Letters

John Bellairs corresponded with various friends and fans over the years, passing along news of new books or family vacations as well as the occasional piece of artwork. Some of his letters were typed, using the same portable typewriter he used throughout his life and on which he wrote most or all of his books. This is fortunate for those attempting to decipher his atrocious left-handed scrawl, seen in letters and autographed book dedications. While the writing was lousy, Bellairs made up for it by being a witty doodler, often including small drawings or full-page artwork to his letters. That said, it is tempting to wonder if he ever considered illustrating his own writing. Collected here are a handful of examples of John's wit and thoughts on life.
Letter from Bellairs to Bowen (1960)

Spring 1960


Letter to Charles Bowen, with newspaper clipping attachment.

 

c. December, 1961 - January, 1962


Undated letter to Dale and Marilyn Fitschen, sent from England.
    "Expect me for the wedding."

 

Letter to Al Myers' mother (1964)

June 5, 1964


Letter to Al Myers' mother.

 

c. March 1965


Undated letter to Dale and Marilyn Fitschen:
    John speaks of his attendedance at a Yeats Conference in Duluth the weekend before. He mentions a review in the Winona Daily News commenting on his role as Boss Mangan, the 'captain of industry' in 'Heartbreak House.' He also tells me to take the final edited copy, and drawings of St. Fidgeta, to Dan Herr at The Critic. Signs letter 'Shavely, Lord Bleers.'

 

May 24, 1965


Letter to Dale and Marilyn Fitschen.
    John writes more about the Duluth Yeats Conference. Says he should be in Chicago on Monday and then catching a train to New York.

 

July 8, 1966


Bellairs' current address (100 Bellevue Place) and Louis XI drawing, sent to Robert Yaple.

 

Letter to John Drew (1966)

July 8, 1966


Letter to John Drew; notes new address is 100 Bellevue Place.

 

Letter to John Drew (1966)

c. 1966-67


Undated letter from Bellairs to John Drew.

 

Letter to John Drew (1967)

c. February 22, 1967


Undated letter to John Drew.

 

Letter to Charles Bowen (April 8, 1967)

April 8, 1967


Letter to Charles Bowen.

 

Letter to Charles Bowen (April 8, 1967)

July 16, 1967


Postcard to Charles Bowen.

 

January 11, 1968


Letter to Gerald Kadish, from England:
    He will be sailing back to the US from England on January 19, on the Queen Elizabeth (which, he notes, looks "disturbingly like the Titanic") and that the publication of The Pedant and Shuffly is imminent.

 

Letter to John Drew (January 16, 1968)

January 16, 1968


Letter to John Drew.

 

February 8, 1968


Letter from Elizabeth Bartelme, the Macmillan Company, New York, to Dale and Marilyn Fitschen:
    She had lunch with John in New York. They "discussed The Face in the Frost at some length and he is going to do revisions." She notes that The Pedant and the Shuffly will be published on February 26th.

 

April 22, 1968


Letter to Dale and Marilyn Fitschen:
    "Al Myers visited and they rented a car and went to Cape Cod. Says he took the corrected Prospero to Mary-Claire Stubbs to get it typed. He also says he just "wrapped up The Paranoid Sunglasses and The Pouty King and my bishop drawings and sent them to Joel Wells, editor of The Critic."

 

Hand-written wedding announcement (June 1968)

c. June 1968


Hand-written wedding announcement sent to Dale and Marilyn Fitschen.

 

June 26, 1968


Letter to Dale and Marilyn Fitschen, from Boston:
    "Got a tumble from Emmanuel College, a good Catholic girls school out on the Hagway in Boston near Hagway Park." Went to a rally for Eugene McCarthy where Alan Arkin read from Catch 22.

 

August 29, 1969


Letter to Gerald Kadish from John and Priscilla:
    John: Right now my long night of unpublishment is ending: I am virtually certain of writing a weekly column in the Cambridge Phoenix, a weekly starting in Boston this fall. It will try hard to be a local Village Voice. Without a village that may be hard, but what the hell. Also, I seem to have made a hit with the Managing Editor of the National Catholic Reporter. I wrote a piece bitching about the fact that I couldn't get my Catholic-porno novel, Papa Peter's Seat, published. The piece is a lot of nasty comments on Catholic tolerance for blasphemy, but it may serve its primary purpose, to get me in print one way or another. The editor to whom I talked on the phone is going to try to get me a publisher for the novel, which is complete. So in the future you may refer to me as "my friend, the columnist". Any subjects you want ranted about?

    Priscilla: John's year of teaching at Emmanuel was a dismal failure. Four sections of freshman comp that didn't seem to have one intelligent student per class, and scarcely an amiable one. Although there were some reasonably interesting younger faculty, the department was run by nuns who make St. Fidgeta seem like a whitewashing of the possibilities of Catholic education.

 

c. December 1975


Christmas card to Al Myers.

 

June 23, 1978


Letter to Gerald Kadish:
    Bristol, you recall, is where I spent half a yr [sic] writing The Face in the Frost -- which, by the by, is coming out in November in paperback! I was sent the lurid jacket sample by a girl who works for Ace Paperbacks. The jacket has blurbs by Lin Carter and Ursula K. LeGuin, and I am tickled.

 

October 31, 1978


Letter to Fran Lantz.

 

December 2, 1981


Gerald Kadish recieves a copy of the poem, "The Septuagint". It is John's whimsical ode (written under the name of Nittany Blodgett) to those poor souls who transcribed the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible.

 

December 26, 1983


Christmas card to Al Myers (with "typical Bellairsian efficiency" the letter was postmarked Boston on December 26):
    Dear Laota and Al, Glad to hear that you're back stateside. I am turning out 2 books a year and prospering. Next: The Dark Secret of Weatherend, with cover by Edward Gorey (ditto the last two). I've become famous--now to get rich! Sorry Mrs. M. is ill. My dad died at 87 on Nov. 11. I was in Colorado at the time.

 

c. December 1985


Christmas card to Al Myers (John is referring to Lou Holtz, early in his tenure as Notre Dame's football coach):
    "Sorry to hear of Holtz's political views. But if he can make us 11-0 next year I won't mind. Here's to getting the Senate back from the GOP in 86."

 

c. 1985


Gerald Kadish composed a table of contents for a festschrift, or collection of essays, honoring Bellairs. In academic circles, a festschrift is a book or volume containg contributions from the honored scholar's close colleagues. This collection, however, is pure fiction on Kadish's part.

 

c. December 1986


Christmas card to Al Myers:
    "If you come out this way, that would be great! More books, another trip to England, and mostly a good year in 1986."

 

Doodles from New Yorker Book of Cartoons (c.1966)

c. 1966-67


Mount Carroll: The fly-leafs of a book of New Yorker cartoons, originally owned by Bellairs and borrowed by Shimer College student Warner Johnston during spring semester of 1967.

 

Hand-drawn version of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (c. 1968-69)

c. 1968-69


Massachusetts: Hand-drawn version of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.