Dale Morgan on Early Mormonism
John Phillip Walker, editor
45. To Fawn Brodie
2 May 1955
Let me make you a present of a photostat which will interest you considerably. I’ve been trying to run this thing down for some years, but have only now made connections on it. There was something in the Evening and Morning Star which gave me cause to think the Isaac Hale affidavit had been printed in advance of its appearance in [E. D.] Howe’s book [Mormonism Unvailed], and now we have the whole story. I suppose it appeared in the Montrose paper the last week of March or first week of April, 1834, but no files of that paper are known for the critical period.
What I have wanted to demonstrate here was that Hale made his statement without any leading questions being put him, and without any prompting from [Philastus] Hurlbut. Howe was circumspect here, I think, although his own purpose and “prejudice” is obvious. And Hurlbut did not figure in the final making of an affidavit, though we don’t get clear of him entirely, not knowing what he wrote Hale in the first instance, and what Hale’s response was.
The extent of Hurlbut’s own contribution to Howe’s book has been long debated. If he actually wrote anything in it, I think it was merely the running analysis of the content of the Book of Mormon. He turned over the affidavits and such he had gathered, but the main text, I am sure, was written by Howe. It ties into Howe’s back files of the Telegraph, and goes forward beyond the Hurlbut time to include an account of the Zion’s Camp episode, the style of this being part and parcel with the rest of the contemporary history. Evidently Howe preferred to play down Hurlbut and the part he had played in assembling the affidavits, etc., for the things he cut from the photo-stat text I now send you are mainly related to Hurlbut’s previous letter of inquiry. Anyway, it’s nice to have these things come out of the corners.
Yesterday Francis W. Kirkham walked in on me and visited for an hour or so. He is in some farm bureau insurance business now, but was down here visiting three children who live in the area. He didn’t have anything very interesting to say, unfortunately, seeming [p.201] more concerned about taking notes on what I had to say, including such commonplaces as the lack of intellectual curiosity in the Mormon generation that has come of age since the war, etc., etc. He did remark that his books hadn’t done notably well, perhaps because he lacked promotional ability. He did comment though on the tendency of church members to buy books by Authority, meaning the authorities of the church, of course. It appears that the Deseret Book Store has bought out Zion’s Printing & Publishing Company, or whatever the name of that Independence outfit is, and consequently fell heir to a considerable number of copies of his books, so that they had a conference sale on these. Sales results he didn’t know.
Having permitted him to pick my brains in the interest of his books before, I chose to say nothing this time about the Isaac Hale stuff, and did not get the photostat out of my desk to let him see it.
Fred Rosenstock, the Denver bookseller, was through here three or four weeks ago, having stopped off enroute in Provo to visit [LeRoy] Hafen, [M. Wilford] Poulson[, a professor of psychology at BYU], and other friends. It would seem that Poulson is happier than in some years, for [S.] Lyman Tyler, the young fellow who was named Director of Libraries at BYU a year ago, likes Poulson and vice versa; he hired Poulson to arrange and catalogue the Mormon collections there at BYU and has otherwise made life seem worth living. I think he said Poulson was now 75; can this be correct? Anyway, it appears that he is in very good health right now, and that he anticipates a visit to Bancroft sometime in the not too distant future. I wonder if he ever will do what he has contemplated, publish Strang’s diary with proper notes. He contemplated doing a lot of things after retirement on Social Security, when, without actually saying so, he was free from reprisal for honest comment on facts. I don’t remember whether I ever discussed this with you, but M[ilo]. M. Quaife actually butchered Strang’s diary. He did not decipher the coded sections, put the pages together in the wrong order, transcribed incorrectly, etc., etc. The coded passages are remarkable, for they show Strang as a young man gripped by the Napoleonic achievement, an atheist, one with ambitions to set up a personal empire in America, etc., etc! If we had a secret diary kept by Joseph Smith for the same period, we might find some very similar inner thoughts.
I continue as busy as ever on this Navaho project, on the Bancroft job, and on the preliminary work for the Rand McNally book, to say nothing of a couple of jobs for the Eberstadts stacked up in my front room and demanding attention. Probably I will have to participate in some Navaho field work in July or August; and sometime during the summer I hope to get to Washington for a week or two. The centennial atlas text has to be ready October 1, and I hope to have the text of my book of Ashley documents ready by December. Rosenstock’s Old West Publishing Company will probably publish it, the printing to be done by Lawton Kennedy, the outstanding San Francisco printer who did the Jedediah Smith map book. It will be a [p.202] limited edition of about a thousand copies, and will yield a personal return of about as many dollars, which is better than one generally expects from a documentary book. After that is done, I’ll concentrate my attention on the Mormons again.
