Sunday, July 04, 2010

Uncle Herman's World-- Key Players

Key Persons In Uncle Herman's Life During His Shaker Hollow Years, written by Cousin Richard Orton and I:

Herman Smith: 1881-1951. Herman was the youngest brother of my great-great grandfather Fred C. Schmidt (1858-1931). He was born Hermann Georg Ludwig Schmidt, the last of 7 children, grew up in Niles, Michigan, and was an orphan at 15. After inheriting his parents' property, he sailed around the world. He settled in New York City and worked for Paramount Pictures in Astoria in the 1920's. Later he became a minor radio personality and author of magazine articles and two small cookbooks.

Miss Rena Harrell is she whom Herman was corresponding. She was a librarian at Queens College in Charlotte, NC. It is not clear how Herman and Miss Harrell met but it is clear that there was never a romantic involvement, though there did appear some affection, if not somewhat one-sided. It also appears that they never met personally, or, if they did, it was brief.

Juliana Force was the first Director of Manhattan's Whitney Museum of American Art founded by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney in 1931.

Born in 1876 in Pennsylvania to German immigrants, Juliana Preiser had to make her own way, as did Whitney, a sculptor, struggling against social restrictions to pursue her work. Force, hired as Whitney's secretary and manager shortly before WW I, became a legend for her aid to artists via Whitney funds and as principal author of the policies of the Whitney Museum.

Juliana married Dr. Force in 1912 and they lived in Manhattan. Both making good money and in need of a retreat in the country, they bought Briar Sheaf Farm in Bucks, County, Pennsylvania near where Juliana had grown up. Juliana began acquiring Shaker furniture, widely available in the area, to fill the house, but the house was too far away to get to regularly, so she bought a second house closer to Manhattan. Eventually she moved her collection of Shaker furniture to this 18th century farmhouse and named it Shaker Hollow.

It is not clear how she knew Uncle Herman but during the Depression he was going through hard financial times, having trouble making his rent at London Terrace Apartments. Juliana was not immune to the impact of the Depression and faced with an indifferent caretaker couple she was paying to look after Shaker Hollow, made it available to Uncle Herman in late 1932.

Geraldine Farrar: There were famous prima donnas before Geraldine Farrar.  Maria Malibran, Jenny Lind, Melba and Tetrazzini, but none reached a wider audience than this American soprano. Geraldine Farrar was born in Melrose, Massachusetts, the daughter of Sidney Farrar, a professional baseball player and his wife Henrietta Barnes. She studied voice in Boston, New York, and Europe, creating a sensation in Berlin with her debut as Marguerite in Gounod's Faust in 1901. She was introduced to the Kaiser and among her fans in Berlin was Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor August Ernst, Crown Prince of Prussia, with whom she conducted an affair beginning in 1903. A later affair with Toscanni caused him to be removed from the Met.

After appearing at Monte Carlo for several seasons, she made her debut at The Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1906. She developed a popular following in such roles as Carmen and Madame Butterfly and she knew personally many of the music greats of her day, including Saint Saens, Massenet, and Puccini. She appeared with Caruso in over 150 performances.

Later, between opera seasons, she began starring in silent films, beginning with "Carmen," directed by Cecil B. DeMille. Filmed during the summers in California, she made 6 films with DeMille, including one about Joan of Arc.

During her 16-season reign at The Metropolitan Opera, Farrar commanded higher fees and appeared in more new productions than any other leading soprano. She sang 671 performances of 34 roles in 29 operas, a record matched by no soprano in the eight decades since. She retired from opera at the age of forty and moved to a fine house near Ridgefield, Connecticut, but appeared in recitals until 1931, and was briefly the commentator for the radio broadcasts at the Met.

During her years in Ridgefield she did volunteer work for the Red Cross and the Girl Scouts, and during the war served on the War Price and Ration Board. She died at 85 and was buried in Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York.

Farrar seems to have been great friends with Uncle Herman as he mentions her often in his letters, but it isn't clear if they met after he moved to Shaker Hollow or during her hey-day at the Met. In any case, she seems to have been his entrée to meeting Lily Pons and the very wealthy Gilmore family.

Lily Pons: Lily was another great Soprano of The Metropolitan Opera.  She was French-born, studied at the Paris Conservatory, and made her debut at The Met on January 3,1931.  When she married conductor André Kostelanetz, she was married secretly at Shaker Hollow and would have none other than HMK cater the affair for her.  HMK's letter describing the day is found herein.

Shaker Hollow: 18th century farmhouse bought by Juliana Force. When she moved her collection of Shaker furniture there, she named it Shaker Hollow. Uncle Herman was invited to live there in late 1932 as an economy move for both of them. He opened a popular tea room there, meeting and entertaining the area's affluent residents in high style.

After about 4 years, circumstances changed for both Juliana and Herman. Hard times hit her and she needed to sell Shaker Hollow to save Briar Sheaf Farm in Pennsylvania. Herman lost some of his help with the tea room and couldnt manage it on his own. Ultimately, Juliana sold the Pensylvania property to George S. Kaufman, the playwright, and kept Shaker Hollow. Herman moved to a nearby property in Connecticut owned by other wealthy benefactors, the Gilmours.

In 1940, Juliana still owned Shaker Hollow and was using it on weekends, always calling the new caretaker couple from Manhattan to prepare for her arrival. But one day, while visiting friends in nearby Connecticut, she stopped by unannounced and knocked on her own front door. Her housekeeper answered and immediately slammed the door in her face. Running around to an unlocked side door, Juliana walked into her living room and saw it covered with swastickas, Nazi flags, and pictures of Adolph Hitler. Her "couple" were part of the German Bund and used the house for meetings and a Nazi mail drop.

She never felt comfortable in the house again and sold it soon after. Still lived in, it sold in recent years for $1,000,000.00.

Lady Lucile Duff-Gordon (wife of Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon): A leading British fashion designer in the late 1800s- early 1900s with branches in Paris, Chicago, and New York, whom Herman managed for many years. She was a Titanic ship-wreck survivor. Lucile is credited with training the first fashion models (then called mannequins) and the creation of the catwalk-style fashion shows.

Elizabeth Weber-Fulop:  One of the greatest of contemporary Austrian/American painters. Moved to New York. She painted a portrait of the apricot and black Shaker Hollow Tea Room, however it has yet to be located.  She and husband Emil Weber were late owners of the historic King Caesar House in Duxbury, MA, selling it to the Duxbury Rural and Historical Society.

Richard Hall: Roommate and close friend of HMK

Charles Vincent Mullen: Roommate and close friend of HMK.  Worked for General Motors in Manhattan.

H.H. Brickell, aka Herschel Brickell, Ill-fated Editor and Critic: When he was a child, Henry Herschel Brickell was an omnivorous reader, consuming one or two volumes a day during summer vacations. He was, he later stated, "unwittingly preparing myself for the book reviewer's life in New York." The Mississippi native fought in the Mexican War in 1916, was a newspaper reporter and editor in the south, and came to New York in 1919 to work for the New York Post as a news editor, and shortly thereafter as book review editor. He later became General Manager of Henry Holt & Company, and in the 1930's, wrote book reviews for the New York Times, New York Herald Tribune, and the Saturday Review of Literature.  Known as a famous literary critic, recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1939, Brickell is said to have launched Margaret Mitchell's career with his review of Gone With The Wind beginning their close friendship

At some point Brickell became acquainted with Margaret Mitchell, and following publication of "Gone With The Wind" in 1935, her life was hell. People knocked on her door day and night, books in hand, asking for autographs, asking for answers to questions, and asking for money. In July of 1936, she traveled to New York to sign the contracts for the film rights.

