On Charles Olson: poetics and / as pedagogy

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Dr. Michael Kindellan is a Vice Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Sheffield, UK. He has published research articles on several 19th and 20th century Anglo-American poets, and has recently completed a book on Ezra Pound’s late cantos (to be published in September by Bloomsbury). Made possible by a generous a Strochlitz Travel Grant, in January he travelled to the Archives and Special Collections at the Dodd Research Center to consult the Charles Olson Research Collection, along with other, related collections, such as the Ed Dorn, John Wieners, Michael Rumaker, Fielding Dawson and Ann Charters Papers. This trip marks the beginning of work on his new project, tentatively called “Present Knowledge: Charles Olson and the Poetics of Pedagogy”.

I have been meaning to begin this project since late 2011, when I was first awarded a Strochlitz Travel Grant. Sadly, I was forced to defer that in favour of a temporary lectureship position. One thing led to another, and two intervening post-docs later, I am thrilled to have been afforded the time and opportunity, both by Sheffield and by UConn, to properly get started.

Charles Olson [FIG. 1] was a poet and a pedagogue. He began his teaching career at Clark University in the mid-1930s. In 1938, he took up a Guggenheim Fellowship in support of research on Herman Melville, leading to the publication of Call Me Ishmael. During the 1940s Olson also worked in various positions for the US Government: as Associate Chief of the Foreign Languages Division for the Office of War Information and as Foreign Nationalities Division Director for the Democratic National Committee). In the late 1940s, partly on account of his poetic debut Y & X (in collaboration with the Italian artist Corrado Cagli) and partly after a strong recommendation from Edward Dahlberg, Josef Albers invited Olson to give a series of classes on writing at Black Mountain College,[1] where he eventually took up a permanent position before becoming its rector until its closure in 1957. [FIG. 2] These academic posts were followed by others in the 1960s, initially at SUNY Buffalo and then at the University of Connecticut. Olson’s reputation as poet/theorist was secured by his seminal 1950 essay “Projective Verse”; from that point on, he wrote poems until the day he died.

With that in mind, setting his poetics (the theory and practice of verse composition) in relation to his pedagogy (the theory and practice of teaching) seems an obvious thing to do. However, my project attempts something slightly more ambitious, namely to read Olson’s poetics and pedagogy as both complementary and also as coincident undertakings. Some of Olson’s comments in the minutes of BMC faculty meetings, where the subject of conversation is how best to go about teaching, often sound exactly like his ideas concerning good writing practice and procedure; similarly, his verse is frequently didactic in tone and instructional in form. Just how Olson’s prosody can be seen to issue the reader with “instructions” is the subject of an essay I published in Contemporary Olson (Manchester UP, 2015), a work that serves as a starting point the larger project at hand. Throughout, I mean to argue that Olson’s ideas and methods of writing are identical to his ideas and methods of teaching, and to explore the consequences of that.

As Eleanor Berry and Alan Golding have recently suggested, Olson sought to extend “his formal concerns into the epistemological realm in arguing that projective verse involves a ‘stance towards reality’ that he labels ‘objectism’”. Olson understood “objectism”, Berry and Golding rightly note, as the “getting rid of the lyrical interference of the individual as ego”, which they describe as “an ethically anti-humanist move to take poetry beyond mere self-expression into more culturally capacious realms of statement”.[2] As a poet as well as a teacher, Olson might well have wanted to strip away all traces of the “individual as ego”, but it is not necessarily how he went about the actual business of either teaching or writing poems. Indeed, a good deal of archival material demonstrates that, in actual and historical fact, Olson’s methods are highly egoistic, often radically so (where by “egotistic” I do not mean “excessively conceited”, but rather interested in the “self” as a foundation for both practice and comportment).

Consider, as a case in point, the exam questions he set for students taking his 1964 “Literature and Myth” course at SUNY Buffalo. Question 4 in particular, which begins “My own belief is that…”, demonstrates the extent to which Olson exerted strong control over the parameters of whatever horizons of understanding his students operated within. [FIG. 3] By all accounts, Olson was, as his long-time correspondent J. H. Prynne recently put it, “an influential and powerful teacher”; but he and his “Black Mountain team”, Prynne goes on to contend, “practised ascendency over the students and dominated their development, and offered themselves as exemplary models to be followed, not as choices to be made”.[1]  This assessment is consistent with reports given by Olson’s actual students who never quite fell under his spell, such as Francine du Plessix (later Gray); likewise, Olson’s often bad tempered and downright condescending notes to Cid Corman in Letters for Origin portray an authoritative teacher who suffered dissent badly.[2] Charles Boer also reported, speaking to Olson in the second person, “your classrooms were for your ideas. If a student thought otherwise, he was soon set straight on the matter”.[3]

The question for me is, how to square this authoritarian streak with Olson’s anarchic, deeply anti-technocratic approaches to teaching and writing.[6] In regards to both he admonished students and burgeoning writers to practice “istorin’”, an activity he attributed to Herodotus’s historiography and defined as “finding out for yourself”. The implications of this are far too numerous to encapsulate here, but foremost amongst them is Olson’s total refusal of conventional curricula: Olson was profoundly skeptical about lesson plans and learning outcomes, all of which promised to curtail in advance any line of inquiry that organically emerged from the pedagogical process itself.[7] Several former students of Olson’s recount how he would habitually stay after class to study the chalk board, as though trying to make sense of what had happened, what was said. In “FIELD COMPOSITION”, or “projective verse” practice, the poet “puts himself in the open—he can go by no track other than the one the poem under hand declares, for itself”.

The examinations Olson wrote for Clark University students reveal a key aspect of his pedagogical drive, namely the prioritisation of writing well over reading well. He was constantly interweaving questions of personal style, form and the like, into questions ostensibly about other texts. The idea here is that, for Olson, the most important texts were always one’s own. A headnote to a 22 January 1935 mid-year English II examination begins: “keep in mind that this is a course in writing. Clarity, accuracy, even beauty of expression is expected. No paper carelessly written will be considered satisfactory, in spite of content”.[8] [FIG. 4]

What exactly to make of all this I have yet to rightly determine, and giving a good answer will be the aim of my work over the next couple of years. But the plan is to conceptualise and then critique Olson’s pedagogy as poetics, and visa versa. What is clear, however, from the two weeks I was able to spend exploring and working in this extensive archive—a task made all the more challenging by Olson’s increasingly illegible handwriting and his tendency to write with dull pencils on acidic paper or the backs of dirty envelopes—have proven invaluable in terms of grounding a rather abstract idea in the hard facts of archival materials. For instance, the Charles Olson Research Collection holds large numbers of documents categorised as “prose”, which, upon inspection, are clearly notes for lectures or seminars given (mostly) at Black Mountain College. Though not a systematic thinker, not by a long shot, Olson, in many of these documents especially, is forever attempting to enumerate and order his thoughts on myth, on writing and on history. In others, such one that “begins” (if it can be said to begin anywhere) “You can’t use words as ideas”, Olson’s writing is (dis)organised spatially, composed quite literally “by field”, that is to say, in different intersected planes of the page space. [FIG. 5]

The archive also contains a great bulk of correspondence, written both by Olson, especially in his capacity as Rector of Black Mountain College, and by hundreds of correspondents, many of whom either taught with Olson (such as Robert Duncan and Robert Creeley) or were taught by him (such as Dorn, Dawson and Wieners). These letters have an obvious historical importance, given the established reputations of Olson’s peers. Of equal if rather different interest are letters Olson wrote to and received from lesser known interlocutors: officers at funding bodies, benefactors, university administrators, invitees to BMC’s summer “institutes” programme and parents of students. I expect many of these to feature significantly in my completed work. Naturally the manuscripts and other pre-publication material of the poetry—those pertaining to The Maximus Poems particularly—will feature throughout my work as well. The first drafts of Olson’s poems, written mostly in longhand and sometimes to spectacular effect [FIG. 6], demand readers reassess the value and importance of the typewriter to this work. But it’s the less glamorous reaches of the archive that have thrown up the most interesting preliminary findings.

 

 

– Michael Kindellan
Sheffield, March 2017

 

 

Figures:

  1. Fielding Dawson Drawing of Charles Olson (ink on paper), Fielding Dawson Papers. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.
  1. Black Mountain Ephemera, Fielding Dawson Papers. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.
  1. Series III, Box 268. Charles Olson Research Collection. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.
  1. Series III, Box 259. Charles Olson Research Collection. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.
  1. Series I, Box 26. Charles Olson Research Collection. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.
  1. Series I, Box 5, Folder 273. “I have been an ability—a machine”. Charles Olson Research Collection. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

 

Notes:

[1] Josef Albers, 24 September 1948 Letter to Charles Olson, Series II Box 124, Charles Olson Research Collection. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

[2] Eleanor Berry and Alan Golding, “Projective Verse”, The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, 4th ed., ed. Roland Greene et al, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012), 1109.

[3] J. H. Prynne, “The Art of Poetry No. 101”, The Paris Review 218 (Fall 2016): 183.

[4] Charles Olson, Letters for Origin: 1950-1956, ed. Albert Glover (London: Cape Goliard, 1969).

[5] Charles Boer, Charles Olson in Connecticut (Chicago: Swallow Press, 1975), 54.

[6] As Martin Duberman reports, John Cage esteemed Olson’s Black Mountain College a truly anarchic community, in contradistinction to Josef Albers’s, where the “anarchic feeling… was only on the surface”. Martin Duberman, Black Mountain College: An Exploration in Community (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1972), 367.

[7] Cf. Olson’s statements on the matter in “Minutes of a Meeting of the Black Mountain College Faculty, 1951”, Olson: The Journal of the Charles Olson Archives 2 (Fall 1974): 16-24.

[8] Charles Olson, “Clark University English II Mid-Year Examination, Series III Box 258, Charles Olson Research Collection. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

 

Prologue: Into the Beautiful, Free Country; Reexamining the Life and Writing of Edwin Way Teale

By Richard Telford

Author’s Note: Though the product of many hours of research, writing, and revision, this chapter is nevertheless a draft; it will be subject to revision as the larger book in which it will appear takes shape. In this chapter, the very first of the book, I have departed from the time period I wrote about in the previous three chapters published on the Archives and Special Collections site, during which the Teales lost their only son, David, in wartime service. Those chapters can be accessed here. I welcome critical response, either in the comment section below or through direct e-mail. I am grateful to the Archives and Special Collections staff for providing me the opportunity to share this work, and to the Woodstock Academy Board of Trustees for awarding me a sabbatical for the 2016-2017 school year so that this work could be undertaken.  Contextual information about the project and manuscript can be found here.

 

Prologue: Into the Beautiful, Free Country

 

Not only have you made us both very happy indeed; but you have also enabled us to get away from the heat and fatigue of the city into the beautiful, free country earlier than we could otherwise have done; and you know, I delight in nothing more than in being close to Nature’s heart.[1]

 

                                                                               Helen Keller, from a letter to Alexander Graham Bell, June 2, 1899

 

Down the slopes of the wooded hills there came a long sighing breath that set the leaves a wavering, down the long dancing corriders of the woodland.

It told a tale of the piles of drifting snow, of fluttering grouse, and wind swept ice, of strife and har[d]ships; yet [the] trees sang on with a glad hear[t], for it told more to them than hardships and struggle, it told of gorgeous costume[s] of colored woods and fleecy sky; and so the leaves sang on, with the joy of childhood.[ii]

 

                                                                              Edwin Way Teale, from “The Moon of Falling Leaves,” typed manuscript, ca. 1909-1910

 

Edwin Way Teale at Lone Oak, the Indiana farm of his maternal grandparents Edwin F. and Jemima Way, circa 1910.

In 1943, amidst unprecedented slaughter that would add the word “genocide” to the common lexicon, author Edwin Way Teale introduced to the world a boy who sat perched atop the roof of his grandparents’ Indiana farmhouse, watching at once the divergent aerial paths of a bald eagle soaring on high and a gray sandhill crane hugging the earth in low, loping flight. The boy imagined what he might see through the eyes of each bird. He wondered how each might see the dune landscape, the “shining, mysterious land of gold beyond the treetops at the horizon’s edge.”[iii] Less than two miles from the roof he straddled lay a “fragment of untamed wilderness” where the boy had heard that “wolves still howled among the snow-clad dunes on winter nights.”[iv] Such wilderness stirred the boy’s imagination, and so, too, did the north woods at the edge of his grandparents’ 90-acre farm, “a mysterious realm of little trails and piles of yellow sand dug from burrows.”[v] In 1943, the world needed this boy, and the boy, now grown and suffering the trials of war, still needed that childhood world of wilderness, of unfettered exploration, of natural order, of simple beauty.

The boy, born on June 2, 1899, had entered the world as two of his future heroes, John Muir and John Burroughs, occupied adjacent state rooms on the steamer SS George W Elder en route to Alaska during the Harriman Alaska Expedition. The expedition, funded by American railroad magnate Edward Harriman, assembled the nation’s most accomplished scientists, natural historians, and artists to conduct a comprehensive two-month survey of the Alaskan coast all the way to Siberia.[vi]  Of that day, when the expedition rounded the coast of British Columbia, Burroughs later wrote, “I had often seen as much color and brilliancy in the sky, but never before such depth and richness of blue and purple upon the mountains and upon the water.”[vii] On that same day, a hemisphere away, the Malolos Congress, the National Assembly of the Philippines, declared war against the United States, a war it would take the American military three years to win, at a cost of more than 4200 troops.[viii] The boy, too, would later suffer the losses of successive world wars. One of these would haunt him for the remainder of his life, would inhabit his dreams decade after decade, a perpetual “nightmare at dawn.”[ix] But that loss, on the day of his birth, was a generation removed. Finally, on the day the boy entered the world, Helen Keller wrote to her lifelong benefactor Alexander Graham Bell, to whom she would later dedicate her 1903 autobiography The Story of My Life.[x] To Bell, she confided, “I delight in nothing more than in being close to Nature’s heart,” and few statements could more aptly reflect the future trajectory of the boy clad in blue overalls, for whom the natural world would be at once a playground and a sanctuary, a nourisher and a balm. While the boy would undergo countless evolutions during the 81 years to follow, the hold of the natural world upon him would remain a constant, a holdfast in a relentless sea of waxing change.

