LETTERS TO (AND FROM) THE EDITOR
1. From Dr. Tom J. A. Olsson. Stockholm, Sweden, October 1985.
I feel I should respond to a comment by Dr. Donald Gallup in his article. "The Eugene O'Neill Collection at Yale." which appeared in the Summer-Fall 1985 issue of the Newsletter. On page 4 Dr. Gallup states:
The statement which Dr. Gallup refers to must be a note (145) in Chapter Five of my book (pp. 243-244), which in the original Swedish reads as follows:
The English translation of this note is as follows:
Dr. Lennart Josephson himself told me about this incident; he was first my professor and later my opponent at the public defense of my dissertation at the Stockholm University in December 1977. At that time my book, O'Neill and_ the Royal Dramatic Theatre (O'Neill och Dramaten) was published. Dr. Josephson is. unfortunately, unable to write a statement for the Newsletter himself; for many years he has been in the hospital with an incurable brain tumor and is incapable of any mental action. He told me, when I was still at work on my dissertation, that he found the rigorous rules a bit peculiar. That is all.
When I did research at Yale's Beinecke Library, I was received in a very friendly manner and was given all the help possible by Dr. Gallup and his staff. I worked there for a total of six months, three months each summer in 1974 and 1975. I still consider the Beinecke Library as the foremost source of O'Neill material and Dr. Gallup a personal friend from those years.
2. A response from Donald Gallup, December 12, 1985.
The passage I was referring to in Tom Olsson's book was not the one he cites but another in the "English Summary" on page 169:
I took this to mean that Olsson was accusing me of making the "Work Diary" available to an inner group of my Yale friends, while I was keeping it from most other non-Yale O'Neill scholars.
The "Work Diary" was seen. as Olsson explains, by Josephson, but only after Mrs. O'Neill had given her permission. She explained that we were to allow Josephson to take notes but not to copy O'Neill's actual words. On the day preceding Josephson's departure from New Haven, he showed me his notes and I was surprised to find that they included extensive quotations, especially from drafts of the Cycle plays. I telephoned Mrs. O'Neill to report that Josephson had apparently misunderstood her instructions. She insisted that we not allow him to take the notes away with him in their then present form. Josephson's landlady here in New Haven later told me that he had stayed up most of the night before his departure making notes on his notes so that he could obey the letter of Mrs. O'Neill's directive. This explains Olsson's phrase "to make notes from his own notes" and probably accounts for Josephson's finding "the rigorous rules [of Carlotta Monterey O'Neill] a bit peculiar."
It is highly ironic that Olsson should have imagined a circle of my friends at Yale as having access to restricted O'Neill material. It was a source of great disappointment to me during my 33 years as Curator of the Yale Collection of American Literature that, except for Norman Holmes Pearson, who served as conduit for the early O'Neill gifts to Yale and had no need of permission from me to examine manuscript material, outside scholars invariably showed far more interest in the archives of contemporary writers than members of the Yale faculty. Indeed, in all those years. I can recall only one Yale scholar who worked at all extensively with the O'Neill manuscripts, and he certainly never saw the "Work Diary."
3. From Robert Einenkel, New York City, October 27, 1985.
It was Jason Robards' electrifying performance as Jamie in Long Day's Journey Into Night and his equally vivid performance as Hickey in the two-part Play of the Week adaptation of the Circle in the Square production of The Iceman Cometh that turned me on to theatre and O'Neill. That a human being just talking could provide such fresh excitement for the soul astonished me.
I am afraid that at the end of the current revival, I felt a bit like Harry Hope wondering what Quintero and company had done to the booze. Almost everything about the current production is professionally admirable, but nothing about it astonishes in the way that the earlier TV version did (and I imagine the live Circle in the Square Production must have by all accounts).
Just as Hickey has taken the life out of the booze, so Quintero's almost funereal, classical staging and reading of the play has nearly embalmed the performances. Even Roger Robinson's energetically effective rendering of the role of Joe Mott becomes attenuated.
