London

 

    1967 July 2: (Gregory) ...Soon we were on the way again, and it seemed like hours before it was announced that we were moving out over the ocean. Day had hardly faded when the sky started to glow again with a new morning.... You would be reassured if you could see this part of London where I will sleep tonight. The houses look very much alike. They are all brick, clean and well cared for; most have beautiful little gardens behind a low wall that separates them from the sidewalk.... Any glimpse inside is one of comfort and solid middle class contentment....

    [Next day] There are three men at the head of the library and I had meetings with all of them. One told me about special problems they face, mainly arising from a reorganization of the London administrative units, now combined into larger ones.... All stress that I must not judge by first appearances.... A welcome surprise came at lunch when we went to a canteen behind the city hall next door where borough employees can purchase a huge meal for about 40 cents.... I also received a National Health Insurance number.... The next thing is to find a permanent place to live.


    July 3: (Gladys) We had a long look at the airplane from the balcony. It was a long time before it made any move to leave. After it was in place to the northwest and was waiting its turn to take off, we left and went out near the car, then when the Pan American left the ground we were in a good spot to watch and did so until it was lost from us, and that wasn’t very long. He really got away in a hurry. We went to Nea’s. Gary called her before we left Love Field.


    July 6: First thing at work this morning I reported that I’d had no luck looking for a pl
ace to live. Everyone agreed it’s “frightfully” difficult to find a decent place in London, for a reasonable price. Then one person said she’d heard of a place, and from the description everybody thought it sounded good. I said I’d go after work.... The landlady was so open and cheerful. Her place is relatively new and clean and, to top it off, it has a private bath...only 5 minutes to work by bus...must get a radio....

                                                                                                                                                                                    photo: my home in Mill Hill, 42 Birkbeck Road


    July 9: Almost in relief, I’ve heard nothing about Vietnam in the last week.... Walked across Westminster Bridge for the view.... My landlady had put a small vase of flowers on the table before I came. I feel so grateful for such a nice place. Before anything else (I tell only you) I had a good time of prayer that I not become lost, and for you. You have been so good to help me do what seems best. It still remains to be seen what I can make of this time that I have dreamed about for so long. I don’t think of it simply as something I’ve “wanted to do,” but as an experience that may help me to go on to do something useful. I’m not homesick at all, and want you to be as happy as I am.


     July 11: I forgot to tell you what happened last Friday night. After we had supper we went out to the porch swing. It was not dark, yet Gary had turned on all the lights and even the fountain was bubbling up water. I showed my surprise and Gary said, “Well, since Greg’s not here to see about these things, I have to.” I can tell he loves it too. We did enjoy the porch so much and all the beauty we looked out on. Thanks to you!


    July 16: ...bought a transistor radio...glad to know the news, even if it does tell that twenty have been killed in race rioting in Newark. I can’t help wondering how the news sounds to you. I haven’t heard much U.S. news except items like this, and Pres. Johnson’s statement that more men will be sent to Vietnam....

    Mill Hill is a village that London has taken in.... I went after work to hear the London Philharmonic Orchestra at Royal Festival Hall.... From a terrace overlooking the river, seeing the great clock tower and parliament buildings, I had the warmest thrill—realization that this is what I’ve left home for, for a year.... It takes a lot of energy to see London the way I do. The highlight was Beethoven’s piano concert, called “the Emperor,” the first record of classical music I ever bought.... Regent’s Park...you can hardly imagine such beautiful flowers. In the center an avenue of chestnut trees gives shade for seats. It seemed too lovely to leave, then I remembered that I can return again next week, if I want to, and yet again in the fall when the leaves begin to turn gold. I carried both your letters in my coat pocket all day, saving them, as I always do, till night.


    July 30: (Gladys) Mandy called awhile ago and said she and Mrs. Kirkham have been to see Jubie.... We got a letter from Bernice telling us what a good time they had here. She said, “I was simply entranced with your lovely house and yard. So much work and planning has gone into it.” I told her it was all you, and she said you missed your calling. She spoke of the riots which are
absolutely frightening. Looks like Dad will be right. It is so very, very bad.


    July 30: The National Theater at the Old Vic opens again on September 5, and tomorrow I’m sending my request for tickets to all productions. I’ve also becoming a member of the British Film Institute which offers a good selection of motion pictures.... Daddy says that you are happy because Gary and Sandra and I are happy. I want it to be that way. Several times this week I have thought how relaxed I feel.... During tea break one day I was talking with Miss McDarby about my situation at Austin College, and she said that maybe I will want to stay in London after this year....

    Yesterday I went by bus about 25 miles out of London to a town called Sevenoaks. Knole House there is the largest private home in England (365 rooms) and dates from the year 1460. I had a good tour through the state rooms, hearing interesting stories about the people who lived there, and kings and queens who visited. Some rooms are exactly as they were 200 years ago when the last occupant died.

    August 6: ...just in time for a performance of Swan Lake, the ballet. Oh, how beautiful—the stage sets, the music, the dancing—everything so wonderfully beautiful.  And I was there to see it! At intermission I went again to the long terrace. In front—I described it before—there is the river and London opposite. I still wasn’t prepared... light in the sky...different colors danced on the river. Soft sky, soft light. I stood entranced for long minutes and wished so much that you were there to see it too. Then the ballet ended...no other word—beauty. Oh my! Got home late, running over and happy.

    I got to Miss McDarby’s flat about 1:00 p.m. It is on the fourth floor and the stairway is dingy. I felt she was conscious of it. Her flat had been recently redecorated throughout in a comfortable way. We had a good lunch, sitting long over it, but I had difficulty thinking how to keep the conversation going, and probably repeated things I’d already said. However, it was obvious that both Miss McDarby and her sister wanted to be nice to me, and they were, but I felt a kind of sadness when I left that I’d somehow not been able to communicate what I wanted to say. I want to find a way to return something good to all the people who’ve been so nice to me.

    August 13: After work today (Monday), I went back to the National Film Theater where I saw an excellent American film called Paths to Glory. It was about the First World War, anti-war in tone, and very moving. It made me realize that every moment we live without being caught in a terrible trap of circumstances, we ought to seize to be happy. It is one thing to make the most of each moment, but there must also come the time to bravely give it up, recognizing that the forces destroying us are blind, unjust and absurd. We are most alone then because no appeal to another being, or to governments, can make any difference. In the end, we are condemned. The important thing is to recognize the fact of our loneliness, and to remember that the way we bear ourselves up finally determines whether we snatch victory from an absurd fate. Where is God in all this? I really feel he has left us alone. And Jesus? He died alone. I’m afraid God has forsaken us. It means I must live true to myself. Then if he finds me again, he may recognize the child he created first. Oh, I am so glad to be free of all the miserable little anxieties at Austin College. For a little while I can think, read, look and hear—be myself. If I look lost and adrift to some, I’m actually beginning to believe again that my life is still on track, and that I’m not lost.


