Thursday, October 30, 2008

Le Sel de la Semaine, 1969 - Part 3

Below is Part 3 of my breakdown of Miller's interview on French Canadian TV. The program, Le Sel de la Semaine, aired in 1969. You can start at the beginning to review Part 1 and Part 2. To actually view Part 3 of this interview, visit this YouTube link. As I've mentioned for Parts 1 & 2, please be aware that I've translated this myself, and my French is my no means great. Quote at your own risk!

[00:00] Fernand Seguin asks Miller about his general feelings about censorship. "I've always said, there's no need for censorship," states Miller. "That which is good stays with us. And that which is bad disappears." He then rhetorically asks "Who can judge? Who can we entrust with that?" He makes a point about Denmark, but I'm not sure I get it; something like, they eliminated censorship in Denmark and now no-one buys erotic or obscene books anymore.

[01:35] Recently, Miller saw something that "irritated" him. He felt that the success of his Tropics books in the States would open the door for other books. Instead, he saw that all it did was create a demand for books that were solely "so-called pornographic." "After that, I developed a disgust for my fellow citizens."

[02:25] When asked if he feels his goals have been achieved, now that he's had several major books published, Miller says Yes, but adds "the goals have changed throughout my life. I think that whe I started, like all young people--although I was nearly 40, but I was young in spirit--I thought that I could possibly change the world. It's an idiotic idea, isn't it?" He then fumbles his way through remembering a quote from St. Francis that his friend Joseph Delteil used to say (essentially, "Don't try to change the world, change yourself.") Henry reverts to English to explain himself: "Change your vision. Put yourself in another world. Change your world."

"Change your world," says Henry, pointing to his temple.

In changing his own vision, Miller has learned things about himself: answers to the big questions like, Who am I? Why is there Death? "Now, I have no goals. The road is open for me."

[04:00] Seguin points out that the successive censorships had delayed his ability to make a living as a writer until his 50s. "Yes, almost my 60s," adds Miller. He explains how he's never had use for a bank, that his money has gone into his pocket. He then explains how he and other Big Sur residents would rack up debts of $500 with the mailman, who'd delivered them groceries and other necessities on credit.

[05:30] Miller explains his "To All And Sundry" letter in The New Republic, in which he'd appealed to the public for supplies to keep him going at Big Sur. "It was out of necessity," explains Miller. "It was a brilliant idea, but I didn't realize it at the time." [Again, Miller starts speaking in English]: "A joke, I thought, to write like that." Henry had received things for one or two years after it appeared, like birdcages and umbrellas--"crazy things."

[06:37] "I also made watercolours for people who sent me money. Every night, I was up until 2 or 3 in the morning making watercolours. There were people who asked for a watercolour for $1. They gave me $1 and said, Give me a watercolour. And I said, Yes, at your service." He then makes reference to a Navy Commander who sent him $2 for two watercolours.

At 06:43, two of Miller's watercolours are shown on screen.

[07:58] Miller explains how was unable to claim his 45,000 in French royalties, unless he was living in France again. "I didn't want to return to France with a woman I detested" [his wife]. He stayed in the U.S. on the assumption that the money would eventually become available.

Once again, this part of the 1969 TV interview may be viewed on YouTube.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Black Spring: The Basics

"Today is the third or fourth day of Spring and I am sitting at the Place Clichy in full sunshine. Today, sitting here in the sun, I tell you it doesn't matter a damn whether the world is going to the dogs or not; it doesn't matter whether the world is right or wrong, good or bad. It is--and that suffices. The world is what it is and I am what I am." Henry Miller, Black Spring, p.25.
From “Black Spring is vintage Miller. Continuing the subversive self-revelation begun in Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn, he sucks us along at his mad, free-associating pace as he reverberates between America and Paris, transporting us from the damp grime of his Brooklyn youth to sun-splashed French cafés and squalid Paris flats; from a winter night, pure as ammonia, to a dream where a woman’s body has the strong white aroma of sorrow. Miller writes with an incomparable hard glee, shifting effortlessly from Vergil to venereal disease, from Rabelais to Roquefort, to the beauty of a statue defaced during a carnival. He captures like no one else the blending of people and the cities they inhabit, and Black Spring coheres in a seductive technicolor swirl of Paris and New York.”