I am glad for all the news of the Brodies. It is an age since I saw you all, and even now, heaven knows when I’ll stretch my legs in your company again. Unless you all wander up this way and have dinner with me. You must continue full steam ahead on your book, knowing as I do that it will be a damned good book when you are through with it. I am somewhat surprised that Bernard has a new book under way, being under the impression he knew too much these days to be permitted to write books. But he ought to be full of news and views on air power, and I shall look forward to this new work of his.
The news of your father’s physical toughness is a pleasant surprise; may he hold out forever. Some similar good news has come from Ogden, where Madeline’s mother has far exceeded the expectations of her doctor, who at best thought she might be in for a life of permanent invalidism. Still her health is exceedingly precarious; these things are stacking up on her heart, and a time will come with her as it did with Maurice Howe when the overload becomes too great. So Madeline is frightened by any telegram that is sent her these days. She and Tom have been hunting for a house in the Berkeley area, out of the fog belt, but so far without success.
To get away from the constant pressure of print on my eyes, I have taken up with art again. The last six weeks I have been going occasionally to a life class over in San Francisco and to another here in Berkeley, drawing in pastel at the former, where the poses are longer, and in charcoal at the latter. The first drawing of the kind since before I went to Washington in 1942. I am somewhat out of practice, but I find the skills come back more rapidly than I looked for. I have somewhat a guilty feeling when I play hookey from work, but I feel guilty before my eyesight if I work all the time, too, so what the hell, I’ll choose the lesser guilt and have some fun besides. I mean to do some landscape painting in oil, too, but Sunday is the only chance for that at present, and the last three weeks our Sundays have been cold and rainy. Ergo, no landscape painting.
I am, dear Sister Brodie, your bro. in the bonds of faith,
46. To Fawn Brodie
19 September 1957
I got your [1830 first edition] Book of Mormon off by registered mail yesterday; it is pure inertia that it hasn’t been returned to you long since, and it is for the good of my immortal soul that I should be prodded into doing so. Or my conscience, or whatever.
Still, hanging on to the book got me a letter out of you, so maybe I am justified after all. You must be as busy from one day to the next as I am, and found the same havoc wrought in your correspondence. We are the losers by it, too, for when we live at a distance and opportunities for visits in the flesh are of rare occurence, letters must be our recompense and solace.
So I was glad for all the news of your family and yourself. What a fine, promising lot of kids you have, and how things have changed since I first made Dick’s acquaintance, pushing a wine bottle around on the floor of your apartment on Wisconsin Avenue! Somehow time keeps squeezing us along the path we must go.
But meanwhile you have finished a new book, at the cost of what pains I am only too aware, and I hope it will be moved right along into print; I have no doubts as to the quality of the book, having seen you once around the course with Joseph Smith. If Knopf sent or sends the book out to a revisionist critic, and gets a flaming response, all the better. For controversy is what sells books, and don’t think Knopf has gone all this time without finding it out!
Currently I have on hand from the Saturday Review a book being published next week by Chicago, Thomas O’Dea’s The Mormons (the guy stole my title, confound him). This is the first thoughtful book about the Mormons that has been published since yours came out, and I think it will interest you. He has been markedly influenced by your book, but he also offers a somewhat different analysis of the Book of Mormon. Of course this is not a book of rigorous scholarship, but a rather generalized work which approaches Mormonism temperately on the philosophical and sociological plane, no more well written than you would expect a university press book to be. But as I said, thoughtful at least, which is [p.204] more than one can say for most books about the culture from which we sprang.
I was up in Utah for two weeks in August, and brought back with me a new little work by George B. Arbaugh somewhat gaudily titled Gods, Sex, and Saints, a 61-page pamphlet published by Augustana College where he now holds forth. This is about what you would expect from him, with all the merits and otherwise of his Revelation in Mormonism.
I am reminded to say, too, that O’Dea remarks that the Church republished in pamphlet form that blast in the Deseret News Church Section; this was news to me if not to you.
