The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter
Meets American social worker Mary Doherty, who will become a close friend, as well as muckraking journalist Lincoln Steffens, labor leader Samuel Gompers, and Mexican revolutionary Samuel Yúdico. Has successive love affairs with Polish diplomat Jerome Retinger and Nicaraguan poet Salomón de la Selva. Has abortion after becoming pregnant by De la Selva. Reports from Mexico City appear in the New York Call, the Christian Science Monitor, The Freeman, and other publications. My Chinese Marriage published serially in Asia, June through September, and then as a short book by Duffield & Co., New York. Returns to Fort Worth, stays with the Crawfords, and writes articles for Garfield Crawford’s Oil Journal. Performs in local Little Theatre productions Poor Old Jim and The Wonder Hat. Works on novel called “The Book of Mexico.”
In Greenwich Village January through April. “Where Presidents Have No Friends” published in The Century. Returns to Mexico at request of President Obregón, who appoints her American curator of “Mexican Popular Arts and Crafts,” a state-sponsored exhibit designed to tour the U.S. While writing and researching exhibition catalog, becomes devoted admirer of artists Diego Rivera and Xavier Guerrero and caricaturists José Clemente Orozco and Miguel Covarrubias. Exhibit opens in November in Los Angeles, but bureaucratic obstacles prohibit it from traveling further. Leaves Mexico for New York feeling dispirited and defeated. “María Concepción,” her first published short story, appears in December issue of The Century.
Abandons “The Book of Mexico” in favor of new novel, “Thieves Market.” “María Concepción” reprinted in Best Short Stories of 1922. Returns to Mexico to commission pieces as guest editor of Mexican number of Survey Graphic. Story “The Martyr,” inspired by personal encounters with Diego Rivera, appears in The Century. Begins love affair with Chilean scholar and poet Francisco Aguilera.
Continues affair with Aguilera through mid-April, and then has amorous encounter with his friend Alvaro Hinojosa. When she learns she is pregnant, considers but rejects abortion. Publishes two articles and a translation of a poem by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz in Mexican number of Survey Graphic. In summer, joins friends at a farmhouse near Windham, Connecticut, then stays on alone until last stage of pregnancy. Male child is stillborn, December 2. Resolves to support herself as a freelance literary journalist and seeks reviewing assignments from editor friends.
Recuperates at Greenwich Village apartment of friend Liza Dallett. Becomes closer to Village acquaintances including Hart Crane, Ford Madox Ford, Malcolm and Peggy Cowley, Dorothy and Delafield Day, Allen Tate, and Caroline Gordon. Writes 12 book reviews, mainly for the New York Herald Tribune; will continue to accept reviewing assignments from the Tribune, The New Republic, The Nation, The New York Times Book Review, and other periodicals through the early 1950s.
Spends summer in Connecticut with friends, including writers Josephine Herbst and John Herrmann and painter Ernest Stock. Contracts gonorrhea from Stock, and undergoes surgery for removal of both ovaries, a secret she keeps for the rest of her life. Moves into room at 561 Hudson Street. Takes short-term editing job with J. H. Sears & Co., and under publisher’s name, “Hamblen Sears,” compiles and writes introduction to a collection of essays titled What Price Marriage? (“This book and My Chinese Marriage should have no place in the list of my books.”) Through Allen Tate and Caroline Gordon meets Robert Penn Warren and Andrew Lytle.
In August joins group in Boston for six-day rally protesting the pending executions of Sacco and Vanzetti. Inspired by Tate’s financial success with a popular life of Stonewall Jackson, resolves to write a biography; in fall signs contract with Boni & Liveright for book “The Devil and Cotton Mather” and moves to Salem, Massachusetts, to read Mather papers. While consulting genealogical dictionaries, researches Skaggs, Jones, and Porter family histories. “He,” a story set in Texas, appears in New Masses. Conceives long, three-part autobiographical novel called “Many Redeemers.”
Continues research in Salem. Collaborates with William Doyle on his play Carnival. Analyzes herself in private notes and concludes that she is personally responsible for all her “losses.” Completes two stories, “Magic,” which appears in transition, and “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall.” “Rope,” loosely based on her affair with Ernest Stock, published in The Second American Caravan. Works as copyeditor for the small literary publisher Macaulay & Co., and has brief love affair with colleague Matthew Josephson. Falls ill with bronchitis.