The house at Lone Oak, the Indiana farm of Edwin F. and Jemima Way, the maternal grandparents of Edwin Way Teale, early twentieth century.

Edwin Way Teale, on the fourth page of his 1943 book Dune Boy: The Early Years of a Naturalist, revealed the identity of the overall-clad boy, who through so many trips up the shingled roof of his grandparents’ farm had left a visible trail to the ridge like “the thin trail of a garden slug.” “It was thus,” he wrote, “as the boy in the blue overalls, that I spent many hours during the long summer days of my earliest boyhood.”[xi] These summers and numerous Christmas and Easter holidays spent at Lone Oak, the 90-acre farm of his maternal grandparents Edwin and Jemima Way, formed “the most memorable months” of his childhood.[xii] Decades later, in the darkest hours of adult life, “in nights of strain and days of trouble,” Edwin would return often in memory to “the sounds of the dune country night”: the alternate refrains of katydids and crickets, the shadow-calls of nighthawks and owls, the susurrations of poultry and nesting storks.[xiii] Through the lens of time, Lone Oak became for Edwin what Tintern Abbey had been to English Romantic poet William Wordsworth, a sustaining sanctuary of memory. Amidst copious notes for his never-published autobiography, Edwin, reflecting on memories of Lone Oak, copied out the following lines from Wordsworth:

But oft in lonely rooms, and ‘mid the din

Of towns and cities, I have owed to them

In hours of weariness, sensations sweet…[xiv]

 

Amidst “the tensions, the pressures, the constraints, [and] the strain”[xv] of a “desperately unhappy”[xvi] childhood, Lone Oak was, and in recollection always would be, a sanctuary. “I never was free from the bridle and the bit,” Edwin wrote later, “except at Lone Oak—Dear, lifesaving Lone Oak!”[xvii]

Edwin Way Teale with his maternal grandparents Edwin F. and Jemima Way at Lone Oak, their Indiana farm, circa 1916-1918.

For Edwin, the school year spent in the industrial city of Joliet, Illinois and holidays spent at his grandparents’ dune country farm near Furnessville, Indiana divided life “into a kind of mental Arctic night and day.”[xviii] The metaphor was well chosen. The Arctic night represented a spirit-choking home life; school days teeming with bullies and marked by the chronic shadow of personal failure; an oppressive, soot-stained, limestone landscape. Sprawling along the United States Steel company’s outer rail belt around Chicago, Joliet attracted “Wire mills, coke plants, stove companies, horseshoe factories, brick companies, foundries, boiler and tank companies, machine manufacturers, can companies, bridge builders, plating factories, [and] steel car shops.”[xix]  “Everything in our vicinity,” Edwin recalled later, “was begrimed and gray…, the air always scented with coal smoke.”[xx] Soot from the locomotive stacks of the Michigan Central Railroad to the north and the Eligin, Joliet, and Eastern line to the east often forced a second washing of his mother’s sheets drying on the line.[xxi] The Teales’ Washington Street home was little better. “When winter came,” Edwin wrote, “…storm windows and doors virtually sealed us in. From December to March we seemed to breathe the same dead air scented with coal gas and cooking.”[xxii] And then there was the specter of Edwin’s mother, Clara Louise Teale, whose “rigid training,” “unending inspection,” and “continual consideration of every act” he committed constrained him more than any physical landscape, interior or exterior, could have done. Her pedagogical tyranny, he reflected later, “made me turn to nature. Here was freedom, here was liberty. Here my tether was lengthened or left behind.”[xxiii]

The contrast between Joliet and Lone Oak could not have been more stark. In Joliet, inmates from the Illinois State Penitentiary carved limestone from the earth with forced labor.[xxiv] Smokestacks lined the horizon in all directions, spewing from industrial furnaces a dark cloud that blanketed the city. Images of the time, intended to extol the advanced industry of the city, instead illustrate the dual toll of corporate greed on human health and the human spirit.[xxv] At Lone Oak, clean, crisp air revealed “hills of gold shining in the sun” and “the blue hills of the Valparaiso moraine against the lighter blue of the summer sky.”[xxvi] In this land of boyhood freedom, “prevailing winds…carried quartz grains to the southeastern tip” of Lake Michigan, forming “the dunes themselves as well as the great blowouts and the small ribbed patterns on the beach sand….”[xxvii] While Joliet offered only “a haunted place beneath the smoke,”[xxviii] Lone Oak offered a place of deliverance beneath the “great clamor of the geese and waterfowl circling in the [late-day] light.”[xxix] For a boy liberated from the confines of city life, Lone Oak was as worthy a site for exploration as the Alaskan coastline was for Burroughs and Muir. At his grandparents’ farm, Edwin fixed his eyes with equal acuity on the sweep of the vast dune landscape and that of the long, emerald leg of the night-calling cicada. No titan of industry funded his expeditions. His stateroom was an attic, his steamer a rambling farmhouse, his benefactors wise and loving grandparents. The influence of Gram and Gramp Way upon him would ultimately exceed that of his own parents, and no single factor would shape more profoundly the trajectory of his life than the glorious days he spent in the beautiful, free country of Lone Oak, the childhood landscape he recalled, nearly three-quarters of a century later, as “that home of my heart.”[xxx]

 

Richard Telford has taught literature and composition at The Woodstock Academy since 1997. In 2011, he helped found the Edwin Way Teale Artists in Residence at Trail Wood program, which he now directs. He was a long-time contributing writer for The Ecotone Exchange. He was recently awarded a Rose and Sigmund Strochlitz Travel Grant by the University of Connecticut to support his work on a book about naturalist, writer, and photographer Edwin Way Teale. The Woodstock Academy Board of Trustees likewise granted him a sabbatical for the 2016-2017 academic year to support this work.

 

References

Burroughs, John, John Muir, et al. Alaska: The Harriman Expedition 1899. Facsimile: Two volumes bound as one. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1986.

“Illinois Steel Works, Joliet.” Photograph. http://trollmongo.deviantart.com/art/Joliet-IL-1900-291620595

Illustration of Joliet Iron and Steel Works, 1877-8, from advertisement in Poor’s Manual of the    Railroads in the United States. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Joliet_Iron_%26_Steel_1870s.jpg

“Joliet, IL.” The Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago Historical Society. http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/676.html

Keller, Helen, letter to Alexander Graham Bell, 2 June, 1899. Library of Congress, Alexander Graham Bell family papers, 1834-1974. MSS51268: Folder: Helen Keller, 1888-1918, undated.

Keller, Helen. The Story of My Life. Doubleday, Page, and Co., 1903.

“Phillipine-American War, The, 1899-1902.” Office of the Historian, Department of State, United States of America. https://history.state.gov/milestones/1899-1913/war

Renehan, Jr., Edward J. John Burroughs: An American Naturalist. Hensonville, NY: Black Dome Press Corp., 1998.

Teale, Edwin Way. Adventures in Making a Living: Volume II, unpublished journal, February 1944 to May 1946. Box 113, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special  Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy: The Early Years of a Naturalist. Lone Oak Edition. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1943, 1957.

Teale, Edwin Way. “Lone Oak Cat Stories.” Ca. 1909-1912. Box 84, folder 2587, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. “Memories of a Bent Twig” chapter notes, drafts, 1974 July 31. The Long Way Home (EWT’s autobiography). Box 63, folder 2169, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. “Memories of a Bent Twig,” draft, 3-7 Aug., 1974. Most Complete Manuscript, undated. The Long Way Home (EWT’s autobiography). Box 63, folder 2187, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. “My Earliest Home,” draft, 28-31 July, 1974. Most Complete Manuscript, undated. The Long Way Home (EWT’s autobiography). Box 63, folder 2187,

Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. “My Earliest Home” chapter notes, drafts, 1974 July 31. The Long Way Home (EWT’s autobiography). Box 63, folder 2168, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. Notes, Clippings, undated. The Long Way Home (EWT’s autobiography). Box 63, folder 2163, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. “Trail Wood” chapter notes, undated. The Long Way Home (EWT’s autobiography). Box 63, folder 2186, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. “Woodland Days” chapter notes, research, drafts of manuscript, correspondence, 1974 August 19. The Long Way Home (EWT’s autobiography). Box 63, folder 2170, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

 

Notes

[1] Keller, Helen, letter to Alexander Graham Bell, 2 June, 1899.

[ii] Teale, Edwin Way. “Lone Oak Cat Stories.” Ca. 1909-1912. Box 84, folder 2587.

[iii] Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy: The Early Years of a Naturalist. Lone Oak Edition. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1943, 1957. 2.

[iv] Ibid. 2.

[v] Ibid. 5.

[vi] Renehan, Jr., Edward J. John Burroughs: An American Naturalist. Hensonville, NY: Black Dome Press Corp., 207

[vii] Burroughs, John, John Muir, et al. Alaska: The Harriman Expedition 1899. Facsimile: Two volumes bound as one. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1986.

[viii] “The Phillipine-American War, 1899-1902.” Office of the Historian, Department of State, United States of America. https://history.state.gov/milestones/1899-1913/war

[ix] Teale, Edwin Way. Adventures in Making a Living, Vol II. 8 August 1945.

[x] Keller, Helen. The Story of My Life. Doubleday, Page, and Co., 1903.

[xi] Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy. Lone Oak Edition. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1943, 1957. 4.

[xii] Ibid. 6.

[xiii] Teale, Edwin Way. Undated notes. “My Earliest Home.” Box 63, folder 2168.

[xiv] Wordsworth, William. From “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abby, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1793.” Copied into undated notes. “The Long Way Home.” Box 63, folder 2163.

[xv] Teale, Edwin Way. Undated notes. “My Earliest Home.” Box 63, folder 2168.

[xvi] Teale, Edwin Way. “Memories of a Bent Twig,” draft, 3-7 Aug., 1974. The Long Way Home, most complete manuscript. Box 63, folder 2187. 6

[xvii] Teale, Edwin Way. Undated notes. “Memories of a Bent Twig.” Box 63, folder 2169.

[xviii] Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy: The Early Years of a Naturalist. Lone Oak Edition. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1943, 1957. 5.

[xix] “Joliet, IL.” The Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago Historical Society. http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/676.html

[xx] Teale, Edwin Way. The Long Way Home. “My Earliest Home.” Most complete manuscript. 30 July, 1974. Box 63, Folder 2187. 2

[xxi] Ibid. 2

[xxii] Ibid. 6

[xxiii] Teale, Edwin Way. Undated notes. “Memories of a Bent Twig.” Box 63, folder 2169.

[xxiv] Ibid.

[xxv] a. “Illinois Steel Works, Joliet.” Photograph. http://trollmongo.deviantart.com/art/Joliet-IL-1900-291620595.  Illustration of Joliet Iron and Steel Works, 1877-8, from advertisement in Poor’s Manual of the Railroads in the United States. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Joliet_Iron_%26_Steel_1870s.jpg

[xxvi] Teale, Edwin Way. Dune Boy. Lone Oak Edition. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1943,1957. 4-5.

[xxvii] Ibid. 3.

[xxviii] Teale, Edwin Way. Undated notes. “Memories of a Bent Twig.” Box 63, folder 2169.

[xxix] Teale, Edwin Way. Undated notes. “Woodland Days.” Box 63, folder 2170.

[xxx] Teale, Edwin Way. Undated notes. “Trail Wood.” Box 63, folder 2186.

 

 

Losing the Remembrance of Former Things: Reexamining the Life and Writing of Edwin Way Teale

By Richard Telford

Author’s Note: Though the product of many hours of research, writing, and revision, this chapter is nevertheless a draft; it will be subject to revision as the larger book in which it will appear takes shape. The chapter published below, “Losing the Remembrance of Former Things,” follows two preceding chapters, published in January and February on this site: “The Lonely Suffering of the Fallible Heart,” which can be viewed here, and “Throwing Bricks at the Temple,” which can be viewed here. For greatest clarity, these chapters should be read in order. This present chapter is being published on the 72nd anniversary of the combat death of David Allen Teale near the end of World War II. David figures prominently in this and the preceding chapters. The timing of this publication is an apt reminder of the oft-forgotten sacrifices of previous wars. I welcome critical response, either in the comment section below or through direct e-mail. I am grateful to the Archives and Special Collections staff for providing me the opportunity to share this work, and to the Woodstock Academy Board of Trustees for awarding me a sabbatical for the 2016-2017 school year so that this work could be undertaken.  Contextual information about the project and manuscript can be found here.
Chapter 11: Losing the Remembrance of Former Things

Is there a thing of which is said,
“See, this is new”?
It has been already,
In the ages before us.
There is no remembrance of former things,
Nor will there be any remembrance
Of later things yet to happen
Among those who come after.[i]

Ecclesiastes 1: 9-13

 

Of course, there are at present, and no doubt will continue to be for many generations yet, a number of fire-eating war-mongers and dashing blades who will always bounce about the delights of battle and the salubrious qualities of slaughter. But these, when genuine, are atavisms, and must gradually become as extinct as dodoes, as the world advances in sense and experience…[T]he New Army…has seen and felt a very great deal too much of the reality of war to be under any illusion as to its loveliness or enjoyability. Unredeemed horror is the whole thing, a horror that breaks up the soul of man into a gibbering wreckage.[ii]

Reginald Farrer, The Void of War: Letters from Three Fronts, 1918

 

To be killed in war is an event beyond our yes and no. It is a great sorrow but not a tragedy. The collapse of character alone is tragedy; not the events that test it from without. A single day of life with courage and character towers above the years of a centenarian if lived as a plaything of fate.[iii]

Edwin Way Teale, January 3, 1945

 

On the back side of the Norman Rockwell April Fool cover of The Saturday Evening Post that Edwin sent to David on Easter Sunday of 1945 is a full-page advertisement for the Parker “51” Aeromatic fountain pen. A strong, sure hand, its palm towards the viewer, holds the pen delicately between extended thumb and middle finger. The index finger steadies it from behind, the nib pointed upward. The hand is positioned just as the ad’s viewer might position his or her own, not just to inspect “this ‘most wanted’ pen in the world” but to appreciate the faux sapphire appointments on its engraved golden cap, to examine the understated black barrel with concealed nib, to feel the heft in hand. In the text below, The Parker Pen Company of Janesville, Wisconsin reminds the viewer that its production of “rocket fuzes and other war materièl” has stopped pen production. However, with the war’s end near, the ad continues, “More Parker ‘51s’ are on the way.” The ad’s large script headline, bisected by the pen and hand, assures the reader, “Sooner than you think…a Parker ‘51’ may be yours.”[iv]

