In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

“work” meant days of writing. An unusual insight into Gene’s life is available for 1925, because Agnes, at the time of the divorce, held onto his “Scribbling Diary” for that year. Gene and Carlotta destroyed all other volumes of this second, more intimate sort of diary late in his life.4 In this diary, O’Neill recorded, in a line or two, what he had been working on that day, what he had been reading, as well as the social comings and goings in Bermuda and later in New York, Nantucket, and Ridgefield. He also recorded the extent of his swimming or other exercise during the day, occasional measurements of his physique, and coded symbols for other data, such as for a day in which he was drinking or smoking.5 As a document of the marriage, the “Scribbling Diary” does not offer much detail. Agnes is mentioned in conjunction with the social events, also an occasional fight, one of them having to do with her jealousy of Alice Cuthbert, a young woman with whom Gene liked to swim. Gene described her to Agnes as having “a rare & beautiful quality,” which did not sit well with Agnes, especially when she got a report that Alice and Gene had been seen holding hands in the water. Gene responded by saying they had been “swimming tandem.”6 There are some unexplained symbols in the “Scribbling Diary,” at least during the first several months of 1925—a plus sign or swastika— that seem to indicate the pattern of their sexual activity. The symbols appear nine times in January, twice in February, four times in March. It should be noted that Agnes was six months pregnant in February. The crosses mostly appear on nondrinking days. O’Neill was writing well during this period. However, he was struggling, constantly, against the impulse to drink. Not long after finishing The Great God Brown on March 25, he began drinking heavily again. He was hardly present for the early days of Oona’s life, and the rest of the summer proved unproductive because of drinking and household guests. On December 31 of that year, he stopped drinking again, writing: “On wagon. Good’bye—without regret —1925 (except for few mo[nth]s in Bermuda).” Then, on January 1, he wrote: “Welcome to a new dawn, I pray!”7 Among the books he was reading in 1925, along with Rabelais, Thomas à Kempis, Freud, and Nietzsche, was an issue of the medical journal The Practitioner, devoted to alcoholism. The term, signifying a medical condition of alcohol dependency, was relatively new then, and Gene, under the care of Dr. Louis Bisch and Dr. Gilbert Hamilton, was beginning to address his drinking as an affliction rather than a moral lapse. Dr. Hamilton , who was a neurologist with clinical psychological interests, enlisted Traces of Marriage: Bermuda • 137 Agnes to assist in the diagnosis and treatment. She kept a diary of observations of his drinking, several pages of which survive, undated but assignable to December 21–29, 1925, in other words, just prior to his yearend words of resolution. For example, on December 21, they are still at Ridgefield, and Agnes writes: Very nervous all day, lay in bed, made me change trains from 11:45 to 12:30 to 2:36 to 3:30, very grouchy, glum, kept talking about “first thing he would do when he got in to N.Y.”—i.e. take drink (much worse than day before). Decided could not go to Dr. then decided to do so, but insisted I should order scotch so he could have drink immediately on returning from Dr. Seemed very favorably impressed, said Dr. said not to try & go without drink. Had several drinks & dinner , Kenneth arrived, talked about play [Great God Brown], everything harmonious. But after K. left, kept on drinking, consequently did not get to sleep until late, nearly finished bottle.8 The notes go on to reveal a man nearly completely debilitated by alcohol, dragging himself to rehearsals but meanwhile consuming bottle after bottle of scotch. Agnes, attempting to rein in Gene’s drinking, repeatedly comes in conflict with his compulsion and bears the brunt of his intimidation and cajoling. The later pages of these diary notes become fragmentary and enigmatic, such as the following: Yesterday, speaking of baby & financial end—didn’t get it straight, that in a way, having [“become convinced that” deleted] having the baby was not only that I wanted to have it, but there...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.