When the contract was signed, her lawyer returned to Atlanta, and Brickell took Mitchell to his home in Ridgefield, Connecticut. When they arrived, Mitchell was suffering a "stroke of blindness." She was "in a bad way" and stayed with Brickell and his wife Norma for about 2 weeks, in seclusion in a dark room before returning home.

In 1941, Brickell became editor of the annual O'Henry Memorial Short Story Anthology. An assignment in Spain in the 1930's left him with a love of all things Spanish, and he became Senior Cultural Relations Assistant to U.S. Ambassador Spruille Braden, and later was Chief of the State Department's Division of Cultural Cooperation for Latin American. He continued to write and edit stateside and to travel to South America until one day in 1952, when, at the age of 63, he took his own life at his Branchville home. Police and medical officials attributed his suicide to "hard work and a tendency to despondency."

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Famous Players - Lasky Corporation

Famous Players - Lasky Corporation, originally uploaded by TSTnT.
This is the entrance to the old Lasky Corporation building which was on South Wabash Avenue in Chicago. They tore down the building but let the film department at Columbia College Media Production Center have the archway because Lasky Corp. was the birthplace of Paramount pictures. This is right behind the big registration chart in the lobby.

Uploaded by TSTnT on 1 Apr 10, 12.01PM EDT.
Shared with permission. Thank you TSTnT.

Friday, December 25, 2009

1926, Jun 22: HMK to HH Brickell-- Business Transactions

Famous Players-Lasky Corporation
Paramount Pictures
Sixth and Pierce Avenues
Long Island City, N.Y.
Astoria 3500
Cable Address FamFilm

June 22, 1926

Mr. Herschel Brickell,
Paris, France.

My dear Herschel:

No doubt you have been wondering and perhaps with some disturbance of mind, as to why I had not written you after my first cable that everything at your apartment had been settled -- but I am sure Charlie has explained that part of the difficulty to you, namely: that John Peyton's friends who expected to come north changed their plans two days after I cabled you and directly after that John himself lost his position through the closing of the New York office of the firm by whom he was employed.

The apartment was vacant for some time, and owing to the fact that furnished apartments are a drug on the market at this season of the year, I advertised it in the Times and finally placed it with the Spencer Real Estate Company. Between us both we succeeded in renting both the front and rear apartments, but were compelled to take less than we had hoped, in order to get anything at all.

The front apartment rents for $75 and the rear one for $30, making a total of $105 which does not cover your rent, but it was either this or nothing and I felt it was wisest to get at least this much rather than leave you with this additional burden.

The girls who have the apartment seem to be all right, but we can best judge that when they first pay their rent.

The enclosed letters will explain themselves, and having heard nothing from Miss Chisholm, I have paid the telephone bill which-- she and her sister-in-law left, amounting to $22.56. The statement which John Peyton made out shows the expenditures of everything he collected from Miss Chisholm with the exception of a few cents.

I received from Miss Ozburn $75 and from the Spencer Co. $15, making a total of $90.

Not being able to find any curtains in the apartment of any kind, I was compelled to buy both sash curtains and overdrapes which I had made here at the studio and which cost $13.95. The advertisement in the Times cost $2.60 and with the telephone bill of $22.56 this makes a total of $39.11.

I am depositing to your account, the balance of $50.89 which clears matters until the first of July.

I am sorry you have had such difficulty with this matter and I know that it has worried you, but I think everything will now be all right. I wish, however, that you would write me as to when you expect to return so that I can give due notice to the tenants who I think have been informed that they may have the apartments until October first as I have understood that this is when you are to return.

As soon as I find time I will write you a more personal letter and tell you the news of our mutual friends and other things.

Hoping to hear from you when you get time and with my best love to Norma, I am

Yours faithfully,


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

1930, March 6: HMK to Rena Harrell- A Thank You

My dear Miss Harrell;

It is so difficult for me to find adequate words to express my gratitude for the beautiful things you have said about my little story and if it has brought so much enjoyment to you and to your friends, then my reward is already greater than I deserve.

Some years ago in Colombo in Penang I came in my wanderings upon a little Chinese temple whose altars were gay with little garments of colored paper and my priestly guide told me that it was a shrine for childless women. It was there that “The Smile of Buddha” was born.

You are right in your belief in the utter purity and devoutness of both my Chinese children and the absolute conviction of the little bride that what occurred was a miracle on the part of her divinity in answer to her prayers.

That you should have read my intent so clearly and that you should have found my method of expressing it worthy of such high praise is encouragement that is as priceless to me as it is unexpected.

I shall write now with even greater hope and try to live up to your expectations and I thank you and your friends on the faculty of Queen’s College, very, very deeply indeed.

I should like more than I can say to see a copy of the “Sceptre,” and do you know that Mr. Payne, the editor of The Review, is going to publish your letter to him?

Thanks again for your great kindness for as I said before it gives me new hope in a field in which I am as yet only a novice.

Yours gratefully,
HMK Smith

26 Greenwich Avenue
New York City.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

1930, April 17: HMK to RH- Illness

Thursday, April 17, 1930

My dear Miss Harrell;

This is just a line to thank you for your lovely letter which deserves the long answer it will receive a little later. I have had with my other burdens the most ungodly attack of grippe which has left me a little like a young calf as far as legs are concerned but I am being carted off to Cape Cod this afternoon for a week and the sea will set me up again. It helped to know that where you were there were cherry trees and dogwood and daffodils. I went to the flower show here just before I was imprisoned and I thought that all godless folk should be forced to go and see it too. There were millions of roses and no one but an utter fool could see so much beauty and not know that it was planned by and came from some source call it God or Buddha or Tao as you will that must have all the other attributes of beauty too – love and justice and mercy and immortality as well.

Your letter as published in the April Review was another thing that made life quite another thing than a succession of ice packs and a fight for breath and I am grateful to them for having published it and far more so to you for having written it. It was a tremendous compliment and a great encouragement. When I am well enough I hope you will let me send you a token of my appreciation. It will be something Chinese that I hope will always recall to you The Smile of Buddha.

Yours very sincerely,
HMK Smith

Sunday, November 22, 2009

1930, June 2nd: HMK to RH- Silver Lotus

Monday, June 2nd, 1930

My dear Miss Harrell;

If forgiving is divine, then it is you who must take on divinity and forgive me both for not having answered your letter of the last of April and finding nothing in it for me to forgive as you have asked me to do in your letter from Black Mountain.

After living for fifteen years in the most comfortable disorder of an old house I have but recently removed to an apartment in the tiny little cottage of which I enclose you a picture. I hated to leave the old place with its associations and memories of friends, some of whom have taken the long, long journey but, like a comfortable old coat, the place had served its purpose and my wise doctors said I must no longer climb three flights of stairs that took me to my rooms. So here I am so belittled and modernized, so overwhelmed with service and flunkeys and so delightfully comfortable that I am torn between awe of these gentlemen in uniform and regret for my shabby elegance of other days although my glass enclosed shower is a frightful temptation to indulge in its continued luxury and forget forever the length of time it took to get a foot of reasonably warm water into the old tub.