In two letters sent in the fall of 1944, one from England to his mother on November 1[v] and the other from France to his father on November 16,[vi] David Teale asked his parents to buy him a Parker “51” fountain pen. “If [the] cost is too great for your purse,” he wrote Edwin, “take the required amount from my nest egg.”[vii] On June 18, 1945, however, the Teales realized it was a purchase they would never make, at least not on David’s behalf. On that day, when Edwin Stroh’s father had called to report that the War Department had declared his son killed in action, the Teales lost all hope that David would return to them. Nearly two months later, on August 8, Edwin would write, “It was that afternoon in June that the bottom collapsed and let us drop into darkness. It could have happened. We saw finally it must have happened to David.”[viii]  That day of cascading hopes brought “a violent thunderstorm in late afternoon,” and Edwin continued “working in a daze on another chapter.”[ix] The writing was torturous, but it was necessary torture, an act of survival, just as it had been in the preceding months. It was more so now. “Will I ever be able to finish it or go on?” he questioned. “Every line seems the last I can possibly write.”[x] Nonetheless, he persevered, and in the coming days he would work to exhaustion to keep The Lost Woods on schedule, not in spite of David’s fate but in answer to it. “It is worth-while work, work I would want to do up to my final hour,” Edwin continued on June 18. “I hope I can meet this worst blow life can give with my head up without cringing or giving in. I think I can; but it is the weeks and months and years beyond I dread. How wonderful our whole family is and has always been, so close together.”[xi]

A partial view of a Nazi flag recovered by David Teale in Stadtkyll, Germany in early March of 1945. Seventeen members of a Tiger Patrol of the 346th regiment, 87th Division of the U.S. Army signed the flag. Five of the men whose signatures are visible here died on March 16, 1945, while crossing the Moselle River in Germany on a night reconnaissance patrol: Antonio J. Alvear, Bill Cummins, Eugene B. Pings, Edwin A. Stroh, and David A. Teale. Harold F. Gould Jr., whose signature also appears in this part of the flag, survived the mission. He wrote to Edwin Teale upon his return to the United States, sharing what he knew of the events of that night.

Two days later, on June 20, another of the packages they had sent David was returned, and their response to it, which Edwin recorded in the Guild diary, illustrates his and Nellie’s complete loss of hope: “A package comes back—This one marked ‘missing’ by Lt. Hawkins. But that means nothing. Our despair is complete.”[xii] Now, they simply waited for the inevitable. On that same day, the Teales received a letter from Walter F. Gould, the grandfather of Harold F. Gould Jr., explaining that his grandson was coming home on furlough from Europe before shipping out for the Pacific, and it might be possible for the Teales to see him or at least speak by telephone. Walter Gould could fully understand the Teales’ suffering. He informed Edwin both by telephone and letter that he had “had one son (31 years old, single) killed in that heavy drive in Belgium” the day after Christmas of 1944, roughly a week after David had witnessed and survived the pummeling of his regiment by German 88s.  “I don’t think we will ever get over it,” the elder Gould told Edwin.[xiii]  Just as the Teales were doing now, Walter Gould had reached out to a fellow soldier in his deceased son’s unit to understand more fully the circumstances of his death. In reply, he had gotten “a very nice answer telling one a good deal more about his death than the Army had told me.”[xiv] Though David’s fate now seemed certain, Edwin and Nellie, too, wanted to understand the events that had led to David’s death, events on which the younger Gould could, and later would, shed light.

A week after receiving Walter Gould’s letter, there was still no word from his grandson. The implications of Edwin Stroh’s confirmed death weighed heavily upon the Teales. Edwin noted, “Nellie and I plan to spend 2 weeks at Concord for our vacation in September.”[xv] There is no inclusion of the possibility that David might join them if he returned, for they now knew that he would not. One year earlier, on July 18, 1944, Edwin had written to David during a vacation with Nellie at Crocker Lake in Maine while David was at Fort Jackson: “We will have a good time for you at the camp. I hope another year, you can be along…if you aren’t walking down the coast!”[xvi] He referenced this walk down the coast a second time in a letter sent eleven days later: “When you take your long walk all by yourself, after the war, you ought to read John Muir’s ‘A Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf.’ It is very good and would be right up your alley.”[xvii] But for David, there would not be “another year,” and Muir’s book would go unread. One year later, as the Teales planned their September Concord trip, they knew that David would not join them, and the timing of their departure from Baldwin was deliberate. On September 8, 1945, David would have turned twenty. Where better to find solace and shelter from their grief on that day than in Thoreau’s country. The following night, Edwin began reading Van Wyck Brooks’ The Flowering of New England, which had won the Pulitzer the year Edwin published Grassroot Jungles —“at least the chapter on Thoreau at Walden,”[xviii] Edwin qualified.

On June 28, Edwin once again found his footing, if tenuously, in his work on The Lost Woods. “On this evening,” he wrote, “I print ‘The Lost Woods’ on the top of the final manuscript box and stamp…my home address at top and bottom. This regular rite—engaged in since ‘Grassroot Jungles’ days—makes me feel a little nearer the completion of my long labors.”[xix] Such small, symbolic acts mattered. Each was an act of control, even as his life with David and their life as a family, “always…so close together,”[xx] had been rended by a complex, fickle chain of events over which he could have no influence. “In spite of everything,” he would later write, “there is nothing in the world I would rather be doing than working on my book. That, with all its complexities and pains, is the thing I want most to do.”[xxi]

In the days that followed, Edwin worked steadily in The Lost Woods, besieged by reminders of David’s absence. “So much to do!” he declared.[xxii] On Sunday, June 24, he taught the last Victors Sunday School class of the year, having a “fine talk” with two brothers, Warren and Edgar Fong. “So ends the Victors year,” he wrote that evening, “the last year when Davy was linked to it. Twelve years I’ve had the class. Can I keep on if David is gone?”[xxiii] On the following day, Mrs. Selby, a neighbor, brought Lieutenant Henry Loud to see the Teales, ostensibly to give them some insight on what might have happened to David, but, Edwin noted, he had “little to tell us of help on David. Depressed.”[xxiv] Two days later, on June 27, Forrest Dayton paid a visit to the Teales. Forrest, in Edwin’s estimation “David’s closest friend,” had likewise been deployed to Europe. Now, Forrest had returned, and David had not. It was a hard visit. “Headache lays me low in afternoon,” Edwin noted. In a postscript in the Guild diary, he added, “Twenty-eighth Chapter Done! Only Two to Go!”[xxv] One of these chapters was “The Calm of the Stars,” which could now serve only to memorialize David.

By July 1, the revised deadline for completion of the full draft of The Lost Woods, Edwin had only “The Calm of the Stars” left to complete. He spent the morning working on it but got “only two pages done,”[xxvi] using the rest of the day to review the completed chapters and rearrange their final order. It was not the day he had hoped for. The following morning, he began working at 7:30 a.m. and continued “until 8:52 p.m., with only time out for meals and a ½ hour sunbath.” With this last dash, as he often put it, he “completed the final difficult chapter on ‘The Calm of the Stars.’” He added: “Book completed, ready for revision, one day beyond my schedule—Thankful.”[xxvii] His celebration was understandably muted. Absent in his Guild diary entry are the flourishes with which he typically marked the completion of a book, even in its rough draft form. There are no headlines written in oversized characters; no ornate stacks of underlining elevate particular words; no geometric shapes adorn the margins; his daily progress note at the bottom of the page is formatted no differently than those of the preceding weeks. Instead, he noted in the sentences that followed: “Saddened by paragraphs in this chapter on Davy at Weller Pond. How impossible to believe he may never go on that trip again—never.”[xxviii]

The following day, Edwin took the 10:19 train into the city to visit Popular Science Monthly for a “reunion with the old crowd. Lunch with Richards, Samuels and de Santas. How thankful I have escaped the cells of 353 Fourth Ave!”[xxix] The juxtaposition of this reunion with the completion of the full draft of The Lost Woods is telling. While the “reunion” was certainly planned in advance, so too was the completion of the book draft, and Edwin had missed his target by only one day. Through this visit, he placed the celebration of one of the many fruits of the recent “glorious years in the sunshine”[xxx] alongside memories of the excruciating drudgery of Popular Science Monthly—now a painful phantom. The latter he had compared to “slavery” at a “Concentration Camp” two months earlier.[xxxi] This comparison, which now seems self-absorbed and indifferent to the horrific suffering endured in the camps of the Third Reich, must be considered in the context of the time, during which the ordinary American citizen was ill-informed on the events of Hitler’s war on the Jews, Roma, and other minority groups in Europe. Long-time New York Times journalist Max Frankel noted in 2001, on the 150th anniversary of the paper, that the events of what would only afterward be named the Holocaust “were mostly buried inside [the paper’s] gray and stolid pages, never featured, analyzed or rendered truly comprehensible.” There was, he concluded, no greater journalistic failure “than the staggering, staining failure of The New York Times to depict Hitler’s methodical extermination of the Jews of Europe as a horror beyond all other horrors in World War II,” and the Times’ coverage influenced that of many other journalistic organizations in New York and beyond.[xxxii] On this early day in July, Edwin’s view of the war was trained inward, as it had been two months earlier. The loss of David overshadowed all else, and this reunion with former Popular Science Monthly colleagues offered a spot of sunshine amidst darkening clouds. He could revisit the former site of his emotional and intellectual imprisonment, for an instant, and likewise leave it in an instant, returning to the long-desired life of freedom that he had earned through his toil and his willingness to gamble on a better future. For Edwin, such a juxtaposition of life before and life afterward filled him with gratitude and joy. While these feelings were greatly tempered by the loss of David, they likewise helped him to endure it.

Edwin’s trip to Popular Science Monthly reflects as well another interesting juxtaposition. In 1941, October 15 had for the Teales, with Edwin’s departure from Popular Science Monthly, become their personal Independence Day, a holiday they would celebrate yearly for the remainder of their life together. On July 3, 1945, Edwin’s visit with his former colleagues, one day after the completion of The Lost Woods, was followed a day later by the American holiday of Independence Day, July 4. The Fourth of July had special significance only two months after VE-Day. For most Americans, it was a day to celebrate a long-sought victory, but for the Teales the day was bittersweet at best. Not surprisingly, they spent the entire day in the shelter of the Insect Garden: “Today was as perfect a Fourth as the cloud that hangs over our spirits would permit. All day long in the open at the garden, sitting at a wooden table I found under the wagon shed and catching up on entering my Nature Notes, taking pictures, juggling around the order of the chapters and so forth.” It was, Edwin added, “A ‘Thoreau Day’—unhurried and out-of-doors.”[xxxiii] Nellie, who was and always would be Edwin’s working partner in his writing life, read and offered comment on ten of the new chapters in The Lost Woods. Such an unhurried day was a rarity. “Tomorrow,” Edwin wrote, “I begin the grind—revision and copying—that must get the book in before the end of this month!”[xxxiv] Were David returning, this Fourth of July might have been near-perfect. Edwin knew, however, that he would not, and this fact was driven home the following day when several more of their letters to David were returned. These too were marked “Deceased” but lacked the previous change to “Missing.” On each letter, to the hand-written word “Deceased” was added a jarring one-word postal stamp: “Verified.”[xxxv]

*          *          *          *          *          *          *

Burying himself still deeper in his labors on the book, Edwin set for himself a schedule that would bring The Lost Woods to its final form by July 26. It required the revision and retyping of thirty chapters in twenty-one days. With the mass of assisstive computer technology available to us in the twenty-first century, along with the unprecedented access to information provided by the Internet, we are largely ignorant of the sheer physical labors that an author undertook in 1945 to bring a book to publication.  We can do a great deal more, now, with less labor, but one wonders if the ease of publication has largely contributed to us doing considerably less with the more we have been given. For Edwin to remain on schedule, he would have to type an average of two revised chapters per day. On July 5, despite the emotional drain of the return of their letters to David, Edwin finished two chapters.[xxxvi] On the following day, he completed “The Striking Serpent” and “On the Trail of Thoreau,” bringing the total to four and keeping him on schedule.  It was a good start, and Edwin, realizing that speed and efficiency were critical if he was to maintain this pace, devised “with paper clips and an empty velour Black box […] a ms. holder that holds the sheet I am copying upright and aids me greatly.”[xxxvii]

The following day, July 7, Edwin managed to type three additional chapters. “Laboremus!” he declared at the opening of his Guild diary entry for that day, a Latin word meaning “Let us do our work!” Later in the century, the phrase “Laboremus! Let’s get to work!” was widely attributed to twentieth-century historian Arnold J. Toynbee as a favored motto.[xxxviii] For Edwin, however, at the end of the first week of July in 1945, it was less a life philosophy and more a pragmatic necessity. His completion of three chapters on the previous day allowed him, on July 8, to embark on a 7 a.m. “fishing trip on the bay with the Verity’s,” Baldwin neighbors. It was, Edwin noted, a much-needed “good time and good rest.” Returning home by 2:00 in the afternoon, Edwin slept for several hours, rising at 4:30, “half asleep,” and began typing “The Mystery of the Vanishing Flies,” finishing it by 8:00 that evening.[xxxix] This kept up the needed rate of two retyped chapters completed per day, a pace he managed to maintain on July 9 and 10 as well.

“No word of David—expected July 2 letter from Government,” Edwin noted on July 9.[xl]  In the April 3 confirmation letter that followed the telegram notifying the Teales of David’s MIA status, Major General James Alexander Ulio of the War Department had written, “If no information is received in the meantime, I will communicate with you again three months from the date of this letter.”[xli] Those three months had elapsed, with one week added. Though certain of its contents, Edwin likely feared that the arrival of this letter—certain to mirror the official communications received by the Strohs and the Alvears—might cripple his ability to keep to the demanding schedule of the days ahead. It would be a staggering, final blow. Edwin’s feverish work during this time to bring The Lost Woods to completion was in part a race against the arrival of that blow, especially now that the book was nearly done. Just as he had worked diligently throughout the day before V-E Day—“…in case there is bad news I will have that much done and that will help”—he did so again on July 9.

