive tape. I was quite excited to be overcoming the libel on my genus (canis adaptabilities); was prepared to read the piece again and two little ones for the other side of the record when Miss Finch (pleasing little Dresden creature that she is, in a raspberry dress and silver goat-skin jacket) reappeared at the crack of the door, which had been secured by a crosswise, chicken-coop-wooden button, and she firmly led me away to the car, for we wished to join Miss Donnelly at the house and then all go to a tea in the Deanery! Such things are for the best -- the "deferred" recording was -- for it would take a week I am sure, anywhere except at Harvard, to get a whole reading that sounds plausible. (I tremble to hear that Harvard recording, Hildegarde, but I am going to send it to you, just the same!) Miss Finch said we could finish later, but much conversation after my talk and multiplicitous cakes and cocktails interfered. (Cocktails for others. Don't think I've grown up -- but I was so hoarse I ventured upon about as much sherry as would fill a peanut shell and was able to make sounds a little longer.) Miss McBride, B.M.'s President, and various members of the Faculty were so very kind. I don't feel that I did too well and such realizations are not a disadvantage.
The Deanery is expansive and the drawing room was thronged with children and faculty. The students truly look to me between twelve and fifteen, so it is good I had on my magic dress -- which was venerated by Edith Finch and Miss Donnelly and looked so sourly on by gruff trailer migrant ladies in the New York express that I am doubly sure it was an apparition.
This talk of mine . . . was chivalrously received and I was corrected at one point by a man of much curious learning -- a member of the Faculty -- a good sign I thought that it was not too poor to even think about. Three nuns from Rosemont had brought four of their students, and some Swarthmore students were there, and some of my previous acquaintances, and various nice persons from surrounding houses and schools. Two young members of the English Department -- a Miss Stapleton and a Miss Woodruff -- Miss Finch, Miss Donnelly and Mr. Auden (who teaches at Bryn Mawr as well as at Swarthmore) then had supper which was dinner -- in the room where we had had tea; and Mr. Auden and I were then taken to the 7:39 by Miss Finch, in her car.
Miss Donnelly had, in introducing me, referred in a fervent way to the Dial, and Mr. Auden asked me questions which I delighted to answer (about the editors -- Sibley and Scofield -- and our Letters from Europe and Kenneth Burke,45 and how Sibley and Scofield benignified blunders and catastrophes into wholesomeness). . .
February 4, 1945
. . .Tuesday, Hildegarde, though I trembled to let her do it, Mother went over with me by subway to the Municipal Building. (So you see we are delivered from that bedridden state of December and January.) I had agreed to be interviewed by the Brooklyn Library from 8:15 to 8:30 on its "Poets Are People" Program. No harm came to us and as you know from being there yourself (on that 25th floor) there is a safe snug sense of being in a hatbox or a large storeroom cupboard, and such care was taken of us and consideration shown us, we were ashamed. I speak of this expedition because one of the questions was, "What has replaced the Dial," and "was 'editing the Dial' valuable to you as a writer?" As you may imagine, I had no trouble with that "editing" and said, "The Dial was edited by Dr. Watson and Scofield Thayer, (but I was there, I am glad to say)"; and about replacing The Dial: "The Dial had an atmosphere of its own that I don't recognize among current magazines. Lincoln Kirstein's Dance Index comes nearest to it, I think! in its optimism and unprejudice." The suicidal erraticness of ornamental questions no doubt defeats itself; but Miss Elaine Lewis of the Brooklyn Library is a remarkable person in her efficiency, swift logic, and kindness. As an illustration of our "learning to differentiate" and of vanity's "subsiding" I quoted from Yank (though I was specifically asked about Poetry):!!! "It's tough going out there. There's no pettiness left."! and then a sad poem. And I wanted to mention Julien Bryan's documentary films of South America and his defense of the Indians' culture and intelligence; and wanted to mention Mr. McBride's46 art page in the [New York]Sun, but had to be a little tractable. Miss Lewis was a phenomenon of artful sincerity in appearing to like any answer, and amused me by saying after I quoted Loo Tzu ("Manage a large kingdom as gently as if you were cooking small fish.") : "Isn't that darling!"
April 27, 1945
. . .I wish joys and gratitude improved the brain. I am more and more shocking; have wanted to show you one or two of the fables 47 I mentioned; but most of them aren't right, and have to be mended. Don't trouble to return this which I enclose. They are a secret, I find, and I don't know what is to be done about them exactly, since Macmillans say I have no right to undertake them and that Reynal & Hitchcock are a "little selfish" but that I can be given a special "release" perhaps. Odd, isn't it? Meanwhile I am doing more! I know something can be worked out, whereby it is legitimate for me to do them. . . .
July 1, 1945
. . .Your taking thought and time for the Fables, Hildegarde, eased my burden, and gave me new incentive; and Sibley's patient work rescued me from the most evil impasse. Clumping about among the meanings, I am like the Galapagos tortoises Melville tells about,48 battering against objects on the deck, all night, & as determined to move them as if machinery and hatches were coils of rope. The wolf and the dog was a different thing to me, & with some logic, when I had the clue Sibley gave me, and I feel so much his correcting the French I had wrong.
Mother had delicately suggested that a thing that is exactly right in one language is right just that way, without the unnecessary penance of making it half right or all wrong in another language. But I am obsessed with the hope of the impossible -- still tempted to "copy"! . . .
May 8, 1947
. . .I have not "been to anything" for a year or more, but Saturday went to T.S. Eliot's lecture on Milton at the Frick Collection49 and how I wished that you and Sibley had been part of that peculiar audience. The lecture was a firm, wiley analysis of faults & [masteries?]; as Leigh Hunt would say, "The complete thing"; emphasizing Milton's faculty for controlling a great many words at one time; and his enjoyment of his own virtuosity -- and there was plenty of humor: "I am not happy about eyes that both blaze and dazzle"; and other small blemishes. I have never before seen so many people quiet -- spontaneously quiet -- or heard so resounding an introduction (as Mr. Clapp's of the Frick Collection). Barnum would have been envious, but the rare animal surmounted it somehow and I heard him called "great," "sweet," "remarkable" and everything but foolish which he almost was, to have innocently come among so many taxidermists. I should have my invitation retroactively cancelled for speaking as I feel -- after being a guest where my space was more needed than my presence, but you and Sibley knowing how innocuous I am, will, I hope, reprieve me. . . .
5304 Woodland Lane
Bethesda 14, Maryland
July 16, 1947 50
Consolation? a word, just a word, I have always felt, but now? that dispensation of the spirit made manifest in compassion which verily defeats death, through yours and Sibley's loving desire to defeat it.
How dear to Mole would your voice over the telephone have been, Hildegarde, that morning of the tenth. How dear to us, your saying in these lines just now received, "I thank God to have known Mole & been lifted by her tenderness, wisdom and grace over so many places it did not seem possible to endure." Warner's wonderful voice keeps coming to me as a balm. The Mozart Sonata played in tears, Hildegarde? These are gifts to us, dear Hildegarde. As Warner said to us once, when overtested, "If you hadn't pitied me, I'd have been all right." So it is with your letter. . . .
Warner has been sublime. His voice shook as he pronounced the benedictory words of farewell to mortal flesh, beside what is now her grave. So much the better. A strange effect of resolution and power was imparted. As he said to me the evening of July ninth, "We are thankful her spirit may have wider range, pray that the beauty of her love may embrace us, that we may be blessed and be enabled to play the man."
Truly it is a help that you and Sibley should care to see us as we are, and think of our everyday; the apartment, for instance, about which I too used to wonder. Warner has been my deepest question. But tears, as he says, she does not need. They could only be for ourselves -- shed in self concern.
We are obligated to do certain work, his here, and I mine there in Brooklyn. I have an affection for 260, and our good little Gladys Berry 51 is just such rescue, Hildegarde, as you once visualized for us. She was heart-rending, vibrant in her devotion to Mole, and is looking after me even from a distance.
Constance's, Bee's & Warner's (need I say) goodness to me has been a miracle & has made of me something natural and reliable. Upon leaving, I may go see Louise Crane a few days, at Windsor near Pittsfield; in between this and a visit to Kathrine Jones & Marcia Chamberlain in Maine (in Lowvine, near Bar Harbor) I think I will see to some painting of one or two rooms (kitchen, bathroom, & Warner's room) for Gladys to manage during my absence perhaps. I could take La Fontaine with me to Maine, & go on with it after my return.
This is tentative, but we think of it hopefully. I shall from time to time send you word, if I may, about where I am.
The supernatural is indeed not natural. Nothing can explain or could have persuaded me beforehand that circumstance after circumstance could befriend us amid the irreparable, that friendship could make indecisiveness, safety and be not the assurance of things hoped for, but confer upon us, here & now, undeniable peace. . . .
Nothing I can say is worthy to be said to you, but we trust ourselves with you and are lovingly yours.
Marianne and Warner
November 11, 1948
. . .My fables -- I am only to the Acorn and the Pumpkin Book IX Fable IV:
Now God's way is best, scoff who may. Try to
Swerve from the groove.
That in Heaven, minutiae were foreseen
Pumpkin-vines, I think shall prove.
I may have to change it of course.
I was about to write to you, Hildegarde, when your letter came, to say among other things what a blessing the blue dress has been to me -- the azure one with the crystal & gold buttons. I was indeed desperate -- would have been if I had not had it to wear to a dinner
W. H. Auden & the Kirsteins gave the Sitwells last week. It seemed to be regarded as a painting (by the Kirsteins) and is about the color of a really remarkable portrait Fidelma has just finished. . . .
I have been very sinful, it seems, Hildegarde, in the eyes of E.E.C. and Allen Tate because I went to the Vanguard Press -- Gotham Book Mart tea for the Sitwells where two peregrines from Life circled round, photographing, and descended on victims at will.52 But if the Sitwells could be there, so could we? They are our guests (over-innocent or aware, one need not ask, it seems to me), and they are two courageous warriors and as human as the House that Jack Built. . . .
January 29, 1949
I hope all is well since you were here. Here. And I didn't see you. Do be here soon again. I am hardy now. Not right away but as soon as I felt toughened enough, I went -- since you said to -- to a doctor about my ears, a Dr. Charles Depping, recommended by Loren Maclver.53 I must have sounded enfeebled for Loren sent Lloyd, her husband, to go with me! (17 West 46th Street) and after having my more troublesome ear attended to and a dressing put in it, I have been a different person. I do thank you, Hildegarde, bless you for urging that I do something real & not just drag along. Then some parties, lectures, a tea Sylvia Marlowe54 & Leonid gave for Mme. Ocampo, two midnight suppers, so I am like Rip Van Winkle in reverse or Cinderella's sisters, or both. I also went to church, not on Sunday, a prayer meeting, am to see Robert Hillyer inducted as President of the Poetry Society tomorrow! and then I hope to stay with my fables -- am to The Cormorant and the Fishes, the 3rd in Book X and believe I can get through them all by July but will have to then revise 6 books and so far it has taken me two months to do a book so I am not nearly through.
To my joy, E.E. Cummings sent me Eimi, the new edition, a few days ago, and it seems as novel as ever. He has been ill, I hear. I hope not still. I think the picture by Marion Cummings on the dust cover really a marvel of fleeting expression. . . .
July 5, 1950
. . .I am going to the Harvard Summer School August 14, 15, & 16th, leaving that night August 16th for Maine for a week or two. I think I told you I wish I could go on here, working at my French, but might not I be a coward? Be safe, dear Hildegarde.
August 3, 1950
If I might but speak with you, how happy I would be, dear H.
. . ."If in New York" you say, before I go to Harvard. Do be. I should feel so strengthened. Am trying to anticipate frenzies by working hard right now but have not yet touched on the remarks or comments I am to make. With characteristic palsy, am first improving my clothes (having never visited a college in summer before). A little black taffeta coat Mrs. Melvin is too ill to finish is just too much for me! but I have embellished a blue & green print, of sphinxes given me by Henrietta Holland, with a white satin vest cut from a gorgeous slip (I found in the basement). Don't discard me, Hildegarde -- will you? because I do these fanatical and irrelevant things. The salvaged gorgeousness is to match my pearls! If Harvard is at all like the other places after term, everyone will be in sneakers and horizontal brown & blue striped mariner shirts, but not I! . . . I am [not] going till the 14th. Do be in town before then. Could you maybe?
14 Quincy Street
Aug. 14, 1950
An ardent cocktail party; then dinner at the Faculty Club -- such as Czars might have given. Mr. Burke was there. I look forward to his findings tomorrow evening.
He accompanied me to University Hall where we sat like a jury as the accused discoursed. John Ransom, Stephen Spender & Peter Viereck -- many half familiar figures -- advanced afterward and two of them took me to my lodgings here.
The hat? Hildegarde. I wore it over my sailor hat; quite novel, but no one noticed on the train & then on arriving I separated the two (I had no hand for a hatbox, since I had a typewriter & 2 bags)....
Be sure, Hildegarde, that we are not far from those who loved us. I feel sure we are not.
c/o Mrs. M. K. Chamberlain
Ellsworth, Maine RD #2 55
August 24, 1950
I thought of you constantly at Harvard -- a place of unparalleled chivalries once again -- though I set a record for incompatilibity in some respects! . . .
Every moment was studious. The sessions of this summer school were held in Sandars Theatre and there was a discussion by speakers & audience after the discourses, after the prefatory & summarizing commentaries by Harry Levin.56
I went largely because Mr. Burke was to speak; and I wanted to hear what Harry Levin would say -- all of it far beyond expectation. Mr. Burke summed up The Poem & the Public, after being introduced as "the best disentangler in the business." Whereupon he said, "If there was ever a speaker saved by the bell last evening, it was I," for Pierre Emmanuel's moral-humanitarian plea for unselfishness in a world of chaos was shattering by comparison with our scholastic trivialities about subjects and predicates. (Mr. B was to have commented after P. Emmanuel's address but had to be postponed.)
Mr. Burke recommended T. R. Clover on Virgil; said the Roman peace was a peace of pacification, whereas we should do all in our power to turn the world away from a cult of ultimate destruction. He was contagious and earnest, and of course has an awareness that operates as humor -- without the reflexive onus of jest. Pierre Emmanuel amazed me by his combined "conscience" & eloquence, heightened unintentionally by his valiant English.
He began with: "One of the worst mediocrities for a man is to be a permanent 'adóll, ascent.' The poet has a message but the public honors his work with misinterpretation, insensible to the most impeccable logical reasons. . . . Lyrical power, even if diverted toward material aims, is a spiritual movement; yet we live under the menace of an implacable ideology which prevents breathing-like the miser ha'nted by the fear of thieves. . . .
"O messenger of humble news, the descent into hell is the essential part of the hero's life as the Christian faith is the essential part of the rise from the dead. I wonder if we run the risk of death to find the reason for living." (End)
A ragged reminiscence but you will not be disgusted, I know.
As for me, I was the merest filament of a feather (if that) by comparison with others. I had fortified my papers with quotations, however, and applied principles of translation as deduced from Rosetti, Ezra P., Dudley Fitts and others, to writing that is original. Three teachers from the west approached me quite affectionately at breakfast the next morning -- in the Student Union -- and said they liked what I had said, didn't I hear the applause? and so on. The feature of the conference, as recreation, was an afternoon of recorded masterpieces played by Professor Packard.
Harvard is rather strong meat for me, and your sustaining presence, Hildegarde, put me on my mettle and empowered me with a superstitious sense that I must not blunder, & would not.
I said, didn't I? how stately my surroundings were? -- blue velvet & walnut-looking out on a porch with white columns & an iron fence lined with lilacs -- and flags embedded in nice grass which a gardener was always freshening with a sprinkler. The root of an elm was patched with concrete by a surgeon so neatly & minutely it ranks with the phenomena of the "college". (M & K have just taken me to a play in which the foil to the hero says to his ex-secretary of state accomplice: "Get that Harvard expression off your face.") I expect to go home by the Bar H. Express September 12th. I hope you both are finding peace -- whether at the farm or Sibley Place. I keep thinking about you.
September 11, 1950
. . . Mr. Burke; if I spoke tentatively it was diffidence on my part, I suppose, since he said some very strong things about me and is not a praiser. I have been humbly pondering that evaluating commentary. He was committed to a summary, a specific recapitulation of what those who preceded him had presented (so I was no cherished theme, chosen from possible thousands)! He is a thinker, certainly, freeing himself by degrees from irrelevance, and does make the arcane attractive. Where Bertrand Russell in his boasted imperviousness is repugnant to us, Mr. Burke is contagious. Sad to say, I felt about him an atmosphere of desolation, of his being outside that magic circle which Scofield & Sibley invariably suggested -- recalling Edgartown 57 harbor so "beautifully captured" & Sibley "descending out of the clouds like Christ." . . . I hope I am mistaken and that he has no inward sense of defeat.
March 7, 1951
. . .Was talking of you and Sibley to Wallace Stevens last evening, after he'd received The National Book Award medal for his The Auroras of Autumn, telling him about the Farm58 and the dwarf laurel in the rocky pastures on the way to the Devil's Den. . . .
Sibley does not gravitate toward mobs and garrulity, but I wish you might both have heard the responses to the Awards yesterday. Wallace Stevens said we can't compare modern poetry with the Lady of the Lake anymore than we can compare Eisenhower with Agamemnon. "A modern poet is nothing more than a person of the present, finding his own thought and feeling in the thought and feeling of other people -- through his own thought and feeling. What he derives from people he returns to people." And Robert Sherwood quoted St. Paul: "Tribulation worketh experience and experience, hope." We can subscribe to that, can't we?
Dear H., "be well," as I've said before. I see you in my thoughts so often in that little beaver acorn-cup of a hat like puffin down -- (down of a chick) speeding through the aqueduct-like arches of the Plaza in search of our unidentifiable guest! Am loth to part from you even in script. I wish I could bring you a heavenly blessing.
Dec. 24, 1951
Christmas, Hildegarde -- and we hope a sense of the sublime, of the true and eternal -- The feast of lights! . . . You and Sibley -- being what you impute to one's self -- and the very symbol of truth and light. . . . I hope you are not borne down by duties and problems and that Christmas may be something for you and Sibley besides excitement and a recurrent sense of what it is not -- what it lacks. Pressure without radiance. Never for you. I have the promise that it will never be for you & Sibley -- anything like that.
Why can't I give and be something to someone too? I don't know -- and must trust you to envisage me as I would be.
Love, dear friends, to you at this stately season and mundanely.
January 20, 1952
How like you to create an ambience about me and give me the rosemary -- of all plants the most stirring. . . .
I have had to defer speaking on programs of any sort till I can complete my fables (am going to Rutgers, the womens' part of it, in April but only because I promised, while Mother was ill, to go again if invited). I speak as if I were a static bonanza; whereas anything I formulate is an academic hazard. But I must do something drastic about these fables that drift away like a blimp without a pilot. .
You are a vibrant thought to me, Hildegarde. How is it possible to be so restoratively undestructive as you and Sibley are? Be thinking of me, please. A little more is being expected of me than I can do. . . .
Rock Ledge Inn
Spruce Head, Maine59
July 24, 1952
Hildegarde, your letter greeted me -- so full of deep and precious things.
