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Part of a Long Story

Boulton, Agnes
London: Peter Davies, 1958
English first edition, with dust jacket

    NOTES:  Inscribed by Shane O'Neill.

This is the first half of a proposed two volume account of O'Neill's eleven-year marriage to Miss Boulton.  It begins with her arrival in New York and first meeting with the 29-year old playwright in 1917 and carries through the birth of their first child, Shane, in October, 1919.  The story is told without emotion or recrimination as a romance between two lonely people seeking desperately to find themselves amid their hard drinking, hard living Bohemian friends.  It is curiously erratic in precise detail.  Many important dates and other facts we would like to know are frequently omitted or noted as "forgotten"; yet it is filled with minute descriptions of long alcoholic binges or the items of food at a particular meal.  Nonetheless, it is a rewarding book.  For instance, it reveals O'Neill's own version of his first marriage and his suicide attempt as told to his wife, and there is considerable opportunity to become acquainted with the elder brother, James.  More important, perhaps, is Miss Boulton's recreation of O'Neill's early struggle for artistic recognition in Greenwich Village and Provincetown while submitting periodically to complete alcoholic paralysis.  The entire story seems to emerge from an atmosphere that can only be termed nightmarish.Miller


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