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

LETTERS from James & Orpha: contents

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What happened to the young woman who was just the other day gushing about her readiness to submit to James' dominance? This draft letter was tucked in with the previous one from James. She is obviously infuriated that he prefers to be practical than to come visit her post-operative bedside. She scribbles a very angry letter accusing him of selfishness. Then as she seeks solace in playing the piano, she mellows out, and decides on a more rationale communication. Of course, James cannot resist her. So, despite his practical concerns, her diary reports that he comes to her.

Not Sent, written by Orpha about 8.7.26

Always that appeal to my strength. Do you not know that when there is someone who is all of life to one – to have that one near at a time of illness or insecurity is all that matters? Can’t you feel that human warmth of nearness and comfort – and the sympathy of the only one who matters? It is not the passion – inflamed wanting – I refer to – but a human, humbler thing – just contact with the one, who lends a feeling of protection at a time when physical discomfort makes one desire it.

[marginal note:] Thing J. Mallory hadn’t, which made her indifferent to her family. That thing would make me at least say I’d love to be with you while you’re ill to comfort you what little I could -- & makes you neglect events, say you’re sympathy & wish you might. There are great things – loves and passions – as we have learned – and want them – but there are little things too --

Sentimental, mundane, common if you like – but my nature – and genuine.

I thought only to have you come here when I needed you especially

And you sum it all by saying again it is only your [my] weakness which threatens to shake the established order for you say – "if you are strong enough" – "it would be better." Therefore if you choose what is not best, you are both weak and unreasonable.

Your letter lacks everything but irritation and misunderstanding almost willful for you know, in your heart, that it would not disturb anything here for you to come – that for you to come here would be only a blessing and a help to my family and to me; that the objection lies only with you and conditions there. I made a rash wish in that letter – the second you’ve received this week – only an airy fiery impulsive thing – I’m sorry I did not restrain its utterance.

Then after you had said in your second letter that you’d have a few days to wait while the cement hardened, it seemed that my prayer had been answered and an opportunity presented by which you might come to be with me while I needed you, without the cessation of the all-important project which I recognize and would not otherwise have suggested that you interrupt. I thought only to have you come here when I needed you especially – with not more cost nor inconvenience to you than to have me come there. Now not such a crying need – Mom off case. I asked you to come to help me in her absence – now she will be here --

You did not tell me how the affair had resulted.

Please do not write me such a letter again.

Please do not write me such a letter again. Have tried to be controlled and restrained, to kill the something in me which you desire destroyed – it is not quite dead – it is the thing that enabled Jessica Mallory to live as she did

If we cannot find profit in the mutual giving of the variance in our natures, if we cannot find knowledge & help in smoothing irreg[ular] dissimilarities, in becoming assim[ilated] we shall be found to –
For there is a limit to erasure of personality and individuality.

Of course my answer is I am quite strong enough – do not come.

Letter II

I shall not send the above – it was my first nervous reaction to my disappointment at his rather humdrum unmoved answer to my announcement of the operation.

I have been playing – While I am playing in my poor way. I seem to be communing with the spirit of music and quietness and listen to my clumsy interpretation – I am miles away, with music in singing meadow – or echoing valleys or cool green and silver depth where water trickles – and I am with James – and I seem to understand and see quite thru his tired letter and I am no longer impatient or hurt – I shall write him thus:

It is right as you have said – all save your version of the effect of your coming upon my family and me. For my desire is unconditioned – it would be better in no other way than for you to be here – as far as we are concerned. It is affairs with you which modify your coming.

From Orpha’s diary:
Sun, 8/8/26. James came. [Perhaps she sent that "one-word telegram"]
Mon, 8/9/25. Tonsils & adenoids removed
Tue, 8/10/25. Home 5 P.M [from hospital?]. James left 1 A.M.


"my operation": the tonsillectomy

Jessica Mallory: A literary character? Possibly from "The Forsyte Saga"?


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