Back in New Haven


On October 6, 1934, publication of "Back in New Haven." The New Yorker.

I think there's much more to this not well known story than we think.

A college boy in love with two women - Harriett, who is seven years older and married to a man fourteen years older than she (Yale '15), an Linda. He decides on Linda.

"It is possible, as we all know, to be in love with two different persons at the same time and be equally in love with one as with the other . . . . I fully realize how susceptible I am when things happen such as the afternoon I drove Harriett in her station wagon to meet Ben and he did not arrive as she expected, and then on the way home she was so downcast that her mood communicated to me and before we knew exactly what had happened we were in each other's arms and I was kissing her passionately and she me. . . . despite the fact that Harriett is seven years older than I and is married to a man fourteen years her senior who was a student in this very college twenty years ago, or before I was born. . . . I myself was two different persons in that short space of time, one person with Harriett, and another totally different person with Linda, and I exercised consummate tact in not revealing to L. the extent of my relationship with H. . . and one thing I will say for an older woman is that experience is conducive to greater savor-faire during the awkward moments 'afterward' than a younger girl has . . . my experience with H. is one of the most beautiful things in my whole life and one that I shall guard as a secret even as I consign this introspective study to the flames."

This is not like anything else John O'Hara wrote for The New Yorker. He wrote it just after the August 1934 publication of Appointment in Samarra. It is very introspective, and I wonder whether there's some autobiography here: His wish that he had attended Yale, his relationship with the "love of his life," Margaretta Archbald, who was six years older and married to another man, as well as his first marriage  (1931-1933) to Helen Ritchie Petit.

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