My old things, mostly from the Cape, fit nicely into their new surroundings and seem all ready to have become a part of them. The walls of my living room are a warm apricot—my rug amethyst, my slip covers apple green and my glazed chintzes pale yellow wit all the other colors in it. But perhaps when you come to New York you will come and see it, and, incidentally – me - and that will be a great shock to you I’m sure.

Last week and again today I have been one of the judges with several snobbish and too wise ones from Vogue, Harpers, etc. at an art school passing on costume and design and refusing to agree with any of them from which I get a tremendous kick. Next Monday I talk to the graduating class of another art school on “Color,” a subject by the way, that holds for me the deepest interest. My newest child—“Silver Lotus,” is in the hands of the editor of the N.A. Review. Herschel Brickell liked it perhaps better than the first one but I can not say that I do though I feel very tenderly for poor little Silver Lotus. If they take it then I shall send you something that she gave me long ago in Japan, so you must wait until I know. I should like to borrow your book, and return it with my thanks for your kindness and the Chinese stories which I knew that I shall love.

Yours faithfully,
HMK Smith

Sunday, November 15, 2009

1930, June 18th: HMK to RH - A Gift

June 18, 1930.

My dear Miss Harrell,

Thanks for the book which in spite of an endorsement by Mr. Daniels does in the brief glance I have been able to give it, disclose some of the charms which you said that it had for you. I knew several just such ladies as are described so vividly in one chapter, some even more interesting about which I may write later myself. Thanks again.

I know you will be honestly glad for me when you hear that the [North American] Review has bought my "Silver Lotus" and that it will appear in the August issue. And to celebrate that and as a tiny token of my appreciation of your encouragement I am sending you something that I have treasured for many years. It is a tiny "sake" cup given me in Japan by a "Hangyoku," a child dancer in a geisha house who is the heroine of my story although it is not of course the real story of her life. It was in the New Year season and she drank my health from it and I have used it since as a very private ash tray. I hope you will like it and that you will accept it from "Silver Lotus."

Yours faithfully,
HMK Smith

Friday, November 13, 2009

1930, July 13: HMK to RH - Cape Cod, Books, and Politics

217 Main Street
Kingston, Mass

Sunday, July 13th, 1930

My dear Miss Harrell,

     Your kindness in sending me this extremely interesting photograph of yourself surely deserved a far prompter acknowledgment than this belated one and I have no excuse to plead except that I came on to Cape Cod almost the next day and I have just been imbibing the beauty of this lovely country ever since.  There are acres of pink rambler roses, delphinium, Madonna Lilies, and trees that have stood here since before the Revolution and snowy white Cape Cod cottages with green shutters and picket fence enclosures.  And now that I have imbibed nothing but sea air and such beauty I can get down to work again.  Your picture was doubly interesting for you are not the least what I pictured you to be and I am very grateful to you for the great compliment you pay me in sending it.  I too am probably nothing like what you may have imagined the author of "Buddha" to be so perhaps it is just as well that you do not know for it is much nicer I am sure - not to exchange a thousand charming possibilities for one grim fact. 

I read your book and it has flashes of real beauty but it is so clogged with smug self-righteous propaganda and so full of palpable falsehoods that it exasperated me beyond words.  Having been connected with the government under no less a person than the now President, I know with what fodder a too gullible andromantic people were fed and if you have read the Post articles on war propaganda written by the head of the British Intelligence Department, you know that all that stuff was not in a single instance based on fact.  As a matter of fact I have been tempted to write a story on what that very kind of lying has done to people who accepted it in good faith and went about preaching it as gospel truth and then woke up that they had been betrayed into becoming the super liars of the universe.  Never again for me.  And now I have asked the Review to send you a copy of the August issue with "Silver Lotus."  I hope you will like her and that you will feel with me that her sacrifice was not in vain.  Do let me know as soon as you have read it for I shall be holding my breath for your opinion.  A friend of mine, a very famous old actress past 70, tells me that I must go on with the man-child born to the girl in "The Smile of the Buddha" for she insists that the child of such an almost immaculate union was destined for great things.  Perhaps I shall.  Do write me when you can.  Your letters are more than fascinating.

     HMK Smith

Thursday, November 12, 2009

1930, July 19: HMK to RH - Errors in Silver Lotus Publishing

Saturday July 19th, 1930

My dear Miss Harrell;

     The advance copies of the August Review have come to hand and I am exasperated beyond words.  I asked them to send me an author's proof but they said that they had discontinued that practice as unnecessary.  They then proceeded not only to cut the story which is, of course, their privilege but also to leave out some  words and substitute others which change the story into something crude and careless.

     Do not, I beg of you, read it, if they have not as yet sent you your copy, but wait until I can send you the original manuscript which will reach me Monday.  I should not like you, of all people, to see it as it is and think that I had submitted it like that.  Then you may read it and see what they have done to it.  The most unforgivable thing was the substitution of the "with" for the word "for," so making of what was a beautiful picture of my little "Silver Lotus" doing the exquisite ancient dances of her calling into a bawdy scene of a kind familiar only in the brothels of the Occident.  Even in this jazz crazed age, the Japanese do not dance with each other and these old dances are still  done in the Yoshiwara, not with men, but for them.

     You will note the absence of important predispositions, etc. and they put in the word "able" in connection with the white Iris, for no reason that I can discover.  So on this lovely morning I am in a temper that is not nice to see or to think of but I am sure you will know what one feels when a child of the mind is thus mutilated.

    Thank you for being patient with me.  
HMK Smith

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

1930, July 23: HMK to RH - Reply to Telegram Re: Silver Lotus

Wednesday, July 23rd, 1930

My dear Miss Harrell,

     Your telegram sent to New York has reached me here and I am very happy that you like my poor little Silver Lotus and that she has touched your heart.  Tears are a great tribute and to thank you, I sent you the original manuscript, penciled and edited as it is.  It is uncut and unpolished by alien hands and just as I wrote it.  Keep it and let me know what you think it gained by the cuts they made in it.  The verses are mine, written long ago and once set to music.  I await your letter and with my thanks for it and your generous kindness, I am
Yours faithfully,
HMK Smith

Sunday, November 08, 2009

1930, c. Sept 4: HMK to RH - Banter, "Daughter of Samurai" Denial


My dear R.C.H.

     Thanks for the lovely little verse and how wise of you to find a far lovelier sermon in the moon-flowers than in the musty words  of half-forgotten creeds.  Thanks too for the long letter which must have taken much of your time when you could not spare it.  But I am sorry to disappoint you.  I did not write "The Daughter of the Samurai," nor have I read it.  Tell me who did write it and where I may find it for since you have paid it so high a compliment, and me a greater one in thinking it was mine, I must read it post-haste.  Your letter makes my curiosity a burning one since you were so sure the story was mine.  If only a line, let me know where I may find it.
     I don't know if I can forgive you for asking the head of the Salvation Army in Japan about my "Silver Lotus" and her sisters of the dusk.  Nor the missionary either.  How could you expect them to say or to believe anything else with their effrontery in trying to force a God upon a race who have the decency with a few others to admit that they know nothing of what God is like or what he disposes.  The more I read of the philosophy of the East, the more I know how infinitely wiser they are than the cocksure West who know all about God  and even tell him what to do.  Aside from that, my story was written in a time, thank God, when there were no Salvation Army workers nor any missionaries in Japan nor had the virtues of the Occident come in to poison the minds and morals of a simple race.  That what they say of the Orient and the geisha of today is true, I will not question, but with the examle of commercialism that we have set them, who can blame them if they think that we are right.  You see, I have known so much of my life that the thing your missionaries call virtue is only a relative thing.  Perhaps you have read The Wind Bloweth by Donn Byrne.  If not, do read it and ponder the Scandinavian lady who was a member of the sorry sisterhood in the Argentine.  What I mean is that I have known of that class who had souls so virginal, so right, so strong, so free, so generous, that one wonders.  And that's that.

