ROSA ALVARO and PEARL

Rosa-Alvaro-EntrantePearl Curran has gone on record that she never was interested in writing and up until the arrival of Patience Worth had never made any attempts to write anything other than letters to friends and relatives.   After 6 years under the tutelage of  “Patience Worth”, Pearl Curran decided to try to write short stories by herself without the help of Patience Worth.  Apparently she did write three short stories ‘Rosa Alvaro, Entrante’, ‘Old Scotch’ and ‘The Fourth Dimension’ which she submitted to the Saturday Evening Post under her own name.  Only one of them, Rosa Alvaro, Entrante is still extant.  It was  published in the November 22, 1919 edition of The Saturday Evening Post.  All three of them seem to be about young women who are involved with “spiritualistic fakery” of some kind, something that Pearl Curran had been accused of since she began transcribing writing from Patience Worth, a purported spirit of a 17th century English spinster.  I think it is interesting that in 1926 when Dr. Walter Franklin Prince was investigating the case of Patience Worth he apparently did not have a copy of Rosa Alvaro, Entrante , published in 1919 as he never mentioned it in his study while he did mention ‘Old Scotch ‘ and “The Fourth Dimension’ which he said he had before him.

There are critics of the writing of Pearl Curran who usually cite Pearl’s use of dialogue of early 20th century young women to make fun of her or to demonstrate her lack of serious writing ability.  But those who use those examples either missed Pearl’s ability to write narration or purposely selected samples to make their point that Pearl Curran was unintelligent. (My mother was born in 1910 and was a young girl in the teens and twenties of the twentieth century.  I can vouch for  some of that atrocious dialogue used in these stories as I have heard some of the words from my mother or heard it in movies of the 1930s and 40s.)  I think that Pearl did a very good job of capturing the flavor of the language of the ‘modiste” during that time period and actually showed her intelligence as a writer rather than her ignorance.  At least that’s the way I imagine it!

The following is an example of the writing of Pearl Curran, predominately narrative, in Chapter VI  of the short story Rosa Alvaro, Entrante.  I think this is more representative of the intelligence and ability  of Pearl Curran to write an entertaining story.

 CHAPTER VI

Miss Agatha Rhader might have furnished in her own person profitable study for a scientist as a complex of personalities.  To be sure, her outlook upon life was in her own opinion sane—practical, as she liked to put it; but the practical side of it applied to the world in general, not to Agatha herself.  She met the day as a sort of game, never for an instant betraying her next move.  In her set, men and women played desperately and Agatha knew how to meet them.  She had been watching Doctor Drew with calculating interest.  Drew was a man of success and position.  Agatha had success but needed position.  The Rhaders had moved into prominence with ease.  The world saw Agatha roll about in her limousine and never for one desecrating instant remarked that the power that swept it magnificently by was Rhader’s Ratifier, an elixir that had to do with a large field of common complaints.

Agatha had arrived in elegance.  Properly turned out at the hands of a finishing establishment she had been accepted as a proper product by society, which petted her accommodatingly in her youth and found a centrain satisfaction in the affectionately termed “clever Agatha” now; for, after all, society recognized its own offspring in her.  Agatha’s complexities were her charm.  She might indulge in pet monkeys or any other ultra hobby.  With society it would mean nothing; just Agatha.  She had gone in for new thought and had worn it to tatters.  She had danced and flirted, had held nothing sacred;  accepting a new creed as lightly as she might learn the newest step.  The world was a show, and Agatha was easily bored.  What represented her actual attainment mentally was not disclosed by her arguments, which were largely made up of stock in trade culled from a rather cursory perusal of the subject in hand.  She could talk theosophy from auras to planes; could spout on suffrage and other politics, golf, polo, neurasthenia.  She had gone in for Red Cross during the war, flitting from one branch to another, garbed in various becoming costumes, until now when it was all over she had announced that she was on the verge of a collapse, and had found solace and rest in a personal study of Doctor Drew, whom she had appropriated.

“Really,”  she had said,  “one cannot attain a perfect poise without a thorough basis of its psychology.”

Thus that dignified science was admitted to the depths of Agatha’s being, as a means to an end.

Doctor Drew had proceeded with his experiments cautiously, finding in Rosa a clever and uncertain subject.  Agatha had come regularly to discuss the case, and upon this afternoon had arrived attired carefully and becomingly, perfectly coiffured, and inclined to be absorbed in herself and somewhat cynical.  She sat blowing thin ribbons of scented smoke from her lips and listening to Doctor Drew’s account of a recent interview with Rosa.

“I have found Miss Ladd very secretive, for my experiments with Rosa have betrayed a number of facts that she has concealed.  Under hypnosis Rosa is obstinate but childishly trustful, not hesitating to betray Miss Ladd in her evident desire to be on good terms with me; a sort of appeal, as it were, for her own existence.  I have found through Rosa that Miss Ladd has a ‘leetle’ book, which she reads. ‘Eet ees Spaneesh,señor.  She learn my lengua.’

“Rosa in this statement betrayed Miss Ladd, who declares she knows no Spanish; at the same time Rosa did not realize that she had betrayed a part of her own being.”  Doctor Drew was tracing a diagram upon a piece of writing paper, a circular outline, a wheel within a wheel.  “This,” he continued, pointing to the smaller circle in the middle, “is Miss Ladd’s consciousness.  You will notice, Gaddy, that I have shaded the outer rim, which is to indicate the extent of the overlapping of Miss Ladd’s consciousness with that of Rosa’s.  I have arrived definitely at the point of division.  I can lead Miss Ladd up to a certain point and Rosa slips in.  It is only by the use of hypnosis that I can keep the two separated.  The personality of Rosa imposes itself as a protective subterfuge for Miss Ladd, and the personality of Miss Ladd acts in the same capacity for Rosa.  You must realize, Gaddy, that it is very difficult to make this clear in terms not technical.”