The New Yorker surprised me at least with its review, for the book was published as long ago as December! In fact, I have been involved with so many other things that the book seems only a faint memory now. My book of Ashley documents, called The West of William H. Ashley, is about ready to go to the printer, and it will be followed almost at once by a related volume of Robert Campbell documents and a 49er Journal. With these three books of documents off my hands, I expect to get back to some plain narrative history, especially my major obligation, the Mormons. But time has come hard this summer and will come harder this fall because of Navajo necessities. We have been involved with the documentation to work out a conflict with the pueblos of Laguna and Acoma, and this in turn leads straight into our historical report on the southeastern quadrant of the Navajo claim. Our objective is to have a draft of the whole historical report done by January 1, but don’t bet any money on it. My next job is to digest an incredible volume of documents we have assembled pertaining to the San Juan country, and this will swallow up all the time I can find. Such is the irony of life, this Navajo work pays me double what the Bancroft job does, but I have been transfixed on Bancroft necessities, too, the need to get the library off the hook on the Guide to the Manuscripts which has been kicked around since 1947. So I haven’t been in a position to go on leave from that job, and have just had to pile a half-time job on top of a full-time job. Making some money along the way, but a wearing process, and I am not going to do it indefinitely. Life, as the philosopher says, is too short.
Madeline [McQuown] made a long, slow recovery from the very bad siege she had last summer, and she is limited in ways she was not before. But she is a woman of great courage and perserverance, not suited to this wretched Bay Area climate, alas, but unable to get away from it. She and Tom have been making an exhausting search for housing they can buy amid the impossible snarl of red tape and prohibitory regulation that governs loans and purchases of real estate, and I hope to high heaven that something is about to be settled about this. We saw last weekend a very interesting place in Walnut Creek, about 15 miles east of Berkeley, and probably as dry and sunny a location as this foggy area provides. But whether they [p.205] can swing the deal remained to be worked out. Perhaps they will be down this weekend with further news, good, I hope.
Don’t you ever get up this way? I’d like to do the honors, also show you the various LeConte Stewart oils and pastels I have bought, including a lovely November scene in Liberty Valley I purchased from him in August, an 18 x 24 canvas I am currently having framed. You will have to try to make it up here soon, so we can have a real visit.
With best regards,
47. To Fawn Brodie
21 August 1967
All my friends and relatives are complaining of me, and not without good reason. I get up in the morning and vow faithfully, “Today I will write Fawn, and my sister Ruth, and my brother Bob, and my uncle Hal, and Dan and Sandra Howe, and Dan’s mother, and Anna McConkey, and Floyd Risvold, and Robert Greenwood (and so on down the line).” And the sun goes down, and the moon too, and I wind up in bed, and I haven’t managed to write any of those letters.
So now I have your note of the 14th, which made a slow passage through the mails, and it shows you a true heroine, not one word of reproach for unpardonable neglect. Accordingly, I sit down at my typewriter immediately on getting back to B[ancroft]. L[ibrary]. from lunch, and try to justify my continued standing in the fellowship of amiable souls.
Last Christmas, so sorely beset was I that I didn’t even get my customary Christmas letters off to my friends, and of course that has complicated my life since, for all these friends, and especially you, deserve something special to atone for this neglect. I did hand onto the University Librarian, Coney, your memorandum about your [Richard] Burton collection, and I hope something came of that, though I knew that a considerable degree of duplication existed, in that the University Library bought many of the books as they were [p.206] published, even in Burton’s day. I was going to say then that I didn’t feel you needed to sweeten the deal in any way by throwing in your personal papers relating to N[o] M[an] K[nows] M[y] H[istory], for these were deserving of separate and individual disposition.
