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Shall I Say A Kiss?

The Courtship Letters of a Deaf Couple, 1936-1938

Lennard J. Davis, Editor

Publication Year: 1999

Upon the death of his father Morris at age 82, Lennard Davis found among his effects a trove of letters, kept in careful chronological order, that dated from 1936. The letters ended in 1938, when Eva Weintrobe came to America to marry Morris, and they provide the core of Shall I Say A Kiss?, their courtship by correspondence. In his framing comments, Davis speculates that his parents met perhaps four or five times before they wed, a fact that heightens the importance of these letters to their fate. Davis illustrates vast contrasts between Morris and Eva, both to each other (Morris was 38; Eva was 26), and to themselves in later life as witnessed by their son. Where Davis saw his father brimming with confidence and a sense of superior intellect while his mother acted as the reserved, dutiful wife, he was startled to learn through their letters that she could be the shrewd questioning correspondent even as his father wrote as an unsure, imploring suitor. Shall I Say A Kiss? opens a window into the lives of two working-class, Jewish, British, Deaf people in the 1930s. This striking book reveals a consistent, journal-like account of the “lived” experience of Deaf people during the tumultuous times just prior to World War II. Because the correspondence is mainly composed of Eva’s letters, the focus sharpens even further as a record of the life and opinions of a young, working-class, Deaf woman about to embark upon marriage and life in a new country. The challenges she faced, including de facto racial barriers for both deaf and Jewish immigrants, and the prospect of uniting with a man she knew mostly through his letters alone, make for a compelling and emotional trip through her life. Shall I Say A Kiss? serves as a singular social document and also as an engaging and often moving narrative that will win audiences among academics and romantics alike.

Published by: Gallaudet University Press


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pp. vii-viii

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Preface: Love and Misunderstanding

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pp. ix-xvi

It is a difficult task to reconcile the parents I knew so well as I was growing up to the young man and woman who wrote these delicate negotiations of lovers. To all outward appearances, they are not the same people. My mother was twenty-six when the correspondence began and my father, thirty-eight. Much older now than they were then, I look...

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Introduction: Before Crossing the Divide

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pp. 1-28

When Morris Davis, my father, died in 1981, at the age of eighty-two, he had been ill with cancer for ten years. My mother, Eva, had died nine years earlier, at the age of sixty-two, in a traffic accident. Both were profoundly deaf. The last time I saw my father alive, he was barely conscious. I shook him...

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"I Shall Not Rush into Things..." August 25, 1936 to November 3, 1937

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pp. 29-96

83 Chatham St. Liverpool? 25/8/36 Dear Morris, 31 It was indeed a surprise for me to receive your card & I shall say a pleasant surprise too. I am sorry that I have not got a photo of myself at the present moment, but as soon as I have one I will send it to you. Last Sunday I went to Hailbi Island...

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"Wondering... If Your Love Had Ever Been Deep" November 11, 1937 to April 22, 1938

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pp. 97-122

83 Chatham St. Liverpool 7 11/11/37 Dear Morris, 99 I suppose you have already received my previous letter & the cablegram. I received your letter. There are some things I cannot understand about you. How in the world could you expect me to be prepared to marry you...

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"Dear Eva of My Own" May 3, 1938 to August 25, 1938

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pp. 123-162

83 Chatham St. Liverpool 7 3/5/37[38] Dear Morris, 125 I was very pleased to receive your welcome letter this morning. It made me very happy now that I know that everything is alright & I agree with you that we should forget the past & misunderstanding & not write anymore...

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Epilogue: The Ever After

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pp. 163-175

The letters end with Eva, full of excitement and a bit of fear about the wedding, setting sail on the SS Scythia. After all the obstacles and setbacks, she must have felt certain of the course she was charting. She had overcome her doubts about Morris, her uncertainties about leaving her...

E-ISBN-13: 9781563682445
E-ISBN-10: 1563682443
Print-ISBN-13: 9781563680762
Print-ISBN-10: 1563680769

Page Count: 184
Illustrations: 58 photos
Publication Year: 1999

OCLC Number: 43476329
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Shall I Say A Kiss?

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Deaf -- New York (State) -- New York -- Correspondence.
  • Deaf -- England -- Correspondence.
  • Davis, Eva Weintrobe, 1911-1972 -- Correspondence.
  • Davis, Morris Joseph, 1898-1981 -- Correspondence.
  • New York (N.Y.) -- Biography.
  • Courtship -- New York (State) -- New York.
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