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AUTOGRAPH LETTER, SIGNED
Gloucester, MA. Undated [but post November 1964].. Six pages. In ink, on rectos only, of six sheets of octavo letterhead of "The Tavern." Folded for mailing, paperclip rust mark in upper margin (chiefly first and last leaves), very good. To friend and fellow writer, Paul Metcalf. A remarkable letter of condolence to Metcalf upon the death of his father, Harry: "I just, because a man asked me, was reading Letter to Melville, 1951 - and stopped with the name Harry, proud that I had put your father's name there, beside your Mother's, and decided to write you immediately to console you and Nancy because Harry has died. Henry K. Metcalf. Isn't it really a nice thing he was, and I hope the fact that he did live so that we all felt he was clearly himself...that your own feelings, both of you, may be that he simply did live out his term of life (as those words really do say it, though I never myself - and I imagine others of us (?) - didn't know these words do cover the meanness, that our lives do have to end), and that this will lessen for you that you don't have a father in the world any more." Olson continues on, at length, in the same vein, with vivid recollection and from the heart, of the impression Harry Metcalf left upon him. Then, either in a moment of forgetfulness, or because he had not heard, Olson asks that Paul extend his sympathies to his Mother, who had predeceased Harry by over six months: "...please extend them to your Mother for me (feeling as [I] do, that ever since that poem I was just reading, she hasn't wanted any more to feel my nature. Or amount of it. Or the way, in such an instance, it did - I think - enrage [?] her. (I certainly was hoping that the other way about might have been the way she would have taken it. In any case I was happy when I published it in book form, that I had the sense to remove her name, from the address. I should have done that in the first place...[)]." He continues on with concerns for Paul, his wife and family: "...[I] hope all aspects of your life...is to all your liking, so much as anything can be, for any of us - and alas when the flowering aloes (to use your great grandfather's rhyme!) fall upon us." Olson met Eleanor Metcalf (1882- April 1964), Herman Melville's granddaughter and literary executor/editor, and her husband Harry, during the 1930s, when he was actively engaged in his "Melville Project" -- the tracking down and transcription of Melville's marginalia. As custodian of much of the Melville family heritage, Eleanor was foremost among his important contacts for that undertaking, and Olson earned what Tom Clark describes in his biography of Olson as "unqualified acceptance into this good woman's...household, where he was welcomed as a sort of surrogate family member...given a standing dinner invitation, a bed to sleep in whenever he was in Cambridge, and, most usefully of all, a direct pipeline to the Melville family papers" (p.24). In turn, Olson's significance for Paul Metcalf and his own writing was considerable. Olson closes the letter: "Love & life to you both, and to your daughter (and, by your permission and means, to your Mother), Charles." Ca. 6- 700 words.
      [Bookseller: William Reese Company - Literature ABAA-]
Last Found On: 2013-10-10           Check availability:      Biblio    

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