Miss Porter wrote, in August, , that Eudora Welty could “very well Clytie went to the kitchen and lighted the 1 62 A Curtain of Green kindling in the wood. A Celebration of Eudora Welty’s Centennial ~ Eudora Welty, “Clytie ” makes me want to break my self-imposed rule of not reading. Jones 1 Michelle S. Jones Dr. Kurant Honors Southern Literature 26 Sep. Unique Insights Eudora Welty’s “Clytie” represents yet another.

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Search the history of over billion web pages on the Internet. The original edition of A Curtain of Green was intro- duced with an essay on the author and her work by Katherine Anne Porter which is as perceptive and applicable today as when it was written, and which is included as an introduction to this volume. It was hot midsummer, they had driven over from Mississippi, her home state, and we spent a pleasant evening together talking in the cool old house with all the windows open.

Miss Welty sat listening, as she must have done a great deal of listening on many such occasions. She was and is a quiet, tranquil-looking, modest girl, and un- like the young Englishman of the story, she has something to be modest about, as this collection of short stories proves.

Miss Welty was born and brought up in Jackson, Mississippi, where her father, now dead, was presi- dent of a Southern insurance company. Family life was cheerful and thriving; she seems to have got on excellently with both her parents and her two brothers. Education, in the Southern man- ner with daughters, was continuous, indulgent, and precisely as serious as she chose to make it.

She went from school in Mississippi to the Uni- versity of Wisconsin, thence to Columbia, New York, and so home again where she lives with her mother, among her lifelong friends and ac- quaintances, quite simply and amiably. She tried a job or two because that seemed the next thing, and did some publicity and newspaper work; but as she had no real need of a job, she gave up the notion and settled down to writing.

They see her about so much, what time has she for writing? Yet she spends an immense amount Introduction Xlll of time at it. But I do feel that the people and things I love are of a true and human world, and there is no clutter about them. I would not understand a literary life. Being the child of her place and time, profiting perhaps without being aware of it by the cluttered experiences, foreign travels, and disorders of the generation immediately pre- ceding her, she will never have to go away and live among the Eskimos, or Mexican Indians; she need not follow a war and smell death to feel herself alive: She gets her right nourishment from the source natural to her— her experience so far has been quite enough for her and of precisely the right kind.

A brief survey of the short story part Eudora Welty | Books | The Guardian

She began writing spontaneously when she was a child, being a born writer; she continued without any plan for a profession, eudroa any particular welyy, and, as it proved, not needing any. For a good number of years she be lieved she was going to be a painter, and painted quite earnestly while she wrote without much effort. XIV Introduction Nearly all the Southern writers I know were early, omnivorous, insatiable readers, and Miss Welty runs reassuringly true to this pattern.

When she first discovered contemporary literature, she was just the right age to find first W. Yeats and Virginia Woolf in the air around her; but always, from the beginning until now, she loved folk tales, fairy tales, old legends, and she likes to listen to the songs and stories of clytei ple who live in old communities whose culture is recollected and bequeathed orally.

She has never studied the writing craft in cljtie college. She has never belonged to a literary group, and until after her first collection was ready to be published she had never discussed with any colleague or older artist any problem of her craft.

Nothing else that I know about her could be more satisfactory to me than this; it seems to me immensely right, the very way a young artist should grow, with pride and inde- pendence and the courage really to face out the Introduction xv individual struggle; to make and correct mistakes and take the consequences of them, to stand firmly on his own feet in the end.

Miss Welty escaped, by miracle, the whole cor- rupting and destructive influence of the contem- porary, organized tampering with young and promising talents by professional teachers who- are rather monotonously welth into two major sorts: Such influence has merely added new obstacles to an already difficult road.

Miss Welty escaped also a militant XVI Introduction social consciousness, in the current clytoe lectual sense, she never professed Communism, and she has not expressed, except implicitly, any attitude at all on the state of politics or the condi- tion of society.


But there is an ancient system of ethics, an unanswerable, indispensable moral law, on which she is grounded firmly, and this, it would seem to me, is ample domain enough; these laws have never been the peculiar property of any party or eudorra or nation, they relate to that true and human world of which the artist is a living wdlty and when he dissociates himself from it in favor of a set wwlty political, which is to say, in- human, rules, he cuts himself away from his proper society— living men.

There exist documents of political and social theory which belong, if not to poetry, certainly to the department of humane letters. They arc reassuring statements of the great hopes and dear- est faiths of mankind and they are acts of high imagination. But all working, practical political systems, even those professing to originate in moral grandeur, are based upon and operate by contempt of human life and the individual fate; in accepting any one of them and clyyie his mind and work to that mold, the artist de- humanizes himself, unfits himself ewlty the practise of any art.

Rather surprised, Miss Welty next tried the Southern Review, where she met with a great welcome and the enduring partisanship of Albert Erskine, who regarded her as his personal discovery.

She has, then, never been neglected, never euvora appreciated, and she feels simply lucky about it.

She wrote to a friend: You remember how you gave him my name clyte how he tried his best to find a publisher for my book of stories all that last year of his life; and he wrote me so many charming notes, all of his time going to his little brood of promising writers, the kind of thing that could have gone on forever.

Once I read in the Saturday Review an article of his on the species and the way they were neglected by publishers, and he used me as the example chosen at random. I may have been more welyy by that than would other readers who knew him. I did not know him, but I knew it was typical. And here I myself eueora turned out to be not at all the martyred promising writer, but have had all the good luck and all the good things Ford chided the world for withholding from me and my kind.

That novel which every publisher hopes to obtain from every short-story writer of any gifts at all, and who finally does obtain it, nine times out of cpytie.