One trouble has been that I am still engaged in a major effort to catch up on all the time and effort that got diverted for a number of years to Navajo matters, while my books gradually jammed up behind. I have been attacking this logjam to the extent of getting out three or more books a year for the last several years, mainly works of documentary character that I could work at in a disconnected way, and though I have made progress, I am still about ten books away from getting current. Meanwhile I took on the job of editing the annual Lakeside Classic that [Milo] Quaire used to do; I did the 1965 book on the Minnesota Sioux uprising of 1862, the 1966 book, Laura F. Judd’s reminiscences of Honolulu, 1828-1861, and I have just sent off the index for the 1967 book, Jeremiah Lynch’s Three Years in the Klondike. These books had some side values, in that they brought me expense-paid visits to Minnesota in 1964 and to Hawaii, the Yukon, and Alaska last year. My primary interest, though, was in making conceivable and workable retirement from B. L. when I reach the minimum retirement age three years hence, with the object of spending all my time on research and writing thereafter. I am not going to do the 1968 classic, some work or other dealing with early Illinois history which Paul Angle will probably handle for them. But this has not taken any pressure off yet. Eleanor Harris and I will shortly have out at Huntington the massive William Marshall Anderson journals of 1834, in press there for more than a year. I am turning over to the printer, Lawton Kennedy, tonight the massive California recollections, 1849-1857, of Howard C. Gardiner; and next week I expect to wind up work on a somewhat shorter book, From Hudson Bay to the Great Salt Lake: The Journal of Joseph Burke in the Canadian and American West, 1843-1846. (Made up principally of letters Burke wrote to Sir William Hooker while acting as a botanical collector, letters preserved in the Royal Botanic Garden at Kew, England.) By October I hope to give Knopf the overdue manuscript fashioned from the diary of William B. Lorton, the finest Forty-niner diary I have ever laid eyes on. There are a couple more things to be done by Christmas, and by spring I want the companion book to my giant Ashley book, one centering upon Robert Campbell and to be called the Rockies and the Yellowstone, ready to go. I have meanwhile done most of the preliminary labor on my long-deferred bibliography on Mormonism, 1830-1849, but have sat on that all this year, rather hoping that U[niversity of]. C[alifornia]. might untrack itself and so amend its sabbatical leave setup as to include me and similar specialists. With [California governor Ronald] Reagan’s war on the finances of the University, though, heaven knows when such a step may be taken. I have about another year of working with basic documentary texts before I can tackle [p.207] things like my general work on the fur trade and my long deferred general work on the Mormons.
Meanwhile, of course, we get older and creakier. Some tests begun in 1965 finally arrived at a finding that I am a mild diabetic, and for the past year I have been cooperating in a diabetic research program undertaken by the Kaiser people in cooperation with the U.S. Public Health Service. What this mainly involves is watching what I eat (avoiding sugar as much as possible) and gulping a pill with breakfast and dinner. The pill seems to go on poorly with alcohol, so I am circumspect about cocktails and dinner wine, to avoid blackout reactions.
It was in my mind’s eye to write you months ago to share the amusement you too must feel over how the two of us (and some others) are reflected in the pages of the new independent Mormon journal, Dialogue, being published at Stanford. We were well-meaning, and all right in our day, but of course the new generation of Church-oriented historians are more solidly grounded and have a greater maturity. Old Lady Brodie, how are you doing these days?
And more recently I am sure you shared my sorrow in learning of Stan Ivins’ death a few weeks ago. I always saw Stan when in Salt Lake, most recently last October, and he seemed positively ageless to me, practically unchanged from the first time I met him, which I believe was in Salt Lake in the Spring of ’45, when we visited Utah at the same time. Stan complained of getting old, but it still seems incredible that he was past the age of 75 at his death. He nobly willed his library to the Historical Society, in case you had not heard.
Well, I have been a long while getting there, or back to there, but let me now take up your letter of the 14th. As it happens, Madeline has been working determinedly on her MS [a biography of Brigham Young] despite all physical handicaps the past two years, and from December to July had an apartment in Berkeley to enable her to work at the Bancroft. Her book is now substantially complete, but is so massive a production—it may yet have to be a two volume work—that she has been making a violent effort at compression. I have not read any of it, as she has prefered to work independently and show it to me only when prepared to let loose of it, but she has done an amazing research job, and clearly the book will be an event. She has discussed it with Angus Cameron of Knopf, but has not made up her mind about a publisher, and in fact has been unwilling to sign a contract until it was finished, the limits of her strength being what they are. As a matter of fact, I have roundly criticized her for working beyond the limits of her strength, not being willing to discipline herself by working only so many hours a day—sometimes she should not work at all—and thereby pushing far beyond her physical capacity. She has obstinately, almost compulsively, gone her own way, but has paid a penalty the past six weeks, with exhaustion and the usual difficult summer climate in San Jose raising hob with her heart. She had hoped to finish the book by mid-August and go off to visit a [p.208] friend in France during September, but her doctor put his foot flatly down last week. He wanted her to go to a dry climate closer to home, so she said Saturday, when she dropped by, that she would head this week for Salt Lake or Ogden, to remain perhaps til October. And meanwhile, she said mutinously, get the book finished.
