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

LETTERS from James & Orpha: contents

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James is getting down to the business of house-building -- but when he rests for a moment, it's all about Orpha. He wants her too badly now -- a visit might only make his torture worse.

Postmarked Friday 7.30.26, from James in Lynbrook NY


Yesterday, at last, the team and scoop came, with an old bird to drive the team. The horses, the driver, a guy named Bert, pater Zimmer, and I, worked like cusses all day, running the scoop, shoveling, digging out innumerable roots, chopping and hacking away until nearly half the cellar is dug. Today it rained, enforcing a most untimely cessation of activity.

The horses, the driver, a guy named Bert, pater Zimmer, and I, worked like cusses all day

This evening I have been cogitating on matters of shingles, kitchen floors, closets, ceiling heights, the relative merits of 7/8 and 5/4 rough flooring, brass pipes, water heating, whether or not I can cement the cellar floor in my spare time next fall, that problem of screening casement windows, how soon I can get the water in, whether to use single or double forms, whether to brick, tile, or wood floor the entry, how much a beam ceiling and paneled walls would cost in the living room, fireplace construction, wire or wood lath, grade level, where to put cellar windows, how many hundred feet of sheathing I need, what length to get the 2x4s, where to put lally columns, where and how many electric base plugs to put in (@ $3 each), if a linen closet can be put in some upstairs corner, what kind of trim, where to cut a door into the attic, and several other architectural and carpenterial problems.

[this next part was sealed in a separate envelope, enclosed with the above]

Orpha song, this next month presents many difficulties. There is a paradox in your coming to see me. At first thought I want you infinitely more than ever before, it is an easy and inexpensive trip, and you might just as well as not enjoy some tennis, bridge, and beach partying. But the only valid reason which might make your coming unwise is the one all-important reason for your coming.

For it seems that when next we meet there must be everything and there must not be a nerve-wracking arrangement as there was when I came to you last. And although it would be much easier to arrange things here, it will be much harder for there to be that least bit of restraint and much harder for you to go away again for a while.

Still, if we could have things about as when I was last with you, for a few days about a week or two from now, there would be some rest, some temporary cooling of fires that are as fierce as intense pain.

There is also the question of any medical projects you may be planning.

So do you decide, knowing these to be my suggestions, and knowing that every fibre of me is demanding that I have you with an intensity far beyond times before an intensity which would frighten and injure and torture you if you did not feel response to it but will be a thing nearer perfection than we have yet known if the change in you continues.

For your change causes one in me a few words, and your new responses when I was there, are making me drop restraints I did not know existed and are making me want you want you dangerously if you still feel but a mild wanting but want you as greatly as a shooting star across the night if you want me to have you in a way that makes every other experience in life as cool and quiet as a sheltered pond.

I feel the growth of new power over you

For I feel the growth of new power over you power you have at all times in equal measure over me power to mould your thoughts, fire your imagination and spirit, and play upon your flesh an instrument of music far beyond compare with man-made instruments and instrument suggested only by the violin.

Violins are like bodies; they may be cheap, rasping, insensitive instruments, and may have mediocre fiddlers to wheedle jigs and watery ballads from them

But over the sensitive, delicate, nerve strung body of you, I feel a growing power to exert a mastery a mastery which will enable us to live weaving, curving, symphonies major compositions operas of delicate, soft overtures of lips and finger tips, progressing by perfect control and harmony to unknown, blazing, ending. Control is the secret of it all dependent on strength and character maturing beyond others






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