My dearest sweetheart –
I just noticed that I wrote the 22nd of October; I suppose I wrote the 21st on yesterday’s letter, but I’ll be darned if I can remember. This month has gone by in the most amazing fashion.
This may have to be a shortie today, but I’d rather do that than write a V-mail. I’m starting this early in the hope that before something turns up, I’ll be able to finish it. Offhand I’d say this has been one of the worst weeks of weather and of waiting since back in Normandy when we were sitting near Carentan and waiting for a break in the rain. It was cloudy or foggy or rainy for about 3½ weeks and we just weren’t getting anywhere. And then the weather cleared and we were off. We were in that famous breakthrough at St. Lo on July 25th – as you may have guessed – and in the grand drive across France. That was really a rat-race! And now – here we are again.
Well, yesterday, despite the weather – we felt we needed a shower, so we went to the nearest shower point and managed to get one. It was a bit of an experience and if you remind me about it someday, dear, I’ll tell you about it. It was Saturday afternoon but that’s all. I sat around and decided to finish “My Son, My Son” which I had been pecking away at for some time. I finally did finish it – by evening time. I don’t know exactly whether I enjoyed it or not; it was excellently written, I thought, but too stark, too sordid and bleak for my mood. I think I’ll stick to the lighter stories for awhile – if I can get hold of them. We get quite a few through Special Service.
So I got to bed at about 8:50 and listened to the B.B.C. news at 2100 – a half-hour broadcast and always well done. That’s one thing about the English news, by the way. It may lack the fire and imagination that our broadcasts have. They’re certainly not as inspiring as our famous commentators – but they’re as accurate and factual as can be and they leave the interpretation to the individual. I’m beginning to believe that’s the best way, too.
I came across a letter of yours this morning written 29th September and I had a laugh – all over again. Darling – I think you’ll still be young enough to have children – even if this war is longer than we expect. It is I who should worry, I guess. Oh – another thing you mentioned in that letter about the boy with the same APO number as mine. I think I’ve already written you about my APO number and its significance. In case that letter didn’t get through – you were right on your guess. I don’t happen to know that Engineer outfit but it should be around here somewhere.
Yes – I do wish I were home to give you a bit of loving, darling, and a return of yours would be wonderful – but right now – that remains another one of our wishes to be fulfilled, sweetheart. And right now I see I’ve got to stop writing, dear, because a whole mess of things has just turned up and I’d better take care of it. I forgot to say – we didn’t get any mail again yesterday – and I sure could use a couple of your letters; – maybe this afternoon. So long for now, Sweetheart, and remember that my love for you is the most important thing in the world to me. My love to the folks –
and My Son, My Son
Robert Howard Spring was born in South Wales in 1889. His father and mother lived in poverty with their nine children in a small 2 bedroom house. When his father died, his mother scrubbed other peoples doorsteps and took in washing, while he and some of the other children sold firewood and rhubarb. At 12 years old he left school to work as an errand boy at a butcher's shop, hating it. His next job was as office boy with an accountant. He was there for a year and learned how to use a typewriter. He then worked at the South Wales Daily News as a messenger boy, teaching himself shorthand and attending night school. He advanced within the newspaper, first taking copy from various reporters before being invited to join the reporting staff. After failing to have his first novel accepted, he found success at short stories. After nine years with this newspaper he transferred to another, adding book reviewing to his talents. In early 1915 he obtained a reporter's job at the Manchester Guardian where he was to work for 15 years.
Unfit for active service during WW1, he joined the Army Service Corps, holding every rank including Warrant Officer, mainly attached to the Intelligence Department. His one surviving brother was killed at Arras. In 1919 he met his future wife, Marion, and they married in 1920. He spent some time in Ireland reporting on the troubles between Great Britain and Sinn Fein and was present at the fall of the Four Courts and the bombardment of the rebel headquarters.
Marion introduced him to Cornwall where she had spent her childhood holidays, a county which was to figure largely in his novels and to which they would eventually move. By 1931 his work had been noticed nationally and he began work for the Evening Standard in London as their book reviewer. His only published book at this stage, Darkie and Co., had been written for his children and he had sold all rights in it for £50.00. Reviewing new books gave him confidence to try writing a novel again and his first, Shabby Tiger (1934), was accepted by the publisher Collins. Its moderate success was enough to encourage the sequel, Rachel Rosing (1935).
His major success came with O Absalom! (1938), his first novel set in Cornwall. This and his next novel, Fame is the Spur (1940), received critical acclaim, and film rights to both were sold, putting Spring on a sound financial footing. After the publication of O Absalom! he was able to give up journalism. In 1941 he accompanied the entourage of Winston Churchill, with H. V. Morton, on the battleship Prince of Wales to Newfoundland for the meeting with President Roosevelt. He covered the incident in his second volume of autobiography In the Meantime (1942). He wrote several more novels over the years and died of a stroke in 1965.
Here is a review of My Son, My Son from the web blog Frisbee: A Book Journal, written by "a reader and bicyclist".
This spellbinding novel examines the effect of a successful writer’s poverty-stricken childhood on his later relationships - especially the bond with his golden, tragically ruined son, Oliver. Spring’s plain style and chronological storytelling create an unobtrusive framework: nothing distracts from the dry, articulate voice of the narrator, William Essex, a successful writer who has climbed up from poverty and now unflinchingly and unsentimentally scrutinizes his past relationships. His early experiences are Dickensian, without the verbal flourishes and the exaggerated comedy. During his childhood, his mother took in washing: when Bill picked up the laundry bundles, boys taunted him and often beat him up. At 12, Bill meets a kind, intellectual minister, Mr. Oliver, who employs him for the next five years and teaches him to read. When he commences work as an office boy, he meets the most important, faithful friends of his life: he rooms with the O’Riordans, who read Dickens aloud after dinner, and their son, Dermot, who is an Irish radical patriot who has never been to Ireland, an artisan who dreams of making furniture as beautiful as that of William Morris.
... Bill ruthlessly marries for money, Nellie, a conservative baker’s daughter and excellent housewife, and after they inherit her father’s business, he writes: he starts out by selling sensational stories to magazines and progresses to novels and plays. Then, inspired by seeing Dermot's beautifully-crafted wooden toys for his son, he suggests that they collaborate in the toy business. They make a fortune, while at the same time perfecting their respective arts, writing and furniture-making.
These two successful men have realized their dreams. Yet they want their sons to help them fulfill their fantasies. We helplessly watch Bill interfere with Nellie and spoil their golden son, Oliver, a ne’er-do-well, who receives every material thing he wants, becomes an accomplished liar and cheater (even stealing a book from his best friend, Rory, Dermot’s son, and later from an office), and lacks his parents intellectual and moral qualities. Nellie attempts to intercede, but Bill wants to provide Oliver with the perfect childhood he never had. Dermot is more faithful to his vision: he marries Sheila, a soulmate who shares his love of Ireland, and his son, Rory, is unspoiled, though Dermot raises him as a radical and perversely ships him to Ireland when he is in his teens.
After Nellie’s death, Bill's efforts to provide Olvier with the perfect life intensify. He excuses all of Oliver’s peccadilloes, but they finally fall out over a woman, Livia, a shallow, mixed-up, talented musician/designer who flirts with father and son and agrees to an engagement with Bill. As she is much closer in age to the beautiful Oliver than to Bill, it is clear that Bill is making an error. Oliver moves out and refuses to see his father because of the engagement. And the tragic loss of his son is the greatest grief of Bill's life.