Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Schnellock as Ulric in 'Plexus'

“If I adored Ulric because of his emulation of the masters, I believe I really revered him for playing the role of 'the failure.' The man knew how to make music of his failings. In fact, he had the wit and the grace to make it seem as though, next to success, the best thing in life is to be a total failure.” -- Henry Miller on Ulric (Emil Schnellock) in Plexus, p.15.

As an early booster of Henry Miller before he'd even begun to write seriously, it's no surprise that Emil Schnellock should appear as a character in one of Miller's biographical novels. In Plexus (Book II of The Rosy Crucifixion), Miller covers the period in New York after which he left his first wife for June ("Mona"), soon followed by his escape from the Cosmodemonic Telegraph Company and his earnest committment to become a full-time writer.

Schnellock appears in Plexus as "Ulric." It's a fond portrayal of an old-fashioned, good natured man (who says "Golly" way too often) who is passioinate about Art but not satisfied with his role in it, or in his life; he admires Henry's sense of adventure, dynamic spirit, and even the potential of what he may become. He and Henry have a mutual admiration. Reading the Ulric passages in Plexus helps create a deeper understanding of the muted Schnellock of Letters To Emil.

pp. 14-16: Henry and Ulric walk through the old neighbourhood and discuss painting and Art; Ulric works in his studio.
p. 67: Italians applaud Ulric at a restaurant when they overhear him talk excitedly about Italy.
pp. 196-205: Henry and Mona invite Ulric to dinner. They discuss Greenwich Village and Ulric's admiration for Henry's chaotic life (meanwhile, Henry feels Ulric listens with "bemused wonder" whenever Mona speaks--usually an interruption) . The dinner moves to Henry's apartment where Ulric seems fascinated by Henry's writing space. He stays the night.
pp. 372-386: Ulric tells Henry that his ex-wife "Maude" (Beatrice) has asked him to help get Henry back to her. Ulric is then invited to dinner, where he meets Mona's friend Marjorie. Ulric reminices about Henry's odd assortment of friends from Western Union, as well as the shy girls they would follow on Bushwick Avenue when they were kids. After Ulric has a nap, the four of them have a grand old time with a dinner that becomes an orgy of sorts (which is preceded by Ulric's story of having had sex with his former school teacher).

"What redeemed Ulric was a complete lack of ambition. He wasn't hankering to be recognized: he wanted to be a good painter for the sheer joy of excelling. He loved all the good things in life, and only the good things. He was a sensualist through and through. In playing chess he prefered to play with Chinese pieces, no matter how poor his game might be" .... "He chose everything he used with great care--clothes, valises, slippers, lamps, everything" (p.16).

"His dubiety, his cautiousness, would be refreshing" ... "Ulric, the greatest stick-in-the-mud ever..." (p.49)

"Many of my friends referred to him as quaint--'charming and quaint.' Which meant, 'old-fashioned.' Yet he was neither a scholar, a recluse, nor a crank. He was simply of another time." (p.199)

Upon hearing of Henry and June's failed candy-selling enterprise: "What a life! I wish I had the guts to venture out a little more. But then those things never happen to me" (p.196).

While trying to emulate Cezane: "Damn it all, I'm nothing but an illustrator. Why in hell can't I capture something like [Cezane does]--just once. What's wrong with me, do you suppose? .... It's not just this painting, or the one before, it's my whole life that's wrong. A man's work reflects what he is, what he's thinking the livelong day, isn't that it? Looking at it in that light, I'm just a piece of stale cheese, eh what?" (p.15).

"I'm the worrying sort, I guess. A guilty conscience, probably. I inherited all the old man's bad traits" (p. 378).

"The way I treat that girl of mine is a crime. We've been going together five years now--but if she dares to mention the word marriage, I take a fit. The very thought of it scares the life out of me .... I'll be a bachelor all of my life, I guess" (p.378).