On July 10, CBS Radio called to invite Edwin to be a guest “on the ‘Invitation to Learning’ program…on Maeterlinck’s ‘Life of the Bee.’” The Nobel Prize-winning Maeterlinck had written to Edwin after the latter’s 1940 publication of The Golden Throng: A Book About Bees, declaring, “This will be the Bible of the Bees!” The praise, Edwin noted, “lifted my feet off the ground for a moment….”[xlii] With authentic regret, Edwin declined the CBS Radio invitation, knowing he would “need every minute for my own book!”[xliii] Having completed two more chapters, he retired to bed at 6:00 that evening with a sore throat and fever—the strain of his working pace taking its toll—and spent some time “going over chapters in bed.”[xliv] Twelve chapters were retyped in their final form, with eighteen remaining. As of July 12, there was still “no word from government on Davy,” and Edwin spent the day working on “Men of Nature,” completing it by 2:30 that afternoon.[xlv]  Combined with his work of the previous day, he was up to fourteen completed chapters. The next day, he completed two more: “Crocodile Dragover” and “A School for Foxes.” “Hurray!” he declared on July 13.[xlvi] By the following day, with a thorough revision of “In the Heart of a Cloud,” he was “on schedule or a little ahead of it,” feeling “pretty good.”[xlvii] In the afternoon he went to the Insect Garden, where he photographed a “yellow swallowtail” butterfly. These were the productive days in which Edwin had reveled for many years, and he did so now, despite his grief.

Edwin awoke on July 15, a Sunday, to what would be daylong rain. He stayed in bed until after 9 a.m. following “a sleepless night with dreams of David.”[xlviii] On the previous day, he had begun the final retyping of “The Lost Woods,” the book’s opening chapter. In it, he recalled simpler days spent with Gram and Gramp Way at Lone Oak. He retold the story of a trip by horse-drawn bobsled with Gramp Way “to a distant woods” to gather stored stove wood. Growing weary of loading the sled, Edwin, then six, had “wandered about, small as an atom, among the great trees—oak and beech, hickory and ash and sycamore.”  He had been “at once enchanted and fearful,” and the experience made “a profound impression” on the six-year-old boy, filling him with “an endless curiosity about this lonely tract and all of its inhabitants.”[xlix]  Edwin had searched in vain for these woods with his childhood friend Dewey Gunder on March 16, 1945 during his Midwestern lecture tour[l]—forty years after his only visit to them, and the same day David was declared missing. It is hardly surprising that Edwin’s dreams the previous night were occupied by David, to whom, like the lost woods of childhood, Edwin could not return except in memory—the inadequate, longing-filled shell of former joys.

Edwin spent time that day revising only the “first page and a half of ‘The Lost Woods’” before shifting his attention—perhaps because of his deep emotional connections to the chapter—to “Boundaries of the Night,” on which he spent time “revising and inserting more natural history.”[li] Edward H. Dodd Jr. had suggested in March that the book as a whole, while representing Edwin’s finest work to date, was in need of “more natural-history facts.”[lii] By early afternoon, the eighteenth retyped chapter was done, and he read for several hours in Volume II of Thoreau’s journals, a shelter from the emotional rigors of a difficult day.[liii] That evening, Nellie read to him from J.S. Fletcher’s detective novel The Box Hill Murder, which, Edwin noted, “relaxes my mind—just what I needed.”[liv]

By July 19, Edwin had revised and retyped twenty-one chapters in fourteen days, 223 pages in total. He was up at 5:20 a.m. after a “wakeful night.” He reviewed some of Nellie’s corrections and set about preparing the first two-thirds of the final manuscript for submission to Dodd, Mead for the production of galley proofs. He ordered and numbered the pages and by noon had “the whole thing wrapped up in its Keeboard ‘The Lost Woods’ box to deliver.”[lv]  He took the 12:45 train into the city and arrived in a downpour, taking “muggy, stifling subways by round-about way” to Dodd, Mead’s 28th Street office, probably to keep the manuscript—not himself—out of the rain as much as possible. During a “good meeting” with Edward H. Dodd, Jr., the latter suggested a possible reissue of a revised version of Edwin’s 1942 Byways to Adventure. He also asked Edwin to “supply photos and [an] introduction” for a forthcoming reissue from Dodd, Mead of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden[lvi]—a project which, for Edwin, was especially meaningful in light of recent events. Dodd certainly knew this, and the offering of this project—or at least its timing—may have been intended in part as a modest balm for Edwin’s great suffering, an occupier for a troubled mind and heart. Back in Baldwin by 4:30 that afternoon, Edwin and Nellie went to the theater to celebrate the accomplishments and the future prospects of the day, both of which gave further shelter from, or perhaps tolerable passage through, the present darkness.

Following the celebration of the previous evening, Edwin went directly back to work on July 20, faced with the revision and retyping of nine chapters in seven days. With the arrival of confirmed news of David’s death seeming imminent, his grief-laden efforts were all the more daunting but likewise critical. After a short early-morning trip to the Insect Garden, he began to organize his materials for the remaining chapters.  His fatigue of the recent weeks, however, made sustained work difficult, and he had to lie down and rest for an hour. “If I can get one chapter copied somehow today,” he noted, “will keep on my schedule.” He managed only to type out half of the “Snowflake chapter…in sweltering heat” and quit for the day.[lvii] That night, he garnered his optimism as best he could. “Rested now,” he wrote, “and ready to go!”[lviii] On the following day, however, his fatigue set fully in. With great exasperation, he wrote, “Copy page 1 of ‘Wildlife at Walden’ over 10 times—making typing mistakes over and over. Ready to go through the roof!”[lix] Here again we are reminded of the absence of a delete key in 1945. “My head like a rock,” he lamented, “with heat and fatigue—residue.”[lx] Residue. The residue of longing; the residue of trampled hopes; the residue of time’s indifferent forward march. Still, by evening he had finished the chapter and even took time to mull over plans for “a new book on the injurious insects.”[lxi] Of necessity, he kept his gaze forward.

While toiling away on the first full draft of the The Lost Woods, Edwin had put off writing “The Calm of the Stars”—what the reader might reasonably call the David chapter—until the end. On July 22, however, after a quick trip to the wagon shed at the Insect Garden “to photograph baby swallows,” he set to work on revising it ahead of the other six chapters that remained to finalize. He wrote only one sentence on this effort in the Guild diary: “Fall to on ‘The Calm of the Stars’ and finish it before lunch.”[lxii] With the looming likelihood of receiving confirmation of David’s death—both from the War Department and an expected letter from PFC Harold F. Gould Jr.— Edwin likely strove to complete the chapter as quickly as he could. On the previous day he had expressed his “hope to go faster after today,” and he did so. After completing “The Calm of the Stars,” he went on to revise and retype another chapter. “Five chapters to do in four days,” he noted, “then all will be done!”[lxiii]

The next day, following the pattern of recent weeks—an alternating rhythm of productivity and debilitation—Edwin fell prey to the latter:

Up feeling dead-headed. The successive days of rain; the high-pressure work; the strain of David; the suspense of waiting for a call from Harold Gould—the returning member of Davy’s patrol—and the call from Dodd on how he liked the first 21 chapters—all combined to stall my engine completely.[lxiv]

 

In total, Edwin completed “less than 2 pages on ‘World of the Wild Bee,’”[lxv] disheartening output in light of the revision timeline for the final chapters. Edwin was likely forthright about his struggles with Edward H. Dodd, Jr. during a telephone call later that day. He noted afterward, “I get a reprieve; don’t have to hand the final chapters in until next Monday.”  Feeling relieved, he and Nellie went out to see a movie and were in “bed and asleep by 9” with the “hope to do better tomorrow!”[lxvi] That hope would not, however, come to fruition.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *

On July 24, 1945, the storm cloud that had loomed since April 2 finally and fully broke open. There would be no word from David, not now, not ever. There would be only word of David, and it would come first from Harold F. Gould, Jr., of Plymouth, Massachusetts, in a letter written on small stationary whose only letterhead was the figure of a running G.I. clad in drab fatigues and clasping an M1 Garand rifle, bayonet mounted, a field bag trailing from his ammunition belt. The soldier grins at the letter’s reader—a mask muting the “unredeemed horrors” of war—and that grin must have made the Teales shudder.

The first page of a letter sent by Private First Class Harold F. Gould, Jr. to Edwin Way Teale on July 23, 1945. Gould explained the events leading up to the March 16, 1945 death of David Teale on Germany’s Moselle River during the closing days of World War II.

Gould began by apologizing for not calling, as camp prohibitions had forbidden doing so. “Anyway,” he wrote, “I thought it would be better if I wrote you a letter. I figured that I could explain it to you better.”[lxvii] He wrote of how he and David “used to chum around together quite often,” and how the Tiger Patrol “did mostly night work.” In that capacity, Gould added, David “was very courageous,” and “all the boys liked Dave very much.”[lxviii] These formalities aside—and one imagines the Teales having the impulse to skip over them while, at the same time, dreading to do so—he came “down to the point” and detailed the events that led to David’s death on the Moselle River:

We had received our orders from commander that we were to cross the Mosel[le] River and get some important information that we needed for the attack. We had twelve men in the patrol and four rubber boats. Three men were assigned to each rubber boat. We had been broken up into two six man patrols. We all started in our rubber boats across the river, just as the boats were nearing the enemy side we were opened up on by machine guns. The boys shot back at them until they ran out of ammunition. Then they withdrew so that they could get more ammunition. They came back again and started in their boats across. They met heavy opposition and the boats were sprayed with bullets. Some of the compartments in the rubber boats were shot to pieces so I guess the boys got a little excited when they saw this so they started jumping over. That was their gravest mistake…Especially for Dave because before he went on this patrol he told us he couldn’t swim. He still volunteered to go on the patrol and I’ve always admired him for that.

The last time they ever saw Dave he was in the water calling for help but none of the boys could reach him because he went under this time and never came up. It’s very strange that the army couldn’t find his body.[lxix]

To this account, Harold Gould added a second reference to David’s inability to swim:

If David could swim he would have had a good chance of coming out alive. I still remember what he said before we went on patrol. He said “I don’t know how to swim but I’ll volunteer to go on patrol.[”]

 

This must have confused the Teales greatly. David was, by Edwin’s account, a strong swimmer, a fact supported by a Boy Scouts of America patrol record book among David’s personal belongings. In it, David, as Patrol Leader, had tracked the rank advancements of all of the boys in the Flying Eagle patrol, including himself. On the merit badge roster, beside David’s name, the requisite boxes are checked off for the swimming and lifesaving merit badges.

Harold Gould closed:

I liked your son very much Mr. Teale and I was very proud of him. I know you will always be too.[lxx]

 

Such a statement, though well-intentioned and certainly appreciated, was nonetheless an arrow to the heart. In mid-April, when hope still lived, Edwin had written of David, “He is one of which we are proud in so many ways. And, viewed from the most distant star—remote from our emotions and longings—that is all that counts.”[lxxi] But David’s return, alive, had also counted; so too had the bright future before him—the long walk down the Pacific coast, the possibility of future matriculation at Earlham, the return to Weller Pond, and so much more. All of these would never be. No pride could mitigate the staggering loss of David’s future. “This is it!” Edwin wrote after reading Harold Gould’s letter, “How terrible we feel.”[lxxii] The news was not official, but it was sufficient, and it would be confirmed days later by a letter from PFC Lester Snider, the last Tiger Patrol member to see David alive. There is no record of Edwin having completed any work on The Lost Woods on July 24; even that labor of his heart could offer no refuge. As if an insult to their grief, the afternoon brought the return by special delivery of the package in which Edwin had sent David the Grenfell parka in March, eight days before the latter’s death. It was one more manifestation of a future that would not be. Boxed in thick lines of black ink, Edwin wrote the following in the Guild diary:

On this day hear definitely, but unofficially, that David was killed on the Moselle River near Coblenz, Germany, on the night of March 15-16, 1945—

 

To this he added a bracketed postscript:

How long and how devoutly I hoped this entry would not have to be made![lxxiii]

 

No tears stain this page. Harold Gould’s letter offered not a revelation but a confirmation of what, in their hearts, Edwin and Nellie already knew. Edwin Stroh’s death had confirmed David’s, and both had been foretold by the death of Antonio Alvear. Harold Gould’s account, though vitally important to the Teales, could serve only as a coda. They certainly cried on July 24, 1945, but they did so in the privacy of their own collapsing world. Edwin left no trace of those tears to revisit later, neither through the narrative of his words nor through their partial dissolution by tears on the page. It is an apt analogy for the turning inward that would follow, both from the greater world and, despite their mutual devotion, often from each other.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *

The day after receiving Harold Gould’s letter, Edwin reached him by telephone. Gould shared that “only 4 out of 12—only 1 out of 6 with David’s 2 boats—returned alive after crossing the Moselle.”[lxxiv] One of those four, PFC Lester Snider, of Hennessey, Oklahoma, had been in charge of David’s boat and was “the last one to see David alive.”[lxxv] Snider had returned home, and Edwin wrote to him that afternoon. “Our son, David Teale, was reported missing in action on March 16th,” Edwin began, “and we have had no word from the government since….I have learned that you went across at the same time David did and that you were the last person to see him alive. If you can give us any information about what happened, we will be most deeply grateful.”[lxxvi] Snider received Edwin’s inquiry on July 30 and replied the following day, offering his account:

Six of the boys including your son David volunteered for reconnaissance patrol. We crossed to the east of the Mosel[le] River in two boats. Your son David + another boy were with me in the one boat. We made a successful reconnaissance of enemy positions + possible landing places.

