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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
from Cecil for Desire Under the Elms, 1924.
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.
Cecil for Brook Farm, 1922.
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.
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
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.