    August 18: (Gladys) This is the weekend my mother left this earth. I am always saddened to the point of desperation. I want to see her. She was such a quiet, wonderful person. Not like me, noisy, sassy, silly, peppy, and dozens of other simple but true words.

    August 20: I write now to keep myself from working. I was killing myself. You can do that here if you are not careful. We have thought of you a lot today and talked about you unusually much.... Sounds like the ride up the river to the Tower of London was fun.

    Yes, Birth of a Nation brings back the old home I knew.... I don’t know what God does for us exactly. I only know that we must be as good as we can, and that he does exist, and that we are not supposed to understand. We look through a glass “darkly”. Mandy always has called you the “young’un”, so she asked how my young’un was doing. She said tell you “Hello” and that she thinks of you often. I hope you will write Mrs. K. and Mandy. They and Jubie think more of you than you think.


    August 20: When I got home on Wednesday I had your letter, my membership card to the Royal Shakespeare Club and, best of all, seven tickets, one to every production during the first booking season at the National Theater. These tickets cost about $1.10 each, less that you’d pay to see a second rate movie in Dallas.... I stopped at Hampstead, a picturesque part of London, and visited John Keat’s house. He lived there before moving to Rome, where he died at age twenty-six. Also browsed around a bookstore and noticed a leaflet of the “Stop it Now” committee of Americans. They had an anti-war demonstration at the American embassy on Friday...wish I could have gone.


    August 21: ... The Negroes in our cities are acting awful. They say they will rule America or burn it down....


    August 29: Time suggests that President Johnson is at an all-time low in popularity. From here things sound quite wild in the United States. One radio commentator spoke of the tax increase and threats by farmers to withhold products from the market. Then you speak of the racial problem in the way I’d expect PaPa to talk. Has anything been said about getting at the root of the problem—things like rats in the cities, slums and poverty? Or is it just a matter of gunning down all niggers and reds?...

    Thursday night I went back to the National Film Theater to see John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. It is the powerful story of an Oklahoma family during the years of the Dust Bowl. I felt very close to them...went away moved and, as I thought, proud to be an American. What does that mean? I wonder if anyone knows.

    Saturday morning I set off on a trip to the Cotswolds, about sixty-five miles from London, a region of lovely villages built of a mellow yellow stone, on gently rolling hills where, since the middle ages, sheep and their wool have brought in wealth. Some became so wealthy that they could build beautiful churches now rich in historical association, as famous people have lived, worked, died—been buried in the church yards of their villages....

    My landlady, Susan O’Brien, suggested that she come too, and that we go in her car. I saw far more in the last three days than I ever expected...explored all the little side roads and villages....

    I suppose you’re thinking it must be no ordinary landlady I have...thirty-five years old, and divorced. She had not prepared herself, or thought to do anything, except be the mother of a large family. That ambition for several reasons came to nothing. She has not had an easy life but doesn’t feel sorry for herself. Her father drank himself to death, but Susan says she never loved her mother as she did her father. The mother is now remarried and running a pub, or public house, in one of the southern counties—Devon. When the father died, he left Susan a considerable amount of property, now sold to buy this house and a shop in Hendon. A fat, jolly person trying to be happy, she needs to keep busy—and she didn’t want anybody at the library to know that she went with me on this trip. “No one in France would care,” she said, “but in England, it’s different.” Maybe it should be my sorrow that this story will not justify that caution...nothing more expected of me than the fresh excitement with which I’m entering this new life.... Who believes in “innocence?” I must find my own way, and live so that God will recognize me, whoever I am, when he remembers to call.

    Everything is well. There are so many things to think about: people, plays and music, this city, the world...enough to keep me occupied for a long time. Someday it will be necessary to sort everything out, even to look at those horrible nightmares in which the meaning of everything is ripped away.... I’m reading the journal of a famous French writer [Gide] and marked the following passage from the year 1924, “Some people head toward an objective. Others simply go straight ahead. As for me, I do not know where I am going; but I am making progress.”


    September 2: Gary and Sandra are here. We notice the pride they take in feeling that they are allowed to share in the beauty you developed here. We noted your unselfish attitude in being willing for them to share with you this house, the yard, and all that you have done. We notice, too, how they think of you. Very interested and with love, and we are so glad....


    September 3: ...to a performance at the Royal Albert Hall by the BBC Symphony Orchestra in a “prom concert,” a regular part of the London summer for almost seventy-five years... followed by quiet rest and peace today. I will read, write some letters, and go out later.... Miss McDarby left on a vacation in Portugal. Last week she brought me a piece of heather. I’m determined to get to the moors this month. Heather is pink...a colorful carpet associated with the stories of Thomas Hardy and the Bronte sisters, especially Wuthering Heights....

    I have just seen a television program showing the story of an American boy now in prison for refusing to serve in the army in Vietnam. He expressed very well his reasons for refusing. I understood completely and wonder if I would have the same courage, facing the possibility of induction now. I think I would...knew what the implications were, but it didn’t seem then so wrong to serve as now.... I avoided the issue because nothing was required that I couldn’t do in conscience.... An evasion? I didn’t serve because I had to, but because I wanted to prove to myself that I could.

    September 10: ...gradually getting through a number of books on my to-be-read-shelf.... You have heard me mention Ernest B— who was on the Basic Studies team with me last year at Austin College. He left in great disgust (telling me that Dr. E— is a “basically dishonest” man, something I came to see myself) and went to California where he taught and did work with the church as well. Bedsole passed on the news that he died of a heart attack while doing rehabilitation work with drug addicts in San Francisco. Ernest could not have been much older than I, and I knew enough more to feel moved by this news; he was unhappy at Austin College, searching for something. I hope he found it before he died. This was Bedsole’s last paragraph: “John, we do miss you. Any number of people have remarked on how badly you will be missed this year by the faculty. We hope you will have a wonderful experience and learn much of benefit to yourself and to us. Don’t like it too well there!... It may be difficult for me to get completely out of college administration even after the new Dean is appointed and settles in. So it might be desirable for you to be a little more active in the administration of the library should that be the case. At least be thinking about the role you would like to have when you return to AC.”

    If I were to live only for myself, I might never want to leave London. Already, I can see it will always be a second home to me. Maybe I should never to leave, but if there is a place where I can be useful at home—not necessarily just at Austin College—then probably I ought to return. You, of course, and the farm will always make me want to return, but I will need a work to do. I won’t ever be really needed here...thoughts about the future, still far enough away.

    ...went to the National Theatre Company’s play at the Old Vic...tickets I felt so lucky to get...went again last night. Sir Laurence Olivier is the director and acted in both productions this week. Later I will see him in a leading role. Yesterday I visited the Hampstead again and poked around the book stores. The area has retained much of its character as a village, very picturesque and inhabited by artists...where interesting things could happen, interesting people met, and ideas encountered everywhere. The bookstores have such interesting things.