While making the return trip across the river we encountered heavy enemy machine gun + sniper fire. Our boat was hit + sank. And one of the boys was hit but don’t know exactly which one. The last I saw of either of the boys was when they went over the side of the boat into the water.[lxxvii]

 

Just as Gould had done, Lester Snider praised David’s selflessness: “I didn’t know your son very long Mr. Teale. But he was well liked by all the boys. And he was a son to be proud of. He didn’t have to go on this mission, but realizing the danger, volunteered to do so.”[lxxviii] David had volunteered; for this he had died. Although Edwin, half a year earlier, had written of war death that “the collapse of character alone was tragedy,”[lxxix] this abstract philosophy abruptly withered with David’s death. David’s character had not collapsed on the night of March 15, 1945; his courage and his character had towered above those of others. For this David had died, and his death was a tragedy. His life, no matter how its worth had been elevated by his actions, was no less “a plaything of fate,”[lxxx] and this embittered Edwin terribly. “All hope gone,” he wrote. “Life goes on no matter how heavy the heart! Life outlives the joy of life; the spring is wound up and, normally, has to run down. And it can’t be rewound.”[lxxxi] David’s spring had not run down. It never would. It had been cracked by the violent folly of war, and with that fracture had gone all the youthful tension of future possibility.

 

 

Richard Telford has taught literature and composition at The Woodstock Academy since 1997. In 2011, he helped found the Edwin Way Teale Artists in Residence at Trail Wood program, which he now directs. He was a long-time contributing writer for The Ecotone Exchange. He was recently awarded a Rose and Sigmund Strochlitz Travel Grant by the University of Connecticut to support his work on a book about naturalist, writer, and photographer Edwin Way Teale. The Woodstock Academy Board of Trustees likewise granted him a sabbatical for the 2016-2017 academic year to support this work.

 

References

Farrer, Reginald. The Void of War: Letters from Three Fronts. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1918.

Frankel, Max. “150th Anniversary: 1851-2001; Turning Away From the Holocaust.” The New York Times 14 November 2001. Available from: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/14/news/150th-anniversary-1851-2001-turning-away-from-the-holocaust.html

Gould, Harold F. Jr., Letter to Edwin Way Teale, 23 July, 1945, Box 146, Folder 2952, Edwin  Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Gould, Walter F., Letter to Edwin Way Teale, 16 June, 1945, Box 146, Folder 2952, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd  Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

“Ecleasiastes.” The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version: New York: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1952.

Ikeda, Daisaku. The Third Stage of Life: Aging in Contemporary Society: Santa Monica, CA: World Tribune Press, 2016.

Parker Pen Company. Advertisement. The Saturday Evening Post. 1 April 1945.

Snider, Lester L., Letter to Edwin Way Teale, letter, 31 July 1945, Box 146, Folder 2952, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Snider, Lester L., Letter to Edwin Way Teale, letter, 21 August 1945, Box 146, Folder 2952, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, David Allen, Letters to Edwin Way, Nellie Donovan, April to December, 1944, Box 146, Folder 2949, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, David Allen, Letters to Edwin Way and Nellie Donovan Teale, 1945, Box 146, Folder 2950, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. Adventures in Making a Living: Volume II, unpublished journal, February 1944 to May 1946. Box 113, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way and Nellie Donovan, Letters to David Allen Teale, 1944, Box145, Folder 2941, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas    J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way and Nellie Donovan, Letters to David Allen Teale, 1945, Box145, Folder 2942, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas    J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary, 1945. Box 99, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way, Letter to Herbert F. Schwarz 25 May 1942, collection of the author.

Teale, Edwin Way. The Lost Woods. New York: Dodd, Mead , and Company, 1945.

“Tiger Patrol First to Enter Koblenz.” Unsigned news clipping, 1945, no bibliographical information noted.

Ulio, James Alexander, Letter to Nellie Donovan Teale, 3 April, 1944, Box 146, Folder 2952, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Witsell, Major General Edward F., to Nellie Teale, letter, 25 February 1946, Box 146, Folder 2952, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J.   Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

 

Notes

[i] Ecclesiastes 1, 9-13. The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version: New York: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1952.

[ii] Farrer, Reginald. The Void of War: Letters from Three Fronts. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 37-8.

[iii] Teale, Edwin Way. Adventures in Making a Living, Vol II. 3 January 1945.

[iv] Parker Pen Company. Advertisement. The Saturday Evening Post. 1 April 1945.

[v] Teale, David Allen, to Nellie Donovan Teale, letter, 1 November 1944.

[vi] Teale, David Allen, to Edwin Way Teale, letter, 16 November 1944.

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] Teale, Edwin Way. Adventures in Making a Living, Vol II. 8 August 1945.

[ix] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 18 June 1945.

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 20 June 1945.

[xiii] Gould, Walter F., to Edwin Way Teale, letter, 16 June 1945.

[xiv] Ibid.

[xv] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 22 June 1945.

[xvi] Teale, Edwin Way, to David Allen Teale, letter, 18 July 1944.

[xvii] Teale, Edwin Way, to David Allen Teale, letter, 29 July 1944.

[xviii] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 23 June 1945.

[xix] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 28 June 1945.

[xx] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 18 June 1945.

[xxi] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 28 June 1945.

[xxii] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 24 June 1945.

[xxiii] Ibid.

[xxiv] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 25 June 1945.

[xxv] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 27 June 1945.

[xxvi] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 1 July 1945.

[xxvii] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 2 July 1945.

[xxviii] Ibid.

[xxix] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 3 July 1945.

[xxx] Teale, Edwin Way. Adventures in Making a Living, Vol II. 25 August 1945.

[xxxi] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 4 May 1945.

[xxxii] Frankel, Max. “150th Anniversary: 1851-2001; Turning Away From the Holocaust.” The New York Times 14. November 2001.

[xxxiii] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 4 July 1945.

[xxxiv] Ibid.

[xxxv] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 5 July 1945.

[xxxvi] Ibid.

[xxxvii] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 6 July 1945.

[xxxviii] Ikeda, Daisaku. The Third Stage of Life: Aging in Contemporary Society: Santa Monica, CA: World Tribune Press, 2016.

[xxxix] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 8 July 1945.

[xl] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 9 July 1945.

[xli] Ulio, James Alexander, to Nellie Donovan Teale, letter, 3 April 1945.

[xlii] Teale, Edwin Way, to Herbert F. Schwarz, 25 May 1942.

[xliii] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 10 July 1945.

[xliv] Ibid.

[xlv] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 12 July 1945.

[xlvi] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 13 July 1945.

[xlvii] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 14 July 1945.

[xlviii] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 15 July 1945.

[xlix] Teale Edwin Way. The Lost Woods. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1945. 1-3

[l] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 16 March 1945.

[li] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 15 July 1945.

[lii] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 6 March 1945.

[liii] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 15 July 1945.

[liv] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 12 July 1945.

[lv] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 19 July 1945.

[lvi] Ibid.

[lvii] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 20 July 1945.

[lviii] Ibid.

[lix] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 21 July 1945.

[lx] Ibid.

[lxi] Ibid.

[lxii] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 22 July 1945.

[lxiii] Ibid.

[lxiv] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 23 July 1945.

[lxv] Ibid.

[lxvi] Ibid.

[lxvii] Gould, Jr., Harold F., to Edwin Way Teale, letter, 23 July 1945.

[lxviii] Ibid.

[lxix] Ibid.

[lxx] Ibid.

[lxxi] Teale, Edwin Way. Adventures in Making a Living, Vol II. 18 April 1945.

[lxxii] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 24 July 1945.

[lxxiii] Ibid.

[lxxiv] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 25 July 1945.

[lxxv] Ibid.

[lxxvi] Teale, Edwin Way, to Lester L. Snider, letter, 25 July 1945.

[lxxvii] Snider, Lester L., to Edwin Way Teale, letter, 31 July 1945.

[lxxviii] Ibid.

[lxxix] Teale, Edwin Way. Adventures in Making a Living, Vol II. 3 January 1945.

[lxxx] Ibid.

[lxxxi] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 4 August 1945.

Vulnerability Empowering Advocacy: The Phyllis Zlotnick Papers

The current political climate has re-invigorated discussions regarding advocacy as well as boosted interest in the affairs of both local and state government.  It is fortuitous, then, to be working on the collected papers of Phyllis Zlotnick (b.1942-d.2011), who was a pioneering advocate for the civil rights of disabled people in Connecticut.  Her collection of personal papers centers primarily on her work as a lobbyist for legislation pertaining to disabled populations.  Reading through transcripts of her speeches, correspondences, and publications reveals a rich life of political activism, intellectual engagement and staggering patience.

Born with muscular dystrophy, Zlotnick used a wheelchair for most of her life.  In defiance of the convention at the time, Zlotnick’s parents Sidney and Marion refused to institutionalize her because of her disability.  Zlotnick’s education was an uphill battle for Sidney and Marion as well, having to picket the Hartford Board of Education for enrollment into a special education class, and needing to participate in her Portland High School classes via speaker phone.  Despite these isolated experiences, she graduated with honors from Portland High School in 1960.  Six years after her high school graduation Zlotnick would be hired as a receptionist at the Hartford Easter Seal Rehabilitation Center, a job that would prove to be a formative time for her developing acumen in advocacy.

Zlotnick’s work with the Hartford Easter Seal Rehabilitation Center and The Easter Seal Society of Connecticut brought her in contact with June Sokolov, a trailblazer for increasing access to occupation therapy within Connecticut.  Sokolov’s work proved to be a powerful influence and inspiration for Zlotnick throughout her life.  The Zlotnick papers include a large collection of Sokolov’s work, papers written, as well as speeches given, and correspondences made to cultivate awareness on the effectiveness of occupational therapy as a discipline.  The commitment to advocacy and empathy within Sokolov’s works has a clear influence on the directions and writings of Zlotnick herself.

At the start of the nineteen seventies, Zlotnick began to be an active presence for increasing awareness about architectural barriers to disabled populations in Connecticut.  This start to advocacy work would see her contribute repeated testimony before the Connecticut General Assembly, work as an aide to House Speaker Earnest Abate, and eventually be called upon for her input in the Americans with Disabilities Act in the nineteen nineties.  The Zlotnick papers offer an insight into the process of struggling to be heard in legislative and civic meetings, getting laws passed, and then fighting to have those laws enforced and implemented.  The struggles that took place to have the Connecticut legislature pass laws for disabled individuals to have access to buildings and sidewalks involved long struggles for implementation as well as for enforcement.  Zlotnick summarizes the challenges of advocating for equality in her talk entitled “Victory in Pursuit of Patience”,

It’s a seemingly never ending task for recognition of rights; of demonstrating the inappropriateness of exclusionary policies.  There will always be those who are trying to undo or dilute the progress, people who repeatedly have to be educated and reminded of man’s inhumanity to man.  We must keep going until we achieve full equality and integration.

(“Victory in Pursuit of Patience” c. 1992).
One of the most striking features of Zlotnick’s writing is the vulnerability within it.  In her writing one reads not just how architectural and attitudinal barriers (to borrow one of Zlotnick’s own phrases) impact her on a physical and emotional level, but how the legibility of vulnerabilities in disabled populations reminds many with able bodies of the precarious nature of their own mobility, cognition, and autonomy.  In a transcript of Zlotnick’s speech to the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Connecticut in 1974 she writes, “We [disabled people] represent a psychological threat – the average person is afraid of illness and by accepting us he must also accept his own potential for disability.”  Zlotnick engages with these overlapping vulnerabilities in her testimony before the State and Urban Development Committee in 1978,

Many of you know that great numbers of handicapped people can appear to testify or otherwise show support.  You will not see that kind of demonstration today because I am taking a gamble, the biggest one of my life.  Rather than trying to persuade you by intimidation through a sea of wheelchairs, I am going to rely on your intelligence and my personal credibility.  Should pressure tactics by more powerful lobbies who oppose the handicapped, for whatever reasons, break down the members of this committee or another committee should these bills be given a change of reference then I will have led thousands of handicapped people to the slaughter by not having a demonstration today.  I’ve opted for intelligence and wisdom rather than fear and intimidation – please don’t prove I overestimated you.

(Testimony Before the State and Urban Development Committee 1978).

My instinct is to want to push back against the characterization of a group of people advocating for civil rights as intimidating, but in her acknowledgements Zlontick addresses the apprehension of her audience before offering a connection of her own.  This acknowledgement is not an act of apologetics, it recognizes the tacit agreement behind the circumstances of Zlotnick acting as an advocate alone.  Both sides of the conversations should start a discussion with an awareness of what renders them vulnerable to one another.  It is a penetrating insight that sees traction in all vulnerable populations, not just those with disabilities, and exhorts us to conceive of vulnerability as a commonplace to draw communities and identities together rather than build barriers between them.

Patrick Butler is a Ph.D. Candidate in Medieval Studies at the University of Connecticut; his areas of interest are in Middle English romance and depictions of violence and vulnerability.  In addition to his graduate studies and work in Archives and Special Collections, he is a Modern Language Association Connected Academic Proseminar Fellow for the 2016-2017 academic year.

Throwing Bricks at the Temple: Reexamining the Life and Writing of Edwin Way Teale

by Richard Telford

Author’s Note: Though the product of many hours of research, writing, and revision, this chapter is nevertheless a draft; it will be subject to revision as the larger book in which it will appear takes shape. The chapter published below, “Throwing Bricks at the Temple,” follows a previous one published last month, “The Lonely Suffering of the Fallible Heart,” which can be viewed here. For greatest clarity, these chapters should be read in order. I welcome critical response, either in the comment section here or through direct e-mail. I am grateful to the Archives and Special Collections staff for providing me the opportunity to share this work, and to the Woodstock Academy Board of Trustees for awarding me a sabbatical for the 2016-2017 school year so that this work could be undertaken.  Contextual information about the project and manuscript can be found here.

 

Chapter 10: Throwing Bricks at the Temple

Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all.[1]

Ecclesiastes 9: 11

When it occurs to a man that nature does not regard him as important, and that she feels she would not maim the universe by disposing of him, he at first wishes to throw bricks at the temple, and he hates deeply the fact that there are no bricks and no temples.[2]

Stephen Crane, “The Open Boat,” 1897

 

Box 219 of the Teale Papers in Archives and Special Collections at the University of Connecticut houses only one object, a Nazi flag measuring roughly 88 inches by 46 inches. Its folds through 71 years of storage have become deeply ingrained, and the viewer is hesitant to pull and flatten it too much. The remaining half of its red field, torn along a diagonal axis, is still bold. It is a monument to a long-dead empire—a Reich, in its own anachronistic parlance—and it is a monument to the fifteen young men who signed their names in the four quadrants formed by the perpendicular bars of the angled cross that forms the center of the black swastika sewn to the circular white central field. Laying the flag down horizontally, as its signers clearly did 72 years ago, the viewer’s eyes are drawn first to bold green script: “Tiger Patrol 346th Infantry.” The four components of this inscription, staggered across the white field, step down the dark lines of the debased Hindu symbol, the second and the third occupying the horizontal pockets formed by the swastika’s angled tails. The capital letters T, P, and I are drawn in rough, oversized calligraphy, and the infantry numbers are drawn with like flourish. Pride, hope, just action for a just cause—all are expressed by the added insignia of this captured flag.

