For a week or more I have had a vision of the corner of East Thirty-Third Street and Broadway, Bayonne, in my minds eye, and nothing would shift it. I had a dream that I was standing on that corner, outside the First National Bank, talking to Mrs. Hewetson, and the thawed snow was roaring down the corner gutter. I had a baby in a baby carriage. She was holding the small Jackie by the hand. It was a picture of thirty years ago. We were young, as we were. Now today the picture has been displaced by one of the Bayonne Library steps.
I am not exactly homesick, but I am not here. I have been reading old American books, to hold the scene, to keep the atmosphere. Reading about the Beecher’s, the Gothic American. Mrs. Eddy. This morning I read haphazardly in Science and Health. It is better than I remembered it. It’s a hodge-podge, she’s a plagiarist, but she was certainly saying something. Even if she was a plagiarist, nevertheless she had the wit and the stick-at-it-ness, to make a fine bouquet of her own from the blooms she had gathered from other peoples gardens. It is her bouquet which is a concrete thing, which works, and which lasts.
I read Fisher’s book about her last week. His greatest grievance about her teaching (apart from his sneers at her life), is, that she takes all personality away from God. To me that is one of her great achievements. To me the personality of God, especially the masculine personality of God, is always a stumbling block. Mrs. Eddy has annihilated that. She presents God as truth, life, love, mind, and principle.
After all, didn’t Jesus say, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life? Didn’t he say; God is spirit. Not a spirit. God is spirit. St John; God is Love? It is in these terms I can think of God. God as a person, as a He, no, I cannot. This is a dull day, inclined to be foggy. Artie has gone to town for the day, and Edna Renacre has gone with him. I wonder if this friendship is going to become an engagement, though Edna is a really nice girl, I hope not. Artie is too young for that, and the war is too troubling. This war may drag on for years yet, and then, when it’s all over, Artie will have no work, no prospects. To get engaged now is to tie his hands. The girl is persistent, and she may persuade him he is “in love.” I do hope not. I want Artie to keep free until he has discovered just exactly what he wants to do with his life. Merely to become a husband is not much. Though, of course, to
February 6, 1940
It is Shrove Tuesday, but no pancakes. Mrs. Jude here to lunch; at teatime, only Ted and me. So, as we were full of pudding, decided it was too bothersome to make pancakes, just for us two. Mrs. Jude has a brand new prophecy. One of the sisters of the Little Flower died this week. Mrs. Jude tells me that before she died the Little Flower appeared to her, and told her that the war would be all over in two months from her death. Now that was a fort-night ago. She’s been dead just two weeks. You’ll see, in another two months the war will be all over. The Little Flower said so! Yes, we’ll see all right. Mrs. Jude is the most absolutely superstitious person I have ever come across. There is no talk of wonders too difficult for her to swallow.
February 7, 1940
Ash Wednesday. Artie returned to barracks today but there is a chance he may be home again for the weekend. Mrs. Jude was here again today. I suppose she is having one of her spasms of visiting. I showed her a letter in The Times, which pleased her. Somebody wrote in to draw attention to a prophecy in Daniel Eleven. It is from Verse twenty-one, and on. It really is a very appropriate description of Hitler and Hitler’s doings. It really is remarkable.
A Prophecy from Daniel
To the editor of the Times
February 7, 1940
Sir, You have published in your columns two extracts from Jeremiah and from Ezra’s, which appear to be prophetic of current events. In the eleventh chapter of the Book of Daniel (verse twenty one) I extract the following description, which appears particularly applicable to the Fuhrer, indicating his views and aims and destined fate.
And in his place shall stand up a contemptible person to whom they had not given the honor of the Kingdom, but he shall come in time of security, and shall obtain the Kingdom by flattery's. And with the arms of a flood shall they be swept away from before him and shall be broken.
And after the league made with him he shall work deceitfully; for he shall come up and shall become strong with a small people. In time of security shall he come even upon the farthest places of the province; and he shall do that which his fathers have not done, nor his fathers’ fathers; he shall scatter among them prey and spoil and substance: yea he shall devise his devices against the strongholds even for a time...
Neither shall he regard the gods of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor any god: for he shall magnify himself above all. But in his place shall he honor the god of fortresses.