     What is your friend Dr. Wilson thinking of when beauty has become the new cult of our splendid nation along with miniature golf.  No beauty or art in industry.  Why, there is nothing else and if you will show him "The Ladies Home Journal," and the "Saturday Evening Post," I am sure he must be convinced that industry here thinks and acts only in terms of beauty.  I am glad you have got a Lapis Lazuli chain.  It is a jewel of great virtue, will protect your eyes, calm your manner and........ [Page missing - END POST] 


Saturday, November 07, 2009

1930, Sept 26: HMK to RH - Literary Analysis of "Daughter of the Samurai"

Friday Morning, September 26, 1930

My dear R.C.H.,

     Last night quite by the sheerest accident I picked up a copy of the Journal  in the house where I am staying and there I found your "Daughter of the Samurai."  Before I saw the title  I was appalled by the incredible illustrations and I knew instantly that Davgar,  whoever he or she may be, must have only the most  superficial knowledge of Japan else such ghastly pictures would never have been permitted to detract from the written descriptions as they do.  The story has flashes of real beauty but I am glad I did not write it and I am sure if you will take the time to read it slowly and in a quiet hour you will see how it could never have been mine.  It has been padded to interminable length and is full of inconsistencies and contradictions and by now you will be thinking that I am committing one of those sins of the mind of which I wrote you only yesterday.  It is not envy nor unkindness, it is only sadness that a thing that could have been quite perfect should not be so.
You must know that I could never have permitted a picture of so insipid a heroine, so Occidental a hero.  That I could not have so overworked the word "honorable" nor that I could ever have called this fragile tragic child anything so banal as Mistress Cherry Blossom nor could I have allowed her to say anything so Victorian as "I think I have a headache."  I could not have given my villain the name of a servant nor the nightwatchman the name of one of the oldest and most aristocratic families in Japan.  And the ten cents, which you thought wrong, is undoubtedly right for it equals the wage of a coolie even though it is not more than ten cents.  But to give a servant ten yen or five dollars would be unheard of I think, even in this day.  Nor would I have put in one paragraph the age old custom of blackening the teeth with "ohaguro" which has long since ceased to be a custom and in the next a Woolworth spotlight, telegraphs and trains.  I could not have had the mama-san come at night to do a lady's hair knowing what trouble that intricate style causes even to sleeping with the neck in a curved wooden block to preserve it  and that this part of the toilette is performed always in the morning?  I could not have left Ito and Yamato in an open field  as in the fifth part, drinking tea and looking at the floor.  I could not have put a secret wall safe in a Japanese house - not done.  What Davgar has done over and over with a kind of Midwestern insistence, and called one of those darkly mysterious and fascinating Japanese shops, a store.  I could not have compared the slightly curved graceful scabbard of the Samurai sword to snake prepared to strike.  I could not, in one place, have called Ito "an old man with many bags of gold" and in part six have made him as young as the hero when Ito remembers that Okada went away when he himself was but a youth.  I could not, in fact, have made these men who are Samurai do the many things that a true Samurai would have died rather than to perform.  And to mix the ancient Samurai into modern Japan, with its flashlights and express trains, which came long after the Samurai, as such, ceased to be, is only a sort of sacrilege to me.  No, I am afraid that Davgar has read much of Japan and loved it very little and I shall try and find out who this Davgar is.  There are passages in the story so  like the things that I might have written that it is uncanny and you will be surprised when you know that "Lilies of Jade," which I finished when I wrote you early in September and which has now been with my agent for two weeks, has to do with the sacred rite of Seppuku - which is Chinese and not Japanese originally.  I can see why you might have thought I wrote this story, which has an exquisite theme, and should have been exquisite, but which to me is not for there are things in it that I could not have done better if I had tried but as a whole  Read over "The Buddha" and "The Lotus" and if "Lilies of Jade" please the editors you will see again that "The Daughter of the Samurai" could never have been mine.     
I am sorry to have to ask you to tell Alma Edwards that I cannot accept her challenge and must deny this composition.  I am afraid that I have bored you but I know you will understand what I mean and that I am only sorry that what should have been a sparkling jewel should have disclosed to me so many flaws.

Oh yes, and Japanese fishermen do not wear kimonos.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

1930, Nov 2 - HMK to Rena Harrell

Sunday afternoon,
November 2, 1930

My dear R.H.,

Thanks for the "Sceptre" which is the better for its form and for what you have to say about books but is as you say "young."  I like Inez Dellinger's verse "Seasonal" - can't see how any girl born and living in Japan can describe a Japanese mountain as a "Hogback" - could shake Margaret Jones for missing her mark in what should have been a fine bit.  In "Appeal" was amused by a condescension to Virgil.  Now what is wrong with Ariel McNinch for saying green is an ugly color, and will not write to you again until you have read "The Wind Bloweth."  If I could write one book like that I should think that I had not lived in vain.  I think most modern musicians are either mad or fakers and hope Dr. Ninnis will be here on the 4th of January when Margaret Volavy gives her piano recital.  Thanks for the name.  I'll use it sometime on a story and see what becomes of it.  I'm not the least Gaelic.  I'm glad you liked Komroff's Coronet.  He's a strange duck, but nice.  If I had a garden I should have every color known to man and gods and a few more including blue and even suspected lavendar.  

I have some ten stories out with Editors, among them "The Power and Peril of Color," which your friend's photoplay will have in January so you can see some of my theories on the subject.  On a rainy day a few weeks ago I went up to Quincy, Mass. and gave my color lecture before 1600 high school students.  They ate it up, surprisingly, and I dare say there are some new experiments in color in sweaters, etc.  I should judge you liked blue, do you? 

I haven't been doing much.  Went to a couple of terrible shows.  They grow worse.  H.B. has rushed off from Yazoo City and you can tell your faculty member that he is a person to be proud of.  Norma comes from Jackson and is as clever and vivacious as H.B. is wise and silent.  My agent sent "Lilies of Jade" to "The Journal" and they said they had not hated to return a story so much for a long time but that it was a bit too thin for them.  It was a mistake for if one had not read "The Smile of Buddha" it would seem thin.  He has sent it to someone else again but I wrote it for "The Review" and will get it to them soon.  Thanks and now get busy and read that book so you can write me soon again.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

1931, Sept. 11: HMK to RH -- Personal Banter

London Terrace
In Old Chelsea

September Eleventh. [1931]

My dear R.H. [Rena Harrell],

I do not smoke a pipe. I never saw Ruby Farrel in my life and I never worked with Jim Kirkwood and so there goes your long arm of circumstance. Women are strange creatures and seem ready always to change a thousand charming possibilities for one grim fact or the recording page of some family Bible. I hope you never come knocking at my door or if you do that you will only find Peter who will mystify you even more and tell you nothing. I have not told you what happened when I was baptized but I will say that I squirmed about and got water in my ear for my pains even though what was going on did concern me to some extent. That curiosity cost me years of pain and the loss of hearing in my left ear so you see what become of being curious. As for the names tacked onto an innocent and defenseless child, I do not tell them to you for they open the way by their significance to a world of questions that would be painful to me in that they recall a wicked injustice to my sainted Mother who suffered from the stupidity of the pride of blood that has made me hate the name. And that is that.