Just as the swastika divides the patrol and regiment designations, so too does it roughly divide the names of the signers. In the north quadrant of the white central field we see the signatures of Antonio J. Alvear, John A. Thompson, Eugene B. Pings, Frank Minnis; along the north-facing tail of the swastika are the signatures of George W. Muschinske, Roy Salame, and Edwin A. Stroh. In the west quadrant are the signatures of Lester L. Snider and Merle H. Patison; adjacent to them and to the right of the scripted “346th” are those of Mahlon Angstead, Billy Richardson, and Ernest Sachau. In the south quadrant, there is only one signature, that of John Steele. Finally, in the east quadrant, moving south to north, are the signatures of Irving J. Greenfield, Harold F. Gould, Jr., Bill Cummins, and, finally, David A. Teale. One can readily imagine Edwin and Nellie Teale intently searching for David’s signature—for any evidence of their only child, declared Missing in Action “somewhere in Germany” five weeks earlier—when the flag arrived to their Baldwin, Long Island home on May 9, 1945. Noting the flag’s arrival in his Guild diary for 1945, Edwin expressed the hope that he and Nellie might “get in touch with those near here” to learn more of the events leading up to David’s disappearance.[3]

Five weeks earlier, on April 3, the day after receiving the first War Department telegram, Edwin wrote, “For so many days, since [leaving Popular Science Monthly in] 1941, I have been awakening to happy dreams in the work I love—Now we wake to the reality of a nightmare we have dreaded—we are hoping and believing that Davy is ‘safe’ as a prisoner.”[4] Both Edwin and Nellie clung tenuously to such hope and belief as bulwarks against waves of grief that now defined “one of the great crises of our lives.”[5] Three days later, on April 6, Edwin wrote, “Little by little, like an island eroding and disappearing in the flood, our standing-space has decreased—our hopes are now basing themselves on other hopes. Grief comes in waves.”[6] Still, the Teales armored themselves with “thoughts of hope: that patrols are likely to be captured; that the wars may end soon and all prisoners will be released.”[7] David’s work in the Tiger Patrol, conducted mostly near and behind enemy lines, justified this hope, but it likewise placed him in greater danger, and Edwin wrote on April 6 that such hopes were “only small, shining stars in the universal darkness.”[8] Expressing the despair that was the constant counterpoint of such hopes, he wrote, “The sun is gone from the sky.”[9]

Nearly thirty years later, in 1974, coming to terms with his newly received prostate cancer diagnosis, Edwin would reflect back on the agonizing uncertainty of the 132 days during which David was declared missing and his fate unknown to them: “Remembering the year David was missing in action and contemplating my current condition, it occurs to me that, in some ways, it is easier to face the inevitable than the uncertain.”[10] In the early days of April 1945, however, uncertainty was exceedingly more palatable than relinquishing hope to the certainty of David’s death.

The Teales straddled a thin, ever-shifting line between despair and hope, and the fragmental evidence of David’s fate that came to them throughout that dark spring was alternately palliative and jarring. David’s final letter, written March 14, arrived on April 5, thirty-three days before the delivery of the Nazi flag. “How precious and how hard to read,” Edwin wrote of the March 14 letter in the Guild diary, adding, “The date on the outside was March 19th and the postboy thought that meant he was all right”[11]—a thin ray of hope. Edwin found “relief from the pain in my heart reading Thoreau’s journals all afternoon,”[12] a practice he would continue in the coming weeks. In Thoreau’s writings and those of W.H. Hudson, he found sanctuary. On April 5, Edwin noted, “’Newsday’ as well as ‘Review-Star’” had “long announcement[s]” on David’s MIA status. “What a joyous day it would be,” he added, “to see the write-ups changed for the better! I alternate between confidence of hope and the depth of black despair.” Still, he was determined to “hope to the end!”[13]

On the following day, April 6, Edwin finished reading the first volume of Thoreau’s journals. Continue reading

Wild, Outside, in the Night: Maurice Sendak, Queer American Jewishness, and the Child

The following guest blog post is by Golan Moskowitz, a doctoral candidate at Brandeis University, where he received a joint M.A. in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies.  Mr. Moskowitz is the 2016 recipient of the Billie M. Levy Travel and Research Grant, an annual research grant awarded to scholars to encourage use of the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection.  Mr. Moskowitz is also a visual artist with a B.A. in Art from Vassar College.

Children’s books are serious business.  So thought the late Maurice Sendak (1928-2012), who believed that the apparent simplicity of the children’s book – along with children’s talent for intuition and interpretation – made it an ideal form for burying complex messages. Among the most serious of artists to ever write children’s books, Sendak offered messages about how the wider society might neglect or threaten unusual individuals, but also how those individuals might harness fantasy, animal strength, and improvisation to endure and survive.  As a recipient of the Billie M. Levy Travel and Research Grant, I had the privilege of studying several of the collections in Archives and Special Collections, which enriched my understanding of Sendak’s relationships with children’s authors Ruth Krauss (1901-1993) and James Marshall (1942-1992), as well as with children’s literature scholar Francelia Butler (1913-1998). Sendak absorbed much of Krauss’s critical stance toward social conventions of constrained gender and sexuality.  He found solidarity with Marshall’s good-natured cynicism and candidly shared some of his controversial intentions and interesting underlying beliefs with Butler.

Selling over eighty thousand copies by its fifth year in publication, A Hole Is to Dig (1952), children’s literature scholar Leonard S. Marcus writes, first established the twenty-four-year-old Sendak as “a talent to reckon with.”[1] To write the book, which was published as “a series of definitions reflecting childlike logic (many supplied by children themselves),”[2] Krauss studied children at the progressive Bank Street School, collecting definitions offered to her by the toddlers and preschoolers on 3×5-inch index cards.[3] She assembled and typed lists of these definitions; some that did not make it to the final version included: the stomach is a “food factory,” a match is “to light cigarette,” a chimney is “Smoke comes up and Santa Claus comes down,” and a shell is “Lobsters – snap your hand off.”[4] The Krauss papers also include hand-written comments on Sendak’s sketches for the book.  The author advised against pictures of children sitting on books (to get higher up), as books should not be treated “too rough.”  She also asked that for the caption, “dogs are to kiss people,” Sendak include among the other children being licked (each by a different dog) “one polygamous child with many dogs.” [5]

Krauss’s input sheds additional light on the young Sendak’s forming artistic values.  To better access his own vitality and humor, he was learning to revere books as sacred objects while demystifying the dominant, often clichéd narratives of the social order. [6]  Extraneous doodles in Sendak’s layout sketches for A Hole Is to Dig reveal the young artist’s self-liberating impulse during his work on the book. One sketch depicts two nude figures with a relaxed line, one leaning on the other, genitalia exposed.  Beside them, a small girl reclines with a dog, kissing the dog on the mouth. [7] Such free-flowing sensuality surely helped Sendak resist the self-policing of a closeted gay son of Eastern European Jewish immigrants – an essential exercise for an artist to strengthen honest expression and resist cliché. Sendak applied such subversive, child-like flow to the close relationships of his own life, including with Krauss, whom he loved dearly.  When he later visited her on her deathbed, he kissed the withering writer on her lips with tongue, eliciting a giggle that emanated the mirth and energy that was sadly fading from her body.[8] Sendak might have seen himself as something of a playfully welcomed intruder and an anomaly in the social matrix of heterosexuality – not belonging, but carving out a relational position for himself with play and affection.  One of his unused sketches for A Hole Is to Dig depicts a child on his mothers lap with the caption, “Marriage is so your brothers and sisters could get married when they grow up and then you could be the only child.”  A comment below reads, “This needs some rephrasing.” [9]

Sendak viewed illustration as a means for illuminating hidden interpretations or expressing his own emotional truth between the lines of the text. He enjoyed the illustrator’s prerogative, for example, in his Hector Protector (1965), which enlivens a short, ambiguous rhyme: “Hector Protector was dressed all in green; Hector Protector was sent to the Queen. The Queen did not like him, Nor more did the King; So Hector Protector was sent back again.” Sendak’s illustration of the poem creates a face-off between a scandalized, rotund Victorian queen reading Mother Goose and a wild boy, phallus erect in the form of an extended sword, riding on the back of a masculine lion. A serpent tangled around Hector’s sword in the shape of two coiled circles and a lunging head further emphasizes the phallic element (pp.15-16) [image at top]. One young male reader responded to the drawing with a letter to Sendak, asking, “When I grow up will mine be as big as Hector’s?” Describing his drawings for this book as a sort of revenge against critics who found his work too explicit for children, Sendak admitted, “I very consciously, obviously used and played with the snake in just those ways. Those pictures are so obvious it is embarrassing.” [10]

Sendak’s dark sense of humor and questioning of social boundaries was shared by artist and writer James Marshall. Sarcasm and morbid jokes helped them protect themselves against the potential pain that could result from clashing so starkly with aspects of mainstream, bourgeois culture. Both artists were gay men in an era that predated mainstream acceptance of LGBTQ people, especially in the field of children’s literature. A handmade birthday book [11] from Marshall to Sendak brims with delightful snark and suggests a level of solidarity that was rare for the reserved Sendak – a man who once confessed, “My rough time comes when [a] book is over and then I have to go to dinner with people and I am expected to go uptown and act like a grown-up at a party.”[12] Marshall and Sendak, however, much enjoyed their visits with each other.

Marshall seems to have appreciated the latter’s identification with German high culture, playfully inscribing a copy of one of his books to Sendak “For Wolfgang, Carl, Gustav Maurice.” He accompanied the inscription with a drawing of a boy blowing a horn, dressed in the German Romantic style of Sendak’s Outside Over There (1981). [13] Like Sendak’s proclivity for empathetically illustrating pigs, even coming from a culture that treated swine as abject and impure (Bumble-Ardy, House of Sixty Fathers, Swine Lake, etc.), Sendak’s identification with Germany may have reflected his own sense of difference or rejection. Germany and its art were queer love objects for a WWII-era Jewish child of an Eastern European, Yiddish-speaking family – much of which was destroyed in the Holocaust. Like his homosexuality and his veneration of childhood and artistic pursuits, Sendak’s identification with German culture signified a socially rebellious impulse to sometimes honor his own personal tastes and sensory drives even against the expectations of the wider public and of his family heritage. But as children, LGBTQ people, those resisting acculturation, and others who follow their inner drives understand, Sendak knew early on that integrity to an unusual calling could cost him the privilege of social belonging, even as it offered distinction.  An unused panel by Sendak for A Hole Is to Dig paired the caption “Lonely is to be like a star” with the image of a solitary boy staring up at a star.

My research at the Dodd Center adds important elements to my dissertation, which explores how Sendak contributed to shifting conceptions of modern childhood in relation to his own boyhood internalization of his immigrant family’s losses in Europe during WWII and the years surrounding it, as well as his “queer” difference as a gay, physically frail artist. The project examines Sendak’s articulations of how marginalized human beings – including refugees, traumatized individuals, and LGBTQ people – navigate a social order that neglects or threatens them. I am grateful to Melissa Watterworth Batt and Kristin Eshelman for ably administering the Dodd Research Center’s collections, generously facilitating my visit, and making it such a pleasant and productive one.

-Golan Moskowitz

 

[1] Leonard S. Marcus, “Chapter I: The Artist and His Work: Fearful Symmetries: Maurice Sendak’s Picture Book Trilogy and the Making of an Artist,” Maurice Sendak: A Celebration of the Artist and His Work, ed. Leonard S. Marcus (Abrams, 2013) 18.

[2] Vincent Giroud and Maurice Sendak (curators), Sendak at the Rosenbach, exhibition catalog, Rosenbach Museum, April 28-Oct. 30, 1995, 8.

[3] Marcus (2013) 18.

[4] Ruth Krauss, list collected from the class of Dorothy Walker, Group G., January 12, 1951. Ruth Krauss Papers, Series 2, Box 8, Folder 261: “A Hole is to Dig Teachers’ Notes, Jan 11-12, 1951,” Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut.

[5] For unknown reasons, the published drawing does not accommodate this request.  Ruth Krauss, letter to Sendak (“Thursday,” n.y.), Ruth Krauss Papers, Correspondence to Sendak, Series 1, Box 2, Folder 63. Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut.

[6] Typed definitions from the class of Margaret Jane Tyler, Group F, January 11, 1951, Ruth Krauss Papers, Series 2, Box 8, Folder 261, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut.

[7] Maurice Sendak, layout pencil sketch for A Hole Is to Dig, Ruth Krauss Papers, Series 2, Box 8, Folder 270: A Hole is to Dig Layout Sketches by Maurice Sendak, n.d., Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut.

[8] “‘Don’t assume anything’: A Conversation with Maurice Sendak Philip Nel,” 2001, rpt. in Conversations with Maurice Sendak, ed. Peter C. Kunze (Jackson: U. Press of Mississippi, 2016) 138.

[9] Ruth Krauss Papers, Series 2, Box 8, Folder 282: “A Hole is to Dig Cover Paste-up Dummy and Copy (Images not used in book), n.d.,” Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut.

[10] Maurice Sendak, Interview with Francelia Butler’s children’s literature class, April 1976, 19. Francelia Butler Papers, Series 2, Box 9, Folder: “Sendak, Maurice – Children’s Literature,” Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut.

[11] James Marshall, birthday book for Maurice Sendak, Maurice Sendak Collection of James Marshall, Box 2, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut.

[12] Maurice Sendak, Interview with Francelia Butler’s children’s literature class, April 1976, 26. Francelia Butler Papers, Series 2, Box 9, Folder: “Sendak, Maurice – Children’s Literature,” Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut.

[13] James Marshall inscription to Maurice Sendak in Sendak’s copy of James Marshall, The Stupids Die (1981), Maurice Sendak Collection of James Marshall, Box 1, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut.

