Archive for February 2010


“My dear foolish Zelma”: Marjorie writes a letter — in 1933

My dear mother last week located a never before examined adjunct to the Walton case file, which includes voluminous correspondence among the Waltons and various other parties to the case. It’s hard to overstate its value to me and the study of the lawsuit. Much of this will inform what I do from here on out in the book.

But perhaps most fascinating to Marjorie lovers and Florida historians is the letter published below that Marjorie wrote to Zelma in 1933 at the conclusion of a European vacation. Obviously, this letter far predates both the publication of Cross Creek and the lawsuit. It sheds much light on the falling out that Marjorie and Zelma endured in the early 30s, which Patricia Acton’s “Invasion of Privacy” discusses in some speculative detail.

A footnote in “Invasion of Privacy,” referencing a letter Marjorie wrote to Phil May in 1948, states: “Marjorie recalled writing a conciliatory letter to Zelma from England in the summer or fall of 1933. ‘I remember thinking that the only way to soothe her ruffled feathers was to take the blame for everything, to apologize for things I had not done.’

This letter, handwritten in September 1933, on stationary from an oceanliner, is almost certainly the letter referred to in Acton’s book. To my knowledge, no one has ever published it before. I’ll let my readers judge for themselves if it makes an effort to “apologize for things I had not done.”

Here it is:

On Board S.S. Minnewasha [sp?- ed.]
Sept. 21, 1933

Dear Zelma:

Well on my way back to the U.S.A. after a grand and much needed holiday. Drove a baby Austin on the left had side of the road (the English custom) over 2,000 miles. In spite of all the beauty I’ve seen, Florida is still home.

My dear foolish Zelma, the thought of coming back to another long grind of hard work with you refusing to be a friend, is very painful to me. Doesn’t it strike you as rather a useless state of affairs? It doesn’t seem like Alachua County with you looking at me as if you wished I would drop dead.

I wonder if it has ever occurred to you that the comment I made to your brother that made you so angry is a true one, and that for your own good you should stop and think about it instead of being furious at me? It was no tale-telling behind your back on my part — merely my answer to Turner’s remark that he couldn’t understand why Clara had it in for you so.

Your “vicious little tongue,” for which you “needed to be spanked” is your worst – your only [only is underlined twice -- ed.] — enemy.

Those of us who have loved you and enjoyed you, have done so in spite of your habit of saying cruel and unkind things about people. Much of the time the things you say are very clever and amusing – people have probably always laughed at your gift for laying anyone open – but often it is cruel and not amusing. So much of your nature is kind and good and loving – no one has seen more of it than I – that I feel badly to think of your spoiling your life and losing friends instead of keeping them, simply through what has come possibly to be a thoughtless habit.

The world is far too hard and unhappy place for any of us to be unkind to one another in speech or deed, and I only hope you will take this letter as an expression of my friendship and affection for you, an interest in your own good, instead of considering it an unwanted attack. I mean it in all kindness and hope that when I drop into your house when I get back, you will meet me with your old smile, sharing my desire to be friends.