"To Ulric's appraisals I was particularly sensitive. It was foolish of me, perhaps, to give such keen attention to his comments, since our tastes (in literature) were widely different, but he was so very, very close to me, the one friend I had whom it was imperative to convince of my ability. He was not easy to please either, my Ulric" (p.55)

On their walks through the old Brooklyn neighbourhood, Ulric would bring a sketch book: "to make a few notes." He found beauty in things like decayed urban landscapes. But his "notes" were rarelt used, as he was kept busy with advertising art (p.15-16).

Ulric had a "marvelous acquaintance with the world of art." Some of his favourites in the mid-1920s: Cimabue, Uccello, Piero della Francesca, Botticelli, Vermeer. He could talk for hours about a single painting (p.15).

Between jobs, he had women pose for him. "Before the easel he had all the gestures and mannerisms of the 'mastro.' It was almost terrifying to witness the frenzy of his attack" (p.16).

Ulric: "I suppose it will always be a thing of wonder and mystery to me how we ran into each other that day on Sixth Avenue after a lapse of many years. What a lucky day it was for me! (p.386). Ulric then goes on to describe how he'd thought of Henry during his travels, how he'd known that Henry would amount to "something or somebody."

Schnellock/Ulrich speaks with great admiration for Henry throughout these scenes.
Reference: Plexus. Grove Press paperback, 1987.
The great pulp cover image of Plexus is from a 1961 Italian edition, which I found on Italian ebay.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Emil Schnellock - A Biography

"You're the one person back home I always kept in mind. I thought of you more than you will ever realize." (Henry Miller to Emil Schnellock, Letters To Emil, p. 158)

Emil R. Schnellock was only a year older than Henry Miller, but served as his mentor at crucial moments in his life. Schnellock taught Miller to paint, enriched his understanding of Art, helped inspire him about Paris, acted as a critic of his writing technique and encouraged him to loosen it up, solicited articles on his behalf, acted as his "literary executor," and was generally the sounding board off of which Miller develped his style. Although Miller shamefully neglected to give him his proper due in his Books Of Friends, Schnellock is passively immortalized (we never see his letters) in Miller's Letters To Emil. Schnellock did manage to get his own words in about Henry with Just A Brooklyn Boy, published in Happy Rock (1945).

Born in New York [?] in 1890, to German parents. At some point, brother Ned Schnellock was born. In 1905, Emil attended P.S. 85 in Brooklyn where he already showed skills as an artist. Miller--as a fellow student--remembered being impressed with Schnellock's blackboard drawings. As a young man, Schnellock travelled to and studied art in Europe for several years. By 1920, he was back in New York, where he quickly established himself as a commercial artist. In the 1920s, he kept a studio on Bedford Avenue, then moved it to a third floor suite at 60 W. 50th Street (later replaced by the Rockefeller Center?). In 1932, he was living at 5 E. 9th Street in Manhattan.

ABOVE: Schnellock in 1943 (UCLA Special Collections)

Schnellock and a friend were in Lake George, NY one year, and apparently saved a girl from drowning. She was the daughter of Leslie Gray of Orange, Virginia. Schnellock was invited to their estate home in Montebello (Virginia) and became a family friend. In 1935, the wealthy Grays commissioned Emil to paint murals at their ancestral home. He took the job, stayed in a cottage on the former plantation grounds, and decided not to return to New York. He took a part time teaching job at a boys prep school called Woodberry Forest School, in Madison County, VA. In 1938, he was asked to lecture on Art Appreciation at the all-female Mary Washington College (U. Of Virginia) in Fredericksburg, VA. He is hired as an Instructor that year (this city directory says so). He eventually becomes a member of its faculty until he died in 1958. Today, Schnellock's legacy is continued by a pair of Art scholarships offered in his name at what is now called Mary Washington University (they also hold some of his artwork in their permanent collection [ref. only]).

[Although I will highlight a couple of points, my purpose here is to summarize their relationship. Please refer to Letters To Emil for more detail.]
1905 - Miller and Schnellock meet as students at P.S. 85 .

1909 - They fall out of each other's lives when they attend different high schools.