1. The Fourteenth Ward
2. Third or Fourth Day of Spring
3. A Saturday Afternoon
4. The Angel Is My Watermark!
5. The Tailor Shop
6. Jabberwhorl Cronstadt
7. Into The Nightlife. . .
8. Walking Up and Down in China
9. Burlesk
10. Megalopolitan Maniac

Dedications: “To Anais Nin”

Working title: Self-Portrait

Period of writing: 1933-1935

Date of final title: September 1933

Location of writing: Louveciennes;--Clichy;--Villa Seurat, Paris

First publication: June 1936 – Obelisk Press, Paris (1,000 copies)

Second publication: October 1938 – Obelisk Press, Paris (1,000 copies)

Third Publication: 1939 – Obelisk editions pirated in Shanghai.

First U.S. publication: April 4, 1963 – Grove Press, New York
Page count: 243 (Grove Press 1994)

Current publisher: Grove Press
Publication info sourced from Shifreen & Jackson, Bibliography of Primary Sources, Vol. I (1993).

Saturday, October 18, 2008

City College Drop-Out

In 1909, Henry Miller attended City College in New York. But his class attendance was short-lived: in less than three months he dropped out of the program. Shortly afterward, he entered the working world as a clerk at a cement company in Manhattan.

Miller had done well in high school, graduating near the top of his class [1]. He applied for a German scholarship from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, on the encouragement of his high school German teacher [2]. The scholarship was won, and awaited him that autumn [3]. However, the bane of financial consideration forced plans to change. “At the last minute my father decided he could not afford to send me to Cornell,” wrote Miller in Joey (Vol. III, Book Of Friends; p.57).

City College offered a manageable alternative: it was local and it was government-supported, requiring no tuition [4]. Henry signed up for an Arts II course [5]. He was just a few months away from his 18th birthday when he began classes in September 1909 [6]. German was of course on his curriculum, as was Gym (he was very much into athletics at the time) [7]. Latin, Physics and Chemistry were also among the courses he took [5]. For someone who read the encyclopaedia for kicks [6], the prospect of learning at a higher level must have been exciting.

The postcard above (undated) shows the entrance to City College (Source: NY Public Library Digital Archive, digital record ID #1016914).

And then, for what I presume was an English class [8], Henry was required to read a very long poem that began:

LO I the man, whose Muse whilome did maske, As time her taught, in lowly Shepheards weeds, Am now enforst a far vnfitter taske, For trumpets sterne to chaunge mine Oaten reeds, And sing of Knights and Ladies gentle deeds; Whose prayses hauing slept in silence long,Me, all too meane, the sacred Muse areeds To blazon broad emongst her learned throng: Fierce warres and faithfull loues shall moralize my song.

Edmund Spenser (c.1552-1599) was an English poet who was known in his day as a “prince of poets” [9] and even today is revered in some Cambridge circles for his “use of language, his unbounded imagination, his immense classical and religious learning, his keen understanding of moral and political philosophy, and his unerring ability to synthesize and, ultimately, to delight" [9]. The Faerie Queene (1590) is an epic poem about knights and virtue, and is regarded as Spenser’s greatest masterpiece.

“To think that this huge epic is still considered indispensable reading in any college curriculum!” Miller would write years later, still carrying a hatred for Spenser’s masterpiece. “Only the other day I dipped into it again, to reassure myself that I had not made a grave error of judgment. Let me confess that today it seems even more insane to me than when I was a lad of eighteen. I am talking, be it understood, of ‘the poets' poet,’ as the English call him. What a poor second to Pindar!" [10].

The “grave error of judgement” Henry refers to was his decision to drop out of City College, with Faerie Queene as his apparent catalyst. “How well I remember the day I quit college!” [10]. But Spenser’s fantasy tale was merely symbolic of the educational program at City. Miller is said to have been “disgusted with the curriculum” [11]. By ditching City College, he had “rebelled against [their] educational methods” [7]. However, in a 1938 letter to Henri Fluchere, Miller admitted that he’d also found the campus “intolerably Jewish” [6]. Since the end of the 19th century, the new wave of poor Jewish immigrants to New York had been able to benefit from the free education offered by City College. At the turn-of-the-century, most of these Jewish students were actually from Germany [12]. Young Miller did not find the common ground (German background), but instead focused on the difference--depending on interpretation, this reveals an anti-Jewish phobia in young Miller or, as some biographers suggest, an outsider feeling, that he did not belong. (a year after Henry quit, a Jewish kid named Emanuel Goldenberg attended City College; he later went on to fame as Edward G. Robinson).