The Lonely Suffering of the Fallible Heart: Reexamining the Life and Writing of Edwin Way Teale

by Richard Telford

Author’s note: Though the product of many hours of research, writing, and revision, this chapter is nevertheless a draft; it will be subject to revision as the larger book in which it will appear takes shape. Still, I believe it begins an important process of bringing renewed attention to natural history writer and photographer Edwin Way Teale. Teale himself frequently published chapters of his books first in the popular journals of his day, such as Natural History, Audubon, Nature, and Coronet. I welcome critical response, either in the comment section here or through direct e-mail. I am grateful to the Archives and Special Collections staff for providing me the opportunity to share this work, and to the Woodstock Academy Board of Trustees for awarding me a sabbatical for the 2016-2017 school year so that this work could be undertaken.  Contextual information about the project and manuscript can be found here.

 

Chapter 9: The Lonely Suffering of the Fallible Heart

A man said to the universe:
“Sir, I exist!”
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.”[i]

Stephen Crane, from “War is Kind,” 1899

Again and again, reason refutes the claims of worry; again and again, the rational mind points out the mathematical odds and the laws of averages—but again and again, the fallible heart returns to its lonely suffering.[ii]

Edwin Way Teale, March 22, 1945

 

The evening of April 2, 1945 began joyfully for Edwin Way Teale. It was an evening that affirmed his rising stature among the natural history writers of his day and perhaps, too, amongst the former-age titans he revered—Henry David Thoreau, John Burroughs, W.H. Hudson, and others. Two years earlier, he had accepted the John Burroughs Medal for distinguished natural history writing for his 1942 publication of Near Horizons: The Story of an Insect Garden. Now, two years later, he had returned to the American Museum of Natural History in Central Park West, New York, to look on as Rutherford Hayes Platt, a fellow Dodd, Mead natural history writer and photographer, received the Burroughs Medal. Platt’s 1943 This Green World was a book that in spirit, intent, structure, and design closely paralleled Grassroot Jungles (1937) and Near Horizons. Just as Edwin had suggested in 1937 that the amateur student of the insect world could be “like the explorer who sets out for faraway jungles” but do so in “the grassroot jungle at our feet,”[iii] Platt argued in 1943 that such wonders in the botanical world “were not rare nor discovered in a remote place, but were here all the time in the immediate surroundings of the everyday world.”[iv] That evening, Edwin noted later, “Platt pays tribute to my help in his acceptance speech.” He also celebrated his own election as “a Director in the John Burroughs Association” and expressed appreciation for the tenor of the evening, which “from beginning to end was in just the right key. I felt happy, enjoying every minute with no sense of impending doom.” It was “perfectly memorable.”[v]

The brief interlude of unrestrained pleasure that unfolded in “the Hall of the Roosevelt Wing”[vi] on that early April evening offered much-needed reprieve. It was a time marked largely by deep foreboding for Edwin and Nellie Teale as their beloved Davy, their only child, fought near the Siegfried Line during the final collapse of Hitler’s Third Reich. This fear had taken root in the elder Teales’ shared consciousness long before David’s August 1943 enlistment in the Army Specialist Training Program at Syracuse University, long before his transfers to Forts Benning and Jackson after the ASTP was disbanded, and long before his deployment as a Private First Class to the European Theater of Operations in the fall of 1944.[vii] Edwin would later characterize this fear as “the dread of seven years—from 1938 to 1945,”[viii] and it was a dread that consumed the collective consciousness of a generation of parents watching their children come of age during the rise of Fascism and Nazism in Italy and Germany—the future course of which became fully evident with the September 1, 1939 German invasion of Poland—and the apogee of Japanese Imperialism, made plain to the American public by the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The Teales’ dread is evident in a brief but poignant anecdote near the end of the eighth chapter of Edwin’s 1945 book The Lost Woods, a book that, for Edwin, would become inextricably linked to David’s wartime service and to his death.

In the aforementioned chapter, “On the Trail of Thoreau,” Edwin chronicles the final leg of a 1939 car trip during which he traced the famous river journey undertaken by Henry and John Thoreau exactly 100 years earlier. Henry Thoreau, in his 1849 A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, wrote in great part to memorialize John, who had died in excruciating pain in his brother’s arms three years after the trip, succumbing to tetanus. Edwin too, in The Lost Woods, would later recount a trip he and David took by canoe on Middle Saranac Lake in upstate New York. “The Calm of the Stars” would be the last chapter completed for the book’s first draft, written while David was declared Missing in Action in Germany. It, too, would later serve as a memorial. In “On the Trail of Thoreau,” Edwin noted how, one century after the Thoreaus’ journey, on September 2, 1939, “the Merrimack flowed as placidly as before around the great bend of Horseshoe Interval.”[ix] The world’s waters, however, were turbulent and troubled: “Thoreau’s September day had been one of comparative peace in the world,” while, “a century later, it was a time of fateful decisions, of onrushing war, of the breaking of nations.”[x] The conclusion of Edwin’s 1939 journey came one day after Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland, one day before declarations by France and Britain of war on Germany, and six days shy of David’s fourteenth birthday.

Pulling into a filling station that evening, Edwin noticed the attendant, “a young man in his early twenties,” who appeared “silent and preoccupied” as he listened to a “radio […] shattering the Sabbath quiet, raucous with direful news.”[xi] Edwin’s description of this young man is telling. It stands in stark contrast with most of the book’s content, which largely lives up to its subtitle, “Adventures of a Naturalist,” and strays only rarely into social commentary or overt emotionality. Edwin wrote:

We spoke but a few sentences that morning. I have never seen him again. I don’t know his name. Yet, often he has been in mind and his face, like a stirring countenance seen under a streetlamp, has returned many times in memory. Under the blare of the radio, that late-summer Sunday, we were drawn together by a common uncertainty, by a common experience. Although we were strangers before and strangers we have remained since, we were, for that tragic moment, standing unforgettably together. I have often wondered about his fate in the years that followed.[xii]

Continue reading

Great Years, Great Crises, Great Impact: Reexamining the Life and Writing of Edwin Way Teale

by Richard Telford

uconn_asc_1981-0009_box270_env1724_ed_and_nellie_1948Shortly before American natural history writer Edwin Way Teale died in 1980, he agreed, with his beloved wife and working partner, Nellie Donovan Teale, to donate all of his literary and personal papers and related materials to the University of Connecticut. It was an extraordinary gift. Teale documented his working life and his personal life to an astonishing degree, often keeping several journals concurrently, each with a distinct purpose. For example, from 1938 until 1980, Teale kept an annual daily diary. In 1945, of these diaries he wrote, “These books record the days of the great years of our lives.”[i] These were short but highly detailed records. During the same period he kept these diaries, Teale likewise wrote more elaborated journal entries in Adventures in Making a Living, an unpublished, ongoing narrative of his life. This he called the “book of my heart.”[ii] While here, too, he recorded daily events, frequently overlapping those recorded in the diaries, he also reflected on them in deeper ways. Here, he celebrated the triumphs of his life and reconciled the tragedies. Here, he tried to confer order and sensibility on the world of human affairs, a world that often bewildered him. The ninth and final volume of this 43-year journal was dedicated solely to the final days of his life, beginning with his prostate cancer diagnosis in 1974. Even this most personal and final journey he documented in detail and left as a record. And, these two records of a meaningfully-spent life, as rich as they are, represent only a very small fraction of the materials housed in his voluminous papers.

This year, through the generosity of the Administration and the Board of Trustees of Woodstock Academy, where I have taught for two decades, I have been granted a year-long sabbatical to complete research at the Dodd Research Center, research that will enable me to write a book-length work on Edwin Way Teale. This builds upon three years of generous support of my work by the Archives and Special Collections Department at the University of Connecticut, which has provided me financial assistance through the Rose and Sigmund Strochlitz Travel Grant program. I am very grateful for this support, and for the extensive on-site help of the Archives staff, particularly Melissa Watterworth Batt.

John Burroughs, whom Edwin Way Teale admired greatly, wrote in 1902, “The day inevitably comes to every writer when he must take his place amid the silent throngs of the past.”[iii] While this has come to be the case for Edwin Way Teale—and John Burroughs too—I am not convinced it has to be. Teale has much to offer us now, especially as we face an environmental crisis in which our resource exploitation and waste production cannot continue at current rates without grave consequences for the Earth and, ultimately, for ourselves. Now, as I continue my research within the vast holdings of the Teale Papers and begin the book in earnest, I am both awed by the enormity of the task and excited by the opportunity. Teale’s significant body of published work and his profound impact on the modern conservation movement—particularly through his support of and influence upon many of its principle figures, including Rachel Carson and Edward Abbey—merits reexamination.

The generosity of the Archives and Special Collections staff has extended so far as to allow me to publish a series of representative chapter drafts in this forum as the research and writing processes unfold. These will inevitably evolve as I make new discoveries in the collection. Still, even in draft form, I believe that these chapters can play a meaningful part in bringing the contents of the Teale Papers out into the light of public view, perhaps prompting thoughtful reflection on their importance. I am deeply grateful to the Archives and Special Collections staff for this opportunity, and I welcome public comment and insight on my work here, either through the comment forum on the blog or through direct communication (contact information below). .

On a practical note, the first three chapters to be featured in this forum document events in roughly the middle period of Edwin Way Teale’s life. Though I plan to address Teale’s early life in the book as well, my intuition told me to start where I did, during the period when Edwin and Nellie’s beloved son David, their only child, was serving in Europe late in the Second World War, a period that Edwin called “one of the great crises of our lives.”[iv]

Richard Telford teaches literature and composition at Woodstock Academy in Connecticut.  He has a BA in English from the University of New Hampshire, an MS in English Education from the University of Bridgeport, and an MS in Environmental Studies from Green Mountain College. Working with the Connecticut Audubon Society, he helped design and found the Edwin Way Teale Artists in Residence at Trail Wood program, which he directs.  He was recently awarded a Rose and Sigmund Strochlitz Travel Grant by the University of Connecticut to support his manuscript for a book-length work on naturalist, writer and photographer Edwin Way Teale.

References

Burroughs, John. Literary Values and Other Papers. Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company,1902.

Teale, Edwin Way. Adventures in Making a Living: Volume II, unpublished journal, February 1944 to May 1946. Box 113, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary, 1945. Box 99, Edwin Way Teale Papers 1799-1995, Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

Footnotes:

[i] Teale, Edwin Way. Adventures in Making a Living, Vol II. 3 January 1945.

[ii] Teale, Edwin Way. Adventures in Making a Living, Vol II.18 April 1945.

[iii] Burroughs, John. Literary Values and Other Papers. 1

[iv] Teale, Edwin Way. Guild diary 1945. 4 April 1945.

Women of the Black Panther Party

The following post is by undergraduate and UConn History Department intern Maggie Peyton about her current project working with materials in the Archives & Special Collections. 

IMG_3562My name is Maggie Peyton. I am a sophomore here at UConn, majoring in business. I took this opportunity to do research at the Archives & Special Collections because I am very interested in social justice and its history in the U.S. Prior to this internship, I had not taken any history classes on campus or engaged in archival work, so this is a very new and interesting experience.

The objective of this internship is to create an exhibit for the archives for the month of December. My fellow intern and I will be constructing an exhibit about minority women in the Civil Rights/social justice movements of the twentieth century. Specifically, I am focusing on the role of black women. What we know as the Women’s Movement was historically very exclusive and only served to represent upper-class white women. It did not acknowledge nor advocate for the issues unique to women who did not belong to this category. Continue reading

Magdalena Gomez: A Story that Inspires Minority Feminists and All Alike

The following post is by undergraduate and UConn History Department intern Diana Alvarado about her current project working with materials in the Archives & Special Collections. 

The Women's Times, 2004

The Women’s Times, 2004

My name is Diana Alvarado, and I am a first-year student at the University of Connecticut. Lots of people seem to think that being a history major is just about learning the facts of the past, but it really is so much more than that. It’s also about making a connections with stories and getting into the minds of the people in those stories.

At the Archives & Special Collections in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, I have been doing research about second wave feminism, and I found an article in “The Women’s Times” about Magdalena Gomez, a Puerto-Rican poet, playwright, and feminist. While reading the article by Allison Tracy, I was able to get a good look at her life as a minority and a woman. I can understand that also being a Puerto-Rican and female would make it easier for me to relate to Gomez than someone who wasn’t, but her story gives us a look inside the mind the of the feminists who weren’t the center of attention in the movement. Why is this important? It’s important because we can learn so much more about how the movement continues to impact our lives today; we can understand who we are a little more, and we can be more inspired to continue the work that feminists devoted their lives to. Continue reading

Chasing History through Annotations

The following guest blog post is by Daniel Allie, a 2014 graduate of the University of Connecticut’s English Program. While a student, Mr. Allie worked in Archives and Special Collections for two years as a Student Library Assistant. Since graduation, he has turned to the field of History, and volunteers his time at the Mansfield Historical Society and the Connecticut Historical Society as well as researching and writing pieces like this one for Archives and Special Collections.

George L. Rosebrooks's signature as it appears on the side of Experimental Physics

George L. Rosebrooks’s signature as it appears on the side-edge        of the book Experimental Physics

What can a book tell you?

Quite a lot, though not necessarily in the way you would immediately suppose. You can read the text, certainly, but sometimes minor annotations to a volume tell a more compelling story than that.

This is the case for a collection of late nineteenth and early twentieth century textbooks recently donated to Archives and Special Collections. By most estimations, this is dry stuff—titles include Milk and its Products; Elements of Chemistry; and The Beginner’s American History among others—but it was not this specific content that is what is most interesting. The true story lies with the annotations within these volumes, a story of the early University of Connecticut and the surrounding community of Mansfield.

The annotations within the books indicate two separate collections, those of George L. Rosebrooks and of Harold L. Storrs, respectively. It is clear from name alone that Harold L. Storrs is part of the family that founded the University, though this does not necessarily indicate a connection, and is unrelated to what we can learn from his books. We can immediately tell from the books that Harold L. Storrs was likely a generation younger than George L. Rosebrooks, as his books were later-published texts for younger students. While Rosebrooks owned Elements of Chemistry (1881), Storrs owned The Beginner’s American History (1902). I was able to confirm this in a genealogical record of the Storrs family, which indicated that Harold L. Storrs was born on October 2, 18951, while the Commemorative Biographical Record of Tolland and Windham Counties confirms that George L. Rosebrooks was born September 21, 18792. A document in Archives and Special Collections indicates that Storrs was an employee of the university in 19313.