1921 - Shortly after returning from art study in Europe, Schnellock bumps into Miller at Sixth Avenue and 49th Street in New York. Miller: "That chance meeting decided my fate. From then on my gaze was fixed." [Remember to Remember, p.319]. Emil talked about "Mt. Aetna and Vesuvius and Capri and Pompeii and Morocco and Paris" and told Henry "I'm sure you'd like it! I'm sure it's just the place for you." This meeting in recounted in Tropic Of Capricorn, p.47-49 (Schnellock is referred to as 'Ulric'). Their friendship re-kindled immediately. Many an evening is spent in Prospect Park together, Emil filling Henry's head with visions of Paris.

ABOVE: Grafonola magazine ad painted by Schnellock in 1920.

Emil encourages Henry to paint when he sees how thrilled his friend is when seeing a Turner paiting in a window (ref). Besides the Italian masters, Emil also turns Henry onto Walter Pater's Studies in the History of the Renaissance.

1922 - Miller begins writing letters to Emil, describing his writing efforts and influences.

- Schnellock teaches Miller to paint, teaches him about Art, lets him observe as he paints in his studio. They play chess, they go on double-dates.

1923 - Henry and June stay at Emil's studio when they are caught in an affair by Henry's wife.

1930 - When Miller finally leaves to live in Paris, Schnellock sees him off at the dock. Emil gives Henry the $10 in his pocket, which is all he will have when he arrives in Paris. Schnellock becomes the recipient of a barrage of correspondence from Miller while in France; these letters are often rough drafts of ideas that will end up in future books. The letters to 1934 will be published as Letters To Emil, but they will continue to some degree for the rest of Emil's life.

1932 - Miller sends Schnellock the very first draft of Tropic Of Cancer, to be held for safe-keeping.

1932-34 - Miller makes sure that his Paris friends (i.e. Michael Fraenkel, Anais Nin) hook up with Schnellock when they are in New York.

1940 - During the Air-Conditioned Nightmare tour, Miller and Abe Rattner visit and stay with Schnellock, who now lives in Fredericksburg, VA.

1944 - Miller and Janina Lepska stay with Emil during a visit to Virginia. While there, Miller asks her to be Wife #3.

- An old letter to Emil called "Death Letter to Emil" is published in Sunday After The War.
ABOVE RIGHT: Letters To Emil, with a 1929 portrait of Henry Miller, sketched by Schnellock.

1945 - Schnellock writes the short Miller memoir Just A Brooklyn Boy, published in Happy Rock (1945).

- Excerpts from Miller's letters to Emil (mostly art-related) are published as Semblance of a Devoted Past.

1946 - Schnellock drives to Big Sur to visit Miller.

1950 - A long letter to Emil from 1939 is published in The Waters Reglitterized. [full title includes: The Subject of Water Color in Some of its More Liquid Phases. From Henry to Emil in moments of inspiration or perplexity, with gratitude for having put me on the right Path.]

1950s - Schnellock continues to receive letters from Miller. He shares these with his classes at Mary Washington College.

1958 - Schnellock dies.

1975 - Schnellock watercolours are found on the 5th and 7th pages of the printing of Miller's Nightmare Notebook.
BELOW: An actual envelope for a letter to Emil in 1932, in Miller's handwriting.(see PBA Galleries for more images of the actual letters)


Schnellock is referred to as "Ulric" in Tropic Of Capricorn (briefly, as quoted above) and in forty pages in Plexus.


The vast collection of Miller items mailed to Emil Schnellock are now stored at the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur. According to their website, this includes "manuscripts; typescripts of literary sketches; Miller's first known letter of appeal; letters written to Emil Schnellock; watercolors; postcards and several items previously unknown to Miller's biographers and bibliographers. Perhaps the single most meaningful document is the over one-hundred pages from the first draft of Tropic of Cancer that chronologically precedes what has heretofore been known as the 'first' draft."