In the face of all this, I don’t presume to advise you. I imagine Madeline’s viewpoint is about the same as mine on my Mormon history; anybody can write what he pleases on Brigham, that won’t be her book. I might be inclined to advise you to wait and see where she comes out at finally, what her standpoint is on Brigham, and what might be left for someone else to say. But this is something you will have to decide for yourself.
I have admired your [Richard] Burton book [The Devil Drives] without having had an opportunity to read it yet, only to glance through and sample it. I sent a copy to my sister, whom you may remember, as a birthday present ten days ago, knowing she would find many reasons to savor it. So far I have seen only the Time review, which of course was not a review of the book but an account of the man Burton (and therefore publicity, primarily), and the enclosed account in the Book of the Month Club News. I don’t know what the man is talking about in comparing you with Lady Burton, and doubt if he could explain himself.
Maybe with the long letter, I will be restored to good standing with you at least, in which case, let me hear all about the Brodies, Bernard, Fawn, Dick, Bruce, Pam-how the world is treating them, and how they are treating the world. I would be glad to see you again, and who knows, maybe one of these days we will manage it.
With best regards,
P.S. After 13 years on the south side of the campus, on September 1, I am moving to the north side, 1634 La Loma Avenue, Berkeley, 94709. This is the upper half of a duplex, with a fireplace, an interesting view of the Bay, and two bedrooms, one of which will be converted into a library and for a few weeks will give me the illusion of having more space. I am all but suffocated in books and papers on Benvenue!
48. To Wesley P. Walters 1
27 November 1967
[p.209]Dear Reverend Walters:
I am most obliged to you for your courtesy in sending me a copy of your monograph on the Palmyra revivals [New Light on Mormon Origins]. You have done a most excellent job of scholarship, backed up by a temperate presentation of your findings, and I am in almost complete agreement with you.
The historicity of the First Vision is of course crucial in any interpretation of the character and history of Joseph Smith. If he had no vision of the kind to which he afterward laid claim, then there is no reason to conceive of him as one given to delusions, and most of the psychologizing about Joseph Smith that has cluttered up the literature is wholly beside the point.
In the summer of 1947 I found the George Lane account of the Palmyra revival in the Methodist Magazine, and the further point that 1824-1825 was the only year Lane ever officiated in the Palmyra area. To this extent I was ahead of you; but in your monograph you have gone far beyond the point I had to leave off, inquiring into Presbyterian and Baptist records as well as the Palmyra papers I searched in Albany in the fall of 1947; again I congratulate you on a fundamental and well-done job.
One point I would stress is that the year 1823 was early established in Mormon history as the crucial year for the first revealment of the golden plates, and of course this date exerted a powerful influence in antedating the concept of the First Vision. If Joseph Smith was associating with angels from 1823 on, he had a direct conduit to heaven, so why would he have been messing around with other religions in 1824-1825 and wondering whether any of these was “correct”…? It is perfectly clear, and you have laid out most of the relevant considerations, why his history had to be rewritten over a period of years to answer to Joseph Smith’s changing necessities.
I am sorry to say that I know nothing of the present whereabouts of Lane’s diary, which would be a welcome find, even though it added nothing to his narrative in the Methodist Magazine.
[p.210] I also note with interest that you say the records of the Western Presbyterian Church at Palmyra covering the 1824-1825 period have been missing since 1930. Could you elaborate upon that item of information? Is there any suggestion that the volume in question might have been stolen in that year of the Mormon centennial?
Your remark to the effect that [Brigham Young University religion professor] Hugh Nibley has photographs “of the papyri fragments remaining from the Book of Abraham scroll” is certainly a fascinating one. You say, “We have the index numbers but do not know to what collection they refer,” and I assume by this that the papyri are not in the possession of the church itself. The [Jerald and Sandra] Tanners [LDS critics] recently publicized Joseph Smith’s “Egyptian dictionary,” which is in fact held by the church, and I cannot believe there has been any confusion of identity between this and the papyri.