The worst victim (or, perhaps, partner) of this enervative approach is Robards. Obviously a man in his 60s is not going to give the performance of one in his 30s, nor should he. But Quintero and Robards have elected to accentuate the salesman of death over the ebullient con man who has sold himself a false vision of truth. From the beginning Robards, his hair obviously dyed too dark, his blue pin-striped suit too loud, both lending a surrounding frame to his ghastly, ashen complexion, is a walking dead man, given to uncomfortable attempts to bounce and snap about as if he were still alive. The actor is still better than anyone else one can imagine in the role. but, with 4 1/2 hours to go where is he to go? The answer, sad to say, is not very far. His great final-act monologue, even though it exhibits Robards doing what he does better than any other American actor alive. is strangely anti-climactic and not nearly moving enough. We have long since experienced the destruction of an illusion in his very aspect.
The difficulty in this respectful classical approach is that it highlights what is most problematical in the play itself and the playwright in general--a certain self-conscious pleading for greatness. "Look at my play; look at me. Who else would try to handle so many variations on one theme with so many allusions to the modern European masters who preceded him?"
Often this very effort threatens to overwhelm with pretension what is really best in the play, the vitality in the observed reality of these drunks. No other writer has managed to lend such credibility to so many born losers at once!
To drag the play out, as I think Quintero does, tends to wear out the theatrical welcome for these denizens of the lowest depths. The characters simply cannot support the burden of all that stateliness.
All this said, however, the production is never really boring, and, with the exception of a very weak Parritt (Paul McCrane), features ensemble playing that is superior to the standard on Broadway these days. Donald Moffat is as fine a Larry Slade as Robert Ryan and Myron McCormick before him. The same can be said for Barnard Hughes' humorous and touching Harry Hope. John Pankow as Rocky, John Christopher Jones as Willie Oban and the aforementioned Roger Robinson strike me as superior to actors I have seen in their roles before.
Altogether, everything is very fine without being very great.
4. To Jordan Y. Miller from the Editor, December 7. 1985.
[On Sunday, December 7, O'Neill Society Secretary Jordan Miller was feted by his colleagues at the University of Rhode Island on the occasion of his retirement from full--time teaching. Learning of the event, I wrote a letter to be read during the evening--one that, since it attempted to represent all of Jordan's O'Neillian colleagues, should be shared with them. --FCW]
I write to salute you at the time of your retirement. Retirement? Impossible. There must have been some ghastly chronological goof! "Retiring," like "shy." is a word that no one would ever think of associating with you. So this letter, while the salute is a pleasure to pen, is a somewhat difficult one to write.
Seriously, though, I do want to congratulate you at the conclusion of your full-time teaching career, and to tell your colleagues in Kingston how envious we all are that they have had you all to themselves for so long. Actually, of course, they haven't: your scholarship and dedication have made you truly a "citizen of the world," and I have asked to represent one segment of that world in applauding you today.
As editor of the Eugene O'Neill Newsletter and vice president of the Eugene O'Neill Society, I know full well your work in behalf of public and scholarly appreciation of America's greatest dramatist. Indeed, without your pioneering lead there would probably not be an O'Neill Newsletter or an O'Neill Society. Your encouragement at and after the 1975 MLA convention in San Francisco inspired the creation of the publication, and your visionary energy a few years later was instrumental in helping to establish the organization. I need not mention your many endeavors as scholar, bibliographer, editor and critic--work that began long before anyone else realized O'Neill's seminal importance, that has kept you in the vanguard of O'Neill studies, and that continues unabated. I know that I can speak for myriads of O'Neillians around the world when I say, thank you, Jordan, for serving our common cause with such distinction. We know that "retirement" has no place in your lexicon, and that you will continue to lead and inspire us for many years to come. And so we wish you, in the words of one of O'Neill's father's favorite toasts, many, many years of "sunny days and starry nights"!
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