Awards for authors asking aid: The Home Forum Competition
Today's awards go back to the news that Britain's Royal Literary Fund finally made its files public. Now we know that many bygone writers received assistance (Coleridge, 10 guineas). Our midsummer competition invited you to suppose you were a bygone author and to write an aid application of no more than 100 words in that author's style.
Some promising candidates were late or too long. Some failed to be bygone authors, as specified, but applied in their own names. Applicants ranged from nine Shakespeares and five Dickinsons to many other familiar authors and a few unexpected ones, such as Sylvester Graham of cracker fame. Certificates to: I wrote my letter to the World And did it all for free - There yet dwell verses in my Brain That long for Liberty
But I cannot sup upon the Air Like Flower or spreading Tree - So if it desires more of my Fare The World must pay my Fee.
Emily Dickinson, c/o Helen Lewis, Seattle
I have not yet received funds from the publication of my recent work and find myself in need of a small sum, which I will certainly reimburse you at the earliest opportunity. Among the physical needs your funds will succor will be a pound of serviceable tea, and a pair of sensible shoes. Among the spiritual needs will be tinned sweets for the upcoming meeting of the Ladies Brass Polishing Society, which the Vicar plans to attend. If anyone should be more in need of these funds than I, please make this grant to them in my stead.
Miss Barbara Pym, c/o Kathleen O. Flynn, San Francisco
I turned the cheap hotel key in the lock, and entered a room only slightly improved by the neon glow through the window. I threw my bags down and lit a cigarette. I still had the newspaper I bought on the train, and if I was any judge, I'd be using it tonight to swat the vermin in this rathole. I figured I'd get started on the slaughter, when I noticed your item on the back page. Seeing as how I wouldn't be in this joint if it weren't for ''The Maltese Falcon,'' I guess I qualify. Where's the catch?
Dashiell Hammett, c/o Kim R. Stangl, San Bernardino, Calif. Hereby make I a pleade with soule so merrie For funds to journie to olde Canterbury That I might ryde with pilgrims, all disguised, And note the tales that each doth fynde most prized. To record wordes of miller, monk, and squire; Pardoner, too, as well as knight and friar Whose themes will baffle students centuries hence. Myself could journie far for but few pence, But pryce of quill and inke doth give me awe, Sir. Please hasten now ye cheque to
Geoffrey Chaucer, c/o John S. Hocker, Cave Junction, Ore.
When deeply debted, fortuneless, all wise Provisions gone; when Anne seeks cottage new; When foolscap lacks, ink's short, quills numb, and
cries For inspiration merit Muses' rue; I note fond patron's grant, and taking stock, My mind's eye paints a whole Roof on The Globe! Sees bodkins barely bought brought back from hock! Queen's coinage clanking pockets o' m'robe! If begging's due, then beg begets ambition, Ambition purpose, purpose this proposes: All un-Macbethlike, trumpeting Fruition, To rewrite Lear, line fresh Acts hailing Roses. With goodly aid like yours thus justly taken, 'Twill mean Roast Beefe, forget the lesser Bacon!
William Shakespeare, c/o Norman Cary, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. If you could read what thus far I have written
If you could see the research I have done If you could picture the completion -
This latest group of verses just begun. If you could see our far-flung empire heeding
My battle cry for unity and peace If you should feel these verses will contribute
Surely you will not wish this work to cease. If you could pressure the Exchequer
For an annual sum the Treasury can afford Ours is the Earth and everything that's in it
Me Poet Laureate and you a Queen, adored.
Rudyard Kipling, c/o Douglas Anderson, La Jolla, Calif. Why do I need it? Let me count the ways. Well known is poorness as the poet's plight, Our richness only in the words we write. The needs are simple in this poet's days: First, paper, pen, and ink to script my phrase, Some candles to turn back the dark at night, The landlord's due - for humble living site, Plain basic fare upon my mealtime trays ... Whatever you can grant I pledge to use To free me for the calling I profess. One thought to weigh, the whilst you sort and choose: E'en pittance to a poet seems largesse.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, c/o Charlotte Covell Ritchie, Eastham, Mass.
It is a damp, drizzly November in my soul and I find myself growing grim about the mouth. Dollars damn me. My mind is turbid, the children's cheeks are pale, and all my books are botches. Will you apply to General Pierce in my behalf? As president of the United States, he may be able to find a position for yr. dismal friend,
Herman Melville, c/o Mary M. Kellogg, Wichita, Kan. P.S. A situation not too near the water would suit Mrs. Melville. In our haste to immortalize country and queen, we've lacked a picture that's true of life as it's lived in lands rarely seen. Hence my proposal to you. I am older, dear fellows, yet with my last wits I'll study such life as is found on the beaches of Nevis, Tortola ... St. Kitts! and islands they surround. I'll need passage for two and as you can spare. I shan't be requiring a palace. But perhaps you could manage additional fare to transport the bags of dear Alice?
Lewis Carroll, c/o C. J. Brady, Cincinnati I need but 50 pounds (A pittance 'gainst the gain
'Twill gender in good England's soul, Which languid long has lain).
My Ancient Mariner in Rime Reaches far too few; But as a play, ah, think, Kind Sirs, What the Mariner could do!
An albatross seen round the neck, Will move men with magic potent, While hardly a word about the bird Is likely to be quotent.