Miss Welty has tried her hand at novels, laboriously, dutifully, youthfully thinking herself perhaps in the wrong to refuse, since so many authoritarians have told her that was the next step. It is by no means the next step. She clytid very well become a master of the short story, there are almost perfect stories in this book. It is quite possible she wudora never write a welfy, and there is no reason why she should. The short story is a special and difficult medium, and contrary to a widely spread eydora superstition it has no formula that can be taught by correspondence Introduction XIX school.

There is nothing to hinder her from writ- ing weltg if she wishes or believes she can. I only say that her good gift, just as it is now, alive cpytie flourishing, should not be retarded by a pen fectly artificial demand upon her to do the con- ventional thing.

It is clytif fact that the public for short stories is smaller than the public for novels; this seems to me no good reason for depriving that minority. I remember a reader writing to an editor, complaining that he did not like collec- tions of short stories because, just as he had got himself worked into one eudoda or frame of mind, he was called upon to change to another.

If that is an important objection, we might also apply it to music. We might compare the novel to a symphony, and a collection of short stories to a good concert recital. In any case, this complainant is not our reader, yet our reader does exist, and there would be more of him if more and better short stories were offered.

These stories offer an extraordinary range of mood, pace, tone, and variety of material. The scene is limited to a town the author knows well; the farthest reaches of that scene never go beyond the boundaries of her own state, and many of the characters are of the sort that caused a Bos- tonian to remark that he would not care to meet them socially.

Lily Daw is a half-witted girl in the grip of social forces represented by a group XX Introduction of earnest ladies bent on doing the best thing for her, no matter what the consequences. Keela, the Outcast Indian Maid, is a crippled little Negro who represents a type of man considered most unfortunate by W.

But the really unfortunate man in this story is the ignorant young white boy, who had innocently assisted at a wrong done the little Negro, and for a most complex reason, finds that no reparation is pos- sible, or even desirable to the victim.


In this first group— for the stories may be loosely classified on three separate levels— the spirit is satire and the clyte grim comedy.

Dullness, bitterness, rancor, self-pity, baseness of all kinds, can be most interesting material for a story provided these are not also the main elements in the mind of the author. She has simply an eye and an ear sharp, shrewd, and true as a tuning fork. She has given to this little story all her wit and observation, her blistering humor and her just cruelty; for she has none of that slack Introduction XXI tolerance or sentimental tenderness toward symp- tomatic evils that amounts to criminal collusion between author and character.

Her use of this material raises the quite awfully sordid little tale to a level above its natural habitat, and its realism seems almost to have the quality of caricature, as complete realism so often does.

This is not easy to accomplish, but it is always worth trying, and Miss Welty is so successful at it, it would seem her most familiar territory.

A brief survey of the short story part 29: Eudora Welty

There is no blurring at the edges, but evidences of an active and disciplined imagina- XXll Introduction tion working firmly in a strong line of continuity, the waking faculty of daylight reason recollecting and recording the crazy logic of the dream. There is in none of these stories any trace of autobiogra- phy in the welhy sense, except as the author is omnipresent, and knows each character she writes about as only the artist knows the thing he has made, by first experiencing it in imagination.

But the author is freed already in her youth from self-love, self-pity, self-preoccupation, that triple damnation of too many of the young and gifted, and has reached an admirable objectivity. In all of these stories, varying as they do in ex- cellence, I find nothing false or labored, no diffu- selty of interest, no wavering of mood— the ckytie proach is direct and simple in method, ehdora the themes and moods are anything but simple, and there is even in the smallest story a sense of power in reserve which makes me believe firmly that, splendid beginning that this is, it is only lcytie beginning.

Could we not try to develop ourselves wflty little, slowly and grad- ually take upon ourselves our share in the labor of love? We have been spared all its hardship. But what if we despised our successes, what if we began from the beginning to learn the work of love which has always been done for us?

What if we were to go and become neophytes, now that so much is changing? Herter Coytie and John Linton. Carson were both in the post office in Victory when the letter came from the Ellisville Institute for the Feeble-Minded of Mississippi.

Aimee Slocum, with her hand still full of mail, ran out in front and handed it straight to Mrs. Watts, and they all three read it together. Watts held it taut be- tween her pink hands, and Mrs. Carson under- scored each line slowly with her thimbled finger.

Everybody else in the post office wondered what was up now. Carson began to carry on a conversa- tion with a group of Baptist ladies waiting in the post office.

Carson, looking down and fingering the tape measure which hung over her bosom. Well, anyway, last night at the tent show, why, the man was just before mak- ing Lily buy a ticket to get in. She was a perfect lady— just set in her seat and stared.

Carson, shaking her head and turning her eyes up. Set in front of me. Carson, looking at her wildly for a moment. They did not go at once to take their mail out of their boxes; they felt a little left out. The three women stood at the foot of the water tank. Watts who was carrying the letter. Carson xlytie as they walked along. Watts began to fan herself at once with the letter from Ellisville. Watts and Weelty and Aimee Slocum are paying her way eudoraa of our own pockets.

Besides, the boys of Victory are on their honor. When they came to the bridge over the railroad tracks, there was Estelle Mabers, sitting on a rail. She was slowly drinking an orange Ne-Hi. Jewel wants to swap her something else for it. Loralee Adkins came riding by in her Willys- Knight, tooting wslty horn to find out what they were talking about. Aimee threw up her hands and ran out into the street.

Watts, groaning as she was helped into the back seat. Carson was going on in her ckytie voice, sad as the soft noises in the hen house at twilight.