This Inn! Mrs. Broadfoot has just now swiftly entered the living room, -- took away a still fresh enough bouquet and brought back unobtrusively the most inimitable one nested in a large pale salmon-pink conch shell -- all white pansies -- all yellow roses (Gloire de Dijon) and long graceful tails of violet steeplebush.
It is all, everywhere, like a combination of Balzac & Beatrix Potter.60 And immaculate? The white enamel woodwork gleams. Every bedroom or doorway faces a narrow strip of full length mirror -- something lacking even at the Boston Ritz Canton. Mrs. B. hooks rugs, in a floral pattern, with a complicated scalloped border so exact it might be an engraving.
My trip: I might have gone to Los Angeles and arrived sooner. Left 260 at 11 for the one o'clock plane to Portland. At the ticket counter to get my baggage weighed, I stood 20 minutes. I asked "me Malvina says. .1 had telegraphed from N Y about one oclock that I would telephone from Rockland & was about to seek a phone when Malvina & Mr. B. met me -- "took a chance since it was the last plane." I had had a sandwich with me which I deferred till the Rockland plane and was by no means weak -- in fact felt all right -- though battered. This place is the sweetest ever seen -- dainty, generous, peaceful. If you could just see for yourself!
Nov. 19, 1952
Gallant of you to fly to Cambridge to hear Estlin.61 He scintillated, I am sure, and the better in having you there. There is something scary about that Turkish mosque-like, half timbered hunting-lodge of Henry the VIIIth Saunders Theatre. I am happy to think the lectures will be published. Have just been looking at Estlin's smiling face in Lifefor this Friday; and how commanding is Wallace Stevens with his frown. . . . 62
I have been obliterated dear Hildegarde, and still am. It is despicable -- no fables, no reading, no responsible activity of any kind. I do nothing but robot-drudge: a man who knows me is in jail on a false charge; a girl in Mexico can't attack "a publisher"; three pages of fine print about me, submitted to me, for me to revise -- which had to be redone. Even laudanum couldn't have persuaded me it would pass. Macmillan has part of a travelling exhibit to assemble -- that will tour America like the Goodwill London buses, and needs letters, proof-sheets and items of interest pertaining to my C. Poems.63 (Is the book itself of interest? If not, I shudder for my pale carbon copies). On & on, (I struggle in a marathon, punctuated by a tea & dinner tomorrow & a sailor Saturday, who visits me annually). Marcia is to be at the St. Regis from the 27th for a while & I do want her to have a good time. It is urgent that I deal with my transient tasks beforehand and not be trammeling her with them. . . .
Think of me; Condone me; surprise me; could you not -- before long -- be unexpectedly arriving at the Park Chambers? . .
May 6, 1953
If you come,64 would you come with me to the reception for a few moments? Mrs. Mellon is taking us to Mrs. Rockefeller's guesthouse on 52nd Street. But it will be a Babel. Nor will the program be a treat for you. . . . I declined an invitation to dinner -- from the Museum & am being come for just before the program -- so I can't in conscience suggest dinner, Hildegarde -- and am exasperatingly rickety; hardly step out to the mailbox that I am not croaking like a frog. (Am taking a powerful food capsule as a tonic.)
What I think is this -- Could you visit me in the green-room before the program? and then take the trouble to surely see me afterward? coming to the reception if you are willing. We could ignore the throng. The green room is at the left of the stage -- a cubicle reached by a concrete alleyway via a couple of fireproof doors as I remember. I shall be wearing my pale blue dress which is my talisman! Do come. Please, dear H.
153 Summit Avenue
Brookline 46, August 14, 195365
Hildegarde the Impossible! I have felt again and again since the storm, "If I could just see that tree again"; and I see it, and by it, see you. And Marcia can see you. . .
Symbolic to me of miracles, you have ever been. How strange -- our being there! As I look at the bark and the filigree of delicate leaves that swing so nobly in the wind, I think of it all -- the moonvine, the arbor vitae(s) by the other side of the house, the paddock, the yellow lilies, and iris-spears, the rose-garden within the stone wall, the pear tree by the paddock, the flowers by the front door hovered [over] by humming-birds, the squirrel among the grape-leaves and the two bed-rooms! the little French fireplace; and that elephant "E. E. Cummings" affixed to the wall -- or pin-cushion; the tree toad I captured in a glass and after having wanted all my life to see one, carried from the lilac bush and liberated halfway up the lane! Turn the picture sidewise, cover the light spot and the house and it still has the illusion of life -- the tree. We were speaking of "God's injustices" last night, Kenneth Jones and I -- a friend of Marcia's and cousin of Marcia's & my friend Kathrine Jones.66 Kenneth J said, " I just don't think about it too much." Well, Hildegarde, I do. I rave, am wild, (like George Herbert in The Collar) and have to know that mortality would not be mortality if mysteries of the supernatural were plain to the mind's eye. It seems to me, your enthusiasms and attachments are so unsordidly sublime -- and enlarging to the spirit -- you should not have to suffer through them. (As continually I felt about Mother). The tree since we are immortal, however, is immortal too, living in our minds.
How paltry one can be is demonstrated when excitement possesses me. I trust to your charity.
153 Summit Avenue
Brookline, August 26, 1953
. . .I am keeping my engagements thin so I needn't desert Marcia. No honors, Hildegarde, when I go to Chicago. I am to read at the University & from La Fontaine at the Arts Club -- the reasonable thing. I don't know why the University has no interest in LaF. or maybe translations are humdrum. (As Maria Edgeworth says, "Deeds not words" -- I should not be trapped into reading from my work -- like an imposter with one leg, selling pencils.) . . .
Nov. 8, 1953
. . .I was just only able to start for Chicago when I did start; and what a campaign, of speaking, eating, looking, i.e. gazing at Egyptian bulls, coffined queens, cylinders, French art, animal taxidermy, pandas, opossums, kinkajous, ocellated turkeys, pangolins, small, larger and immense, rare books, research laboratories, donors' portraits, match tennis; tennis court nettings clothed in blue morning glories from which a Japanese was, insect-like, culling ripe seeds and dropping them in a little old basket -- he the best feature of it all, in a red sweater, black cobbler's apron & smartly dented straw hat from which the front third of the crown had weathered away.
Well, having seen the waves of the Lake crashing on the coping of the Drive and sending up spray ten feet high -- toppling in as from the sea, and the spangled lights of the city after dark from the dining hall of the University Club, and having spoken till I felt like a preacher with three parishes, I was escorted to the 6:30 Sunday night for New York and realized about half past four in the morning that I was near Rochester; saw Beal & Rogers Steel Products on my left & Phillip's Seeds and there was a huge dark tower with a clock on it, like Big Ben. I wondered if you were fast asleep -- and what you would be doing that Monday. Then the Erie Canal which I have always wanted to see, was along side our right for miles, approaching Albany. When I came to visit you and the University,67 I saw the remarkable Mounds near Rochester but had passed the Canal in the night (must have).
Wednesday I spoke at Warner's school and last evening at the YMHA. I hope this is all for a while; but no matter how much of fool or flea museum I happen to be, the people are so kind. I am ashamed of any diffidence and come home quite grateful for the hospitality and the money -- overpaid if they give me $25 (let alone these large sums they give me, apologizing that they are not more!).
I am delighted, Hildegarde, with Estlin's Norton lectures, received before my "tour" and before I thank him I want to really read them. He is something to marvel at in his unquenchable originality & rhetorical -- I should say verbal -- sense. My one contribution last night was peripheral -- Fenelon's remark that the more a man says, the less people remember -- and Ezra Pound's statement in these republished translations of his -- (New Directions & Faber & Faber) that the "mind is in the word & the emotions in the cadence" -- which we have always thought but not said quite so well?
January 29, 1954
. . .(Still in bed but what can I expect if I will not make sacrifices when tired!) As we agreed at Yale about writers, it is a moral problem. The Pudleys brought me Harper's Bazaar for February last evening. In it is my Lion in Love,68 all on one page; I see a certain helplessness at some points -- but am grateful it is as readable as it is.
Ever praying that you may be given, to lift your heart, something of the good that you give.
February 16, 1954
. . .March! I do hope this will make up to me for my losses. I have been hid and hiding till yesterday when the uncomfortable heat cured me & I am competent again, I think. I have a rather checkered program, Hildegarde, for March --
March 18th a music & LaFontaine program at my church 8:30
26th NY University
Mrs. Church says I am coming to her going-away party March 25 but I certainly can't so far as I see. Betsy DuBois (T. S. Eliot's cousin) (B duB Delafield) & her daughter "Pen" have invited me to a Conf Clerk 69 Matinee Mar. 20th. Not very easy is it? these hard & fast dates. All will be over the 26th & I won't be on duty till the 18th and can prepare my discourses completely in advance I hope.
You don't say what days you had thought of as a visit. And what about your seeing The Clerk? It is being pulled to pieces in various ways in various quarters, is slow getting started and complicated to follow, but it is certainly a thing to see & if T. S. Eliot meant (as I deduce he did at the end) that large spiritual objectives matter beyond all material defeats & disappointments, it is a grand hypothesis to me. Ina Claire is phenomenal all through & spectacularly when not in action -- merely there, she is a breathless study in dramatic sentience, eyes alive, mind working, eyebrow altering a little, hands alert for action -- yet all immobility. . . . There was no music but Colby's brief composition in the Conf -- Clerk, and what is a play without music? even Larry Adler's harmonica. Well, Mr. Petrillo, Kay Reynal said, won't let anybody play before a play or between acts.70 It creates a pall as of submarine depth-diving & trial aeronautics. Would an actor be allowed to play a record I wonder?. . .
April 11, 1954
. . .Yes, the party at the Kronenberger's71 was a pleasure -- Harry Levin (shrewd and kindly), Lillian Hellman,72 W. H. Auden and Louis & Emma K., and a big black poodle. (I took a taxi home) -- and since then have been quite industrious; am not too wise a worker, Hildegarde; over-do and half-do; but am grateful that I can be working and for the way in which my work is received.
May 15, 1954
Thinking of me, Hildegarde? and of my fables on May 13th? And I so uncouth. I can't imagine their seeming fit, to you and Sibley. Furthermore, Hildegarde, I seem to have been in a trance, so that it seems to me that on May 13th as I wrote in one of the books for you and Sibley, I didn't finish my thought, which was that The Power of FableVIII-4 and the introduction to The Gazelle both and mutually make me think of you each -- you and Sibley. And I think I didn't note the pages 173 and 298. Excuse my insistence if I've been saying it over and over.
Well, you will mend and revise me, I beg, where I fade out or fall down.
You should receive the book Monday or Tuesday, I think, but don't feel you should let me know. . .
Not strange enough already, I went to the Three Penny Opera this afternoon, and must ask you about it; very intense indeed; music by Kurt Weil & text by Bert Brecht. I admired the ironies -- and Tiger Brown the chief of police.
P.S. Please, Hildegarde, exonerate me, if you see the Times interview with me in the Book Review Section (May 16th) .73 I am reckless but couldn't and didn't speak in that way. I shall never learn to avoid the journalistic crevasse.
May 21, 1954
. . .My fables. I am grateful that they are in print, perturbed as I am about the errors and the tameness; and alas about the kind of ruffian I manage to seem, in interviews -- (the Times & Time). The Publishers should keep me in a padlocked den, instead of devising appointments day by day for me with powers noted for "promotion"! Please assure Sibley I didn't say the things I am said to have said & that tentative -- indeed timid -- answers to questions are reported as thrusts and attacks on a silent visitor.
I don't understand that your book has not arrived. If it has gone astray, I shall send you another -- but yours and Sibley's was one of the first to be mailed -- right after Warner's, as I remember. You will have to be disrespectful, Hildegarde, and select a page here and there, bee-like, rather than thoroughly retrace my flounderings page upon page. It was fanatical of me to do them all. Anything done with stubborn theoretic determination is hazardous. But I so despise haphazard completeness, I still feel that to have omitted some would be shabby. . . .
I leave you -- but never, need I? I so hope you are well. Am managing it too. I wonder if we might go to another movie? I haven't been to one since we drifted into The Captain's Paradise! on that windy day.
The book I sent you was one of the limited edition, knowing that if you preferred the regular, there are plenty of them -- maybe "as safe at the publisher's as if chained to the shelves of Bodley"! Charles Lamb.
June 2, 1954
. . .I am still too scattered to be of interest -- spend hours in needless futilities -- and digressed beyond reason at the V. Press yesterday when interviewed by Miss Rochelle Girson. This amused me: glancing at the jacket of my book, she said, "Now this is rather personal but may I ask who designed your costume?" (cape & tricorne). I said, "Well this is it -- except for the hat," and put the cape on! explained that you gave it to me and that the photographer George Lynes asked me to keep it on for the picture. (I suspect it was the origin of the interview). . . .
June 8, 1954
. . .Now, what a stock and stone I must seem, that I never spring into action. . . . I missed my chance today -- or rather, resigned hope; was helpless, as the time was droned away at the Viking Press in an interview with Leo Sauvage of the Figaro -- a most un-local observer and inquisitor -- kind, however, for he suggested that I translate Molière -- (L'école des femmes) -- and was quite persevering technically. What is to be advanced by these approaches and warinesses -- (or unwarinesses in my case), I don't know. Anyhow, it was late when we terminated our colloquy and I could do nothing but deliver a book further east on 48th Street, gravitate into a nearby deserted Horn & Hardart restaurant, eat a portion of macaroni and take the subway to Brooklyn. But I'll go back soon. They are pleased at the Viking Press that the book is in a second printing. And I am dumbfounded, (for a thing so simple and out of the way).
July 16, 1954
. . .I am happy that Sibley sees something in my medical piece.74 That is enough; if it doesn't pass when Abbott Laboratories see it, no matter. (The Mr. Lewenthal who wrote to me for it says he is sending to his "client, Abbott L's, for approval," says he considers it "an extremely interesting work"! Well.)
Next, the Parents Magazine -- some prose (that looks like prose as well as being prose.) I would rather write about Broad Street, Wall Street and William Street. I was there yesterday, Hildegarde. What an atmosphere and stateliness, looking up the curve of Broad toward the Treasury -- with the even, immaculate stone facade following the curve of the street naturally like a shell almost too tall for the eye to follow, lit by sun, and the Treasury like a little dark British Museum beyond. One of my neighbors here at 260 has charge of the files of Lauterstein & Lauterstein and a Mr. Siegel there, who formulates wills, wanted a favor of me in connection with my La Fontaine, so I called at the law office, a unique old Victorian building, the firm's part furnished and burnished so that some Meyer Berger75 should write its story. Then my friend, Miss Varas, led me to Schraffts for lunch, showed me the Stock Exchange (inside & out) and I took the Subway to 59th Street to the U.S. Inf. Agency i.e. Voice of America, attended to something there and battled my way into the Subway, and home.
No dragon-fly wings in there, Hildegarde, but I thrive on pandemonium now and again. When you come back, we must catch one of these little pygmy taxis just issued today, and see what we can see from it. They sound ideal -- three colors, they come in, I believe. . . .
August 24, 1954
. . .You haven't said, Hildegarde, when you thought of coming back and I am so afraid I may miss you; it seems I must go to Boston to see Marcia. I have therefore abridged my prose undertaking and have decided to go Thursday. Various friends say Marcia needs reinforcement -- and is trying not to complain or request sacrifices -- I can't see that it is right to delay. After a day or two with her, I shall go to Kittery -- I promised Malvina Hoffman I would -- shall see if I can be of any use with the Memoir76she is working on -- then come back to Boston to see Marcia again and I hope be coming home fairly soon. All so vague. When I get to Boston I shall know better where I'll be and how long -- shall then write to you -- my address and plans -- so hoping you can be in New York in September when I am back.
The prose may not do, Hildegarde. I don't feel sanguine about it; & if it is published, you may find it labored and inconclusive. I wanted to finish; but after all I have been fanatical; perseverance isn't auspicious; it seems childish to be annotating, typing, emending, re-typing when summer is about over and I told Marcia I would be going to see her as soon as I was disembarrassed of my LaFontaine! She is protective and unselfish above all things -- never complains or says "You said." She feels that what should be done should be done, that one adjusts one's self.
Nothing could be what I need and steady me so much, dear H, as your saying I suggest relaxed quietness and serenity. I crave it -- long that you should have it. It isn't permissible to shatter, is it? Exasperation and weariness pose a problem many a time, do they not? But pray we may feel confident and at peace. So much there is, Hildegarde, for you patiently to resolve or resist -- by nature always instantaneous, definite, with a right to be healing in spirit. Yet you sustain what you must -- and I marvel. How just and patient and benefitting you are. My tests are small by comparison.
Pardon so subjective a soliloquy -- so irrelevant to the matters in hand. I do feel that the way will be shown us in small matters and large. Meanwhile you are are creating joy, with your songs, & just in living.
23 Bowen Road
August 31, 1954
Yes Hildegarde, Marcia is better -- more steady, and more resolute mentally. She talks of going back to her home in Brookline; I doubt that she can. I hope to see her on my way home from Kittery. I don't know just when I shall leave -- or how long I should stay with Marcia -- but I suppose [I'll] be in N.Y. about the 15th at latest. Shall write when I am sure.
It pleases Malvina that Sibley remembers the lute-player -- your buying it so long ago. She drew it on stone she says, "on Hudson Street around 1915 -- a member of Pavlova's ballet -- with the stem of red rose in his mouth."
She rented this house for a month, I find, from a Mrs. Hyde to whom F. O. Matthiessen77 left it. He, (F.O.M.) & Russell Cheney lived here as you may know and Russell Cheney died in 1947; (F.O. Matthiessen 1950 was it?)
Nothing could be more lovely than the privacy and quiet and snug beauty of the house & surroundings -- a little beach with a hard grass path along the rocks & bench under an oak. The hurricane at this moment is titanic -- has just capsized a gallant little boat that rode the waves vertical for an hour or two. Our porch end of a screened-in porch has blown off and limbs are blowing from the trees but at last the wind has begun to abate. . . .
I came, intending to give Malvina some "help" (if it is that) with a Memoir and have been imposing my views. Malvina bought me some watercolors and a sketching block. I don't know whether I shall produce anything or not -- too many arrears of correspondence & manuscripts from home; but the detail all about is entrancing. And that large studio with a huge north light! What an experience! . . .
September 8, 1954
. . .The hurricane was a disaster for many but did us no individual harm. I thought of Northbridge Center and Mrs. Lasell's 78 pines -- the ash and the bald look of familiar ground with the landmarks missing. Your solicitude, Hildegarde ! And sense of the danger. I am hardly responsible enough to suffer, at a time of danger. Now, in seeing houses cut through to the fireplaces and wallpaper, elms of the toughest fibre twisted off or partly, like a roll of newspaper -- I can see what it was we watched.