    I have just returned from a visit to the University of London’s observatory where my neighbor in Susan’s other flat is a graduate student in astronomy finishing work on his Ph.D. degree. He is from Virginia and will be returning soon to the U.S. after three years...showed me the various telescopes. Scientists’ work is so exact...proved or disproved. Work in the arts is different. Who can say that a story must be told in just this way? As for me, I have not achieved in either of these areas...am  just a little spark of consciousness that tries to appreciate as much as it can.... Sometime I envy people who have accomplished so much...wonder if I have been too complaisant about making greater demands on myself.

    ...the new pick up. Gradually you are getting the things you have needed so long...tools and implements...some rain. How glad I am!...

    As far as the Negroes are concerned...your attitude is interesting. If the time ever comes when both sides distrust each other and communication is no longer possible, then God help us. Don’t forget that we’ve had responsible Negro leaders like Martin Luther King for a long time... make a little tour to find out why the Negroes are impatient. But we can always find the money to fight in Vietnam! From here, it only appears that the U.S. is more and more on a tragic course.

    September 17: ...went with a girl named Audrey to a town called Sawbridgeworth where she taught me to make brass rubbings. It may not be easy to explain. In old churches it was not uncommon for prominent people to have been buried beneath the stone floor, and over the grave, inlaid in the stone, will be a flat brass plate, usually showing the person in an attitude of prayer. The oldest brass in England shows a knight, dated 1277. There’s a way to transfer this image off to paper by rubbing it with black heel ball, similar to a crayon. These rubbings can bring a big price at home.... Audry agreed to teach me. She came to the U.S. in 1959 and worked for a year in the Brooklyn Public Library...invited me to supper with her mother, commenting that she feels “endless hospitality” for Americans.

    ...to the Albert Hall and a Prom concert. It was raining a slow English
rain. I had mapped out the bus route and all went well, except that I didn’t know where to get off, so I turned to ask an English lady. She said she would tell me. She was getting off at a stop nearby, and when she left her seat she told me that my stop was the next one. I watched her walking away as the bus started again, and waved good-bye. She looked startled, then waved back. I arrived at the Albert Hall about thirty minutes early, so took a walk in nearby Kensington Gardens until I started to get wet. But with the great trees around, the paths and the white fog settling in among them, I could have walked on and on, loving every minute. At little distances I saw other figures walking together in the park under great black umbrellas. The thought came over me, how happy I am in London, and I felt so grateful.... As impressive as anything was the Albert Hall itself...seating 8,000 people. The Prom season ended last night.... I didn’t miss it.

    Sunday night. I’ve just returned from an afternoon with Karen of Denmark. We visited Highgate Cemetery where famous 19th century people like George Eliot are buried. To get there we walked across Hampstead Heath where autumn leaves already appear. In a new part of the cemetery we visited the grave of Karl Marx, noticing flowers put there earlier in the week to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Das Kapital. No cemetery could be more “haunted” than the old part, bringing Edgar Allan Poe to mind...vaults above ground, great iron doors ajar...in a city of the dead...completely overgrown with trees, bushes and vines....

    My black London umbrella baptized.... Susan O’Brien laughs all the time and says I’m only a child at heart. True, I guess, but I don’t feel like changing.

    September 25: Saturday morning...to Paddington railway station and boarded a fast train to Exeter, 173 miles to the southwest of London, in Devon. The bus connection to Chagford, about twenty miles farther west, could not have been better timed. As the bus came into the village, the church bells were peeling for a big wedding. The man who sold me a map suggested a guest house, so I went there directly and my welcome started. The owner had gone to the wedding, and I was wondering what to do when an English couple about to leave found me. The wife talked in a friendly way while her husband went back to the village to find the lady proprietor. She sent back word that I could have a room. Then this couple spent several minutes advising me about walks and things to s
ee on Dartmoor. They were so kind.
    This morning I left the house before 9 o’clock, picked up a box lunch, and was soon on my way. I knew that a ten mile walk lay ahead, but I moved along slowly to drink in all the beauty of the countryside around. The weather was cloudy, sometime misty and threatening, but I had my London umbrella. I walked about two and a half hours before reaching the moors. Gradually I was climbing. Sheep were running loose on what seemed to be an open, common space. Nature dominates everything on the moor, vast open country spread over gently rolling hills. There are no trees, and from the tops of the tors, or rock formations, one can see for miles. The vegetation is mo
stly heather—a hardy, tough, low-growing plant, covered with small purple blossoms at this time of year. There wasn’t a soul around for miles. I was “thrilled to my toes,” as you would say, and often just laughed out loud. I climbed to the top of a rock that had been my destination. The wind started to blow hard and cold. I could see far distances across the heather-covered moor. Then clouds approached low, and sheets of rain passed across the landscape. Oh, I was so happy, but the rain increased all the time too, and I gradually realized how easy it would be to get lost. The mist was closing in, and I was to return by a different route. But the map encouraged me, so I continued on my way. I crossed two small streams, and there I wish you could have seen the marvelous colors of the moor: purple heather, yellow gorse, grey-white rock, rushing water, bare brown branches loaded with bright red berries, a grey stone bridge, sheep in the distance, me alone, rain and wind rushing on. I sat on a rock under my umbrella and watched with open mouth. The moors are best seen and experienced in just such conditions. I forgot to say that that Dartmoor is studded with stone circles, prehistoric remains of civilizations that lived here over 2,000 years ago. Occasionally there is the outline of a hut. I ate my lunch inside one of these circles where a leaning rock protected me.... I got back to the guest house around 5:00 p.m.


    September 30: (Gladys) Of all the letters we have had, the best one came this week on Friday. It made our blood curdle and we screamed out in our sleep that night, but now that it is over we rejoice with you. We could just see you, the storm, the beauty.... Don’t think of saving money.  You can make more money. Enjoy what you have already made. Think of those days you slaved at Austin College, nowhere to go, nothing to do, so you saved your money. What for? For this very thing—a trip to England.... On Saturday, I am free to wash, iron, write letters, read the papers and magazines and cook. In the late afternoons, I make my lesson plans. The day is very restful, then on Sunday, there is time to really relax. We go to Sunday School and leave as soon as our lesson is over.... Sometime Clayton stays as he likes to chat with the men. He can always find a way home. I have our snack on the table when he gets home, swish the dishes in the washer, then an afternoon of rest. Sometimes I get bored resting, so I make a cake or cookies for the next week....


