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Saturday, April 13, 2024



"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

In Meilori's, her ghost deals off the bottom of the deck when playing poker with the ghost of Mark Twain.

But that scoundrel cheats, too!

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 2025

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