This photograph of City College circa 1908 is available on-line as a huge hi-res image at Shorpy, originating from the George Grantham Bain Collection. By looking at this old photograph in such a large scale, it's easier to project oneself into the time and place that has been captured on film.

Miller's time at City College was over within a few months. The exact length of time is uncertain. Miller himself confuses the fact by stating “two months” in one source [7] and “three months” in another [10] (also, in a diary excerpt from Harry Kiakis in 1970, he quotes Henry saying "three months" [14]). Mary Dearborn says “six weeks” [6] and Robert Ferguson says “one semester” [5]. Whichever is true, it was over by December. By resigning, Henry became one of the approximately 90% of City College students who never graduated from the institution at the time [13].

Now adrift in the world of menial labour, Henry finally had to grab hold of a clerk job with the Atlas Portland Cement Company by year’s end. He turned 18 on December 26, 1909.


POSTSCRIPT: Curiously, he would later refer to the (unrequited) love of his youth, Cora Seward, as “Una Gifford” in his books. “Una” happens to be the name of the female lead in Spenser’s Faerie Queene—the primary love interest of a heroic Knight, who appears to him in lustful dreams.


[1] University of Texas at Austin. Henry Miller: An Inventory of His Art Collection at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center:; [2] Martin, Jay. Always Merry And Bright, p. 18; [3] Miller, Henry. Joey (Vol. III, Book Of Friends), p. 57; [4] College Data website: ; [5] Ferguson, Robert. Henry Miller: A Life; p. 15. Ferguson footnotes details of Miller's course by referring to a correspondance with Thomas F Jennings at City College (June 20, 1989), implying that this information comes from the College archives; [6] Dearborn, Mary. Happiest Man Alive, p. 42; [7] Miller, Henry. Autobio chronology posted at the website for the Henry Miller Memorial Library. Miller re: 1909 - "Began period of rigorous athletic discipline that lasted seven years"; [8] None of the biographers specifically mentions an English class, but I assume that one was on the cirriculum if he was being issued English poetry to read; [9] Edmund Spenser Home Page. 'Biography': ; [10] Miller, Henry. "To Read or Not to Read." Stand Still Like the Hummingbird, p. 158; [11] Martin, Jay. Always Merry And Bright, p. 18 - Martin is paraphrasing Miller's sentiments from letters to Huntington Cairns and Henri Fluchere, both from 7-23-1938 (ref p. 514); [12] Rudy, Willis. 1977. The College of the City of New York; p. 174; [13] Rosenthal, A.M. 1994. "An American Promise." New York Times, Oct. 2, 1994--The statistic here is for the year 1902: "30,000 students had been admitted but only 2,730 graduated." So, the number I present for 1909 is an estimate based on these numbers and an assumption that the seven intervening years did not make a huge difference in dropout rates. [14] Kiakis, Harry. 2007. "Henry Miller on the Young, Japan, Films." (April 11, 1970). Published in Nexus: The International Henry Miller Journal, v.4, 2007; p. 155.

Monday, October 13, 2008

June's Arizona Grave

June Mansfield died on February 1, 1979. Or so it seems. Thanks to an anonymous tipster on my blog post about June, I was directed to a listing for "June E Corbett" on Find-A-Grave. The grave info seems to fall in line with what we know about June, but there's no image of the actual grave. Thankfully, I also discovered the Arizona Gravestones project, which provides photos of every single tombstone behind the gate of the Valley View Cemetery in Arizona. And here is the grave that appears to be that of June Mansfield (re-named Corbett after her last marriage):

Grave of June E Corbett at Valley View Cemetery in Cottonwood, Arizona. Photo by Kelly Townsend.
The last published examination of June's life appeared in Vol. 3 of the Nexus Journal, in an article by James Decker entitled "June Miller: Remnants of a Life" (2006). In it, references to June's personal information on the U.S. Social Security Death Index establish that she'd died in Phoenix, Maricopa County, Arizona in the 85017 zip code. The death date is listed only as February 1979 (no exact day). Although she died in Maricopa County, her burial apparently took place in Yavapai County, about 130 miles away.

