Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Lesbian Archives’

Renée Vivien, born Pauline Mary Tarn (11 June 1877 – 18 November 1909

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Told by Gesa Karoly

I promised you, my curious little girl, to tell you the true story of Sarolta Andrassy. You knew her,  didn’t you? You remember her black hair with blue and red highlights, and her eyes like a lover’s begging and melancholy.

Sarolta Andrassy lived in the country with her old mother. For neighbours she had the Szecheny family, who had just left Budapest forever. Really, they were a bizarre family! It was easy to mistake Bela Szecheny for a little girl, and his sister, Terka, for a little boy. Curiously enough, Bela possessed all the feminine virtues and Terka, all the masculine faults. Bela’s hair was a copper blond; Terka’s was a livelier, rather reddish blond. The brother and sister strangely resembled each other – and that’s very rare among members of the same family, no matter what they say.

Bela’s mother was not yet resigned to cutting off the beautiful blond curls of the little boy or to exchanging his graceful muslin or velvet skirts for vulgar pants. She coddled him like a little girl. As for Terka, she kept shooting up, like a wild weed . . . She lived outdoors, climbing on the trees, marauding, robbing the kitchen gardens. She was unbearable and at war with the world. She was a child who was neither tender not communicative. Bela, on the other hand, was gentleness itself. He showed his adoration for his mother by making much of her and by caressing her. Terka loved no on€, and no one loved her.

Sarolta came one day to visit the Szecheny family. Her loving eyes in her thin, pale face seemed to be begging. Bela greatly pleased her, and they played together  great deal. Looking wild, Terka prowled around them.When Sarolta spoke to her, she fled.

She could have been pretty, this incomprehensible Terka . . . But she was too tall for her age, too thin, too awkward, too ungainly, whereas Bela was so dainty and so sweet! . . . Several months later, the Szecheny family left Hungary. Bela had an excessively delicate chest, being in general rather frail. On the advice of the doctor, his mother took him to Nice, along with his recalcitrant little sister. Sarolta cried bitterly over losing her playmate.

In her dreams, Sarolta always evoked the too frail and too pretty little boy whom she remembered constantly. And she would say to herself, smiling at the blond fantasy: ‘If I must get married when I’m older, I would like to marry Bela.’

Several years passed – oh, how slowly for the impatient Sarolta! Bela must have reached the age of twenty, and Terka, seventeen. They were still on the Riviera. And Sarolta grieved through the joyless, long years, which were lit up only by the illusion of a dream.

One violet evening, she was dreaming by her window when her mother came to tell her that Bela had returned . . . Sarolta’s heart sang as if it would break. And, the next day, Bela came to see her.

He was the same, and even more charming than before. Sarolta was happy that he had kept this feminine and gentle manner which had so pleased her. He was still the fragile child . . . But now this child possessed an inexpressible grace. Sarolta searched in vain for the cause of this transformation which made him so alluring. His voice was musical and faraway like the echo of the mountains. She admired everything about him, even his stone-grey English suit. And she even admired his
mauve necktie.

Bela contemplated the young woman with different eyes, with eyes strangely beautiful, with eyes that did not resemble the eyes of other men . . . ‘How thin he is!’ observed Sarolta’s mother after he had left. ‘Poor thing, he must still be in delicate health.’ Sarolta did not answer. She closed her eyes in order to again see Bela under her closed eyelids . . . How handsome, handsome, handsome he was! . . .

He returned the next day, and every day after that. He was the Prince Charming who is seen only in the childish pages of fairy tales. She could not look him in the face without feeling ardently and languishingly faint . . . Her face changed according to the expression of the face she loved. Her heart beat according to the rhythm of that other heart. Her unconscious and childish tenderness had become love.

Bela would turn pale as soon as she appeared, diaphanous in her white summer dress. Sometimes he looked at her without speaking, like someone communing with himself in front of a faultless Statue. Sometimes he took her hand . . . His palm was so burning and dry that she thought she was touching the hand of an invalid. Indeed, at those times a little fever would show in Bela’s cheeks.

One day she asked him for some news of the undisciplined Terka.
‘She is still in Nice,’ he answered indifferently. And then they spoke of something else. Sarolta understood that Bela did not love his sister at all. This was not surprising, what is more –  a girl who was so taciturn and wild!

What should come next, came next. A few months later Bela asked to marry her. He had just turned twenty-one.  Sarolta’s mother had no objections to the union

Their betrothal was unreal, as delicate as the white roses that Bela brought each day. Their vows were more fervent than poems: their very souls trembled on their lips. The nuptial dream came to be in the deepest silence.

‘Why,’ Sarolta would ask her fiancé€, ‘are you worthier of being loved than other young men? Why do you have gentle ways that they do not? Where did you learn the divine words that they never say?’

The wedding ceremony took place in absolute privacy. The candles brightened the red highlights in Bela’s blond hair. The incense curled towards him, and the thunder of the organs exalted and glorified him. For the first time since the beginning of the world, the Groom was as beautiful as the Bride.

They left for those blue shores where the desire of lovers runs out of patience. They were seen, a Divine Couple, with the eyelashes of one stroking the eyelids of the other. They were seen, lovingly and chastely intertwined, with her black hair spread over his blond hair . . .

Oh, my curious little girl! Here the story becomes a little  difficult to relate . . . Several months later, the teal Bela Szecheny appeared . . . He was not Prince Charming, alas! He was only a handsome boy, nothing more.

He furiously sought the identity of the young usurper . . . And he learned that the usurper in question was his own sister, Terka.

….Sarolta and Prince Charming have never returned to Hungary. They are hiding in the depths of a Venetian castle or of a Florentine mansion. And sometimes they are seen, as one sees a vision of ideal tenderness, lovingly and chastely intertwined.

 

Translated by Karla Jay and
Yvonne M. Klein

 

 

Who, we wonder, was Gesa Karoly, and who was the curious little girl to whom this little gem of a story was related? The writer would have us believe that legend of Sarolta and her lover went on being retold, and the little girl, who remembered Sarolta, we may fondly imagine, may have been influenced by its hearing, to form her own views and ideas about the possibilities of love, and so not simply accept at face-value the norms embraced and upheld by society at large.

Renée Vivien’s charming tale of lesbian love and marriage is one in a long string going all the way back to Ovid – Iphys and Ianthes, in Metamorphosis,  and Ludovico Ariosto’s epic poem  Orlando Furioso, which has the a brother and sister fall in love with the same woman. Though both narratives disappoint (Ariosto’s narrative, degenerates into a heterosexual romance, even though the two women marry each other, and in Ovid’s tale Iphys is transformed into a man) Vivien gives her readers every satisfaction.

Hers is a story told by a lesbian, for lesbians, and happily for us she does not succumb to trite and banal heterosexual anticlimaxes resorted to by precedent (even Shakespeare is guilty here), but sends her lovers off to live in Italy, where we are free to imagine that they in true fairy-tale fashion, revel in each others’ company for the rest of their lives.