“I see, Mac.  You take the attitude of humoring the infant.  You amuse me; the whole thing is so transparent.  Go on.  I’m terribly amused, if that comforts you.  But, my dear, everyone is talking.  This sales person has become the pet and center of social interest.  I’ll wager you that Goldman’s never had such a run on hosiery.  She is most unattractive, but a type after a fashion and to possess a secondary personality lends no end of interest, even to a sales person.

Agatha’s eyes view Doctor Drew narrowly as she leaned her perfectly coiffured head against a tapestry the colors of which brought into prominence certain Titian shades in Agatha’s hair.

Doctor Drew returned the gaze with cool disdain, remarking:  “I cannot understand, Gaddy, how you can allow yourself to sink to the common level of gossip.  Miss Ladd is far from being unattractive, and Rosa is quite charming, a most lovably trustful soul. The case is pathetic.  Why will women so willingly accuse other women?”

“Because, Mac, they are women; and being women they know their dear sisters.  All this of your giving Miss Ladd, through hypnotism, the suggestion for a dream, and Rosa—confiding little Rosa—returning next morning with the dream as per your command—really, Mackie, it’s too much!  I tell you the girl is playing you.  I am amused, amazingly amused at you, Mackie.  You have a scientific pet and you forget plain facts to carry out your own theories.”

“Agatha!”  Doctor Drew stood before the impudently poised young woman sternly, his face set.  “Your studies are at an end.  I cannot countenance such a discussion regarding so serious a subject.  I shall continue my experiments, gathering data for a full report of the case, and at the same time I shall have relieved a suffering human being.  Let me repeat—the case is serious, even tragic.  We shall not discuss the matter further.”

Agatha yawned and flicked the ash from her cigarette, laughing.  “As you will, Mackie, dear.  The mixture is too thick to stir with a spoon, I see that; but I warn you, you poor benighted weakling!”  Then with a shrug which dismissed the subject she unwound her long length and assumed the air of an ingénue.  “I hate discussions, Mackie.  Come, be nice to me.  If I’m going to marry you, you mustn’t irritate me.  Come; I’ll run along.  There’s a dear.  I’ll drop you at the club; and I promise, Mackie, to be more considerate of your beloved science.”

Doctor Drew smilled, though his expression still retained some of the annoyance it had displayed before the arrogant Agatha had discarded her tactless attitude for an appealing poise, dropping her air of sophistication for one of innocence.

The ride from the apartment to the club was completed in silence, Doctor Drew coddling his offended dignity and Miss Rhader absorbed in her own thoughts.

The destination reached she broke the silence with “Don’t be foolish, Mackie.  You have often said you liked a woman who asserted her rights.  Come out to-night and iI’ll be nice to you.”

Doctor Drew alighted from the sumptuous car and standing beside the open door laughed tolerantly, placing his hat upon his head as he said:  “You are an enigma, Agatha.  To-night, then.  “Agatha sank back in the cushions confidently, and her lips curled in a satisfied smile as she watched Doctor Drew enter the club and the swinging doors shut him from view.  As the car moved forward she murmured, “Poor Mackie, the infant!”

To what extent others helped Pearl with these stories is not documented although she was surrounded by people who had considerable experience writing and to whom she could turn for advice and correction,  including her husband John Curran, her friend Emily Hutchings, newspaper editor Casper Yost and ‘Patience Worth’ .  The Patience Worth Record  notes that,  “… Mrs. Curran had just competed her first major short story.  It is made quite clear that Mrs. Curran, not Patience, was the author, yet the record added:  “There was no doubt that Patience had helped.  The story reeks of her, yet it was all Mrs. Curran’s personal material.”  According to Irving Litvag in Singer in the Shadows he quotes that Patience was asked to comment on the story and replied, “The tastin’ be the tellin’.  ‘Tis but a babe’s mixin’, but nay sae sorry a loaf!”  Later, referring to a second story on which Mrs. Curran had begun work, Patience said, “I say ’tis well that the wench be she.  There be within mine words a thing she may not deny and within hers a thing I may not deny.  There be two streams runnin’ forth from one fountainhead, I say, the throat with two songs.  And earth shall be confused before the task of knowing’ what be upon them, and in the confusion they shall be drawn within the net, for they shall look upon the flesh of me for the flesh of her and see it not.  Yet shall she take in the ears of them that list unto her for the words of me.”

Dr. Walter Franklin Prince thought that a reasonable theory would be that Patience Worth helped Mrs. Curran to write her Saturday Evening Post articles. He says that Patience Worth bantered and teased Mrs. Curran deliciously about her stories.  “The wench be uppin’ and o’erin o’ me, and be a deemin’ the loaf be goodish.  ‘Tis a brazen tale.”  Prince continues that Patience did hint that she helped a “wee bit.”  He is  “convinced that in the main the stories were the work of Mrs. Curran’s conscious mind, and Patience Worth plainly implies the same, and that she has a rather poor opinion of the stuff.”  Prince quotes Patience again as saying, “I might sing a song that would last unto tomorrow’s dawn, but—I’ll nae at the task.”  and interprets that as meaning, ” Evidently she thinks the stories will not reap eternal fame.  Patience further advises, :  “Eat the loaf, and doth it not set thy belly sore, ’tis good.’

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