Before making any definitive statements about this in fact being the grave of Henry's June, I need to determine factual connections that help verify this assertion. The Arizona Gravestones website provides additional information not found on the gravestone, which I assume is drawn from burial records.

The birth date on this grave stone is Janury 28, 1902. The birth date listed with the SSDI is January 28, 1901, but, as Decker points out in his article, "most of the biographers agree on 28 January 1902" [p.88], adding that, on the original Social Security applications made in New York in 1956 (and 1958), June had listed her birthdate as January 29, 1902 (one day off) [p.91].

The birth info provided by Arizona Gravestones lists her birthdate as "June 28, 1902"--this appears to be a transciption error related to her name being June. It also mentions that her birth place was New York; this is not in fact true, but she was raised there from the time she was a young girl.

So far so good: The birthdate, whether the 28th or 29th, seems to check out.

The grave marker states February 1, 1979 as June's death. The SSDI record lists simply 'February 1979.' To me, this means one of two things: 1) SSDI made a clerical error of omission, and the exact date could be any in February, including February 1st; 2) June died in the month of February, but perhaps her body wasn't found for several days or weeks, so a death month was determind to be February but the exact date was never known. In both cases, February 1979 seems to be right.

The death date checks out as well.

The SSDI record places June in Phoenix zip code region 85017 at the time of her death. According to this zip code map website (image below), this area is in Alhambra, bounded by Glendale Ave (N), N. 35th Ave (W), W. Thomas Rd (S), and Black Canyon Fwy (E). 130 miles north of Phoenix is Cottonwood, in Yavapai County. Valley View Cemetery is located in Cottonwood, Clarkdale. This is in the vicinity of Phoenix, which is encouraging for verification purposes. I imagine it was much cheaper to bury her this far out of the city than right in Phoenix.
"June E Corbett": June's middle name was Edith. June married Stratford Corbett in the 1930s, not long after her divorce from Henry [Decker, p. 86].

Although her gravestone makes no mention of it, Arizona Graves notes interestingly that June's occupation was "social worker." This also matches the life of Henry's June, who, in the 1960s, was working for the Department of Welfare in New York City [1].


June's gravestone is dedicated to a "beloved sister." June had a sister and three brothers (according to early census records). Decker [p.90] connects a closer relationship between June and her brother Edward (Ignatz), who lived in Arizona, than to her other brothers Sigmund and Herman (with no mention of elder sister Gustava).

Feedback on this hypothesis is encouraged in the Comments section below.

If you haven't already, check out the recent posting on the Walking Paris With Henry Miller website regarding new documents that help clarify the origins of June and her immigrant family.


[1] Dick, Kenneth, Henry Miller: Colossus Of One; p. 210. Dick mentions that he met June in July 1965, and that this was her vocation at the time.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Muse & Mentor Website By Brenda Venus

In 1976, a 28-year old [1] model and actress named Brenda Venus bid on a book at an estate auction, which happened to have a personal letter from Henry Miller tucked into it, complete with return address. As someone who already had an interest in Miller (she had a photo of him up in her home), she took the opportunity to write him to see if she could meet him. A personal relationship of nearly four years (until his death) and 1,500 letters followed her intial query. These letters were later compiled in the book, Dear, Dear Brenda (1986): "Such humor and such ardor speak volumes for the tender friendship and devotion of his last love," wrote Lawrence Durrell of the letters in the Introduction to the book. "Henry Miller was my mentor, best friend, support system, and much, much more," writes Venus in a new website devoted to Miller. "[He] was a patient man, a gentleman who single-handedly guided my rite of passage from a young innocent girl into womanhood. And I will always be grateful for that careful, sensitive, knowing, and intuitive venture."

In July this year, Venus activated a new website devoted to Henry and her relationship with him: The Muse & The Mentor at This website is a companion to her personal website,, on which she sells a variety of her own products: her Secrets of Seduction books, 'B Venus' lingerie, photos of herself (including nudes), and a documentary which she produced called Love & Sex in L.A. (trailer).