The Emil Schnellock Archive was donated by an anonymous seller in 2000. In this article from the Monterey County Weekly, they further describe the collection: "There are also hundreds of letters to and from Miller, including some that he wrote on the backs of Paris cafe menus and on stationery from Western Union."

PHOTO ABOVE: Schnellock teaches his female students in 1941 [full image here].


Some biographical sources:
[1] Letter To Emil (1989) edited by George Wickes.
[2] The Happiest Man Alive (1991) by Mary V Dearborn.
[3] Classmates at PS 85 (2004) by Thomas Mann.
[4] Henry Miller: A Life (1991) by Robert Ferguson.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Henry Miller in The New Republic

The New Republic is an American magazine first published in 1914. Today, it continues to be published out of Washington. It has a reputation for presenting a progressive, liberal perspective. The following Miller-related articles were found on the New Republic Archive section. I can't link directly to each article, so you'll have to do your own "Henry Miller" search request.
1919: Henry Miller sends one of his earliest written works to New Republic for consideration. It's a "wild, abortive, thoroughly incomprehensible description of a moment when, entering a vaudeville theatre just as the curtain was rising, I caught the sight of a woman ascending a broad staircase with a marble balustrade." [Remember To Remember (Miller), p. 339]. The editor, Frances Hackett, sends the 27-year old Miller an encouraging rejection letter. "It was a brief, cordial note which sustained me throughout ten years of dismal failure" [ibid, p. 339].

APR 28, 1926. “Correspondence.” (by Henry Miller).
Letter to editor regarding the style of Theodore Dreiser’s play An American Tragedy.
This letter is an excerpt from a long article Miller had submitted to New Republic, but was rejected [Happiest Man Alive (Dearborn), p. 100].

1935: In Miller's Aller Retour New York (1935), he takes a swipe at Malcolm Cowley, editor of New Republic (though he doesn't mention Cowley or the magazine by name). Clearly bitter that he never received a review of Tropic Of Cancer--which he had sent to them at his "own expense"--Miller calls the magazine a "third-rate swindle sheet." (Aller Retour New York, New Directions 1991, p. 34.)
See Nov. 27, 1976 for Cowley's "Reconsideration" of Tropic Of Cancer.

MAR 9, 1938. “Twilight of Expatriates” (by Edmund Wilson)
Abstract: “Reviews the book The Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller.”
Quote: He wrote of the "strange amenity of temper and style which bathes the whole composition even when it is disgusting or tiresome." "[He] has somehow managed to be low without being sordid." [source: Henry Miller: A Life (Ferguson), p.270].
This was the first significant (i.e. most widely available) American review of Tropic Of Cancer.

MAY 18, 1938. "A Letter of Silence" (by Henry Miller).
This letter is not listed on the New Republic website, but is noted in the Bibliography of Primary Sources as item C52. It was re-printed in Henry Miller: The Man And His Works (1969). This letter was written in response to Wilson's review of Cancer in March.

JAN 8, 1940. “The Cosmological Eye” (by Dunstan Thompson)
Abstract: “Reviews the book The Cosmological Eye, by Henry Miller.”

1940: The New Republic turns down submissions by Miller [Biography And Humanity (Martin), p. 25].

DEC 30, 1940. “If We Had Some Eggs” (by Harry Levin)
Abstract: “Reviews the books, Hamlet, by Henry Miller and Michael Fraenkel.”

APR 21, 1941. “Peroration to a Book on Greece” (by Henry Miller)
Abstract: “Reports on the author's account of his journey in Greece. Report that the greatest single impression which Greece made upon the author is that it is a man-sized world; View that the link between the human and divine is broken in the Western world; Report that the skepticism and paralysis produced by this schism in the very nature of man provide the clue to the inevitable destruction of the present civilization; View that no nation on earth can possibly give birth to a new order of life until a world view is established; Report that the tragedy of Greece lies not in the destruction of a great culture but in the abortion of a great vision; Author's account of his friend George Katsimbalis and his association with him; Author's view that the light of Greece opened his eyes, penetrated his pores, and expanded his whole being; Influence of the journey on author's life.”
Shifreen & Jackson C87.