As interesting as it is to learn that Harold L. Storrs was a university employee, though, the books from the Rosebrooks family provide a more compelling story. At the beginning of the project, we knew from the donor of the collection that George L. Rosebrooks was an 1899 graduate of Storrs Agricultural College, and we knew that George L. Rosebrooks’s brother Fred Rosebrooks (also a Storrs Agricultural College graduate) ran the Mansfield, Connecticut poor house.

Fred Rosebrooks's report card, Spring 1889. (Ethel Larkin Papers, Mansfield Historical Society)

Fred Rosebrooks’s report card, Spring 1889. (Ethel Larkin Papers, Mansfield Historical Society)

Knowing that the Rosebrooks family was related both to the early university as well as the Mansfield Poor House raised questions worth investigating about the collection: Could any of these volumes be related to George L. Rosebrooks’s education at the Storrs Agricultural College? Are any of the other volumes in the collection from the the poor house, books meant for the education of resident children?

To answer the latter question, some of the books in the collection which are signed by neither George L. Rosebrooks nor Harold L. Storrs, are in fact didactic texts, earlier dated schoolroom readers such as An Introduction to the Study of English Grammar (1856) and Hillard’s The Sixth Reader (1866). Since these books were not directly connected to any Rosebrooks family member, it seemed possible that they had come from a potential Poor House library.

I was able to further confirm this as a possibility at the Mansfield Historical Society. The book The Mansfield Poor House: A Forgotten Institution includes a transcription of the House’s founding document, which reads, in part: “the said Barrows [founder of the Poor House] further agrees to send all children of a suitable age to school and to furnish them with suitable books”4, thus establishing Poor House provenance as possible, though I would caution that the fact that the books could possibly have been part of the Poor House’s collection is by no means a confirmation that this is true for these specific examples. Any schoolchild of the time could have possessed them.

Far more certain, though, is the books’ connection to the Storrs Agricultural College. Already well documented is the Rosebrooks family’s relation to the early university, a fact attested by an item from the Mansfield Historical Society, Fred Rosebrooks’s report cards. The Ethel Larkin Papers, comprising documents collected by a late Historical Society member, contains the student records of Fred Rosebrooks. Dated to 1888 (a decade earlier than his brother George’s textbooks), these records show Fred Rosebrooks taking such courses as Chemistry, Arithmetic, Physics, and English, out of a possible fifteen subjects offered on the report card at that time5.

With the Rosebrooks family’s connection to the early university already clearly established, it is unsurprising to find that the new collection’s copy of Elements of Chemistry by Elroy M. Avery includes an annotation inside the cover reading “G.L. Rosebrooks Jr., Storrs, Conn. SAC [Storrs Agricultural College]. 97.,” indicating that Rosebrooks had this book for one of his college courses. The Connecticut College of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts Catalogue 1899-1900 partially confirms this, albeit with a different book of the same title. The description of their course in “General Chemistry” has as its text “Williams’ Elements of Chemistry”6.

George L. Rosebrooks's signature, accompanied by the annotations 'Storrs, Conn' and 'SAC. 97', in Elements of Chemistry.

George L. Rosebrooks’s signature, accompanied by the annotations ‘Storrs, Conn’ and ‘SAC. 97’, in Elements of Chemistry.

The coursebook connection is even clearer in the case of the book Milk and its Products. The description of the course “Dairying” in the Storrs Agricultural College Catalogue: 1898-1899, reads “A short winter course in dairying. . . including composition of milk, conditions of creaming, milking for market, butter making, washing, salting, packing, etc. Breeding, feeding, and diseases of dairy cattle are subjects also treated in this course, with such texts as ‘ Milk and its Products,’ ‘ Bacteriology,’ and ‘Feeds and Feeding’”7, thus confirming the actual use of one of the books owned by George L. Rosebrooks in a Storrs Agricultural College course.

So those are a few things a book can tell you. Individually, these texts would perhaps have said little beyond their original subjects. Together, they form a context with each other, through their original owners, illustrating a history, be it local, academic, or familial. What one will find when conducting historical research is never certain, but in searching through the collections of two institutions, the University of Connecticut Archives and Special Collections as well as the Mansfield Historical Society in the search for this collection’s history and significance, I found far more significance to this collection than one would ever expect to find from a collection of century-old textbooks and readers.

-Daniel Allie

1    Durand, Robert. Storrs Family Pedigree Chart. Mansfield Historical Society digital record. Accessed 13 July 2016.

2    “George L. Rosebrooks.” In Commemorative Biographical Record of Tolland and Windham Counties. (Chicago: J.H. Beers & Co, 1903), 420.

3    “Financial Summary: Farm Receipts: Poultry, 1931.” University of Connecticut Agricultural Economics Records, Series VII, Subseries B, Box 42. University of Connecticut Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.

4    “Contracts.” In The Mansfield Poor House: A Forgotten Institution. (Mansfield: History Workshop of The Mansfield Historical Society, 1985), 7.

5    “Storrs Agricultural School: Report of F. Rosebrooks, For the Term Ending Mar. 29, 1889.” Ethel Larkin Papers, Mansfield Historical Society, Mansfield, Connecticut.

6     Connecticut College of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts Catalogue 1899-1900, 25. University of Connecticut Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.

7     Storrs Agricultural College Catalogue: 1898-1899, 13. University of Connecticut Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.

The Fight for the Gun Control Act of 1968

This guest blog post is by Gabrielle Westcott, doctoral student in the Department of History at the University of Connecticut. Ms. Westcott received her B.A. in History from Whitman College and her M.A. in History from the University of Connecticut in 2015.  Her research examines the influence of emotions and personality on twentieth-century U.S. foreign policy.  As a 2016 graduate intern, she spent the summer learning about archival work and exploring the many political collections held at Archives and Special Collections.

In August 1963, after two years of investigation by the U.S. Senate’s Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency and three months before President Kennedy’s assassination, Senator Thomas J. Dodd introduced legislation to amend the Federal Firearms Act of 1938. The bill, S. 1975, addressed the ease with which juveniles and criminals could anonymously purchase mail-order guns and thus circumvent state laws regarding the sale of firearms. As it was first proposed, the bill sought to require individuals who wished to purchase a handgun to submit an affidavit, testifying to their eligibility to purchase a weapon in their home state. The seller would then send a copy of this affidavit to local law enforcement, who would have to authenticate the affidavit before the weapon could be sold. This was later amended so that the seller would simply provide notification of the intended delivery of the firearm to local law enforcement, without having to get police approval of the sale. After the death of President Kennedy, who was shot with a mail-order rifle purchased under a false name, Dodd amended the bill to require an affidavit for both handguns and long guns.

1994_0065_SeriesIII_AdminandLegislativeFiles_Box198_5002-1Yet, Kennedy’s assassination inspired criticism of Dodd’s bill on the grounds that it was nothing more than a hysterical reaction to the president’s death. Responding to these claims, Dodd emphasized in speech after speech that the provisions of the bill were the outcome of a two-year investigation, in which the Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency worked with arms manufacturers, arms dealers, law enforcement, sportsmen’s groups, the Department of Justice, and the Treasury Department. Furthermore, the bill had the support of each of these groups, and the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association testified to his organization’s support of the bill on multiple occasions.

Despite widespread support, by the end of 1964 the bill was stalled in the Senate Commerce Committee. “What seems to be influencing some members of the Committee to withhold action on this bill,” Dodd noted, “are the protests of people who are either misinformed or bamboozled. In most cases these misinformed protesters have been misled by those who have financial interests in gun running, and by those who have suspect motives which are cloaked under the false cover of anti-Communism, or patriotism, or Constitutional liberties.”[1] Witnesses testifying before the Commerce Committee during the hearings on S.1975 expressed concern that the bill would lead to the registration of firearms. Because sellers would be required to send information about the purchaser’s identity and a description of the weapon to local law enforcement, one witness argued that “whatever regulatory body is chosen to interpret this requirement and draft the applications or forms involved will most assuredly ask for the serial number of the firearm involved. We submit that this is registration.”[2] The Washington Post reported that the National Wildlife Federation and the National Rifle Association opposed the bill’s requirement that the serial number of a gun be reported to law enforcement, while 1994_0065_SeriesIII_AdminandLegislativeFiles_Box201_5133-1constituents writing to Dodd and members of the committee expressed concern over the “gun registration provisions” of the bill. Yet there were not, and never had been, gun registration provisions in the bill. Dodd testified to this fact in front of the Committee, noting, “My bill is not aimed at the weapon, it is aimed at the unfit user. . . . There is no requirement that the serial number of a gun purchased by mail order be recorded at any time by any agency.”[3] In the face of such opposition, S. 1975 died in committee. Determined to press on, Dodd reintroduced the bill to the 89th Congress on January 6, 1965 under the title S. 14.

Two months later, on March 8, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson spoke to Congress and proposed a program to wage a war on crime that included controls on mail-order weapons. Seizing the opportunity for a stronger gun control bill provided by the president’s speech, Dodd introduced two bills on behalf of the administration, which Dodd noted, “call[ed] for controls more comprehensive and stringent than I dared to hope for.”[4] The proposed legislation prohibited mail-order sales to individuals, such that persons wishing to purchase a mail-order firearm would have to place their order through a licensed dealer. Furthermore, federally licensed importers, manufacturers, and dealers were prohibited from selling firearms, with the exception of rifles and shotguns, to anyone who was not a resident or businessman of the state in which the seller was located. Finally, federally licensed importers, manufacturers, and dealers were prohibited from selling any type of firearm to an individual under 21 years of age, although rifles and shotguns could be sold to individuals over the age of 18.

It would be three years before Dodd’s legislation prohibiting the interstate mail-order sale of handguns would finally pass in the form of Title IV of President Johnson’s Omnibus Crime Bill. The intervening years would be marked by increasing racial tension, the outbreak of riots in cities across the country, mass shootings, and the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Dodd_1994_0065_SeriesIII_AdministrativeandLegislativeFiles_Box205_5425-1Kennedy.

On August 1, 1966, a student at the University of Texas in Austin climbed to the top of the University of Texas Tower and opened fire, leaving 14 people dead and 31 people injured. It was the first mass campus shooting in the United States. The following day, Dodd urged Congress to take action on his firearms legislation, noting, “It is tragic indeed that those of us who call for stronger firearms control laws must rest our case on such headlines as these. How many times will we stand witness to such atrocities before we act? How many more people must die before the American public, the Federal Government and the Congress call in unison for effective firearms legislation?”[5] When two mass shootings occurred in New Haven in that same month, Dodd once again appealed to Congress. “It happened last week. It happened this week. It will happen next week. And it will continue to happen until there are stricter gun laws.”[6] 50 years later, in the wake of Aurora, Sandy Hook, Charleston, Orlando, and countless others, Dodd’s words should haunt us.

While much of the debate surrounding gun control focused on preventing “criminals, drug addicts, mental defectives, and irresponsible juveniles” from purchasing firearms, racial tension undoubtedly played a role in who was deemed fit to own a gun. In 1966, a group in California calling themselves the Black Panther Party for Self Defense began openly carrying firearms to protect African American communities against police brutality. At the time, there was no law prohibiting the open carry of a weapon in a public space. Responding to the actions of the Black Panthers, the California legislature proposed the Mulford Act, which would make it illegal to openly carry loaded weapons. The NRA, it should be noted, supported the legislation. On May 2, 1967, a group of armed Black Panthers entered the chamber of the California State Assembly and interrupted a legislative session to protest the Mulford Act. Speaking to the Senate, Dodd called the incident “a striking example of the need for effective gun control legislation. . . . These armed men serve as a chilling reminder that legislation should be passed swiftly to keep firearms out of such irresponsible hands.”[7] That same month, the NRA encouraged their members to arm themselves to act as “a potential community stabilizer” in the case of urban rioting.[8]

On June 6, 1968, the day after Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated, Johnson signed into law the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act. Title IV of the Act prohibited the interstate mail-order sale of handguns; however, the amendment to prohibit the mail-order sale of rifles and shotguns was defeated. In the wake of Kennedy’s death, and with the support of the Johnson administration, Dodd introduced four new firearms control bills, calling for the inclusion of rifles and shotguns in the Omnibus Crime Control Bill, strict control over the sale of ammunition, the registration of all firearms, and the licensing of all firearms owners. Despite widespread public support for licensing and registration, opponents of gun control managed to remove those provisions from the final legislation. Signed into law on October 22, the Gun Control Act of 1968 was the culmination of five years of legislative effort and seven years of investigation on the part of Senator Dodd and the Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency.

-Gabrielle Westcott, August 2016

[1] “Press Release Concerning Interstate Weapons Traffic,” August 6, 1964, Thomas J. Dodd Papers, Box 200:5080, Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut.

[2] Interstate Shipment of Firearms: Hearings Before the Committee on Commerce, United States Senate, 88th Cong. 194 (1964), ProQuest Congressional Publications (Permalink: http://congressional.proquest.com:80/congressional/docview/t29.d30.hrg-1963-com-0043?accountid=14518) (accessed August 3, 2016).

[3] “Statement of Senator Thomas J. Dodd Before the Senate Committee on Commerce,” March 4, 1964, Thomas J. Dodd Papers, Box 198:5002, Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut.

[4] “Press Release Concerning Amendments to Federal Firearms Act,” March 22, 1965, Thomas J. Dodd Papers, Box 201:5180, Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut.

[5] “Press Release Concerning Need for Stronger Gun Control Legislation,” August 2, 1966, Thomas J. Dodd Papers, Box 204:5363, Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut.

[6] “Press Release Concerning a Shooting in New Haven, CT,” August 26, 1966, Thomas J. Dodd Papers, Box 204:5370, Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut.

[7] “Stronger Gun Laws Needed,” May 31, 1967, Congressional Record, Thomas J. Dodd Papers, Box 207:5550, Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut.

[8] “No Vigilantes, Please,” May 31, 1967, Congressional Record, Thomas J. Dodd Papers, Box 207:5501, Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut.