Arthur to John, December 2, 1947
Dec 2, 1947
Many thanks for your show of enterprise in getting started on our correspondence. I suppose I would have done so on my own hook pretty soon, at least I hope so. One advantage I do possess, I get away on these business trips with frequent regularity. This at least enables me to catch up on my sleep, and to read an occasional book and to write an occasional letter. The recent weeks, since your trip last, have been particularly hectic, in that we have been wading through the culmination of our Gilbert and Sullivan production, seven performances in three weeks. Our show was "Yeomen of the Guard", in many ways the finest (but the most taxing) of the repertoire. This completes our sixteenth season. We have seven operettas (and two one-act curtain raisers) in our list. We last did "Yeomen" in 1940. The horrible thought occurs that when next it rolls around in 1954 I shall be sixty-four years old! So very likely I have performed my part as Wilfred Shadbolt for the last time. I think however I can look forward to yielding the spot-light to a younger man the more willingly in that I shall be permitted to stand in the bass row of the chorus. Basses never wear out. Who knows, they may even humor me by pushing me on stage in my wheel-chair!
Your paper on your boyhood memories was extremely interesting and well done. Despite this, I can understand the lack of enthusiasm for it on the part of your fellow club members. This nostalgie stuff has to strike a responsive chord in the memories of ones hearers or readers. Unless something in their memories is evoked and titivated, you draw a blank. I can well imagine that no one of your hearers could summon up from his past any reasonably close parallel to your word-pictures. Consequently you were seriously handicapped in striking the corresponding note which would enable one to share your reactions to the described surroundings. I think that perhaps your combining personalities, things, and events was not so sympathy provoking as if you had confined yourself to personalities only. Character sketches of your father, mother, brothers and sisters, the "Aunts" (you did the Aunts very well in a couple of nut-shells), these might cause your hearers to say "I knew someone just like that." But the houses you lived in and the physical features of the neighborhood were not sufficiently unique to be exciting nor sufficiently ordinary to be familiar. However, as you very properly point out, the original motivation of the paper was you won satisfaction. I can from that standpoint see that we must award it a blue ribbon for effort if not for results.
My own debt to my boyhood I do not place too high. Of all the people I knew, I should assign significance principally to my father, Dr Kershaw and Perhaps Aunt Jeannie. This is another way of saying that my formative years were not concentrated in my childhood. I sometimes think that I did not mature into genuine adulthood until at least age thirty to thirty five. People I have known since that time have influenced me more than those of earlier days. I recognize that certain foundations were laid, certain latent tendencies were given embryonic life. The fact remains, I developed late and along lines not too clearly discernable in my teens and twenties. The interests which fill my days are all growths of the last twenty years. In other words, were I to attempt to prepare a paper along the lines of your opus, it would of necessity date from my migration to Cheltenham in 1922. My debt to the Germantown years has receded into a past that is very dim and distant indeed. This is partly due to the six summers I spent working at the sea-shore, the four years away at college. Also the days at Germantown Academy somehow insulated me from my surroundings at home, in that they furnished me with a little world into which I could retire at nine o'clock each week-day morning. Now, later in life, attempts such as your, to recapture those home-life days stir up certain regrets. I feel that I have neglected a rich source of satisfactions and fulfillments, and thus losing a grasp of those early realities. Consequently I am your debtor for you very commendable job of summoning up some ghosts of a very happy past.
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