Yours, & C., A. Wigglesworth. Port of London Building, Trinity Square
February 8, 1940
I had Mrs. Bull in to see me this morning. When Ted came into dinner yesterday, he told us that he had heard a conversation between Mrs. Bull and old Bert, in the office, from which it appeared that old Bert had written her a letter! (Why write? Except that he couldn’t face her) laying her off from her job of cleaning the office. It seems she has cleaned the office for twenty-nine years, and she wanted to know why she was dismissed so summarily. I gathered, too, that she had quit at Arden Cottage. So I wrote her in the afternoon, and asked her did she want to resume my work; Mrs. Shaw resigned the job last week, as she is ill.
So Mrs. Bull came to see me this morning, and I got an earful. It appears she hasn’t technically left her job at Arden Cottage but is on the panel, as she is so tired she had to see the doctor, and he has ordered her to rest. Nevertheless, her daughter, who frequently helps her with that job, did her office cleaning for her. She only quit working for me because Bert persuaded her to give all her time to him, at Arden Cottage; and I agreed, because of the domestic upheavals there, since the death of Tillie.
Further, as Mrs. Bull naturally asks, What about Mrs. Webb’s relations ration-cards? Why not ask for them, since her relations are so frequently at Arden Cottage? Mrs. Bull tells me that Mrs. Webb’s relations; two sisters, a brother, and a brother-in-law are sponging on old Bert practically all the time. They come every evening, every Sunday, the sisters are there all day, and often they all sleep there. They booze, at Bert’s expense. Mrs. Webb is frequently the worse for drink, and slobbers over Bert.
Kisses him, Mrs. Thompson, she said, Its disgusting. She sits in the dining room, so bold. Her skirts pulled right up, and old Mr. Bert looking at her legs. I’ve seen him. The hussy, that’s all she is. I can’t stand it, Mrs. Thompson. That’s why I’m so tired. That’s why I’m run down. It worries me. Mr. Thompson says it’s my own fault, because I won’t sleep in there. I can’t. I did try it. I can’t settle in that house. Its horrible with that Mrs. Webb there.
Also I hear that old Bert is scared to death of Mrs. Webb’s husband. Mrs. Webb says he watches the house, and walks around it at night. So, every time they hear a foot step after dark, old Bert gets in a dither. You can see him. Says Mrs. Bull, He’s as nervous as a cat. I should think he would be. He’ll find himself sued, or appearing as a co-respondent in the divorce courts yet. I wonder what young Bertie thinks of it all. Old Bert has developed into a boozy lecherous beast, an inhuman father, a disgrace to his family, and a scandal to the town. He’s another old fellow who has lived too long. Of course this core of badness, this crass selfishness and bestiality, must have always been in him. It was Tillie that kept it in check. With Tillie gone, the real man appears and it is a disgusting and valueless man.
February 9, 1940
I had a busy morning pastry making, but thinking all the time about old Bert, and the Thompson family generally.
I never knew my parents in law, but they must have been poor stuff. Tillie told me something about them. When she came from America as a bride, in nineteen hundred, she and Bert took a house beside their house, so she knew both of them from that time until they died. Her opinion was that Mrs. Thompson had the better brains and character of the pair, and that it was she who ruled the family, and kept it together. In a way, she thought the mother was too good to the father. The father, I gathered, was an easy going master, and an old soak. Tillie also told me about the crazy grandmother, as Grace had done, when in New York.
Old Bert’s conduct since the death of Tillie has been one absurd escapade after another. Of course he’s scared of dying, and most of his silly actions have been attempts to cheat old age and closer coming death. I guess he has always been afraid of dying, and always running away from difficulties. When he went to the Klondike he was running away from his first wife; and when he became sick up there in Alaska, he turned tail at once and ran out of it, leaving my Ted, a lad of only eighteen, to shift for himself. That was a dirty deal too. Well, I suppose he will soon be running away from Mrs. Webb, unless death cops him soon.
I wonder about my own children. What dab of the bunch have they got? Nobody could ever be saner than a Searle or a Side, and I’m sure I’m no fool as the world recognizes fools. As for Ted, I think he is a fool, and I think he grows more foolish as time proceeds. Practi- cally daily now, as I listen to his silly talk, my exasper- ated and impatient inner woman is secretly exclaiming at him Oh you bloody fool! As for the conduct of his life, what could have been more fantastic and unbalanced? As for his religion, what is there normal and sane about that? This is a man who was clever in his youth; a man who achieved education and culture and climbed to the top of the ladder, but now where is he and what is he? Today he’s a poor sap, now here. He’s reverted to an original Thompson, a plebeian crackpot.
