So you can read my books

Sunday, April 13, 2014


"As you have seen, I am a writer who came of a sheltered life. A sheltered life can be a daring life as well.  
For all serious daring starts from within."
 (The concluding sentences of One Writer’s Beginnings, by Eudora Welty, born on this day in 1909.)

Eudora Welty would find it amusing that the first elephant arrived in America on this date in 1796.

 She would not find its fate amusing at all:

The elephant, named Old Bet, was brought back from India to America by a sea captain who hoped to sell her.

Old Bet was eventually bought by Hackaliah Bailey, one of the founders of Barnum and Bailey, and stayed with the circus

 until she was shot and killed by a boy who had heard that her hide was bulletproof, and wanted to see if it was true.

Mankind is often not very kind, but it can be sparked to do the right thing for the wrong reason:

On this day in 1360 a massive hail killed British troops in France.  

A massive hailstorm killed over 1,000 British troops fighting in the Hundred Year's War in France.

The hailstorm was seen as a divine sign, and the King of England negotiated with peace for France.

Was Eudora Welty an Outlaw?

Consider the following images of the woman generally deemed to be the finest Southern short-story writer of the 20th century:

Eudora Welty nightclub-hopping until all hours in Paris and New York.

Or paying visits to her "feather-boa-ed bootlegger" in her hometown, Jackson, Miss.

Or enjoying nighttime skinny-dipping in a friend's swimming pool.

Eudora Welty, decades later, venturing off to see "A Hard Day's Night."

Or writing to a friend to complain, "Oh, God! I had to meet Pres. Nixon!"

Eudora Welty, at age 70, visiting friends with whom she "danced and cavorted."

None of this quite tallies with the image the reading public had of Welty in her later years as "the Benign and Beamish Maiden Aunt of American Letters"

(as her friend Reynolds Price tartly put it).

It underscores the adventurous nature of Welty's life and notes the frustration she felt when her independent spirit was constrained by family duty.

It draws plausible links between the dramas of her life and the vigor of her fiction.

It also makes clear that Welty's decision to stay in Jackson, Miss., even during its tensest racial conflicts,

wasn't an act of complacency but one of endurance,

during which she did what she could — while caring for her ailing mother — to help create a multi-racial, liberal oasis in Jackson.

And there was Kenneth Millar (the real name of thriller-writer Ross Macdonald),

with whom Welty had an intense long-distance affair punctuated with occasional visits in the flesh.

Whether it was a sexual affair or not remains uncertain — but it was enough to trigger jealous reactions from Millar's wife.

Her father had died when she was 21; the rest of her immediate family — mother, two brothers — were gone by the time she was 56.

The life-loving Welty cherished her friends and used lecture opportunities and fellowships to see as much of them as she could. Hence all the travel.

Still there is mystery to Eudora since all her correspondence with her mother is sealed until 2021

“We are the breakers of our own hearts”
― Eudora Welty



  1. Her correspondence to her MOTHER is sealed until 2021? Who makes these sorts of decisions? Welty in her will? Her mother in hers? Her publisher? Seriously... I try to imagine what I would write to my MOTHER in a letter and I cannot think of anything that would cause it to be sealed. But then maybe my life isn't/wasn't as exciting as Eudora's life. Hmm.

  2. "All serious daring starts from within" -- I like that.

  3. Whenever items are sealed, it usually means there is something potentially damaging to someone within. The sealing ensures those who may be mentioned or the person sealing them will be gone and no longer accountable. Makes for an interesting mystery. . .

    How can I not like an independent woman? Some do stay where they are and try to make it better. Some leave to find better pastures for themselves, if they are not content. If she liked Paris, she gets even more interesting.

    Thanks for the intro to another female with no boundaries on her soul.

  4. I LOVE her acceptance of responsibility for her life course in that final quote. Thank you. So many of your outlaws are my heroes.

  5. A most intriguing outlaw. They do burn from within, an incandescence defying definition.

  6. Robin:
    As D.G. surmised: Welty stated in her will that her letters to her mother were to be sealed until that date. Mark Twain instructed his autobiography to be sealed until 100 years after his death.

    Twain could be honest that way without hurting anyone still alive, and I wager the same rationale is true with Ms. Welty.

    Her thought is true. Our minds first conceive then our actions follow through, right? :-)

    I think Ms. Welty would like the term "no boundaries on her soul."

    Yes, I thought you would like that she loved Paris. :-)

    Elephant's Child:
    To accept responsibility for our choices is so important -- and yet so hard when their consequences are adverse.

    You and I could gather quite an outlaw band, couldn't we?

    I like your phrase "an incandescence defying definition."

    Unique, autonomous people are like that. :-)

  7. Oh that inquisitive boy! Eudora certainly has some words of wisdom. I'm coming by to catch up on posts Roland. Having a bit of a blog hiatus but managed a post today.

    Hope all goes well with you!