Letter to A.D.R. – July 4, 1931

July 4, 1931

Dearest A.D.R.:

Your letter came just in time—I leave tomorrow morning early for the month, and Helen follows in a few days. The address will be: ℅ A. B. Meservey, 24 Occam Ridge, Hanover, New Hampshire.

Oh, I am so sorry that things are going so rottenly for you. There is no justice in Heaven or Earth, it seems. Really, I cried over your letter—as if that would help any! How I wish I could do something! My heart would tell you to pack up and go to B. R. at once. But there’s poor E. So I would compromise. I would go to him as soon as ever her need of you is abated a little. I don’t believe it’s a case of Money, A. D. R. … But then, of course I am probably all wrong. Only you mustn’t say that about not seeing him again. You mustn’t even contemplate such a thing. There is a limit to what the gods can do, you know.

There are three chapters of my book in existence now—pretty fairly good I think. Its title so far has been “Lost Island.” Does that sound intriguing? The few persons whom I have so far confided in have liked it—also have been enthusiastic over the outline of the story. I am having a good deal of fun wrestling with it.

I think it’s swell that The American Girl has been chasing you for material. That is about the highest compliment a writer can have, isn’t it? And you must find time to do the work. If I think of a rip-snorting Idea I’ll let you know. But maybe you already have plenty of Ideas. Apparently that is the easiest part! It seems to be with me.

There are no further developments on Helen’s book. I imagine it will be out next spring sometime. They are casting about right now for an illustration—a “tropical bird” preferably, as H. says. Whether it will work out I don’t know. Also, we are still revising the MS. One can revise till Doomsday, it seems. We probably will!

Alaska is a Hell of a long way off! No mail until October. But that’s something to anticipate. He is such a faithful soul. Two letters a week, and sometimes three, form the time he landed last fall till the schooner sailed this spring. He’ll come back. I have an idea that he’s unbreakable and eternal.

Oh, A. D. R., I don’t know what to say, but I’m sure you should come east. The bus costs only $55. Could you stand the bus? If it’s lack of ready cash, I could remedy that—yes, even I, incredible as it may seem. And oh, how I’d love to see you myself! Of course, there will not be that old California glamor—that subtle, fleeting thing that surrounded us before. It might be a little unreal. I haven’t carried over much of that atmosphere. But we could have cocoa and graham crackers even here, and I could whirl you around. How about next fall?

Next fall looks just a little dreary to me anyway. To be sure, I’l have that same job again, and probably it will be a bigger one. My employer has industrial ideals—that your job is your own property, so to speak. But oh, oh, in N. Y. the moths feed on the wings of your soul. This is probably an unhealthy attitude, I know. But I do think the world is rather horrid. Most of my dearest friends seem to be in deep trouble, and I can’t do anything about it.

Perhaps that’s why I cling for dear life to A. He, with no tools and no material, has nevertheless made something most beautiful and real out of life. I don’t know just how. But he is a rock and a shelter. I’ll never forget or forgive WF’s attitude toward him. That was mainly what caused the sharp and sudden break between him and me. It was unwarranted and ridiculous and mean. My respect for WF did its loudest blowing-up over that…. A. is a treasure.

Anyway, you come East this fall—or sooner. One can get to the point where one doesn’t know what to do and consequently does nothing, whereas an outsider, acquainted suddenly with the true situation, at once forms rather definite opinions. Of course, this outsider isn’t pretending to be God! But I know how easily one can let Money rule one—especially if Money is thought of at every step. Soon one ceases to take steps. I know!

If you will come, you know that you could stay here with us—we have plenty of space now, and anything we have is yours. Helen longs to see you, too. You would be quite close to B. R. and could run down to Washington often by bus. I feel sure that everyone concerned would be happier for it. You could rent the house; and if Phoebe couldn’t come too I know she would understand, and would be glad to carry on for a while. And oh, we would welcome you so! So do think of it seriously.

This is a nice, cool, comfortable apartment, with lots of light and plenty of good tables to work on. You could get a lot of writing done. We would all be writing together. Wouldn’t it be fun? Also, we live right near the Hudson River, which is really beautiful at night–dreamy, promising. There is a nice park—a public spoonery, to be sure, but still very nice. I think we could have a grand time.

This is the great 4th of July. It seems strange and incongruous somehow, to hear the snapping of toy pistols and firecrackers. Silly. It makes H. and me a little depressed. Seems so utterly futile.

