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Letters from June Corbett to Henry Miller 1965-1972, Part 1.

The Beinecke Library at Yale University has acquired a number of letters to Henry Miller from June Corbett, his renowned second wife and subject of many of his books. (1) Though the first dated letter is 1965, they stretch beyond the 1972 date listed by the library. There are also a number of letters that are not datable. However, with the help of Kreg Wallace and James Decker I have placed some of them in the larger narrative.

Not much is known about June's later life. James Decker summarized the fragments previously available in Nexus Volume 3 in the article "June Miller: Remnants of a Life." These Yale letters shed new light on her life and relationship with Miller during the 1960s and 1970s. Also, the letters call into question some of Kenneth Dick's portrait of June in his book Henry Miller: Colossus of One (1967). (2) June apparently told Dick that she did not receive money from Miller, but these letters show this claim to be false--she was receiving money at least as early as 1965, and this already substantial regular outlay increased when she retired. (3)

This collection of letters was written after Miller's disastrous visit to June in Forest Hills in 1961, when startled by her appearance and behavior, he fled after a brief conversation. (4) June had been broken mentally and physically since her experience with shock treatment at Pilgrim State Hospital in 1956 and she remains obsessed with health in these letters, both Henry's and her own. (5) In fact, the letters tell a very sad tale, of a woman who had once been a vital source of energy and passion, but who now lives a sort of provisional half-life. Throughout the correspondence she seems wounded and mentally blunted, though this could simply be her discomfort with the letter format. Her friends the Baxters do write that "her voice is still dark green velvet, her memory and perceptions astonishing, her enigmas deeper and her confidence more defiant." However, the letters here certainly do not seem the work of the confident, perceptive woman we know she was in her younger days.

Her feelings toward Miller himself vary between sympathy for his problems and outright hero-worship, tainted perhaps by the fact he is providing her with money. That fact seems to preclude any real friendship between them, though perhaps that would have been impossible regardless. However, there is never any sense of ill will from June, and Kenneth Dick's assessment that she would never blame Henry for the way he wrote about her seems to be accurate. She also never seems to entertain the idea of suing him for her portrayal, something we know that Miller worried about. The letters contain no passive-aggressive comments, and their only fault might be a morbid self-pity.

There are numerous misspellings, format inconsistencies, and word choice errors, which I have left intact. I have left the dates and spacing as near the original as possible, rather than regularizing. There are also several words throughout the letters that are unreadable or incomprehensible, and I have noted them. June's handwriting in these letters does not begin well, and gets worse as time goes by. She also occasionally used felt-tip pens; her strokes often bleed into each other, making transliteration difficult.

This issue of Nexus includes June's letters from the mid- 1960s to 1970. The subsequent letters will be published in the next issue; they include a letter from their mutual friend Bill Allen and several letters from Jim and Annette Baxter, as well as more from June herself. They illuminate June's deteriorating situation, and how much the increasingly successful Henry Miller helped her during her final heartbreaking years.

April 7, 1965

Dear Henry:

I recall that three years ago, when you came to Forest Hills--I had the feeling that a sixteen year old would have given much to have your vigor, litheness, your appearance of readiness to take on anything.

Somehow its unbelievable that you would allow yourself to be ill--obviously you have been working to hard + perhaps some of our public-spirited-citizens have impressed you of the need to retire + grow old.

Well it isn't so and I won't have you ill - + what operation postponed? Do you mean the trip to Switzerland, etc. Please don't allow experiments on yourself--relax be happy--Do what you please + throw out anyone who calls you "pop'--Love the best and please let me know in a word or two how you are regarly--
   I can put up with much, only not you--ill.
   Wish there was someway I could be of help.
   The best to you, June


Received the check--How on earth could you be concerned with that when you have been so ill

You are everything, always.

P.S. I now have an unlisted telephone number, it is (area code 212) 275-7861. (6)

Dear Henry

Received your "Christmas Check" and your "Monthly check," very useful and good, thoughtful of you.

Without your regular assistance the going would be difficult. Your assistance adds toward the little things that make the going endurable--mainly the fact that you do.

I'm grateful to you but more than that moved and deeply happy for it--it adds meaning to my life.