I went out today for the first time this year. The cold has been deep, and we’ve had more snow. Very cold indeed this morning, but the roads were clear. So I decided to go out. I put some money in the bank for Cuthie, and then went to Stone’s. I bought three blousettes to wear with my Barker dress, and some silk and lavender wool, to knit myself a vest. There is one thing this severe winter has showed me, that I haven’t got proper under clothes for a severe cold snap. My American “Athena’s” are all worn out, and the combs I bought at Selfridge’s are very ill fitting. I don’t possess one flannel petti-coat. There- fore I am determined to have proper lightweight woolen under things before next winter comes around. I bought the velvet wool as a start, but principally as a change from the knitting of socks, of which job I have become very tired.
The blousettes were needed, though, of course, I didn’t need three. One would have done. However, I saw them and liked them so I bought them. I am determined to have nice clothes.
When I came out of the store I found snow had begun falling again, and everything was already thickly covered. I found walking perilous, and nearly fell. A policeman came to the rescue, and called a taxi for me.
February 16, 1940
More snow. Ted has a very bad cold. At ten-thirty p.m. the telephone rang. Ted answered it promptly. We thought it might be Cuthie giving us a night call. But no, it was Mary Bernadette. Ted gave monosyllabic answers, and when he hung up he swore. That girl had asked him to let her Mother know that she wouldn’t be home until about eleven-thirty p.m. Taken by surprise, Ted had agreed. He had been just about ready for bed, sitting over the fire all evening in his dressing gown, and with his slippers on. So he had to dress and go up past Carlton Road, to give Mrs. Jude, Mary’s message. What impudence! This girl of twenty calls up an elderly man, late at night to run a message for her; and what a message, merely to tell her mother she was delayed an hour. Cheek!
Anyhow the Jude’s are a general nuisance about the telephone. Mrs. Jude will not install one of their own, because she won’t pay for it but she makes a convenience of all the neighbors. She has exhausted the goodwill of the Dumaresque’s about it and now she has exhausted ours.
When Mary was in training in the hospital, she would ring up at anytime she wished, and ask Artie to take messages to her mother for her. Now she has rung up Artie’s father, and late at night, too! That’s a colossal impertinence. Mrs. Jude comes here whenever she wishes to ring up Mary in town; moreover, to have me ring up Mary’s office for her, and make excuses for her absences.
Mrs. Jude was here at teatime last Saturday, to call up Mary at John Kavanaugh’s, and she had Ted do the actual calling! Never does she offer to pay for a call, never once has she made an offer to pay. Well that’s how some people get by. They manage to use all the luxuries of life, at other people’s expense. “Grafters” we call them in America, and that term exactly describes them.
February 18, 1940
I made a chicken dinner today, with corn pudding as the accompaniment and vanilla custard to follow, as the nearest approach I can get in England to ice cream. The boys won’t eat chicken, but now they are not here there is no reason why Ted and I shouldn’t eat chicken sometimes.
The American Sunday dinner: Fried chicken and corn fritters with ice cream and cake for dessert.
February 19, 1940
I am restless and homesick. I spent most of the afternoon and evening turning through my American cookbooks and notebooks and old files of the Rural New-Yorker. Queer how American cookbooks serve me as an anodyne! Just to read about corn bread and apple dowdy, clam chowder and Washington Pie, can calm me.
I have Eve Curie’s Life of her mother, Marie Curie, on hand, and am enjoying it rather. It is a very long book, so I am wearying of it a little. Probably it is this book, which has disturbed me. Marie Curie who lived the life of an exile, and for whom life never turned out as she wished it to be, it’s a sad story, and it saddens me; not because I am sympathetic to Marie’s woes, I’m not, I’m not sympa- the tic at all, I’m not that sort of person, but because, in spite of everything, Marie achieved her intentions; and I achieve nothing. That is my trouble. To read of such a successful life jolts me into an intolerable awareness of my own failure.