Dale L. Morgan
1. Wesley P. Walters, a minister in the United Presbyterian Church, published in 1967 a brief analysis of Joseph Smith and revivalism in New York. His research, much of which duplicated Morgan’s own, subsequently became the focus of a concerted response from LDS scholars.
49. To Fawn Brodie
24 December 1969
Here I am, exhibiting my customary efficiency. If the U.S. mails are equally efficient, you may get this for Christmas 1970. This has been an eventful year in many respects. My mother died June 19, which was a mercy, for a succession of small strokes had cut her down since last December. (She was 75 on May 1.) I came to S[alt]. L[ake]. for a niece’s wedding on June 16, went on to Denver from there, and was summoned back to Salt Lake for the funeral.
I was in Washington [D.C.] in July and again in late October and early November, working again on a long term project begun in [p.211] 1965, when I asked Louise North to marry me. (Max died of cancer in 1964. She is an old friend of 23 years’ standing—from O[ffice of] P[rice] Aidministration] days—and has two daughters, now aged 21 and 17. We have developed a very close and warm relationship, satisfying in all respects, but some problems remain, mostly, I think, from putting together two such widely separated lives. (I don’t think she can ever be happy away from her hilltop home at Accokeek, Md., opposite Mt. Vernon, and she also is doing well in the gov[ernmen]t job (H[ousing and] U[rban] D[evelopment]) she took two months after Max died.) Maybe I can work things out next year, we’ll see. I have also applied for another Guggenheim; the odds may be against it, but this would help mightily. I might also retire from [the] U[niversity of] C[alifornia] at age 56 a year hence. Again, we’ll see. Will have another large gold rush book out in Jan[uary], and hope to clean up five or six more books in 1970 to clear the decks for (a) my big fur trade history; and (b) the Mormon history.
And how about the Brodie clan?
50. To Fawn Brodie
13 May 1970
I am chagrined to have your note today on the subject of the Guggenheim—that is, I am irked at myself, for I had wanted to tell you myself, before the public announcement was made on April 13, a month ago. And this because the most memorable thing about my original Guggenheim fellowship was your pleasure in it. I shall never forget that. You had invited me to dinner in your apartment on Wisconsin Avenue; it was the week of President Roosevelt’s death, just a day or so after, and that dominated the conversation for quite some time after I arrived. Eventually I got around to telling you of the word from the Foundation, and it both surprised and moved me how your eyes filled in your pleasure over the news, how you called out to Bernard in the next room to share the news, and how you reproached me, “Why didn’t you say something!” In a [p.212] sense, you were more moved emotionally by the word than I was myself; it was a measure of the fine, warm friendship we had developed, and the memory has stayed with me ever since, fresh and fragrant, and a token of the kind of person you are.
Well, I didn’t quite get to that letter, and this despite the fact that I had more or less been waiting on that news, good or bad, since February, as a preliminary to answering your most interesting letter about your January trip to Utah. (And now what have I done with that letter? It is buried somewhere on or within this desk at Bancroft.) I had some intimation at the beginning of March that I might well receive the fellowship, in that they wrote me for a budgetary statement, how much money I was asking for, how much allocated to travel, living expenses, and so on. In my innocent way, I had failed to realize what had happened to fellowship grants since the Act of 1954, and supposed they would merely hand out what they could afford, perhaps (in view of inflation) double the $2,000 which just about bankrupted me the first time. When I wrote it all out, specifying where I was going, air travel costs, per diem expenses based on current U[niversity of] C[alifornia] per diem allowances, etc., I ended up by asking for $9,130 altogether, including $1,400 in air fares and $1,000 for photostats, microfilms, etc. (Also not including $2,500 I would put in myself, what with not being entitled to sabbatical leave.) I came out pretty well, the grant is in the amount of $9,000. And in accordance with my request, it will take effect about May 1 of next year, which will give me time to finish some books in progress and get some accumulated Bancroft jobs off my neck. Sometime between now and the end of the year I will make up my mind whether to retire from B[ancroft]. L[ibrary]. when entering upon the fellowship, or to ask for a leave of absence without pay for 12 months. (Including accumulated vacation time, that would permit me to work on the book exclusively till mid-July, 1972.) Perhaps I could make a pitch to the Chancellor for a special grant of a sabbatical even though I am not a member of the Academic Senate. But that raises the question whether I wanted to commit myself to coming back to U.C. for at least a year when the leave ends. I don’t know the answers yet, and meanwhile I am keeping my own counsel on campus.
