Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity

ISBN 978-1-84976-391-2

Henry Moore Letter to Edna Ginesi Summer 1925 (?)

In this emotional letter to Edna Ginesi, probably written in early summer 1925, Henry Moore showed himself to be struggling to deal with his unrequited love for her. Ostensibly just updating Ginesi about his activities since they last saw each other, the letter is peppered with comments that reveal his continued wish to marry her and his regret over what was not to be. Moore and Ginesi had first met as students at Leeds School of Art in 1921 and they remained close friends at the Royal College of Art in the early 1920s. Moore had met up with Ginesi and other students from the College during his travels in Italy in 1925, and it was there that he proclaimed his love to her. Ginesi was already engaged to Moore’s best friend, Raymond Coxon, and the two were to marry in 1926 and remain together for all their lives.
Many commentators on Moore have noted that his trip to Italy was a difficult period, suggesting that he came close to having a nervous breakdown in large measure because of doubts about his path. Moore himself said in 1947: ‘For about six months after my return I was never more miserable in my life. Six months exposure to the master works of European art which I saw on my trip had stirred up a violent conflict with my previous ideals. I couldn’t seem to shake off the new impressions, or make use of them without denying all that I had devoutly believed in before’ (Roger Berthoud, The Life of Henry Moore, 1987, second edition, London 2003, p.72.) Italy posed many artistic challenges for Moore but, as this letter reveals, his mind was also preoccupied with matters of the heart.

Transcript

[Handwritten:]
Sunday Night.
                                             2 Church Street
                                             Wells
                                             Norfolk
Dear Lassie,
 We all went down to Holkham beach for an hour or two this afternoon – I took a towel and bathing costume but did not go in for the tide isn’t up today until evening – I’m now back in the garden – but I think I shall move to another part of it than the one my chair now occupies for there’s an unpleasant sight within two or three yards – The old gardener who comes occasionally (I saw him yesterday, he’s a gentle faced old man of 84) finds the birds are eating the raspberries – so he has hung up in different parts of the garden, three he has shot – the one near here is a blackbird strung from a small apple tree.
 There’s a Quaker’s meeting House about a stone’s throw away, where instead of an organ, a string orchestra swells the singing, the congregation seems, judging from the bass notes to have more men than Church of England and Nonconformist congregations contain – The live birds in the garden do not seem to be depressed by the sight of their hanging brethren – A few scarcely audible voices float across from the Vicarage garden – all these with the receding [end of p.1] clatter of a trotting pony on the road are not enough to dispel a sense of quiet stillness – or to make inaudible the dropping of petals from the blossom of an Indian rose tree close beside me – The garden (really half orchard) is too big for an old man of 84 to keep under control – grass in seed and two feet high grows thickly between the trees – And mother, Mary and her husband George are leaving this, in obedience to the Mammon money that George may get a higher wage (of course I don’t blame them but I wonder if they’ll regret it!). However, one good thing is that the move to Colchester has been postponed until Sept – so that (selfish of course) I’ll get longer here than I thought I would.
 Now for how I’m getting on – I’m lucky to have got the job at College, it settles all my material worries for the near future, and the money is easily enough for me to live on and even to save something (£240 a year, for two days a week – enough to get married on!) – This and a couple of parties of which Reny has probably told you, the college play and dance on Thursday night and a visit to Rothy’s and a return visit by Betty and Billie Bowbers’s boy are the only incidents outside a little work that have happened since I returned, – but of course I haven’t written to you since I was in Italy – After Venice I went [end of p.2] to Padua and then to Paris where I began to get morbid and all sorts of queer ideas would come, unbidden into my noddle and then I got blood poisoning into a cut in my hand – I came home for a fortnight and saw a doctor who told me that I was nervous and run down and that my hand was getting on alright – my hand got better, I went back to 3 Grove – stayed there a few days and then went to Paris for a fortnight (to satisfy the Board of E.) where I spent most of each day going round to dealers exhibitions with Rutherston (I drew at Colorossis one or two evenings). I almost enjoyed that fortnight for Rutherston took me round to see some wonderful things. In fact I did enjoy most of the time I spent with him for he and the things we saw kept me out of myself.
 All my travels, the pictures and places connected with them, except Assisi, Sienna and part of the time at Florence seem far away, years ago! But everywhere I come across something with the power to remind me of that time – it might be an organ that brings back the service in San Francesco at Assisi – or flowers that bring back Sienna – To look through my reproductions reminds me and all the Beggars Opera tunes have their associations – two or three days ago while carving in Kennington studio, I found myself humming “Nobody I want sir!” But I’ve still a little sense of humour and was able to smile when I realised what tune it was –
 There are hopeless moments when the full realisation seizes me that [end of p.3] the biggest want in my life cannot be, when I think I’ve become as much as I’m capable of, when everything seems pointless – I know I’m lucky to have got the job at College, that without it I should have been up against it this year but yet it seemed of little matter that I got it or did not.
 But I should not now in fairness be writing this to you, I must bolt it all inside me and remain inactive, which is the hardest part – I think if I had something definite to do about it, it would be easier – I think if I set myself to hate you it would be easier, but that I could never willingly set myself to do.
 God bless you, may you have all happiness – I will make myself bear it and hope that eventually I shall be able to sign myself – and mean no more by it.
Just,
 Friend Harry

How to cite

Henry Moore, Letter to Edna Ginesi, Summer 1925 (?), in Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, Tate Research Publication, 2015, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/henry-moore/henry-moore-letter-to-edna-ginesi-r1145450, accessed 24 April 2019.