I hear a pianissimo echo in Vivien’s language of Oscar Wilde but without his excesses, of Baudelaire, without his decadence and also of Virginia Woolf, without her usual ornately satirical social embellishments; but above all  I hear in Vivien’s writing the sweetness and magic, as well as the dark glimmer of falling in love.

No doubt an argument can be made that the romantic ethereality of her language and its high-art aesthetic confers on it the gloss of dated unreality, but I think that beneath the cultured patina lies the solid core of a complex analysis of gender and sexual orientation, albeit sans the associated component of sexuality. Prince Charming is in fact a stylish fable – a myth –  chronicling a stylised adaptation of gender to fulfil the imperatives of personal individuation.

Though the traits of the opposite sex predominate in the characters of Bela and Terka, Terka’s maleness bears the imprint of  divine virginity, whereas Bela’s femaleness is mere passivity. Terka is in fact a young Diana, withholding herself from trivial social interaction, and purely dedicated to her own wild self.

What sets the sequence of this story in motion? Sarolta loves Bela (meaning ‘white’ in Hungarian, and here perhaps implying ‘pure’) for his girlish nature, and she is aware that a liaison is one which is still within the ambit of what is considered socially sanctioned as a basis for marriage. But this is her first step on the lesbian continuum, when her heart’s intimations reveal to her that it is a certain quality –  a particular nature – a singular constellation of characteristics that draw her, and this attachment, though nascent and diffuse, forms the basis of her enduing romantic dream.

But I question if  Bela’s muslin skirts, delicate health and a general tendency to be ‘sweet’, though they may suffice to inspire Sarolta’s  childish love, go beyond being merely social traits? For in this case they do not seem to me to sink their taproot into the substratum of human nature itself. Not so in the case of Terka. Her wild coltishness, and her vital intensity –  the active reality of her nature –  does not permit the trivial and social interactions which convention approves. Why does she run away when addressed by Sarolta? Could it be that she cannot bear the intensity of her feelings for Sarolta? She is untouchable and most of all untouched. For her the potency of touch is not something to be squandered in idle caresses.  Neither is she sullied by any prior loves, not even the maternal, and certainly not the fraternal – and this is the purity Vivien so values, in her emphasis on ‘chasteness’. It is this chasteness, this virginal quality and its underlying power is what makes Terka’s love pure and exclusive. She is after all, the one who initiates the relationship with Sarolta, while valetudinarian Bela lacks the acumen to take the next logical step in Sarolta’s direction.

Vivien makes it undeniably clear that it was what was female in Bela that inspired Sarolta’s early affection. Bela was effete and epicene and these were the qualities that appealed to Sarolta. His nerveless languor and passive nature devoid of masculine traits – in fact his effeminacy  –  is what makes Bela acceptable to her. Vivien relates a myth of gender ambivalence, describing a subtle process which begins with the unreal and concludes with the real. It is a sacrament in which separate and disparate splinters of gender components coalesce in Terka and transform to comprise a whole, which then concludes in the Hierosgamos  – the sacred marriage.

Bela himself is hidden behind the veil of the personality he projectes, and which Sarolta percieves.  When she again sees  Terka in the guise of Bela, after the long separation in all his travested beauty, she falls truly in love. She knows intuitively this is a ‘different’ kind of love. She senses the difference, though she finds it inexplicable, but the shift of her affections from childish love to ardour and from Bela to ‘Terka as Bela’ and from girlish boy to boyish girl, is accomplished in one swift gliding movement. It resembles a bloodless revolution, when a usurper displaces a former monarch and seizes the throne without the least evidence of conflict. Neither do we sense in Sarolta any trace of an emotional disconnect.

The alchemical progression in Sarolta’s mind of a dawning realisation from languid to intense, from Bela to Terka seems almost imperceptible. The process is so smooth, so deftly accomplished, it is almost invisible as a progression in the object of  Sarolta’s affections. Sarolta’s attachment begins with a male, Bela, in whom feminine traits predominate –  Terka, in whom the masculine traits predominate remains, present, but in the distance, unapproachable and unapproaching.

Then comes the vital hiatus  – the quiescence in which Terka enters the cocoon of her metamorphosis. When she reappears she has achieved the perfect balance of integrated feminine and masculine traits – a fusion of the requisite romantic and social qualities which form the fabric of Sarolta’s Prince Charming.  And so, one wonders if for Terka, early gender ambivalence was transformed into a mature personality largely in relation to Sarolta, and if Terka’s motivation in creating her adult self was in order to be desired by Sarolta…. and to go even a step further, if Terka’s transformation into ‘Prince Charming was in fact a wrought by  the alchemy of Sarolta’s desire…

But it is shimmering awareness that makes the wedding secret, and silent, and the love sacrosanct. The mere touching of hands is fevered, and  between Terka and Sarolta there is none of the casualness in it of Bela’s maternal caresses. Farouche Terka is transformed in young adulthood into a Prince Charming of hidden depths. Bela remains a feeble, social creature, prodded to action only when concerns about his social identity compel him.

Vivien’s story boldly celebrates the strange and ineffable nature of lesbian love when it is first felt, as a force that surfaces mysteriously, asserts itself and makes itself felt in ways that cannot be explained or understood: as something which demands to be acknowledged and honoured, to the extent that it subverts and usurps and adapts to its own necessity the heterosexual prerogative of marriage.

The appearance of  femininity and masculinity – even maleness and femaleness –  is shown to be deceptive and misleading; a mere mask and masquerade, which makes  impersonation of the opposite sex (and not mere transvestism)  a valid and genuine act. It is not merely a use of sartorial deception, but something undertaken in order to accomplish a serious end. With her ‘Prince Charming’ Vivien creates a space where same-sex love can be conceived of as something which can – and should –  flourish undisturbed and unhindered. This idea seems particularly valuable at a time when the self-knowledge of a woman’s sexual and affectional orientation was not a simple given – not an external endowment as perhaps it is in our own time  –  but something to be arrived at intuitively, empirically and with conviction, in contravention of accepted  social norms.

In Vivien’s charmingly extravagant myth, the stock trope of ‘Prince Charming’ is stood on its head. It is appropriated and made to serve a subversive purpose. It validates same-sex relationships between women, and recognises  the importance of personal as well as social imperatives for lesbians, and the claim to a socially recognised pair bond such as marriage, is something that women might wish to claim for themselves and their female partners.

And so we are given an unambiguously happy ending to a thoroughly romantic escapade – a lesbian fairy-tale in which girl gets girl.