As even this much will have made clear, all my plans revolving around the Guggenheim are of the contingent order, for a great deal depends on what I work out with Louise [North]. So let me bring you up to date on that, too. I believe I told you that we made a fundamental break-through in our relationship last June, and ever since that relationship has become closer, warmer, and more endearing. Louise has not agreed to marry me yet, but it is clear to both of us that it has nothing to do with me as a person, but rather concerns something unresolved within herself. As a matter of fact, I think 90 percent of it is the distance involved, our widely separated lives; if Bancroft were in a Washington [D.C.] suburb, or Accokeek [Maryland] were a Berkeley suburb, I think we would get things settled in [p.213] very short order. Various things militate in Louise. She is a very independent person, for one thing, and she values her independence. She has two girls of college age, one with a year to go, one entering college this coming fall, and is not prepared to have someone else assume the financial burdens involved in putting them through school. Again, the aunt who reared her lies in a rest home in Florida; the last of her personal resources will soon be expended, and Louise and her brothers will have to take on these very heavy expenses. So Louise is not prepared to have someone else assume that part of her burden, either. Moreover, she likes her job with H[ousing and] U[rban] D[evelopment] and has done very well in it; she is head of her own small Community Relations branch. Thus she likes both the work and the people, and not just the independence, financial and psychological, that the job affords her. Up to now, there has been no question of uprooting her, either. If she were capable of living anywhere else than on the hilltop of Accokeek in the house she and Max built, knowing every stick and stone, feeling absolutely at home there as nowhere else—as I say, if she were even capable of leaving there, she was not prepared to do it before her youngest, Lisa, graduated from high school, which will be a month hence. Louise will be living in a changed world from this time forth, even as early as this summer, for as soon as she graduates, Lisa is going with a high school group on a trip to West Germany, Italy, Greece, and Turkey. She will be back in late July, but a month later she will leave for Ann Arbor [Michigan], and after that Louise will be alone as she has been at no time since her marriage 25 years ago. Will she be prepared to leave Accokeek a year from now, move to California, say, and find a new job out here? I’m not ready to bet on it.
The crux in all this is that now for the first time it is really possible for me to do the uprooting. Since last December it has been technically possible for me to retire from Bancroft, though I am only too aware that what I could now draw down in the way of retirement income will scarcely even equal the widow’s annuities Louise will lose in a remarriage. To retire or not to retire, this is a fundamental question I must settle in the next year. I don’t lack in confidence that I can earn enough money, working full time at my own books, to compensate for a job. But this is not just a gamble involving myself; it involves the lives of three others: the name of the game is responsibility. Perhaps, then, what I should do is look at long range for a job in the Washington area, to take on at the end of the Guggenheim. But there is no logic in that unless Louise marries me. And one inhibition in the matter of marrying me is her feeling of wrongness that I, not she, should do the uprooting. There are, in short, ethical problems involved in our widely separated lives, and it is these above all that require to be solved.
I went to Washington on March 20 for ten days, to celebrate Louise’s 52nd birthday on one weekend, and Easter the next. The eldest daughter, Lynn (who with her roommate visited me for three days out here before New Year’s) also came home from Ann Arbor [p.214] for the birthday weekend, and, as usual, we all had a very good time together. I told Louise beforehand that I was not going to press her about marriage on this visit, in view of the enforced separations we must accept over the course of the next year. I intend going east again toward the end of June, or in the early part of July, and neither will I press her very hard then. October is a different matter, though. I intend to spend two weeks in Washington in October, and I think it would be an excellent idea to start off the whole thing with a wedding. I then contemplate that Louise and the girls shall come to Berkeley for two weeks at Christmas; and that when the spring break comes at Ann Arbor, in mid-March, they all three shall go to Hawaii with me for a week while I research some aspects of the Northwest Coast fur trade. (This was written into the Guggenheim, and funded thereby, but it will be convenient to do this in advance of technically embarking on the fellowship.) Then I will pull out of Berkeley on May 1, next year, research the libraries in Oregon, Washington, and western Canada, preliminary to showing up in D.C. on May 29 to fly to Europe with Louise. The girls will get out of school at the end of April, so it is my idea to send them on ahead, to knock about on their own for a month. I want Louise to take a three months’ leave of absence without pay, a month of knocking around western Europe, and two months of working in England. (She objects that she wouldn’t have a job to come back to if she took three months off; and there is a problem there, her branch consisting of herself, an assistant, and a secretary. Still, I am a persistent man, and as I told Louise, you never know what is possible till you try.) I would then return to the U.S. in the fall of 1971, spend most of the autumn working in libraries in New England and eastern Canada (hopefully joined by Louise on weekends; she could fly up from Washington). Then settle in for nine months or so in the Washington area, to write as much as possible of this big book.