Rains, so warmer, thank heaven. Ted made an acute remark this morning. We were dawdling over breakfast, talking about the news and the Germans, and I remarked that I had been dreaming about the Salzmann’s and their bakery on Thirty-Fourth Street, in Bayonne. We reminisced about Salzmann’s a bit, and then Ted said, You know, you are a funny one. In art and politics, and styles and ideas, you’re so modern, or think you are. You hate repetitions; you want everything new; yet in your real life you are an absolute conservative. Anyone to hear you talk about the past, why, you even dream about it! Would never credit you as a modernist. Why, in your mind you live before two wars!
What he says is true. That’s where my heart is. As Ted said, I’ve lived here in Romford for a dozen years and yet I’m never really here at all. Its true, I’m not. I have no care for anything here in Romford, or anywhere here in all England. Every place is only something temporary to me. I feel a stranger, an exile, a transient, all the time. I am a stranger, an exile, and a transient. I’m waiting, all the time, to go back home. My home is in America. I want to pick up my life where it was truncated, and to put joy and vitality and satisfaction into it once again. Satisfaction. I want to be satisfied. Isn’t there an expres- sion in the scriptures somewhere, Then I shall be satis-fied? Well, when? When I open my door in Bayonne once
February 21, 1940
Johnnies Birthday. He is thirty today.
February 22, 1940
I awoke this morning from a vivid dream of Will Watson. Why? Why Will Watson out of all the ghosts of the past? He was real as he was real forty years ago. He was standing in Mother’s kitchen as he used to stand: tall, handsome, smiling, and mocking, exuberantly alive, and filling me with an ecstasy, as his presence always used to do. Why?
Trying to find the association of thought in my waking life which threw him up so vividly into my dream life, I think became right out of my reading of the life of Madame Curie. Deviously, but I think like this. Marie Curie was an essentially lonely woman, but she kept to the end of her life a very deep love and friendship with her sisters and brother, and when in old age one sister was devastated by the loss of her husband and her children, Marie consoled her by writing that she still had her sister and brother with her, at least the three of them were alive together, in Warsaw.
I think it is this fidelity and ever-lasting love in friendship, which was the rock jutting into my old sub conscious. I am a woman, for whom circumstances have destroyed friendships, but I crave friendship and there is never a friend. For my parents there were always friends, and their friendships were indestructible. They quarreled with each other, but they never quarreled with their friends. Both of them kept their friends, to the grave. The boys and girls they grew up with, the young
I can remember scores of the friends who came into Angel Road and not one of them was ever dropped. The Watson’s were a family who lived in Notting Hill during the seventies. The father kept a barbershop, and his three sons, Will, Harry and Fred were all his lather boys. They were boys with Dad. The father died, and as the mother could not carry on a barber’s business, and the boys were too young to do so, she exchanged the barber shop for a stationers and newsagents. Harry used to peddle magazines for her, until he succeeded getting into the District Railway offices with Dad.
Will took up with engineering. Fred ran away and enlisted in the army. Unable to carry on her shop alone, Mrs. Watson took up mid-wifery and she acted as midwife for my mother when I was born. She only lived for a few years longer but I can remember her. Will and Harry were very partial to Dad, and were often in our house.Harry married a schoolteacher and went to live in Galing so visiting was easy. Will married his cousin, a woman older than himself, and who turned out to be a dipsomaniac. They lived in Wantage, where Will had charge of a small tramline.
Young Willie Watson, a boy about my age, and their only child, was one of the trials of my childhood. He came to live with us once, some period whilst his mother was under restraint. He was a wildish untrained boy, and as I had no brothers I found him a great tease and nuisance.
My parents didn’t care when Will Watson was in disgrace and had lost his job; they took him in the same as ever; they were friends. That’s what I want: faithful friendship. I live in most terrible isolation. I have been writing to the American Consul this week. I had a letter from the Consulate on the twelfth about my visa, and offering an appointment. I have been in a certain distress ever since but at last I answered it, and said I was withdrawing my request for a visa, for the present. So that disturbs me. In memory all my American life is churned up and I am home sick, homesick and I cannot go home.
I want my American children, my American friends, and I must continue to want. Once in these last years when Mother was talking to me about the Watson’s, about the time, I think, when Mrs. Harry died, she said, You
With women of my Mother’s generation Christian names were seldom used. Generally, unless a friend- ship dated from school days, the married women were always addressed as “Mrs.” (Mrs. Side), or “Ma”. Tom Bradley always called Mother, “Ma”, and after him, all his children did, and do.