Vivien lived most of her adult life in the Paris of the ‘Belle Époque’, in the company many brilliant literary lesbians – she was  the lover of Natalie Clifford Barney, the neighbour of Collette and she knew Djuna Barnes and many other brilliant women who frequented Barney’s salon. She chose for herself a life far removed from the rigid and limiting confines of domesticity, heterosexual marriage, and the burden of childbearing and child-raising, and had several intense love affairs, relationships and liaisons with women. Fortunately for her, she lived in a time which pre-dated, and was therefore unpolluted by Freud’s malignant and pernicious theorising. She was free to think for herself in ways that most of her female contemporaries outside of her charmed circle could not.

Although Vivien became the heiress of a very large fortune at a very early age, wealth did not bring much happiness with it. Vivien’s mother attempted – unsuccessfully –  to claim a share of the inheritance by having her daughter declared insane. Vivien’s personal difficulties – anorexia, drug, and alcohol abuse exacerbated by a weak constitution, did not detract from her awareness and intense exploration of  the possibilities of passionate love between women, something she expressed much more explicitly and emphatically in her poetry than her prose.

Permanently bereft by the death of her first love, Violet Shillitoe, (in 1901 at the age of 24) Vivien slipped into a steep physical and emotional decline. Her grief was probably exacerbated by guilt, since she had begun an affair with Natalie Clifford Barney shortly before Violet’s death. Violet’s body, which had been buried in France, was exhumed by her father and shipped back to England for reburial in 1904, leaving behind an empty grave in the cemetery of Saint Germain en Laye in Passey. It is  interesting to speculate what impact this morbid event may have had on Vivien, who was already obsessed with death. With the windows of  her apartment nailed shut, and living a reclusive life in her dark, incense-scented rooms, she continued to compose feverishly impassioned poetry, writing obsessively to the very end of her life in November of 1909.

Not very much of Vivien’s original work (written in French,) has been translated into English, which seems to be the reason it is not well-known to English readers. Her poetry, defiantly and uncompromisingly Sapphic, did not catch on in France, though the French could hardly have found its content to be more shocking than the decadent poetry of the second half of the nineteenth century (consider Rimbaud, Baudelaire and Louys). Perhaps the fact that it was written by a woman may have been more than bourgeois sensibilities of the notoriously sexist French of that era could tolerate.

Despite her short and tragic life, (there was at least one attempt at suicide) and the fact that her poetry was never really ‘in style’ the mere fact that Vivien wrote more openly and unapologetically about lesbian love than would be attempted for another seventy years and more, makes her an important figure to us. I am certain that had she written and been published in English and had those publications survived unscathed by censorship, our history as lesbians would have unfolded along a very different trajectory.  A voice in the wilderness is still a voice, and had hers been heard it might have reached the ears of those who most needed to hear its affirmation. Instead there was only the occasional murmur until Radclyffe Hall published  her 1928  novel The Well of Loneliness  –  which was in in fact more of a reasoned plea for understanding and acceptance for ‘inverts’ rather than any confident claim.

So are left, as is usual in such cases when brilliance and bad luck collide, with a sense of  satisfaction tinged with regret, wishing that Vivien’s life could have been as happy, and had as happy an ending as that of Sarolta and Terka in this story.

A week ago, this June 11th was the 135th anniversary of her birth, so Happy Birthday, Renée Vivien – we still remember you, fondly and well.

 

 

Le Prince Charmant

Conté par Gesa Karoly.

Je vous ai promis, ô petite curieuse, de vous conter l’histoire véritable de Saroltâ Andrassy. Vous l’avez connue, n’est-ce pas?  Vous vous souvenez de ses cheveux noirs, aux reflets bleus et roux, et de ses yeux d’amoureuse, suppliants et mélancoliques.

Saroltâ Andrassy vivait à la campagne avec sa vieille mère. Elles avaient pour voisins les Szécheny, qui venaient de quitter définitivement Buda-Pesth. Une bizarre famille, en vérité ! On aurait pu prendre Bêla Szécheny pour une petite fille, et sa sœur Terka pour un jeune garçon. Chose curieuse, Bêla possédait toutes les vertus féminines et Terka tous les défauts masculins. Les cheveux de Bêla étaient d’un blond vert, ceux de Terka, plus vivants, d’un blond rose. Le frère et la sœur se ressemblaient étrangement, — cela est très rare entre gens de la même famille, quoi qu’on en dise.

La mère de Bêla ne se résignait pas encore à couper les belles boucles blondes du petit garçon et à échanger ses gracieuses jupes de mousseline ou de velours contre une vulgaire culotte. Elle le choyait comme une fillette. Quant à Terka, elle poussait à sa guise, pareille à une herbe sauvage… Elle vivait au grand air, grimpant sur les arbres, maraudant, pillant les jardins potagers, insupportable et en guerre avec tout le monde. C’était une enfant sans tendresse et sans expansion. Bêla, au contraire, était la douceur même. Son adoration pour sa mère se manifestait par des câlineries et des caresses incessantes. Terka n’aimait personne et personne ne l’aimait.

Saroltâ vint un jour chez les Szécheny. Ses yeux d’amoureuse imploraient, dans son mince visage pâle. Béla lui plut beaucoup et ils jouèrent longtemps ensemble. Terka rôdait autour d’eux, d’un air farouche. Lorsque Saroltâ lui adressa la parole, elle s’enfuit.

Elle aurait été jolie, cette incompréhensible Terka… Mais elle était trop longue pour son âge, trop maigre, trop gauche, trop dégingandée. Tandis que Béla était si mignon et si doux !…

Les Szécheny quittèrent la Hongrie quelques mois plus tard. Saroltâ pleura amèrement son compagnon de jeux. Sur l’avis du médecin, sa mère l’avait emmené à Nice, ainsi que sa récalcitrante petite sœur. Béla avait la poitrine délicate à l’excès. Il était, d’ailleurs, peu robuste.

À travers ses rêves, Saroltâ évoquait toujours l’enfant trop frêle et trop joli dont le souvenir persistait en elle. Et elle se disait, en souriant à l’image blonde :

« Si je dois me marier plus tard, je voudrais épouser Béla. »

Plusieurs années se passèrent, — oh ! combien lentement pour l’impatiente Saroltâ ! Béla devait avoir atteint vingt ans, et Terka dix-sept. Ils étaient toujours sur la Riviera. Et Saroltâ se désolait de ces années sans joie, éclairées seulement par l’illusion d’un songe.

Elle rêvait à sa fenêtre, par un soir violet, lorsque sa mère vint lui dire que Béla était revenu…

Le cœur de Saroltâ chantait à se briser. Et, le lendemain, Béla vint vers elle.

Il était le même, et pourtant bien plus charmant qu’autrefois. Saroltâ fut heureuse qu’il eût gardé cet air efféminé et doux qui lui avait tant plu. C’était toujours l’enfant fragile… Mais cet enfant possédait aujourd’hui une grâce inexprimable. Saroltâ chercha en vain la cause de cette transformation qui le rendait si attirant. Sa voix était musicale et lointaine, ainsi qu’un écho des montagnes. Elle admira tout de lui, jusqu’à son complet anglais, d’un gris de pierres, et jusqu’à sa cravate mauve.

