Friday evening April 13, 1945
Just been making the new Lodger's bed, and turned on his set to hear a talk about Cousin Franklin from N.Y. This made me feel terribly sad, for the world people. Everybody who has ideals and a heart will feel as I do that they have lost a great leader and a friend. I have also a blood-tie which I feel, in some curious way, and I have a great regret that I never met him. When I was home in 1940, and in '36 I could have met him, but declined the opportunity. Feeling that while he held office the meeting of a distant relation could hold little interest for him and for me, would be no more than a cordial chat squeezed into his already far too crowded day. I did not, of course, merely wish to have the empty honor of having shaken my distinguished relations' hand. I meant to wait until he had retired and then get to know him well through some cousins and an uncle whom he sees a lot. Now the chance is gone. I do greatly regret this.
Then over the radio came from "Coq d'Or", by Rimsky-Korsakov, a haunting, rich, savage yet infinitely sweet and disturbing thing. It made me think of you - and mixed up with this was my sadness at the loss of that great man - and the feeling that you would soon be gone. I found the beauty of the music quite unbearable and sank down on the bed in floods of heart-broken tears.
Darling, the end of the war is now a matter of days so that every time I see you it has the poignancy that it may be the last time. I know that you somehow do not quite realize this, or if you do, you only dimly apprehend just what it will mean to you when you are cut off entirely from Bubi's tender love and her companionship - and her arms which you so love to feel tight around you. But I fully apprehend what it will mean to me to lose not only my lover (this is a terribly hard thing to face) but my foster-son, my closest friend, my spoilt brat, my dear one (and there are ever greater losses) in short, "my share of the world". That is why it has caused me such deep distress that I lost a whole month of you. Perhaps almost the last month - and that while you were here, things were so unsatisfactory and wasted.
As often as I try to tell you just what you mean to me, I still have never quite been able to express it. The main thing is that inner closeness of which I spoke today. Being a complex person who is not out of the usual mold, I can seldom find a person who knows how to "translate" me. The average person knows me in much the way he would know a book written in Sanskrit, which stood on a table, very elegantly bound, and having the loveliest printing and vellum pages ornamented in arabesques of gold leaf. He might love to hold it in his hands and feel and look at the beautiful cover, but the meaning of the book, it's hundreds of pages of thoughts, ideas, ideals, philosophy, would be something he knew not how to possess.
You are the only person I have ever known who knew how to translate me. When I am away from you too long, I feel like a book that is un-read. I think that is the clearest way I've ever been able to express it. So please re-read this letter several times and try to memorize it for I don't want you to forget what I'm saying now.
Another way to express the same thing is a kind of test, which I have sometimes applied to my feelings about you. I pictured myself going on a summer holiday of several weeks, a long tour of travel, perhaps abroad. Well, one does not wish to go alone on those gala occasions, so one asks oneself, who would one choose to go along? I think over all my friends, family, men I know, everyone is rejected because I know their continued presence would be irksome to me on a long trip. Then, it narrows down and down, and I realize for the thousandth time, that you are the only one I would want to be with me on such travel. We would want to see the same things, would get the same kick out of peculiar "characters" picked up on trains or in hotels. The wonderful excitement which comes from seeing strange lands and people would be so much enhanced by the mere presence of each other and the feeling of quiet sympathy and companionship which sort of hovers in the background between two people like us who are innately sympathetic and compatible.
While I see the tragedy of our being of such different ages - and this is particularly tragic when one realizes that we never once in all the time we've known each other had the ghost of a "sex problem". All that was so simple and delightful in its wholesome naturalness. The average married couple would give ten years of their lives to have what we have sexually. Not one married in a thousand has it.
While I see this, I also see the other side of the medal. That is the undoubted fact that because you are so much younger, this has given an added richness to our relationship and has made it infinitely more complex, interesting and added more than the usual boy-meets-girl romance. Perhaps, as you say, I am the one woman who "got under your skin" - but I got there because I was older. Because I was experienced, subtle, and had the poet's nature and the imagination to love you like a poet - and this is a thing your very complex nature needs.