What a lovely summer you must have had and how lovely your little Japanese friend must have been. Its true about their grace. I felt when I was in Japan altho I knew a little of the usage of polite society like the proverbial bull let loose in a shop filled with satsuma and cloisonne. I must tell you sometime about a house in which I was a guest there and how utterly conceited we are in thinking that we represent all that there is of culture and civilization and the fine thing of life. Have you read "The Book of Tea?" If not do so.

The Griffith picture is a sad thing I'm afraid and your young friend will find much to criticize. I hate to think that D.W. is dated but he is and definitely and there were signs of it in Abraham Lincoln. But this thing is so banal, so sentimental and East Lynnish that its pathetic. But not so pathetic as if you were to succumb and get yourself one of these frightful Eugenie hats or as my friend Madame Volavy calls them "eugenic" hats. And don't speak of shaggy little yellow and bronze chrysanthemums. I adore them and they come at the time of year I love the most, brave little things freezing with smiles upon their faces, laughing in the face of death.

And I don't even smoke cigars or cigarettes, what do you think of that? And all my life I've known only the very wickedest kind of people and if you must know it I'm six feet high and my hair is getting quite white altho my youngest sister beat me to it at 28. And that again is that.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

1931, Sept. 17: HMK to RH -- Death of Eldest Brother F.C.

Thursday, September 17th, 1931

My dear R.H.

What mockery the Fates make of those who defy them and what a task it is to be defiant still. On Sunday I was lying in the grass under a mighty elm looking up at a cloudless sky so near that I might almost have touched it and listening to Mme. Volavy playing Glück. It was a thing, so serene, so spiritual, so calm yet at that moment unknown to me they were killing my eldest brother with an amputation. He did not die until today although I have been praying constantly since I heard what they had done to him that he might. For he was a great lover of trees and rivers and lakes and lived with a fishing rod ever at hand and I could not bear to think of him sitting there with his dogs, just waiting. I am not grieving for him though I am unutterably sad for I know that the souls of the righteous are in the hands of God and that my brother is in peace and that at least he has become a part of all things he loved the most, the sun and the wind on the water, soft rain and gray clouds, little flowers that hide in the woods, the good earth. But I wonder at the design of which he was a part, this good and simple man who loved his fellow men and was very loved by children and by dogs and so of course very much beloved of God and what purpose he fulfilled in this plan so far wider than men may dream of. Do not be sorry for me and never for him for he has come into a glorious kingdom far from this stupid dream which we so surely think is all there is of life. The eldest and I the youngest and yet he seemed ever younger than I myself have ever been. Write when you feel in the mood and not because of this.


[Note: The brother of HMK is my great-grandfather F.C., Frederick Christian Schmidt, 72 y/o, who died this day after a leg amputation due to gangrene possibly associated with stomach cancer. FC was HMK's eldest brother and some 16-17 years older than HMK.]

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

1932, June 6: HMK to RH -- Seeking Employment

Monday, June 6th, 1932

My dear R.H.,

It was like you to make such a gesture and if so tragic a thing should happen, I will send Peter off to you for I know of no person who would appreciate his magnificent character more than you would nor be kinder to him. I do not know yet what the outcome will be nor what I will have to do. I am trying to find what in the vernacular is called a job, any kind of a job but so are some millions of others but I have not lost hope and I am not under any circumstances licked. No we do not sub-let apartments (the reason I write so badly is that I fell on a wet pavement and sprained my right arm and shoulder badly and so as the small boy said, "nuthin could hurt no worser.") We have a larger apartment than we needed so we took in two other men which was an economic arrangement working splendidly as long as we could keep up our end of it and it is that problem which confronts us now. Richard Hall who has been my best friend for twenty years was also hit in the Krueger smash and worse than that his mother and sisters at Kingston. It is that which causes me the most concern for they are like my own flesh and blood. Mother Hall is ninety and writes us daily to be courageous and not lose hope that things might be much worse so that one cannot give way to despair with such an example of high courage and faith to light the way. She was a famous beauty in her youth, a tiny thing and much younger still in many ways [more] than we are. No one has bought either of the stories as yet and I like them as well as the others but let us still hope. My agents wanted to get me more money than the Review pays but I shall re-call them and perhaps the Review will take them yet. So do not worry dear R.H. Whatever comes we will face with laughter. That is the only thing to do. I saw a lone daffodil yesterday and a hedge of yellow forsythia. God must still be in his heaven.

Faithfully and painfully,

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

1933, Jan 1: HMK to RH -- Shaker Hollow Purchase

Shaker Hollow
South Salem, Westchester Co., NY
Telephone South Salem 133

January 1, 1933

My dear R.H., Happy New Year,

Thanks R.H for your Christmas card and forgive one for not having written so long ago - And here is ....for you-- When in ... at a loss of him which may turn but still secure in the knowledge that there much the same way with God-- their place was offered to us--this as a refuge and near as something holding greater hope of the time at hand-- It is a lovely old house belonging to Juliana Force who is head of the Whitney Museum of American Art -- She had owned it for seven years. Never lived in it and out of a clear blue sky asked us to occupy it-- as it was being neglected frightfully by a ... caretaker-- The house is so lovely and has done so much to restore it that Mrs. Force has sent up from another house in Pennsylvania what is probably the finest collection of old Shaker furniture in America-- We have christened the place Shaker Hollow. The furniture is really ... on which shall give our visitors tea or lunch or dinner and I shall run that end of it. -- which brings me here to a confession that in the world of motion pictures I have a really great reputation as a cook. I used to cook for relaxation for it just s much an art as painting or music if you love it and know it-- and I do. So if you have any sacred family recipes-- send them on. Mrs. Force gave me this stationary for Christmas but I will write you soon all about the home. Norma & HB came and stayed with us a week and went on to Kingston for Christmas and hated to go away again from its beauty and its peace.

And so opens a new chapter and we look forward to it with anticipation-- Do wish me good luck and write me a birthday letter for on Wednesday I shall be 21+.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

1933: Feb 24: HMK to RH-- Farrar Lunch

Thursday, February 24, 1933

Dear R.H.;

Last night I lived with ghosts for I went to see "Ah Wilderness." If you have not seen it, you will see none other than myself almost to the last crossing of the "t's", the Swinburne poems, the Rubiyat, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the girl, the temptation, the defiance, the tempter, the inability to go through with it, all, all the lovely tragic lost dreams, dreamed so bravely as to make one weep at the memory of them. It is Niles when I was 17 and I saw the picture through a mist. It was all there save that my father and mother had long been gone and there was no one to tell me the things about life that I should have known for those were still the days when such tings were looked upon as too vulgar and obscene ever to be talked about honestly and youth was left to stumble on in darkness sometimes never to find the truth.