Béla contemplait la jeune fille de ses yeux changés, de ses yeux étrangement beaux, de ses yeux qui ne ressemblaient pas aux yeux des autres hommes…

« Qu’il est donc mince ! » observa la mère de Saroltâ, après son départ. « Il doit être encore d’une santé bien délicate, ce pauvre petit. »

Saroltâ ne répondit point. Elle ferma les yeux afin de revoir Béla sous ses paupières closes… Comme il était joli, joli, joli !…

Il revint le lendemain, et tous les jours. C’était le Prince Charmant qui ne se révèle qu’à travers les pages enfantines des contes de fées. Elle ne pouvait le regarder en face sans défaillir ardemment, languissamment… Son visage variait selon l’expression du visage désiré. Son cœur battait selon le rythme de cet autre cœur. L’inconsciente et puérile tendresse était devenue de l’amour.

Béla pâlissait dès qu’elle entrait, diaphane en sa blanche robe d’été. Il la regardait parfois, sans parler, comme quelqu’un qui se recueille devant une Statue sans défaut. Parfois il lui prenait la main… Elle croyait toucher une main de malade, tant la paume en était brûlante et sèche. Un peu de fièvre montait alors jusqu’aux pommettes de Béla.

Elle lui demanda un jour des nouvelles de Terka l’indisciplinée.

« Elle est toujours à Nice, » répondit-il négligemment. Et l’on parla d’autre chose. Saroltâ comprit que Béla n’aimait point sa sœur. Ce n’était pas étonnant, au surplus. Une enfant si taciturne et si farouche !

Ce qui devait arriver arriva. Béla la demanda en mariage quelques mois plus tard. Il entrait dans sa vingt et unième année. La mère de Saroltâ ne s’opposa point à l’union.

Ce furent d’irréelles fiançailles, délicates à l’égal des roses blanches que Béla apportait chaque jour. Ce furent des aveux plus fervents que des poèmes, et des frissons d’âme sur les lèvres. Au profond des silences, passait le rêve nuptial.

« Pourquoi, » disait Saroltâ à son fiancé, « es-tu plus digne d’être aimé que les autres jeunes hommes ? Pourquoi as-tu des douceurs qu’ils ignorent ? Où donc as-tu appris les parôles divines qu’ils ne prononcent jamais ? »

La cérémonie eut lieu dans une intimité absolue. Les cierges avivaient les lueurs roses de la blonde chevelure de Béla. L’encens fumait vers lui, et le tonnerre des orgues l’exaltait et le glorifiait. Pour la première fois, depuis le commencement du monde, l’Époux fut aussi beau que l’Épouse.

Ils partirent vers les rives bleues où s’exaspère le désir des amants. On les vit, Couple Divin, les cils de l’un frôlant les paupières de l’autre. On les vit, amoureusement et chastement enlacés, les cheveux noirs de l’Amante répandus sur les blonds cheveux de l’Amant…

Mais voici, ô petite curieuse ! où l’histoire devient un peu difficile a raconter… Quelques mois plus tard, le véritable Béla Szécheny apparut… Ce n’était pas le Prince Charmant. Hélas ! Ce n’était qu’un joli garçon, sans plus.

Il rechercha furieusement la personnalité du jeune usurpateur… Et il apprit que l’usurpateur en question était sa sœur Terka.

… Saroltâ et le Prince Charmant ne sont plus revenus en Hongrie. Ils se cachent au fond d’un palais vénitien ou d’une maison florentine. Et parfois on les rencontre, tels qu’une vision de tendresse idéale, amoureusement et chastement enlacés.

 

 

 

 

http://www.valkyria.ca/renee_vivien_page.html

Read Full Post »

Madeline Yale Wynne (September 25th 1847 - January 4th 1918)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘How would it do for a smoking-room?’ ‘Just the very place! only, you know, Roger, you must not
think of smoking in the house. I am almost afraid that having just a plain, common man around, let alone a smoking man, will upset Aunt Hannah. She is New England—Vermont New England—boiled down.’
‘You leave Aunt Hannah to me; I’ll find her tender side. I’m going to ask her about the old sea-captain and the yellow calico.’
‘Not yellow calico—blue chintz.’ ‘Well, yellow shell then.’ ‘No, no! don’t mix it up so; you won’t know yourself what
to expect, and that’s half the fun.’ ‘Now you tell me again exactly what to expect; to tell the truth, I didn’t half hear about it the other day; I was wool- gathering. It was something queer that happened when you were a child, wasn’t it?’
‘Something that began to happen long before that, and kept happening, and may happen again; but I hope not.’ ‘What was it?’ ‘I wonder if the other people in the car can hear us?’ ‘I fancy not; we don’t hear them—not consecutively, at least.’

‘Well, mother was born in Vermont, you know; she was the only child by a second marriage. Aunt Hannah and Aunt Maria are only half-aunts to me, you know.’ ‘I hope they are half as nice as you are.’ ‘Roger, be still; they certainly will hear us.’ ‘Well, don’t you want them to know we are married?’ ‘Yes, but not just married. There’s all the difference in the world.’ ‘You are afraid we look too happy!’ ‘No; only I want my happiness all to myself.’ ‘Well, the little room?

’‘My aunts brought mother up; they were nearly twenty years older than she. I might say Hiram and they brought her up. You see, Hiram was bound out to my grandfather when he was a boy, and when grandfather died Hiram said he “s’posed he went with the farm, long o’ the critters,” and he has been there ever since. He was my mother’s only refuge from the decorum of my aunts. They are simply workers. They make me think of the Maine woman who wanted her epitaph to be: “She was a hard working woman.”  “They must be almost beyond their working-days. How old are they? “Seventy, or thereabouts; but they will die standing; or, at least, on a Saturday night, after all the house-work is done up. They were rather strict with mother, and I think she had a lonely childhood. The house is almost a mile away from any neighbors, and off on top of what they call Stony Hill. It is bleak enough up there, even in summer.

‘When mamma was about ten years old they sent her to cousins in Brooklyn, who had children of their own, and knew more about bringing them up. She staid there till she was married; she didn’t go to Vermont in all that time, and of course hadn’t seen her sisters, for they never would leave home for a day. They couldn’t even be induced to go to Brooklyn to her wedding, so she and father took their wedding trip up there.’ ‘And that’s why we are going up there on our own?’ ‘Don’t, Roger; you have no idea how loud you speak.’ ‘You never say so except when I am going to say that one little word.’ ‘Well, don’t say it, then, or say it very, very quietly.’ ‘Well, what was the queer thing?’ ‘When they got to the house, mother wanted to take father right off into the little room; she had been telling him about it, just as I am going to tell you, and she had said that of all the rooms, that one was the only one that seemed pleasant to her. She described the furniture and the books and paper and every- thing, and said it was on the north side, between the front and back room. Well, when they went to look for it, there was no little room there; there was only a shallow china-closet. She asked her sisters when the house had been altered and a closet made of the room that used to be there. They both said the house was exactly as it had been built—that they had never made any changes, except to tear down the old wood-shed and build a smaller one.
‘Father and mother laughed a good deal over it, and when anything was lost they would always say it must be in the little room, and any exaggerated statement was called “little-roomy.” When I was a child I thought that was a regular English phrase, I heard it so often. ‘Well, they talked it over, and finally they concluded that my mother had been a very imaginative sort of a child, and had read in some book about such a little room, or perhaps even dreamed it, and then had “made believe,” as children do, till she herself had really thought the room was there.’
‘Why, of course, that might easily happen.’
‘Yes, but you haven’t heard the queer part yet; you wait and see if you can explain the rest as easily.
‘They stayed at the farm two weeks, and then went to New York to live. When I was eight years old my father was killed in the war, and mother was broken-hearted. She never was quite strong afterwards, and that summer we decided to go up to the farm for three months.
‘I was a restless sort of a child, and the journey seemed very long to me; and finally, to pass the time, mamma told me the story of the little room, and how it was all in her own imagination, and how there really was only a china-closet there.
‘She told it with all the particulars; and even to me, who knew beforehand that the room wasn’t there, it seemed just as real as could be. She said it was on the north side, between the front and back rooms; that it was very small, and they some- times called it an entry. There was a door also that opened out- of-doors, and that one was painted green, and was cut in the middle like the old Dutch doors, so that it could be used for a window by opening the top part only. Directly opposite the door was a lounge or couch; it was covered with blue chintz— India chintz—some that had been brought over by an old Salem sea-captain as a “venture.” He had given it to Hannah when she was a young girl. She was sent to Salem for two years to school. Grandfather originally came from Salem.’
‘I thought there wasn’t any room or chintz.’ ‘That is just it. They had decided that mother had imagined it all, and yet you see how exactly everything was painted in her mind, for she had even remembered that Hiram had told her that Hannah could have married the sea-captain if she had wanted to!
‘The India cotton was the regular blue stamped chintz, with the peacock figure on it. The head and body of the bird were in profile, while the tail was full front view behind it. It had seemed to take mamma’s fancy, and she drew it for me on a piece of paper as she talked. Doesn’t it seem strange to you that she could have made all that up, or even dreamed it?
‘At the foot of the lounge were some hanging shelves with some old books on them. All the books were leather-colored except one; that was bright red, and was called the Ladies’ Album. It made a bright break between the other thicker books. ‘On the lower shelf was a beautiful pink sea-shell, lying on a mat made of balls of red shaded worsted. This shell was greatly coveted by mother, but she was only allowed to play with it when she had been particularly good. Hiram had shown her how to hold it close to her ear and hear the roar of the sea in it.
‘I know you will like Hiram, Roger; he is quite a character in his way.
‘Mamma said she remembered, or thought she remembered, having been sick once, and she had to lie quietly for some days on the lounge; then was the time she had become so familiar with everything in the room, and she had been allowed to have the shell to play with all the time. She had had her toast brought to her in there, with make-believe tea. It was one of her pleasant memories of her childhood; it was the first time she had been of any importance to anybody, even herself.
‘Right at the head of the lounge was a light-stand, as they called it, and on it was a very brightly polished brass candle- stick and a brass tray, with snuffers. That is all I remember of her describing, except that there was a braided rag rug on the floor, and on the wall was a beautiful flowered paper—roses and morning-glories in a wreath on a light blue ground. The same paper was in the front room.’
‘And all this never existed except in her imagination?’
‘She said that when she and father went up there, there wasn’t any little room at all like it anywhere in the house; there was a china-closet where she had believed the room to be.’ ‘And your aunts said there had never been any such room.’ ‘That is what they said.’ ‘Wasn’t there any blue chintz in the house with a peacock
figure?’ ‘Not a scrap, and Aunt Hannah said there had never been any that she could remember; and Aunt Maria just echoed her—she always does that. You see, Aunt Hannah is an up-and-down New England woman. She looks just like herself; I mean, just like her character. Her joints move up and down or backward and forward in a plain square fashion. I don’t believe she ever leaned on anything in her life, or sat in an easy-chair. But Maria is different; she is rounder and softer; she hasn’t any ideas of her own; she never had any. I don’t believe she would think it right or becoming to have one that differed from Aunt Hannah’s, so what would be the use of having any? She is an echo, that’s all.
‘When mamma and I got there, of course I was all excitement to see the china-closet, and I had a sort of feeling that it would be the little room after all. So I ran ahead and threw open the door, crying, “Come and see the little room.”
‘And Roger,’ said Mrs. Grant, laying her hand in his, ‘there really was a little room there, exactly as mother had remembered it. There was the lounge, the peacock chintz, the green door, the shell, the morning-glory, and rose paper, everything exactly as she had described it to me.’
‘What in the world did the sisters say about it?’
‘Wait a minute and I will tell you. My mother was in the front hall still talking with Aunt Hannah. She didn’t hear me at first, but I ran out there and dragged her through the front room, saying, “The room is here—it is all right.”
‘It seemed for a minute as if my mother would faint. She clung to me in terror. I can remember now how strained her eyes looked and how pale she was.
‘I called out to Aunt Hannah and asked her when they had had the closet taken away and the little room built; for in my excitement I thought that that was what had been done.
‘“That little room has always been there,” said Aunt Hannah, “ever since the house was built.”
‘“But mamma said there wasn’t any little room here, only a china-closet, when she was here with papa,” said I.‘“No, there has never been any china-closet there; it has always been just as it is now,” said Aunt Hannah.
‘Then mother spoke; her voice sounded weak and far off. She said, slowly, and with an effort, “Maria, don’t you remember that you told me that there had never been any little room here? and Hannah said so too, and then I said I must have dreamed it?”
‘“No, I don’t remember anything of the kind,” said Maria, without the slightest emotion. “I don’t remember you ever said anything about any china-closet. The house has never been altered; you used to play in this room when you were a child, don’t you remember?”
‘“I know it,” said mother, in that queer slow voice that made me feel frightened. “Hannah, don’t you remember my finding the china-closet here, with the gilt-edged china on the shelves, and then you said that the china-closet had always been here?”
‘“No,” said Hannah, pleasantly but unemotionally—“no, I don’t think you ever asked me about any china-closet, and we haven’t any gilt-edged china that I know of.”
‘And that was the strangest thing about it. We never could make them remember that there had ever been any question about it. You would think they could remember how surprised mother had been before, unless she had imagined the whole thing. Oh, it was so queer! They were always pleasant about it, but they didn’t seem to feel any interest or curiosity. It was always this answer: “The house is just as it was built; there have never been any changes, so far as we know.”
‘And my mother was in an agony of perplexity. How cold their gray eyes looked to me! There was no reading anything in them. It just seemed to break my mother down, this queer thing. Many times that summer, in the middle of the night, I have seen her get up and take a candle and creep softly down- stairs. I could hear the steps creak under her weight. Then she would go through the front room and peer into the darkness, holding her thin hand between the candle and her eyes. She seemed to think the little room might vanish. Then she would come back to bed and toss about all night, or lie still and shiver; it used to frighten me.
‘She grew pale and thin, and she had a little cough; then she did not like to be left alone. Sometimes she would make errands in order to send me to the little room for something—a book, or her fan, or her handkerchief; but she would never sit there or let me stay in there long, and sometimes she wouldn’t let me go in there for days together. Oh, it was pitiful!’
‘Well, don’t talk any more about it, Margaret, if it makes you feel so,’ said Mr. Grant.
‘Oh yes, I want you to know all about it, and there isn’t much more—no more about the room.
‘Mother never got well, and she died that autumn. She used often to sigh, and say, with a wan little laugh, “There is one thing I am glad of, Margaret: your father knows now all about the little room.” I think she was afraid I distrusted her. Of course, in a child’s way, I thought there was something queer about it, but I did not brood over it. I was too young then, and took it as a part of her illness. But, Roger, do you know, it really did affect me. I almost hate to go there after talking about it; I somehow feel as if it might, you know, be a china-closet again.’
‘That’s an absurd idea.’
‘I know it; of course it can’t be. I saw the room, and there isn’t any china-closet there, and no gilt-edged china in the house, either.’
And then she whispered: ‘But, Roger, you may hold my hand as you do now, if you will, when we go to look for the little room.’
‘And you won’t mind Aunt Hannah’s gray eyes?’ ‘I won’t mind anything.’ It was dusk when Mr. and Mrs. Grant went into the gate under the two old Lombardy poplars and walked up the narrow path to the door, where they were met by the two aunts.
Hannah gave Mrs. Grant a frigid but not unfriendly kiss; and Maria seemed for a moment to tremble on the verge of an emotion, but she glanced at Hannah, and then gave her greeting in exactly the same repressed and non-committal way.
Supper was waiting for them. On the table was the gilt-edged china. Mrs. Grant didn’t notice it immediately, till she saw her husband smiling at her over his teacup; then she felt fidgety, and couldn’t eat. She was nervous, and kept wondering what was behind her, whether it would be a little room or a closet.
After supper she offered to help about the dishes, but, mercy! she might as well have offered to help bring the seasons round; Maria and Hannah couldn’t be helped.
So she and her husband went to find the little room, or closet, or whatever was to be there.
Aunt Maria followed them, carrying the lamp, which she set down, and then went back to the dish-washing.
Margaret looked at her husband. He kissed her, for she seemed troubled; and then, hand in hand, they opened the door. It opened into a china-closet. The shelves were neatly draped with scalloped paper; on them was the gilt-edged china, with the dishes missing that had been used at the supper, and which at that moment were being carefully washed and wiped by the two aunts.
Margaret’s husband dropped her hand and looked at her. She was trembling a little, and turned to him for help, for some explanation, but in an instant she knew that something was wrong. A cloud had come between them; he was hurt; he was antagonized.
He paused for an appreciable instant, and then said, kindly enough, but in a voice that cut her deeply:
‘I am glad this ridiculous thing is ended; don’t let us speak of it again.’
‘Ended!’ said she. ‘How ended?’ And somehow her voice sounded to her as her mother’s voice had when she stood there and questioned her sisters about the little room. She seemed to have to drag her words out. She spoke slowly: ‘It seems to me to have only just begun in my case. It was just so with mother when she—’
‘I really wish, Margaret, you would let it drop. I don’t like to hear you speak of your mother in connection with it. It—’ He hesitated, for was not this their wedding-day? ‘It doesn’t seem quite the thing, quite delicate, you know, to use her name in the matter.’
She saw it all now: he didn’t believe her. She felt a chill sense of withering under his glance.
‘Come,’ he added, ‘let us go out, or into the dining-room, somewhere, anywhere, only drop this nonsense.’He went out; he did not take her hand now—he was vexed, baffled, hurt. Had he not given her his sympathy, his attention, his belief—and his hand?—and she was fooling him. What did it mean?—she so truthful, so free from morbidness—a thing he hated. He walked up and down under the poplars, trying to get into the mood to go and join her in the house.
Margaret heard him go out; then she turned and shook the shelves; she reached her hand behind them and tried to push the boards away; she ran out of the house on to the north side and tried to find in the darkness, with her hands, a door, or some steps leading to one. She tore her dress on the old rose-trees, she fell and rose and stumbled, then she sat down on the ground and tried to think. What could she think—was she dreaming?
She went into the house and out into the kitchen, and begged Aunt Maria to tell her about the little room—what had become of it, when had they built the closet, when had they bought the gilt-edged china?
They went on washing dishes and drying them on the spot- less towels with methodical exactness; and as they worked they said that there had never been any little room, so far as they knew; the china-closet had always been there, and the gilt-edged china had belonged to their mother, it had always been in the house.
‘No, I don’t remember that your mother ever asked about any little room,’ said Hannah. ‘She didn’t seem very well that summer, but she never asked about any changes in the house; there hadn’t ever been any changes.’
There it was again: not a sign of interest, curiosity, or annoyance, not a spark of memory.
She went out to Hiram. He was telling Mr. Grant about the farm. She had meant to ask him about the room, but her lips were sealed before her husband.
Months afterwards, when time had lessened the sharpness of their feelings, they learned to speculate reasonably about the phenomenon, which Mr. Grant had accepted as something not to be scoffed away, not to be treated as a poor joke, but to be put aside as something inexplicable on any ordinary theory.
Margaret alone in her heart knew that her mother’s words carried a deeper significance than she had dreamed of at the time. ‘One thing I am glad of, your father knows now,’ and she wondered if Roger or she would ever know.
Five years later they were going to Europe. The packing was done; the children were lying asleep, with their travelling things ready to be slipped on for an early start.
Roger had a foreign appointment. They were not to be back in America for some years. She had meant to go up to say good-by to her aunts; but a mother of three children intends to do a great many things that never get done. One thing she had done that very day, and as she paused for a moment between the writing of two notes that must be posted before she went to bed, she said:
‘Roger, you remember Rita Lash? Well, she and Cousin Nan go up to the Adirondacks every autumn. They are clever girls, and I have intrusted to them something I want done very much.’
‘They are the girls to do it, then, every inch of them.’ ‘I know it, and they are going to.’ ‘Well?’ ‘Why, you see, Roger, that little room—’
‘Oh—’
‘Yes, I was a coward not to go myself, but I didn’t find time, because I hadn’t the courage.’
‘Oh! that was it, was it?’ ‘Yes, just that. They are going, and they will write us about it.’ ‘Want to bet?’ ‘No; I only want to know.’ Rita Lash and Cousin Nan planned to go to Vermont on their way to the Adirondacks. They found they would have three hours between trains, which would give them time to drive up to the Keys farm, and they could still get to the camp that night. But, at the last minute, Rita was prevented from going. Nan had to go to meet the Adirondack party, and she promised to telegraph her when she arrived at the camp. Imagine Rita’s amusement when she received this message: ‘Safely arrived; went to the Keys farm; it is a little room.’
Rita was amused, because she did not in the least think Nan had been there. She thought it was a hoax; but it put it into her mind to carry the joke further by really stopping herself when she went up, as she meant to do the next week.She did stop over. She introduced herself to the two maiden ladies, who seemed familiar, as they had been described by Mrs. Grant.
They were, if not cordial, at least not disconcerted at her visit, and willingly showed her over the house. As they did not speak of any other stranger’s having been to see them lately, she became confirmed in her belief that Nan had not been there.
In the north room she saw the roses and morning-glory paper on the wall, and also the door that should open into— what?
She asked if she might open it. ‘Certainly,’ said Hannah; and Maria echoed, ‘Certainly.’ She opened it, and found the china-closet. She experienced a certain relief; she at least was not under any spell. Mrs. Grant left it a china-closet; she found it the same. Good.
But she tried to induce the old sisters to remember that there had at various times been certain questions relating to a confusion as to whether the closet had always been a closet. It was no use; their stony eyes gave no sign.
Then she thought of the story of the sea-captain, and said, ‘Miss Keys, did you ever have a lounge covered with India chintz, with a figure of a peacock on it, given to you in Salem by a sea-captain, who brought it from India?’
‘I dun’no’ as I ever did,’ said Hannah. That was all. She thought Maria’s cheeks were a little flushed, but her eyes were like a stone wall.
She went on that night to the Adirondacks. When Nan and she were alone in their room she said, ‘By-the-way, Nan, what did you see at the farm-house? and how did you like Maria and Hannah?’
Nan didn’t mistrust that Rita had been there, and she began excitedly to tell her all about her visit. Rita could almost have believed Nan had been there if she hadn’t known it was not so. She let her go on for some time, enjoying her enthusiasm, and the impressive way in which she described her opening the door and finding the ‘little room.’ Then Rita said: ‘Now, Nan, that is enough fibbing. I went to the farm myself on my way up yesterday, and there is no little room, and there never has been any; it is a china-closet, just as Mrs. Grant saw it last.’