APR 21, 1941. “The Artist as Desperado” (by Philip Rahv)
Abstract: “Reviews three books by Henry Miller. Tropic of Cancer; Black Spring; Tropic of Capricorn.

SEP 8, 1941. “On Declaring War” (by Henry Miller)
Presents letters to the editor on the issue related to immediate declaration of war against Germany by the United States.
Shifreen & Jackson C90.

JAN 12, 1942. “The Colossus of Maroussi/The Wisdom of the Heart” (by Philip Rahv).
Abstract: “Reviews the books The Colossus of Maroussi, and The Wisdom of the Heart, by Henry Miller.”

MAY 10, 1943. "Prince Of Denmark" (by Henry Miller).
A review of Walter Lowrie's A Short Life of Kierkegaard. This article is not listed on the New Republic website. The Bibliography of Primary Sources states that this is Miller's first paid book review.
Shifreen & Jackson C109. Miller had hit a low point by soliciting magazine publishers for books to review. New Republic was one of the respondants, sending him the book on Kierkegaard and paying him approximately $10 for the review [Always Merry And Bright (Martin), p.391]. Miller planned on writing a more in-depth review of the book for another magazine [A Literate Passion (Stuhlman), p. 356].

AUG 30, 1943. "The Legends of Ignorance" (by Henry Miller).
Shifreen & Jackson C115. A Book review of The Devil And The Jews?

NOV 8, 1943. “From the New Republic Mail Bag.”
Abstract: “Presents information [about] Henry Miller, an author, [and] his four books Tropic of Cancer, The Cosmological Eye, The Wisdom of the Heart, and The Colossus of Maroussi; Report on publication of one of the books abroad; Efforts of Miller to remain faithful to his art; Information on selling of his water colors by Miller; Comment of Miller on irony of life.”
Shifreen & Jackson C118. This is an excerpt from one of Miller's Open Letter to All and Sundry, a plea for friends and fans alike to buy his paintings or donate painting supplies or old clothes. This one had been written in March 1943 and excerpted by New Republic. [Happiest Man Alive (Dearborn), p. 226]. Miller claimed that the N.R. publication of his letter made the charity appeal a "howling success." [The Devil At Large (Jong), p. 314]. Time Magazine found this appeal newsworthy, and wrote about it in their Dec. 13, 1943 issue.

DEC 6, 1943. “Another Open Letter” (by Henry Miller)
Abstract: “Presents a letter to the editor in response to the comments made to the article "Open Letter," published in the November 8 issue.”
Shifreen & Jackson C120. In this letter, Miller is critical of James Laughlin's inability or unwillingness to publish his banned books [source: H Miller And J Laughlin: Selected Letters (Wickes), p.39].

DEC 20, 1943. “Mr. Miller and His Conscience” (by A.G.S.)
Abstract: “Presents a letter to the editor in the form of a poem commenting on the author Henry Miller of the U.S.”

DEC 4, 1944. “The Return of Henry Miller” (by Nicola Chiaromonte)
Abstract: “Comments on the writing style and qualities of writer, Henry Miller. Author's views about Miller's perfection and compactness as a writer as expressed in his published works; Criticisms and praises for Miller's biographical works such as The Cosmological Eye, Return to Brooklyn and Tropic of Cancer; Reputation and popularity of Miller as a writer and personnel director for Western Union; Expression of Miller's moral struggle against sentimental ties in his family and his own frailty and helplessness; Author's views about Miller's ability to humanize the writer as a character in his biographical books; Views about Miller's seriousness and uniqueness as a writer and story-teller.”
This article is re-printed in the book Of, By And About Henry Miller (1947).

DEC 2, 1946. “Worth Reprinting.”
Abstract excerpt: “Focuses on a list of books that are worth reprinting and added to various libraries.” [includes Miller]

FEB 6, 1950. “Correspondence” (various authors).
Abstract excerpt: “Attack on Henry Miller's autobiographical novels by federal censorship.”

