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AM: [Bermuda, March8, 1927]  

 

 

Autograph Manuscript, 1 page
[Bermuda, March 8, 1927]

 

This autobiographical manuscript was found among Agnes Boulton's effects after her death. The latest it could have been written was 1927, the last year O'Neill and his second wife lived together. Louis Sheaffer, in O'Neill Son and Artist (pages 190-191 & 509-512), speculates the document was written in 1926 in Bermuda while O'Neill was under the care of psychiatrist Gilbert V. Hamilton. Sheaffer believes that it was O'Neill's first step toward writing, some fifteen years later, the autobiographical Long Day's Journey Into Night.

With all due respect to Mr. Sheaffer, O'Neill may have had a more specific reason for composing this summary of his family and early childhood. It appears to have been written for "The Sea-Mother's Son," a series of plays he never completed. O'Neill likely composed the document on March 8, 1927 while in Bermuda, as suggested by a reference in his Work Diary: "Worked doping out preliminary outline for "The Sea-Mother's Son" -- series of plays based on autobiographical material." The connection between the manuscript and the plays is further supported by O'Neill's scenario for "The Sea-Mother's Son," written in 1928, which includes the following: "Scheme for doing the opus founded on autobiographical material...(the man) begins to examine his old life from the beginnings of his childhood -- he lies back and (life's) important episodes, the influences that moulded him, are enacted before him..."


M -- Lonely life -- spoiled before marriage (husband friend of father's -- father his great admirer -- drinking companions) -- fashionable convent girl -- religious & naive -- talent for music -- physical beauty -- ostracism after marriage due to husband's profession -- lonely life after marriage -- no contact with husband's friends -- husband man's man -- heavy drinker -- out with men until small hours every night -- slept late -- little time with her -- stingy about money due to his childhood experience with grinding poverty after his father deserted family to return to Ireland to spend last days (He died of poison taken by mistake although there is suspicion of suicide here in fit of insane depression -- guilty conscience for desertion(?)) (In later days of his life husband periodically talks when depressed of doing as father did, deserting family, going back to Ireland to die).

Birth of first son 1 year after marriage. Father's life in profession more stable then -- in stock -- for long periods in one city -- more sense of home than in later years when constantly touring -- M. physically healthy then -- son is strictly brought up -- is punished physically by whipping. M's mother still alive -- M has still her affection for comfort when husband fails. M's father dies early in this period -- her idol -- spoiled her with generous gifts -- she always remembers him as contrast to husband's stinginess -- also as "gentleman," educated, in contrast to husband who is self-educated peasant. M. always a bit of snob in reaction to world which finally becomes altogether her husband's world since she has little contact with reality except through him.

Birth of second child five years after first. While still infant, M is forced to leave him to travel with husband who is morbidly jealous of her, even her affection for children. Baby left with mother, catches measles through carelessness of mother in allowing older brother who has measles to see baby. Baby dies. M. gets back too late -- dead -- she is prostrated by grief -- blames herself -- husband for keeping her away, bitterly at mother for lack of care -- elder boy as direct cause, unconsciously(?)

Soon after elder is sent to school at husband's command, despite M's protests as to his youth (seven). But she does not feel this separation as keenly as afterward with E, because she leaves him with same nuns who had known her as girl -- feeling of home. Her mother dies somewhere in this period. She is now absolutely alone except for husband & a brother, no good & shiftless, whom she despises and never sees, feels no affection for. Husband now "on his own" touring nine months place to place, one-nights mostly, no chances to form contacts except for brief summers in N.L. which M. hates. Her feeling superiority to people there. Her poor relatives who live there make this hard. She feels they are obstacles to her socially, make that town impossible. Her husband prefers barroom companions to whom he is rich hero.

M evidently shuns idea of another child -- guilty about second -- husband talks of large family but she knows his stinginess would make this difficult for her -- series of brought-on abortions -- (defiance of husband? -- how did she justify this with religion(?) -- did this mark beginning of break with religion which was to leave her eventually entirely without solace?) Finally pregnant -- this child, E, not wanted at first(?), then desire on both parents' parts it should be girl.

E. born -- with difficulty -- M sick but nurses child -- starts treatment with Doc. which eventually winds up in start of nervousness, drinking & drug-addiction. No signs of these before.

E spoiled from birth -- concentration of all M's love on him in her loneliness -- she shares him reluctantly with nurse but makes friend and confidant out of nurse to further compensate for loneliness. Husband very proud of his birth (confirmed by stories to me) -- 44 years old at time. She pleads for home in N.Y. but he refuses. This was always one of her bitterest resentments against him all her life, that she never had home. M. gets rid of one nurse at end of year or so and gets (Irish woman) and gets English woman. (Husband hates English intensely. Always hostile to nurse secretly and she to him. Was M. actuated by revenge motives on husband in this choice -- to get reliable ally in war with husband(?))

Absolute loneliness of M at this time except for nurse & few loyal friends scattered over country -- (most of whom husband resented as social superiors) -- logically points to what must have been her fierce concentration of affection on the child, E. This must have been further intensified by the fact that at age of 2 he nearly dies from typhoid.

(This nurse later becomes her companion in beer & stout drinking -- later still (after E is in school) in whisky drinking & probably messenger for obtaining drugs(?))


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