'Once more I am a wretch'

On This Day in Letters (15th June edition)

The following letters were all written on the fifteenth day of a June gone by, which by my reckoning means that today is their birthday. Therefore these letters deserve your attention and they deserve cake, and that cake should be sent to me, Shaun Usher, Lord of Letters, to be fairly divided using mathematics, sliced into portions using knives, and mailed to the relevant parties using the postal system but only after I’ve taken and eaten my cut1. Please begin baking.


E.B. White is the least sophisticated man I have ever known.

James Thurber to Dale Kramer, 15 Jun 1951 | The Thurber Letters


It is nearly six months now since I saw you. A long time. Mother, do you know, almost all people love their mothers, but I have never met anybody in my life, I think, who loved his mother as much as I love you. I don’t believe there ever was anybody who did, quite so much, and quite in so many wonderful ways. I was telling somebody yesterday that the reason I am a poet is entirely because you wanted me to be and intended I should be, even from the very first. You brought me up in the tradition of poetry, and everything I did you encouraged. I can not remember once in my life when you were not interested in what I was working on, or even suggested that I should put it aside for something else. Some parents of children that are “different” have so much to reproach themselves with. But not you, Great Spirit.

Edna St. Vincent Millay to her mother, 15 Jun 1951 | Letters of Note: Mothers


A poem is a very odd duck. It goes through changes—in form and color—when you leave it alone patiently, just as surely as a plant does, or an animal, or any other creature. Have you ever read a book by someone which you know has been written too quickly and impatiently and then published too soon? Such books always remind me of tomatoes or oranges that have been picked still green and then squirted full of artificial colors. They look nice on the supermarket shelves, and they taste awful. I remember reading such books and feeling the glands under my chin begin to ache. They made me feel as though I were getting the mumps.

James Wright to Leslie Silko, 15 Jun 1979 | A Wild Perfection: The Selected Letters of James Wright


I wonder how many of my letters to you begin “I am a wretch…” Never answered and should have answered. Once more, I am a wretch.

Virginia Woolf to Ethel Smyth, 15 Jun 1937 | Virginia Woolf: The Complete Collection


Fortunately, the check for the Big Sur article took the sting out of your pompous and moronic rejection of my work.

Here’s the 20 cents it cost you to send the damn things back. I don’t want to feel that I owe you anything, because when I see you I intend to cave in your face and scatter your teeth all over Fifth Avenue.

I think we are coming to a day when agents of your sort will serve no useful function except as punching bags.

Hunter S. Thompson to Sterling Lord, 15 Jun 1961 | The Proud Highway


The day before leaving, we went to a green lawn-like plateau just under the Idaean cave (where Zeus was brought up) just under the peak of Mt Ida, still covered in snow. More feasting and lyra-playing and singing and feu de joie with all the shepherds there, all old friends. There was dripping mist and clouds when we got there but they all blew away, leaving nothing but clear blue planetary air and hovering eagles, and, on the green plateau below, all the ewes lining up to be milked, four hundred bells jangling as they headed across the sward to the prehistoric goat-fold. Marvellous!

Patrick Leigh Fermor to Ann Fleming, 15 Jun 1981 | Dashing for the Post: The Letters of Patrick Leigh Fermor


I think you speak excellent sense when you say that girls without fortune should be brought up and accustomed to support themselves; and that if they marry poor men, it should be with a prospect of being able to help their partners. If all parents thought so, girls would not be reared on speculation with a view to their making mercenary marriages—and consequently women would not be so piteously degraded as they now too often are.

Charlotte Brontë to William Smith Williams, 15 Jun 1848 | The Brontës: A Life in Letters


Do write me letters, Mommy, because I am in a very dangerous state of feeling sorry for myself. Just at present, life is awful … I am exhausted, scared, incompetent, unenergetic and generally low in spirits.

Sylvia Plath to her mother, 15 Jun 1952 | Letters Home: Correspondence


I hear you are moving to London and this may have certain advantages. I naturally don’t expect you to exist like a constipated mouse there but please do not get heavily into debt or run into trouble. … I don’t expect invariable wisdom or discretion from young men; on the other hand I reckon it ought to be possible to steer clear of the more egregious forms of folly. If you do find yourself in manure up to your eyeballs, you had better apply here for help. You may not get it but you can never tell.

In other words try and have a good time without making a fool or a shit of yourself.

Your affectionate father.

Roger Mortimer to his son, 15 Jun 1973 | Dear Lupin: Letters to a Wayward Son


Best to all the family, am feeling fine and very cheerful about things in general and hope to see you all soon.

Papa2

Ernest Hemingway to Fritz Saviers, 15 Jun 1961 | Selected letters

1

My commission rate when forwarding baked goods currently stands at 100%.

2

This is the last line of Hemingway’s final letter, written from the psychiatric ward weeks before he died by suicide. Its recipient, Fritz, was hospitalised elsewhere with heart disease and was the 9-year-old son of Hemingway’s friend, Dr. George Saviers.