    October 1: Your mention of “scrawny Mulberry” in connection with the lack of news is a clear warning. Yes, I know that little goes on, compared with what I have here. I still wonder how I shall be able to return and not long for something more. The fact is that I shall always long for something more, but we can’t determine everything, and only one place in the world is home for me, where it hurts less to be lonely. Everything eventually gives in to that one consideration. Here, I don’t have time to think, and I almost never feel lonely....

    October 10: ...with my American neighbor to St. Helen’s church to make brass rubbings. He did reasonably well, but not too well. Other American rubbers were there, and when one left, he said in a cutting tone, “See you in Vietnam.” The reply, “Not me; I’m a good guy.” Overhearing this exchange made my neighbor angry; but I hardly noticed, meaning that I’m not willing to take up America’s quarrels any more..... In Hampstead yesterday, someone handed me a leaflet about a demonstration against British support for the war...timed to be in conjunction with one in Washington. More hints come in of increasing resistance, and more isolation of the President; it’s frustrating not to know more. A leading churchman said this week that British support is against everything the country stands for, and the Labor Party Convention condemned the Government’s support, even morally, for the U.S. position....

    Mr. Baunfield at the library asked if I’ll be willing to stay longer in Britain. I already wonder what will happen when I return to Texas.... They are having a Russian week at the National Film Theater, so I have an opportunity to see the best...Lady with the Little Dog. As I walked away...thinking...what tragedy we must view people who can make such artistic films as enemies. Why don’t we see these good films from Russia, Hungary, France in the United States? I guess we are afraid they will turn us into Communists. Something about England that cramps me though. I can’t tell what it is, and I keep trying to define it. Actually, I think I do know.... After the film, I went to an old and famous German restaurant, Schmits, where I had a good supper with a light beer for about $1.15...read till bedtime, examining and arranging my new books.... I’m so glad you got the feel of Dartmoor. It seems like a dream already. Someday this whole year will be like a dream, and I have already thought of editing and transcribing our letter.... Remember to include all the good stories....

    October 29: After mailing my last letter, I lay down to sleep so full of thoughts and ideas that it’s hard to recapture them. I’ve been reading a book on the psychology of love and sex, written so well, and making such sense in terms of what I know from my own experience. I can’t help feeling I’m being led to discover something intimate about myself that I never knew before. Yes, I’ve known certain things, known them in terms of deep loneliness, anxiety and guilt, but to begin a little to understand why, this goes a long way toward helping me come to terms. On one side, it is terrifying to learn about all the little things that are apparently so important—which nobody seems to recognize—and that have already had their influence long before we make a conscious, moral choice. What can any of us do about the person we become? You used to tell me that I’m selfish, but now I see it’s worse, that I’ve never really loved anyone. I would feel guilty about selfishness. Imagine now, as someone who has desired, in some sense, to be a Christian, to be told I don’t love—where can this lead but to despair? There’s no point debating what’s true. At least understanding undercuts some of the guilt and leaves me a little more free to appraise my real situation, and after this, within these limitations, to see what sort of life I can salvage.

    It’s here that this strange word “existentialism,” comes to have meaning. Even before I could put anything in words myself, the novels and plays expressing this outlook had an immediate relevance for me. I understood and gradually have been led. I think that’s why I have not gone further in the academic way. Why study this or that subject when, within the confines of my own consciousness, there is so much to know and understand? So I’m selfish; nothing interests me so much as what goes on, even boils, inside my brain. It is fascinating; sometime I can even stand aside and view myself as some other person. I look back on those high school years, leading on into the years at SMU and thank God that I won’t have to live them over again. I think of those times when I ached to love and be loved, but didn’t know how. Of that morning in the hall of the army headquarters, when Charlie Baymiller put his hand on my shoulder and asked, “How are you, Johnny?” A simple question, that I have not been able to forget, and wondered why, till now. This week I learned. I look back and understand. I have also been anxious, always, about the future. Those dreams I have when I’m especially tired, the same recurring dream too dreadful for words. I used to say it was the vision of a world without God till I realized that my old ideas of God had died a long time ago. Then I came closer and said it was a vision of life without meaning. Now it’s a world forever without love.

    There’s another element about those dreams. I never feel that it is only my life in question. Quite clearly I know that the obliteration of my own consciousness would change nothing. Something greater is at stake. When I’ve been thinking and reading, I get the idea that I’m not entirely alone after all, that there are countless other people who have found themselves in the same situation. So I think it would be a help if I could write something with understanding. Maybe I shall someday, but it will be difficult, and maybe I won’t. Some succeed better than others, and only a few are able to write in a way that helps others, but we are all of the same company. Instead of that terrible nightmare, at the end of life, I like to imagine that I will have lived out my life as an intense self-study, significant to me—what it means to be a human being. Just to stand as a sympathetic witness, quietly, is a role in itself that may create solidarity, and not war.

    Please don’t think I’m despondent or cast down in any way. This thinking goes on all the time; it is fed by reading, and it goes well in London where the loneliness that characterizes all men’s lives, whether they realize it or not, can be observed and felt. I frequently stand beside the river near the Festival Hall when the tide has turned and going out. One sees all sorts of refuse floating by. It may be a sentimental, worn-out way of visualizing life, but I see myself there too. Far from being sad anymore, I look forward to what I shall encounter next; I feel as though I have begun to live again.

    November 5: ...a good letter from Miss Vincent at Austin College. She says they have about given up getting a good person with experience to be dean. In that case they may decide that Dan Bedsole is a good as anyone they can get. She sounded pretty fed up—about usual—and said the library is just limping along. It seems there ought to be potential for a college in our area, that will expand, but one can’t tell. She says I’m needed badly, and that Bedsole talks of my return. I quote this, which has to do with Dorothy Head’s work at the Reference Desk. “In staff meeting Friday she mentioned the lack of real reference questions by students. Dan commented that changes in courses could account for some of it, and that students had been so accustomed to going to you, and learned what a real help you could be, that they would wait for you to be on duty to come in—implying that now that you are not there, the students just don’t come.”

    November 12: Then came Saturday. The Lord Mayor of the City of London rides in a red and gold coach in a long parade on the day he comes to office. It is an occasion of pageantry, anticipated this year especially because of the theme: The City and the Arts. The floats were all prepared by organizations that now represent such a delight to me: Royal Shakespeare Club, Covent Garden Opera and Ballet, and many others. With the bands and military units in smart dress, it was an impressive show....

    ...this morning to a Salvation Army Hall in Hendon. Somehow, I had imagined them to be like the Assembly of God church and, as a result, was quite surprised. Most were wearing their uniforms. They made part of the music for the service with a band. Most of the people had a clear, open countenance, intelligent, and not in any way fanatical. I was even more surprised by the sermon. It reminded me of the Methodist Church at its best. I didn’t find my attention wandering, and watched the minister’s face carefully...an expression I always imagined a Christian’s would show. The congregation was rather small, but four people welcomed me warmly. As I waited for the bus to go back to Mill Hill, I thought how much I like being here. London has so much that makes life good.... I’m afraid you didn’t read that letter as I hoped. I do not consider that anybody has “ruined my life”. I only wanted to set down something of my problem and suggest that while my life is different from others, I do have compensations in understanding and sensitivity that make life good, and that I’m growing toward making the most of it.... At least I wanted you to know that I am searching, and happy in my way. I want you to be happy. It is too soon to ask if you would be happy thinking of me always in England.