Accepts invitation from friends Becky and John Crawford to stay with them in their Brooklyn home. “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” appears in transition. With financial assistance from the Crawfords and other friends, lives in Bermuda from March through July; writes poems and several chapters of Mather biography. Story “Theft,” based on self-analysis in Salem, published in The Gyroscope.
Story “Flowering Judas” appears in Hound & Horn. In January signs two-book contract with Harcourt, Brace: receives advances of $500 for a novel (“Thieves Market”) and $100 for a collection of stories. Returns to Mexico for stay of 16 months. Flowering Judas (“María Concepción,” “Magic,” “Rope,” “He,” “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall,” “Flowering Judas”) printed by Harcourt, Brace in edition limited to 600 copies. Meets Eugene Dove Pressly, a 26-year-old American employee of the Institute of Current World Affairs, Mexico City, with whom she begins love affair.
Essay “Leaving the Petate” published in The New Republic. Works on “Thieves Market”; changes title to “Historical Present.” Moves to Mexico City suburb Mixcoac to share house with Pressly and Mary Doherty. Receives Guggenheim Fellowship ($2,000). At invitation of director Sergei Eisenstein, visits Hacienda Tetlapayac to observe filming of ¡Que Viva Mexico! Sails for Europe with Pressly on the North German Lloyd ship Werra, August 22. Arrives in Bremen, September 19, and takes train to Berlin. After Pressly leaves to find work in Spain, moves into boarding house at 39 Bambergerstrass. Meets American journalist and filmmaker Herbert Kline, communist poet and social critic Johannes Becher, and young American writer William Harlan Hale. Spends an evening dancing with Hermann Göring but rejects his further advances. Works on story “Wiener Blut,” inspired by voyage to Germany.
Shares romantic interlude with Hale before traveling to Spain by way of Paris, a city she instantly adores. Quickly returns with Pressly to Paris (“I could not endure the thought of being anywhere else”). Renews friendship with Eugene and Maria Jolas, editors of transition; visits Ford Madox Ford and becomes friends with his companion, Janice Biala. Frequents Sylvia Beach’s bookshop and lending library, Shakespeare and Company, and the cafés Dôme, Coupole, and Select. Becomes friends with publishers Barbara Harrison and Monroe Wheeler, and with Wheeler’s companion, the writer Glenway Wescott. Battling severe bronchitis, enters the American Hospital at Neuilly at end of April. Story “The Cracked Looking-Glass” appears in Scribner’s Magazine. In June goes to Switzerland to join Pressly, now employed by the American embassy at Basel. Abandons “Historical Present” and works on three pieces of “Many Redeemers”: “Noon Wine,” “Old Mortality,” and “Pale Horse, Pale Rider.” In Basel reads Erasmus and other Renaissance writers and, at the Kunstmuseum, deepens appreciation of European art. Essay “Hacienda” published in The Virginia Quarterly Review. Heavily edits Pressly’s rough translation of J. J. Fernández de Lizardi’s picaresque novel El Periquillo Sarniento (The Itching Parrot). Moves with Pressly to the Hôtel Malherbe, Paris.
Marries Pressly, March 11; couple moves to seventh-floor apartment at 166 Boulevard Montparnasse. Attends classes at the Cordon Bleu cooking school. Sits for portraits by photographer George Platt Lynes. Meets Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and Alice B. Toklas. Visited by publisher Donald Brace, who offers contracts for
Rewrites “Hacienda” as a long story, printed by Harrison of Paris in an edition of 895 copies. “A Bright Particular Faith,” a chapter of the Cotton Mather biography, appears in Hound & Horn. Story “That Tree” published in The Virginia Quarterly Review. In April sends Brace six stories that form part of “Many Redeemers”: “The Grave,” “The Circus,” “The Grandmother” (“The Source”), “The Witness,” “The Old Order” (“The Journey”), and “The Last Leaf.” Exhausted and ill by May, spends six weeks at the Parksanatorium in Davos, Switzerland. Feels betrayed by Josephine Herbst upon reading her story “Man of Steel,” a thinly disguised account of the Porter-Stock affair, published in The American Mercury. “The Circus” accepted for inaugural issue of The Southern Review, founded by Robert Penn Warren and Cleanth Brooks at Louisiana State University. Moves with Pressly to 70 bis rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs, a spacious cottage once the home of Ezra Pound.