The boy in the picture is perfect to poignancy, poor brave little lad with his lovely dreams, his sweet ambitions but he is not alone for the picture seems almost flawlessly cast. If you have not seen it, do not, I beg of you, miss it for it is one of the loveliest things that the cinema has ever given us and how they ever did it, is a mystery even if they did broaden it in parts-- it cannot harm the heart of it.

Freckles send her love and RH says he owes you a letter and one day when he is reckless enough he will write you. If you knew how we blessed you on nights at 17 below for those bed socks, tho we doubted if we should ever be soft enough to wear them.

Did I tell you we had tea with Geraldine Farrar last week and that she is one of the loveliest ladies we have ever known and is growing old with a grace so rare as to be almost incredible. She lives not far away, quite simply and surrounded with souvenirs of a career as great as any woman ever had, yet with not the slightest indication of regret that it is passed. She took us to some friends in Stamford, southern folk with a lovely house and a sunken music room with a pipe organ and a concert grand. The buffet was bountiful and as delicious as old black servants long in the family could make it and afterward Farrar gathered us all about her at the piano and led us in songs of a simpler and far happier time and at the end a hymn. I cannot recall a Sunday night so sweet since the time of "Ah Wilderness" itself.

Nothing new in the line of radio except that the other stations listening in made almost too good a report on my broadcast and I'm duly grateful.

The radio just said that we might expect more snow which sets RH and CV into cursing but I'm silent being secretly glad.

Write me all the news and thanks again and do see the picture of the small, brave, dreaming youthful Knight who is gone.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

1933, April 11: Shaker Hollow Opening Week-- HMK to RH


Dear R.H.,

Well, here is little Miss Underwood restored to good health and able to work for me again, for which you will no doubt be grateful as you no doubt have had to struggle over that feared scrawl I sent you last. In looking thro your letters, out fell the sample of that lovely print, which I hope you are really having, with all the purple and magenta, a combination much favored of Lady Duff-Gordon ("Lucile") when I was her manager, but perhaps I never told you that. She was the greatest of all the geniuses in the art of dress and it was an experience to see her work.

And speaking of artists something too exciting has happened to us here. Mme. Elise Weber-Fulop, one of the greatest of contemporary Austrian painters was so intrigued with our apricot and black dining room that she asked permission to paint it. As she is the most famous painter of interiors in Europe and never gets less than 1 to 3 thousand for a painting, we are thrilled, I can tell you, and she is here at this very moment beginning her canvas. It being Holy Week and we had planned not to take anyone but to open officially on Easter, it gives her the time and the room to herself. No doubt some of the better magazines will want to use a reproduction, perhaps Country Life, and so you will see it too. I am as excited as I can be watching her at work. She heard of us and of the pink room in Vienna and when she saw it, said that she had never seen anything so lovely and that she could never be satisfied till she got it on canvas.

Well the second broadcast went over pretty well, I guess from the fan mail pouring in. Too well I guess, for Martha Deane, was advised not to have me again: I was too good. I wish you could see some of the letters but I take their extravagances with a large helping of salt. Just the same they are nice to get and will help me to my ambition. These pathetic women with no outlet and an unconscious craving for romance in their dull lives. That's what one of them said I did for her and that I put so much romance into food and cooking that she loved to do it now. I told them that no one could be a good cook who did not cook with gratitude and affection-- deep reverent gratitude for the things with which we cook and which we accept so casually when they are one of God's mysteries and his blessings. And affection for those we cook for is the great secret of real cooking and makes it a ritual not a bore. And they knew what I meant and some of their letters are pathetic and I do want to help them to see the beauty in the plain things of life which they understand and which are ever with them.

Well think of us on the 19th. We are giving a buffet for Geraldine Farrar and she has asked four big bugs from the National Broadcasting Co. who are her friends, and who knows what may come. Help me by thinking it Will Come dear R.H. as you have helped me with so many other things. Write me all about your Easter. I will have eggs for Pat and the rest. It will be fun.


Monday, August 17, 2009

1933, May 22: Gardening and Shaker Hollow Opening

Shaker Hollow
May 22, 1933
Sunday, 6.30 A.M.

My dear RH,
    I have been remiss, I know, but surely not so much as to have deserved such a greeting as “MY DEAR MR. SMITH.”  Couldn’t it at least have been “Dear HMK?”  or were you just in one of those formal modes?  Anyway, the box that came with your note with the petunias and delphinium made up for it so I will forgive you, provided, of course, that you too will forgive me.  It seems incredible that one should be too busy ever to steal a moment’s time for a trusted friend but that is my only excuse.  The weather finally turned and I have been in the garden since from dawn till dark and then have fallen into my bed and not stirred till dawn again.  I am as brown as the earth almost and have lost countless pounds and every one tells me I have not looked so well or so happy for years.  I am happy digging in the kindly earth and you should see how your pansies have responded to affection.  They are masses of bloom.  The white ones go to my little marble Virgin here on my desk before me and yesterday when Mrs. Force sailed I sent Dick in with a big box of white lilacs and with them a great cluster of pansies of all the other shades and it was beautiful.  Thanks again for thinking of me and of sending me these lovely little friends who are the symbol of friendly thoughts.  We have done a magnificent garden with flower borders all around and a long oblong vegetable garden in the center all outlined with rocks that we have dragged up ourselves.  In it are every old fashioned flower in the seed catalogs and they are all up and thriving with the lettuce and radishes and beets and carrots and peas and what not.  The east wall, which must be two hundred feet or more, is one mass of old lilacs all abloom, and there are apple trees and cherry trees as well.  And a lot of tulips along the stone walks.  In the woods at the back we found thousands of white blood root and tine anemones and violets and even Jack-in-a-pulpits, so the place really looks too beautiful.  And we are doing some business altho we won’t open officially until the first of June.  We had a wedding party here to start off with, and when I brought on the white and silver cake, which I had made with love and affection, as the clippings you sent me rightly said was the only way to succeed with cakes, the little bride-to-be burst into tears and said, “Must I really cut it?  It’s the first time in my life that I ever had a cake all by myself.”  “Of course not, my dear,” I told her.  We will pack it up and you shall take it home with you.  I had to think up a substitute dessert quickly but I managed it and she went off happy with her cake, which, if I may say, it was modestly a handsome one.  On Wednesday, Mrs. Force was out and we asked sixteen of her closest friends and we had a gay party and she was amazed and delighted with what we had done to the place.  Our awnings are striking ones, of gray and black and white with a shell pink lining and on this white house with its black shutters are very effective.  I made a tracing of one of the old door hinges and a long strap like affair and had an iron worker make me some flower pot holders for the windows so that I might keep changing the pots as the different flowers came on.  They are filled now with pink geraniums and English ivy and are nice with the pink lined awnings.  HB and Norma are still south but he is going to Spain this summer to study I think.  We are all well and as busy as two men can be but we love it.  Richard’s mother was up fourteen days.  She is ninety-two and is complaining because her hair is showing traces of gray and she kept us on the jump, I can tell you.  Charles Vincent is better of his operation but insists privately, of course, on showing Dick and me his incision with altogether Victorian pride.  My sister [likely Anna Schmidt Elbel d. 1935] is very ill again and it cannot be long now.  Yesterday was her wedding anniversary poor dear and it seems only yesterday that I helped as a small boy to bring in the apple blossoms and I can see my mother sitting among them up for the first time in three years for she died in the following September and I can hear the pearl passementeries swishing on my sister’s wedding dress again.  Sweet memories if they are sad and I think God is for them. 
    Well dear RH, I must do all the many letters I owe this early Sunday morning but yours has been the first so do forgive me and don’t write again to Dear Mr. Smith.


