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

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This letter crosses Orpha's. While she gushes out her frustration and all the trivialities tying her down, James is more methodical. Yes, he was holding back letters till he heard from her, but it is because he is being formal. Her youthful despair takes on a hysterical flavor, while his turns inward. When she finally writes and worries him with her brief letter, he invests in a phone call. He comes up with a plan -- all will be better if only they can see each other.

Postmarked Saturday 7.10.26, from James in Lynbrook NY

Friday night

On the last day of June you wrote me, "I shall write you an effort at a satisfactory reply to all you have presented tomorrow." I thought to wait for that letter, and then, in turn, try to write to it a satisfactory reply.
On Sunday I wrote to you steadily for six hours; but I wanted to have a reply to your reply with it, so I waited sending it. Each day I felt sure you'd write, and so I went to the Post Office several times a day, always in a vain hope. I'd have been alarmed if I hadn't grown to half expect your indifference to correspondence.

When I at last heard from you today, a few lines saying you could not send what you have written and could not write, I was frightened; I called you as the quickest way to answer you and get a reply.
So many things of fact I have wanted to discuss with you besides all the rest about the operation when I could come to see you what your plans are what mine had best be when you can come here what I'd better do a dozen matters which I held from day to day waiting for the reply you promised.

The plan I hope you will be able to and will wish to accept is this: to come here as soon as you can...

Please send anything you write; you know that all the trivial reasons prompting you not to send things are of no matter.

I have kept the letter I wrote last Sunday; in the rest of this letter I shall embody most of it, altering, amplifying, and deleting as I transcribe.

Beginning with a poem I wrote you last summer (I rather egotistically memorized it). I am adding a few more stanzas; they are rather harsh, wanting of the wistful delicacy the first two have, yet perhaps are stronger, embodying more of an epic swing. The poem is still unfinished; probably I shall never attempt to write another, but soon I shall finish it, and we will be glad it did not end last summer. (Then I thought it was a complete octave). I do not stop where I have because my progress ends there; it is at that point that I wish to digress for a discussion with you upon which the rest of the poem in a measure depends.

Now I have decided to save the things in the Sunday letter to discuss with you when we can talk.

To that end, seeing you, I have just conferred with Mom. The plan I hope you will be able to and will wish to accept is this: to come here as soon as you can, during this week of July 11 or if that is impossible, the next week at latest. And that's all there is to it don't worry about apparel or anything bring a bathing suit under your arm and wear the blue cloth dress with gold and blue buttons in the front, and the blue hat, and your striped shoes also a pair of tennis shoes (under the other arm) and you will have all the requisites for a week's visit.

Please write me at once that you are coming right away tell me what time your train reaches New York. It is better for you to come here now than for me to come there; it will be a change for you, less bother for your family, and you and I can examine the situation down here and decide what we must do.

Please tell me you are coming the change will rest you, will save my life, and then you can go back and get your operation over with if you want to.

You must know why I can't write well, why I don't write it is because my whole existence consists of wanting you you are more restrained that I am all I can do is fight against the minutes and hours until I can have you.

Tell me you are coming

James

 

NOTES

"The operation": Orpha is supposed to have her tonsils out.

This poem was found separately -- it might be the one he refers to. It doesn't quite match his description, but does fit the occasion:

This evening after calling you
A soft glow of saffron
Steals from the sunset.
But the spell
With which it charms me
Is not its own.
It is an enchantment
Which has flown through the twilight
A small exquisite hummingbird
Darting through the dusk
It has come
On the wings of your voice
Saying I may see you.

 

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