I am not going to miss you in N. York -- had thought of lingering in & near Boston but shall be home by Friday the 10th. Indeed dear Hildegarde I shall not try to do what is too difficult. Kind Malvina said last evening, "It seems to me you are paying a high price for being in Maine," referring to the Memoir (which is 800 pages in length). I would be Franco if I were not awake to the many heart rendingly significant pages of the Memoir and I have had one of the happiest vacations of my life. The seclusion of this house, with sun everywhere, and a sense of "the mind" in every room, almost puzzles me, it is so rare. The hair fine precision of the Ingres 1818 group by my bureau, -- of parents, children, & spinit, the slightly smiling daughter turning from the keyboard on which one hand is resting, the detail of the father's stock, vest & overcoat-buttons; and the University -- not to say Harvard -- flavor of the bookcases upstairs & down. I went upstairs yesterday. Mr. Matthiessen's study (a bedroom) at one end of the house has little square windows on three sides, a shallow fireplace which looks not more than six inches deep (used however) and over the mantel, Russell Cheney's oil of the staircase in Sarah Orne Jewett's house -- white bookcases meeting in the corner by the fire, a large one along the wall facing the sea & a captain's chair at the table in the dormer toward the lighthouse & sea. And every book, I might say, is one I have been impatiently waiting to read: -- T. E. Hulme by Michael Roberts, Thucydides, about 12 volumes of Emerson, marbled with morocco corners & spine, steel & tissue covered engravings that quite outdo Steichen. Six or seven Santayanas (which I have not been breathless to read). Vatery's Reflections on the World Today. John Jay Chapman's letters with wonderful pictures, the Florio Montaigne and many French books. Malvina brought some enticing books also, the Jammes79 poems with pictures of J. and his bird-of-paradise-tail jet black beard, a "candid camera" of him in old age with his arm around Mauriac -- and it seems to me I may never have read the poems or the critical statements about simplicity and naturalness & animals -- their fixed look and example -- the iniquity of making bears dance & animals overwork.
Well, I am not too coherent. Please telephone, Hildegarde -- soon after arrival?
Went into the Harvard co-operative in Cambridge for scissors I had forgotten & saw an Excello orlon shirt which I scarcely need but instantly bought. It has those cellophane stays in the collar and fits me exactly -- and though twice marked down -- the clerk, a kind of civic-leader-garden-club-efficient librarian-like lady waiting eagerly on three people at once, said, "If it doesn't fit we'll take it back -- we are always willing to do that." I was dumbfounded.
This part of the country, and Boston, are like Brittany or Dalmatia after 42nd Street and Borough Hall-Jay Street. The ticket agent at North Station courteously turned his attention from a conversing friend when I asked how soon one could go aboard the train for Portsmouth and said, "Hoff an hour previous," like Horace Mitchell, the Kittery printer who used he says to come and talk aht (airt rather without the r) and wait a great while to be let in if he saw the cah in the garage.
You know it all well, I know -- all these touches.
October 13, 1954
. . .By desperate expedients combined with considerable rudeness, I am ready with my scripts; and have tried on my dress. Gladys considers it of imperial elegance -- especially the effect of the halter -- the two little ears or leaves. Did you, I wonder, have yours copied for yourself in this same velvet that is so black? I have the place marked on my necklace where it is to be shortened and I am going to wear across the front, under the leaves, a piece of Carrick McCross lace -- very old but never worn -- like point lace -- that Lillian Hellman brought me from Ireland. It looks as if made for the dress. Just a little shows -- but no one will mistake it for underwear!. . .
I seem to give a great deal of thought to myself -- but if I didn't Harvard would forbid me the premises.
It was a severe sacrifice not to show you the chair but my plight has been desperate and I am in deep disgrace at the Viking Press -- caused two of the staff to work yesterday, Columbus Day, because I was late with my La F. revisions -- was telephoned Monday that the printers were "frantic." A mysterious compliment! I have hurried beyond reason in any case.
- 51 -
Master's Lodgings-Eliot House
Cambridge 38, Massachusetts
October 14, 1954
Hildegarde, what beauty, to startle and bless me, welcoming me at Eliot House and helping me from then on -- (I had forgotten a little thing I wear usually to encourage people to think I am being formal.) And the program -- renewing confidence lent me on other occasions when your thought of me exorcised an inappropriate reluctance or sense of uncertainty. Twin gardenias -- one for us each. I wearing both.
And Hildegarde, the trouble taken for me. My taxi-man, to begin with: "Would you have a cigarette Miss, while the lights are changing" (!) Then he stood about three houses away to see if I got in at the . . . gate of Eliot House and when I didn't, he came back and said, "You might have to carry these if you can't get in." Well, just like that from beginning to end....
. . .I feel about Harvard as I did on my very first visit -- in 1941 or was it 42? The vines are an expanse of complete crimson behind John Harvard's statue in the Yard. A squirrel rounded himself into a defiant position of ease in an elm above the walk & looked where a large lank Irish setter lay steadily gazing up -- still gazing as we left the Yard.
As for the purpose of my visit, I think I contrived by after thoughts and conscientious agilities to meet the requirements. As I said to Archibald MacLeish,80 I have a Victorian fondness for Sever Hall. But the New Hall was even better. All that matters is the medical amphitheater range of seats, giving a sense of snugness or ease, I suppose. Students and former friends appeared and we had intersecting colloquies by the door for perhaps an hour.
After tea at Eliot House . . . there was a dinner: John & Moira Sweeney,81 the Levins, the Pickmans and then ten students and a fellow, for beer and pretzels.
This morning I had breakfast with Theresa Eliot 82 and a cousin of T. S. Eliot's at the Faculty Club. Theresa & Miss H. dwelt on my dress & talk and how they looked at my gardenias, and at Back Bay the porter said, fondly looking at my book bag, "I like that bag" -- did not put it under the heap but on top -- then as he put me aboard, "I wish I had a bag like that.". .
October 19, 1954
. . .Harvard casts a spell on me; and on my apparel. . . Before I left here, I folded, unfolded, refolded and twisted paper inside the folds of my dress so nothing should interfere with the uniform black of my velvet; and immediately on entering my room in Eliot House, suspended separately skirt, blouse and halter from the newest and smoothest of the thousand hangers which peopled the gigantic closet of my room. I wore the gardenias in my belt -- pinned above, to my white satin blouse (so stabbed no pins into the velvet). Rumors the next day -- as well as a few bold comments after my talk -- and a carefully reconnoitred snap shot intimate that we did not accoutre me in vain. I defeat my interests sadly in that I didn't have my own camera along. But perhaps it would not have been in keeping with Morris Gray83 for me to say to Archibald MacLeish, "Please hold my papers while I take that dog watching the squirrel." It was warm enough for me to wear no coat. The Yard and little brick pavements enroute to the New L. Hall were mellow in the sun and the loping walk of the students were another Harvard memory for me. Also -- a very select haberdasher's shop just off the main thoroughfare -- the window-dresser (back to the street) was busy with a jacket of the new dark variety, and the two other "dress"-forms were (all but the heads) draped with black muslin dust-cloths. All in the space of about four cubic feet.
I should have said, to begin with, that I began with a word about Morris Gray and your saying it is hard nowadays to imagine anything like the elegance of Morris Gray, his mother, father, sister & their house in Boston. No. I said: "This is one of the Morris Gray series and since being invited to speak here today, I discovered that a friend of mine knew Morris Gray, his mother, father and sister. My friend, Mrs. Watson, said it is hard to imagine in our utilitarian day an elegance anything like that of the Grays & their home in Boston. Well, it's not too hard for anyone who knows Eliot House or Dana Palmer House; and if I am not presented in Morris Gray fashion when I speak at Harvard, I don't know what elegance is."
Very childish, Hildegarde but I never outgrow my naivete, do I? This week I am not too busy. Next week several struggles loom -- something for WOR to be recorded & used later I guess -- a talk on Wednesday at Union & at the YMHA Saturday and a noon day affair -- reading or remarks at a hospital here in Brooklyn.
I then hope I can attend to a few household & Viking matters. I was berated & scolded quite sternly by the Press for lagging before I went to Harvard. Am in disgrace.
November 21, 1954
. . .Indeed "unrepeatable," the Dido and Aeneas. I reveled in it, Hildegarde. Those little progressions of three notes with the accent on the third, keep going through my head and charming me -- the unexpectedly dramatic Ha ha ha's, multiplied later. And the complete rightness of Claire,84 with never a lapse -- the more it comes back to me, the more I admire it; admire her. Her quiet hands and frail- impassioned tragic air -- and the decorous rascality of Purcell; his brawny sailor, captivated by his own gusto:
We leave our nymphs upon the shore
And know we shall return no more.
And know we shall return no more.
And then Michael and his authoritative finger on the libretto -- pointing out what I haven't the mentality to understand even when told, "It's a chaconne."
Estlin has sent me his Collected Poems 85 -- a spur and strength to me -- the exciting feature of it to me being the section dedicated to you. I passed quite near Patchin Place 86 yesterday -- after seeing Mme. Eve Daniel of the French Art Theatre and her secretary. What memories does that part of town not bring back to me? and "the women's house of detention" where E. put you in the taxi ! I grieve, to know that he is trammeled by pain, Hildegarde. . . .
December 4, 1954
. . . Sunday night I combined the impossible (or rather, what should have happened almost simultaneously) : "my Bible Class" -- The life of Christ and the Four gospels -- then Estlin's reading at the YMHA. "There are some people," Dr. Magary said sternly, "who carry water on both shoulders." Apt indeed, I thought as I darted away surreptitiously conspicuous to the subway ten minutes before end of the class. It was raining slightly and I had only my cellophane hat-cover but I had not time to go back -- pieced out the subway with a taxi, and after a frenzied search for my ticket, (put in my glasses-case for finding without delay) -- found my seat had not been resold or pre-empted. A girl next me said I had missed only one poem. The excitement, rustle, tension, dramatic speed of ushers and audience-it was all a tremendous tribute and I have seldom heard such applause throughout and after a reading. "The animal without a mind," and "My father," are noble utterances -- when I see you, I shall be telling you more. Estlin's delivery . . . is the best we have, don't you think? His deliberateness makes an indelible impression on me each time I hear him; I am then McGinty racketing down -- left to right -- of a shute with nails at opposite sides, (Did you ever have one when a child?) I am just as unfit as if I never had had a demonstration of what reading is. Estlin's powers of mimicry and his sobriety when being funny capsized everyone. And he looked very handsome, in gray suit and pink tie.
In the dense throng I crept out to the lobby. There I found Loren McIver & Lloyd Frankenberg87 and Nancy Reid. Estlin wisely eluded everyone -- (it would all have worn him out). It was raining a deluge. Lloyd captured a taxi, we all got in it, left Nancy on 55th Street, L & L on Perry Street, and I went home to Cumberland Street (defeated though I was by Lloyd who sneaked the driver money though I threatened the driver if he accepted a cent!)
Since then, I have been very imprudent -- unavoidably as we always say; but I shall be free of care; I do hope I shall be, presently when you are here.
My essays, dear Hildegarde, will not be out till spring or fall, (I forgot to say).88 Guardian friends, don't expect too much. It pains me to disappoint you.
December 31, 1954
. . .This afternoon, Reinhold and Ursula Niebuhr are giving a party to which I hope to go; and the more, that nearby is Constance Rulison at St. Luke's (Episcopal Home). Alas, every Christmas, every Thanksgiving, she and Mrs. Coleman her sister, have urged me to share dinner with them and often I did. I plan to call on Constance at 114th Street, then go to the Niebuhr's -- a little beyond. Happy New Year, sweet Hildegarde and Sibley. Maybe you will wear today your Dido & Aeneas dress? I'll pretend so!
May 10, 1955
. . .The color pictures. Don't be depressed, Hildegarde, if I spoiled them. No one living can defeat a camera as I can. Max Waldman, a fashion photographer who is not in the habit of failing, who takes pictures for the Caedmon Records girls -- took 24 or maybe 36 little pictures of me last July I guess it was. There are several good ones, but in the rest, my clothes stand away from my neck so I look like Picasso's "The Poor"; my hands are the size of baseball gloves, my jacket wrinkles as if sat on after a rain -- at the same time looking like a tent, it is so much too big. However, photography conceals as well as reveals? I had on a tattered blouse -- not suspecting I would be camera-trapped -- and it appears respectable. . . .
June 8, 1955
The fragrant, becoming gardenias, Hildegarde! My companion marvelled. My scintillating diamond arabesques, my dark blue cape; and at Smith, my pearls as well. I was dismayed as I spread my dress and prepared to be calm (in the train to N. Brunswick)89 to realize that my pearls weren't with me today, were at home. But the diamonds and the pearly flowers were all I should in modesty have been wearing perhaps.
The address was by Miss Blanding90 of Vassar. She quoted President Dickie of Dartmouth: "Competence and Conscience"; and Professor Whitehead: "It is not possible to live morally without vision."
Miss Blanding brought me to New York in her car -- also brought Judge Libby Sachar of Plainfield -- Judge in a domestics relations court for old & young delinquents and it was quite exciting to hear what this very small, steady-eyed young creature has been doing for 23 years -- what large things. She, her husband, son & brother, have a law-office together. Her middle name is Bernstein which she explained means "amber"! (Just the two of us were degreed.)
Tomorrow, I am going to New Haven, next day to a tea, Monday to my dentist, next day a Mr. Urzidil (whom I have known for some time) is coming to see me about a Voice of America program in German; must take another journey then but shall be at home after that -- after the 20th. . . .
A young Mr. Jones today played a clarinet -- (very intricate pipings indeed by Andre Messager) as introducing the exercises. A beggar so far as music is concerned, I took a breath (like a fly after climbing the hill) and enjoyed it. Others seemed to wish he had played only a few bars.
The gardenias, Hildegarde, making the entire house rare! I hate to leave them, to go to N. Haven. The Eastman Kodak scene in Grand Central is so exact it fascinates me.
July 18, 1955
I have been to the Liberty Shop on Madison Avenue and 50th Street and listened to all the victrolas -- demonstrated by a Mr. Sorrento. It is disappointing, even dastardly, of me to hesitate, but I do. Mr. S corroborated my fear that The Midge is not equal to the requirements. After hearing the Libertyphone, The Midge seems to buzz and squeak and the next best thing has detractions too. Then I heard Marion Kauffer's Amico yesterday and it is about like the Libertyphone (but even heavier). With my Flagstad record here waiting to be played, I am fretful and morbid to be stagnation personified but I can't do this Hildegarde -- not yet; deterred, I admit, by a mighty struggle with Kenneth Burke's Moments 91 and ethics. I will finish and can't finish the paper -- and am late with it. And Lachaise's head of me stands in the one spot where I could have a victrola.92
Well, let me struggle. Matters resolve themselves if one holds firm and is "grateful." Grateful? I am all gratitude. Why should life be maintained in me and friends be so dear? I ponder the riddle and shall try to be useful in my hampered way. I am so blessed, Hildegarde, that you wish me these benefits -- of art and life. . . .
January 8, 1956
. . . What did I get for Christmas? a little plastic clothesline for drying stockings, and stamps and Lindt chocolate from Malvina Hoffman, a round silver box from Mrs. Church, and also John of Hildesheim 14th century story of the three kings, very reverent, about the star that "arose like a great sun brightly shining" -- many books, Hildegarde -- I shall tell you about them when I see you. A remarkable scarf from Monroe Wheeler -- changeable scarlet, cerise, and blue, with a minute line of gold diamond figures across the ends . . .
My Shakespeare class has resumed -- Wednesdays at the YMHA, from 6 to half past seven -- conducted by W. H. Auden; and this time, gift admissions were distributed for Edwin Muir's93 reading at the Metropolitan Museum! I crazily decided to go and am very glad I did (the next evening). Edwin Muir is unique -- so calm outwardly and carefully deliberate -- you wonder how he bears the pace and high key of our populace -- giving the Norton lectures at Harvard. I have long admired his poem, the Combat. He read it.
New Year's Eve I went to a party at Lillian Hellman's -- a gigantic reception and gigantic refreshments; and a few exciting persons dotting the scene -- Moss and Mrs. Hart and a Mr. Alfred94 who teaches Anglo Saxon at Harvard, Louis and Mrs. Kronenberger. I gazed at many "dresses", Hildegarde! including Lillian's white lace one made of a mantilla, adorned with a diamond feather. I wore my diamond arabesques. (A faithful guest rushed out to Park Avenue without an overcoat, got a taxi, & sent me home in it when I attempted to leave a little early, unobserved. Kind fellow; a lawyer.) . . .
And last week I attended a tea for Isaiah Berlin95 -- a torrential expert on every conceivable subject -- so frank in his comments on fellow citizens I felt like giving him the Nobel Prize (for War). A pleasure -- in ease to sound equivocal. . .
January 14, 1956
. . .I am trying to keep out of mischief. The Shakespeare class, "Style & Form"! It is remarkable, entirely unhackneyed. And tomorrow, at half past three in the NBC Opera Theatre for "Color Television Viewing", The Magic Flute -- directed by George Balanchine & Lincoln Kirstein, the libretto newly translated by Wystan Auden (and his protege Chester Kallmann).
Jan. 20, 1956
. . . Yes, I was seeing The Magic Flute when you were, and charmed by the delectable harmonies. The words, too, seem to me pleasing and gay; I can't wait to read them on the page. As for Pamina, I don't know how a voice could tip toe about among the clouds as hers did;96 and her festooning draperies were so very stately. And I liked the fetters clattering and piling up in that barbaric scene.
I am told that Laurel Hurley97 is one in a million -- in surmounting difficulties. I am glad there are no more than one to shatter our ears. . . .
I don't know how to be moderate. Monday, a dinner of the Institute98 at the Knickerbocker Club (Sibley will have noticed that Malcolm Cowley was elected president of the Institute). Tuesday a dinner for our organist who exposited Mozart and played a little folksong with variations -- French folksong -- and some grand things, herself and on a victrola. Wednesday, I spoke at half past three at the Brooklyn Library -- (I mean read from my work & fables) -- then went to the YMHA to W. H. Auden's class in Shakespeare. No taxis99 but a kind fellow-student carried my briefcase to the YMHA at 92nd Street from 86th. Another fellow-student transported me to 53rd afterward and my life is saved but I nearly deleted myself. (Mustn't do it again.) . . .
August 5, 1956
I am back from Harvard ...
The taxi man took me from Dana-Palmer House (next the Faculty Club) to S. Station in 12 minutes, darting along the Charles as if to save life, in the morning sun, so I barely had time to see the knots of little white sails on the River. I then had half an hour to wait for the Harvard 42nd Streeter. I can hardly account for the hypnotic effect the place has on me. Towering trees -- I never noticed the lacy fronds of the honey-locusts as this time, high overhead, a few early pods lying on the grass despite assiduous rakings and grass-cutting. Sprinklers keeping the lawns green, and now and then a student reading, with his back against a large elm by Lamont Library which my Quincy Street windows faced. I was in room 5 this time, in Dana Palmer House, upstairs. Robert Giroux (of Farrar Strauss & Cudahy) had the room across from me, and lent me a Minneapolis paper transcript of T. S. Eliot's big address: The Frontiers of Criticism 100 (like a presidential message. It took me three nights "after hours" to read it). It might be called "Certain Scholastic Misapprehensions Corrected" -- a very pleasing un-pontifical discussion.
