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

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Marginal note at the top of the letter: "Don’t take all this seriously – (the envelope doesn’t even fit either. Do excuse that.)" It is hard to be in love and miscommunicating. Orpha is trying to be non-traditional -- fulfilling her own romantic vision of a nighttime  bride, wearing (as we discovered among her things) a short blue dress in (as I recall) the flapper girl mode. Everything is chaos in Glens Falls and James is asking his unwitting questions while trying to lighten the situation with humor. Women know that this doesn't work.

Postmarked Friday, 8.27.26, from Orpha in Glens Falls NY

It was all because I lost control for a moment – when I was illest – and wrote you the letter that you misunderstood as being a questioning of your mother’s judgment in conjunction with a slightly impatient correction of a misunderstanding of your own.
Just now it is very hard to be controlled in tiny trifles when I’m having to use all my strength for greater control in the other way –

And I am sorry for you, having sinus trouble. Try to be well. How severe is it?
There it is, the circumstances again – causing this tired – for it is because we are both tired and not very well – nervous quibbling. It is quite true – no doubt I do lack a sense of humor, and evaluated more heavily your joking reply – because I was ill and increasingly dull. But of course I was not wholly wrong – for I cannot forget that you have used, before, such jargon when you were not laughing – when each word (ridiculous apparently) pierced like a knife. You will discern, too, the similarity of the tone in which I replied, to your extravagantly humorous letter – it did not lack its strain of attempted wit. But, even tho’ I’ve acted like a clod and a numbskull – pray don’t allow me to deprive you of your levity, and add that sin to my already heavy burden. Your last letter was too richly clever for me to gainsay. I am no match. I agree – and end – but being a woman, I beg my last word – bear in mind what I’ve iterated and reiterated since we first clashed in this fearsome combat – not one thought deprecatory of your mother am I guilty of.

I agree... but being a woman, I beg my last word...

Yes, it is too late now for any change in wedding plans. I’m truly very sorry for the obvious inconvenience the time will cause you all. Please explain to your parents. It was, of course, our failure to force you to tell us you preferences in matters of time and so on when you were here. I have always thought to have the wedding at night, and assumed, for another unknown reason, that you’d prefer it then. It’s less conspicuous, and people gape less. Why, at noon it would be horrid. I’ve just always wanted it after dark – to go out together into night.

If you had but written last week what you wrote today all would have been well, but the invitations went out last night.

If you would understand the confusion there’s been here – my illness, Aunt Fancho’s never-well conditions, one-minute decisions, my few days of illness this week – you’d not wonder that we fail to do things correctly. Of course we should have consulted you for your plans. Although every decision is presumably the bride-to-be’s to make, I’d have much preferred you to make them. However, it’s too late now – and oh! Really, what does it matter? There’ll be some few fools here who’ll shake their heads and shrug when they see us in informal attire in the evening, I suppose – but they’ll be the ones who don’t know that evening is not the fashionable time for weddings, and that the time has nothing to do with the attire of the bridal party anyway. And beside all that – what do we care what people think or do – I can’t bear them – It will be wonderful, for you will be with me.

The ceremony will last from 8 – 8:15 – the reception (simple to the nth degree) from 8:15 to perhaps 9. Receptions aren’t usually before, you know (“attempted wit”). I know 9 or 9:15 is rather late – but you did not tell me, you know, where you considered going and taking me – that first day or night.

Your family can get to Albany Tuesday night if they wish – and down on the day boat Wed. It will delay the “myriad things,” I know – and I’m sorry. I can’t understand the driving part, of course because I could drive a thousand miles each day for years and thrive on it!

My reference to where you’ll stay (goodness! What an enigmatic letter writer I am. Forgive that! I know a genius can’t understand one of my simple sentences – they’re flounderers trying to untwist and tying themselves in harder knots at each writhe). I intended to convey the following meaning – if you and your family were to come here on Monday (the day before the wedding), it would be possible for us to accommodate you at the house Monday night (where you have before been accommodated [if you can stretch it that far]) – but not possible, as much as we’d like it to be, to have your father and mother and Eleanor stay here.

I’ll find out about the license man and report immediately.

No, I’ve told you this several times I’m not wearing white – and there won’t be a procession – so you may wear your new or old blue suit – or the overalls or bathing suit. I do not mind – you will come – and that’s all that matters.

If you were here, I’d first shake you, then spank you, then laugh. This is a silly letter – at least I’m outgrowing my morbidness – destroy this!




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