The Muse & Mentor website seems to have three primary functions: to honour Henry, to provide background information on their relationship, and to sell stuff. A number of Miller photographs and quotes can be found under "Henry." A drop-down menu on this page allows you to view notes written to Brenda in Henry's hand, as well as a number of book reviews for Dear, Dear Brenda and related press material--including the scan of Rrabia magazine seen below (from the MillerVenus website).

"The Guide Bleu was one of Henry Miller’s last works of love. It is a guide to Paris, an unpublished manuscript which held the fondest of his memories," says the text of the drop-down menu under "Memories of Paris." This was a curiosity to me, as I'd never heard of it. Another item on the menu is Henry Miller's Memories of Paris which is apparently an "unpublished manuscript" of Miller's early years in Paris.

Accordging to Google Books, Guide Bleu was published by HarperCollins in 1999. An article in Spain's El Cultural in 2001 states that Miller created the short Guide Bleu in 1979 as a gift for Brenda in anticipation of her going to Paris. "Never published completely," says the article [2] "it was simultaneously a personal guide of Paris, a French-English dictionary and a address book of coffees, restaurants and friends, interrupted by long letters of love to Brenda." It had been hand-written into a blue notebook. Early in 1980, Brenda made the trip to Paris and wrote notes to Henry while seated at the places he'd recommended she visit.

I can find nothing else about Henry Miller's Memories of Paris, and am not sure how similiar or disimilar it is to the Guide Bleu. However, Memories is available for sale, at $100 a copy.

Other items available for sale on the Muse & The Mentor website include:

* An original letter from Henry to Brenda (from Miller's Joey): $30,000.
* Watercolours by Miller, ranging from $25,000 to one called "Henry," inscribed with a birthday greeting to Brenda, for $125,000.
* A cotton blue robe that Miller "wore often" during the final years of his life: $50,000.

For free on are two video clips of a present-day Venus talking about Henry.
[1] Wikipedia and IMDB claim she was born in November 1947, but this essay states she was 20 (which would be 1955). In the world of celebrity--especailly for women--age is usually a pretty vague and shifting fact, so who knows which is true.
[2] I translated the article through Yahoo's BabelFish webiste, so please consider that some wording may be improperly interpreted.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Lost Messengers: Clipped Wings

“I suppose it was the worst book any man has ever written. It was a colossal tome and faulty from start to finish. But it was my first book and I was in love with it.”
--- Henry Miller, Tropic Of Capricorn (Grove Weidenfeld), p. 34.

Henry Miller was 30 years old in 1922, and had not yet tackled writing a novel. A random comment by one of his bosses at Western Union inspired him to base a novel on the eccentric characters he’d encountered as a Personnel Manager. The book was completed in three weeks. While intensely flawed (and consequently never published), the novel, Clipped Wings, served its purpose by allowing Miller the opportunity to cut his teeth on the craft. Miller wrote about this writing experience on pages 30-37 of Tropic Of Capricorn [‘CAP’]. Although revised segments survive from Clipped Wings, the manuscript has been lost.

In 1922, J.C. Willever was the First Vice President at Western Union, and the “longest service record of any major executive” (Time, Nov 2, 1936). One day, Henry was called into Willever’s office and, on the topic of writers, Willever said that “he would like to see some one write a sort of Horatio Alger book about the messengers; he hinted that perhaps I might be the one to do such a job” (CAP 30). The notion set Henry’s head in a “whirl” as he left the office, and “stuck in [his] crop” in the following weeks (CAP 30). He’d been keeping notes in preparation for finally becoming a writer. Somehow, this became the idea that sparked him to let it all out.

Horatio Alger (1832-1899) was an author of stories of bravery for American boys: “With uncommon courage and moral fortitude, Alger's youths struggle against adversity to achieve great wealth and acclaim. These rags to riches stories were enormously popular with the public and flourished in the decades from 1870 to 1890” [1]. Henry had certainly met his share of prospective messenger employees who were “down and out, begging for work, for cigarettes, for carfare, for a chance, Christ Almighty, just another chance!” (CAP 32). Not interested in writing wholesome inspirational stories, Miller planned to write the book with a sharpened ugly stick, poking it bitterly into the eye of his employer (Western Union, referred to here as the ‘Cosmococcic Telegraph Company’). “I will give you Horatio Alger,” thought Henry to himself, “as he looks the day after the Apocalypse, when all the stink has cleared away” (CAP 31).