One very nice thing did happen this week. The Chief wrote to me — at last. H. had been to Boston, and his boat was in. She went down to pay a friendly visit. The letter is more or less the result of that, but that fact doesn’t make it any less pleasing. It’s just the kind of letter that was needed to square that account. It has relieved me more that I imagined, and given me a freedom from that vague and horrid sense of guilt and discomfort. Until now there was still something pending—waiting to be settled. Not it’s all definitely fixed, somehow—the account has been cleared, and well cleared. Until now I had vague feelings of sadness on the subject, which have completely vanished now.

Now for the woods! I am looking forward to sunlight and trees — the Earth. Except for a curious and indefinable loneliness, which I have experienced a good deal of late without exactly knowing why—except for that, I think the next two months will be glorious. One does get lonely in the springtime somehow, when the wind is warm on your face and the grass is green.

I need you a great deal. I know we each have a lot to discuss and propound which we wouldn’t by mail. At any rate, mere quiet companionship would be very soul-satisfying.

Do give our love to the “fambly.” I am holding my thumbs for you, my dear, and I do want and hope and long for things to be better. I won’t say “pray,” because whatever small part of God I may once have believed in, I don’t believe in any more. But I believe in love.

Yours,
B.

Letter to A.D.R., August 29, 1930

620 Etc
August 29 [1930]

Dear Mate:

Having allowed the dentist to put a gold inlay into a tooth, having written, delivered, and been paid for three synopses, having seen Helen off for New Haven again (thereby making three trips back and forth from here to town in the course of the day, via that devastating subway), and having, alone and in peace at last, partaken of my bowl of soup and crust of bread–having done all this, and being still quite alive, I will now proceed (oh, luxury!) to sit down and quietly, and in leisurely fashion, write a letter to you.

How I have chuckled over your contributions from Pasadena headline English! I would answer in kind, but I scan the papers in vain. New York headlinists don’t seem to have that ingenious knack of balling things up; in fact, for the most part they are altogether too lucid to be interesting. DRIVE CAR DEATH LEAP TIES UP TRAFFIC, is the best I can do, for the time being.

Dash it all, now that I’ve really sat down–after three days of trying to–there doesn’t seem to be anything more to say than there was last time or the time before, and one shouldn’t repeat oneself. School begins again next Tuesday. Thank God I can pay for it–the whole thing. I can also pay my own dentist bills, and buy my own clothes, and my own amusements and necessities. That’s more than I was ever able to do before; and I can tell you, it makes me feel quite uppity when I go sailing into that Fox office on Broadway and receive my weekly pay envelope!

Helen is rather desperate. I don’t know what to do about her, at all, at all. It makes her feel rather badly to think that I have a job and she hasn’t; it struck her hard that her MS didn’t sell with a bang; and as for finances–well, I don’t know where the rent comes from. She is always so secretive about those things, and she’s such a fool, really, when it comes to money and Practical Things. When I say “Fool,” I don’t mean it harshly, you understand. I guess you know what I mean as well as I do, anyway.

She has gone down to New Haven now, to mull over the house, and get it ready for renting. She is kind of wild here, because there’s a steam-derrick half a block away going all day, and making a fearsome racket. My typewriter goes too much for her nerves, too; but I don’t see how that can be helped. I’m hoping she’ll find some quiet in New Haven for a few days now, just as I’m finding peace here alone. When she comes again, Sabra will be with her.

Well, what next? I’m fairly contented, and have a rather pleasant sort of curiosity about the future. It can’t fail to be interesting! I think the masculine farent should be whanged on the head and wake up to find himself shanghaied to sea; and I think the feminine farent should tackle the first job she can light on. He isn’t what you’d call a Man. He isn’t half the man that some of the Dago workmen are down the street. He isn’t halfway the man that Mate Bill is, or Cap’n Colbeth, or Anderson. He should go to work and do some hard physical labor, under someone who can’t be talked back to, and who doesn’t care a damn for all the long words. Nothing could be better for him than to take a trip in the Vigilant, under old Captain Peasley, and first mate Jacobsen. Jove! He’d “yump” around then, all right!

Yes! I have some news for you. I went and saw The Green Pastures. It is the loveliest, and most real, and simple, touching, glorious play I ever knew. Marc Connelly’s negro play, you know. It interprets the negro’s simple belief and religion. Lord God Jehovah is exactly like some kindly old white-haired preacher: he has a little office up in Heaven, and every morning two angels, with dust-covers over their wings, come in and dust it.  The whole story is there from the beginning–Adam and Eve, Noah and the Ark, Moses, the pilgrims on their way to Canaan; and all through it the choir sings negro spirituals, most of them familiar–and you get to the point before long when you just want to lie down and weep.

Speaking of weeping: the steam-derrick which makes such a racket down the street here is doing a job for a company which calls itself The House-Wrecking Company. If that ain’t the limit!…

Yours,
B.