    November 16: Thursday night the Staff Association had its meeting. There weren’t more than forty present, but Miss McDarby and two of the top administrative staff were there. I had been asked to serve as one of four on an “Any Questions” panel. It was moderated by the No. 2 man and the other members, of course, were English. Some questions were intended for a display of wit, but others were serious.... The group seemed to enjoy our performance and many told me personally. I had decided I might as well loosen up and speak freely. Mr Baunfield said I “made the show”. It sounds silly to write this...but just to say these people don’t know me yet....

    It has happened: devaluation of the pound. Crisis abroad, but the paper I read today thinks this may be the beginning of an economic recovery for Britain. How did I have sense enough to get my poor little $700 back into an American bank?. Dollars buy 14.3% more than yesterday.

    November 26: Where I made my mistake was insisting on SMU instead of East Texas. I was very insistent on the point and it has made a tremendous difference. I wonder how much that determination was just the Hall pride that didn’t want to go with the common herd. SMU was the select school of our little world. No, I’m not surprised that I didn’t go on for the Ph.D. after those four years and the offer of the Woodrow Wilson scholarship. I worked hard at SMU, but what I accomplished was not the product of a disciplined and balanced intellect. Rather, it was a compensation because there was nothing else to do at the time. Thus does life hem us in as we move from decision to decision, mostly in the dark. I thought of my “selfishness” during the play last Tuesday when Bernard Shaw had one of his characters say, “A man’s interest in the world is nothing more than the overflow of his interest in himself.” Deep down, I wonder if that isn’t true. 

    Of course, I recognized the loneliness in Mother’s slow drive back to the farm after an outing in Sherman. Perhaps it is enough to say that, in our own way, we are happy.

    November 27: Last night I did go to Southwark Cathedral and afterwards really scolded myself for letting five weeks go by. It was so interesting! Remember that these services—not really—meetings are intended to suggest ways Christians can show the relevance of their faith in the 20th Century. Last night the program was presented by a group that works with physically and mentally handicapped children. In “real life” they must be actors and dancers. Their technique is to present short scenes in mime, acted out to music, to help the children express themselves in simple, elementary ways, and to discharge emotion. I don’t know much more about the philosophy behind the group’s work, but I felt my hands too wanting to “make shapes.” Old women from the audience were brought into the action and tried to do a little dance and play a part. I’m anxious to go back and see what comes next, but now it’s time for Christmas carols...then back to the usual meetings and consider immigrants to Britain and their problems in society....

    Also last week...as I looked for the Underground station a woman stopped me and asked if I could tell her what a certain street sign meant. I puzzled over it and finally told her I didn’t know. A bit further down the street I realized what she intended. With Soho Square just around the corner? I guess she was amused, the way I tried to make sense of the sign. Hope she had better luck... but better hurry because a policeman was ambling down that way....

    ...a night of bad dreams. Someone had heard the radio program “Letter from America” on Sunday when the commentator said there hasn’t been a more “solemn Thanksgiving” in America for many years. (I guess the assassination was excluded.) Anyway, the idea was that with the neglect of the Negro problem, for occupation with Vietnam, the U.S. may come to another Civil War. We are hearing that McNamara will resign for differences with Johnson over further escalation of the war. I woke feeling so glad that nothing had happened...you were missing in some sort of raid but, as it turned out, you weren’t.

    December 5: ...an unforgettable night at the Covent Garden Opera House. It may sound strange that such an establishment of high culture should be in the middle of London’s vegetable market, but that’s just England, and I wouldn’t want it changed one jot. In fact, after I got off the tube and started walking in the direction of the opera house, I realized I hadn’t brought my A to Z and I didn’t know where I was exactly. The streets were dark too, but when I began to smell the warm earth fragrance of turnips and cabbages, I knew I couldn’t be far off, and sure enough I wasn’t. The opera house itself has recently been redecorated inside, and although it is an old building, it is very beautiful. In addition, of course, it has all the rich memories of by-gone years when others saw the same opera...the performance of La Boheme I saw was the 250th performance of that work at Covent Garden...lovely music, and in the first act when the singers moved into “Your tiny hand is frozen,” I felt cold chills of thrill rise to the very crown of my head.

    December 10: Having given a hint of the full day I looked forward to on Thursday, as I mailed my last letter, I will take up there. I got up at six o’clock, one hour earlier than usual, and went into central London for a twenty-five mile train ride to the little town of Stoke D’Abernon. A beautiful little church is there was my destination, and as I walked across some rural country toward it, fine dairy cattle around brought to mind the sadness and tragedy that has come to so many farms because of the foot and mouth epidemic. More than 270,000 animals have been slaughtered and the disease still spreads.

    With its south wall built in the 7th Century, the church is one of the oldest in Brita
in. The day was lovely, clear and cold, but inside the church was warm. By now you have guessed that I was there to make a brass rubbing... the oldest “still existing” brass in England. I paid $2.40, or one pound, for the privilege and worked carefully at it for almost four hours. Sir John D’Abernon died in 1277. In the brass he appears in full armor as a knight. The figure is about seven feet tall and goes a long way toward letting us know how knights looked then. As the rubbing started to come through on my paper, I tried to realize that I was looking at details shaped by someone’s hand that long ago. It wasn’t until I put the rubbing up on my wall this morning that I could really appreciate what a wonderful thing I’d got.... A woman from America flew over about two weeks ago to make this same rubbing, then flew home again on the same day. However exaggerated such efforts, I’m sure you will be impressed with Sir John....

    After work I met Karen and Allison and we went to an excellent Chinese restaurant for about $1.25 each. Allison is from the country around Dartmoor where I went to see the heather bloom. She is convinced that ghosts exist and told us about some she has seen. You may smile, but the belief in ghosts in not uncommon in England. We went on to the Cecil Sharp House to hear traditional English folk songs. Some of the young people looked the “beat” type, with long hair. They sang and the audience joined in on the chorus, but the best by far was an old man who had been a sailor. He sang the songs he had learned at sea and gave the impression of a really authentic figure. Everything was informal and I enjoyed the evening very much. You will be tired of hearing this, but as I listened, I couldn’t help thinking how full London is of all the things I love. If I were really homeless, I would live in London...on to Southwark Cathedral and heard Robinson, the Bishop of Woolwich. His sermon was along the line of his famous book, that the search for God must begin on earth and among men. He mentioned having visited a church in Texas where the pulpit is six feet higher than everything else.... He did not use the pulpit but stood on the floor at the intersection of the nave and the transept. In the question period I identified myself as being from Texas....

