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Monday, January 7, 2013

Mabel Was a Literary Fangirl

Grandma Mabel didn't moon over the movie stars of her day but she did love the bookish crowd.  One of her favorite authors was Carl Carmer.  You probably don't know him but he was huge in his day.  Carmer wrote of folklore and history and quite a great deal about upstate New York though his most famous book seems to have been about his time in Alabama.  We have a set of his works somewhere, probably autographed, but the most awesome proof of Mabel's admiration to survive is the following letter Mr. Carmer wrote to Mabel.  It is in response to her request to know more about him for a paper she seemed to be writing.  I know nothing of her paper but in answer to his offer at the end of the letter, Diana said it took place and I want to think it did too.  Frankly, I would have loved to have met Marjorie Flack.  Angus is one of my all time favorite literary dogs.

 November 7, 1939

Dear Mrs. Lucas

The major facts of my biography are obtainable in Who's Who in America for 1938-39 or whatever the latest edition is.

The minor facts are, I feel sure, obtainable from my sister who will be very glad to talk to you about her brother if you let her know you're coming.  She has some rather bad pictures of me -- but practically all pictures of me are bad.

If your paper is not to be read until after November 30th and you could find time to come to Geneseo on that date,  I will be there myself.  So will Mrs. Cramer,  William Rose Benet and Marjory (sic) Flack--author of many books for children, and you will be able to obtain a perfect torrent of unrelated facts about me.

Sincerely Yours,
Carl Carmer


What an unbelievably awesome letter to get from someone you respect so much and invitation to his sister's home to meet with him and two other very respected writers.  WRB and Flack married, though I haven't looked to see if they were married at this point.  But what a literary windfall.  I'm sure Gram would have moved mountains to get there and share a Tom Collins or two with that group.  

As I wrote this I realize there are many book-related stories of Mabel and might share a few more.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Jarndyce v. Jarndyce

One of my New Year's projects is to try for the fourth time (Dad, Diana and I, each, already have tried) to get back the unclaimed money that New York State has been withholding from us since the 1930s.  Obviously, I haven't felt the slight as long as others but I have inherited the injustice.

I am sure the amount that is held "in trust" is less than $1000, probably much, much less but the fact that they do not accept our documentation as rightful heirs is irritating since it is to us they send notifications that there is unclaimed money in the first place.  I can't help but think of Dickens' "Bleak House" and Chancery where so many lives were ruined in the pursuit of family fortune that was never to materialize.  In our case though we've only made three efforts in 30 years.  Technically, you could say we're not that bothered but we would like to close the account.  "Every little helps" as they say.
illustration from "Bleak House"

Here's the problem, the money comes from shares of stock that belonged to our step great grandmother.  I know your thinking that non-consanguineal connection nullifies our claim but it should not for a number of reasons.

1.  In true aristocratic tradition, Florence was not just a wife to our great grandfather Louis, she was his fourth cousin.  Which makes her our fourth cousin and then some. So there IS a blood connection that goes all the way back to Wales in the 1700s.

2.  Florence was the only mother our grandfather ever knew since his died a few weeks after his birth.

3.  Very important:  Florence passed away one year before Louis so he, who very much is our direct ancestor, would have inherited her possessions.

4.  His son (our grandfather) Stuart would have inherited from Louis and when Stuart died shortly after, his wife (our grandmother) Mabel would have inherited from him.  It was to Mabel that the first letters were addressed but since she had already passed away Dad picked up the thread and so on. 

I have sent scads of birth/death certificates and marriage licenses and everything you could think of including just to show the only two heirs standing are Diana and me but "The computer says Nooo".

I don't want to waste too much of my time in Chancery but I'm wondering what else can I do but plead my case one more time and leave very detailed files for the next generation to follow up. 

So wish me luck because somewhere someone must have a similar story with a better ending.