Arthur to John, August 7, 1947

Arthur Wells
532 Arbor Road
Cheltenham, Pa.

Aug 7, 1947

Dear John,

The anticipated "night in a hotel room" has come to pass, and no better opportunity seems likely to present itself, so here goes your letter. One disadvantage arises, I do not have with me your last letter to me, and I particularly wished to comment a little on some of its contents. If my memory plays any tricks, and I reply to something you did not say, pray forgive me.

I was greatly interested in your comments upon various members of the family and its in-laws. They are very decidedly a comment-worthy bunch. My daughter Anne does seem to retain her ability to be perfectly charming and to make a good impression upon all and sundry. This is deservedly so. She is a dear girl, and is correspondingly much admired. Your impression of Betty was understandable, and yet I feel it was somehow unfortunate. The little passage between her and George Blackwood, anent the working hours of bank clerks, was a manifestation of a long-standing tension. Poor George has always been what Sinclair Lewis's Arrowsmith called a "man of measured merriment." In the bare-knuckle infighting of our family communion he has frequently demonstrated his inability to "take it." It has long been my contention that "men of measured merriment" are not fair game when sharp-shooting persiflage is the order of the day. I rebuked her on the way home for baiting a victim who was notoriously unable to defend himself. Her excuse was that the devil tempted her. George does perpetually stick his neck out, and never until his dying day will he realize it. I have the very highest regard for him, but Eleanor or Joe or (oddly enough) even Guill (at times) are far more worthy of ones steel than George or Ted or Esther. Do you know what I am talking about? Or has your banishment to the hinterlands caused the memory of the give-and-take goal-getting techniques of large family communications to fade. I cannot believe that. You have sired a very respectable brood of your own, and among yourselves must often enter upon the frictional relationships that wear smooth the rough spots on the various individuals. But there are lots of Georges in the world. They are the salt of the earth, but ever and anon find themselves earnestly hot and bothered by some gambit thrown out by the stimulating but disrespectful. There are a thousand ways to deal with such a situation. But serious and somewhat irritated ponderous argument is not one of them. I go back to my original comment. George is not "fair game." She should "lay off" of him in favor of a contest with foemen worthy of her steel. Still, in my secret heart I must admit that it is a temptation hard to resist! He rises to the bait so unfailingly!

Skipping to your comments on reading, I was a little distressed at your statement that your fare is so meager. My eyes are all loused up and get tired too. But I have contracted the disease so severely that I must plough through the most incredible lot of stuff. To be sure, I spend about ten evenings per month in hotels, and that gives me a most unusual opportunity. But I think I would find the time anyway. Mr. Van Deene (Joe's father-in-law) is one of the most remarkable men I have ever met. He insists that the proper proportion is 33 1/3%. Out of twenty four hours, he divides it, 8 for sleep, 8 for business, and 8 for reading! To be sure, he exaggerates, but he reads one hell of a lot! He travels a lot, by train and by steamboat. He just got back from Europe. On these trips he reads enormously.

As I look these pages over, I have a feeling that I have rambled on for quite a while and have said very little. I have also an uneasy feeling about the letter I wrote you before the recent hiatus in our correspondence. In it I defended myself vigorously against the charge of hypocracy in my religious life. If that charge was not on the level, but merely "to get a rise" out of me, then indeed I am undone and must ask George to move over and make room for another "man of measured merriment." Of course, I think it was on the up-and-up. But what if you were making a sucker out of me? Hey?


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