Monday, August 10, 2009

1933, c. June 1: HMK to RH -- Attached To Shaker Hollow Advertisement

[Undated Letter, c. June 1, 1933]

Dear R.H.

I reserved your letter and itinerary so carefully that now I cannot find it all in the welter of a neglected desk so do write me at once again the day and hour and the boat. H.B. is sailing for Spain on the 25th. I only just heard from Norma that he is in New York and not very well and I have just written him to come out at once and perhaps you may see him yet at any rate I shall try to arrange it for you. The pink snapdragons you sent me are in flower and the gay little Rosy Morn petunias and the pansies continue to bloom and smile as plentifully and as gaily as ever. This is our announcement and map made for me by Bill Longyear who gets fabulous prices for doing them but he made mine as the negro says "Free, Gratis and fer Nuthin'." Let us hope the foolish fates will not send me a mob on the day you sail but promise to phone me at the appointed time. Go on with your packing and hatting and dressing and whatnot now. You should learn to trot the globe like I did in a single bag. They do sell toothpaste and soap and the like in Europe. Norma, by the way, is not mad with me and I am glad of that. She may go to Ashville for the summer. Do write me at once now about your sailing. Peter stays out still but at four yesterday when a terrific thunder storm came up he was asking meekly from the terrace to be let in. No, I'm wrong, he was demanding that I come down and open the door at once whereupon it was I who came meekly down to do it.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Shaker Hollow Advertisement




SHAKER HOLLOW offers its hospitality by appointment only, to those who have the leisure to enjoy good food in surroundings of unusual charm. These include a fine collection of authentic Shaker furniture and photographs, a garden and lily pool with enclosed and fountain terraces, the latter offering ideal facilities for bridge, luncheon or tea.
French, German, Italian, Russian, and Oriental cuisine or country food at its best.
Dinner is Two Dollars, Luncheon One Twenty Five, Tea Seventy Five Cents, Sunday and Thursday Buffet Suppers One Dollar Fifty.

To insure discriminating service, reservations must be made at least six hours in advance.
Telephone, South Salem 133 NOT OPEN ON MONDAYS

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

1933, June 6: HMK to RH -- European Travels

Shaker Hollow
South Salem, Westchester Co., N.Y.
Telephone South Salem 133

June 6th, [19]33.

Dear R.H.,

It is almost as tho I were going myself to know that you are to have so wonderful an adventure. Is it perhaps your first trip abroad. I hope it is for you will never have the thrill but once only I'm sorry you are not landing at Le Havre so that you might see Normandie if only from the train.

And when you get to Paris promise you will go to Sainte Chapelle on the Ile de Cite and say a prayer for me for you will never see anything quite like this little chapel which Louis the Ninth built to hold the Crown of Thorns if happily it should be a sunny day. Walk in the Luxembourg Garden at sunset, and don't bother with the Louvre unless you want to see something special as it takes weeks to see it even though sketchily. The Musee Carnavalet is entrancing. It was once the home of Madame de Sevigne and gives you a marvelous glimpse of the history of Paris itself especially during the Revolution. At the Louvre end of the Avenue del Opera you find a little Cafe de Universe where I sat every morning to coffee and croissantes and watched the fascinating life of Paris streaming by, sometimes after I had gotten up at three or staid up that late to go to the Halles Centrales, the great markets of Paris to which you will see the great two wheeled carts rumbling along the Seine at night with the carrots and lettuce laid on in design. And just off Rue St. Jacques at 10 Rue de Lille you will find the Hotel de Valence where I used to stay [in] a tiny place run by M. & Mme. Meyer, Alsatians and Oh so clean and bare when all my friends were at the Crillon or the Ritz. There are a [few] things I should like you to do and which will not be in your plans at all but you will go to Sainte Chapelle I'm sure. My respects to the carp at Versailles who by now much have [turned] into porpoises so fat were they when I saw them last and of me going over the palaces inch by inch before we did Beaucaire with Rudolf Valentina and at Malmaison where we [saw] Mme. Sand Gene with Gloria Swanson. Ah. Paris, Cite d'Amour, [....] Cite, de Lumiere, La Reine du Monde whose only rival is sad sister Vienna where you may stand in the Boern Ring [and] think of me or go into one of the tiny green cafe gardens [on] Prater and bravely drink a bock to all that was once so .... and so brave and which cannot, must not have died.

In Berlin go far into the Tier Garten until you come to a lagoon where at one end stand[s] the Empress Augusta Victoria in a dress of marble lace with marble ostrich plumes, so German, so sad and in Dresden you will be very near the place where my mother's family once lived in great magnificence [Breitungen] matched only by their cruelty. In London walk in the Green Park a little and not a block from Marlborough House you will find Pall Mall Place where I once had chambers filled with the worst of Victoria's time and which I adored. And have you seen Cavalcade in pictures? If not, go to see it as a play in London.  It is England.  Rome you will love but the rest of Italy [is] lovely too but unspeakably smelly and dirty unless Il Duce has changed all that.

I am so glad that you are going and I shall not come to see you off and it is not that I don't want to see you. R.H. you know that. I shall send you something and I shall be there just the same but perhaps you will let me call on on the telephone early in the evening before you sail or will call me if that better suits your convenience. We are sixty miles out of New York but that would not deter me, it is something else some thing intangible. You will pass London Terrace on your way on Twenty Third St. and Tenth Avenue and from our windows on the 18th floor we have watched your ship come in and go again a hundred times and I shall be there when you sail that night to wave a bon voyage and a safe and happy trip.

I don't know where H.B. is at the moment but I suppose still in Mississippi, with Norma and her mother. Norma is mad with me I think. She wrote me that a mutual friend had troubled her shamefully so I promptly sent him the letter and asked him what it meant. I rushed in where no angel should have even pussyfooted I daresay but I'm sick of people not being honest and frank. I suppose she is horrified and that I have shocked her antebellum sensibilities but she will have to get over it or not just as she likes. She still harps each time she goes South on how they still suffer from the outrages of the North in the Civil War. I know all about them and I adore the South and all it stands for but I'm honest R.H when I say that if the men of the South had done a little less talking and a great deal more of hard work all the losses could have been recouped long since. And now don't you get mad with me, will you? I wish you could see our pansies, just blooming away with the utmost determination to keep me thinking of you , what a lot of work wasted on their part. But they are so gay and cheerful on the terrace and I have their faces turned to my window in the morning. Thanks again and for the recipe. I shall try it and let you know how they came out so you may tell Emily. I shall write again R.H. before you sail and I'm so glad, no gladder than if I were going myself.