    December 17: This afternoon I went with several from the library to the Royal Albert Hall to hear Christmas carols sung by the Bach Choir. Then Allison, Karen and I had supper together and went on to Belsize Park for another service of carols, scripture and prayers.... Tomorrow, back to Covent Garden to hear the opera Othello. Miss McDarby brought the program for the next booking season and I hope for six tickets in all.

    December 24: Then I went to Harrod’s and selected a gift for David and Maurene. It is a glass candle holder from Sweden. I liked it so much that I bought a second one for myself, now burning in front of your picture to make a cheerful sight. The days are still quite short, so I returned to my flat without doing anything else.... But on Saturday afternoon I saw a prize-winning French film called “Belle de Jour.” It was sad, so I felt the need to walk afterwards in Green Park through mostly deserted paths. I passed Buckingham Palace, but knew that the Queen had left that morning for Christmas at Windsor Castle. I heard her annual broadcast this morning on the radio...a good talk.


    December 30: (Gladys) Now to answer the letter we got today. What fun to walk in front of Buckingham Palace on Christmas Eve! It was news here, and they made a big to-do about Queen Elizabeth’s car going dead and having to be pushed off.  We laughed about it. We are so grateful to the people who asked you to Christmas dinner and we look forward to the day when we can return the favor.


    December 31: ...to the British Museum. Mostly I looked at things from the life of ancient Greece because  I have just read a book on the subject. Then I went to a part of London I’d never explored before to see a film called “Far from Vietnam”... avowedly anti-U.S., and although I was on my guard, I couldn’t help being affected... the combined work of Europe’s leading film makers, in color...contrasting the mighty U.S. with bombs, airplanes and costly instruments of war, and the determination of the North Vietnamese, who have almost no material resources... struggle of the rich to keep down the poor...drove home the idea that we keep the war at a distance, and try not to let our consciences become involved. Of course, the war is coming home, very close, to American families who have lost men, but how can I answer the charge when I feel in my heart and all my intellect that the war is wrong—a crime against the people of Vietnam? For European audiences the invitation is obvious: Hate Americans. “The Americans are Germans in Vietnam.” U.S. demonstrations in favor of the war point to underlying racial tensions. Black Power! Regardless of what side we take, we don’t actually share in the agony of this war. We sit on the fence. One thing helps, and that is to see, to know, that Vietnam is being, has already been, destroyed, and if you look in whose hands the destroying weapons are, they are in the hands of the United States. Then ask what confidence you have that Americans are humane. See how complaisant we have been about Negro slums. I hate sitting on the fence. As Thoreau says, maybe the honest men are the ones in prison....

    Wandering through the British Museum, I stopped short before one pedestal. On it was the original of the “Aphrodite” you gave me last Christmas, from Brentanno’s in New York.             

    1968 January 21: ...left the house at 7:15 for Liverpool Street Station...to a small village east of Cambridge called Westley Waterless where the church has two brasses, side by side, a knight and lady, Sir John and Lady Creke...dating from 1325.... Westley doesn’t even have a store...just a cluster of farm houses, with the old church standing to one side...grown over with tall, dead grass, gravestones leaning in all directions. Through dim panes from inside, I could see trees standing black and leafless. A gale was blowing strong, whistling and howling around the corners. Throughout the whole time, I was alone there, thinking and working over a great sheet of white paper, almost as big as a bed. Gradually I saw the images of Sir John and Lady Creke appear in black. All day the wind howled. Back in Texas, the memory of this day will remain clear in every detail. Taking a rest, I walked around the church and noticed music on the organ stand: “Home on the Range.”

    After work Saturday...to the Cecil Sharp House again...singing folk songs...and talked with a young man who comes every week...what these songs mean to him...preserving an impression of life in past centuries. He doesn’t know the American Negro spirituals....

    February 4: Aida...most spectacular of operas. The sets and robes...dazzling...to remember forever...a little envious of those whose home is here...always a part of their lives...a little distracted when Miss McDarby comes on the same night. We leave our seats during the intervals to eat chocolate ice cream. I’d rather sit alone and look at the beautiful curtain, the people in evening dresses in the boxes below. The government voted (in spite of economic difficulties) to go ahead with construction of the new National Theatre....

    This week brought everyone’s attention back to Vietnam. Friday in the library a lady came up and said she couldn’t help thinking how many sad and anxious people there must be in the United States as news of the casualties comes in. The caretaker standing nearby said he wasn’t sorry for them, that the Americans are getting what they asked for. On the news this morning I heard that the Americans lost 350 men...for their lost lives...the Communists lost 15,000! We mustn’t brush these numbers aside. If history shows the U.S. wrong, what a scream of anguish.... I expect it in my lifetime.

    February 11: ...dreadful news from Vietnam this week...now talk of using nuclear weapons in that poor country. What do the people feel at home? Doesn’t anyone question? Kennedy’s statement was important, though late. A commentator today predicts a situation far more grave than Vietnam, developing right at home, in the racial situation. All these worries make what I did on my day off seem heartless and unfeeling, and I thought so. The worries of our country were with me... beautiful and clear as I set out for a long walk through Chelsea and along the river Embankment. By afternoon the clouds had come, though the sun still made patches of
color in the sky. Famous artists have lived along the river and painted its beauty here. Don’t imagine a river running through woodlands as it might in the country. The Thames here is London’s river—a working river with boats and barges and with docks and a flour mill. Tall chimney stacks at the Battersea Power Station pour billows of smoke, discoloring the sky. I made pictures...what I saw on that walk....

    Aunt Lelia’s letter...with news of Doyle Cain’s death. I’m sure you will give a full report. One by one, things happen to Miss Grace that add an aspect to her life I had not connected with her before.... I don’t know what other people learn from their suffering. She seemed at first like one of the Pharisees, calling down wrath on a world that wouldn’t change “before it’s too late,” always singing the old hymns in assurance of her salvation. Maybe she will say, even of her own, it’s turning out as she said, but to think this is “unchristian.” On Highway 78...remember Marvin Baker’s old school bus and trips to community ball games, or to town on Saturday night...in days that are gone. Sad for me, remembering that Doyle was something of a hero in our little world, so out of touch, but we didn’t know. Maybe he never knew, didn’t escape. I hope I’ve escaped. Through what paths and into what new dangers, I’m only vaguely conscious....

    Tuesday: another busy week.... Fonteyne first danced Swan Lake at Covent Garden in 1938. Nureyev escaped from a Russian tour in Paris a few years ago.... I couldn’t begin to describe....