She was pretending to be busy unpacking her trunk, and did not look up for a moment; but as Nan did not say anything, she glanced at her over her shoulder. Nan was actually pale, and it was hard to say whether she was most angry or frightened. There was something of both in her look. And then Rita began to explain how her telegram had put her in the spirit of going up there alone. She hadn’t meant to cut Nan out. She only thought— Then Nan broke in: ‘It isn’t that; I am sure you can’t think it is that. But I went myself, and you did not go; you can’t have been there, for it is a little room.’
Oh, what a night they had! They couldn’t sleep. They talked and argued, and then kept still for a while, only to break out again, it was so absurd. They both maintained that they had been there, but both felt sure the other one was either crazy or obstinate beyond reason. They were wretched; it was perfectly ridiculous, two friends at odds over such a thing; but there it was—‘little room,’ ‘china-closet,’—‘china-closet,’ ‘little room.’
The next morning Nan was tacking up some tarlatan at a window to keep the midges out. Rita offered to help her, as she had done for the past ten years. Nan’s ‘No, thanks,’ cut her to the heart.
‘Nan,’ said she, ‘come right down from that step-ladder and pack your satchel. The stage leaves in just twenty minutes. We can catch the afternoon express train, and we will go together to the farm. I am either going there or going home. You better go with me.’
Nan didn’t say a word. She gathered up the hammer and tacks, and was ready to start when the stage came round.
It meant for them thirty miles of staging and six hours of train, besides crossing the lake; but what of that, compared with having a lie lying round loose between them! Europe would have seemed easy to accomplish, if it would settle the question.
At the little junction in Vermont they found a farmer with a wagon full of meal-bags. They asked him if he could not take them up to the old Keys farm and bring them back in time for the return train, due in two hours.
They had planned to call it a sketching trip, so they said, ‘We have been there before, we are artists, and we might find some views worth taking; and we want also to make a short call upon the Misses Keys.’
‘Did ye calculate to paint the old house in the picture?’
Possible they might do so. They wanted to see it, anyway.
‘Waal, I guess you are too late. The house burnt down last night, and everything in it.’
1895