Then too the same situation adds an element of what might be termed preciousness. Using this word in its sense of something rare, unique and terribly fragile. A mother sometimes stands looking at her young baby asleep. She notices its skin, like porcelain, the violet shadows around its closed eyes, the transparency of the little hands. She realizes with a dreadful poignancy that this soft, helpless little creature, whose skull she could crush in her own hands like an eggshell, lives in a world of cruel, jagged edges and hard surfaces. Her whole world of love is bound up in this child who could be killed by the slightest blow, and the very preciousness of her possession is all tied up in the anguished fear of losing it. A fear which never leaves a mother's heart and which causes mothers to wake ten times a night to look in the cot and see with her own eyes, that their treasure is still there and all is well with it.
Somehow this feeling of rarity, preciousness and fear is seldom present when one loves a healthy, strong young person of one's own age. One always has the comforting feeling that they are quite tough enough to take any hard knocks which come along. One does not worry much about them. It is a great comfort and yet these normal lusty loves do not possess the poignancy of fear of loss which is present when one loves someone who is very delicate, or of whom you know their days on earth are numbered. Mixed up with your pleasures in being with them is the knowledge that one day, only too soon, the treasure of their minds, gathered over many years, will not be there for you to dip into -will not be anywhere - that the boundless love of their hearts which you so leaned on and depended on, will exist only in your memory.
I wish you had stayed today for we could have had a peaceful evening, with T. out and D. gone away, so you could have slept in his big room in the height of luxury! It worked out well, only you were not here - I wanted you to have a good rest too, and it was such a beautiful day that we could have had lunch on the porch siting in the sun. D. did not take poor Elain things for her urgent need - I am surely glad to hear she needs them!
Your love making was unusually violent this time, for I found two bruises on one side of my arm and on the other the very plain print of a thumb on one side of my arm and four fingers on the other! Shall have to wear long sleeves for a week. As for my leg, you nearly broke it at one moment on a kind of frenzy! What got into you, darling?
I am enclosing bit about Emlyn Williams' new play. The reviews are mixed but he's a very unusual young man. We might see it when you come up for your furlough. We haven't been to a show for about 6 weeks, and I do miss those expeditions.
I have been struggling so hard and so long to get things with us on a basis of truth and trust. If only you would realize the harm you do both us every time you lie to me. You have got into a terrible habit of always saying whatever you think people most want to hear, even though it has not a grain of truth in it. This is a most dreadful way to live. I was somewhat amused - in the midst of my distress - this morning when you said; "It's hot in here." I remember a quip made at a concert; Jehudi Menuhin was making his debut and listening to him in a box were Jascha Heifetz and Harold Bauer ( a very fine pianist). As the concert went on, ovation after ovation and sensation after sensation when the boy-wonder displayed his amazing technique and tonal beauty and fire. Heifetz wiped his forehead saying: "It's terribly hot in here." Bauer smiled and said "For violinists, yes for pianists, no." This inspired the retort I flung at you!
Have just been speaking to you on the phone and shall now go to bed with the nice feeling that I know you are back safe and all is well. (In short, I know my baby is in the crib and hasn't choked or smothered by a pillow! So I can rest easy.) So I'll say goodnight, darling.
If the trip to Cambridge happens, I'll bring a bag to take back my letters. Bring about half of them, and anything else you have for me - the book you spoke of, etc. Could you bring "Forever Amber"? I also need more butter as I'm running short again. It might be a very good idea to bring an appeaser for T. in the shape of cigarettes, if you can manage! If I could produce these on my return it would look well and please him, I think!
With all my love
April 14, Saturday
Wrote you a lot last night but missed you so much today that here I am talking to you to help the feeling of being "an un-read book" go away. Haven't a thing to tell you so I'll just set down the thoughts I have been thinking today - a thing which I wish you would do more often. Your letters consist, for the most part, of what we call "padding" in literary circles! When people know each other as well as you and I, padding is a thing just not in order.
Well, anyway, I thought about you - about marriage - and being in a somewhat egotistical mood, I thought quite a lot about me! About going with you to see this new play which sounds interesting - read the enclosed reviews and see if you think so, too. Next, I thought about the end of the war - any minute, now. For the past 6 years I've been thinking about that fabulous time known as "After the War" - it never really seemed that it would come - yet here it is, all of a sudden-like! I shall feel like the Old Lag when the prison gates turn him out into a cold world. One nice thing, many of my old friends stationed in remote spots, or roaming the seas, will return and it will be nice to pick up the threads with them. Wonder if I'll ever see Peter again? Wonder if he had an encounter with a mine - or whether he is still dividing his time between Able-bodied seamen and Disable-bodied passengers!
Speaking of Peter somehow reminds me of Diana Wynyard, who is in this new play - she and I once shared the same lover. I first, then she, and we sort of over-lapped for a short time! He couldn't make up his mind which of us he wanted to marry, so in the end got dropped by us both! He was a most interesting and highly seductive young M.P. with a big career that might have gotten a lot bigger. Some fatal flaw in his character made people distrust him, in spite of his brains, force and good looks.
(I'm just rambling, darling, as if you were here sitting by the fire with me and we were chatting idly, skipping from one topic to another.)
Now, about Me! I was wondering what the fatal flaws in myself were which prevented me from making more of a success of my life? Plenty of looks and brains - yet here I am, ending up just a household drudge, living a life of such excruciating boredom that if I didn't have you as a counter-irritant, I'd turn on the gas. Of course, my obvious handicap has always been a delicate constitution. Whatever gifts one has, good health has pretty well got to be the basis the whole structure of a really big success rests on. But poor health wasn't the only thing that worked against me climbing to the top of the ladder. The principle thing was, I happen to be that rare creature, an Old-fashioned Woman!!! There are not many of us about these days! Everywhere you look you have to brush off clear-eyed, taut Career Women. These women can run an office as easily as they drive a racing car or their private plane - and in their spare moments toss off several babies (who are taught to call them "Helen" instead of Mother) and even have time to play golf, chess, and (just for fun) do a bit of differential calculus and study Chinese, Russian and the law.
The only alternative type to these scintillating females are the awfully YOUNG things who don't wear drawers, but do wear brassieres, and who would as soon sleep with a strange man as shake hands with him.
As for me - well, I firmly believe that woman is NOT man's equal. I don't want to do Man's Work. I don't want to vote. The mere idea of a brave new world where Men and Me shall work cheek to cheek - or do I mean shoulder to shoulder? - makes my wisdom tooth start aching. Oh, how I should have loathed being a Big Business Woman! What a fate! Even my present one is slightly better than that. How I should even have hated being a screen star. Having to sleep with hard-bitten directors, and getting up every day at five, and living in a phony place like Hollywood. And then retiring at forty, with a lot of money but no real friends, having run through seven husbands, and too old to start a real life by then.
I seem hard to please, don't I, dearest baby. But no, my love! I just happen to be an old-fashioned woman who wants to live with and in the man she loves - to be his helpmate. Of course, it's just luck if such women find a man worth loving in the way they can love. It's even more of a million-to-one chance that their particular man turns out to be a Roosevelt, a Wallace, or a Churchill.
I looked and I looked and I waited and I waited - but he never turned up.
I had - and still have - great potentialities that could have been utilized in the service of the right man. Because of the lack of HIM these potentialities couldn't be used by me alone - so they went to waste. I've just been reading a book about Queen Victoria and I was greatly struck by one passage. It explained me to myself in a way I have never before quite been able to manage. Here it is:
"Queen Victoria, was one of those deeply feminine women, who must be constantly inspired by a potent male influence, if they are to present a bold front to the cares of life. Such women need a man behind them as a tired swimmer grasps for a rock to cling to. Although the root of this craving lies in the primitive impulse of womanhood, the urge in practice may be satisfied by the presence of a man in the spiritual rather than the physical sense. These women crumple tragically when they stand-alone. Since the origin of this deep need to have a strong man by their side, lies in the realm of sex, it is natural that with old age the need should fade away, as it did in the case of Queen Victoria."
