The World War II Years
Heres a bit of yours truly.
In the beautiful summer of 1940, French novelist Anais Nin fled Europe amid the rumblings of the Second World War. She was a friend of the “Lost Generation” who made their home in Paris, a legendary group of American writers, who included Thornton Wilder, Hart Crane and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Nin journeyed to the United States and after a short stay in New York, she eventually came to Caroline County, Virginia and Hampton Manor, the home of her friend Caresse Crosby Young.
Anais was convinced Hampton was the southern version of an enchanted house she had known in France. She described its classical Georgian proportions as “serene and symmetrical” with its “tall graceful columns,” “terraces of tile” and the “noble proportions of its doors and windows.”
Already in residence were the other artistic refuges including Anais’s lover, the renowned American writer Henry Miller and surrealist painter Salvador Dali. When Anais arrived she found her hostess overseeing the tying and loading of wheat sheaves into bundles as they were tossed into a truck. In her diary, Anais wrote this entry about Caresse, “The wheat sheaves flew around her, lighted by the sun like a golden Venetian halo. She wore a huge straw hat and moved in her typical way, with ariness and freedom.”
Caresse Crosby Young the owner of the beautiful house was a woman with a colorful past. She was the daughter of a wealthy New England family whose ancestry included William Bradford, the Plymouth Colony’s first Governor. In 1913, Caresse, born Mary Phelps Jacobs invented the bra to use for a dress for her coming out party made of handkerchiefs. She later sold the patent for $1,500.00 to a corset company. The second of her three husbands was Harry Crosby, nephew of American tycoon J.P. Morgan who believed his true calling to be a poet. In the 1920s, he and Caresse in an effort to avoid their family’s conventional lifestyle moved to France. Just outside Paris, they purchased and restored an old mill which they called the Moulin du Soliel. Here they practiced a “free lifestyle” and hosted the artist community with a variety of notorious parties. In order to publish Harry’s poetry the couple founded the Black Sun Press and became known for their willingness to generously publish any manuscript.
All of this came to an abrupt halt when Crosby visited New York in 1929 with his mistress, one, Josephine Bigelow with whom he had suicide pack. There he took his own life. Caresse was forced to return to the United States but in California met her third husband, Bert Young, tall, blonde good looking, nineteen years her junior and according to her, the “ideal” man. She describes him as “handsome as Hermes” and “as militant as Mars.” He was also an alcoholic.
Bert convinced Caresse all he wanted in life was to own his own land and farm and they decided on Virginia to start a new life. According to her autobiography, The Passionate Years, she was looking for an old plantation house, with columns smothered in roses, honeysuckle, a deer park, an avenue of elms, magnolias and tulip trees and a pond with lilies. Their car broke down in Fredericksburg and as they waited for it to be fixed, Caresse went into a nearby Real Estate office. The agent had just what Caresse was looking for.
On September 30, 1936, she wrote to the New York Trust Company to forward 433 shares of stock to buy Hampton Manor which in our time would be called a “fixer upper” and Caresse became a proper Virginian, broke but proud. With a small sum left over from the sale of the stock she set about to renovate the mansion. While the plumbers, plasterers and electricians were at work, Caresse was left alone except for her Afghan hound, “Salar.” Bert had ended a drinking spree with a solo trip to Florida and did not return until the following year.
While he spent most of his time hunting and drinking Caresse assumed the duties of a proper Virginia housewife, she ordered a herd of Herefords and grew bonafide crops on the 500 acres that surrounded Hampton. It was Caresse who stayed up all night long helping the cows give birth and she who many times drove the produce to market.
Edited by oharascarlett (03/17/08 07:40 PM)