Publishes three stories in The Virginia Quarterly Review: “The Witness,” “The Last Leaf,” and “The Grave.” Sets aside anger to comfort a desperate Josephine Herbst, whose husband has abandoned her for another woman; is surprised and disturbed by Herbst’s lesbian advances. Expanded edition of Flowering Judas (now also including “Theft,” “That Tree,” “The Cracked Looking-Glass,” and “Hacienda”) published by Harcourt, Brace. Begins developing short novel from material explored in “Wiener Blut”; calls this work-in-progress “Promised Land.” On November 29, addresses the American Women’s Club in Paris on the process of writing fiction and launches speaking career. Depressed by repeated bouts of bronchitis and the darkening atmosphere of prewar Europe, resolves to “go home” to Texas the following spring.
Harcourt, Brace supplements advance for Cotton Mather biography, making possible a February departure for the U.S. Stops in Boston to do research for Mather book. Visits family in Texas and is drawn to teen-aged nephew Paul and niece Anna Gay (“Ann”). Travels with father and sister Baby to Indian Creek to visit mother’s grave, and is moved by verse on tombstone written by father; spontaneously writes short poem for mother (later revised as “Anniversary in a Country Churchyard”) and buries it under soil at the grave. Removes from tombstone a memento: the glass-encased photograph of her mother that her father had affixed there in 1892. Returns to Paris, quits cottage, and moves with Pressly to the U.S. in October. Acknowledging that “Many Redeemers” is not a novel but instead a series of shorter pieces, signs new contract with Harcourt, Brace for collection of five short novels: “Noon Wine,” “Old Mortality,” “The Man in the Tree” (a story about a lynching), “Pale Horse, Pale Rider,” and “Promised Land.” Lives in New York for a few weeks until Pressly leaves for temporary assignment in Washington, D.C. Stays at inn in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, and there completes “Noon Wine” and “Old Mortality.” Story “The Old Order” (“The Journey”) appears in The Southern Review. Returns to New York in December and lives with Pressly at 67 Perry Street.
When Pressly accepts job with an oil company in Venezuela, Porter regards their separation as permanent. Visits Texas for father’s 80th birthday. Receives Book-of-the-Month Club Prize for literary achievement ($2,500). Writes story “A Day’s Work.” Socializes with Glenway Wescott, George Platt Lynes, and Lynes’s brother, Russell, an editor at Harper’s. Briefly resumes friendship with radical and communist friends: marches in May Day parade; co-sponsors Second Congress of American Writers, June 4–6, in New York City; contributes a translation to. . . and Spain Sings: Fifty Loyalist Ballads Adapted by American Poets. Suddenly distances herself from left-wing social circle and embraces Southern friends Robert Penn Warren, Andrew Lytle, Caroline Gordon, and Allen Tate. Participates in Olivet (Michigan) Writers’ Conference with Gordon and Tate, and returns with them to “Benfolly,” their Tennessee estate. Meets Cleanth and Edith Amy (Tinkum) Brooks and 26-year-old Albert Russel Erskine Jr., a graduate student at Louisiana State University and managing editor of The Southern Review. Moves to attic apartment in the Lower Pontalba, New Orleans, and there begins a love affair with Erskine. Completes “Pale Horse, Pale Rider.” Visits family in Texas.
Files for divorce from Pressly, January 11. Works on “The Man in the Tree” and “Promised Land.” Becomes more deeply attached to nephew Paul and niece Ann. On April 19, ten days after divorce from Pressly, marries Albert Erskine; couple takes temporary lodging in Baton Rouge, where Erskine continues graduate study and editorial work for The Southern Review. Returns to Olivet for writers conference and meets Robert Frost (an “old bull-headed bore” but a “great poet and a good man”). Moves with Erskine to apartment at 901 America Street, Baton Rouge. “Pale Horse, Pale Rider” published in The Southern Review.