Could you have a better explanation of me than that? Obviously, I would have been happiest in the kind of marriage like Mrs. Parkington's. Mr. P. was a rogue, but he was a potent, virile, successful and powerful man who knew how to pleasure a woman. What a pity I never met such a man - if I had, I'd have gone "all out" for him, and if I had been over thirty when I met him, I would have won him with ease. (But couldn't have when I was under 30.)
The above quotation also explains why you are so important to me.
Why do men and women get on well? It is clear to me, that they should have important differences, and likenesses. If too alike, it's a pleasant, but vegetable-like existence, placid and without the stimulating arguments and discoveries which come from two people being of different races, different backgrounds. If too different, however, then it's just hopeless and the initial sex-attraction fades out leaving complete incompatibly.
You and I were so lucky in striking a truly remarkable balance in those ways. The important differences which intrigue us both are, first the striking contrast in looks which makes looking at each other a pleasure (because I am so dark, I love your redness and it excites me). Next, your strength buoys me up, physically, while you find my smallness and fragility appealing. Coming from such different backgrounds, it has been intriguing for us both to delve into our past - we've learned a lot about other ways of life, and thought through talking about our childhoods and early youth. Then there are the differences of outlook that is very stimulating. You have changed many of my ideas, and I think I've changed some of yours, each keeping and taking the best from each other. Difference of ages - has enabled me to add mother-love to my other love of you, this kind and unselfish affection has been a comfort to you, and you've depended and leaned on it.
Those are the differences, now for the likenesses. Most important is the inner closeness, which is a matter of temperament; next comes an outer closeness - almost as important. When I go past you in the kitchen, I can hardly ever pass without quickly stroking your hair, or stopping to kiss the back of your neck, because all of your body is sweet to me. I know that you must feel the same way, for you are seldom with me for more than a few minutes when you want to take me on your lap, kiss and fondle me, touch my silky tummy, sniff my skin. I couldn't count the number of times you've kissed me and then said: "Your breath is like milk -" "your hair gleams like coal -" "you smell so delicious -" This deliciousness is an absolute MUST when people love each other. That's the luckiest thing we have. Other likes are, I greatly admire and sympathize with so many of your ideas, ambitions and ideals of life. You don't at present, live up to any of them - but I believe you will. The fascination of watching your future unfold is a thing I look forward to with the most intense excitement. I hope to have my share in it, and to be a comfort and an inspiration always.
Such are the important likenesses, and differences that make or mar an association.
What a perfect sunny day, almost a day of summer balminess. As I did not hear from you last night, I realize the Cambridge trip is off - and the weather being so lovely, it is particularly to be regretted that I won't be there with you tomorrow. We could have spent the day on the river with books and a picnic lunch. Our time left is so short - so tragically short.
While you were talking to me in the kitchen about going to Cambridge, I was washing the dishes and had my back to you and kept saying; "yes, dear, that would be awfully nice -" and being polite and tactful. But I really knew that the trip would never happen. It was just something you suddenly thought of to put forward as a counter to the fact that you'd been away from me a whole month. You hadn't ever telephoned, hadn't written for 3 weeks, hadn't noticed that I hadn't written for 2 weeks (something I never did before), and then came to London and didn't even try to give me any fun. Or spend one evening with me out of three that you were here. Like a child, you thought, "Oh, I'll suggest several days in Cambridge and then she won't scold me and put me through an uncomfortable hour before I go back". You never had any intention of doing it - it was just your usual habit of saying whatever you think a woman wants to hear, which gets you over an awkward moment. You live so much in the moment where human relations are concerned. I am sure you do not fully comprehend that I am a loyal and valuable friend, of a very special kind whose like you will not find again in ten lifetimes.
Just remember what I told you, dear, that you might be shipped off at half an hour's notice any day from now on. It is therefore important to do for me, and with me, anything you wish to do as quickly as possible. You may never have another chance.