Gloomed and Uglied Away: a letter Zora Neale Hurston sent to her editor

Dan Piepenbring in The Paris Review:

ZoranealeHave you ever been tied in close contact with a person who had a strong sense of inferiority? I have, and it is hell. They carry it like a raw sore on the end of the index finger. You go along thinking well of them and doing what you can to make them happy and suddenly you are brought up short with an accusation of looking down on them, taking them for a fool, etc., but they mean to let you know and so on and so forth. It colors everything. For example, I took this man that I cared for down to Carl Van Vechten’s one night so that he could meet some of my literary friends, since he had complained that I was always off with them, and ignoring him. I hoped to make him feel at home with the group and included so that he would go where I went. What happened? He sat off in a corner and gloomed and uglied away, and we were hardly out on the street before he was accusing me of having dragged him down there to show off what a big shot I was and how far I was above him. He had a good mind, many excellent qualities, and I am certain that he loved me. But his feeling of inferiority would crop up and hurt me at the most unexpected moments. Right in the middle of what I considered some sweet gesture on my part, I would get my spiritual pants kicked up around my neck like a horse-collar. I asked him to bring me all the clippings on TELL MY HORSE, and he brought several and literally flung them at me. “You had read them” he accused, “and knew that they were flattering. You just asked me to get them to see how great you were.” You know how many marriages in the literary and art world have broken up such rocks, to say nothing of other paths of life. A business man is out scuffling for dear life to get things for the woman he loves, and she is off pouting and accusing him of neglecting her. She feels that way because she does not feel herself able to keep up with the pace that he is setting, and just be confident that she is wanted no matter how far he goes. Millions of women do not want their husbands to succeed for fear of losing him. It is a very common ailment. That is why I decided to write about it.

More here. (Note: At least one post throughout February will be in honor of Black History Month)