Pale Horse, Pale Rider: Three Short Novels (“Old Mortality,” “Noon Wine,” and title story) published by Harcourt, Brace. Visits New York for opening of the Museum of Modern Art, and is feted on 49th birthday by friends and admirers. Renews friendship with cousin Lily Cahill, a successful Broadway actress. In constant demand as speaker after appearances at Vassar, Bennington, Bryn Mawr, and Shipley. Moves with Erskine to house at 1050 Government Street, where they take separate bedrooms. Meets young Eudora Welty, whom she encourages in her writing and sponsors for fellowships. Returns at the end of July to Olivet, where she meets Sherwood Anderson. Story “The Downward Path to Wisdom” published in Harper’s Bazaar.
Separates from Erskine at beginning of year. Accepts extended residency at Yaddo, an artists’ colony near Saratoga Springs, New York. Story “A Day’s Work” published in The Nation. “A Goat for Azazel,” a chapter from the Cotton Mather biography, published in Partisan Review. In the summer, “Notes on a Criticism of Thomas Hardy” appears in The Southern Review and “Notes on Writing—From the Journals of Katherine Anne Porter” in New Directions. Lectures at Bread Loaf School of English, Middlebury College, Vermont. Meets Carson McCullers and is offended by her eccentricities. Recognizes that “Promised Land” will be a long novel; changes title to “No Safe Harbor.” The Modern Library publishes new edition of Flowering Judas and Other Stories, for which she writes an introduction. On December 2, makes first of several appearances on CBS radio program Invitation to Learning, hosted by Mark Van Doren. Has brief reunion, but no reconciliation, with Erskine. Receives the first gold medal of the Society of Libraries of New York University.
Story “The Source” appears in Accent. Inducted as member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters. Purchases house at Ballston Spa, near Saratoga Springs; names it “South Hill” and begins extensive remodeling while continuing to live at Yaddo. In June signs contracts with Doubleday, Doran for a biography of Erasmus and an account of a murder trial in 15th-century France, neither ever realized, and an abridged version of The Itching Parrot. Friendship with Eudora Welty, a summer resident at Yaddo, deepens. Becomes mentor to nephew Paul, an aspiring writer, and artistic patron of niece Ann, a professional ballet dancer. Writes introductions to The Itching Parrot and to Welty’s debut collection, A Curtain of Green. Story “The Leaning Tower” published in The Southern Review.
Father dies, January 23. At Erskine’s request, takes the six weeks’ residency in Nevada required to obtain a Reno divorce; marriage dissolved on June 19. Interviewed by F.B.I. agent about anti-American activities of friends and possibly herself. Participates in writing conference at Indiana University; meets Dr. Alfred Kinsey, who interviews her as part of his res
Resigns from the National Institute of Arts and Letters to protest its practice of identifying certain candidates as “Negro.” (Will resume membership when practice is dropped.) With the financial support of friends Glenway Wescott and Barbara Harrison, secludes herself at Harbor Hill Inn near West Point to work on “No Safe Harbor” and other books-in-progress.
Accepts appointment at the Library of Congress as Fellow of Regional American Literature; boards with portrait painter Marcella Comés Winslow in her house on P Street in Georgetown. “Portrait: Old South” published in Mademoiselle. Begins yearlong love affair with painter Charles Shannon, an Army corporal stationed near Washington. The Leaning Tower and Other Stories (“The Source,” “The Witness,” “The Circus,” “The Old Order” [“The Journey”], “The Last Leaf,” “The Grave,” “The Downward Path to Wisdom,” “A Day’s Work,” “The Leaning Tower”) published by Harcourt, Brace. Returns to Yaddo. Excerpt from “No Safe Harbor” published in The Sewanee Review. As vice president of the National Women’s Committee, makes re-election speeches endorsing President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Hospitalized in Saratoga Springs with pneumonia.
Signs contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to work as scriptwriter at $1,500 a week; relocates to Santa Monica. Meets Charlie Chaplin, Judy Garland, and playwright Clifford Odets. Signs contract with Paramount Pictures to write screen adaptation of Victorien Sardou’s Madame Sans-Gêne at $2,000 a week. Excerpt from “No Safe Harbor” appears in Partisan Review.