JUL 10, 1961. “An Old Shocker Comes Home” (by Stanley Kauffmann).
Abstract: “Reviews the book Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller.”
Kauffmann found it "dated and its reputation inflated." [Happiest Man Alive (Dearborn), p. 278].

MAR 5, 1962. “The Tropics Of Miller” (by David Littlejohn).
Abstract: “Reviews several books written by Henry Miller. Tropic of Cancer; Tropic of Capricorn; The Colossus of Maroussi; The Air-Conditioned Nightmare.”

NOV 27, 1976. “Reconsideration” (by Malcolm Cowley).
Tropic Of Cancer is one of three books reviewed.

NOV 27, 1976. “Genius And Lust” (by Martin Duberman).
Abstract: “Reviews the book Genius and Lust, by Norman Mailer and Henry Miller.”

OCT 21, 1978. “Reconsideration” (by Alfred Kazin).
Abstract: “Examines the life and works of American writer, Henry Miller. Emphasis on Miller's style in writing and his portrayal of sex and sexuality; Popularity of his works including Tropic of Cancer; Achievements and contributions to literature; Public opinion on Miller's published works.”

The abstracts are borrowed directly from the New Republic website. Archive articles may be purchased online throught their website.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Annotated Nexus - Pages 31 to 34

31.0 - 34.0 The John Stymer story that began on page 21 continues here, with Stymer still dominating the conversation. Beginning on the second half of page 30, Stymer tries to convince Henry to partake in his idea to run away together, by offering profound words about living life to the fullest, dropping the name of his hero, Dostoevski, for good measure.

31.1 Dostoevski's death
Feodor Dostoevski died in 1881. Miller's first of many Dostoevski references begins at 11.4. Stymer believes that Dostoevski summed up the modern age.
31.2 Dante [summed up] the Middle Ages
Stymer's opinion again. Miller's first reference to Dante is at 1.7. I'm out of my league if I try to summarize both Dante and the Middle Ages, let alone how he was the voice of that time. Try Digital Dante if you're curious to know more.
The Modern Age as we now define it began in the 18th century and continues today. I'm no expert on this, but it appears to be the period in which the Renaissance ideas of the Early Modern Age (philosophy, science) were put into action through the Industrial Age.
31.4 lunar life
Stymer believes we are now living a "grotesque lunar life"; barren, as if living on the moon. Instead of living merely in the mind, he believes we should all live with our full and true being. But it's possible that we are all Mind and nothing more, but perhaps w are all connected through a universal, collective Mind. (ugh, I'm not going to pretend I can easily sort this passage out for you).
31.5 "[W]hat did Dostoevski represent, in your opinion?"
Miller asks this of Stymer when he brings up the name. I leave the analysis for you. Suffice it to say that I believe Miller is using Stymer's character to voice his own opinions about Dostoevski on death. "We do not surrender to life, we struggle to avoid dying."
32.1 "To live dangerously ...": Nietzsche
"To live dangerously is to live naked and unashamed." This quote attributed to Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), but I couldn't locate this exact quote. It seems to be an amalgamation of two Nietzsche thoughts: 1) To live "naked and unashamed" is to live unlike Adam & Eve, i.e. embracing the Self and Knowledge without the shame of religious/dogmatic thought; and 2) this quote from Nietzsche's The Gay Science (1883): "Believe me! The secret of reaping the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment from life is to live dangerously!"
32.2 the phantom world
This abstraction is what Stymer says Nietzsche warns us about wasting our energy battling: fear, death, sin, "the enemy."
33.1 The criminal aspect of the mind.
Stymer's not sure where he got this phrase; neither am I. He talks about all men being criminals. "If there's such a thing as a criminal, then the whole race is tainted."
34.1 "At this point, [Stymer] got out of bed to fix himself a drink, asking as he did so if I could stand anymore of his drivel."
Miller nods his head, allowing Stymer to go on for another one and a half pages. I think I need a drink.

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