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25 Darkness Just before the Dawn In going back over the records of the years 1912,and 1913,I can see that my life was lacking in “drive.” It is true I wrote two fairly successful novels which were well spoken of by my reviewers and in addition I continued to conduct the Cliff Dwellers’ Club and to act as one of the Vice Presidents of the National Institute of Arts and Letters, but I was very far from a feeling of satisfaction with my position. My life seemed dwindling into futility. I was in physical pain much of the time and tortured by a fear of the future. Naturally and inevitably the burden of my increasing discontent ,worse health,fell with sad reiteration upon my wife,who was not only called upon to endure poverty,but to bear with a sick and disheartened husband.The bravery of her smile served to increase my sense of unworthiness. Her very sweetness, her cheerful acceptance of never-ending household drudgery,was an accusation. She no longer touched brush or clay,although I strongly urged her to sketch or model the children. She had no time, even if she had retained the will,to continue her work as an artist.With a faculty for entertaining handsomely and largely,with hosts of friends who would have clustered about herwith loyal admiration,she remained the mistress of a narrow home and one more or less incompetent housemaid.All these considerations added to my sense of weakness and made the particular manuscript upon which I was spending most of my time, a piece of selfish folly. For ten years I had been working, from time to time, on an autobiographical manuscript which I had called by various names, but which had finally solidified into A Son of the Middle Border. Even in my days of deepest discouragement I turned most of my energy to its revision. In the belief that it was my final story and with small hope of its finding favor in any form,I toiled away,year after year, finding in the aroused memories of my youthful world a respite from the dull grind of my present. 299 Garland_Daughter_to press 10/20/06 3:44 PM Page 299 My duties as head of the Cliff Dwellers and as Secretary of The Theater Society tended to keep me in Chicago.My lecture engagements became fewer and I dropped out of Eastern Club life, retaining only long distance connection with the world of Arts and Letters.In losing touch with my fellows something vital had gone out of me. In spite of all my former protestations,the city began to take on the color of Henry Fuller’s pessimism. My youthful faith in Chicago’s future as a great literary center had faded into middleaged doubt.One by one its writers were slipping away to Manhattan .The Midland seemed farther away from publishers than ever, “The current is all against us,” declared Fuller. As a man of fifty-two I found myself more and more discordant with my surroundings. With sadness I conceded that not in my time would any marked change for the better take place.“Such as Chicago now is, so it will remain during my life,” I admitted to Fuller. “Yes, if it doesn’t get worse,” was his sad reply. I would have put my Woodlawn house on sale in 1912 had it not been for my father’s instant protest.“Don’t take Zulime and the children so far away,” he pleaded.“If you move to NewYork I shall never see any of you again.Stay where you are.Wait till I am ‘mustered out’—it won’t be long now.” There was no resisting this appeal.With a profound sense of what Zulime and the children meant to him,I gave up all thought of going East and settled back into my groove. “We will remain where we are so long as father lives,” I declared to my friends. My wife,who had perceived with alarm my growing discontent with Chicago, was greatly relieved by this decision. To her the thought of migration even to the North Side was disturbing,for it would break her close connection with the circle whose centerwas in her brother’s studio.I am not seeking to excuse my recreancy to The Middle West; I am merely stating it as a phase of literary history ,for my case is undoubtedly typical of many other...


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