mad in pursuit: letters from james & orpha, summer of '26

LETTERS from James & Orpha: contents

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Don't you just love serious young men?

Postmarked Monday 6.21.26, from James in Lynbrook NY


The beginning of this summer seems to bring with it certain comparisons and contrasts with last summer. Probably it does for you, too. Outwardly there seems little change; home, family, neighbors are the same. Mr. Ebbert still beats me at tennis; Catherine climbs all over me and asks the same impossible questions; the rock garden is pink and white with mountain laurel; instead of sitting around waiting for my eyes to get well I am sitting around the office waiting for people to enquire about eight room houses near the station.

Evenings are a bit chilly; the moon is an icy hemisphere; last night I read half of O'Neill's "All God's Chillun Got Wings."* The difference between this summer and last is a psychological one. Last summer was preeminently one of confidence; of the "high-hearted certainty of youth."

Life no longer seems a fairyland wherein the half remembered notes of a shadowy player surge more intensely through the mind than the songs of more tangible bards. It is a Nietzchean life in which the fittest climb on the bodies of the less fit to approach the desires of their hearts. It is a life which takes on the aspect of a tragedy to those who are not sufficiently hardened to it to view it as a comedy, or perhaps as a tragedy in which they are but actors as in a stage play.

Life no longer seems a fairyland...

Affairs are still undeveloped here; property is inactive, and until we can dispose of the new house and perhaps one or two other pieces we cannot go ahead with any building. For the present I am going to see what can be done with the real estate business; unless it becomes rather more lucrative within a couple of months I suppose I shall seek employment in the city.

My cousin was here yesterday. He's worth upwards of a million; after congratulating me on having gotten my brains filled he said "Now try to fill your pockets." At present it looks as though it is going to be quite a problem. Meanwhile, try to resign yourself to impending poverty and a husband in a position which bears little dignity and social prestige.

I am sending a tennis racquet. The stringing isn't very tight, but it seems to be a good weight and size for you. If you play much, let me know, because in that event you will probably need tighter stringing; if not, the racquet may do for a while. I haven't been to the city yet and don't expect to go very soon, or I'd take the racquet in and get a new stringing job. They don't stay tight long anyway, so if you aren't playing much you may find this one all right.

I have something for your linen collection; my aunt brought a sort of gold colored table cloth and six napkins a lunch set as an engagement present. I'll keep it here for you or send it to you if you'd like to have it with your other things.

You said you were going to write every day I hope that means you will write oftener than last summer. Please try to get time to write soon.

I should like to say a great deal, but I don't know just how to say it. I suppose I am a little afraid that this summer, as last summer, our shadowy springtime will slowly fade away before the warm summer reality in which you find yourself. And yet I don't really fear that at all. It must be my aching loneliness for you that colors everything with a feeling of unhappiness.







James' family owned a great deal of property on southern Long Island. But I guess the lots weren't worth a damn till they were sold.

James and Orpha have separated for the summer. She to Glens Falls to prepare for their September wedding; he to Long Island to get a job and build them a house.

James (b. 1904) graduated from Cornell, but Orpha dropped out after her junior year.

*"All God's Chillun Got Wings," a play by Eugene O'Neill about an interracial marriage, published in 1924. A tragedy.


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