Enclosure – 5-page letter to RG from Jenny in Liverpool

The Playhouse.
Dear Robert,
Thankyou so very much for the two lovely letters. I am probably not half as busy as you but I still find finding time to write, a great problem. Anyway, here I am at my [sic: typwriter] (which I have aquired at the cost of £2 to write a play on) and although I am feeling a bit like a very old water-colour I will tell you what goes on.
Since my first letter to you everything has got better and better. I have never been so happy in my life. This must be the very best way of living. Lots of work, lots of fun, which costs nothing, every chance of being the very best sort of person, and—this is the happy thought— I get paid for it too. If this isn't luck, I'd like to know what is.
In the theatre I am a minor success. My first part, that of a dumb Swede who i[JN] was the janitor's [sic: janator's] wife of a l[JN] slum tenement on the east-side of New York, was, to everybody's intense [sic: suprise] ×××× [crossed out] as it is the most [sic: insignificent] part in ×××× [crossed out] Street Scene1) ×××× [crossed out] a major success![JN] I got all the notices and William (Armstrong)2 was delighted. Here is a picture of me. 3 I hope you like it. But in the next part they gave me was much
too difficult for me and I only just escaped being bad. It was a big part in the Priestley4 play Time and the Conways5 (about the Dunn theory of Time) and I had to be 18 in the first and third Acts and 45 in the middle Act. This is a tricky businessbeing 45 years[JN], its easy enough in charades when everybody knows that you are only dressed-up but in a real play you have to be and that's [sic: thats] what's [sic: whats] so difficult. Still I did get quite good by the last week (we run plays for three weeks here) and William was again pleased. Since then I have been out of two plays which have only had old women in them and have been for a short holiday and—this is again the happy thought—I got paid for that too.
But apart from this I have not been idle. I have written a children's play (this is uncommon difficult) and called it Monday Tuesday and Bert. There was a great deal of talk about them doing it up here but in the end they couldn't afford to spend any money on the Christmas play, because they only run it for matineés, and mine had three sets. Wasn't that a pity, because it would have meant nearly ×××× [crossed out] £100 to buy Xmas presents [sic: preants] with. Still, I find that it can be made much better so I am rewriting the third Act and will try it in London next year, perhaps. Also I am writing a one-Act play as I have been so encouraged by William who thinks that I ought to be able to write a good play one day. I say "why not now?" but he shakes his head; all [sic: th] same I still say "why not know?"
Apart from the theatre and play-writing I find everything just as hotsy totsy. The place that I live in is a good dream. It is just like home, in fact. It is all painted[JN] different colours and the man and his wife who run it (a most intelligent pair) have made it a lovely place to live in. They slosh paint about very happily all day long and in between times cook [sic: marvelous] food for
us. Some of the Playhouse people are here and the rest are Architectural students -all young. They have given me my own bottle of Tomato [sic: Tomatoe] ketchup and I am blissful.
Of social life up here I have partaken a great deal. The people of Liverpool I find more intelligent than the normal run in London. Thank goodness. I get asked to Wine and Food society×××× [crossed out] dinners, rag and bone dances, tea parties and Sunday lunch. I eat a lot more than I should and am not retaining my figure in consequence but it [sic: dosn't] matter because I have found a very good dancing school up here that will give me lessons free for the advertisment. Isn't that good?
At the present moment I am rehearsing very hard indeed for Bonnet Over The Windmill6 (and a play with more middle-class dialogue it would be hard to imagine). All the nice characters are so tiresome that I am [sic: ver] glad that I am [sic: playig] the nasty one and can be rude to them all.
[sic: Awfull] shame they should have misinformed you about my red coat, not cloak, because it is a Flora Offna7 and suits me down to the knees.
Who is your Liverpool Informant? One, Peter Neil and myself hope that it is nothing so dull as mere Durants Press cuttings. Perhaps a little Liver [Liverpool] bird told you There is one missing from the top of the Town Hall so it might be flapping its green cast-iron [sic: iorn] wings over Brittany.8
Incidently you ×××× [crossed out] would like one, Peter Neil. My one quarrel with him is that he likes Gone With the Wind,9 but he coun[JN]teracts this, they tell me, by reading the Times Leader10 in the bath [sic: Bath]. Query from Up-a-Gum-Tree —Liverpool: "Does this really excuse him for liking Gone With the Wind?"