You inquired whether Grove Press sent me Ecce homo--No I haven't heard from them. (7)

Saw the Baxters + Karrs Christmas weekend--always you are a great part of the get together.

Forgive my long silence--first I have a repeated siege of the flu, and several attacks of emphysema which is always with me, weather me and but for my repeated taking of Ornade, an antihistamine, I couldn't go thru with the days work.

I hope the New Year brings you the best health and the best of all things

Again let me repeat that you, and you alone have lent meaning

Always my best to you

Love, June

3/13/66

Dear Henry--

My impact, after reading your note that you had the flu I had a delightful dream; in it you were doing a solo dance having a wonderful time.

I hope that is the way it is with you.

Why do you have so many "flu" attacks? Is it the peculiar weather we've been having; are you working to much?

Perhaps you need a trip abroad, a change of atmosphere Whenever I'm with the Baxters, much of the time is spent speaking of you with admirations, enthusiasm and love for you.

All of us have a let down if anything is not well with you. Please be good to yourself + no further illnesses--do everything to avoid it.

I'm reading your article of our George Grosz in this issue of Evergreen, extremely interesting and well done. (8)

How do you find the time to do so many things in so many printed forms, paint, etc.

I'm amazed at the numerous articles I discover by you and about you, interviewed, seen, heard, doing things.

Forgive my long silence--I've written numerous notes + letters to you, some, newsy but I destroy them assuming that you are kept busy enough without hearing from me.

Be good to your health, yourself--always

My love + the Baxters of those that matter--June

Oct. 10, 1966

Dear Henry--

In my former note to you--I explained that my mother advanced my age hoping I would be entered into a higher grade than customary.

According to the Brooklyn School records--my birthdate January 28, 1902 around three in the morning.

I was born in Russmoldavitza in the Bucarras. (9)

Perhaps due to my birth taking place shortly after arriving there to join my father, an isolated spot in the Carpathian Mts--my birth assisted by peasant midwife and not being a male/child the records were not imposed--I don't know--

My temperament and personal life is more truly aquarian than anything else from my conception of the little knowledge I have of horoscopes--

If you can after a fair analysis of my past life, tragedies, temperament + character arrive at any clear picture--please let me know.

You still haven't told me how you feel--I mean your health be good to yourself.

About Val, so sad, perhaps this step will have its helpful significance. (10)

Always eager to hear whatever from you--How is "Tony" what is he doing? (11)

My best all the time + forever

June

Feb 1, 1967

Dear Henry

My birthdays are also just another day--more likely to be sad recalling the past, more dream, unreal, but greatly desired past, the love, hope, faith--a dream of mankind kinship

Now much is stifling, at least the near future is.

I dream of France + that gives me some hope.

And to you, thanks for the whimsical notes your beautiful cards of your watercolors, I'm glad about them + your kind check.

I loved your booklet on Bob Nash, his line drawings, etc. like your notes. (12)

Bought the Victor Mezhanots execution of the Scriabin 5th piano sonata--also ordered Sviatoslav Richter's performance of it.

Very pleasant that you recommended it, its great--also my type of music.

By the way have your received a reading of my horoscope I'm curious to see it

I repeat but for your reassuring acknowledgments life would be grim--all my love, always, June (over)

Please stop taking sleeping pills--If you can't sleep, relax and rest. That's almost as good--perhaps you don't require to much sleep.

To hell with doctors--they are still greatly limited--use your own judgment I'm sure it will be best

Only avoid tensions--throw them out

All the best

June

Feb 5, 1967

Dear Henry

Thrilled with the fellow holding his bicycle + very pleased that you are sending me a gift of your book on Hans Reichel. (13)

It has not arrived.

I am so eager to see it that I wait around fever-ridden in anticipation.

Need to stay away from work two weeks due to a bad fall, not serious only painful.

I've returned to work last Wednesday, it's a bit hard to maneuver, mainly a very tender + sensitive right buttock + elbow. Fortunately I had annual time + lost nothing of my pay. Really in love with your photograph, almost as if you were present.

Thank you dearest for your including me in the list, happy + excited.

