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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group

The Dolphin Letters, 1970-1979

Elizabeth Hardwick, Robert Lowell, and Their Circle

Elizabeth Hardwick and Robert Lowell; Edited by Saskia Hamilton

Farrar, Straus and Giroux




1. Elizabeth Hardwick to Robert Lowell

[15 West 67th Street, New York, N.Y.] Tuesday, April 7, 1970

Darling: Safely home, but quite tired and still not back on a schedule Americana, having waked up at 4:A.M.… However, the trip was heaven, every moment full of pleasure and interest and relief and food and good companionship, love, art, walk.… I never had a better time and thank you for it and miss you already. The apartment was beautiful and serene, clean and bright and filled with stupid mail and worthless books and bills and some good books, some communications necessary if not exhilarating. I will send off tomorrow a large envelope airmail to Oxford, all of it needing answers I fear. Also Nicole1 found some old travelers checks which I will send, hoping you will use these first since they may have been around for quite some time.

A letter from the Sussex people, or person rather.2 I don’t know. I found I was so pleased to see our sinfully comfortable, heavily equipped apartment, our library, records, Harriet immediately settled in spite of the trip for three hours with her guitar.… then I thought of some cold, rented place, with no books or records, few rays of heat, gas logs, the works and then I wondered. But still see how you feel about it. We needn’t go next year, but might wait a bit until H. is in boarding school and would actually be nearly 15, quite old enough to come for Christmas in London. Then we’d be free, without all the cares of a real family “situation.” I don’t know … perhaps this is the fatigue of the trip home, the pleasure of Nicole and Sumner3!

Bob is fine and Mrs. Barbara4 likewise. That is all I’ve had time for. Will write again in a few days, to Oxford, sending along the mail as I said. It is bright and sunny here today.… Be happy, be somewhat wise, and a little prudent. Enclose article on lithium.5 Much love always to you and the fondest greetings to our Dutch friends.


2. Elizabeth Hardwick to Robert Lowell

[15 West 67th Street, New York, N.Y.] April 10, 1970

Dearest Cal: I will send off the mail in a few days. Please answer this enclosed request immediately.6 … How, I miss you! I came home with a terrible cold and have been feeling rotten and unreal, going to sleep at 8 P.M., waking up at five. It seems to be almost gone today and so perhaps things will seem more cheerful, instead of lonely, dark, broken up.

Poor Bill.7 The play, as he thought, did not please. Clive Barnes and the N.Y. Post were all I have seen thus far, and they thought it was boring. Bill himself came out all right, with the reviewers wondering why they ever thought of reworking a good play in this manner.8 It does seem such an ungodly waste. I sent him a telegram for all three of us and will call him today. I assume the thing will not run.

Isaiah B. popped over for a moment last night to tell me goodbye. They9 are off today and looking forward to seeing you.

The mail groweth ever worse, even though I have cut down a lot of it.10 I’m sorry to say I was too sick to go to Orestes. And I haven’t seen anyone, except Isaiah for a moment.

I still look back with joy on the Italian trip—with you, especially. Dearest one, happiness and peace go with you and return—to turmoil and domestic rasp, which is kinda nice too.

Harriet is fine, full and fresh.


3. Elizabeth Hardwick to Robert Lowell

[15 West 67th Street, New York, N.Y.] Saturday, April 12, 1970

Dearest: I’m so sorry about the trouble you had at the Rome airport. I know you’ve forgotten it by now, but still the picture of the old bear … struggling …11 It’s too much. I’m at last, for the first time today, over that damned cold I got on the way home. All forgotten.

My first letter to you may have seemed lukewarm about England. I was under the spell of the clean, quiet apartment. But that is gone, once more. Cal I can’t cope. I have gotten so that I simply cannot bear it. Each day’s mail and effort grows greater and greater: we have left a little bit of ourselves in too many places. Writing, students, politics, friends, automobile, Maine, taxes, bills, house, Harriet, books arriving at the rate of ten or so a day. I give all my time to this and yet everything is in disorder, files mounting up like those of some monstrous institution, old checks, records, things in four or five places, since four or five “homes” are needed, and hours spent looking for a single bill, wondering if it was paid.… I feel the getting away for a year would push us backward to some more possible step along the way. Also I know the awful anxiety here. Harriet doesn’t really like Dalton12 anymore and it seems to me needlessly complicated and anxious-making in its organization, without truly giving very sound instruction. Also I have some concern about her deep-seated notions that such and such aren’t “important”—grades, school, traditions, work. I feel as Esther13 does that one can’t do much, but must try to offer some variation on this dismaying theme.

Now, wait until you hear what I have gotten involved in. Jack Thompson happened to speak to the President of Stony Brook14 about your papers. They are wildly interested: hoping to compete with Buffalo maybe.15 In any case, he, the President, is arranging for an appraiser to come next week or so. I was rather taken aback by this, since you aren’t here, etc. However, I will try to stir myself to get the things in some sort of shape and with a list, general outline. I don’t see why you shouldn’t have the appraisal. You needn’t act on it, and you needn’t sell the stuff to Stony Brook, but could then compare offers with other places. I feel that the papers should be sent somewhere because the whole thing would be an unbearable headache for Harriet. The money would be parcelled out in yearly installments. And perhaps we should have this “foundation” and really change our lives for awhile or forever. I, myself, feel that it would be a relief to dispose of as much back-log as we can, in the concern for simpling a life that has become too weighty, detailed, heavy—for me. If we don’t do this I will have to have a secretary next year, or else simply give up on any hope of writing or reading. I don’t want a secretary. Another person to deal with, face, worry about, pay … But.

I’m also ready, as you are, to be d-mobilized! Darling, think of a cottage, as they call it, near Oxford or Cambridge, or near London. A garden, a library, a few friends. (What nonsense! Sounds like Katherine Mansfield and J. Middleton Murry.)16

Much love, my only one. I miss you amazingly! “Amazingly” only in that I thought it would be possible to use this time to catch up. But it is not you I need to be separated from but from all this nonsense here.

Sweetheart, I’m not planning to sell anything of yours or even to be very snoopy. There is not the time nor the inclination. The few letters I glanced at seemed to belong to another life, lived by two other fools. (These are letters in my own desk. I won’t go through anything in your study. Just give a general idea.)

Answer this Harvard thing.17 I am sending a packet of mail today. Nothing “important” as H. would say.


Writings of Elizabeth Hardwick copyright © 2019 by Harriet Lowell

Writings of Robert Lowell copyright © 2019 by Harriet Lowell and Sheridan Lowell

Compilation, editorial work, and introduction copyright © 2019 by Saskia Hamilton