In the Conference meetings, on Small Magazines ("les jeunes revues"?) the Dial was constantly being referred to with respect -- a kind of awe, indeed, and I may [have been], yes think I was, present in a reflexive sense. A man from the State of Washington was especially earnest, after one of the sessions, and said, "I still have a complete file." William Alfred was acting director for Professor William Elliott; Allen Tate, Chairman. Robert Giroux started things off -- said a classic is a book that stays in print. He blent nicely with the Harvard decorum and sense of proportion. Was brief -- followed by Philip Rahv.101 I have shaken Philip R's hand numerous times in coming and going, to & from a party at his house, shudder at and occasionally save a Partisan Review, but he made a real dent in my armor this time. His discourse on the uncompromisable service rendered by a free magazine was worth all my trouble in going to the Conference. Perhaps I exaggerate, for my notes are not electrifying, but he was impassioned, and conservative in terms used, and had the untrivial air of a condemned man throughout the Conference and all this was sympathetic to me. . . . I go away, resenting my imprudence. I have never gone to Harvard that I have not come back fortified, and more equable. The decorum of the place and actual serviceableness -- everyone deep in his own business, the quiet unfrenzied heartiness of the sociabilities . . .
August 14, 1956
. . .Have been in a frenzy, like a wild cat in a waste-basket, diagnosing mss -- 3 of them -- and struggling with a piece about the Dodgers, that I was urged at Harvard to produce for the Hudson Review by August 16th or a few days later: the core [replacing "high spot" crossed out] being a reference to Lou Soriano's Dodger Band, ("Lou rose by way of the snare-drum," the Times says. They all have hard-headed commercial jobs, and occupy Section 8, Row 1) at Ebbets' Field. A trombone and a trumpet are required -- now open for trials! When I last heard them I thought they had nothing but cowbells of different strengths [replacing "styles" crossed out]. The Times says,
"Hope springs eternal in the Brooklyn breast;"
although would Section 8, row 1, relax
if paired with the collector of income-tax?
Ready with a tune, if that should occur:
"Why not take all of me, all of me, sir?"
They do play that; and Three Blind Mice, when there are 3 umpires (I don't go out there, just read about jt).102
I am full of self-contradictions and crudities. One is supposed to press on so fast as not to notice them. The whole thing may seem too infantile to print. I can't imaginesubmitting it to Sibley and Scofield!!
December 25, 1956
. . .Where was I today? Monroe Wheeler came for me and took us by taxi to Mrs. Crane's & Louise's103 for dinner at 2. Fourteen were invited. Mary Colum sent word by Padraic104 that she had arthritis in her knee and couldn't come. Mrs. Crane, much taken aback, then invited a most charming person, a Mrs. Cram her secretary, (lest 13 bring reverses to us)! Each guest had a fur bear (a windup bear) at his place beating a drum -- 14 at once. Mine (a white one) has a very sweet face and Louise named him for me, Olivetti. (He sounds exactly like it.) Roast beef, we had, pickled peaches, little roast potatoes, salad, pumpkin pie and ice cream fortified in some way.
Then in the drawing room, Padraic C. read a story by James Thurber ending "Menander" and "gander", and presents were distributed, candy to each, and a scarf or wallet, or book. Stephen, Louise's brother, likes humorous touches and produced spectacles, with eyes that fell out. Also a dachshund (life size) of pottery with six little mugs (on pegs) and the tail forming a handle was rewrapped two or three times and re-presented. It was finally given Monroe to give away and he left it here with me! My scarf is French -- turquoise blue with a minute white edge. Some were Hindoo.
Monroe and I left about four and called on Dr. Majl and Mrs. Ewing -- Carmelita -- at the St. Regis. They are heartsome, alert, knowing, gaily modest -- uncensorious; and a nightmare is dispersed for me by their not lowering at me and casting me out eternally for not having my pages ready to print -- pages of the talks I gave at the University in Los A. . . . 105
Monroe liked the Ewings and they, him. We departed, returned here quite speedily; I had no present for Monroe but prevailed on him to accept a bottle of "special Scotch" from Scotland, ("for guests" he said discreetly). He then left for a dinner with friends from abroad. (I had been given it, myself.)
I wore my velvet dress, Hildegarde, and my tricorne hat. It is such black black velvet and has such body -- kingly raiment. And what did you do? but don't be pestered by me. Remember for me, dear H., you are overwhelmed, and have no respites. Tomorrow evening, Warner is to bring Bee to N. York. I am to join them for supper at Schraffts, Bee is to take a train for Detroit and Warner is to spend the night at 260. I can't believe it is true. And what will he say when he sees the clock.106 Monroe thinks it should be in the living room but then I wouldn't be with it so much.
Forgive this stumbling chronicle, Hildegarde. I'm more tedious than the New Yorker, when it insists that we hear about the tadpole in the well, the tadpole supposed to be in the well. . . .
- 65 -
January 16, 1957
. . . The snow: I had to go to the YMHA last evening -- as I thought; was going by subway when a taxi stopped by at a red light at the corner and I took it -- for it was windy & I had a good deal to carry and my trappings were heavy. As I alighted, I was fascinated by the splintered diamond, glistening spotlessness of the snow -- silver and diamonds light and feathery. Fairyland. I walked around in it a minute. The class did not meet so I was installed for an hour in an official's office to work on my poetry manuscripts. W. H. Auden and I and Stephen Spender . . . have to judge a contest -- 12 books (by authors who have not been published). I had prevailed on my taxi-man to come back for me in an hour. He never came at all ! ! I froze -- my feet felt like lilypads on Bering Sea, and very kind Miss Kray thrust me into a taxi, took me to 86th Street subway; (and then went back to her husband in the region of Columbia; then called me up to see how I got home). Are you warm enough, Hildegarde? Your rooms are large, with many windows. And how do you manage, you and Sibley, trying to drive with the streets banked by deep snow? . . .
January 25, 1957
After the party for Henri Cartier-Bresson,107 Monroe took me to the Unicorn, Gorgon, and Manticore.108 The music is very fine, some of it -- especially toward the end when it becomes elate and ecclesiastical. The setting and costumes are romantic -- early Italian, with Chirico arches and towers enclosing a plaza or courtyard, and the theme holds the attention -- the unicorn, dreams in youth; the Gorgon, middle age; & the Manticore, old age. The real feature of the evening was Arthur Mitchell,109 a Negro dancer (in dungarees & cow -- boy hat), in the Western Symphony. His reslieince, his ease, his pleasant face, his joyous boundings and sudden dignity, as light as a bouncing ball (besides the little things he did, backing away and fighting the air, winding it all up with a snappy stamp) -- are formula, I know, but done with a grace and sense of timing that no old time cakewalker could surpass. Part of an ensemble, he was, outrageous girls and other boys.
I am immersed, Hildegarde, in my interminable typings. YMHA contest, and perpetual letters; am only on page 4 of my 11-page discourse . . . . And yesterday, I felt I must go to the party for William Carlos Williams to whom we gave the $5000 award of the Mrs. Lamont-Mr. I.B.M.-Watson-Academy-of-American Poets -- (not the Academy of Arts & Letters). It was a very regal aprty given by a Mrs. Clark WIlliams (no relative of WCW) 150 Central Park South. She is a dear lady, very old with snow white hair, very strong, and a skiled hostess -- in black velvet with two large salmon roses at the waist. Chinese bird and butterfyl wall paper, china figurines; rare Martha Washington plates and tea-pot; jade dishes; and pale Chinese brocade settees. William & Florence Williams, their two sons and ds in law were impressive, pleasing and really pleased about the Award. The boys were wonderfully brought up; one is a doctor and one, a managaer at A & S, our large department store here in Brooklyn. I joined them for dinner at a steak and chop house nearby. Such fine, natrual, lovable people. This great digression did not seem to me a calamity, but will I ever get my paper done!
With much love
P.S. I attacked William Carlos W. for having said (Time last week) that he practiced medicine and so in his writing could "do as he damn pleased." He begged me to believe that he deplored it too, had impulsively said it offhand when "Time" was nearby, and that it entirely falsifed his feeling about the Award. I, we, had been told that he needed it -- (and his right hand is paralyzed, he can move it but not use it, write, or drive a car) and we, several of us, have worked for two years to get it to him. (To have our paragon brush us off seemed a little cool.) I also am a great fool as you know -- reckelessly "sincere" and get myself into all kinds of dilemmas; and had no fundamental quarrel with William. And Florence is sublime; never morbid, injudicious, out of control or carelessly dressed. I'd do anything for her -- her monumental goodness, all self-evident in the boys, Paul & William, and their atitude to their wives.
February 5, 1957
. . .I can't recall Rimsky Korsakoff except that I thought him objectionable like a street of goods for sale with a glaring light on them. (And I talk about forbearance. Well -- so long as you put up with me, Hildegarde, I am in good spirits.)
I am on page 4 of my 16 pages to type -- immured like a Moslem female slave; haven't been to the meat-market, the A & P, or in the subway for I don't know how long. But I must carry my YMHA contest-books back today if I can "finalize" my choices. (Life, young Mr. Filker, talked about "finalizing" results!) And must emerge tomorrow, in any case, to attend a symposium at Mrs. Crane's on Barbarism in Poetry. Santayana, it seems, has called Whitman & Browning barbarians. Whitman -- yes; but not good Browning. And I cast S out for being the opposite of a barbarian! but he is exact -- saying to James, "I was drawn to philosophy in the beginning by curiosity and a natural taste for ingenious thinking."
Virgil T. 110 is not obsessedly charitable -- but I like his "obituary" on Olin Downes: "A critic does not have to be right; he has only to have a good mind and speak it." Nor did he say critic. A "reviewer". I speak as if you had not seen these things too. .
Hamilton, Bermuda 111
March 3, 1957
. . .Bermuda -- Prospero's Isle. The turquoise curves and white or ivory sands of the shore -- the vegetable gardens with one thread of vivid emerald occasionally the length of the other rows -- parsley perhaps. The oleanders coming out in salmon bouquets. And against our little (second-story) balcony -- big oleanders in which are two chameleons -- one (a black one) about 8 inches long, with a mouth peach pink inside and a long tapering tail. Suddenly it will shorten up like a frog and spring to a further branch -- slowly changing from a sepia to a dusty verdigris, patina-like gray green. Then a little silver gray one with a series of spinal white dots, is almost impossible to detect, it is so like the oleander leaves, which are green with a central vein of white. I have sat observing them, an hour!
The refinements of life are -- well if it weren't for the Brownes I would come right home. One of the Colony has been very kind -- and we like her. With a wave of the hand she deplored the Garden Club indoor exhibits -- the "small" grapefruit (in pyramids like cannon-balls) -- and "those driftwood things." But she is "society" as well as sane and Frances said, "She is at the stage when she feels that her mission to society is expressing her opinion." (Frances is reading Martin Buber). Her ankle is much improved; the dressing is now off and I think she will soon be walking about. At meals, we have the diversion of watching masons and carpenters build steps and walls & fit windows in an enlargement of Waterloo House -- about 8 Negroes. They saw coral blocks, and with the exactness of a dentist's chisel, & bisect bricks.
Dear Hildegarde I'll be returning the 17th. When shall I see you?
March 10, 1957
. . .It is good for me here; but even here, I am snowed upon by mail -- harmful or harmless, I suppose, as I take it. The Brownes are an "example" to me -- fond of this cottage because of its privacy, but it is regarded by others as a rendezvous just because it is not noisy like the main house and "bar"! The generous Brownes have decided, instead of dispensing Queen Anne and Bourbon, crackers, cheese & tidbits evening on evening to let Stanley (our elegant bartender, a courtly but brisk Negro) bring everything on a tray and we are much eased by this. They are. I am no help. . .
We were benevolently come for in a motorboat and taken to Ely's Harbor yesterday to see a gem of a house, weathering whale vertebrae, a plat of velvet imported Florida grass, and a minute buttery for use when overnight guests arrive. The buttery is just wide enough for two bunks with sea chest dressers underneath, a yard of space between and two windows -- one right on the sea; the other, looking onto the velvet grass. The screen door has wrought iron ivy silhouetting the corners and tufts of ferns grow in the angles of the 4 steps up to the door; 8 or 9 aluminum chairs (including a kind of featherweight Barca lounger) people the grass; and we saw, quite near, a cardinal on the Pride of India tree -- or chinaberry -- (which is all dead clusters of berries at present). Lizards abound. One large one ascended the balcony here a little while ago & changed from brown to blue hind legs and dusty jade head and body; then leapt to the oleander a foot or so distant, as we discussed him. . . .
- 70 -
March 24, 1957
. . . I reached church rather late, but in time for Schubert's anthem Great is God's Power, and the sermon by Dr. Magary was on that text I prize: II Corinthians 4:9 "Persecuted but not forsaken; cast down but not destroyed." I should be struck dead if I call myself persecuted or cast down but I do invite, or permit, many baneful intrusions. (The sermon was about the Apostle's answer when asked how he could be cheerful, hopeful & grateful, despite failures and imprisonment. "I look upon the unseen, not the visible.")
Afterward, I rushed to the newstand & got my Times; and home, to throw it down and hasten to the Granada Hotel where I was to meet Morton Zabel for dinner. He escorted me home, and after a short visit, left to see "Mrs. James", Ruth Draper's friend (relative?) who has much memorabilia which he (Morton) has been asked to combine as a memoir. I hope he will undertake it, for he is an experienced synthesizer and ardent admirer of Ruth Draper. 112
The Granada dinner was excellent and sometime I might take you there, Hildegarde. . . .
August 2nd '57
. . .I was by the sea every day; 113 and lovely indeed Malvina's concern, kindness, thinking and doing anything to suit me, except doing my portrait in charcoal; she now has 2 big ones -- one, very good, a great deal like my tricorne La Fontaine picture, this one, a profile -- it has a good hand on which my chin is resting and I told Malvina if she didn't create a chin I would take 'em both away, never to be seen again. Malvina made me a chin. Am just home again (in a frenzy over the Atlantic Monthly piece due August first); but am allowed a few days. I know they won't care for it!
Aug. 6, 1957
. . .Now, Hildegarde! I am "getting out a piece." If you could just observe the reciprocities between Edward Weeks of the Atlantic and me. I enclosed with my lines a stamped addressed envelope -- that had been preceded by a gratitude for 10 days' grace -- preceded by a reply from Mr. Weeks "How kind of you to keep our need in mind"! All of which merely indicates that things are going a little my way journalistically, and how my "mouse-bellows'-breath" will seem to the
Atlantic, we certainly know in advance -- I smile (Took as my theme:
Melchior Vulpius, -- German contrapuntalist c. 1560
am infatuated with him.). . . 114
August 14, 1957
. . .I tell you, Hildegarde, the Atlantic will never use my contrapuntalist. It is too unstereotyped. As one of Warner's classmates said, "Anyone who would marry me, I wouldn't look at." Anything Mr. Weeks would like, I couldn't write (not that my piece is really good. It just isn't rubbish). . . . Do not watch the Atlantic; I am embarrassed. (Mailed it the 3rd of August.)
August 19, 1957
. . .my contrapuntalist? Not back yet but probably today from the Atlantic. I should solicit signatures to a statement: "we understand that you have announced a piece about Melchior Vulpius, -- the well-known organist; kindly repeat this advertisement". . . .
August 25, 1957
. . .Mr. Weeks' impression of my "enchanted self" and the "jewels of my hypnotizing words" is conveyed by telegram:
"Long footnote confuses our understanding of new poem would welcome alternative before Sept. 5 Regards."
He may be justified and I a ram with curling horns & feet planted. I just realize that it is another poem, not an improvement, he requests. Well -- I don't know. I deleted the footnote -- the long one. . . .
August 29, 1957
. . .I am grateful that you like the "poems" -- (the lines). So slight, I hide under a leaf.
Sibley's seasoned manner should do the work, I think, as bluster and dialectic could not. I don't know how to defend myself -- always am stabbed very coolly through the wings or the webs and can do nothing put pant. But no one on earth can make me compose what it would offend me to say....
October 4, 1957
. . .I wish I could tell you in detail about Elizabeth Bishop's and Lota Soares' 115 party last evening at the apartment of Arthur Gold and Robert Fizzdale. The first person I saw (who saw me) was Marion Cummings.116 Some tiresome attorney kept trying to gobble her up. What couldn't he think of as a bond! He once met her but had she not some other name? Marion Morehouse? yes that was it. Well -- we had a good time; then an angelic Mr. Pilot of Brazil and New York, authority on chemistry, electric eels, protective coloration, gems, food, art, attended us -- Marion, Loren MacIver, and me -- to a taxi. And that's a long story. He over-paid the brutish driver but all's well that ends well....
The two grand pianos stood there almost touching but of course this was a party and supper-party, not a concert. I must tell you this. As I sat encouraging James Merrill,117 a young man with a bat-wing tie and everything normal crouched down like a catcher, on the diamond, and said, "May I talk to you; I am on the New Yorker." I said, "Indeed you may. I read the New Yorker and like a great deal of it but somehow I can't get on with Howard Moss.118 He said, "I am Howard Moss and I'm afraid you don't understand. You see we don't act individually but as a board" and so on. . . .
Now -- for my crazy mail; each day outdoes the other. You couldn't believe it if you saw yesterday's. In addition, a telegram -- a long one -- from The Maryland Motorist -- Richard Reese: "Have permission of N Yorker magazine and The Ford Motor Co to republish in our publication your correspondence with Mr. David Wallace about naming the Edsel, and so on. May we have yours? Wire collect." 119
Isn't that odd?
Aboard United Air Lines
Oct. 21, 1957
. . .Here in Chicago I have stayed with Morton Zabel, head of the English Dept. How he surmounts his visitors I do not know, since he is finishing a book on poetry and has about finished a biography of Ruth Draper -- and will have it ready by Christmas to show to the family in New York. His books are an enchanted world. I tried to read 3 at once, then would fall asleep & read no more! But this morning I woke at five and read till seven in Bewick's Quadruped 120 (Mules), "Having prepared themselves for the descent, they place their forefeet in a posture as if they were stopping themselves. They then put their hind feet together but a little forward as if they were going to lie down. In this attitude, they slide down with the swiftness of a meteor."
[Undated; postmarked January 5, 1958]
. . .why I couldn't write: Two French boys -- (brothers) -- on Monday here for lunch, at Mrs. Church's, a tea; and then the Ewings from Los A. Tuesday;121 the Brownes, 122Mrs. Gordon Bottomley and David Wallace of the Ford Letters 123 for tea Wednesday here; lunch Thursday at Minna Curtiss' 124 and went with her to The Play of Daniel at the Cloisters; dinner with Lincoln Kirstein and Fidelma, before the Agon ballet;125 on Friday lunch with a classmate & nephew who teaches English at Ann Arbor; Saturday, Richard Avedon to take my picture (a great mystery). To do it right he had brought a flowering quince and a pot of lilies of the valley. I felt like a worm. (Ought to have beenin the pot of lilies.)
Isn't it strange that I can't regulate myself? What is the matter with me.
- 80 -
January 12, 1958
. . .I wish you were here, Hildegarde, but I would have been desperate if you had been here the past days when I had to keep so many inexorable awkward promises. And our new minister is for making all the Congregation do everything. We picked too lively a man -- almost. And he lives right across from the Church. I don't go to the Poetry Society dinners as a rule but it seems that Robert Frost, though I wouldn't think so, mentioned me to sit for dinner on the dais (Homage to Robert Frost dinner the 16th) and a Church service the 14th. . . . The week of the 27th I promised to go to the Institute dinner 126 at the Harvard Club. Purely conscience -- I vowed I'd not go to this and need not -- but I am exasperated to murder at the way new members are selected and I don't want to be put to work -- though the Grants committee also seems to me toad-eating and tuft-hunting with no agency but vanity and incompetence influencing some choices. "We took him off the list" -- the complacent explanation of why Bernard Haggin 127 is to get nothing!
