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Chapter X

Aggie and Gene were planning their annual trip to the Cape for the summer. Just before they set off, Margery had a serious attack of appendicitis and had to undergo an immediate operation. After the hospital stay, she spent some time with the Biancos, recuperating in the City. When she was feeling stronger she worked a short time for Dr. Maloney again. Before she left the city she received another letter from Agnes.

Dearest Budge,

I was awfully glad to get your second letter, and to know you felt so much better. No doubt you got my special delivery. I don't see why you don't stay nights at the office as it is only for a couple of weeks anyhow. I know it would be O.K. if he gave you a closet shelf to put your toilet articles. It would save your strength a lot. Gene was glad to hear you had been to see Arthur* about the books. It's like fall here. Hope N.Y. Is cool.

Much love and take care of yourself.

Lovingly, Agnes

After recovering completely, Margery took a train back up to the Cape to finish some work with Gene. The autumn days were busy and peaceful, and she was delighted in being back and involved in a new play.

A letter arrived at the Cape from Ted.

Dear Budgie and Aggie,

Wish you could see the bungalow I had built by a man named Frank Bennett. It's just down the hill from Bobby and Walter, and it will make a wonderful studio. I'll be able to paint here with lots of quiet time. It's bit primitive, but warm and comfortable with a big old-fashioned wood stove. There's a hand pump in the kitchen and a good sized basement. It would actually make a fine winter place.

Hope all is well out there. Be sure to give my best to Gene and little Shane. Hope we'll see all of you soon.

Love, Teddy

All God's Chillun Got Wings was started in the fall of '23, back at Brook Farm. A scribbled note left by Margery described working from the long-hand draft and completing the play on December 23rd. Gene was pleased with a rug Mother Cecil had made as a Christmas gift for him and for Agnes. He sent her a copy of All God's Chillun.

During that time Malcolm Cowley, a rising postwar literary figure, and his wife visited the O'Neills for a short time. Hart Crane, popular poet of the era, also appeared on the scene. The Crowleys left and Crane stayed on until after Christmas. Much company was constantly coming and going. Margery reminisced on the fascinating conversations with Gene and Agnes and their friends. The holidays had been delightful.

Because Eugene O'Neill was seeing so many of his plays presented in New York and in parts of Europe, it may be interesting to note some of the background influences that touched him. Of course the first was his father, James O'Neil the well-known actor during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Probably most important was the dramatic influence August Strindberg had on O'Neill. Strindberg had inspired him to write for the theater and O'Neill paid close attention to the tragedy in Strindberg's writings. At one point he felt so strongly he organized a production of Strindberg's Spook Sonata, which brought about fresh ideas in experimenting such as the radical play The Great God Brown. Sometimes called a disciple of Strindberg, O'Neill took time from his playwriting to produce an article for a Provincetown playbill in which he said “Strindberg (is) the greatest interpreter in the theater of the characteristic spiritual conflicts which constitute the drama…the blood!…of our lives today.”

Probably one of the least popular plays written by O'Neill in 1923, Welded opened on March 17, 1924 at the Thirty-Ninth St. Theater in New York. He sent a copy to Teddy from Brook Farm.

Desire Under the Elms opened on November 11th at the Greenwich Village Theatre. Agnes asked her mother to make a hooked rug depicting it for Gene as a gift. Cecil had been making hooked rugs for quite some time, and had made others for Agnes and Gene. She enjoyed this creative endeavor, and Gene loved the rug.

Hooked rug from Cecil for Desire Under the Elms, 1924.
Book inscribed to Cecil Boulton, 1924.

Before Gene’s birthday in October, Aggie wrote to her mother again and asked if she would make a third rug for him, this time of Brook Farm. Cecil delighted in the project and sent the rug before the 16th. Gene was pleased with the picture of the house depicting Brook Farm with the great trees on the front lawn.

Rug from Cecil for Brook Farm, 1922.
Brook Farm in Ridgefield, Connecticut, 1922.

Just after Desire Under the Elms opened the O’Neills sailed for Bermuda, and Margery joined them once again. My mother’s description of the many trips back and forth to the various places Eugene O’Neill chose to live certainly demonstrated the restless pattern of this man. It was as though moving to another place would make life more comfortable, easier to deal with and making everything better. But O’Neill carried his demons with him wherever they moved and after a short time he would talk of moving again. This was a pattern which never seemed to end for him.

The family arrived in Bermuda and stayed at two cottages called “Campsea” and “Crow’s Nest,” on the south shore of Paget West. Agnes was pregnant and expecting another baby in May. Shane was a busy little five-year old.

Agnes went into labor one early evening in the middle of May. As Budgie described the time to our grandmother later on, she told of how she, with Shane and Gene, waited together in one bedroom while the mid-wife came to help Agnes. She said Shane seemed scared as they waited, and Gene was very nervous. Finally they heard a baby cry and little Oona was born on May 14th in the late evening. It was 1925.

Mother Cecil and Margery were living in Teddy's studio bungalow, and Gene sent them a telegram announcing the birth of the new baby.

Telegram announcing Oona's birth to family, May 14, 1925.

The baby girl was named Oona Ella O'Neill. The name Oona came from a list of Irish names suggested by Teddy's close friend Ned (Edmund) Quinn. The Irish writer James Stephens had also contributed suggestions. Aggie and Gene like the sound of Oona with O'Neill and all the family agreed. Ella was, of course, Gene's mother's name.

Margery finished typing The Great God Brown, which Gene had worked on all through the winter. When little Oona was a month old, the O'Neills left Bermuda and went to spend the summer in Nantucket. Margery stayed behind with a bad case of measles. She was treated to good care by a kind nurse who worked with the house staff and over time recovered well enough to return home.

Leaving Bermuda, Margery sailed for New England and went back to Connecticut. She had saved enough money ($800) to purchase the Merryall house, north of New Milford, and seven miles from Teddy's studio. Merryall was a lovely, picturesque haven for artists and writers. The old Colonial house was situated on a hill overlooking a small river, which wound its way down through a deep valley. Life was good there.

Shane was with his mother and father and the new baby Oona. Barbara (Cookie), who was then eleven years old, was to stay with her grandmother Nanna and her Aunt Budgie in the new house at Merryall.

*Arthur Pryor, a friend in New York. “The books” we don't know about.

  Chapter XI

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