WEST, REBECCA

The author writes about her friend Lida Thomas, “I was very conscious that she was losing her sight and that she was whistling to keep her courage up”

Item #19547


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WEST, REBECCA - The author writes about her friend Lida Thomas, “I was very conscious that she was losing her sight and that she was whistling to keep her courage up”
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WEST, REBECCA - The author writes about her friend Lida Thomas, “I was very conscious that she was losing her sight and that she was whistling to keep her courage up”

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WEST, REBECCA.(1892-1983). English author, journalist, travel writer, and critic. TLS. (“Rebecca West”).  1½p. 8vo. Ibstone, England, November 4, 1965. On her personal stationery to Mrs. Philipps.

 

I have heard Lida speak of you with affection and gratitude, and say how she enjoyed something she owed to you – which I now realise must have been the concerts, and I am glad to think she had something as well as the radio which gave her such joy. Like you I have been astonished that none of the people who had known Lida in her prosperous days came forward to help her. I met her in 1923, and in those days she was quite well-off, and she and her husband were the kindest and most generous of people. I don’t mean just that they entertained friends who were prosperous like themselves – they cared for people’s worth, and they were most helpful to p[eop]le who were down on their luck. Never, never, did a couple deserve to live and die happy. As you probably know, I gave her an allowance, but it was a small one – the reason being that it is not easy for an English person to export money to the United States. I saw her in June and July, and it grieves me that I did not see more of her – she lunched with me two or three times and was ill and I hoped to come back soon. Hopes that were disappointed. I was very conscious that she was losing her sight and that she was whistling to keep her courage up – and that is the only thing that makes me glad she died when she did. I am full of admiration for Mary Starbuck, she seems to have taken hold of the emergency so well. I am looking forward to meeting her when I get back to New York, if I ever do. And I would like to meet you too, if you would care to give me that pleasure. I remember Lida speaking of your family, Bertha and Paul Herald, but I never met them…”

 

Born Cicely Isabel Fairfield, Rebecca West appropriated her pseudonym from the heroine of Ibsen’s Rosmersholm during her brief career as an actress. Despite an unsuccessful theatrical career, West became one of the twentieth century’s most influential writers. Devoted to socialist and feminist causes, she began her career as a journalist at The Freewoman, publishing her first article in 1911 in support of free love. After accepting a position at the socialist magazine Clarion, she published a harsh critique of H.G. Wells’ novel, Marriage, and the depiction of women in it. Yet, despite her unfavorable evaluation of Wells’ work, her review led to a ten-year relationship between the two writers, and produced a son, Anthony West. Although her family tried to persuade her to marry Wells, he repeatedly refused to divorce his wife, a fact which ultimately ended their affair.

 

Over the course of her illustrious career, she covered the Nuremberg Trials for The New Yorker, reviewed books for The New York Times, New Republic, Sunday Telegraph, authored novels including The Return of the Soldier, biographies, histories, the autobiographical “Aubrey trilogy” which included The Fountain Overflows, and travelogues including her well-known book about Yugoslavia, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon.

 

Our letter references the last days and death of her New York friend Lida Thomas (1886-1965), with whom West had corresponded for more than a quarter century. Incidentally, at the end of her life, West, herself, suffered from failing eyesight.

 

In excellent condition.

 


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