Letter to A.D.R., August 1, 1930

620 West 122nd Street, New York. Photo taken from Sakura Park in March, 2012.

620 West 122nd Street
New York City
August 1, 1930

My Deah:

Well! Here we am, as you might say. It really has become a rather usual occurrence, all this moving around, yet still, it has not lost a certain spice. This is really a grand little apartment of three rooms, and we have our own old furniture, and a whole bookcase full of books (the pick of the flock) and a little kitchen which is concealed behind two vast doors; and I can’t imagine a better place for us to live in———-that is, all things considered, and seeing things as they are, my boy, as Chester used to say to Marlow.

You mustn’t feel sorry for me at all, though. I really am quite happy, because I am so busy from morning till night that I haven’t time for anything else. I’m good in school–in fact, one of the best in the shorthand class, now–and Fox Film likes my work for them, and they hand me out a bit of praise almost every time I come into the office, which is about three times a week, and they pay me in cash in sealed pay-envelopes (can you imagine anything more pleasant?) and so I can pay the school and my car-fare and all my odds and ends, and feel quite independent. There’s nothing better than that. Of course I simply detest the work I do for them–it’s enough to give a rhinoceros the ear-ache, let alone me–but the getting paid more than compensates for that.

So I’m in good shape, and find time passing swiftly. Our old, old, old friend Leo Meyette (who used to be the grocery boy in the little one-horse New Hampshire town where we spent the summers, and who is one of the grandest persons in the world) is here, with his wife and his younger brother; and his antics in the great City keep Helen and me laughing. Then, too, it won’t be so very long before Anderson is home, and I believe I could go through anything with an occasional letter from him to keep me going. I never realized before how he and I had gotten to depend on each other’s support. We each have had such ghastly times! It’s quite beautiful, I think–two hungry souls beating their wings desperately and finding such joy and strength in one another.

I really think it is grand for Phoebe to be off–though be sure that I can sympathize with you. It must be like being wrapped in an unlighted cloud, to be alone after having such an iridescent creature with one for so long. I want to see all the Russells together. I’m damned sick of seeing people who are starved for each other separated by circumstances–especially such petty materialistic circumstances–finances, for instance! Bah!

Sabra is a great little thing. She is not with us now. I think that is a mercy for all of us. School begins late in September, and she would be miserable here unless she were busy. She is now at a camp in Lyme, Connecticut, which is run by a grand woman who is an old friend of hers. All the children are about Sabra’s age, and she is a gregarious little thing, so it suits her to a t. Furthermore, this is a rather unusual sort of camp. It is excessively informal and care-free and happy-go-lucky. For one thing, most of the children wear–not a single blessed shred of any kind! Nothing could be better, in that glorious sunshine and fresh country air. They are brown as Polynesians, and just as happy, and so deliciously unconscious of themselves that it is a rare pleasure to watch them playing.

I’ll never forget Sabra’s eyes when she first saw them [“us,” I think she intended to say]. We drove up in the camp truck, and they stood around us in a semi-circle, motionless, staring, and naked, just as the South Sea babies run out from a native house to stare at strangers. She was quite taken aback, and amazed. So were we; it was somewhat unexpected! About half of them are little boys–S.’s first experience, you see. But she was entirely acclimated in half an hour or so, and now she is having the time of her life. I think it’s the best thing that could possibly happen, both for her and for us. It will put her, for one thing, in corking physical shape for a winter in New York. She needs all the reserve strength and health that sunshine and the country can give her.

God knows my own health is standing me in good stead. I don’t know where I’d be without it. Those subways at eight-fifteen A. M., when the masses and millions are tearing in to work. . . .  . . . . . . . . . . ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !      Does that give you any idea?

Well, news seems to be consistently lacking here. I give the best of myself to everything I do–no man can do more than that. I work like a dog, sleep like a pig, tear around like a deer, eat like a wolf, laugh like a hyena (sometimes), spit like a cat (other times), shut up like an oyster (for a change), and pull long juicy worms out of the ground, like an early bird. There. Doesn’t that give you a picture? Someone who can draw caricatures (Phoebe, for instance) ought to take the matter up.

Your mate, in foul or fair,

4 Replies to “Letter to A.D.R., August 1, 1930”

  1. The last paragraph is classic Barbara. I wonder what she was doing at Fox Film? Is it the same comapny that exists today? As always thank you Stefan for posting this.


    1. Hi Bruce, I believe Barbara’s freelance work for Fox Film was to read a book and type up a short (two- or three-page) synopsis of it.

      1. Thanks for the photo of the apartment building as well. My attempts to use Google Street view to see known addresses where BNF lived have been a bust. So far I have seen two vacant lots and a large white truck with a flat tire.

        Do any letters list the address of the “cottage in the woods” at Lake Sunapee?

        1. No, I don’t know where on Lake Sunapee the cottage was. I wish I did. I used to spend a lot of time up there in the 1970s when my father’s mother was still alive – she lived in the little town of Sunapee. The Folletts referred to “Pine Grove” in the correspondence; there’s a Pine Grove Road in the area but I don’t know if the cottage was on it.

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