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The contrast between the plain and innocuous -even chatty- tone of this story, and its ‘New England Gothic’ narrative is difficult to catch but then impossible to miss.  The conversational note is at obvious odds with its hallucinatory content, confusing cast of characters and shifts in voice.

The juxtaposition is so dramatically disconcerting that the whole story lies on top of the mind like a large pool of water on a lily pad, and threatens to slip off entirely with no more than the slightest hint of provocation.

The apparitional atmospherics which cast their supernatural shadow over the entire story, serve a multiple purpose: they proved a tacit, covert and tangential commentary on the inner content of the four  different pairing – the female siblings, Hannah and Maria the parents of the principle narrator Margaret Grant, Margaret  and her husband Roger, and Margaret’s cousin Nan and her partner of ten years, Rita Lash, but furthermore,  there is the classic code we now easily recognise and interpret as ‘lesbian’ – when female pairings occur in the presence of the uncanny or unreal.

The chord struck by ‘The Little Room’ seems also to have some  of the undertones of Gaslight, that acutely psychological film with Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer, where a husband resolves to drive his naive and innocent wife mad by making her doubt her perception of reality – and therefore her sanity.

Shared reality is the basis of what we take the world to be. Even when we freely acknowledge that no two of us experience the same phenomenon in the same way, we don’t doubt the existence of either the object or the experience. The evidence of the senses, even when treated with a wry humour, is not something that we like to question or tamper with, because the moment we do so we begin to lose our footing in the ordinary world, and enter the realm of the uncanny.

The symbolic four dyads and two – more accurately three – generations in ‘The Little Room’ seem to represent separate social, sexual and psychic ‘realities’.

The old sisters, with the set choreography of their roles in relation to each other, are very much a couple. Their inexplicable bond permits them to corroborate each other in the event of an oscillating reality – the transmutation of the room to china closet and back again – with unruffled certainty in each of the room’s  manifestations. We can never be sure whether either one or both of them are aware of the binary disparity of room vs. closet, or if they have some perverse reason for refusing to confirm it to anyone else.

