15

William Woodward

In this letter to his wife, Helen, American historian and author William Woodward discusses his time spent in California with the family of Jessie Lillenthal. Lillenthal was a stock broker. This letter, dated October 29, 1929, discusses a phone call that arrived for Jessie that morning, concerning the stock market "going down like a landslide". 

Woodward also references William McAdoo in this letter, a lawyer and statesman with whom Woodward frequently corresponded. The University of Kentucky Special Collections Research Center houses a collection of this correspondence.

Letter from William Woodward to Helen Woodward (Page 1)

Page 1 of letter from William Woodward to Helen Woodward, October 29, 1929
Accession #2009MS046

Tuesday

Oct 29/29

The big problem of the dinner this evening has been solved, my dear. McAdoo wired me yesterday afternoon that he is leaving in his airplane for Washington early Thursday morning, and could I run down to see him on Wednesday? So I leave this afternoon on the train for Los Angeles - will be there tomorrow - will start back tomorrow evening, and be here again on Thursday morning.

As to the dinner Jessie said that big rabbi (I forget his name) would be sure to know all about we, as he talks about my books - and would immediately begin to wonder

Letter from William Woodward to Helen Woodward (Page 2)

Page 2 of letter from William Woodward to Helen Woodward, October 29, 1929

why I am here as their guest. On the other hand Dorothy said she wanted me to be here and meet them all, anyway. But, of course, the great difficulty would be in explaining how they met Mr. Woodward in the first pl ace.

Did you ever hear of anything so silly? Well, it's settled now by my going to Los Angeles.

They are really very delightful people, and they have three lovely, well=man=nered children.

Today I am sitting above in the study that stands beyond the rose garden and the lot=houses. Jessie calls it "the hut" but it is a most beautiful affair, built of polished redwood. Has a large fireplace with a roaring fire - for the day is windy and cold. 

Jessie has gone up to San Francisco for the day. There was an urgent hurry

Letter from William Woodward to Helen Woodward (Page 3)

Page 3 of letter from William Woodward to Helen Woodward, October 29, 1929

call this morning from the brokerage concern in which he is a partner. The telephone message said the place was a Bedlam, crowded with hysterical men, all shouting and yelling, and the market going down like a landslide.

So he departed in the Packard limousine.

"Jessie", I said as I looked him over, "you look like a [?] [?] out of Vanity Fair". And he did.

"Well, I hope I don't look like one of those fairies out of Vanity Fair", he replied.

"No, you don't". I remarked, "but you need a cane". 

"That's right, Oshida, bring me a cane".

A cane was brought, and he leaned on it negligently. "This is the way I intend to pose amid the market's roar", he announced. "D'you think I'd better twirl my mustache?" "By all means",

Letter from William Woodward to Helen Woodward (Page 4)

Page 4 of letter from William Woodward to Helen Woodward, October 29, 1929

I agreed. So he leaned on his cane, twirled his mustache and drawled, "The jolly old market seems rawther - ah, rawther upset - eh, what?"

So I said: "Haven't you lost money on your own stocks?"

"Good God, no! I haven't had a dollar's worth of stock on margin in four weeks". 

"Aren't you selling short?"

"Huh-uh."

"Why didn't you?"

"Well, it would have been cruel to have sold short. I'm not a hog. I don't believe in short=selling anyway."

He said: "I've begged and pleaded with 'em to let the market alone; I've [?] out an [paper] before 'em that their [?] could only end in disaster. Would they listen?

Letter from William Woodward to Helen Woodward (Page 5)

Page 5 of letter from William Woodward to Helen Woodward, October 29, 1929

They would not. Now they'll be tearing my coat=tails off this morning and weeping around me."

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I've stopped this letter for two hours while Dorothy has been over here in the hut telling me her troubles. It seems that Jessie is almost impossible to live with. She left him once for six months. Evidently she wants me to hold her hand, but I didn't. I could not quite understand what the trouble is, except that Jessie is "two different people. He has two distinct personalities" - and so on.

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"Nuts" - the prize terrier - has been with me here all the morning,

Letter from William Woodward to Helen Woodward (Page 6)

Page 6 of letter from William Woodward to Helen Woodward, October 29, 1929

but the man in charge of the kenels has come to get him. He has to be fed at certain hours, with some special kind of food. He seems a nice doggie. He lies on the floor and looks at me write as if I were performing a curious magic, and whenever I say "Nuts" his stump of a tail wags. 

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Of all the nuisances I'v eever encountered the nuisance of having a valet ranks among the first six. George - a pert=looking Filipino - is Jessie's valet, and he is supposed to take care of me, too. I can't lay a thing down without having it disappear. He puts it away somewhere. Thank Heaven I bought those nice silk pagjamas

Letter from William Woodward to Helen Woodward (Page 7)

Page 7 of letter from William Woodward to Helen Woodward, October 29, 1929

and have linen underwear. Everything is examined. I don't like to have my things pawed over.

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I sent a wire to Bobby Jones and have just received a reply to the effect that he would see me in Atlanta on Friday - Nov. 9th - at luncheon - and that is all the time he can spare. Well, all right; I'll write the story from that. It's better to see him there than in New York. I'll talk to the men on the Con=stitution and get the stuff I want. He seems to be kind of snippy, n'est-ce pas?

As to Jessie Lillenthal, the only

Letter from William Woodward to Helen Woodward (Page 8)

Page 8 of letter from William Woodward to Helen Woodward, October 29, 1929

desire he appears to have on earth is to be a writer. He hates the stock market, but he is writing about it because he says he doesn't know anything else. 

Also he has a mother-fixation. Very strong one. Has his mother on the phone two or three times a day. Maybe that's the trouble between him and his wife.

---

Well, this is all the news. I'll take this letter to the post=office my=self. Really, I'm afraid to give it to George; he's too much of an opener for me. He has already opened everything I've got.

Love-honey

Bill.

P.S. That evering with Georgette and [Tom] Smith sounds rather hectic.