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NOTES AND DOCUMENTS JOHN S. BAK Université de Lorraine “Love to you and Mother”: An Unpublished Letter of Tennessee Williams to his Father, Cornelius Coffin Williams, 1945 TENNESSEE WILLIAMS WAS AN AVID LETTER WRITER, AND MANY OF HIS epistles are as culturally significant as his essays, notebooks, and memoirs.InputtingtogethertheirexquisitetwovolumesofTheSelected Letters of Tennessee Williams, Albert J. Devlin and Nancy M. Tischler had to make numerous difficult decisions. They obviously could not include every letter Williams wrote and so selected only those that contributed a key anecdote, a historical reference, or a personal recollection that helped reconstruct the playwright’s life not found in the fiction and nonfiction he left behind. Few of the letters they selected, however,weredestinedforWilliams’sfather,CorneliusCoffinWilliams, or C. C. for short, a man Williams openly reviled throughout his adult life but whom he came to understand—and ultimately to forgive—years later following his father’s death in 1959. Only six letters to his father appear in the first volume edited by Devlin and Tischler, and, tellingly, none in the second. To be sure, the published letters to C. C. are never as candid as the ones Williams wrote to the novelist and memoirist Donald Windham, his close friend; rarely as touching as those he penned to his sister Rose; and scarcely as long as those he occasionally mailed to his mother Edwina, his grandparents, or his brother Dakin. And yet, it is precisely in their brevity, in their detached coolness, in their matter-of-factness that Williams’s relationship with his father can be gleaned. In the sum of his life, his father haunted Williams less than did his mother, or even his sister. One obvious reason for this is that C. C. did not live as long as they did. But another possibility is that Williams came to admire the man’s no-nonsense frankness to life’s complexities, a credo that Williams tried to follow, though he rarely succeeded. A folder at Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library contains several letters by Williams to his estranged father, such as the 348 John S. Bak one below, that did not find their way into the published Selected Letters. Their absence is regrettable, since their mere existence speaks volumes about a troubled father-son relationship. Williams had written many letters collectively to his family, but few were penned singularly to his father. While the early letters to C. C. were often about thanking him for new shoes he had sent or job opportunities he had found for Williams in California, his later ones, after he had officially left home and began earning far more than his father ever had, portray a different Williams viz. his father. In one letter, dated February 28, 1941, he asks his father for advice about filing his income tax return, uncertain if the Rockefeller fellowship that he received the previous year was tax exempt. He describes his sojourns in Florida, his daily rewrites on Battle of Angels, and his having met several girls at Cora Black’s Trade Winds boardinghouse in Key West—an anecdote that probably brought a wry smile to the man who knew early on that his son was no ladies’ man. In another letter at Columbia, written months later on May 12 (and sent not to the family’s Clayton address but rather to C. C.’s Friedman Shelby Shoe Co. office, as Williams did not want his mother to know he was writing his father), Williams describes the loss—or theft—of his trunk containing clothes and manuscripts. He asks his father to contact the Pennsylvania Railroad from the St. Louis end of the route to see if it could be traced; a Western Union telegram sent to his father’s office later that same evening announced: “DISREGARD LETTER TRUNK RECOVERED. OFF PITTSBURGH BY MISTAKE. TOM.”1 The following handwritten letter, accompanied by an envelope bearing the same Hotel Sherman stationery, was addressed to “Mr. C. C. Williams, 53 Arundel Place, Clayton, 5, MO.” Given its contents and its postmark on January 14, 1945, the letter was likely written just a few days or even one day prior to its mailing from Chicago, where...


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pp. 347-352
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