Jan. 17, 1958
. . .Yes, I sat next Robert Frost and must later tell you what he said about his anxiety for the world and what to do about it: in brief -- keep the material from over-menacing the spiritual, only better expressed. Then Mr. Frost (afterward) autographed 22 little humble books all alike, for 22 students. (Very spiritual request!)
After talking with the hat-coat checkers and 3 glamorous houris who recognized me -- arrayed for a ball -- I started home. Saw some dancing and felt like Chirico's lonely figure amid architecture, for the ball-room was darkened to-enhance-the-romance; was soon pounced on by a lady radio manager, rescued by Mrs. Herbert Claytor, brought to the subway in a taxi and now I am "in", Hildegarde, by way of laryngitis. Must be out in 3 days; am not in pain -- I just croak. . . .
Feb. 19, 1958
. . .We have had so much snow that no one could get me or bring me back from Adelphi College -- although I was all ready, my new tricorne under a scarf by my snow-boots, also velvet! So they telephoned me to come in March.
I was so afraid a car could not get near a passage amid the drifts, I dug our hydrant out when three picture-book firemen in boots, and yellow and red equipment, were occupied elsewhere and took lightly my SOS. . . .
March 5, 1958
Well, I was very late at Garden City: 128 the men hadn't got me in time. I forgot to thank Mr. Murray for a most carefully concocted introduction, forgot my opening remarks, stammered, started again -- fumbled for words -- no one could help me. This wrought on me so, that I read like a laboratory frog with an electrode on its leg. Anyhow, I gathered speed & included some fables; and countless faculty and students brought books up (I think newly bought? poor creatures); Miss Mann said was it an imposition? Well, I don't regard it so -- all they get! Then cocktails in the Garden City bar, round a 12-place oval table, dimly lighted. Orange juice was brought me, and in the lobby, a lobby as wide as Park Avenue with an acanthus pattern very large in a scarlet rug or carpet, a few very old ladies were strolling about. Abraham & Straus, in a hat show-case had Paris Fashions, baby pink Milan very large & solid flower toques; & Wise's (our Brooklyn jeweler) outdid their own premises -- diamond pendants on very chic chains and aquamarines in platinum the size of postage stamps, rings! I loitered till my escort came. We had a long sprightly chat, then went to Tiffins restaurant and at about 11 we three came home. It takes an hour. I had the ladies come in briefly, promised them copies of Babette Deutsch -- went to bed, and this morning, had a regularfit, Hildegarde -- nausea, a headache, a battered carcass, dried up throat for a long time -- could hardly listen to Dr. Zulli -- fever of 100. I didn't want a doctor; but I got Dr. Laf Loofy -- very solicitous: take this, no, none of that; take this, don't get up for 3 days, I'll "call" you. (I don't like that "call" you.)
My Parker article 129 came back -- considerably reduced -- you are not mentioned, nor R. P's studies, and I left out the Dog. How get it mailed? And a most elegant letter from Frederick Adams of the Morgan L about the Ford letters 130 & would I lend the Edsel for the exhibit! I managed to type these things -- and my wonderful Lewis Carter, (my Telegram Sun boy), mailed them, saying formally, "Well; you were very kind." Reliable. . . .
The Hanover Inn
At Dartmouth College
Hanover, New Hampshire
April 11, 1958
Someone must have been praying for me, Hildegarde -- Angel friend, for I got along very nicely -- and here at the Inn when I arrived was a flower, an ivory orchid with a tinge of pink -- and delicate beautiful white grosgrain ribbons.
Heroism, in fact martyrdom, for the entertainers, seems the rule. One young man from the economics department had a lethal cold and daredn't stay for the reception (which I had interdicted but it is common sense to do what is wanted, don't you think? when either guest or interloper).
This is a pretty place -- homogeneous buildings -- all white, all with green shutters -- 2 x's intersect on the campus which I can see from my front windows -- (I face a building with a spire and clock). The benevolent man with the cold showed me one aged building different from the others, in which the height of the windows grows less going upward -- from ground floor, second to third -- something I might have missed! But no one could miss the students -- hundreds -- in scarlet windbreakers and khaki slacks.
I am leaving at 12:30, get home at 7.
Never did I see more beautiful country, Hildegarde, after passing Bellows Falls -- little torrents in ravines and woodlands, dashing with terrific force, zigzag and snow white amid the gloom at some points, and Mount Monadnock lapis blue -- and a sower scattering handfuls of grain....
July 8, 1958
. . .I was hunting just now a receipt and date, and found in the little special data -- drawer in the livingroom desk some flower-cards from you to Mole & me that almost disable me -- such breathless delicacy and compassion -- intuition -- that transcends speed. And one from "Robbins" (Harvard Square) the year I was first at Dana Palmer House and had to flee from a party at the Faculty Club and cast myself on the bed to avoid fainting -- hat & all! It seems 80 or 90 years ago. And yet eternal.
I don't get agitated in that timid despairing fashion any more. My thoughts are far away. If I can't meet the situation, I can't meet it.
Do not small things play a monumental part in our continuance? I am trying not to cling to every tangible treasure -- symbol of excitement or gratitude. But life is not a wholesale drama or cyclorama of panting emotion, is it? Very intimate indeed. . . .
The Wisconsin Union
University of Wisconsin
October 3, 1958
My grudges and growls subside under the kindly, absolutely guileless guidance which takes me through the mazes of scholastic-social life and, let me childishly add, I'm getting better! My program just what Warner militated against. I mustn't go into detail. But my room is warm, all night; my bathroom, suffocating. No draughts. I have my food behind a curtain on a wide windowsill but eat in company for the most part. Anna, the maid -- very young -- lays a parental hand on my shoulder and everything will be all right, she says.
I face a giant gymnasium across a parking space. It has a stepped roof pediment, a high crenellated tower like the Burgellos (at the peak), another lower; and a huge one about the size of Hadrian's tomb, lower at the 3rd level. The sun is blazing in my very wide window from a blue mother-of-pearl sky.
The Lake is close by, with canoes piled as if logs of a wood pile by a tree and the sparrows feeding in a bevy take flight and settle on the canoes. The air is like Maine on a brilliant day -- only better, with no wind.
This Student Union is like Karnak. I got lost twice and the elevators, like the biggest in New York, are unattended, but I have now mastered my whereabouts.
The paper (on Inspiration and Artifice) was my official offering, I thought, but when I mentioned at dinner to Miss White 131 that I wasn't trammeled by books -- first time I had ever not had to carry 3 slippery books or read -- she said, "You are going to read from your poems!? If you didn't I would never hear the end of it."
My room is in [one] end of the Union & the theatre in the other, so I organized a slight reading. Never addressed a more affectionate or indulgent audience. They enhanced the Arctic Ox by attendant laughs and squirmings of posture and were entirely natural and different from the eastern hordes of autograph seekers, in going out, past Miss White and me as we stood at the theatre exit. The "paper" was in memory of Miss Ruth Wallerstein 132 whose sister, Mrs. Fernberger, came all the way from Philadelphia for the program & is staying with Miss White -- and serving a luncheon today for 3 friends and I am invited. An interview today and linguist students and young Harvard men of the Faculty are taking me for a drive, and we have a big reception after the party, I mean the "lecture". Miss White and Mrs. Fernberger invited me in for a little Cointreaux, is that right? and to see the table arrangement of gleaming baby and mature plants Mrs. F had got for the sunroom. I give nothing to anyone but the attendants (the servants) but invited Mr. Enck 133 (Harvard graduate) to lunch at the Union Grille after. Miss White said, "After Miss Moore addresses your class will you take care of her for luncheon?"
I resolved that he would not. So I overpowered him -- then assuming that I had circumvented Miss White, I was circumvented slightly by having her say, "Mr. Enck told me that he had planned to invite you to lunch since he had no class till 2:30 but you invited him and having read in the N Yorker of the token-test, he was afraid to refuse! My charities just don't manage to be private. . . .
I should tear this up but want so much to reassure that I am in no infirmary I let it go, dear distant Hildegarde. If only you were with me.
P. S. This is a mellow, spacious, populous, but sincere place, Hildegarde. No affectations and roars of excitement reverberated from the World Series television showings in the lounge which opens into the Exhibition room where I was alone -- looking at Karl Priebe's 134 . .
Bird pictures. I like his fantasies and delicately done weeds.
Again, goodbye dear Higgs.
The world would be a little different if I reorganized it; but like Mercury and the weather, I'd better let it be regulated from on high.
Rose Manor Motel
October 7, 1958
Hildegarde, my flowers and jacket were not unobserved last evening! These are dear people -- intending very hard not to kill me, minimizing every annoyance and I was not inclined to stare coldly when a girl leaned down confidentially after the program to ask, "Where did you get your green jacket -- is it Chinese?" A very refined girl. It was not a Chinese.
Rather a mosaic of a day -- a reporter & photographer . . . from 9 to 10 and two more from the Oregonian from 10 to 11. And a class discussion of image, symbol and metaphor from 11 to 12. Lunch at the Anchorage which has an outdoor veranda overlooking the Wilamette, a good meal, then drive to see big big trees, a "test" rose garden, a tiny zoo where the llama with hairy back -- fringed ears like the prongs of a hayrack spit at me 3 times. Trees. ("They are our specialty," an alumna & friend of mine said.)
At four, a tea. From 6 to 8 I studied my notes and dressed (did not rest). Instead, I read a sheaf of poems by Mr. Hanson who was to introduce me, and read a write-up of me by one of the juniors for the college paper. Program from 8 to 9. Reception from 9 to 11. I packed for a quick departure today; I leave after a question period of 2 hours from 10 to 12.
This pace sounds dementedly untherapeutic but the people are so gentle, I let them talk to me, and their offerings of Nature food and anecdote to say nothing of fast driving around snake turns at an angle of 40° is really touching, (memorable).
I couldn't be on hand so promptly for any kind of thing if I weren't so well all of a sudden. During the rival photographings by the Oregon Journal & Oregonian, I induced my student manager & hostess to go about a block "around back" to get me some Concord grapes I could see from my bathroom window. She laid them on a Kleenex paper arranged like art, with a very fine leaf standing up and then (and this is one rare thing!): an epicure eating these small ripe grapes with a pristine bloom on them. The leaf is 2-toned -- green on top and beige on the bottom side.
My packings and unpackings are odious to me but my jacket suffers no harm whatever, and that is my reward. Everything is tied down and then the jacket, puffed out at various strategic places with other clothes of a downy nature & snakes of tissue, goes on top. . . .
Men's Dormitory 103
University of Washington
October 10, 1958
In a little while, tender and really "strong" Hildegarde, I shall be leaving for the Science Health Auditorium with my two lovely little pink tinged white orchids and picot white ribbons pinned to my green jacket -- (I should say pink-edged orchids) . . .
All has gone well despite some 3 dire dilemmas and multitudes of specialists and collegiate authorities, I invariably feeling like the Times cartoon of foot high hippopotamus hiding among 12 foot giraffes. Did you see it.
Instead of French bread and syrup for breakfast and who knows what on the plane I have laid in a supply of my kind of food -- Gravenstein apples, home-grown tomatoes, California pears, Borrochini bread sticks, sliced almonds and de-fatted meringue trifles iced with chocolate. . . .
- 89 -
October 28, 1958
The fox fur! Its first appearance was last night (evening) at the Donnell Library, where Ogden Nash and I participated alternately. An evening like no other in its oddities and reprieves. Ogden is without a rival in his prodigies of sanity -- versus insanity. And at the house -- where I ate so slowly and talked so fast that two telephonings to expedite us did not produce us till half past 7. "Not a minute later" than seven, B. L. had insisted. (Basil Langton).135 Being defiant is not my forte but how satisfactory it was.
Then, after tidal-waves of audience with open books and pen were all ignored by a Library bodyguard, I was rushed to 60th and Park to a reception given by a Miss Davie, author of A History of the United States with pictures and carefully compiled text ; text-by-topic. Discovery, early settlers & so on. . . .
All this incidental to the fox: -- the fox skins. I would have been cold without them, the auditorium having been proudly and therapeutically air-conditioned! And what a comfort to have them end above the point at which I had to lean back. A marvel of a possession -- triumphant Hildegarde. Wore the elephant hair too, and my afternoon black velveteen; with Venetian insert. Mull collar (part of a camisole set given me by Warner in 1919? Can't be sure just which year.) Must get to work or I'll be sorry.
November 2, 1958
. . .Who can have anything, who will not receive it! I worry (well may) about myself in this connection, for I stumble head down, on and on, like a wild horse in a storm. Everyday the past week, some desperate objective and I needing one thing, about two hours to work on my paper for Johns Hopkins.136 Still precarious. Since I was at a Hallowe'en dinner Friday night, wrote 29 (I think) letters, from 7 to 3 without lunch yesterday, ate a large trayful or do I mean trough-ful of lunch and worked at my typings and re-typings till eleven or 12 with an hour subtracted for a long telephone call. I didn't mind.
The program Monday evening was, so far as the papers indicate, nothing! But among friends, a wondrous thing -- body-guards necessary, overflow in a conference room -- compliments of every kind, by reason of Ogden Nash and certainly from me. He was ideal, serious and helpful in his answers -- never tongue-in-cheek. I am a genius to have asked for him -- and his Marriage, his word-twister Kankakee, in fact everything, brought down the house.
I read the Jellyfish & Arctic Ox and my new one and we both answered questions from the audience and from Bay-sil Langton till about ten o'clock or later till the Library was being darkened for the night. My boa -- its first appearance -- was the hero of my part of the program. I've never had so many compliments on anything, its elegance, its gracefulness, its richness -- a picture with my black velvet dress & tricorne. I said to helpless Mr. Langton whom we exasperated without intention at every turn -- "I am going to keep my hat on, Mr. Langton." "Please do," he said, "they expect it." Lines of girls with pen & open book asked signatures, but we were strong-armed to the street to a car, without signing a book -- told we should tour the country like Mark Twain & George W. Cable. Were taken to the home of a Miss Davie who has written a History of America from Columbus on -- with wonderful pictures. Have I not told you? I suppose not,137 since two emergencies coincided and I went to New York with Gladys, then Wednesday had lunch with Mrs. Church at 875 Park Avenue and drove with her to [see] her cook's daughter's baby in Irvington -- an idealistic mother & daughter & absolutely irresistible baby -- 3 months old. He appraises everyone, smiles if he feels like it, grips your finger like iron. If I weren't so worried, I would have enjoyed it.
Mrs. Church then closeted me in the guest room with my article and I promptly went to sleep -- ("The armadillo used it as a pillow") -- woke up in time to do a huge amount of work before Ernest came to take me to a dinner with the Darlingtons, whose son Edward I told you about maybe. I am all mixed up, Hildegarde. That was Friday -- the visit to Johnny [etc.] and Darlingtons. Thursday I had dinner with Lincoln Kirstein & Monroe Wheeler and went to (Le Cid) Theatre Populaire the Broadway Theatre. Monroe & Lincoln confessed they understood only every 10th word. The only ones I understood were "Mon Coeur" and "d'honneur" the entire evening. Oh yes and "l'Amour", which rang out like the cry of the Valkyries. The deportment . . . and costumes were epic.
Now, I'm going to church -- and at 3 o'clock Assam Kahn will come for me to take me to International House 500 Riverside Drive to give a talk on poetry -- to foreign students -- very "ve-ry simple", they insist -- and tomorrow I must have a tooth attended to and maybe see Dr. Laf Loofy and Wednesday at 12:10 I go to Baltimore. . .
I would perish without my Aeternamatic watch, tell Sibley. If I don't get that piece on Edith finished no point in my going to Maryland. But I can do it, sweet and dear Hildegarde.
Jan. 26, 1959
. . .The Doctor says I am doing so well I can take a taxi perhaps on February 9th to have dinner with Isak Dinesen. 138 I still am on Serpasil pills (for high blood pressure). I wish I could see Baroness Blixen. Kamante in Out of Africa is a possession. (Who "when he found himself to be different from the world, held the world to be crooked," a genius helpless in its power.) Watching the typewriter when she said she was writing a book: "Can you do it?" not "hard like the Odyssey?" Yes she thought she could, that the pieces could be put together. He was sceptical. Remember this?. . .139
The January 1st Listener I also have looked at: -- E. M. Forster's impressions of living in Pomerania as tutor to Elizabeth-&-her-German Garden's140 children, and Sir John Neale on Queen Elizabeth; and some Greek drawings -- horses -- & Polyphemus having his eye put out; and Edith Sitwell quoting some lines from Lovelace. Now I am a little tiresome, dear H! Shall let Gladys carry this out when she goes home.
October 20, 1959
. . .I lead a squirrel in cage life; arrived at Grand Central by half past two yesterday, had written James Sweeney I would attend the Press opening of the Wright Guggenheim Museum141 so proceeded by express to 86th Street & the M. is at 88th and Fifth. As I approached, I was joined by Mrs. Mary Kennedy. She was dressed very handsomely in royal blue silk and garnet velvet tarbush -- is that the term? for Moroccan fez? (I was in train-clothes with a briefcase of eggs, an orange, miscellaneous things and even sweater nested among the rest.) Mrs. K. assured me I need not be trammeled by her in my inspection of the paintings. I adopted her gratefully. We left our coats & my heavy things in the check room; then James Sweeney appeared -- showed us his fish-shaped blue fish pool which is to have vermilion fish in it, took us to the top swirl of the snail shell in the elevator & we walked down. The thing is a great success -- paintings hung vertical against plain pale walls -- not crowded, no struggle with stairs or noise. We descended to a cocktail elongated table, manned by 4 in gray like confederate soldiers: ginger ale, as well as other drinks, shrimps, tiny sandwiches, nuts (fresh) no pretzels or potato-chips. Olives only & fancy food! Mrs. K insisted on carrying my property & paying for me in the bus to the Roko Gallery to Robert Parker's exhibition. The paintings are very original & bold -- among them a crow picking up a cherry (or round grape). (Already sold; $75). Then Mrs. K. took me back up to 86th and I came home. . . .
April 28, 1960
. . .The bus was a nightmare, worst trip I ever took anywhere -- even the Santa Fe to the Grand Canyon -- half seat room for even a thin person and knees touching the back of the seat in front, and I sat -- little patent leather suitcase, briefcase of 4 books and orchid on top -- nearly to Princeton, without even straightening my camel's-hair coat or underjacket a trifle, gloves on & muffler suffocating me, asphyxicated by kingsize cigarettes beside and before.
Well, I got there. . . . I alighted at Palmer Square on Nassau Street and asked for a waiting-room? 3 green benches by the busstop. I had had a seat to myself on the bus for 20 minutes and was not so overheated as on the bus but the wind was cold & brisk so took refuge after 15 minutes in Scrimus tobacco-shop -- a very fancy place -- was permitted by a distant impersonal nod. After half an hour I amused myself examining the calabashes, nargilahs and meerschaums, -- displayed before mirrored wardrobe cases. A long curved churchwarden lay in the front case and some very dear, I am sure, imported briars. The door on each corner of the shop was wide open and [I] went out for exercise, leaving my luggage without permission. . . . As I was circling the corner Mr. S. appeared, not very late -- (5 or 10 minutes) I had been too early. I having asked two or three waiting men, "May I ask you, Sir, are you from the University -- English Department?" Well -- I'll tell you the rest when I see you if it is not a superfluity.