The Western Union stock certificates featured a powerful winged goddess; Miller turned the symbol around (with wings clipped) to represent the disempowerment of its lowliest employees. Henry wrote down a list of 86 intriguing (mostly tragic) employees he’d known [2] and settled on 12 individuals; apparently a concept borrowed directly from Theodore Dreiser’s Twelve Men (1919) [3].

This image from a Western Union stock certificate is being sold via Ebay. The seller mentions that this is from 1969. I admit, I don't know how long this image was used by WU, but all of the big Miller bios make reference to a WU winged icon.


Henry waited for an upcoming March vacation block to begin his writing. On March 22, 1922, he launched into an exhausting first writing session at home [4]. With three weeks ahead of him, he’d calculated that we had to meet a target of 5,000 words a day in order to finish the book by April 10th: “I thought that a man, to be a writer, must do at least five thousand words a day. I thought he must say everything all at once—in one book—and collapse afterwards” (CAP 34): “I nearly killed myself doing it” [5]

Henry wrote to his friend Emil Schnellock on the evening of his first day of writing: “Ye Gods! The first day of being a writer has nearly broken my back. But I have done my quota for the day, a good eight-hour day such as no union man keeps. I have finished my 5,000 words and made some slight revisions. Tomorrow, if I am like the Lord God, I shall wake and look upon my work and pronounce it good. Tonight I am in grave doubt, in extreme torment” [6].

The continuous clacking of Miller’s typewriter drew “woeful glances” from his wife Beatrice [7]. It wasn’t long before Henry relocated his writing space to Emil’s personal art studio. According to Robert Ferguson, Henry also frequented the taxi dancers at Wilson’s almost every night (he would meet June Mansfield there the following summer) [2].

By Monday, April 10th, 1922, Miller had generated a 75,000-word manuscript [5]. He’d been “scared shitless” at the prospect of tackling this project, lacking confidence that he knew what he was doing, (CAP 34) but he would come to appreciate two things: that he’d followed it to completion and that he had “made such a miserable failure of it” (CAP 35).


Henry and his friend Stanley Borowski were mutually interested in becoming writers, but “I never dreamed of showing it to him,” confessed Miller, “for he would have picked it to death” [8]. Henry’s confidence was indeed fragile. After a single rejection from Macmillan, he stopped sending out the manuscript [9]. The feedback of friends did little to help him believe he’d written something of any value: “Everybody I showed it to said it was terrible” (CAP 34).

In 1924, Miller took another crack at the novel, removing much of the negative content [10]. It took two years, but Miller finally felt satisfied enough to submit Clipped Wings to JC Willever. Even in its softened state, Willever hated it and, not surprisingly, found it insulting to the company, and considered its delivery to him “a subtle form of blackmail” [10; p.94]. Clipped Wings was a “crushing defeat” for Henry, but “It put iron in my backbone and sulphur in my blood. I knew at least what it was to fail” (CAP 34).


As Miller describes it in Tropic Of Capricorn, it seemed he was bent on exposing the humility that the multi-ethnic messengers had to suffer at the hands of “the white conquerors of the world”: “Wait, you cosmococcic telegraphic shits, you demons on high waiting for the plumbing to be repaired, wait, you dirty white conquerors who have sullied the earth with your cloven hooves, your instruments, your weapons, your disease germs … Nobody is getting away with anything, least of all the cosmococcic shits of North America” (CAP 33-34).

However, according to Miller biographer Mary Dearborn, Clipped Wings was an “extended essay in pure venom, anti-Semitism, racism, and generalized misanthropy” [9; p.71]. I have not read Miller’s manuscript personally, and so cannot comment further on its content.

Above: A photo of young Western Union bicycle messengers (from a Greek-run WU website).

