Isabel Paterson’s End Note to “The Golden Vanity”

On the back dust cover of the first edition of The Golden Vanity can be found the following note by the author, Isabel Paterson. I wanted to reprint it here to highlight again her wonderfully flippant and original style. Would someone please publish a collection of her columns and letters?

Every time I write a novel my publishers demand the story of my life. this is embarrassing, because as will Cuppy says we have only one like to live, if that, and I Told All the last time. The fact is, most of my life is a blank because I forget what I was doing at any given time.

During the part year and a half, my life has been comparatively blameless, except for the customary novel. All I’ve done is build a house in the country and go native. Building a house is great fun. It’s like magic. You say a few words and make marks on a piece of paper and go away and when you come back there is a house. Still more mysteriously, the magic gives out just one split second before the last pantry shelf has been put up, and never, as long as you live, can you get that shelf, or the final towel rod in the bathroom. Perfection is not attainable by mortals.

It doesn’t matter anyhow, because of the garden. The house is ultimately only a place to go into when it rains, and not then until you are thoroughly soaked. I’m not really a gardener; only a weeder. I don’t know if one ever develops from that stage. My garden consists of six zinnias, several cosmos [because of lack of space the publsihers deleted here certain particulars about Mrs. Paterson’s garden] and some shrubs, at present described as “What is that?” Many magnificent trees dot the landscape. A tree which I have decided is a mulberry lurks in the back lot. It has got to be a mulberry; I can’t be changing the name of the thing every five minutes. I have to get on with the weeding.

My friends and acquaintances express surprise that I should have rural tastes. This attitude indicates to me what is wrong with public opinion. It has no relevancy to the facts. I was born and brought up in the country, so far from any urban influences that I never saw an electric light till I was fifteen and was afraid of it when I did see one. This is why I hate clocks and appointments and can’t find a train in a time-table. My idea of time goes by the sun — morning, noon, afternoon, and night. I seldom know the day of the week and never the date of the month, so it is impossible for me to date my letters. I hate crowds, and radios, and public speakers, and cannot drive a motor car. These things being so, I lived in New York for years and years. Finally I acquired sense enough to move out. I don’t mind commuting because it gets me to the country. That is all for the present.

2 thoughts on “Isabel Paterson’s End Note to “The Golden Vanity”

  1. Thank you for this wonderful autobiographical brief from the inimitable Pat. My copy of The Golden Vanity is missing this end note — more’s the pity. And a hearty seconding of your “cry in the wilderness” request that someone print a collection of her columns and letters. And, how about a reprint of TGV while we’re at it? Thanks again!

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