For 50 pounds the Rime's sights and sounds From the stage can issue free. And lift men's souls to higher goals. Yours truly, S.T.C.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, c/o Doris Deming, Hastings, Mich. Creative Arts Foundation, New York City Dear Patron-Friends,This letter's a request For aid, on which I trust that you'll take pity, - For help, for which I hope I'll pass the test. I seek a modest grant, a special boon, To do James Whitcomb Riley's life, who wrote Such gems of humor as ''Knee-deep in June.'' He was a Hoosier poet of some note, A sort of homespun humorist, by trade. Help me his life and writings to explore. With thanks to you,
Respectfully,George Ade, c/o Joseph Paddock, Bloomington, Ill. My bank account's zero, my credit is nil, My cupboard is sadly in need of refill; They've taken my car, I'm having to leg it, Unless a free ride I can manage to beg it; The rent's overdue, the landlord is rigid, A park bench won't do when the weather is frigid. Refusals, denials, my pleas will outlive - You might as well break down now and GIVE.
Dorothy Parker, c/o Mary C. Armstrong, Waco, Texas
More blessed am I with Strengthe in Mynde than Body, more richly blessed in Offspryng than in Purse. Human Needs must daily bynde this Parent to her Pots and Needles, but shall I then neglect instruction of eight Souls? If Thou wouldst grant me means to hire Handes, I couldst then direct my Energies to Pen, to feed my Nestlings moral Truths and Meditations which, God willing, will nourish and enrich them much as mutton Stew. Noble it is to perform good homely Tasks, which I wouldst shirk only to give Tyme more fully to God's Work, to nurture Myndes.
Anne Bradstreet, c/o Polly G. Kemp, Heber Springs, Ark.
As a graduate of Harvard College (class of 1837), I reluctantly but of necessity apply for pecuniary assistance in completing a literary project to be titled ''Walden,'' a work celebrating the simple life. My income from surveying, teaching, and pencil manufacture is inadequate to sustain even the austere life I live in my research at Walden Pond. In a word, I am hungry. Beans, cornmeal, and molasses are not conducive to the production of literary excellence. Alas, Sirs, I need stronger sustenance. I am finding that the simple life I espouse does not extend to my food.
H. D. Thoreau, c/o Clovis von T. Crummett, Spring, Texas
I read Chapman's translation of Homer and wrote a sonnet. ''Much have I travelled in the realms of gold.'' Shelley and I are competing to write a metrical romance of four thousand lines. My ''Endymion'' begins, ''A thing of beauty is a joy forever.'' My birth at the Swan and Hoop livery stables, and my apprenticeship to a surgeon, wd hardly inspire anyone to subsidize me in the arts. But without resources from the British Royal Literary Fund, my life as a poet with Fanny Brawne will ''pass into nothingness,'' and I shall stand ''silent, upon a peak in Darien.''
John Keats, c/o June W. Rodgers, La Jolla, Calif.
I hear America singing and would score the music freely in verse, singing of myself, too, alone and in throngs, in fields, at dockside, on terraced mountain slopes, walking, talking, bivouacked on sweet scented earth. But my songs fell tuneless on the ears of the honorable Secretary of the Interior. So my clerkship in that department is locked in the cabinet. Again, I may wander gathering leaves of grass, some cutting, some prairie song, should you remit your generous stipend for an American orchestration.
Walt Whitman, c/o James Scott, Dearborn, Mich.
I am a young writer named Lear,
Whose cash flow is certainly drear,
I'd like to write rhymes
Of only five lines
Ten guineas would make my way clear.
Edward Lear, c/o Harriott W. Haines, Covina, Calif.
Our beloved Hathaway Bookshop has closed. Wellesley residents and many in neighboring towns are disconsolate. I am applying for a grant to pay the salary of a fund-raising, book-minded, enthusiastic person who will begin a campaign in Wellesley, Massachusetts, to open a bookshop in the Hathaway tradition: browsing , friendliness, variety - with a section to please young children as well as adults. I am a retired professor little known by name, though millions sing my words to ''America, the Beautiful.'' Two A's, please, in
KAthArine Lee Bates, c/o Ruth H. Carter, Corvallis, Ore.
As our dear friend Coleridge modestly mentioned receiving a ten guinea grant from the Fund, I am hoping that you will consider my brother William an equally worthy recipient. Please do not let this quiet suggestion from a prejudiced sister influence your good judgment unduly, but you, of course, know that ''Lyrical Ballads'' was the work of two poets, Coleridge, whom you have already recognized, and my brother William, who also merits appreciation. This note is, if you please, confidential.
Dorothy Wordsworth, c/o Kathleen Morehouse, Moravian Falls, N.C.
You may think me mad - forgive a mind overwrought - but I am entranced by her , and I implore you to aid my search. Versling's ''Somnia'' shall be my guide - as if I have not examined beauty and death, love and deepest melancholy, sufficiently. Whatsoever path I must descend - be it sinister or sorrow-laden, in dankest Autumn or sepulchral Winter - I shall. The night, the spectre, the tomb cannot can not I tell you, deter me. I must be with her there, finally.
Edgar Allan Poe, c/o Thomas E. Young, Angola, Ind.
I, Louisa May Alcott, would like to apply for a grant of ten guineas in order to pursue my project of writing a book for young people, to encourage them to keep a journal, as I have done, of their daily activities. That way, they may get practice in writing and perhaps earn bread and butter through such practical experience. By placing a value on words, they will not be inclined to waste them , and other people may enjoy them too.
Louisa May Alcott, c/o Dorothy Ellen Hoel, Oakland, Calif.
Thanks to all 150 who tried a demanding assignment, often adding a friendly word - and to M. Catherine Sarnelli of Levittown, N.Y., who wrote that she was not entering the competition and therefore did not feel obliged to hold to the word limit. Anyway: ''If I were a student and in need of funds, I'd prefer to apply to a reputable bank for a student loan than to ask for a grant.''