Crafting the Stage for “Evenings” to Come: Intimate Memories

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Dublin Core

Title

Crafting the Stage for “Evenings” to Come: Intimate Memories

Subject

Art, Modernism, and Bohemia

Description

Crafting the Stage for “Evenings” to Come

Unlike Dodge’s entrance in Paris, Dodge’s arrival in New York City was much messier and less jubilant. Despite her attempts at divorce, Dodge had yet to successfully distance herself from Edwin immediately as she had wished. But Dodge used him to procure a nice apartment for herself in Washington Square. On top of “failing” to divorce Edwin Dodge, she also did not have as many connections in New York as she had cultivated at the Villa Curonia. It’s no wonder that she reflects on experiencing a type of “melancholy” in the city—she has been cut off from having an elaborate and stimulating social circle (Luhan 2460). But the distance from what she had known before further conveys Dodge’s extraordinary ability to forge relationships and establish connections between influential people in the city at the dawn of the 20th century. Even with an ocean between her and her old villa, Dodge is still just as crafty an orchestrator. Dodge starts from scratch after having fully furnished the apartment — she describes furnishing her apartment making her intentions to establish more than just a place of residence from her first days in the “the Village”. Dodge’s determination to create her own space also reflects her understanding of feminism in that she feels a need for physical separation of spaces between her and the controlling presence of her husband. She understands in order to function as an individual she requires all aspects of autonomy—which includes residence.

It’s somewhat ironic that Dodge decides to color her whole apartment white, especially because she really does represent the typical “white” feminist. Dodge grasps the implications of the repressed status of women in a radical way, though she is often unable to see the class-based differences that some of her peers face. Equally, her wealth is important to her peers, and historians like Andrea Barnet frequently comment on the importance of having an individual like Dodge who “had money and used it to help others live and publish” (6). Dodge explains, “I couldn’t get enough white into that apartment. I suppose it was a repudiation of grimy New York” (Luhan 2454). Her use of white symbolism alludes to an idea greater than just her distaste for New York’s less pristine qualities (keep in mind she’s just lived in Paris and Florence, which are a bit more picturesque). Dodge is also symbolizing an aesthetic she wishes to portrait in her apartment, one of blankness in contrast to the streets of New York that represent all that is in opposition of the radical ideas budding in the “the Village”. The apartment is a clean slate. The apartment is a living symbol of open discourse, and Dodge crafts her apartment very purposefully to serve the purpose of a place where dialogue could flow freely.

When Dodge expresses that her apartment “diminished New York,” she is referencing the corruption and negative sides of the city (Luhan 2460). New York is as huge a hub for Mabel Dodge’s time as it is in the present, and still she understands that she wants the ideas presented in her apartment to break out of even that globally important space. By keeping New York “outside in the street,” she is expressing her desire to transcend the city and collect individuals and ideas for more than just the bustle or “rumble-rumble-rumble” as she calls it, of the city (Luhan 2465). She wants to break the mundane and the routine with her apartment and the space she generates and her reflections reflect the purposeful nature of her cultivation of a location for individuals to engage and debate each other.

In the last interactions Dodge has with Edwin before he “releases her” as she put it, Edwin can be seen to represent exactly what Dodge wants to distance her life from. Though Edwin is an architect and somewhat of an artist, he still represents the status quo. He does not take her self-exploration and artistic expression seriously as Dodge accounts that Edwin “laughed at the sight of me sitting there in one of my Renaissance Villa costumes, looking very cross. He infuriated me" (Luhan 2472). Though rude, her account of this interaction is powerful in that she does not allow his disapproval to stop her from continuing her descent into complete “Bohemia”.

Barnet, Andrea. All Night Party: The Women of Bohemia Greenwich Village and
Harlem. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 2004. Print.

Luhan, Mabel Dodge. Intimate Memories: The Autobiography of Mabel Dodge Luhan (Kindle Locations 2454-2475). University of New Mexico Press. Kindle Edition.

Creator

Mabel Dodge

Source

Intimate Memories

Publisher

University of New Mexico Press

Date

Published 1999, Written ca. 1912

Contributor

Lois Rudnick

Format

Written Memoir

Language

English

Type

Memoir

Text Item Type Metadata

Text

“It seemed to me I couldn’t get enough white into that apartment. I suppose it was a repudiation of grimy New York. It diminished New York; it made New York stay outside in the street. When I was putting the new apartment together I was occupied and engrossed by it, but when it was finished, all fresh and sparkling, I grew melancholy. More and more I began to hate the thought that I’d been forced back to America, to put John in school, and that Edwin was about to sally forth and rent an office and begin “to practice architecture,” as it was so strangely called. It made it no better when he came in one day and laughed at the sight of me sitting there in one of my Renaissance Villa costumes, looking very cross. He infuriated me.”
There was no life in anything about me. A rumble-rumble-rumble on the streets outside, and inside a deathly stillness wherein one could hear oneself draw every breath. It was from that day on that I began to fall quite definitely ill. Edwin was solicitous and sorry for me, as he always was, but I told him mournfully that it was he who was the cause of my ambiguous malaise. “I don’t know . . . ,” I faltered, “but I think you must go away. Let us separate for a while and see if it won’t help.” Dear, kind, amusing Edwin! Why did I have to land my trouble upon him, blame him for it? It took time and increasing depths of melancholy and several nervous crises before our real separation came to pass. Edwin would go and return, go and return again; to Boston and back, to Buffalo and back. Although I was terribly lonely when he went, whenever I saw him again after an absence, when he would come rapidly into the apartment, ruddy and smiling and endlessly patient and hopeful, something would rise up from the bottom to repel him, a sort of nausea at the sight of his persistently debonair, hard-shelled, American aplomb.”

Luhan, Mabel Dodge. Intimate Memories: The Autobiography of Mabel Dodge Luhan (Kindle Locations 2454-2475). University of New Mexico Press. Kindle Edition.

Original Format

Written memoir