    ...a two page letter from Bedsole, my contract with Austin College, and President Moseley’s announcement of Bedsole’s appointment as Dean. Bedsole said he will retain the title “Director of Library and Teaching Resources” and that my title will be “Deputy College Librarian.” He will keep the title “Director” for a year or two. I don’t know what will happen after that. He said the faculty has expressed unanimous support for me in this position...he will leave library operations to me and give all the help he can, but not interfere....

    February 25: I had a long letter from Miss Vincent. She answered some of my questions and gave a fuller report on Dorothy Head’s reaction. Evidently she took it pretty hard and did everything she could to keep them from offering me the position. At one stage she asked them to put her in charge of the library again.... Will she give me a hard time, or be cooperative? It could go either way. I gather that she told Bedsole a great deal about the history of our difficulties, including the time I told her that she was the poorest excuse for a librarian I’d ever met. It was the day I should have resigned, but didn’t, and she didn’t feel like challenging the truth of what I said, so here we are....

    I’m thankful for every good report of your well-being and good health at home. What a blessing that is, and how it helps me feel good even though I am far away. In spite of the dark clouds appearing from so many directions, I can’t help feeling that, for the moment, we are enjoying an island of happiness. That “island” again....

    April 9: [London] ...come now to what is most on my mind this sad day. As soon as I arrived on the island of Mykonos...learned the death of Martin Luther King... cannot know yet the full extent of the tragedy...funeral will be broadcast live all over Europe this evening. I will try to find a TV....

    April 16: Early Friday morning, Karen, Allison, Peter the Australian, and I set out in a rented car for Cornwall. We stopped at Alison’s home in Devon. Her mother and sisters had a won
derful supper prepared for us, and I enjoyed their interesting old house. The main part, built in 1425, is furnished almost entirely with antiques. As I looked round my attractive but old-fashioned room before turning out the light, it was not hard to understand how people in England’s west country believe in ghosts. I almost expected a previous occupant to take up his position again during the night at a folding writing table beside my bed.

    April 22: How fast time passes! I had hoped my leaving London would find every out-bound thought full of happiness at seeing you again. But no...like a pendulum, I feel independent...meaning I find here what I need to go on. Librarianship, under the best of circumstances, is poor enough. Last week I visited a young librarian who wants more than anything to be a writer. He questioned me about the books I’ve read lately, and said, “There aren’t many people like you around”—a compliment, I thought. The awful problem is getting things to fit together so they make sense. My only hope...have enough inner direction...to try once more, or manage somehow to return to London.

    So Mildred is worried about Negro violence in Ravenna? Have there been rumors? As soon as they handed me a freshly printed copy of The Times last Friday, on a tour of the paper, the first thing to catch my eye was “Whites Kill Negro in Boston.” My sympathy is entirely with the Negroes, and I have come more and more to see just how ugly the mass of white society is in its hypocrisy. The only thing I can hope for is, if things get bad enough, maybe Congress will do something, and maybe we can elect a President with a dedication first to the problems at home.


    April 25: [Gladys] Personally I could easily and joyfully accept the idea that I would never see you again in this world, if it would be best for you....


    April 28: I wonder if it’s a mistake to return, or if I ought to settle in New York City. Yet no decision need be a hopeless mistake as long as one’s alive. The real danger is to my inner state, drying up and becoming hopeless again.... I did see a fashionable coat which I liked...probably a little too smart, with a big collar in the current British mode. At a cafe where I took my meals in Greece, one of the young waiters was talking to the woman representing the Aegina Club, who looked after me. They had been chatting in Greek while I ate, then when he left, she said, “He says you wear old fashioned clothes.” We laughed because, in fact, I was wearing the baggy old pants left over from student days.

    My reading lets me know I’m on the right track. Others have been this way.... This view encompasses all of life. Little places like Austin College, and even London, are part of my outlook now. Peace will come; it’s important to recognize that I’m happy here.

    May 9: Sunday...trip to Holland...uneventful flight...surprised how little the news of yesterday’s crash affected me. This visit to the tulip fields in bloom fulfills...all the way back to when I first saw and loved a flower...a Delft factory...bought a piece to bring home. Tonight I walked beyond our hotel along a cold beach and watched a lighthouse send out its beam....

    May 12: ...cold and wet...listening on the radio to Beethoven’s 9th Symphony... middle movement so lovely I could cry if I concentrated all my attention...same music ...last February heard with Sue...things I will not do or accomplish in this life...at least I have not failed to respond to this...add the tulips, add all that I have caught from earth’s changing scene and brought to consciousness in my own being, and it is enough...not to give me any value in the eyes of others, but enough for life to have meaning for me.

    On this beautiful day I should be out and doing...making a list of the free time I have left in England, to be sure I don’t waste any...French play...ballet at Covent Garden...another play. I had your letter with the picture of Gary and Kim which I opened before going to sleep...gradually accepting the idea that she is prettier than all other babies...recall Gary himself no bigger.... All my life I have been conscious of passing time. Like last night at the theater when I departed from my usual custom and bought an orange drink. Good. At first the cup was full, then only half full. I looked back to when the cup was full. In another minute it will be empty. On the last day of my life, I will look back to this very morning and remember a cup still half full, and our Kim, only a baby. Whatever else I remember then, no one can tell, but I don’t expect any surprises.

    ...the French know that DeGaulle isn’t God. I wish the student riots would stop. They are in the heart of my favorite part of Paris. It sounded better on the radio this morning.

    May 20: [from Paris] Springtime in Paris!  Friday night people were assembled on
many streets, but they were quiet...hardly guess the tension. Police vans were stationed on all bridges crossing the Seine to ensure that students didn’t cross from the university....

    Henriette...hair entirely white now. She wore a light gray suit and looked extremely nice.... Soon we were off for a brief drive around Paris, then to her new flat...all my news...her new life now that mother is dead...except for eight years, always with her mother...a deep feeling of loss, and relief that she is free...tears just below the surface...even now she cries out in the night. Her new flat is on the fourth floor...the antique pieces around her still, and the stern portrait of her father... out of the dark, old flat where she lived so many years, “against my will—that rat hole”... balcony looking over a medium sized cemetery...“it doesn’t bother me at all”...past the big Renault car factory nearby. The workers had locked themselves inside. From each end the “red flag of revolution” fluttered in the wind. Only when I’d arrived back in London did I learn the pitiful plight of all the poor animals locked in railway cars...strikers wouldn’t let the humanitarian society come near. In fact, I barely got out myself before the worse effects began to be felt in France.

    May 27: Chelsea Flower Show...the English love of gardening, and even the sma
llest plot will have a garden, usually for roses...a major event under large tents, on the grounds of the Royal Hospital, all sorts of flowers...making notes for their own garden...myself, too, planning my garden in far-away Texas...on to the National Theater where I saw John Gielgud in Seneca’s play “Oedipus”...the last ticket I have.