But apart from this he is far from being in any way C.3.11 He plays×××× [crossed out] the leading parts up here and can thump his chest among the best Tarzans. Also he is scrupulously [sic: scupulously] honest. (unfortunately [sic: unfortunatly] I haven't [sic: havn't] exclamation [sic: exclamatoin] marks on this typewriter [sic: typwriter]) Except, it seems about tooth-paste about[JN] which he has very socialist ideas about[JN]. He is often approached abou[JN]t his share and share alike attitude (which he substantiates by providing one tube of Macleans per Annnum and when it runs out, claims that it is the work of Someone in the Bathroom and uses someone [sic: ele] 's[JN] Pepsodent from then on) But he evade[JN]s all attempts of people to ×××× [crossed out] reason with him and[JN] ×××× [crossed out] by telling them that he once had a pet Jackdaw that used to peck holes in the tooth-paste so that when you [sic: sqeezed] it, it shot out of an unexpected hole down the front ×××× [crossed out] of your dressing gown. Which [sic: dosn't] prove anything really. And is a very poor excuse.
I have been given, by someone in the Company, ×××× [crossed out] the Faber and Faber collection of poems,12 in which there are some very good ones of yours and Laura's.
I spent the short holiday [sic: I And] first with Diccon13 and then in London. Diccon's was Lovely but I hated London. In fact I came back here three days early on a very fast train.
I am to be painted [sic: be] Augustus John14 in the near future. David, I hear, is already playing Rugger for his 1st eleven at Jesus.15 He was sighted in London when they came up to play some team or other, which they beat. Jolly clever isn't he?
Christmas is a-coming and the geese are getting fat. Dammit.
It is bitterly cold up here and I am wearing two overcoats which makes me so heavy that I am wearing the soles of my shoes away. But I don't worry much.

There's [sic: Theres] nothing much more to say, except that C.N.16 writes me very cheerful letters and wrote to me today to tell me that Mother's17 exhibition [sic: exibition] is very good indeed, and a great success.[JN]
So as there is very little else, I wii[JN]ll get back to the One-act thriller I am writing called:– Somebody Else's Shoes.
Very Best Love tot[JN] yourself and Laura. I hope you are both well and Happy. Love
Jenny xxxx.

Editorial Notes

1a Pullitzer prize-winning play by Elmer Rice (1929). eds.
2William Armstrong (1882-1952), actor and theatre producer; ran the Liverpool Repertory Theatre from 1922-1941. eds.
3See postcard enclosures, also on this date. eds.
4John Boynton Priestley (1894-1984), British writer eds.
5a drama about a family by J.B. Priestley (1938), set in 1919, 1937, and back to 1919. eds.
6a 1937 play by Dodie Smith eds.
7designer? eds.
8i.e. at the Chateau de la Chevrie eds.
9 Gone With the Wind, a novel by Margaret Mitchell. New York: McMillan, 1936. The movie based on this book is dated 1939, but were previews available by December 1938? eds.
10i.e. front page eds.
11? eds.
13is this 'Diccon' Steel, associated with the BBC? See diary Nov. 9, 1936. eds.
14British artist (1878-1961) eds.
15Jesus College, Cambridge University eds.

Hands Referenced

    • Annotation: ink correction in letter enclosures
    • Character: regular
    • Ink: black

Places Mentioned

  • Liverpool

    Liverpool, England
  • Château de la Chevrie

    Montauban-de-la-Bretagne, Brittany, France
    translating as "Venison Castle," La Chevrie was manor of an estate that RG & LR rented with Alan Hodge and Beryl Pritchard during their stay in France in 1938

People Mentioned

  • Laura

    Riding, Laura
    (1901-91) American poet. Laura Riding (née Reichenthal; then Laura Gottschalk).
  • Jenny

    Nicholson, Jenny
    Jenny Nicholson: oldest daughter of Robert by Nancy Nicholson.
  • Robert

    Graves, Robert
    [1st person]. (1895-1985). Poet, novelist, essayist, critic, and author of his diary. eds.
  • David

    Graves, David
    R.G.'s second child [by Nancy Nicholson]. W.G. In RAF; killed in the war. The only one of Graves' children who might have become a poet had he lived. K.G., eds.
  • Catherine

    Nicholson, Catherine
    Catherine Nicholson: (1922- ) third of four children of Robert Graves and Nancy Nicholson. eds.
  • Nancy

    Nicholson, Nancy
    (1899-1977) First wife of Robert Graves; married 1918, separated 1927, divorced 1949. eds.

Organizations Mentioned

  • British Broadcasting Corporation

    British Broadcasting Corporation
  • Durrants Press Clippings

    Durrants Press Clippings
    a service used by Graves to collect clippings of his own writing and newspaper items relevant to his literary work eds.
  • Faber & Faber

    Publishers of Old Soldier Sahib and Old Soldiers Never Die. WG
  • Editors

    Editors of the Graves Diary Project.


    • Title: Times [newspaper]
    • PubPlace: London
    • Publisher: Times Newspapers
    • Title: LR contributed: The Tillaquils; Lecrece and Nara; The Map of Places; The Tiger; The Wind, the Clock, the We; The Wind Sufferers; The Flowering Urn; Nor is it Written; Auspice of Jewels [Poems]; RG contributed 13 Poems, including To Bring the Dead to Life
    • Title: Faber Book of Modern Verse
    • Author: Riding, Laura/Graves, Robert
    • Editor: Roberts, Michael
    • PubPlace: London
    • Publisher: Faber & Faber
    • BiblScope: 211-222/ 224-233
    • Idno: D9/B23
    • Date: 1936