Southern Cultures 9.3 (2003) 8-24
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". . . standing under a shower of blessings"
William R. Ferris
Ed. note: William R. Ferris interviewed Eudora Welty at her home in Jackson, Mississippi, on March 3, 1996.
BILL FERRIS: Eudora, I want to ask you if you could reminisce about [Robert Penn] "Red" Warren and the friendship that you shared with him, and also with Cleanth [Brooks].
EUDORA WELTY: Well, our friendship was certainly warm and long lasting. Of course, they were so good to me from the beginning. When I was totally unknown, they encouraged me and helped me in every way. I was so indebted to both of them. You know, you didn't meet people like them, at least in my world. It was a long time before I got to meet them, either one. But when I did go down to Baton Rouge and met them down there, we had a grand time. And I felt so picked out, you know, so favored. They had published me in the Southern Review—I guess they were the first people to publish my work anywhere. So I felt that I was very close to them, even though we didn't meet very often. Then Red came and did a lecture one time over at Belhaven College across the street [from Welty's house in Jackson]. I was telling him about Ross Barnett, and he laughed so hard I thought he was going to strangle. He just loved all those political tales from Mississippi. He said, "Every time I think about that night I still laugh till my ribs hurt." But he loved choice things like that.
BF: Do you remember your visits with the Warrens when they were in Connecticut?
EW: I remember going out after programs at the [National] Institute of Arts and Letters. The Warrens invited me to come home with them, and that was lots of fun. I always had such a good time with Red, in particular, because his sense of humor was laid right around here, you know, Mississippi and our politics and everything.
BF: You've written about friendship, Eudora, and how important it is for writers. Could you tell us some more about your friendships with Mr. Warren and Mr. Brooks?
EW: Well, I was living in Jackson, just beginning to write, and it didn't occur to me to think about the world of writing. It's really like a little network. I just felt it was solitary to write. Just do a book, and somebody reads it. But they helped me realize what a network it is, a mutual learning society. Readers and writers everywhere. Just made me see the whole world of writing in a different way, in an exciting way. I was so ignorant that I didn't know how lucky I was. But of course I became more appreciative as I learned more. And you can multiply that by many people they were good to and helped.
BF: Including me.
EW: They lived in that world and it was just natural to them, if they saw something they thought was good, they did something about it. There are not many people like that, are there?
BF: Very few, and you are among them. [End Page 8] [Begin Page 10]
EW: No. But they made all the difference to my work and to me, and I'm sure that's repeated in many other cases.
BF: Eudora, you are so closely associated with Jackson as a city. Can you talk about Jackson and your feelings for this city?
EW: Oh, I've always liked being here. My family, my father and mother, were both from away, and when they came here when they married, it was kind of adventurous for them. They were making a new life. And my father—he was a businessman—had decided that Mississippi was a place with a future. He was interested in, you know, civilized life and so on. I was the firstborn of the first generation in Jackson...