Sunday, June 29, 2008

1919 -- "Christmas is a short day"

This letter from Teddy was dated November 25, 1919, two days before Thanksgiving. Tantie is still in New York and longing to be home for the holidays.

Her sister Marie has a new baby, little Sylvia Elise, and Tantie wants to see them before they return home to Summerville. Uncle Teddy, however, is a perfectionist who believes she should stay in New York and concentrate on improving her photography skills.

121 Calhoun St.
Charleston, S.C.

My dear Lady,
It was very much of a relief to have your last letter after thinking over the previous one as a sort of nightmare -- it didn't have its silver lining, only the dark cloud. This last found me so much on the run that I have not been still enough during reasonable writing hours to write. I arrived here yesterday after running the gauntlet of rising waters in Georgia. The floods were more terrifying but my train out of Augusta ran through about a mile of covered tracks without any damage.

I can readily understand how a sojourner like you would like to be at home at Christmas time -- especially as you're a woman, but I have wondered if you are quite ready to come especially after your intimation more than once that you were not satisfied with your advancement in your special mission to New York. Of course, you may be through, but don't measure your course with Christmas as your limit, please! Leave this one thing well until you are "hanging over" -- master it!

I shall be so happy to see you, as I am happy to be near you, always, but not at the expense of anything worthwhile to you.

I have had a very pleasant stay in Atlanta, and a nice trip to Florida. Found everyone wondering when I should arrive.

The baby has grown fine -- looks like Gussie as a baby. Both have slight colds at present. Everything and everybody else is about as usual.

What about your going to Washington for Christmas and then back to NY? If you are ready it would undoubtedly be a nice trip for you. Write me [immediately] if you will and say what you need and it will be forthcoming. In any event, write me soon soon and I will be glad to respond.
Here's some change -- not your fare.

With love 'neverything,

The first page of this letter has been lost. In it, Teddy tells her about the unveiling of the Herndon portrait at First Congregational Church in Atlanta. He was not present for the event, but friends told him it was well-received, leading Teddy to hope it might finally help him achieve the success that had eluded him so far.

It may have been pleasant for you to come for several reasons -- to help Marie off and to say "Merry Christmas" to your folks and friends. But Christmas is a short day and you have foregone too many things for yourself as I have done so long. I think it high time to look out for your own interests without being selfish. Marie is planning to go after Christmas for which I am very glad.

This promises to be a sort of dull season here so far as I can see and I hope that you will find it pleasanter there among your friends -- new and old.

You ask about my picture. I am much gratified at the result both technically and in its appeal to the people.

They had a great celebration at its unveiling two days after I left, and a few friends wrote me that it has made for me "some reputation" there. It is a portrait 4 by 6 feet almost full figure with a bit of still life like this: [drawing of man standing next to table]

Already I am wanted back in the spring. I have been much encouraged by the general approbation of my "stuff," and am at a loss to explain why I am not permitted to get about it more regularly. But we'll "see what we can see" as to that very soon.

Tantie had a visit from Teddy's brother, Moultrie, who was visiting New York. She was unaware that Moultrie harbored a secret desire for her and was jealous of Teddy.

In this fairly lengthy letter, Tantie tells Teddy how she spent the holiday in New York. As she often does, she mentions a male friend, another guileless attempt to make her sweetheart jealous and provoke a marriage proposal.

New York City
Dec. 28th 1919

My dear Teddy,
Moultrie brought your letter Thursday evening and I was out, so I have not seen him. Where is he?

Nevertheless [the cash] was quite a surprise and a very welcome one. Like you tho, I am at a loss what to buy unless it be a mesh bag that I have longed for, 'twould be in the nature of a gift. ... I may save it and start my camera fund -- you see how worried it keeps me.

Everybody will want to know "and what did He give you?" and it is so much pleasure to say what that I am halfway tempted to get the bag.

I have had a lovely Christmas. The night before Christmas I went to Ethel Dawson's and trimmed the children's tree for her. Then at one o'clock went carol singing with Miss Sims and the Y girls. It snowed from 5 p.m. until after 4 a.m. and we were out in it, happy. No gentlemen accompanied us on this trip, only girls.

Was it coincidence that I should do that same things this year that I did last year and yet not at home?

Gee! Boy! but I missed you. The longing for you has become such that it is painful to have one of your sex get too near me. For instance, Miss Sims and I visited Charles Winthrop at his dormitory and on one occasion in his assisting me on a crowded car had occasion to put his arm around me to protect me from the crowd and so help me it was beyond me why I should felt as I did but it was merciful that it was only for a few seconds.

Teddy boy -- please hurry -- Does it mean wait until Spring? Can I last that long and not blow up? Four long months have gone -- away from you -- before that three, that's seven -- seven ages, Ted, lost.

I think you remember Charles Winthrop that came to see me at Marie's ...? He is at Union [Theological Seminary] and since I have lived in N.Y. he has been very nice to me. I took dinner with him at DeVann's Xmas night. And went to the Strand afterward. ...

I had a job to do some Xmas cards for the matron. Got $6. I wanted to make some photos of myself for Xmas but this came just at the same time and so prevented my doing so. I have several small jobs to do next week besides some snaps to develop and print. So you see I'll have a little [money] to help out with expenses. ...

O yes. Charles brought me a two pound box of candy so I was not without that. I am patiently waiting for my boxes from home as I'd dearly love to have some cake. I haven't had a bit of fruit cake.

Did you go home for the wine or are you still saving it?

I did not tell you that I made [$]2.50 retouching plates for the main Studio during the Xmas rush. They gave work to all the advance students. ...

Be sweet dear heart and write me immediately -- can you, this once? Since I can't have you New Years, let me have a letter if you write me the very night you get this. ... Will you?

Yours -- wanting you badly,

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