    Sunday...with Karen and Allison...by train about an hour...to Hever Castle. Hedge rows are in full blossom; the air sweet...where Ann Boleyn lived with her family when Henry VIII came courting, and we know how that ended. The Astors own it now...entered by a drawbridge across a moat, then there are gardens around the castle.


     Karen loaned me...The Life of Charlotte Bronte by Mrs. Gaskill, a contemporary and friend...describing this strange family on the edge of the Yorkshire moors...
a memorial to that life and wild place... Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre...on a three day bank holiday this next weekend I’m going...walk on the same moors they loved....

        June 2: ...waiting in the breakfast room at the Black Bull in Haworth, my visit to the Bronte country almost over. The brother, Branwell, drank himself to death here. Mean-while he amused every traveller at the inn with conversation, and might have been a creative person himself.

    Haworth is a remote place, but still one of the most popular literary pilgrimages in England ...the parsonage where the Rev. Bronte’s family lived during his long encumbancy. Around the house on two sides is the church yard on which the children looked out. Now it is full of tall trees, overgrown, and in a neglected condition. It has a spell of its own, regardless of how it looked without trees when the Bronte’s lived here. Rooks, crow-like birds, roost high up and make a continual noise with their calling...wheeling over the church tower at intervals. Inside the church is the vault where the entire Bronte family, save one, now lies...but what I want to think about now, and to remember, are the moors.

    ...still reading Mrs. Gaskill’s Life...in many ways a sad story, but strong too in the characters who loved the moors. Before setting out, I ought to have said that, inside the parsonage, I looked at all its furnishings, and had no difficulty in imagining...saw the parlor table around which the three sisters walked night after night, discussing the plots of their stories and the plans they hoped to carry out in the future. One by one they died—all young—until only Charlotte walked on, alone. The old servant whose grave I found in the church yard remembered and told the story to Mrs. Gaskill.

    Sunday morning...pockets full of sandwiches...a seven mile walk on the moors... hard to recall even now the happiness I felt...the vast, wild moors put one in a mystical mood...nature at its wildest, most mysterious...also freedom to the sisters...then out beyond to Top Withers, a deserted and ruined stone farmhouse associated with the haunting story of Wuthering Heights that Emily ... out of her imagination....

    I lay on the side of a little hill looking at the moors and the farmhouse...thought of their lives...you in Mulberry...some resemblance...mother would see herself, and I will soon be returning to Texas...this month—the 29th. How glad I will be to see you...can’t make any predictions about the future...how good this year has been.

    ...returning to a more substantial job...work hard to make it all I can...maybe a kind of life will emerge. I look forward to getting back to the farm, to my gardening and trees...keep it somehow, continue to develop our home into an interesting place to receive our friends, and I hope we will have friends. I look forward to seeing Kim for the first time, anticipating all she will mean to us...pass in a flash.... I want to see the farm all over again...we have not made enough of the river going by....


    June 7: (Gladys)  Friends! There won’t be many friends. All the people I know are rushed and worked to death. Friends!—no—just work....


    June 9: ...a beautiful day. Sue and I are going to Chartwell, the home of Sir Winston Churchill, by bus, through lovely English countryside....

    At home, for you, a day of national mourning. I went to bed last night listening to the service in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a place I know, and woke to hear news of the crowds waiting as the train passed. This kind of demonstration affects me greatly...where I need to be—among the people. Can America possibly elect a good and wise leader in November, can he live to change the direction of our country? I am left with this thought which The Times quoted from a French newspaper: “The perpetrators of nearly all the American political murders in the past decade choose their victims in the same camp and prefer to attack men who, over and above personal sympathies, incarnate the image of America that one likes to give it.” Robert Kennedy and President Kennedy died in the same America that only two months ago also killed Martin Luther King, and that for over a hundred years has lynched and terrorized Negroes. Maybe Oswald “acted alone,” and maybe Sirhan is from Jordan, but do we not know our country too well to take any comfort in that? President Johnson has said American society is not basically sick...but I wonder if the History he has such an eye on will not prove him wrong. In Britain they simply cannot understand how the U.S. Congress should so neglect its duty to control fire arms. But in America every boy must have his gun, and we can’t understand how sick the motive is. From abroad, one starts to see his own country in a new light, but this doesn’t mean that I don’t have faith in America. On the contrary, I feel inspired to (what can I do?) do something to fulfill the promise of America. We have failed to realize how many are the enemies within our society, and far from attacking them, we go all the way around the world to kill and destroy a small country like Vietnam, as an outlet for the violence we can no longer control at home. Bitter! how bitter. I hope I can find some way to help being down this false America so that the real one, the idealistic one, can come into its own. One hopes that shocking events like these murders will jar people into thinking what kind of country we live in, but it doesn’t seem to. What could have been more tragic than the death of Martin Luther King? We, the poor people and the Negroes, see what happens to our leaders. If I felt the least bit that there was any God who could be reached from earth, I would pray for Senator McCarthy that he might be elected the leader we need. As it is, my hopes are all earth-bound and in these times you can easily see what happens to earth-bound hopes.

    It was on Wednesday morning about 9:30 that I heard the news. Someone came directly to tell me. Why should I have been surprised? I realized too that you were asleep in the middle of the night, like
Jackie Kennedy was, and that I was probably receiving the news before you did. I imagined someone calling you early, and you turning on the television. Well, I must have continued to hope because the next day, Thursday, I had an appointment with a librarian at the University of Sussex, and on the way to Brighton read the early morning paper. It is here beside me now. “Kennedy Still Alive.” Then as I walked through the streets of this sea-side town thinking, of course, thinking, I noticed a small, poorly printed sign outside a news agent’s shop: “Kennedy Dies.” I was furious. Stupid idiots to put up such a sign! I just read he’s still alive! But in the shop I saw the bold, black headline. This is the nearest I’ve come to feeling my head run into a brick wall...carried all my newspapers down to the sea. They didn’t seem to tell much. Waves were coming in. It would have felt so good to cry. Couldn’t, my little mind couldn’t take it in. I wanted to return home to Texas at once. I wanted to see everything on television, and I wanted to cry. Instead, I spread out my papers on the sand and took pictures of the waves.

    June 16: I don’t see how I could return if I didn’t feel that the struggle is worth undertaking.... I’ve been happy in England like never in my life before, but this happiness may not be the goal I’m seeking. I am prepared to be disappointed in many things, but imagine it doesn’t matter all that much....

    ...called the Chichester Festival Theater and have tickets for two plays in one day...T. S. Eliot’s The Cocktail Party. Sir Alec Guiness will play the main part....


    LAVINIA: You might be able to find the road back/ To a time when you were real—for you must have been real/ At some time or other....

    EDWARD: There was a door/ And I could not open it. I could not touch the handle./ Why could I not walk out of my prison?/ What is hell?...