Mostly because I'm happy with how this turned out and felt like sharing =]
(And every minute I spend posting this is a minute I'm not
This was written for an undergraduate research seminar. Originally, I was going to use the class to do historically research for Love Letters, then I realized I'd rather write something totally new instead
Except me being me, it kinda turned out like Love Letters a bit :/
This is the third part (and kinda the best haha)
Mid September, 1920
WILLIAM, MARIANNA, BERT, and ALAN
all sit on a picnic blanket. WILLIAM,
32, and MARIANNA, 454, seem to be in
their own world. WILLIAM is tall and
slim, with blue eyes and reddish hair.
MARIANNA stands up and walks towards
Oh, this view is lovely!
I feel like I could tell you anything.
Bill seems pretty sweet on Miss Monkhouse.
I have fantastic taste in friends.
You are right, love, let us have nothing, not even the
smallest particle of doubt, unknown to each other. I feel,
and always have felt, that to the woman I love I shall give
my every thot.5
And I'm not afraid to take credit for this young love. I have
the sharpest eyes for these sorts of things.
A love that is not deep enough or sincere enough to
understand, no matter how painful it may be, is not my idea
of true love. And two people, professing to love each other,
who hold back and dissimulate in their thots and actions are
not worthy of love.
From the start, I could tell. He's so thoughtful and serious
and she's so... mature.
Mature is one way to put it.
And yet sprightly, for her age.
I have always felt that if I could not be loved for what I am
I could well afford to lose that love.
And, dearest, I am happy to know and feel that you have given
me a true love and I know that I love you dearly.
I firmly believe that all the men and women in Berkeley
should just leave their pairings up to my capable hands!
I have always told you without reserve what my nature and
faults are, and I know you love me in spite of my
People just are not wise enough to make these sorts of
decisions for themselves of who should fall for whom, and--
I feel more like normal now and all the world is as of yore -
with one exception - there is a Marianna now who steals these
my every thought, awakening bitter sweet memories of the
times we spent together.6
Aren't they being a bit rash though?
It's only been a month and a half.7
I never said meant to imply I set them up for anything
WILLIAM gets down on one knee. BERT
Bert, are you--
Marianna Monkhouse, will you marry me?
Yes! Yes, yes yes!
Say hello to the ball and chain!
Lady and gentlemen, the future Mrs. William H. Staniels!
Bert, you certainly are a dear, for you know, you are
responsible for bringing us together which has led to such
WILLIAM, BERT and MARIANNA. All asides.
My lover girl:-
My darling Billy Boy-
I told my mother how to cook squash today and she got
I remember one time during the war you wrote to me.
Sewed with the girls today. Sewing with the girls is alright
but there is something lacking.11
"Think I don't know how to cook squash." But I think the
cheese part was new and she is going to try it out.
Well, actually, I'm thinking of a letter you wrote Alan, but
I like to think we are of equal friendship in your mind.
And I am getting tired of listening to their stories and them
talk and I want to talk to you, dear Billy Boy. We always talk of
the good and beautiful things of life when we are together.
I certainly like the things you cook, dear. The supper you
cooked for me at Thousand Oaks of dear memory was certainly
enjoyable and just what I like.
You were talking about England and its picturesque story book
Your outlook on life is so refreshing. It certainly always
refreshed me, or how could I have stood two o'clock in the
morning steadily for two weeks?
You said they reminded you of Toyland with their narrow
crooked streets, their quaint names, the huge churches and
Salads and plenty of vegetables and tea. Do you bake pies
dear? My aunt makes the best pies I ever ate but she sure
does use the butter!
All these things, you said, spoke of a life that has
crystallized and narrowed into conventional channels that
would transcend and curtail one possessing the American
spirit of restlessness.
What would I not give for another chance to compel you to
accidentally miss the last train home from Thousand Oaks.
What a subject for a man, who is in love, to talk about. He
is supposed to exist on moonbeams and dreams according to the
You were always so restless. I was so restless. Life lay
beyond the Novelty Electric Company.
What a wonderful courtship but, dearest, it did not last long
And England - You were so uncomfortable in that story book
But I guess we are not storybook lovers are we dearest? They
are silly and we are real human beings with human thots and
actions and human frailties too.
I would like to show some people that married life can be
sincere and happy, the scoffers.
You will not be happy with Marianna. This kind of foolish
"love"? You used to bemoan the fact that you had never, and
thot you could never, get into this condition.13
I am not right, little girl.
That wasn't right! You could be! You just had to search
closer, search near home! Search ... to me.
And won't we work hard to make it so my dear.
But it was so hard to make you see what was in front of your
eyes. That was your frailty.
Human frailties, which we will discover, and our love will be
so big that we can love them too, in an understanding manner.
How dreary life would be, dear, if we were all perfect.
And yet to me, you are perfect.
Do you think that our married life will be as thrilling and
How wonderful our own life will be together, dear little
Think how wonderful Bill.
...knowing that we are not perfect but always striving for
I see all your faults...
...seeing our faults and overcoming them thru love.
But I don't care!
Each supplying what the other lacks with love always the
ultimate test of our actions. That is my idea of life.
That's what I see for our life.
Not the sickly sentimental story book ending of "they lived
happily ever after."
We could be happily ever after.
How I feel that we need each other!
Can't you see I need you?
I have not seen Bert since we told her of our engagement but
she will be on the hike on Sunday Oct 17 when I think several
of the girls in her office will be along. Will tell you all
(BERT tears up her letter)
So you do not remember the dress you wore at Hinkle Park.
It was the one with the white sash white collar etc. You
looked so sweet in it. I wish you were wearing it now and we
were walking thru Hinkle Park to-night.