Monday, December 15, 2008

1938, June 17: HMK to RH-- Lily Pons Wedding

Friday, June 17th

Dearest R.H.;

You have been punishing me, haven't you, and most certainly I deserve punishment but even if there has been no concrete evidence of it I have been thinking of you, more often than you might believe. Each time I put fresh flowers at the foot of the little shrine, I say "Mary of Perpetual Help, help and bless dear R.H."

And now about what I have been doing besides mow and dig and plant and weed and wash and iron and clean and sweep and sew and cook and so on, world without end. Things have been bad with us. Dick has been gone now five months in all, with occasional short visits here when I have had to have his help, for I have been doing some, I suppose you might call it, catering. I did two buffets for Lucy Newton-- one of them for 45 and of all things I did the breakfast, also a buffet, for Lily Pons' wedding. Farrar called me one afternoon to say Lily was there and wanted to see me about something very important so I went up just as I was from planting some Venetian Chicory that Arkie Lubetkin had just brought me from Italy. Lily was cute in blue slacks, shirt and beret and looked like a French school boy. She told me, with her pronounced but unaffected accent, that she was having a so important luncheon, that only I could do it, and she wanted but two things: the famous Shaker Hollow Turkey Pies, made with breast of turkey, cream, mushrooms, and special herbs with a puff paste crust and la creme brulee. The rest she left to me. Not until I took the things over to her lovely French Provincial house and saw a little muff made of tiny white carnations in the ice chest did I suspect and then she peeped into the kitchen and said-- "Eet ees a secret-- but eet ees my wedding day." I all but fell into the ice chest.

It was very lovely. Farrar, in a miracle [?] dress of two shades of Petunia (Sciaparelli) with shoes, gloves, and hat (Suzi) was her only attendant and privately, far outshone the bride. At the foot of a long flight of steps, set in the grass with rock plants between, is a swimming pool lined with turquoise tile and with tall native black cedars all about, so that it looks like the Riviera. Beside it [is] a small guest house like the big one, of whitewashed brick with a tower and pink geraniums all about, and this was the chapel. Solid ropes of white peonies 8 inches through looped from the cross beams to the floor, the big fireplace banked high with calla lilies, a little altar silver under a lace that had once belonged to Le Brun and given her by the then King of Spain Alfonso ('s father I think). After the ceremony there was champagne for which I had provided two silver bowls filled with ice and sugared white grapes in brandy, garnished with fresh mint and syringa, the latter an afterthought when I knew it was a wedding.

The buffet was really nice. A long refectory table [was set] with Venetian lace and Lilies of the Valley and all old pewter. A 20# cold salmon masked with tiny shrimps and with cucumber mouselline-- two gigantic turkey pies stuffed eggs their yolks rubbed smooth with cream, garlic and nutmeg-- cream cheese with chive and celery seed, puree of fresh green peas with bacon and chives-- little hot rolls and nutbread sandwiches, black olives, etc. The first course was a consomme Belvedere, jellied and tinted a seagreen, served in crystal cups and ganished with thick sour cream, caviar and chives served with hot piroshki of creamed lobster. After that [came] the creme brulee and coffee with wedding cake provided by Farrar, who alone was in on the secret. Robert W. Chambes and his charming wife told me that they had never tasted such food and Lily and Kostelanetz sent me a sweet telegram that same night, which was nice I think-- seeing that they were on their honeymoon.

Well the next day Dick and I drove into town and got all the papers in Bedford Village. The accounts were meager and incorrect and I said I wish I were on the air today so I could tell how lovely it all really was. When I got to town my manager said-- "How is your heart?"-- I said "Why?" "You have to go on the air in a half hour. What can you talk about ?" So I went on with M.D. and talked the whole 3/4 hour to find that they had recorded it too. I was glad to be able to tell all those women what it was like and from the hundreds of letters that have come in to the station, they liked it. And that's that. Ruth and Maxwell Aley are dickering with Cosmo on a special food story by me and will bring Francis Whiting, the editor, out here one evening soon. I want to do the book over but don't have time for it and it will have to wait till Dick gets back. Things look promising on the air a little later too.

I want to go out to Michigan so desperately. My only living brother-- the one I have always loved most and who lives in Oregon is there on a visit and I'm so homesick I could curl up, I so want to see him. I must somehow.

Sunday I have to do that same dammed dessert for 75 people and also Boston Baked Beans as Mrs. Gilmour is giving a buffet at the farm but its not much of a job. Well R.H. do forgive my long silence now that you know the reason, and write me what you are doing and where.


Saturday, November 01, 2008

1947, January 12 - HMK to Miss Betty Harvey & Miss Lilian Harvey

PO Box 112                                                                                    Tel. Duxbury 51

Herman Smith
Duxbury, Massachusetts

Jan. 12th. [19]47.

My dear Miss Harvey- I am sure it was something of a mental telepathy which caused both you and your sister to send me these charming little Christmas cards- for I wanted your addresses so badly- having somehow mislaid both them and that of your mother's whose lovely letter from Maine last summer is still to my embarrassment - unanswered.  As for your visit to Duxbury- last summer- if it gave you anything at all as near the pleasure it gave us- our reward is greater than we deserve.  This letter must do for all of you so I hope you will pass it on Miss Betty- first to your mother and then to Miss Lilian to whom I now give my thanks for the bread recipe which I am trying this very morning.  Only when is the dough springy from kneading and how long does it take?  I have an old fashioned bread-mixer which belonged to Dick's mother which does away with the conventional kneading so I am not sure if I knead this lot too much or not enough.  Some of the old cook books say to knead for 30 minutes which is too much for this old boy.  Well we shall see how it comes out- I will knead a bit more when I prepare the loaves - Miss Parloa 1880 circa Stina says knead with the palm only- for 30 min and let rise 8 or 9 hrs.  Heavens.  

We had a quiet sweet Christmas- with a tree and wreaths and the little [nativity] shrine and Dick's candles in all the windows.  Gunther came down and made the most beautiful wreath I ever saw for Dick and decorated the house with lovely greens from our own trees.  I did part of my pageant- the Miracle of the Roses- in the old church in Kingston on the 22nd.  On Christmas Eve went to the service at the little Episcopal church here where we had a copy of the little Christmas Eve prayer of which I enclose you some copies for all the congregation.  On New Years Eve the old quartet there had set the prayer to the music of an old hymn and it touched me deeply.

It touches me deeply too to know that your mother still listens and reports our goings on to you- it lifts my heart above pain and braces-- the pain does not come so often and does not last so long so I am better- but it is hard for me to get about and I don't know what I should do so without Charlie.

We have a new Cocker Spaniel, Suzy, red haired and a hussy if there ever was one but darling- and of course there are Bunny and Buck the black bob-tailed cat and if you could but see our base-burner-stove.  If you have a copy of the Dec? Better Homes and Gardens there is a picture of one almost exactly like ours- on page 15- and we have the chair and the album- and even the slippers.

I'm looking already for signs of spring- hoping that I will see some courageous green tip in my white garden- Gunther came down in the fall and planted a lot of white flowering bulbs and it will not be long before they will replace the snow.
But I must stop- I had nearly a thousand cards so many with messages so personal I must try to answer them so my time is full.

Thanks again for the cards- the recipe and my fond love to your mother- I hope the card does not come too late- and that you will keep the little prayer till next Christmas Eve.


NOTE:  This letter was recently found in a library book by a gentleman who graciously mailed it to me upon finding this blog online.  SW 12/4/2011