“A Pretty Good Paper”: The Junto – Part 5

Around the time the January 1929 issue of The Junto was making the rounds, certain members of that group were planning a get-together for after Christmas. On December 27, 1928, Truett Vinson sent Harold Preece the postcard above, and nearly 50 years later (in his essay “The Last Celt”) Preece described what happened next:

The time was Christmas week of 1928; the locale, a wooded ravine in Brown County. The central personage of that reunion was also Bob Howard, metamorphosing through a haze of booze and talk into Conan. Bob was in extra fine fettle on that mild night in an Ireland created ephemerally from Texas. His tongue had been whetted by the bottle of liquor he’d been able to pick up from a drugstore as a “medical prescription” during that hypocritical era of the Eighteenth Amendment. I can remember his bawling at the top of his voice a verse from an Irish revolutionary song, “The Rising of the Moon,” but which he rendered to the tune of that sentimental popular ballad, “Where the River Shannon Flows”:

“Oh tell me, Sean O’Farrell,
Where the gathering is to be.
At the old house by the river,
Sure ‘tis known to you and me.”

During that night, too, the talk turned to fairies and leprechauns and all those diminutive humanoids of Celtic legend. From Bob Howard, I heard for the first time some plausible explanation of the stories.

Besides the above conversation, there appears to have been a bit of discussion regarding the fairer sex, or so it seems from Preece’s January 6, 1929 letter to Smith:

I had a wonderful time with you fellows, one that I shall always remember; and I deeply appreciate the hospitality which you and your family extended to me.
[. . .]
That Rogers girl! I can’t forget her cold, yet siren, eyes. Verily, I would give whatever soul I may happen to have for a rendezvous with her. And I doubt not that she would slit your throat for a nickel.

And while we don’t know if any of the group had actually seen the January Junto by then, there was almost certainly discussion of it. In that issue’s “The Commentary,” the controversy surrounding Vinson’s “Hell Bent” continued:

Bob Howard: About this Hell bent stuff: Truett Vinson ain’t goin’ with this A.M.Y. business because me and Truett are pards and we’re goin’ to Hell together, and we’ll be the best men there, by God.

Truett Vinson: Bob’s poem and article [“More Evidences” and “Hairy-Chested”] and Harold’s article [“Religion”] save this issue from being “dry rot.” A.M.Y. evidently thinks I want to be good only that I may see the “pearly gates”! What utter “hooey”! I prefer to deal with persons who sign their names to their opinions. Will A.M.Y. reveal himself or herself?

Besides the above, Harold Preece submitted “In Defense of A.M.Y.” which takes Juntite Roy McDonald to task for sinking to personal attacks in his assessment of “A.M.Y.” in the December mailing. And “A.M.Y.” him or herself also steps to the plate to refute McDonald’s argument, ending with this: “Through it all, I have retained an innate modesty and spirit of self-abasement. But now I cannot resist strutting a little. I have been called a damn fool by Roy W. McDonald, lawyer.”

Besides the “A.M.Y. business,” there’s also this comment on a piece by Bob Howard:

Lenore Preece: B.H., in his “Further Evidences of the Innate Divinity of Man,” is very much like a preacher: he presents alluring promises, but will not produce specific information. Why not go into detail? As for woman’s delight in torture, I confess I enjoy nothing more than a good reeking funeral, and I have, on several occasions, indulged in scientific experiments.

Of course, the comments aren’t the only items in the mailing. The issue also contains “The Destructive Critic,” verse by Harold Preece; a bit of autobiographical fiction, “Ambition in the Moonlight,” by Bob Howard; “Books and Things,” an article by Truett Vinson with discussion of John Brown’s Body, The Film Spectator, New Masses, and Upton Sinclair’s Boston; the next installment of “Confessions of a Virgin” by “H” (A Virgin); and “I Am the Destructive Critic,” verse by Lenore Preece.

And, unfortunately, that’s the last Mooney-edited issue of The Junto that we have. There is, however, some mention of other issues in the surviving correspondence. Preece’s February 23, 1929 letter to Smith: “I enjoyed your article in the last issue of The Junto, although it was pornographic in spots. Either Sinclair Lewis or H. L. Mencken has influenced you tremendously.” And the following, from a circa March 1929 letter from REH to Preece:

I haven’t heard from Booth lately. I liked Strachan’s  article in the latest Junto. The last I’ve seen, I mean. A naked negress is a rather fascinating study, when young and lissome. Truett’s article was about the best of its kind he’s written yet I think.

Clyde’s preparing a novel on college life, I think. It will sell I’m sure and will probably cause an upheaval. He’s gone to the roots of the college system in America.

Mooney’s tardiness in corresponding would soon spill over into his Junto activities and cause him to pass the publication on to another. We’ll have more on that next time.

[Go to Part 6.]