(BERT throws it to the ground)
If I could only turn back the hand of time a few months and
have my Marianna again near me.
If I could only turn back the hand of time a few months and
have my Billy Boy again near me
Will write again Monday evening. A hug & kiss from your
Lights dim. End
Scene: THE PICNIC P.1
1 - This part is purely a work of fiction. However, I can explain the choice to create this relationship in light of my research:
In the letters, William describes a woman named Therene. Upon my first reading, I thought that the letters imply that William and Therene shared an intimate relationship - and that Therene introduced him to Marianna, who he would become engaged to a month and a half later.
Upon a closer reading, I realized that the letters indicate otherwise. In his October 9th letter, William states, "You can tell Therene that I am beginning to find out what love is. I'll bet a cookie (recognize this) that she will tell you how I used to bemoan the fact that I had never, and thot [sic] I could never, get into this condition." (Staniels, William. William H Staniels Family Correspondence. The Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley. Box 5, folder 1. Letter dated October 9, 1920). It seems strange that a man would say such a thing to a woman with whom he was involved. On the contrary, this statement implies a very close friendship.
I believe that my erroneous interpretation came from statements like this: "And too I am glad to hear you say that you like to talk about life, its conduct & meaning. That is one of the things that I liked about Therene, she thot about life." (Staniels, William. William H Staniels Family Correspondence. The Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley. Box 5, folder 1. Letter dated October 7, 1920). By citing a similar trait between Marianna and Therene that causes him to "like" them, he implies a similar relationship. Furthermore, the "was" implies a sense of past. But this insinuation pales in comparison to other passages that imply a purely platonic relationship.
Unfortunately, by the time I realized this, I had decided for literary purposes, I preferred my original interpretation. And as technically this is a work of fiction - and that there was some basis for this interpretation - I decided to allow myself this slight deviation.
So we have Therene: the scorned former lover, forced to watch the love of her life carry on with the friend she, in fact, introduced to him. I began to see some similarities between William's relationship with Therene and that with Bert. Therene was clearly a close friend; the October 9th letter reveals a clear level of confidence between the two of them. William's constant references to Bert in his letters insinuates a similar closeness. Thus, I decided to fuse Therene with Bert to create a relationship slightly different from both of the actual ones: here is the friend secretly in love, who is replaced by the new introduction.
This serves several literary purposes. For one, it limits the number of characters in the play, keeping the action tight and manageable. Furthermore, by transferring this relationship to Bert, it heightens the effect of the sudden engagement. He has such a close established relationship with her, it makes the entire situation all the more tragic (from her perspective)
The details in this scene are based on various letters Staniels sent to Marianna in 1920. I have cited them where I could.
2 – “Mid September, 1920”: The first of Staniels' love letters to Marianna is dated September 19, 1920. She has just returned to Long Beach, and they became engaged shortly before her leaving. One can glean they became engaged midway through the month.
“Staniels, William. William H Staniels Family Correspondence. The Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley. Box 5, folder 1. Letter dated September 19, 1920.
3 – “Mt. Tamalpais”: The letters constantly refer to William’s obsession with hiking – or “hicking,” as his mother spells it. I chose Mt. Tamalpais because he specifically references it on December 4, 1920.
“Staniels, William. William H Staniels Family Correspondence. The Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley. Box 5, folder 3. Letter dated December 4, 1920.
4 – Ages: Both ages come from this database, which I researched using Los Angeles Public Library's system. I had started searching for a hard copy of birth records in the area, but could not find one for the East Bay in this era. I asked the librarian for help, and she directed me to ancestry.com, which included births, deaths, and social security information. It even had Staniels' draft card - by far the most exciting discovery.
Ancestry.com, California Death Index, 1940-1997 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2000. Original data: State of California. California Death Index, 1940-1997. Sacramento, CA, USA: State of California Department of Health Services, Center for Health Statistics.
5 - Staniels, William. William H Staniels Family Correspondence. The Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley. Box 5, folder 1. Letter dated Oct 7, 1920.
6 – “I feel more like normal”: This is from the first love letter he sent home
Staniels, William. William H Staniels Family Correspondence. The Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley. Box 5, folder 1. Letter dated Sept 19, 1920.
7 – “A month and a half”: In a letter to Marianna’s mother, Williams assures her, “Altho it may seem to you that we have known each other for such a comparatively short time to have become engaged, nevertheless we feel that we see in each other the qualities which we have been long seeking for.” That “comparatively short time,” he reveals, is a month and a half.
Staniels, William. William H Staniels Family Correspondence. The Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley. Box 5, folder 1. Letter dated Sept 20, 1920.
8 – “You certainly are a dear”: This is how he refers to Therene.
Staniels, William. William H Staniels Family Correspondence. The Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley. Box 5, folder 1. Letter dated October 5, 1920.
9 - William's lines come from various love letters (as cited). Marianna's is adapted from one of William's. Bert's letter is completely from my imagination
10 - Staniels, William H. William H Staniels Family Correspondence. The Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley. Box 5, folder 1. Letter dated Oct 9, 1920.
11 - Staniels, William H. William H Staniels Family Correspondence. The Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley. Box 2, folder 3. Letter dated Oct 5, 1920.
12 –“It reminded you of Toyland”: This letter was actually to Douglas. I really liked the aesthetic he described,, and felt it fit the tone well.
Staniels, William H. William H Staniels Family Correspondence. The Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley. Box 6, folder 9. Letter dated May 29, 1918.
13 - Staniels, William. William H Staniels Family Correspondence. The Bancroft Library, University of California Berkeley. Box 5, folder 2. Letter dated October 9, 1920.