I donned my emerald and velvet and orchid plus jewels in the bathroom of the family -- did not remove my tricorne, it was more convenient to keep it on. I wore it in the restaurant and at the program. It was in Scribner Lounge in the new Library -- (bigger than the original room) -- and I introduced myself after threading my way among groups of boys and a few girls on the floor, perched in windows and standing at the back. Mrs. S. valiantly accompanied me from dinner -- sat on a small table. I explained that "the officials" had not yet come from dinner -- greeted with a roar of laughter. Nicer boys I've never met. . . .
After my reading the S's had orange juice (for me), cheesecake & assorted intoxicants for the rest -- only 5! Then saying if Mrs. S. didn't get me to the junction I'd miss the last train (10:30) I changed my emerald jacket & skirt in the little bathrbom after wandering round in my slip & blouse -- selfishly brought the orchid home (white and gold at the centre) and got here at 12. . . .
May 24, 1960
. . .I went to the National Arts Club dinner and program last evening. Not to go would have been abominable but a throng in festive spirits is a little difficult! I'm well -- andjust to please my emerald jacket I should have gone, shouldn't I? At dinner, a dainty young lady said, "And something else is beautiful" (across the table -- a big round one) "what you are wearing!" Twice and thrice venerated was the jacket, at the reading (by readers -- Cathleen Nesbit, me: and two pictorial girls -- with resilient burnished curls and waists like an ant's and diamonds like little chandeliers -- though gems, not full armor or cables thrown to the pier by a liner). All three read me -- so devoutly (but often wrongly). Larry Hagman, George Starbuck -- a handsome beanpole if ever there was one, (George S. I like his things, too, George Starbuck's, Bone-Thoughts, Yale Press). . . . Mr. Hagman, an unfettered actor with semiphore gestures -- east, west and up -- did very well and bellowed to the farthest corner. I envied him that megaphone audibleness. At the intermission I was come for by faithful Dr. Creighton, a doctor occupied with medical research. He came for me in a taxi, checked my wraps, and brought me home (young, handsome, a real professional). I felt guilty as you may know. I might have saved him that. Mr. Tuttle, an architect, [and] Mr. and Mrs. Howell managed and hosted our table with buffet (excellent) food, (turkey, roast beef, egg rolls, ice cream, cake, pie, salad, and curios). Mr. Tuttle ordered wine: Beaujolie [sic] which he esteems and craved to have shared by all. I finally let him trickle a half inch in my glass -- fortunately dry (and a little strange) but wasted on me. He expounded the limitations of water. I might die if I went abroad. Well -- as you say, Hildegarde, I'll say good bye; dear Higgie.
Baltimore 2, Md.142
June 11, 1960
Here I am, Hildegarde --
I have fifteen minutes in which to talk to you. The trip by coach could not have been more luxurious. Mr. McGuire's "Jim" called for me and I surrendered my bags at Pennsylvania Station to a porter -- who put me on the train in advance which became so crowded someone had to stand. I ate lunch (lap lunch) and worked on my review. A young Navy youngster dozed beside me, read a novel -- ate his lunch, a sandwich -- very concerned about his coat and trousers -- creases -- helped me on with my coat (brown check) and I needed no porter for the Baltimore escalator. Never felt such oven heat as in the taxi to the Belvedere. (It had waited in the, sun but the hotel is very cool even with no air conditioner, which I turned off immediately. A better hotel than the Ritz in this respect; the coat hangers are not locked to the rod and the bathroom would satisfy Nero -- either scented or unscented soap -- huge towel racks peopled with bath towels -- and on another wall, linen -- well is it crucial!) . . .
The party at Mrs. Baker's. Margaret Mead, Hannah Arendt, and Dr. Wu, a physicist, were taken by car from the hotel (about an hour's drive). The sylvan beauty of the dells and lawns is hard to credit; but you have the same. Honeysuckle scents the air and the roses are in their prime.
We stood -- indoors and out -- until dinner. The house is of stone like a foreign embassy and the grounds are acres of grass, towering oaks, with a ha-ha, occasional roses by the wall (pale salmon) and facing rows of gloxinias (scarlet or white) on either side of the terrace from the house. Judges, educators, trustees; and presently Mary Ellen Chase & Dr. Kranshaar (President of Goucher) -- a philosopher, Dr. Kranshaar. He taught at Smith.
At dinner there were about 4 tables (round or long) and I was between Mrs. Rose and Dr. Reed, a (Scottish) minister now pastor of Dr. Coffin's church; (to my amazement, he remembered meeting me at Dr. Halverson's tea for the Bishop of Geneva some months ago!) He was a student of Sir Herbert Grierson's for 4 years at Edinburgh. Mrs. Rose is wife of a Baltimore minister. She and Dr. Rose met as students at Dickinson College in Carlisle where we lived till 1915 (from 1896)! I couldn't have had more ideal companions.
To eat? Alligator pear salad in goblets of crushed ice, tender little squab, asparagus, broiled tomatoes, ice cream and brandied peaches; champagne (and miniature cup-cakes.) The negro servants limped, bent, worked, hovered, returned speedily and the gentle door maid said as I left, "Thank you for coming to the party."
I couldn't stay later than half past ten ! -- and on reaching the hotel, fell asleep almost standing up. . . .
Commencement today! "May I ask what your field is?" or, "Where is your tricorne hat?" I was frequently asked at the party.
June 25, 1960
My mail is here -- a whole anonymous heap; it can rest there, till I mail these letters to you and Sibley, Irita Van Doren and Marshall Best (about Mr. Andre Martell's uninhibited diction "Et ca femme?")
No, I didn't tell you much about Mercedes de Acosta's party at Serendipidy -- not having caught names very well -- having been very tense during Miss Talmey's visit to submit changes & suggest additions to the Vogue piece,143 . . Then that subway short-circuit.
Eugene Reynal & Thomas Guinzberg were my main companions, an Armenian friend of T. S. Eliot's who resembles Roger Fry, and an houri exactly -- (precise-elly) as Ballantine beer says -- like the maidens with musical instruments or wine-pitchers in Persian miniatures, in a neat but flowing, bright blue sari and gold ornaments with a tiny S curl on the forehead of -- say 3 hairs instead of the grosser-style question mark! . . .
Cleveland won the ball-game which Warner said I should watch -- Herb Stigman made a masterly catch and also pitched. As the announcer Mel Ott said, "Once in a while you get a pitcher who is "in command."
Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts144
August 23, 1960
. . .I am fascinated by Renee's Living Italian records and folder. I saw a French course listed in Travel and was for buying it and Renee said, "Before you do that, try my Italian one and see how you like it. "Molte grazie, ma mi manca la pretica" "Lei è molto cortese -- Mille grazie." "Di nulla" (Dee noo la) Scimmia (She-mya) monkey Scoiattolo (Skoi-at-tollo) poesie (po-a-see-ah) and so on!
E il mio, E il tuo. I said "What is 'azote'?" Renee said, "look it up." "Nitrogen." Well, it's entertaining.
Please write to me, Hildie, molto entertaining. . . .
The country is sweeter than the city. And the birds are so curious yet natural. And two Siamese cats at Renee's daughter's next door to us -- Seal points -- aquamarine eyes, cream bodies, back [black?] brown ears and paws -- rolling and pushing with the legs and washing furiously -- so clean they feel like sheared seal or ermine. . . .
November 12, 1961
Am just back, Higgie, from the theatre -- I could have done better (my reading). The audience was rasped by having had to wait half an hour -- since the "committee" thought that all possible stragglers should be seated before the reading began? Anomalous.
However, there was a most genial reception of my efforts, and asides and afterthoughts. I was carefully rushed to the car afterward (eluding persons wanting autographs) and am resting at the Ambassador East before the Arts Club dinner and auction -- (sitting in my navy blue silk with the velvet jacket) 7 to 11 :30 affair.
The Hotel is pretty fine! the most notable thing being the servants. They are serious, gracious and proud of the place -- clever -- so Mr. Rago145 knew best about transferring from the Pearson.
(Just back from the dinner and auction at the Arts Club.) The cocktail party was very unrestful (7-8) with photographers from various newspapers saying, "Would you mind coming over to that corner of the room for a few photographs?" Fred Adams, Dir. of the Morgan Library, and Judge Bowe146 & two ladies and I were sitting on a halfmoon settee and Judge Bowe said, "You come over here if you want pictures," so they all crouched in the dimness and tried to get something; -- nice men but circumstances were not favorable for them and we looked like fools no doubt.
The crowd was stupendous; and dinner like a political banquet. I sat between Patrick Lannan147 who first thought of the Poetry Auctions (& subscribers for a $100-a-person dinner). Much generosity without thought of revenge was evident -- all the ladies in sparkles or cerise or turquoise or black velvet (backless and sleeveless). Soup, roast beef, string beans, roast potatoes, salad and ice cream in meringue with strawberries. "Bergen Evans" 148 had a sore throat so the auctioneers were amateurs. Fred Adams was a real virtuoso: dry with witty dignity and skill -- graceful and quaint -- surprising every little while, and Judge Bowe and several professors took turns. My items? brought in all, $1815 -- to my utter incredulity, a Yeats, several of H.D. and 2 magazines and about 12 "poems" of my own transcribed from print (old books). Flowers everywhere like the tropics, roses of marvellous quality, and champagne both at dinner and the auction so inescapable it was as if millions of glasses had been filled by a steady rain.
Everyone actually seems pleased! I can hardly believe it and that it is over! I'll be arriving Tuesday morning -- 8:51, apprehensive lest you make me too elegant an oriole. Have tried not to arrive battered. Very little solitude here; but I have over eaten and been taken everywhere -- no vacant lots to stumble across -- and am much fatter and calmer than when I got the train here from N. York. Am impatient to alight (in Rochester). Don't come to the train, Higgie. I'll feel disruptive and a trouble, if you do. Am taking a few scraps from here for breakfast, in case you have eaten early.
June 22, 1962
. . .Well, at the Prospect High School, borrowed by Sands Junior H.S. for the 2000 pupils commencement, I am said to have given the "Commencement address"! 10 minutes of practical advice -- Victory over self -- thus over circumstances; and "you get what you give." Solemn but they all laughed. .
August 9, 1962
. . .We rest hands on a great wide rough marble sill and look down on the Canal. Venice -- a barge a-light with a row of gondolas horizontal, a lantern at each prow, preceding it, very slowly and followed by one -- a tenor singing as it approached and disappeared, the boat looking like a fountain of fireflies (or fountain of glittering arabesques) then another cerise and white, a soprano -- then a tenor -- and all, returning after a time.
August 10, 1962
One tonight, several -- the canal resounding with "Romantica" on and on, by a tenor. Morning at 6 church bells clanging (across from us) and at 7, Mass -- the steps up, (right angled steps) and steps down, the same in reverse to the water. Before other life stirs in the hotel, two boys in duck trousers and striped denim coats polish the rail of the landing float and little floating bridge to the steps in. One applies the brass polish, the other polishes. They stand idle; muse awhile; then, cast their cloths (2 by each) into the canal and slowly come into the hotel. I would hesitate to drop a flower even into the water.
This town is full of jasmin, small -- fragrant inside, outside in a crock beside a gardenia in bloom at the door of a flower shop. I am so dazed and a-stare I almost buy the jasmin. The shop across, all pink knitting or organdy, a dress of pink voile with deep hem and wide bands over the shoulder, on a dress form by the entrance inside. This is not Naples. (No laundry to be seen dangling from windows).
We return key to "Antiquita" (Mr. Castangua), cross two little bridges over tiny canals as we go. The shop is exquisite -- half life-size Sicilian puppets, knight in armor, Florio hero of fairy tale -- a yard of powder blue velvet with pattern in faint gold $80.00. Flexible fish comes apart; pinhole perforations back of the mouth to let fragrance out.
Here, waiter bringing breakfast: "grapefruit?" (No, grapejuice) "Sorry". The grapejuice is a marvel of thin white not too sweet nectar. "Poach egg? Not poach egg; boiledegg? Boiled, no poach?" "Right?" He goes out. Frances says, "Do you suppose the egg is already boiled?"
My oh my! The gondolier -- left leg bearing the whole weight, right leg lightly diagonal, with mighty swirl of the oar. Some oars with herringbone scarlet stripes; men at edge of palace float carefully very carefully applying fresh paint (Yale blue) to last pole of spiral blue and white posts ("pali" they call them, I had to ask 10 people ten times the name)! very afraid of putting a touch of blue on the white stripe.
Must eat (don't care to, yet!) The Island of Torcello -- old old church away beyond the lagoon beyond Murano (mosaics) and Burano (laces).
Two little parties of ducks, little brown ones, swim out as we approach the pavement and posts to tie the boat (Italian boat, American motor) very fast -- showering spray right and left. We drink peach juice and few drops of champagne -- see cathedral (bride's bouquet of white roses and wide satin on side chapel altar) -- outside shutters, each one piece of stone, to withstand pirates. Cicada sings, another; shriller. . . .
The Lodges, Inc.
Prouts Neck, Maine150
August 31, 1963
. . .Here, we are getting more and more acquainted, wisely and unwisely -- cocktails, small dinners -- chats and queries. Occasional rain, fog, or wind, but Maine is a joy to me whatever the conditions, the scent of pine, seaweed, mewing gulls. You've been here.
Malvina provides me with a lot of necessities I forgot to bring. Mrs. LeGacy has lent me an electric blanket and is hunting me a suit box or carton to mail home what burdens my baggage. . . .
I have a piece of good news. The N Yorker likes my piece on Leonardo Da Vinci, footnotes and all -- said so in sending me proof just now of W. S. Landor -- which is a mosaic of queries and suggestions about punctuation.
I thought the Leonardo was labor lost -- but obligatory, as making me feel I was saying a few things in gratitude of him and Sir Kenneth Clark.151 . .
Shall be back Sept. 4th late.
October 22, 1963
The orchid was here when I arrived and is like a cloud -- a blur of shape and whiteness with a deep golden throat. I wore it to the tea; then in the evening.
Reporters from the Star, Post and Evening _______153 greeted one another -- also the Library of Congress reporter -- and hovered about (each other) taking pictures -- 2 or 3 from the same papers, it seemed to me. Mrs. Whittall who gave the Library this Series of Programs -- lectures and concerts -- is 95, couldn't come.
The absorbing feature of the room was a case of 4 or 5 Stradivarius violins and a S. cello at one end -- too remote to notice till I insisted on seeing the collection on leaving -- used by the Juilliard & Budapest quartettes from time to time -- "the largest collection in the world" and the Library has a long marble corridor of flutes, serpents, pan pipes, nose flutes of all materials -- the "largest" collection in the world. (Everything biggest, oddest, shiny-est).
Muna Lee, 154 whom Sibley may remember in early Alfred Kreymborg 155 -- Wallace Stevens-in-New York days, invited me, Howard Nemerov 156 (consultant at the Library this year) & two others to dinner; and to minimize my difficulties brought us to the Stratford -- objected to its having just a coffee-shop. Perfect for me -- then excused me to dress -- and waited for me (to take me back to the Library for the program). Howard N. produced the "poetry" in his introduction -- an inventive thoughtful brief page. . . .
March 12, 1964
Guggenheim Auditorium 8:30157
Mrs. Bullock, Miss Kray, Mr. Arnasson, if he is here -- Ladies and Gentlemen --
We need a giant rather than a gosling to introduce W. H. Auden (if he needs an introduction).
Mr. Auden is many kinds of virtuoso: a musicologist who can play the piano. (At WNYC one time when the technician was late or we were early, Mr. Auden sat down at a weatherbeaten piano and began to play Bach's St. Matthew Passion and I thought, My! Why an irrelevant unpredictable radio program when we could have this sublime thing!)
Mr. Auden is a living poet who can write a song a fantasist who is also a sage.
Mr. Auden is a virtuoso of meter with the nicety of a dancer cat-cradling his steps between the points of crossed swords. (Didn't say this) He is the Houdini of Houdinis in escaping what should not detain him. When held to question, he instantly changes shape, Mr. Alan Pryce-Jones says, but he is also a virtuoso of forbearance and rescue. I would be an ingrate if I didn't say that.
Mr. Monroe K. Spears, in his book, The Poetry of W. H. Auden, refers to Mr. Auden's early days, quoting Christopher Isherwood. Mr. Isherwood says, he enjoyed among us, his semi-savage barbarous school fellows, the status of a witch doctor.
Let me give you one example of his therapeutic indispensable inconvenient doctrines:
Diseases are a warning symptom of a sickness of the Soul and those who try to cure them without first curing the soul are only serving the Devil.
The first typing is all written over; can't send you that.
May 12, 1964
Academy,158 yesterday, Higgie, I went by subway -- back by car . . .This struggle paid off. George Kennan arrived early. So did I. Just a moment of rational conversation -- then miscellaneous arrivals, including more friends: Peter Blume159 and Reinhold Niebuhr, John Hersey, Mark Van Doren -- favorites all. Peter is for an emergency fund of $15,000 instead of $5,000 for disabled members who should be offered the money -- not allowed to die of delicacy. A near-sighted objector opposed it: "Where get the money without cheating other needs?" Most contemptible. We are going to create the fund -- we can cut down on grants (hoping, so far as I'm concerned, that we'll all die of heart attacks!).
Now, I have to go again, same place, to luncheon 12:30. I refused but I was "begged" and will be there. O yes "be next someone nice" they said. "Who is he?" I asked. It is John O'Hara! (All I don't like is the content. He can write, think so?) Then at 3 p.m., the ceremonial & Sir. K. Clarke on Pop Art. . . . John Hersey is going to present theMedal of Honor to John O'Hara.
Durante's Hotel, London 160
August 14, 1964
. . .We've been to a play (afternoon) The Reluctant Peer at the Duchess Theatre; play by Mr. Haine's son, & were really diverted. During 2 intermissions, tea was served to those who had arranged for it! big trays -- biscuit & little cakes. We had ours here in the lounge -- thin tomato sandwiches strewn with tiny water- cress.
Wednesday evening I had dinner with the Eliots -- table for only 6 so the Bs could be invited -- Theresa Eliot (sister in law of TSE) & Peter and Mollie du Sautoy. They sent a car for me & had the man bring me home about eleven. On alighting here I said, "The Eliots are good friends of mine." He said, "They're wonderful people. No one just like them -- goodnight; and God bless." I have got to detach myself from "objective" & write out some of this episode.161 Valerie in a white silk flowered sleeveless and neckless evening dress with a tail or floating panel that flew back at any swift motion. Theresa in a midnight blue long to the floor thing of net or chiffon with a brocaded velvet tiny design 3 quarter sleeves -- her hair a haze of gray (almost a halo it seemed). Mollie, a snug bare necked sleeveless dark flowered dress -- and such a winning contagious, emphatic manner. The men wore business dress -- Peter, dark blue & Tom, mouse gray -- the dinner should be portrayed by Piero Francesca -- a little green half melon with yellow stripes, lamb carved by Valerie; beans & rice, current jelly, preceeded by a telephone parenthetic enquiry, "Do you eat everything?" dessert, half solid dark chocolate mousse with Devonshire cream added -- from a secret recipe -- French bonbons in small shapes (flowers & fruits) after cheese of 3 kinds on a board -- Brie & Stilton -- & praised by me -- TSE saying that F & Faber have some very good books on cooking & when I spoke of the cheese, Peter said that Tom had called Wenslydale, in a review, "the Mozart of cheeses but did not say Mozart was the Wenslydale of musicians "162
August 20, 1964
. . .Wonderful Italian Masters in the National Gallery. Piero di Cosima's Bible and mythological subjects I had forgotten if I ever saw them. A Lapith in the Battle of the Centaurs & Lapiths standing planted on a precipice leaning back to balance himself, holding a huge rock to drop it on a centaur far below -- standing on his head, hoofs in air.
