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[19]27—two years [roughly up to the point when it becomes clear he is breaking from the marriage]. [Book IV] November 1, 1927 to January 30, 1928—three months [roughly up to when he departs with Carlotta for Europe.]59 In April 1959 she wrote the opening pages of the new book, beginning: “In November, 1919 Eugene Gladstone O’Neill was a young, sinewy man, facing his thirties in a mood of belligerent and pessimistic expectancy.” Her theme was that he was then at a moment of transition. The fighting spirit, which had carried him through a hell of a childhood and years of rough-and-tumble life at sea and in the bars, was now to face a more difficult “foe,” the commercial theater, “a world he never knew and never should have known—for later it did much to conquer him.”60 This remark picks up on a point Agnes made to Louis Sheaffer three months after she began writing the book: “I loved him while I believed in him but he began to change, writing plays like ‘The Fountain’ and ‘Marco Millions’—they weren’t his kind of plays. Why did he go wrong? Why didn’t he become the great playwright I’d expected? What kept him from it?”61 In the fragmentary manuscript, she mentions Long Day’s Journey (“perhaps the greatest of his plays”), calling it “a desperate effort to return .”62 These opening pages of her new book and the few other swatches of manuscript from this project also read as a desperate effort to return. However, unlike O’Neill’s late plays or even Part of a Long Story, Boulton’s final pages are rambling, vague, ill-formed, not suitable for publication. She had come to a pathetic end of her writing career. She was obsessively counting each scrawled word on her manuscript to gauge how close she was coming to her goal, getting paid. Writing “by the word” had become an ingrained habit early on in her career, and it resurged at the end. Perhaps this is what she meant when she told Sheaffer that in the old days she had often dreamed of houses, but “Now-a-days my dreams are purely mathematical.”63 The numbers were not all in reference to word count. She was also losing weight. She had always been thin, to the point where friends expressed worry. At approximately 5’ 4”, she had remained steady at 110 pounds, but suddenly, in 1958, she was down to 102.64 She had to be reminded to eat. Beginning around the time when she completed Part of a Long Story, she fell prey to a series of ailments—and expenses. She divorced Mac Kaufman in 1960; his absences on increasingly long fishing trips had come to seem like abandonment: “Mac really left a lot undone. “A Great Hush of Non-Being” • 229 ...


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