About a dozen years later, Miller would write about Clipped Wings in Tropic of Capricorn, and would offer us a few profiles of the twelve messengers:

Carnahan: a hard-working “model messenger” who also had a drinking problem; tragically, he attempted a murder-suicide of his entire family—thankfully they survived, but so did he. Miller visited him in prison, where he was convinced that Carnahan was going to use this incarceration to learn how to be the best salesman ever.

Guptal: See this post.

Dave Olinski: a “glutton for work” who had been around the world and talked too much for his own good; after chastising a hoodlum who was rude about asking for a messenger blank, he was beaten up; he complained about it to the cops and was beaten to death in retribution.

Clausen: a violent man on parole, who asked Henry to come to his home to help mediate with his wife who was perpetually pregnant and refused to have sex with him anymore; eerily, Clausen showed Henry the gun and blackjacks he kept. The next day, Clausen took his children to the roof and “beat their brains out” with his blackjack before jumping to his death.

Schuldig: an apparently wrongfully-convicted man who was so emotionally damaged and paranoid after 20 years in prison that he forgot who he was, begged to be arrested, confessed to a litany of fabricated crimes--then ran his head into a stone wall before the police could respond to his ‘confessions.’

Jay Martin notes [10] that Miller’s 1924 revision added a profile of Jacobus Hendrik Dun, whom Henry let live with him and his wife; this chapter apparently included excerpts from letters Dun had written him. Even as late as Big Sur And The Oranges of Hieronymous Bosch, Miller included a line that Dun has written to him in a letter back in 1922/23: “Now works the peace and quiet of Scheveningen like a anaesteatic” [11].


May 1924. "Black and White," The Crisis (NAACP), 28: no. 1, 16, 17.
> A re-worked portrait of Tawde, an India-born Columbia University grad who struggled with his career due to racism: “Of all the foreign students who register at our big universities the plight of the Hindus is by far the worst.” Published under the pseudonym Valentine Nieting. Read an excerpt from this essay at Narrative Detours.

According to Jay Martin and Mary Dearborn, Clipped Wings started off with a profile called “Charles Candles, The Moral Moron” [9]/[10; p.71]. The Archive of California appears to have this manuscript in their Henry Miller Collection [Box 89, Folder 10], but dates it “circa 1933.”

In the 1930s, Miller made reference to looking at all of the messenger names in a notebook (CAP 34); Jay Martin also makes mention of a notebook as one of his biographical sources: “Messenger Sketch Book 1-18” [10; p.517]. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to determine where this sketch book is currently held.

Many of the messenger subjects from Clipped Wings likely became recycled in the messenger characters in Miller’s second novel attempt, Moloch, and in his later works as well.


In 1939, while in Paris, Miller wrote about Clipped Wings to Huntington Cairns: “My second wife probably has the manuscript, but I don’t know where she is and she probably wouldn’t surrender it, or has destroyed it, along with a lot of other manuscripts I wrote while with her” [5]. By 1970, Henry told Georges Belmont that “the manuscript got lost. I left it with my wife June - Mona - and it got lost” [12]. Lost—and never found.

“I had to learn, as Balzac did, that one must write volumes before signing one’s own name. I had to learn, as I soon did, that one must give up everything and not do anything else but write, that one must write and write and write, even if everyone in the world advises you against it, even if nobody believes in you. Perhaps one does it just because nobody believes; perhaps the real secret lies in making people believe.” (CAP 34)



[1] Stanford University Libraries:; [2]Ferguson, Robert. 1991. Henry Miller: A Life; p.70. [3] Ibarguen, Raoul. 1989. “Narrative Detours: Henry Miller and the Rise of New Critical Modernism.” [4] Miller, Henry.1959. Henry Miller Reader; p. 384. [5] Miller, Henry. 1939. Previously unpublished letter to Huntington Cairns, from Erica Jong, The Devil At Large, p.74. [6] Miller, Henry. 1922. From George Wickes (ed.) Letters To Emil; p.4. [7] Miller, Henry. [date?] Tropic Of Cancer, manuscript II, 75; source quoted in Jay Martin, Always Merry And Bright, p. 72. [8] Miller, Henry. Book Of Friends (I); p. 32. [9] Dearborn, Mary. 1991. Happiest Man Alive: Biography of Henry Miller; p. 71.
[10] Martin, Jay. 1978. Always Merry And Bright; p. 91. [11] Miller, Henry. 1957. Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymous Bosch; p. 102. [12] Miller, Henry, and Georges Belmont. 1973. Henry Miller in Conversation; p. 12.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Annotated Nexus - Pages 52, 53