Well, that’s the program, but it is going to take one hell of a lot of working out, and first things first, Louise makes the final personal commitment this fall. After that, we mutually agree on the objectives and the probable best solutions. Stick around for awhile and see what develops! I enclose a couple of snapshots I made of Louise last summer (one an enlargement from movie film) so you will have a little more the sense of knowing her, until the day comes that you meet her.
It so happened that the telegram from the Guggenheim Foundation was relayed to me while I was in Washington, a further poignant reminder of that April day 25 years ago, about which I told Louise. This also set me to thinking about your Jefferson book [Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History], a most interesting project. You do not mention it in your latest letter, but if you propose to go ahead with that, why not propose it to the Guggenheim people? The only complication I can think of is the UCLA one, if taking or obtaining leave would present any problems. Meanwhile, it is a pleasure to learn of the revised edition of your J[oseph]. S[mith]. [i.e., No Man [p.215] Knows My History]. My J[edediah]. S[mith]. is also up for revision, during this year, hopefully. Or failing that, during the Guggenheim year. I am only waiting upon the release of a newly-discovered document of major import, Jedediah’s journal of his first journey to California, 1826-1827, the finding of which in St. Louis is an incredible story. I have a copy of it, but cannot make use of it yet, and in fact the whole business is a deep, dark secret for the moment.
We have had plenty of [student] upset up here to match any you have had down there, naturally. Berkeley was where the style was set, six years ago. My background is such that I have only a very limited sympathy for some of the student activism I have seen, the last couple of years. That is, I am utterly opposed to mobs and mob action, not only in Missouri and Illinois, but in the South, Chicago, New York, Washington, California, or anywhere else. Also the rabble-rousing that is involved, the baiting and the rockthrowing, anti-intellectual conduct at its worst, at best to be equated with the tantrums of children, and the childlike egocentrism which wants everything delivered on a platter here and now. (Did you reflect on an observation in the second article on Nepal in the last New Yorker? It was remarked that most Everest climbers are 35 and up. Younger people are temperamentally not suited to the day by day slogging without any very spectacular or even obvious progress toward an objective.) I have seen plenty of roving mobs on this campus, and the fact that the mobs are composed of college students instead of the Great Unwashed makes them only the more offensive in my eyes. Granted, we are urgently in need of change. But change that will in itself have some prospect of permanence, by change in our society, our institutions. I reflect too on a story in this morning’s paper about this week’s agitation for a “reconstitution” of the University by a “restructuring” of classes. A psychology prof was all for it, which perhaps says something about the slippery nature of most social or near-social sciences. A math professor held other ideas. In math, you either do the work or you do not, pretty names put upon it do not change the fact, or the necessity of doing the work. It is this necessity of doing the work, as against instant results, that so many young people find repugnant about social action. Nor was I much impressed last week with the ideas brought forth by a group that called itself a Social Coalition. They proposed that “observers” be sent to every class on campus, to be sure that “right things” were being taught in the right way. So who is going to appoint these political commissars, and whose is the privilege of deciding the rightness of it all? I find this all very sad, and infinitely depressing, all emotion and no gumption.
I am pleased to have the more personal news, the June trip in prospect for Europe for you and Bernard, Pain, Bruce, and Dick. Paradoxically, I think Dick might find Utah a rather stimulating environment if he can look upon the Mormons and Mormon society in transition with a lively sense of curiosity combined with emotional [p.216] detachment. There is enough parochialism there, but I find parochialism everywhere I turn, these days.
Let me hear from you again, I would love a fuller report on the Utah scene of January and the complex feelings you must have had, being coincidently there at such a time.1 And one of these days maybe we can talk out such things in our proper persons again.