I knew he liked me, she went on, and I liked him. He made a good husband, too. He liked me a lot. I think. Do you know what? One day when the three of us were going up West together, your father got on the bus first, leaving Harry to help me on. Do you know what he said to me? Come along, dear!’ Of course, it slipped out. He didn’t mean anything. I thought it showed how he regarded me. Of course I didn’t pay attention to it: acted as though I hadn’t heard him. That’s what he said, ‘Come along, Dear.’
Mother’s little romance. She must have treasured up that remark for nearly fifty years. I think she was always more than half in love with Harry Watson. Without knowing it. Anyhow, her Victorian prudery would have made her instinctively refuse to recognize such a discon- certing fact. As for me, I was probably in love with Will Watson, but in my innocence didn’t know it. How old was I when he lived with us? Fourteen, fifteen? Not more. I knew I was fond of him of course. He was one of the “nice” uncles. All our parents’ friends automatically became aunts and uncles to us children. He used to call me Rue, and tease me a little. I only remember one remark he ever made to me. Don’t make that moue at me, he said once, and I didn’t know what he meant, and had to look up moue in the dictionary. I suppose he began to treat me like a young lady, instead of a child, and I appreci- aged his attitude. I admired him immensely, and I was very sorry for him. Secretly, I yearned to comfort him, but hadn’t the least notion how. He used to use swear words quite a lot; my parents didn’t mind, that was just Will Watson, but when we girls were about they used to ssh-ssh-shush him and he always shut up. It was only a habit he had, but he would check himself before his friend’s children. He never touched us; whereas Uncle Bradley would always fondle us, so in my dream, I was looking at him with my old admiration, and yearning over him as I used to do, and thrilling all through with an excitement at his presence. All very erotic and neurotic of course, but that’s the way it was.
Eve Curie states that though Marie did not have her children baptized and refused to teach them any religion, nevertheless their spiritual health was dear to her, and she tried “to preserve them from nostalgic reverie, from regret, from the excesses of sensibility.” Evidently she didn’t succeed in so protecting Eve. How can one be preserved from nostalgic reverie? I should like to know. It is a suffering I too would evade. But how? For, without warning, it envelops one like a fog fills the atmosphere, and more, even if one is clever enough to harness the waking thoughts, how defenseless one is in sleep.
I try not to think of America, and busily I distract myself with this Romford present. And what happens? In sleep I am back in America, back with my children, my friends, my youth and I awake to this life, which is an endless purgatory. Only it isn’t purging me from anything! I just endure, keeping my will set to a free future. If I can only live long enough. If I live.
shall always pay homage.
Miss Griffiths was always an inspiration, and even the
memory of her can lift me up. In all Marie Curies pictures there is a great sadness; whether the photograph shows her as an old or young woman, as a daughter, a wife, a widow, as a poor unknown student or a world famous genius, she looks always the same, profoundly sad. My guess about her, is, that she never got over the loss of her religion. Her mother was a devout Catholic, and Marie was brought up as a good Catholic, with nothing but Polish Catholic tradition behind her. Then, in her student years, whilst still in Poland, she became a ratio- nalist, a Positivist. That must have been the complete death of her soul, for she never recovered her religion. This is a very striking fact about her. To anyone, clever or stupid, it doesn’t matter; to be born in Catholicism is to be irreducibly a Catholic. So probably she was always secretly longing to get back into her Catholicity, and never being able to return to it. I think that is why every portrait shows her so sad. The time was against her. It was an era of faith losing. Had she been born a little later, perhaps even if she had lived until now, she could have resumed her Catholicism, because now it is the fashion for the Intellectuals to go Catholic, and to defend their religion with their brains, as well as hold it in their emotions.
Poor Marie, she came in the between-times, and so was unlucky. This is only my guess, of course but I think it is right. Apparently she never gave up the use of the word “soul” so she must have thought “soul.” Well then, what are the connotations for a born and instructed Catholic? Every Catholic knows them. And I think that every Catholic who looks at these portraits of Marie Curie will see a woman who longed to return to her God and the practice of her religion, but who wasn’t strong enough to do so. Poor Marie Curie!