[in pen] I just received a letter from Detroit, enclosing E.’s masterpiece. Oh, I do so hope you’ll all manage to get away together on some gorgeous Exposition before long!

B.

Letter to A.D.R., August 18, 1930

620 West 122nd Street
August 18 [1930]

Splice the main-brace, ahoy!

All congratulations on your latest entries in the unofficial log. It arrived this morning, and so you see I am SETTING YOU AN EXAMPLE. In fact, I wrote you a letter before this one, but tore it up. It contains too much really Tough Language, and all That Sort of Thing! I suppose I picked it up form the Unmentionable Movie Trash which I Read For a Living–anyhow, where-ever I picked it up, it certainly is NOT the proper thing to send in a letter to one who is writing Healthy Young Men for a Living.

My dear, don’t you ever yearn to spit in their faces, and to create for a change some perfectly Horrible and Gritty young men who would hammer and mash and batter and whang up all the healthy-minded maidens?  I suppose, were a list of detailed rules for healthy stories written out, they would look something like this: “No kisses of more than two second’s duration,” and that sort of thing. Wouldn’t they?

Well, anyhow! Dang it all, I’d like to see all you Russells together. It’s not right for people to have half-continents and such trash shoved whang into their faces, between them and those they love, is it? We are just Victims, that’s all. There are half a dozen or so great Wheels grinding around toward each other all the time, interlocking on the rims, and if we happen to get caught between them—–we just get mashed.

Many red devils ran from my heart
And out upon the page,
They were so tiny
The pen could mash them,
And many struggled in the ink.
It was strange
To write in this red muck
Of things from my heart.
                    Stephen Crane.

Tough going at times, my beloved mate!

I wish I had some GOOD news for you! Alas! I am fairly busy over my eighteen-a-week (more-or-less). I have a fairly regular round of housework, synopsisses, tipe-riting, an’ a’ that. My sole pastime, so far, consists of walking along the river-bank park in the evenings after dark–“to mark, wi’ envy in my gaze, the couples kittlin’ in the dark between the funnel-stays.” (If only there were some funnel-stays! Alas!) Helen’s Manuscript is less and less sold all the time. Sabra is still at camp. Finances become lower and lower. You can’t live–here–on my salary–though I daresay I could alone. And to think that I’m the only one of the family who has a “yob!” That tickles my sense of humor fine!

My sense of humor has had more and more heavy responsibilities of late. I really need fuel for it–fresh fuel from the outside. However, I can say very truthfully that it has never yet failed me, and it isn’t going to either . . . . Leo Mayette (have I told you anything of him?) and his wife, and his brother, and his sister, have all been here for a while, but now they have departed for New Hampshire and the old home-farm again. It was a delight to have them here. Leo, in particular, is really one of the greatest persons in the world, as well as one of the very simplest and humblest.

Have you Seen or Heard anything of the Farents? I confess to a mild sort of curiosity. I suppose I should write to them, but–oh my, oh my! You see, I feel that if I can stick out this particular present-minute, present-place situation, and get on top of it, and yammer at it, and smash it, and domineer over it, and be Snooty and Disagreeable to it, and Awe it, and just make it Cringe–why, then, I guess I’m doing all I have room for. And I am doing just that. So picture yourself an Amazon, mounted upon a Bucking Elephant, and hammering that elephant over the head with a Fijian war-club.

Anyway, there’s a picture of Joseph Conrad over this table ….

And NOTHING can daunt me!

“I got a home in-a dat rock.”

Wings! I have ’em!

And Joseph Conrad sent me his blessing and his love. Not so very long ago.

And Anderson comes home in October.

Well!

Lots of things have Occurred to Me, anyhow. I think I’m ready to live a much happier sort of life from now on–I mean, to make the best of circumstances and of myself, and get a lot of pleasure and fun out of anything and everything. I wish poor Helen could do that as effectively as I have learned to do it. She hasn’t. She’s under water. God! And I can’t rescue her. I do forty-nine fiftieths of everything that is done at No. 122, as it is; and I sing as I do it: “I got a home in-a dat rock, Don’t you see?”

And in October, Anderson comes home. And I’ll have that fresh fuel for my S. of H. Besides, I may earn a whang on the back from him, and that’s worth anything.

But I want all the Russells to be together. And why must Phoebe go to school, with her scientific father to superintend her? I think school is really and primarily a place for children whose parents are banging each other over the head with rolling-pins, or whose parents are absolute morons, and whose parents are both slaving at outside work for a living, or for children reared in utter poverty and misery. (This is not supposed to cast any reflections of any kind upon the Russells, I hope you understand!) But rainbows shouldn’t be stuffed into sofa-cushions, should they?

I love you, A.D.R.

Yours ever,
Barbara.