Boticelli's Nativity so familiar (the angels with mandolins) has something at the right I had not noticed, an old man seated or kneeling, his fingers woven together -- a wonderful study of hands.
But the portrait gallery! Individual heads glowing like gems under water -- Purcell and Ben Jonson and the "Chandos" Shakespeare, Richard Steele by Addison & Richard Baxter, Isaac Newton, Burke. Plenty of chairs and settees and courteous guards instantly rising and fishing a list from the under part of the chair to tell us what we wished to know. I guess the finest thing we saw was the Leonardo cartoon in a little room by itself, of the Virgin & St. Anne -- such intense reverie of grief with a fleeting shadow of recognition in each, of the other's proximity.
We had lunch at Simpson's in the Strand, -- cold tongue and potato salad for me & no p-salad for the Brownes. Old, battered waiters in long aprons almost touching the ground. Never ate such rare p-salad; it must have had a touch of mustard from Dijon and a grain of red pepper and basil in it.
On Sunday we had tea at Peter du Sautoy's (F. & Faber). Mollie (Mrs. du S) had made and iced chocolate cake, had baked bread (thin buttered slices), and a great bouquet of pink tiger lilies stood on a cabinet. Bernard & Jennifer, recently married son & d-in-law, had just arrived from somewhere -- a very winning pair. Peter came for us & brought us home.
We discussed Richard Church's memoir Part I in the Times -- "Fate by telephone or My Double Life" as writer & government employee in the ministry of Food under Humbert Wolfe. Frances, I find, considers it egotistical. (It seems very objective to me by comparison with Lady Ottoline Morel.) We have also seen Oliver (Twist). The best choreography I recall in anything of recent years -- realistic fog, and street scenes -- and street cries and Georgette a jackdaw in a wicker cage who steals pearls & diamonds. . . .
Durrant's Hotel W. 1
Sunday, Aug. 30, 1964
. . .I went to see Dame Edith Sitwell (about 4 o'clock yesterday) in Keats Grove in a most romantic small house -- by permission. Brave Edith ! She has an infected finger, has had it a month & can't write. Laurels shining, each leaf glazed not by rain but sun (at left of the door); and the prickliest thickest dark green holly at right.163
Shadow & Leo -- Siamese & orange tiger -- came into the drawing room to see me where I waited. There are 2 others (black) -- strays. Sister Farquahar let me in -- a catholic in ordinary dress and then Miss Salter appeared, Edith's secretary; had been conducted upstairs to a bedroom overlooking the front flowers and gate.
The taxi-man had worked in the Keats museum one time and knew the way -- speeding me to St. John's Wood (Edith's address.) He said, "There's a movie star being married at the church near you. You could see it if we get back in time." Just missed it, 3 men in gray toppers (and pathetic crowd) on the sidewalk. A photographer said the men were waiting for taxis.
We had dinner at a little Greek Casa Blanca (very near) but stayed up late to hear me on the BBC -- on a borrowed transistor. I sounded like a sparrow suddenly run over -- still able to make sounds.
(Too bad). (They had resurrected a recording of "Rigorists") . . . .
The Fisherman's Cot Bickleigh
September 15, 1964
I have just returned from seeing Alyse.164 She had urged us to come; then yesterday I had another letter saying she had had shingles but was over it only there were spots like bruises all over her face. I telephoned that we would not think of coming. She said she would go mad if we didn't, I to have luncheon with her; and Frances & Norvelle Browne and Phyllis Nesbitt to leave me with her and have luncheon at the Carnarvon Arms; then come back for coffee or something to drink. We went.
She seemed to us perfectly well; we saw the bruise like spots near her left ear and she said that she sometimes has pains in her head. But she was just as usual in her manner and speech, touching beyond the power of words to say in providing heat, comfortable chairs, luncheon for me. She is a little deaf but hyper sensitive, saying now and then, "Does this interest you?"
The house seemed to us all very spacious -- large rooms -- dainty fresh pale walls. She would frequently say, "I want to show you everything so you can tell Hildegarde and Sibley all about it."
You enter the side of the cottage, a small hall and turn left into the kitchen very large with an oblong dining-table (left) under windows and other windows opposite and all kinds of equipment -- refrigerator, cupboards, & sink under windows ; had the table set with large pink-rimmed Powys dinner plates -- with a delicate crest -- lion's paw holding a lance : "What I have, I hold" only no (motto) , some American (Gregory) silver. A loaf of brown bread of a kind of floury pale crust exactly the color of the round wooden board on which it stood.
Facing the front door are stairs opening into a large living room, at the left a guest room, very dainty with every comfort, and next it a good sized bathroom with window. The living room has a wide white electric heater, a very handsome armchair with slender arms curving out -- beautifully marked wood with upholstery, and opposite her rocking chair (by a wide window) with table between. Chagall's man from the Folio,165 another Folio print and deSegonzac framed were on the wall back of the rocking chair and Christ and 2 disciples on the walk to Emmaus painted by L. Powys. Under a Paisley shawl against the right hand wall is the largest television screen I've ever seen, given Alyse by Mrs. Byington. Alyse says a relative has died, leaving Mrs. B. quite a fortune.
The first thing Alyse did was show me Sibley's color prints of Michael, Hildegarde, Nicoletta and the newer baby; also Bronwyn and Emily.166 A. asked about Jeanne,167takes endless delight in these pictures and Sibley's letter -- read me most of it about Scofield and Nancy, talked about Jung & Ellen Thayer & Mr. Riscins and how Dr. Freud told Llewelyn & her that Scofield was a fundamentally kind person. Then she took me (at my urging) to see Mrs. Rose's Ex bailiff, Mr. Pierce, Mrs. P. and the parrot who talks amusingly, near her own cottage. I said, "You must write about them." Mrs. P. takes an interest in Dame Edith and other writers living and past. Alyse looked tempted but said "That would be all English history." And, "I am not writing any more."
We had luncheon: jellied consomme, chicken, skinned tomatoes, "complan powder in milk", ice cream, lady-fingers, cheese (Camembert) & crackers which she had heated yesterday in the oven, let me wash no dishes, had a bottle of concentrated nutriment tablets for me.
Then the others came back. We sat in the parlor (under the living room) she and I had sat in. There is a fascinating portrait of L. Sterne and graceful girl; & one by Reginald Marsh pencil drawing of Llewelyn, a clock & lavender lustre pitcher & 2 cups from home on the mantel. Frances knows Margaret Squibb & "Rob" well & Alyse is devoted to Margaret, has a piece of her embroidery framed in the guest room. She led Frances and me down the lane by the cottage to see Mrs. Rose's large house beyond a vegetable garden & extent of smooth shaven lawn. Beside the lane are magnificent towering white pines & Mr. Pierce has his greenhouse at the entrance to the lane, facing Alyse's door.
Hideous scrawl. Best I can do!
P.S. Alyse had a list of questions she asked me (endlessly interested in the Dial) of which the bound volumes occupied a long shelf in the parlor; and about you both & Michael. (She is inexpressibly ardent.)
George St., W.I
Sept. 27, 1964
Back from Cornwall and leaving for Ireland. I still don't know where I'll be, except that [I] shall be visiting the Boyds -- friends of F. and N.; sailing on the Mauretania for Cobh to Southhampton about the 8th or 9th and arriving home the 16th (Mauretania).
I seem and feel pretty far away! We spent much time arriving and leaving little towns -- 3 days in Penzance. Do you remember Vernon Watkins -- the Ballad of the Mermaid of Zennor? 168 Saw the mermaid in Zennor church -- an indistinct carving on a pew end near the font. What I might call a sincere little church -- with glittering brass tablets and simple beautiful carved pillars.
"We have had the best summer in years," everyone tells us. The most encouraging sight has been the golden yellow wheat fields, wheat reaped and in bales or haycocks -- against the blue of the sea -- or patchwork fields each separated from the others with hawthorne hedgerows. . . .
The Red Lion Inn at Salisbury to which we went without reservations because needing to see an occulist for Francis, was like the early 18th century, in fact 17th -- huge oak beams, ebony carved furniture and countless Chinese plates on the wall or shelves -- and spectacular copper, brass and silver. The Lion outside -- an effigy (newly painted). The courtyard -- inner yard is festooned on 3 sides with Virginia creeper hanging and swinging in the wind and over the arch -- scarlet like the vines in the Harvard yard. . . .
Co. Down, Northern Ireland
October 2, 1964
We left London yesterday by plane and I know where we are now but leave for Dublin in a few days for the Shelbourne (Hotel) till we leave the 7th or 8th to sail from Cobh, October 9th. . . . So tossed about the last 10 days I can scarcely form a character right -- sitting at an Empire table with "Suson", a French girl standing slightly pigeontoed on French heels above me on the wall, a print and she has a big black bird in a snare -- in a house in which the bathroom is carpeted from wall to wall and door to tub, with 4 pink turkish towels of 3 sizes and no linen one. Well -- the first time I have had a bathroom since I was on the Sylvania.
We had dinner with the Boyds last evening -- Austin and Janet Boyd who met our plane -- an hour late -- lovely people and Mrs. Boyd is a remarkable cook. Mr. B. likes his tomato with skins on -- whole. So he had his own (size of a golf ball), and we had skinned ones, and a basic salad dressing from America to which you add the oil and vinegar yourself.
Day before yesterday I tore myself away from sordid tasks packing and sending unneeded things home and seeing manuscripts in the British Museum: Music -- Bach's, Mozart's, Haydn and Coleridge, Lamb, Darwin, Isaac Newton, Caxton, Montaigne, Voltaire, Emily Bronte, Shakespeare's First Folio and Chaucer's little self-portrait as part of the page, and a Redoute-like big book of Chinese paintings (insects), a big pale yellow rose falling apart.
I must leave you, Higgie, to see the Giant's Causeway -- have been a "detriment" day by day by being late; have to be ready.
This hotel was built by a Bishop. His private chapel is now the bar -- de-consecrated in 18-? when bought as a hotel.
Cunard Line, R.M.S. Mauretania
Oct. 12, 1964
How ever to thank you, Hildegarde, for your letter to me at Cobh. . . .
You had been to tea at Madeline J's mother's; and George Pratt169 has given you "a pass to all movies at the Eastman Dryden Theatre", including Camille (during every minute of which Sibley "closed his eyes.") Remember?
The ship is full of sweet elderly ladies and polite elderly men. Yesterday and day before, the sea was mountainous and rough -- a wave at intervals smiting the ship with a tremendous thud. Ropes to cling to on all open spaces and little railings on all the tables, under the cloth at the edge.
The Captain's Party last evening had been postponed "because of the inclement weather" and after it, Margaret Rutherford in Murder at a Gallop! Very expert photography; I hope you will see it in George Pratt's series; the play is by Cavanaugh.
We have a cultured stewardess (Miss Marshall) and a cheerful somber elevator man with no right arm.
I'll let this scratch go, inane though it is and hideous to read on this rippled paper; but fond, Hildegarde and Sibley.
MM -- Marianne Moore
HW -- Hildegarde Watson
CP -- The Complete Poems of Marianne Moore (New York: The Macmillan Company/The Viking Press, 1967).
Reader -- A Marianne Moore Reader (New York: The Viking Press, 1961).
But over a (see just
over this) wall
the red and the round
(they're gravensteins) fall
with kind of a blind
big sound on the ground
- J. Warner Moore (b. 1886, seventeen months before M.M.). He was a chaplain in the U. S. Navy.
- E. E. Cummings' recent volume. M.M.'s review appeared in the August 1933 issue of Poetry magazine (42:277-281).
- Lot in Sodom, produced in Rochester by James Sibley Watson, Jr. H.W. appeared in the film in the role of Lot's wife.
- Four Saints in Three Acts (libretto by Gertrude Stein). The opera was first produced in the Avery Memorial Theater of the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Conn., 7 February 1934 (see the following paragraph), and opened in New York 20 February. Stage movements were choreographed by Frederick Ashton and John Houseman, and the cellophane scenery which M.M. mentions in the next paragraph was designed by Florine Stettheimer.
- Alexander Smallens, music conductor of the original production of Four Saints in Three Acts.
- One of M.M.'s oldest friends (b. 1900). In 1923 he had published her poem "Marriage" in his pamphlet series Manikin. He joined the staff of the Museum of Modern Art in 1938 and became its director of exhibitions and publications, in which capacity he supervised publication of the limited edition of M.M.'s Eight Poems (with drawings by Robert Andrew Parker) in 1962. See Letters 59, 64, 66, 90.
- A cousin of Scofield Thayer, who (with his friend James Sibley Watson, Jr.) had purchased The Dial in 1919, and who edited the journal until 1925. When Thayer resigned as editor in the spring of that year, M.M. succeeded him and Ellen Thayer was named assistant editor.
- Hildegard Nagel, another acquaintance from the days of The Dial. MM., in her account of the journal ("The Dial [Part 2]," Life and Letters Today XXVIII , 6), pays tribute to Sibley Watson, Scofield Thayer, Kenneth Burke, Hildegard Nagel, Ellen Thayer, among others, for contributing the unsigned translations of the monthly letters submitted from abroad by The Dial's foreign correspondents.
- Another cousin of Scofield Thayer. According to T. S. Matthews in his recent biography of T. S. Eliot, Great Tom (New York: Harper and Row, 1974) pp. 41-42, Lucy Thayer was "a close friend" of Vivienne Haigh Haigh-Wood, and was one of the two witnesses present when Miss Haigh-Wood and Eliot were married in the Hampstead Registry Office 26 June 1915.
- Pseudonym for Winifred Ellerman, English novelist who, with the poet H.D., brought out MM's first volume of poetry (Poems, published in England in 1921, and without the author's knowledge).
- The famous issue (April-May 1934) of Hound and Horn that was devoted to the work of Henry James. To it, MM. contributed her essay, "Henry James as a Characteristic American."
- MM's review (titled "Things Others Never Notice") of Williams' Collected Poems, 1921-31 appeared in the May 1934 issue of Poetry (44:103-106).
- The family of MM's brother, J. Warner Moore.
- Alice Boughton; three of her photographs of James appeared in the April-May Hound and Horn, together with her accompanying "Note by His Photographer."
- Edited by Ezra Pound, and published in London by Faber and Faber in October 1933. MM., William Carlos Williams, E. E. Cummings, T. S. Eliot, and Ernest Hemingway were among its contributors.
- The volume of MM's Selected Poems (with an introduction by T. S. Eliot) was published in April 1935 by Faber and Faber in London, and Macmillan in New York.
- In the passage: "when you hear the best wild music of the forest/it is sure to be a marmot" ("An Octopus," C.P., p. 74).
- Where MM. and her mother were visiting Warner Moore, stationed at the Norfolk Navy Yard. See Letter 4.
- Professor of English at the University of Chicago, and associate editor of Poetry magazine. A life-long friend of MM.; see also Letters 70 and 78. He died in 1964.
- Born in 1907, Lincoln Kirstein helped to found the literary review Hound and Horn while still an undergraduate at Harvard, and served as its editor. He has written extensively on the dance, and in 1946 founded the Ballet Society, which developed (1948) into the New York City Ballet. See Letters 18, 23, 60, 79, 90.
- Art critic and lecturer (b. 1900). He was director of the Museum of Modern Art in 1945-46, and in 1952 became director of the Guggenheim Museum. See Letter 92.
- The New York World's Fair; see also the following letter.
- The poem about the ostrich became "He 'Digesteth Harde Yron' " which appeared in MM's 1941 volume of poems, What Are Years.
- Part I of MM's account of The Dial appeared in Life and Letters Today for December 1940 (27:175-183); Part II in the issue for January 1941 (28:3-9). It was reprinted in a shortened and somewhat different form as "The Dial: A Retrospect" in the Partisan Review for January-February 1942. This latter form was reprinted in MM's 1955 collection of essays, Predilections.
- Daniel Berkeley Updike (1860-1941), printer and book designer, founder (1893) of the Merrymount Press in Boston. He taught courses at Harvard in the history of printing, and was the author of a notable book on Printing and Types (1922). MM. refers to the Updike quotation again in her Grolier Club Address (21 December 1948), "Humility, Concentration, and Gusto" (Predilections, p. 13): "Daniel Berkeley Updike has always seemed to me a phenomenon of eloquence because of the quiet objectiveness of his writing. And what he says of printing applies equally to poetry. It is true, is it not, that 'style does not depend on decoration but on simplicity and proportion'?"
- From Auden's "New Year Letter," Collected Poetry of W. H. Auden (New York: Random House, 1945), p. 304.
- Ibid., p. 299. where for MM's "The feminine which" Auden reads "Das Weibliche that."
- From Venus and Adonis, line 1105.
- MM's fellow poet and friend (b. 1911), one of whose poems is an "Invitation to Miss Marianne Moore." See Letter 77.
- Frederick Clifton Packard, Jr., a member of the Speech Department at Harvard. See Letter 28.
- Theodore Spencer (b. 1902) ; in 1941, he was an associate professor of English at Harvard. In 1946 he became Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory. He died in 1949.
- MM's niece.
- The phrase "humility, concentration, and gusto" became the title of MM's address to the Grolier Club of 21 December 1948 (printed in Predilections, pp. 12-20); see footnote 25, above. Years later, Winthrop Sargeant used it as the title for his New Yorker magazine profile of M.M.; see footnote 133, below.
- Robert Silliman Hillyer (b. 1895); in 1941, he was Boylston Professor at Harvard. His Collected Verse was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1933. He died in 1961. See Letter 24.
- T. S. Eliot's older brother and his wife, Theresa. Years later, M.M. spoke of her regard for them in her "Interview with Donald Hall": "The first time I met Ezra Pound, when he came here to see my mother and me, I said that Henry Eliot seemed to me more nearly the artist than anyone I had ever met. . . . After the Henry Eliots moved from Chicago to New York. . . , they invited me to dinner, I should think at T. S. Eliot's suggestion, and I took to them inimediately. I felt as if I'd known them a great while. It was some time before I felt that way about T. S. Eliot." (Reader, p. 270). See Letters 51 and 105.
- Born in 1892 and educated at Harvard (A.B. 1915), Stewart Mitchell was managing editor of The Dial in 1919-1920 and contributed to it regularly throughout its publication. He later served as editor and director of the Massachusetts Historical Society. He died in 1957.
- F. O. Matthiessen (b. 1902), educated at Yale (A.B. 1923), Oxford (B.Litt. 1925), and Harvard (A.M. 1926, Ph.D. 1927); in 1941, he was an associate professor of English at Harvard, where he had taught since 1929. His Achievement of T. S. Eliot was published in 1935, and his celebrated American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman had appeared earlier in the year (1941) in which M.M. met him. He committed suicide 1 April 1950. See Letters 48 and 49.
