Tell about Night Flowers
Eudora Welty's Gardening Letters, 1940-1949
Publication Year: 2013
Tell about Night Flowers presents previously unpublished letters by Eudora Welty, selected and annotated by scholar Julia Eichelberger. Welty published many of her best-known works in the 1940s: A Curtain of Green, The Wide Net, The Robber Bridegroom, Delta Wedding, and The Golden Apples. During this period, she also wrote hundreds of letters to two friends who shared her love of gardening. One friend, Diarmuid Russell, was her literary agent in New York; the other, John Robinson, was a high school classmate and an aspiring writer who served in the Army in WWII, and long the focus of Welty's affection.Welty's lyrical, witty, and poignant discussions of gardening and nature are delightful in themselves; they are also figurative expressions of Welty's views of her writing and her friendships. Taken together with thirty-five illustrations, they form a poetic narrative of their own, chronicling artistic and psychic developments that were underway before Welty was fully conscious of them. By 1949 her art, like her friendships, had evolved in ways that she would never have predicted in 1940. Tell about Night Flowers not only lets readers glimpse Welty in her garden; it also reveals a brilliant and generous mind responding to the public events, people, art, and natural landscapes Welty encountered at home and on her travels during the 1940s. This book enhances our understanding of the life, landscape, and art of a major American writer.
Published by: University Press of Mississippi
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This work would not have been possible without the support and gen-erosity of Eudora Welty’s nieces, Mary Alice Welty White and the late Elizabeth Welty Thompson. I am very grateful to them for trusting me with this project, and I thank Mary Alice for meeting with me and shar-ing family photographs. I regret very much that the book was not fin-...
Introduction: Gardener, Friend, and Artist
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Eudora Welty (1909–2001) is an acknowledged master of the short story form. For over fifty years, such Welty stories as “Why I Live at the P.O.,” “A Worn Path,” “Petrified Man,” and “Livvie” have ap-peared in anthologies and textbooks treating short fiction, literature by women, American literature, and literature of the U.S. South. Welty’s novels, memoir, and essays are also widely acclaimed. In 1999 she be-came the first living writer to be published in the Library of America se-...
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The letters in this book come from the Eudora Welty Collection in the Mississippi Department of Archives and History in Jackson, Mississip-pi. In addition to letters Welty wrote, this collection holds hundreds of letters Diarmuid Russell and John Robinson sent to Welty, and I have quoted from these letters throughout the book; I hope this adds to read-...
Chapter One: May 1940–December 1941
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When Welty wrote her first letter to Diarmuid Russell in May of 1940, at the age of thirty-one, she was not famous, but her fiction had been successful enough to attract Rus-sell’s attention as he sought clients for his new literary agency. A na-tive of Jackson, Welty had graduated from the University of Wiscon-sin in 1929 and began studying advertising at Columbia University in 1930. The Depression and her father’s 1931 death brought Welty ...
Chapter Two: January 1942–August 1943
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By January 1942 Welty and Russell were planning for her next book, a group of stories that were all connected to the Natchez Trace, an ancient trail running from Natchez, Mississippi, to Nashville, Tennessee. The setting of the Trace was inspiring Welty to write more ambitious, longer stories that took her much longer to complete. A few months earlier, she had told Russell, “I see whenever I think about the Trace now a kind of wanderer and all the gloom ...
Chapter Three: September 1943–October 1944
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During the summer of 1943, Welty had closed a letter to Rob-inson with the phrase “I still water the garden” (8.21.43); un-sure how he had fared during the invasion of Sicily, she tried to maintain a hopeful outlook. Throughout the following year, Welty continued to hope for a swift end to the war, and to worry about Robinson and other friends and family who were in harm’s way. After her second collection of short stories, The Wide Net, was published ...
Chapter Four: October 1944–December 1945
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Back in her Jackson garden in October 1944, Welty was still anxious about Robinson, who was volunteering to accompany pilots from his squadron on night missions in northern Italy. The end of the war now seemed much farther off than it had in Au-gust when the Allies liberated Paris. The year 1945 brought more of the war’s horrors: firebombing in Dresden and Tokyo, concentration camps in Germany, colossal casualties in the Pacific theater. Roos-...
Chapter Five: January 1946–October 1949
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By early 1946, many of Welty’s wishes during the war years had come true: the war was over and friends and family were safe; John Robinson was out of the army and back in Jackson; Delta Wedding, which turned out to be a novel after all, was serialized in the Atlantic, then published in book form in April. Robinson’s return, however, did not bring the happiness Welty had hoped for. “He has been a little low in his mind,” Welty told Russell that winter.1 In May ...
Appendix: Correspondence from Eudora Welty, Diarmuid Russell, and John Robinson
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Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2013