Margaret’s parents seem to have come to some kind of truce about their separate understandings about the nature of ‘the little room’, but their uneasy compromise seems in some way connected to their tragic lives. Her father dies in ‘the war’ – which we must take to mean the Civil War – and her mother seems to lose substance and fade away before dying, and her decline brings to my mind William Blake’s poem about psychic wasting ‘The Sick Rose’*

The young married couple Margaret and Roger do not fare so well.   Margaret, who saw the room as a child, arrives with her husband to find a china closet in its place. This experience  with the alternate and mutually exclusive realities of the room’s separate manifestations which she knows beyond doubt by virtue of the evidence of her senses  – becomes a sort of hallucination in the presence of the unwavering certainty of her husband’s male pride.

Roger sees only the china closet,  and with this splintering of their previously shared and unquestioned perceptual world there follows the predictably souring outcome of doubt and dismissal and loss of faith.

Some years have passed when Roger’s career require that he and Margaret leave for Europe. Margaret has not forgotten the eerie inexplicable happenings that they have now mutually decided never to discuss, so prior to their departure she writes a letter Nan and Rita asking them to investigate the matter and sort it out for her. Margaret acknowledges that she lacks the courage to conduct the investigation herself, but both she and Roger are heartily convinced that Nan and Rita have exactly what it takes.

Nan and Rita are also obviously a couple -and when they happen to see ‘the little room’ individually, each has her own  predictably differing experiences of it’s eliding reality. Their irreconcilable ‘realities’ of the room’s dual nature causes the now familiar spectre of doubt to interpose itself between them.  Unlike the two married couples however, the two women  struggle with each other in an effort to settle their differences of perception. They will not allow their bond of ten years duration to be easily shattered, and are willing to go to whatever lengths  – and travel whatever distances –  (Europe would not be too far) in order to save their shared experience of reality from being meddled or interfered with.  They show every evidence of having been a happy and stable pair for a full decade, and when the little room begins to cause the first unwelcome cracks in the structure of their relationship, they are determined to undertake the long and tiresome journey to the old Aunts’ home in order to settle once and for all  the matter of the perplexing little room.

But this is Madeline Yale Wynne’s apparent prefiguration of a quantum reality, and as such, it strongly resists an unambiguous answer. Young’s double-slit experiment, the Copenhagen interpretation, and Shroedinger’s cat all tell us the same thing: reality can be a very slippery and elusive beast, and very hard to handle. It can be lying quiescent in some other universe until someone decides to observe it, whereupon it can suddenly spring into existence, or it can be doing simultaneously impossible things until one decides to place an observer  in the room, whereupon it reverts to behaving predictably and demurely, or it can be two entirely separate things – manifesting itself either as matter or energy –  or both.

In Wynne’s brilliant and enigmatic story, the little room occasions four separate versions of reality among the four dyads involved. The complex symbolism and the many permutations and combinations of sexual orientation, from the presumably chaste and celibate to the transparently lesbian, cover a range and degree of communication between pairs. The fused personality of stronger and weaker spinster sisters, the delicate younger half-sister and the husband from whom she is later separated by war and death, Margaret and Roger with their three children and outwardly comfortable and well-to do lives who have agreed at Roger’s behest never to discuss the matter of the room, and Nan and Rita who will not be deterred from confronting and clarifying whatever seems to want to come between them, each illustrates a different type and degree of human connection.

Wynne drops some very large hints about the disconnections in Margaret and Roger’s relationship: Roger confuses yellow calico and blue chintz, is averse about engaging in a discussion which would clarify a significant difference with his wife, and we are left with the distinct feeling that it would be unwise for Margaret to speak to him about any but her most material perceptions.

A quantum mystery can never have anything but a quantum ending. Heisenberg’s principle asserts that quantum paradoxes and dual realities can never be resolved by a single observation.  The little room seems to sense that something about Nan and Rita’s determined decision to put their perceptions – and realities – to the test would be inimical to its – and perhaps their –  survival, and so ‘the little room’ consumes itself along with the house of which it had long been an inexplicable part.

What became of Hannah and Maria we shall never know:

But Madeline Yale Wynne and her ‘friend’ Annie Putnam set up house together in 1883, and lived together for the next thirty-five years, surrounded by their friends ‘both gay and grave’  until Wynne’s death in 1918.

This is the link to a memorial booklet  made by her friends for Madeline Yale Wynne from which the above facsimiles are taken.

 

 

 

http://www.archive.org/stream/inmemoryofmadeli00lawr#page/n0/mode/2up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The following biographical thumbnail was extracted from the following site.

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=52832781

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birth: Sep. 25, 1847
Newport
Herkimer County
New York, USADeath: Jan. 4, 1918
Asheville
Buncombe County
North Carolina, USA
Madeline Yale Wynne was a talented artist of the Arts & Crafts movement who credits her father, Linus Yale, Jr., with giving her metal working experience as a child in his lock shop right beside her brothers. She studied art with artist George Fuller, a close friend of her father’s and later at the Museum School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, at the Arts Students’ League in New York City and in Europe. Madeline married Henry Winn in 1865 and they had two sons but by 1874 they were separated. She lived and worked with her brother, Julian, in Chicago making jewelry but left when he died. She had a major influence on the Arts & Crafts Movement in Chicago and a group of artists there took the title of her short story “The Little Room” as the name of their salon. She spent six months of the year in Deerfield, Massachusetts where she was president of Deerfield Industries where artisans made and sold their crafts. Madeline often spent the remainder of the year with her mother near Boston. In 1883 she began sharing her home and studio with Miss Annie Putnam and changed the spelling of her last name. In 1885 she and Annie Putnam purchased The Manse in Deerfield and in 1904 they became year-round residents of Deerfield where they were very active practicing and supporting the arts. She was also an author and her short story “The Little Room” still appears in anthologies. In her later years she spent some winter months in Tryon, North Carolina.

 

 

 

* The Sick Rose
O Rose thou art sick.
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm:Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.
William Blake.

Read Full Post »

Richard Outram (April 14th 1930 - January 21st 2005)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love Letter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Still sheathed in ardour, Sweetheart, in this night,

Though continents apart, I would not write;

The body of my thought can never be,

However subtle, half the mystery

Of one embrace; and naked phrases prove

Pale triths to those, who sometime died in Love

Beyond all bonds, all grasp of given names,

To surface speechless within living flames;

Reduced to words, you cannot understand

My crabbed, distracted, unfamiliar hand,

Except that you might read between these lines,

Where tongue to touch you never will be found,

And see a white sheet as our common ground.

Richard Outram

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An exchange of letters between the sculptor Beatrice Fenton (1887 -1983) and her lover the painter Marjorie Martinet (1886 – 1981).

Fenton and Martinet were romantically involved for 50 years. They first met when they were both students at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beatrice Fenton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Facsimiles of Fenton’s and Martinet’s letters courtesy of Lost and Found: The Lesbian and Gay Presence at the Archives of American Art.

No image was available for Marjorie Martinet – but these are two of her paintings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »