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Harmony’s ideas about health and medicine, like everything else, were rooted in the nineteenth century, and after their wearing time that fall she decided that a change of scene in a restful spot with fresh air was what they both needed to get back on their feet. Her sister Sally, who would suffer from mental breakdowns throughout her life, was under a nurse’s care at Asheville, North Carolina, and the Iveses decided to head there for a winter vacation. On January 15, 1919, Ives, Harmony, and fouryear -old Edith took the train from Penn Station; during a three-hour layover in Washington they took a taxi tour of the usual tourist sights, had dinner at the venerable Washington restaurant Harvey’s, then caught the sleeper train south.1 Asheville, in the mountains of western North Carolina, had a number of sanitariums for the treatment of patients suffering from tuberculosis and nervous disorders, but was also a very fashionable fall and winter vacation resort for the well-to-do, especially after the tycoon George Vanderbilt built his magnificent Biltmore estate in the area in 1898 and convenient rail service from New York City began. On arriving the Iveses checked into the posh Battery Park Hotel, which Ives, with his usual sarcasm , referred to in their diary of the trip as “the 1st hotel of magnificence erected for wealthy people of refined tastes in Asheville.”2 During the two months they spent in Asheville, Harmony recorded in their diary, “Charlie had sort of a relapse & we didn’t have a very cheerful time.”3 But it was Harmony who if anything seemed even more exhausted and depressed, a hint that the anxiety over his grim prognosis had hit her far more than she ever explicitly revealed. Ives often took walks with Edith chapter 9 A Man’s Death Is More or Less a Personal Matter Budiansky - Mad Music.indb 177 1/23/2014 5:13:44 PM 178 • mad music around the hotel grounds, or to go get an ice cream, or to a spot where there was a distant view of the mountains through a pine grove, while Harmony stayed in bed or rested on the porch of Sally’s house, which they moved into for the duration of their stay: Jan th. 23 H. got up in p.m. fr. 24 rainy & H. in bed sa. 25 H. slept su. 26 H. stays in bed most of day mo. 27 H. taking rest cure on sleeping porch tu. 28 H. on porch & in sun we. 29 H. resting Feb sa. 1 H. still taking rest cure we. 5 H. resting on porch, getting in stronger shape now4 Relapse or no relapse, Ives for his part devoted much of his time in Asheville to the first of a series of hurried steps that look very much like a man who knows his days are numbered trying to put his affairs in order. For years Ives had avoided finishing the Concord Sonata, or for that matter most of his compositions; since 1902 he had shied away from any but the most private and tentative efforts to get his works before a broader public. But at Asheville he threw himself into efforts that would consume him for the next two years, efforts clearly aimed at securing his artistic legacy, even at the risk of having to face the public judgment that caused him so much trepidation and anxiety. He worked on the last of the essays that he planned to accompany and explain the Concord (“Trying to write something to make people think Thoreau movement sounds like Thoreau,” he wrote on January 22) and had the stenographer at the hotel produce a clean copy. On February 15 Harmony noted, “C. reading ‘Pride & Prejudice ’—& copying music”; on February 20, “Emerson, Alcotts & Thoreau all finished & copied 3 movements.”5 He hired “an awful old piano” to work at; read Little Dorrit, The Last Chronicle of Barset, Middlemarch, Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, and Emerson, Thoreau, and Bushnell’s sermons; and looked at a newspaper for the first time since the final days of the war the previous October (“Things have gone on just about as one Budiansky - Mad Music.indb 178 1/23/2014 5:13:44 PM More or Less a Personal Matter • 179 would imagine they would. Hence uselessness of reading newspapers but once every four months”).6 They returned to New York on March 15, and when they headed to Redding on June 25...


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