“I learned no end of disgusting French expletives that Pete will not let me use—he said: ‘How would you like to have me going around saying “--------” and “--------” and “------------” etc.’—the dashes indicating atrocious English expressions which every nice girl would pretend she had never even overheard,--whereupon I swooned , saying, ‘Oh, damitall, have it your own way, camel!’”
-- Letter to W. Adolphe Roberts, 7/12/1919
“Bunny, I adored your drunken letter. Never be sober again, oh, lofty one, O Centaur with song in his heart and burrs in his tail, O half a maudlin god!”
-- Letter to Edmund Wilson, 7/20/1922
“Of course I knew you would not like my preface to the Baudelaire translations. Sometimes when I was working on it (and I never worked so hard on anything in my life) I thought, with a wry and sad smile, ‘Lulu will be pained by this.’ I knew that you would consider flippant and in bad taste many things which were not flippantly conceived or written, and which, if I had considered them in bad taste, I should not have printed. It is our old quarrel. It is not that you would like me to write ponderously because the subject is a weighty one, but that, naturally, you wish me to be lighthearted and human in your way, not in mine. I wonder how you can stand Shakespeare, (perhaps you can’t; I never asked you) Shakespeare, who permitted Mercutio to die as Mercutio would have died, did not force upon him in the end the extreme unction of traditional solemnity, permitted him to die cracking jokes, and with a pun on his lips,--and this, mind you, not in The Merry Wives of Windsor, or any other rollicking piece of horseplay, but in a proper tragedy. I suppose you agree with the French that the “Knock, knock” scene from Macbeth is most regrettable; unless perhaps the archaic flavor of the words and illusions makes it acceptable to you. If you had been present on the opening night of ‘Macbeth’, and had yourself been wearing a pair of the fashionable and very tight and scanty ‘French hose’ for stealing from which the English tailor was sent to hell, you would have been shocked, I think, by the guffaws of your elegant neighbors. Not that there is anything Shakespearean about my writing—would God there were!—but that in temperament I am rather closer to him. And it is my guess that you would much prefer Racine to Shakespeare, supposing that they both were bringing out plays today.”
-- Letter to Llewyn Powys, 4/24/1936
“Having answered your questions, I come now to that aspect of your Commencement activities regarding which, I said, I felt compelled to speak.
“I received from Mr. Chase, your Chancellor, in a letter dated April 26th, the information that New York University wished to confer upon me on the occasion of its Commencement on the ninth of June, the honourary degree of Doctor of Human Letters. In the same letter Mr. Chase informed me that Mrs. Chase would be pleased to receive me as guest of honour at a dinner given for a small group of ladies at the Chancellor’s house on the evening before Commencement.
“I answered at once, accepting the award of the degree with happiness and pride, and the invitation to dinner with pleasure.
“In your letter, dated May 4th, I was told for the first time that on the evening of the dinner given in honour of me by the Chancellor’s wife, a quite separate dinner is to be given at the Waldorf-Astoria in honour of the other recipients of honourary degrees, that is, the male recipients.
“On an occasion, then, on which I shall be present solely for reasons of scholarship, I am, solely for reasons of sex, to be excluded from the company and the conversation of my fellow-doctors.
“Had I known this in time, I should have declined not only Mrs. Chase’s invitation to dinner, but also, had it appeared that my declining this invitation might cause Mrs. Chase embarrassment, the honour of receiving the degree as well.
“It is too late to do either now, without making myself troublesome to everybody concerned, which I do not wish to do. I shall attend Mrs. Chase’s dinner with pleasure; and I shall receive the degree the following morning with satisfaction only slightly tempered by the consciousness of the discrimination against me of the night before.
“Mrs. Chase should be the last, I think, to be offended by my attitude. I register this objection not for myself personally, but for all women.
“I hope that in future years many women may know the pride, as I shall know it on the ninth of June, of receiving an honourary degree from your distinguished university.
“I beg of you, and of the eminent Council whose representative you are, that I may be the last woman so honoured, to be required to swallow from the very cup of this honour, the gall of this humiliation.”
-- Letter to the Secretary of New York University, 5/22/1937,
regarding aspects of her coming up to receive an honorary degree
And this last one, which just guts me, to the local postmistress, Mary V. Herron, who helped answer letters of condolence after her husband Eugen's death:
“Thank you for all your kindness. I don’t know how I should have managed, without your help.“Yes, it must indeed seem impossible to you that he will not be coming down the hill to fetch the mail, this lovely autumn day.“He never comes up the hill, either, any more.”