Very eager to see it, all my best to you, be good to yourself, always love June

Sept 5, 1967

Dear Henry

Your kindness + patiences, after the long silence--this gives me a feeling of guilt--Inside many times, and, unless I mail the letter immediately -1 destroy it--can't say why--it's a long story

Saw the Baxters Sunday in their new apartment--quite a view of the sky-line and East River--Haven't seen them since Decoration Day when I met Professor Gordon and his wife

Thought Bill Gordon's book on you the best--It reveals more of the man + writer than any other work about you -1 believe I have read almost all that have been written in English. (14)

It's extraordinary that he could arrive at an understanding + that only through reading your works + about you and through the correspondence with you--Amazing what a labor-of-love can do.

He wrote me and the Baxters, since his visit and has really become a friend and intimate

It is the kindnesses of the Baxters (all) and the Karrs who through their love and as Jim Baxters says--some one loves and some one likes but he both likes + loves me and I know it--I have always the feeling of completeness when I'm with them.

Our weather one continuous one of daily rain, humidity very high + the most polluted city in the world on record and I sense emphysema attacks + the left front lung feels as if I'm carry about an inflated balloon and difficulty breathing until the "Ornades" work and breathing in "Bengae" + whatnot

Delighted you're going to Europe, I know your exhibits will be a success--the important purpose is that the trip will be good for your health + perspective

Have all the rest, fun + love + please be good to your health,

All my loves, always, June And always grateful to you for your help Bon Voyage

[Envelope Stamped Nov 25, 1968]

June S. Corbett

63-65 110 St.

Forest Hills, New York 11375

Mr. Henry Miller

444 Ocampo Drive

Pacific Palisades

California, 90272

I met Richard Elman at the "Baxters" during August, I believe.

I had heard him reviewing books and playing jazz records, etc. on "WBA" the listener sponsor station + sister station of the Pacifies listener sponsor one. (15)

He has written "The Poorhouse House "Stake" a book about the welfare right now the social service Dept. He has done a farely thorough research, and interviewed many clients, staff, and understand it well and I believe it is a good work. Had I known about it before I would have suggested an inner office experience as well.

He was kind to send me a copy of the book and although I haven't acknowledged it I was somewhat impressed.

He barely touched on you at the "Baxters" except small, gentle talk. He did want to interest me for some personal stories, I did not act enthusiastic, nor did I discourage it.

I believe the only one that really could warm me to the subject would be "Jean Paul Sartre" and that is hardly likely, and even then it would not be without your sanction.

I'm very appreciative that you do not overload me with some of your books and paintings. You will never know how much I'm amazed that you include me sharing in your achievements, - aside from that I'm delighted with the beautiful work and the exceptional output.

The 2nd painting of the book To paint is to love again is not as well done as the first still its great.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The French publication of Nexus is charming. Like you I love the cover. (16)

Who? but you would have thought of a jacket of Milligan Place with the superimposed snapshot of June. (17)

Thank you for everything, always. I have so often written you that you help me to want to go on. Very little else, unless my insatiable curiosity + love for life though not much incentive.

Please, always forgive my negligence in not writing there are so many reasons--health, injury, fatigue and, and, and, etc.

Always the good, in all to you--Alway

June

[Envelope stamped Jan 15, 1969]

Dear Henry

Please write and tell me how you are.

I haven't heard from you since early November--I can only assume that your silence is due to poor health.

Only a couple of words in your hand would release me, please.

Forgive my own negligence. I have been ill a long time and since December 26th I've been away from work all but three days.

I hope alls well with you and that you've been to busy--All the best, June (over)

Wrote this note in haste at work.

Dear Henry

Please don't remain silent--write me just a few times + tell me how you are, whether the operations left you without after affects. (18)

I'm concerned about you. Haven't written you because I've been working steadily. My administrator issued a statement to the Mayor's office asking for an extension of an additional year on the grounds that my work is a difficult specialty and that he hasn't broken anyone to replace me.

I'm not certain that I will remain another year. My health is bad and every day it's a hardship. I've neglected everything, at home, writing you doing the least of chores.

By the way I read in the newspaper some months back that you were dropping your Japanese wife for a Chinese one. Is there any truth to that? (19)

Feel well and please write me

Always the best

June

Dear Henry

Found it impossible to write you before this. Since now it is just torture to find the proper prop to move + rest my arm to do the smallest + lightest chores--

I've injured my right shoulder and breastbone a couple of weeks ago--It takes much time, sweat + pain to even put a blouse on.

