Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Epistolary Bridge. My retainer’s letters.
August 23. 1932. New York.
Dear Mr. Vandemark:
It is with grievous trepidation that I write this letter. After several failed attempts to handle matters pertaining to your family on site, as it is, I have no other option but to send this letter with the express desire and heartfelt request that you write me forthwith, with specific instructions.
It is not my intention to be rude, or to in anyway impinge upon your character, Mr. Vandemark, but I believe that you misrepresented the scope and breath of the tasks that are daily before me. I cannot help but think, Mr. Vandemark, that you quite inadvertently failed to mention certain elements of my current position that seem, quite frankly, beyond the scope of my abilities and quite beyond the bounds of our verbal agreement.
I believe there must have been some crucial misunderstanding in our initial communications.
Your brother alone, Mr. Vandemark, would have been a sufficient handful dutiwise. But I’m afraid with the added responsibility of your Mother (whose infirmities, in some ways, surpass those of your brother Homer) my job is nearly impossible. I was led to believe that she was fully ambulatory, capable of taking her meals alone and unaided, and otherwise was fully cognizant. As you well know this is not the case. Unfortunately, I am unable to take care of both of them, it is with this in mind that I request the following…
He then made a series of demands on the second leaf of the letter, which has been lost to the vicissitudes of time. All of these demands I tried to fulfill with a full measure of effort, as circumstances permitted. But from the tone of the response, this was evidently not sufficient (I do not recall what I wrote, and of course all of my letters to my retainer are no longer extant).
September 1, 1932 New York
Dear Mr. Vandemark:
Unfortunately, your response to my letter dated August the 23rd is inadequate in a number of ways. The glib tone of the epistle alone is counter productive, but I will leave that alone. Once again I kindly ask for your assistance in a number of matters that are pressing. In fact, I would go so far as to say that they are urgent in a life and death sense, in so far that your Mother and Brother are quite incapable of attending to even the most elementary of matters pertaining to their daily lives without my scrupulous intervention
Take this one episode as an example. Your Mother, quite inexplicably, refuses to acknowledge your existence, or only does so after repeated proddings on my part. I tell her, on numerous occasions, that I am Horace Hume, and I have been hired by her son, Langley Vandemark, to look after the family affairs while he is at Harvard.
Again and again I am required to repeat this rather simple fact, but, and I do apologize for my strong language, your poor demented Mother seems incapable of understanding this. Just the other day she had the temerity to attack me with a broom, calling me by the name Edgar, chasing me out of the cul-de-sac of the house that she inhabits, all this despite my vociferous protests, as I screamed, quite literally Mr. Vandemark, that my name was Horace, and not Edgar. Horace, I screamed, again and again!
And then, Mr. Vandemark, there is the matter of your brother Homer. Homer is an entirely different case altogether. As you well know, he is polite, kind, affable, and despite his impaired eyesight, is fully ambulatory and quite capable of looking after himself. But this is only an appearance.
As you well know, your brother is subject to fits that resemble epileptic seizures. One grew so intense one evening that I called a physician, who was quite unable to find a physiological basis for these attacks. The physician suggests further tests, which your brother promptly refused. Your brother, like you Mother, does not recognize me despite my best efforts to educate him about me and my round of duties in your home. At first I was infinitely patient with your brother, due to his poor eyesight, but at this late date his problem seems to be an abnormality, really a pathology, and this pathology, unfortunately, seems congenitial…
But dear Mr. Vandemark, it is certainly not my place to critique your family. It is quite beyond the scope of my duties to attended to these matters; it is with this in mind that I ask for the following…
Unfortunately, a page is missing from this cache of letters. But it contains, if memory serves as an accurate guide, a number of unilateral demands that poor scattered Hume wished to impose upon me. I tried to satisfy his demands to the best of my ability from my academic exile, but I could not satisfy the old reprobate. For the following letter, hastily posted and scrawled with a lack of grace that was really quite unlike him, the fastidious prig, my erstwhile retainer, he explains:
September 17th, 1932
I hereby resign my position. I took personal offense to all the suggestions and admonishments of your last letter.