- The poet and critic. I. A. Richards was born in Cheshire, England, in 1893 and was educated at Cambridge, where he taught for over a decade. He came to Harvard in 1939, and in 1941 held the rank of lecturer in literary criticism. He became professor of English in 1944, a post which he held until his retirement in 1963.
- M.M.'s affectionate name for her mother.
- Published in the Sewanee Review, Autumn 1944, and reprinted as the opening essay in Predilections.
- The final stanza from Poem 111 of E. E. Cummings' 1 x 1 (1944) reads as follows:
- The Entretiens de Pontigny, a conference held at Mount Holyoke College in the summer of 1943 in which MM. participated, and to which she has referred in Letter 15. She describes the occasion and her meeting with Wallace Stevens in "Interview with Donald Hall" (Reader, pp. 269-270).
- The famous poet and insurance executive was born in 1879. His lecture at the Mount Holyoke conference which MM. describes in what follows was later printed under the title "The Figure of the Youth as Virile Poet," first in the Sewanee Review (1944), and later in Stevens' collection of essays, The Necessary Angel (1951), where the passages to which MM. refers occur on pp. 42, 45, 47, and 61. Stevens died in 1955.
- Auden (1907-1973) had been living in the United States since 1939. He taught at Swarthmore College for three years (1942-45).
- Maurice H. Mandelbaum; at the time of MM's meeting with him and his wife, he was an associate professor of philosophy at Swarthmore College. He later taught at Dartmouth and Johns Hopkins.
- The literary critic (b. 1897) was an important member of the editorial staff of The Dial throughout the period of its publication. See Letters 28 and 29.
- Henry McBride; he wrote on modern art for The Dial.
- The Fables of La Fontaine, which M.M. would be engaged in translating through the next eight years.
- In "The Encantadas," Sketch Second.
- Eliot's lecture on Milton had originally been delivered to the British Academy, and subsequently at the Frick Museum, New York. The passage about Milton's ability to control a great many words at once is on p. 43 of Milton: Two Studies by T. S. Eliot (London: Faber and Faber, 1968).
- Written on the occasion of the death of MM's mother. MM. was in Maryland following funeral services for her mother, who was buried in Gettysburg, Pa.
- MM's part-time housemaid. See Letters 50, 90, 91.
- The reference is to the famous photograph of literary personages present at the Gotham Book Mart reception (9 November 1948) for Dame Edith Sitwell and Sir Osbert Sitwell. The guests of honor were seated in the center, while seated or standing around them are: MM., Elizabeth Bishop, Delmore Schwartz, Randall Jafrell, Charles Henri Ford, William Rose Benet, Stephen Spender, Horace Gregory, Marya Zaturenska, Tennessee Williams, Richard Eberhart, Gore Vidal, Jose Garcia Villa, and (perched atop a ladder) W. H. Auden. The photograph appeared in Life magazine for 6 December 1948 (p. 169).
- The painter (b. 1909), wife of the poet and critic Lloyd Frankenberg. See Letters 54 and 77.
- Sylvia Marlowe (Mrs. Leonid Berman), the harpsichordist.
- Where MM. was visiting her friend Marcia Chamberlain. See Letters 22, 36.
- The Harvard professor of Comparative Literature, who won MM's lasting affection for the help he gave her in translating La Fontaine. See Letters 41 and 51.
- On Martha's Vineyard, where Scofield Thayer had a house.
- The Watson farm near Northbridge Center, Mass.
- Where MM. was vacationing with Malvina Hoffman, the sculptress.
- The combination of Balzac and Beatrix Potter anticipates the juxtaposition of Henry James and Beatrix Potter in MM's poem of over a decade later, "Tell Me, Tell Me."
- E. E. Cummings, who was delivering the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard. They were published in 1953 under the title six nonlectures. See Letter 38.
- Cummings and Stevens were pictured in a Life magazine story commemorating the fortieth anniversary of Poetry magazine ("A Birthday for 'Poetry' "), and so -- though she does not mention it -- was MM. (Life, 24 November 1952, p. 110).
- MM's Collected Poems had been published by Macmillan in 1951, and had won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the Bollingen Prize.
- To the Museum of Modern Art.
- MM. was in Brookline, Mass., visiting Marcia Chamberlain, who was seriously ill. The tree of which MM. speaks was on the Watson Farm (see note 58), damaged earlier in the summer by a storm.
- In the Foreword to her translation of La Fontaine, MM. acknowledges her indebtedness to Kathrine Jones for correcting "an erroneous concept of accent," thus providing "a veritable rescue" for MM. in her effort to approximate the rhyme of La Fontaine. See Letter 22.
- In June 1951, when MM. received an honorary degree from the University of Rochester.
- One of MM's translations from the Fables of La Fontaine, which would appear in book form later in the year. See Letters 42, 43, and 45.
- T. S. Eliot's The Confidential Clerk opened in New York 11 February 1954, with Ina Claire in the role of Lady Elizabeth (see following paragraph).
- A strike by the American Federation of Musicians (James C. Petrillo, president) against New York theaters, radio and television stations was threatened at the time.
- Louis Kronenberger (drama critic) and his wife, Emma. See Letter 59.
- The playwright. See Letters 50 and 59.
- "Talk with Marianne Moore" by Lewis Nichols in The New York Times Book Review for 16 May 1954 (p. 30). On p. 1 was a review of her translation of The Fables of La Fontaine.
- M.M.'s poem, "The Staff of Aesculapius," which first appeared in What's New, a publication of the Abbott Laboratories.
- Newspaper and magazine reporter (1898-1959). He received a Pulitzer Prize for local reporting in 1950. M.M. refers to him in a note on her poem, "Granite and Steel" (C.P., p. 294).
- Malvina Hoffman's Yesterday Is Tomorrow, a personal history was published in 1965 by Crown Publishers.
- For F. O. Matthiessen, See Letter 14 and note 36. Matthiessen's friend, the painter Russell Cheney (b. 1881), died 12 July 1945 (not in 1947, as M.M. states). See also Letter 49.
- H.W.'s mother.
- Francis Jammes, French poet and novelist (1868-1938). In her "Interview with Donald Hall" (originally published in the Paris Review, Winter 1961), M.M., when asked about the origins of her style of writing, answered in part: "Retroactively I see that Francis Jammes' titles and treatment are a good deal like my own. I seem almost a plagiarist." (Reader, p. 260).
- At this point in his long and varied career in the arts and government, MacLeish (b. 1892) was Boylston Professor at Harvard, a post which he held from 1949 until 1962.
- John J. Sweeney, poet and curator of the Poetry Room in the Lamont Library at Harvard. He was the brother of James Johnson Sweeney (see note 21).
- See note 34.
- M.M. was speaking at Harvard on the basis of the Morris Gray Fund. See the following paragraph with its reference to H.W.'s acquaintance with the Boston family.
- Claire Watson, the opera singer, married at the time to H.W.'s son, Michael.
- The 1954 edition of E. E. Cummings' Poems, 1923-1954.
- Where Cummings lived, at No. 4.
- See note 53.
- Predilections, MM's collection of essays, was published by the Viking Press in May 1955. In a letter to H.W. 12 July 1955, M.M. wrote: "Hugh Kenner says did he in some forgotten incarnation say the Pound letters are weirdly written? (p. 76 of my Predilections). And he didn't. It was Dudley Fitts, I find. Crushing." The error was corrected in the second printing of Predilections (September 1955).
- Where MM. had gone to receive an honorary degree from Douglass College, Rutgers University.
- Sarah G. Blanding, president of Vassar College.
- MM's review of Kenneth Burke's Book of Moments: Poems 1915-1954 appeared in Poetry: London-New York, Winter 1956.
- Gaston Lachaise's sculptured portrait of MM. was done in plaster in 1924, and cast in bronze in 1946. It is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. MM. refers to it in "My Crow, Pluto -- A Fantasy" (first printed in Harper's Bazaar, October 1961) ; the crow, we are told, "favored a bust as a perch -- a bronze by Gaston Lachaise (cast and given me by Lincoln Kirstein)-but I could not induce him to say, 'Nevermore.'" (Reader, p. 194).
- The English poet (1887-1959).
- William Alfred (b. 1922), Harvard professor of English and playwright (author of Hogan's Goat, produced by the American Place Theater in New York in November 1965). See Letter 62.
- The Oxford historian.
- The role was sung by Leontyne Price. The television performance of the opera inspired a poem: MM's "Logic and 'The Magic Flute'" (C.P., pp. 171-172, and MM's note, pp. 288-289).
- She sang the role of the Queen of the Night.
- See note 158.
- A strike by taxi-drivers was in effect in New York at the time.
- 0 Eliot's lecture had been delivered at the University of Minnesota during the previous spring (30 April 1956).
- Philip Rahv's comments at the Harvard Summer School Conference on the Little Magazine prompted MM. to write a poem, "Values in Use," which incorporates a number of phrases from his remarks, acknowledged in her note on the poem (C.P., p. 290). The poem (C.P., p. 181) opens with a reference to "little locust-leaf shadows like lace" reminiscent of the description of "the lacy fronds of the honey-locusts" near the beginning of the present letter.
- The lines became (with minor changes) lines 9-13 of MM's "Hometown Piece for Messrs. Alston and Reese" (C.P., p. 182). Her note on the passage (C.P., p. 291) quotes the New York Times of 12 August 1956 concerning Lou Soriano's band.
- MM's Complete Poems (1967) are dedicated to Louise Crane.
- The Irish poet and critic, Padraic Colum (1881-1972) settled permanently in the United States in 1914, and was a frequent contributor to The Dial (he was its drama critic during its last six months of publication). His wife, Mary, was a well known literary critic. She died in 1957.
- MM's "Idiosyncrasy and Technique" inaugurated the Ewing Lectures at the University of California, Los Angeles, 3 and 5 October 1956. The lecture was published by the University of California Press in 1958, and reprinted in Reader, pp. 169-182.
- A gift from H.W.
- The French photographer (b. 1908).
- Gian Carlo Menotti's "Madrigal Fable for Chorus, Ten Dancers, and Nine Instruments." Its New York premiere was presented by the New York City Ballet 15 January 1957 at the New York City Center of Music and Drama.
- MM. wrote a poem in his honor (C.P., p. 220).
- Virgil Thompson.
- Where MM. had gone with her friends Frances and Norvelle Browne. See Letters 69, 79, 108,
- Zabel's memoir of Ruth Draper, together with the texts of 35 of her dramatic monologues, was published in 1960 by Doubleday and Co. as The Art of Ruth Draper. The "Mrs. James" to whom MM. refers was Ruth Draper's sister, Mrs. Henry James. See Letter 78.
- MM. had been visiting in Hampton, N. H., with Malvina Hoffman.
- The poem as published in the Atlantic Monthly for January 1958 (p. 59) is headed: "Melchior Vulpius/b. 1560 (?)-d. 1615" and opens with the words "a contrapuntalist." It appears in a revised form in C.P., p. 188. The phrase "mouse-bellows'-breath" in the present letter becomes "Mouse-skin-bellows'-breath" in line 11 of both published versions. MM. provides a note on the origin of the phrase in C.P., p. 293.
- Lota de Macedo Soares, she and Miss Bishop were on a visit to New York from Brazil, where they shared a house.
- Marion Morehouse Cummings, the photographer, and wife of E. E. Cummings.
- The poet (b. 1926).
- Poetry editor of The New Yorker.
- MM's famous sequence of letters suggesting names for the automobile that eventually (and through no fault of hers) was called "the Edsel" was written in the fall of 1955, and published in The New Yorker of 13 April 1957 (reprinted in Reader, pp. 215-224).
- Thomas Bewick (1753-1828) ; his General History of Quadrupeds was published in 1790. MM. refers to Bewick in her poem "In Lieu of the Lyre" (C.P., p. 206).
- See Letter 64, and note 105.
- See note 111.
- David Wallace composed the letters to MM. from the Ford Motor Co.
- Minna Curtiss (b. 1896): her translation of the letters of Proust was published in 1949; her biography of the composer Bizet (Bizet and his World) would be published later in 1958.
- Choreography by Balanchine, danced to music by Stravinsky.
- See note 158.
- The music critic (b. 1901). His Listener's Musical Companion was first published in 1956 (revised edition 1967).
- Where MM. had fulfilled her engagement at Adelphi College. See Letter 82.
- M.M.'s article on the painter Robert Andrew Parker (b. 1927), which appeared in the April 1958 issue of Arts (reprinted in Reader, pp. 205-207). Parker illustrated the hand-colored limited edition of Eight Poems by M.M. published in 1962 by the Museum of Modern Art under the direction of Monroe Wheeler. See Letter 92.
- Adams was director of the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, from 1948 until 1969. See Letter 98. In 1958, the Library reprinted M.M.'s Ford correspondence as a booklet.
- Professor Helen White (1896-1967); she was chairman of the English Department at the University of Wisconsin at the time of MM's visit.
- A recently deceased professor of English at Wisconsin.
- Professor John Enck of the Wisconsin English Department. He died in 1966. The "token-test" referred to in the following paragraph had been described the year before in Winthrop Sargeant's profile of MM. (titled "Humility, Concentration, and Gusto") in The New Yorker for 16 February 1957, pp. 47-48. There Sargeant told of her habit of keeping a supply of subway tokens on hand in her apartment for the use of guests: "Sometimes her offer of a token is accepted casually, but sometimes it is accepted only after quite a show of reluctance, and once in a while it is flatly refused. There are those who suspect that Miss Moore likes to study the varied reactions to her considerate little gesture, and she is reported to have once admitted as much to a friend. 'I know they don't need it, and they know I know they don't need it, but I like to see what happens,' she is supposed to have said. 'The most interesting people take it without making a fuss.' Questioned about this recently, Miss Moore denied ever having said any such thing 'Why I would be incapable of testing a person in that way!' she exclaimed. But then she added, 'Still, I do prize people a little more highly if they don't make a big thing of it.' "
- Wisconsin artist, born in Milwaukee in 1914.
- Actor and stage director; born in Bristol, England, in 1912. See Letter 90.
- MM's lecture on Edith Sitwell, delivered as one of the Turnbull memorial lectures at the Johns Hopkins University 10 November 1958. Its brevity was commented on by the reporter in the Baltimore Sun of 11 November (p. 14) : "Strictly speaking, Miss Moore's lecture was a lecture. But to some people in the audience it seemed more like a lecturette, a mere fragment. She spoke only a little more than 20 minutes. When she said she had finished, the audience had a slightly dazed look about it as it groped for the sleeves of its coats." The lecture was published under the title "Edith Sitwell, Virtuoso" in Four Poets on Poetry (Johns Hopkins Press, 1959), and reprinted in Reader, pp. 210-215.
- In fact, she had, in Letter 89.
- Pseudonym of the Danish writer, Karen Blixen (1885-1962). Her Out of Africa was first published in 1937.
- From the "Kamante and Lulu" section of Out of Africa (Modern Library edition, pp. 47-48).
- Countess von Arnim, later Countess Russell, whose books were published under the name "Elizabeth." They included Elizabeth and Her German Garden, The Enchanted April, and Mr. Skeffington.
- A preview of Frank Lloyd Wright's building for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum took place 19 October 1959; the Museum was officially dedicated and opened to the public on the 21st. Its director was M.M.'s friend James Johnson Sweeney. See note 21.
- M.M. was in Baltimore to receive an honorary degree from Goucher College.
- M.M.'s essay, "Brooklyn from Clinton Hill," published in Vogue for August 1960. Reprinted in Reader, pp. 182-192.
- Where M.M. was visiting Renée Righter.
- Henry Rago, poet, and at that time editor of Poetry magazine. He died in 1969.
- Augustine J. Bowe, Chicago judge (1892-1966); he was president of the Modern Poetry Association.
- Chicago financier (b. 1905); chairman of the Board of Trustees of Poetry magazine.
- Author, television personality, and professor of English at Northwestern University (b. 1904).
- M.M. was in Venice with Frances and Norvelle Browne. The letter was begun on 9 August and completed on 10 August.
- M.M. was in Maine with Malvina Hoffman.
- M.M.'s poem "An Expedient-Leonardo da Vinci's-and a Query" appeared in The New Yorker of 18 April 1964. In her note to it in C.P. (p. 295), she makes reference to Sir Kenneth Clark's Leonardo da Vinci: An Account of his Development as an Artist. The poem on W. S. Landor appeared in The New Yorker of 22 February 1964.
- M.M. had read from her poems in the Coolidge Auditorium of the Library of Congress in Washington on the previous evening (Monday, 21 October 1963).
- Blank in the original.
- Muna Lee (1895-1965), poet, author, translator, lecturer, and later State Department official (cultural co-ordinator in the Bureau of Inter-American affairs). She wrote poetry in both Spanish and English, and in 1915 won Poetry magazine's Lyric Prize.
- Alfred Kreymborg was editor of Others, a literary journal that began publication in July 1915 and in which some of M.M.'s earliest poems appeared. Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, and Ezra Pound were among its contributors. To Donald Hall's question, "Someone called Alfred Kreymborg your American discoverer. Do you suppose this is true?" M.M. replied: "It could be said, perhaps; he did all he could to promote me. . . . Alfred Kreymborg was not inhibited. I was a little different from the others. He thought I might pass as a novelty, I guess." ("Interview with Donald Hall," Reader, p. 258).
- Poet (b. 1920) and (since 1969) professor of English at Washington University, St. Louis.
- M.M.'s introductory remarks to an Auden lecture, enclosed in a letter to H.W.
- The American Academy of Arts and Letters, the 50-member inner circle of the 250-member National Institute of Arts and Letters. M.M. became a member of the Institute in 1947 and of the Academy in 1955. See Letters 61 and 80.
- Russian-born artist (b. 1906).
- M.M. was in England with Frances and Norvelle Browne.
- M.M. recounted the episode in her second "Interview with Donald Hall," published in the December 1965 issue of McCall's magazine (p. 184).
- This remark comes out differently in the McCall's Interview with Hall: "Nothing somber about this dinner -- punctuated by esprit such as 'Wensleydale is not the Mozart of cheeses'." Hall repeats it in his book, Marianne Moore: The Cage and the Animal (New York, 1970), p. 168.
- The visit to Dame Edith Sitwell is recounted in M.M.'s McCall's interview with Hall, where the present details are re-stated: "saw a blue-gray door between a glossy-leafed laurestinus on the left and a tall, exceedingly prickly holly bush on the right" (p. 190).
- Alyse Gregory (1883-1967); she was managing editor of The Dial from early 1924 until her resignation in the summer of 1925. Her departure (to live in England with her husband, the writer Llewelyn Powys), together with the resignation of the editor, Scofield Thayer, created the vacancy on The Dial's editorial staff that M.M. filled, first as acting editor (summer 1925 to summer 1926), then (until the journal ceased publication in the summer of 1929) as editor. Alyse Gregory's autobiographical work, The Day Is Gone, was published by E. P. Dutton in 1948.
- The folio collection of reproductions of modern paintings, drawings, and sculpture (titled Living Art) published by The Dial in 1923.
- H.W.'s grandchildren.
- H.W.'s daughter.
- M.M. refers to it in one of her later poems, "The Mind, Intractable Thing" (C.P., p. 208, and note, p. 295).
- Curator of Film at the International Museum of Photography, George Eastman House, Rochester, N. Y.