Friday Feb. 10, 1928
Just got home after a long, tedious day. Right after work I husseled to my pupil’s and gave him a lesson. Now I am able, at last, to sit and have an interesting chat, and believe me, I have loads to talk about. First of all, before I forget. The New Masses is published by a group of radical writers of all descriptions, ranging from reformers to r-r-r-r-revolutionary firebrands for the purpose of publishing stories, poetry, and drawings that depict the deplorable conditions that exist to-day. The publishers claim that all the articles are submitted free and therefore are not hampered for the sake of financial returns, to tell the whole truth. Most of the contributors are Communists and Anarchists. The old Masses was published by Max Eastman, who during the war turned a super-patriot. Now and then he sends in an article, (which is so oderiferous that that stench reaches the heavens). On the whole, though it is a much better magazine than the usual thrash that are being sold at the newstands. Tell Rebecca to invest each week a nickel for The Weekly People and fifteen cents for The Nation and she will be equipped with the very best sources of their kinds in the country.
Now then, as to Stewart Swart. Tell me, how does he happen to talk about marriage to his pupil? I might be a bit presumptuous but I think he has other interest in you, beside teaching. I believe I mentioned this before to you and you laughed it off. Do you still laff it off? The reason I suggest this is because that is the usual line a young man uses when he is fishing for the sentiments of a young lady he might be interested. But after all it may be my jealousy that’s rageing. I suppose you are angry at me so I’ll change the subject. Oh! Listen here is a little gossip. Keep it on the Q.T. for a while. Guess what? Kate Harris is getting married to-morrow. She is marrying an English-Jewish gentleman, that is from all appearances. He is a tailor and is very gentlemanly. The funny part of it she only knows him a week! Let’s hope for the best. She deserves a “good break”.
Write and let me know just when you are coming; I’ll take care of the rest. Esur left me and Harris is totally taken up with Margee, therefore there’s nothing down here that I dare to mix up with so write me good long hot letters so that I’ll have your letters to look forward to. I am as lonesome as hell!
P.S. Regards to everyone.
Read Puddinhead Wilson by Mark Twain for some real fun.
Editor’s Notes: Izzy begins the letter with news on the Socialist front, since that is foremost in his mind. “The Masses” was a monthly magazine from 1911-1917 by Piet Vlag with regular contributions by Max Eastman who, as Izzy points out, did not keep his Socialist views after World War I. There are differing reports on this, some saying Eastman didn’t renounce Socialism until after World War II. Perhaps Izzy notices the subtle changes in Eastman’s views earlier, as a radical himself, Eastman may have been less radical but still “for the cause”. NYU has the whole run of The Masses and it is beautiful and terribly interesting. Marxists.org has the whole run of New Masses with gorgeous cover art and equally interesting editorials.
The next part of the letter is Izzy responding to Thelma’s comment about her piano teacher, Stewart Swart. Apparently, he mentions marriage in some regard to Thelma, in a way that convinces Izzy that the man has other intentions for his girl. Izzy knows Thelma well enough to realize she does not appreciate his harping on the subject. He swiftly changes the subject to our favorite topic….gossip! Kate Harris, Izzy’s good friend Dave Harris’ sister, is getting married after a week of knowing the man! Lengths of courtship vary wildly nowadays from 6 months to 7 years. It’s been difficult to determine such things since the 1920s because courtship became more loosey goosey with less stringent chaperoning and titles of “going steady” vs “dating”. Courtship may have only been for a few months before marriage but one week was certainly shorter than normal.
Poor Izzy is “lonesome as hell” and waiting for Thelma to write back some hot letters – too bad those aren’t in our possession! Last, but not least, Izzy recommends the book “Pudd’nhead Wilson” by Mark Twain, published in 1894, not exactly a new bestseller. From what I can tell Pudd’nhead is actually titled “The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson” and was published along with “The Comedy Those Extraordinary Twins” but the first part was dropped as it was more of a descriptor for the reader than an actual title.
Etymology Corner: “on the QT” surprised me since I thought it was newer slang but it has origins in 19th Century British literature as a short for “keep it quiet”.
“Got fellows to stick them up or stick them up himself for that matter on the q. t. running in to loosen a button.”
-“Ulysses” by James Joyce