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I haven't heard from you for
long, long, time. I have often wanted to send you just a line and ask you how you
were, but events (grave and gay) in my own family have been pretty frequent, and now
after a long silence I am about to do something rather mean. I am sending you a
letter from Mrs. Kaufman3, and a copy of my
reply to it. I realize that this reply to Mrs. Kaufman is a mean, whining, crawling
sort of letter, but I am afraid I cannot write a better one. I am perfectly sincere
in saying that I do not believe I belong in this gallery. With the exception of
three or four names, all of these
persons4 either through the nature of their work, the gradual multiplying
of their activities, or through mere force of circumstances, have become molders of
thought and opinion and have done important public service.
If I do not belong in the text, I certainly do not belong in the illustrations. I
swear I will never be painted again
.! I have been through that three times5, and that's enough. If any
painter does me again, he will have to anaesthetize me first.
The truth under all these negatives is that I would like to have a little of my life left for myself. There are some things I want to do with it. You know how it is, I am sure. Seven brothers and sisters6 get going in the world, and such a lot of things happen: graduations, then marriages, then babies, illnesses, terrible frights, then a war is added to all this. I lived a pretty free and selfish life when I was young and when everything went well with the family. But now I seem to be drawn into the family net and to live in a sort of communal life, as when we were children and all lived under one roof. You had only one brother7. Multiply it (the relationship) by six times and see where it would land you. I now ⬩W⬩S⬩C⬩ have three8 nieces9 and one nephew10 within a short commuting distance of my apartment11. And more are coming! They are delightful - absorbing - exhausting. Since the clever surgeon12 insisted on taking out my gall bladder13 two years ago, I haven't got back anything like my normal vitality. I have to protect myself and keep in the shade. I am trying to explain to you why I won't give Mrs. Kaufman or anyone else any sittings, and why I just don't think I belong in a book14 about active and influential people who, as Mrs. Kaufman suggests, are making an after-the-war-America15. Please don't think I am simply disobliging - I don't think there is anything more uncomfortable than being put where one does not belong. I hope you can see how I feel, Dorothy, and will help me out with Mrs. Kaufman.Faithfully alwaysWilla
I do hate to bother you about this, Dorothy.