52. 0 Continuing from action begun on page 48. Dr. Kronski tells Stasia that, as “bitched up” as she is, she’s not as bad as Henry and Mona, who don’t know anything about friendship. He departs. Later that night, Henry stumbles upon a private letter written to Mona from Stasia, but the women snatch it and seemingly dispose of the shredded letter in the toilet. Henry thinks it’s a red herring.

53.0 A few days later, Henry overhears an argument: Stasia has apparently been squandering a secret fortune. Mona is angry enough to leave. Stasia seems unusually calm about Mona’s reaction, and unusually nice to Henry.

52.1 bitched up
I actually hadn’t heard this term before, although I’ve heard variations of it. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (by way of, the use of the word bitch as a verb meaning “to spoil” has existed since the mid-1800s. The exact term bitched up was given to a character in the Ben Hecht co-authored play, The Front Page (according to The Crowd Roars, the 1931 film version created a stir when this sharp language was spoken by actor Pat O’Brien). Oxford lists six other published uses of this term between 1929 and 1960.

52.2 “You don’t belong in a place like New York.”
This evaluation is thrown at Stasia by Dr. Kronski, who furthers that she doesn’t “fit in anywhere.”

Stasia is not from New York, and hadn’t been there for long. On page 587 of Plexus (the prequel to Nexus), the character of Anastasia is introduced as having “blown in from the Coast.” This would be the East Coast, as it’s currently believed that the real Stasia came from Virginia (see this post, which links to further speculation).

52.3 "They don’t know the meaning of the word [friend].”
Kronski looks at Henry and Mona with contempt as he warns Stasia about their bad influence. Kronski, who was based on real-life Dr. Emil Conason, had earlier criticized Henry and Mona for lacking moral turpitude [50.5].

I wonder where this bitterness comes from in the Kronski character. If truly based on Conason, it seems odd—he and Henry would be friends right into the 1960s. June (“Mona”) thought highly of him [1] and was given free medical care by him when she was physically and mentally ill in the 1950s and 60s [2]. Back in the 1920s, shortly after being married, Henry and June had lived with Emil and his wife in their New York apartment. Yet Conason is also given an ugly treatment as a shady medical practitioner named Prigozi in Miller’s long-unpublished Moloch. (That character also fires off judgemental outbursts in Moloch, i.e. p. 26: “Psychopaths! […] You’re a pack of nuts…the whole lot of you!”) Was Miller being funny, unflinchingly honest or just mean-spirited with his unflattering fictionalized treatment of his friend? This is worth examining in a future post.

52.4 cigarettes
While fishing for a cigarette in Mona’s purse, Henry finds the letter from Stasia. I’m not sure what Miller’s preferred cigarette was during his early New York years, but there are about a dozen references to him smoking in Nexus; once puffing on a Benson & Hedges that had is offered to him (p.108). Later in Paris, he would make a habit of smoking Gauloises Bleues [3]

53.1 thousand dollars
Mona is upset that Stasia had given one thousand dollars away to “some worthless idiot.” Henry wonders where this fortune had come from. On page 51, she mentions that she receives money from her “guardians.”

According to the inflation calculator, $1,000 in 1926 would equal $11,622 in 2007. This seems like an outrageous amount for a young 20-something female waitress to have in 1926. Her “guardians” must have been very well-heeled. Stasia’s reason for giving this away? “What’s money good for if not to throw away?” This is consistent with her action in 51.1, when she tore up a check that could have paid for rent.

<--- Previous Page 51 . Next Page 54 --->
[1] Dick, Kenneth. 1967. Colossus of One; p. 168.
[2] Orend, Karl. 2006. “Alfred Perles and June Mansfield: Some Unforgiving Encounters in the Shadows of Henry Miller.” Nexus: The International Henry Miller Journal. James Decker, et al, editors. Vol. 3: p.75.
[3] Ferguson, Robert. 1991. Henry Miller: A Life; p.178.