Haven't been to work, phones in and told them at the "Social Service" to count it on my annual leave.

Very happy that you are doing well and nearly recovered. Hope that your trip to France will be a happy one.

Get some rest, leave the drive to the other fellow

All my best, always

June

"Bon Voyage." (20)

Dec 15, 1970

Dear Henry

Have had a recurrent flu. Very ill during the month of October.

In November, I fell coming home from work and battered my face, nose, eyebrow, cheek, shin, and knees. Two women helped me home.

I was bleeding so badly that I left my imprint on the streets, hall door to the apartment.

Again stayed home from work--couldn't go aside from the viscious injury and from my appearance was frightening.

I had requested a years extension of employment last June and I have received a notice that I'm to remain no later than sometime in June 1972.

I do hope that your health and affairs are on the upswing. Good health and all my best wishes.

Always, June

Edited by Eric D. Lehman

Notes

(1) YCAL MSS 472, Box 7, Folder 77, Henry Miller Papers, Series IV. Correspondence, Corbett, June ("Miller") / 1965-1972, undated.

(2) Decker points out the suspect nature of much of Dick's version, though to be fair, Dick may have been just as misled by June as Miller and others were.

(3) Biographer Jay Martin asserts that she was asking for and receiving money as early as the late 1940s. Always Merry and Bright: The Life of Henry Miller by Jay Martin (Santa Barbara: Capra Press, 1978), 458.

(4) See "Afterthoughts on June," Henry Miller, Reflections, Capra Press (1981).

(5) One of her brothers had committed her to Pilgrim State. She had already been underweight with bad teeth and emotional problems, but was worse after the treatments. She was also crippled from a fall during the shock treatments. See Mary Dearborn, The Happiest Man Alive: Henry Miller: A Biography (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991), 267.

(6) This letter is written on a folded card, with a picture of a French newspaper boy handing out papers, a drawing by artist Cuca Romley.

(7) Miller wrote a preface for George Grosz's book of drawings called Ecce Homo, released in 1966. This is the primary means to date this letter somewhere early that year, since she mentions the Christmas and New Year's checks.

(8) "Man in the Zoo: George Grosz' Ecce Homo," Henry Miller, Evergreen Review, No. 40, 1966.

(9) Buccaras is the closest spelling I could manage for this word as June writes it, but she surely means Bukovina, which is acknowledged widely as her birthplace. At the time it was part of the Austria-Hungarian empire, and today is split between Ukraine and Romania.

(10) Henry's daughter, Valentine, had recently gotten divorced.

(11) Tony is Henry Miller's son.

(12) Journey to an Antique Land by Henry Miller (Ben Ben Press, 1962).

(13) Order and Chaos Chez Hans Reichel by Henry Miller (Loujon Press, 1966).

(14) The Mind and Art of Henry Miller by William Gordon (Louisiana State University Press, 1967).

(15) She means WBAI NYC, and "Pacifica." Richard Elman produced radio documentaries at WBAI and worked at the School of Social Work Research Center at Columbia University. His book The Poorhouse State: The American Way of Life On Public Assistance is the fruit of interviews of people on welfare in New York's Lower East Side.

(16) Le Livre de Poche edition (Buchet-Chastel, 1967).

(17) 1 Milligan Place in Greenwich Village was June's address when she returned from Europe.

(18) Miller's prostate operation and the fact that June says that she has asked for another year of work seems to place this letter in early 1970. However, it could be that this comes during 1971 after the subsequent letter.

(19) Miller's marriage to Hoki Tokuda was over by this point, and he had "fallen in love" with a Chinese actress named Lisa Lu. He wrote 224 letters to her over a nine-month period. See Mary Dearborn, The Happiest Man Alive: Henry Miller: A Biography (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991), 303.

(20) Since this refers to one of Miller's trips to France it could also be the first letter in the collection, predating the others by four years. He returned to France in 1959, but this could also refer to one of his subsequent trips to Europe. However, it seems to fit in 1969, when Miller returned to Paris for the last time.
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Author:Lehman, Eric D.
Publication:Nexus: The International Henry Miller Journal
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2016
Words:3419
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