In the summer of 1952 James Schuyler and Frank O’Hara moved into a sixth floor walk-up on East 49th Street. Friends christened the place “Squalid Manor” after its do-as-you-like atmosphere; Schuyler left a trail of buttermilk-encrusted glasses in his wake, and stragglers (one of them being John Ashbery) often camped out in the living room. After O’Hara moved to Southampton in January of 1954, the former roommates exchanged letters on a regular basis.
328 East 48th Street
New York, New York
Jan 15, 1954
Pearl Without Price,
First the worst: your five dollar check bounced. N’import. I made it good, and you can pay me back when . . . the primroses come back to 49th Street.
Everybody is sick. The boys [Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale] from air travel, me with a bug in the gut that keeps me lolling in the can. And the streets are swimming in swill, like the opening of Bleak House.
Arthur thumbs-downed the apt. on 21st Street, and we’re going to live in the Chelsea. My favorite hotel; and I’ve always dreamt of living in a hotel, with its parade of maids bringing fresh linens, and a switchboard to call you in the morning. The apt. will be quite nice with a big, big room for the pianos & sitting, and a good-sized one (completely cut off from the piano practice) for sleeping and me. I know I’ll like it.
What are you writing? What are Larry [Rivers] and Fairfield [Porter] painting? What are you painting? What are they writing?
Arthur and I saw In the Summer House Wednesday night—more laughter & tears, and no diminution of satisfaction.
I told John to give me the five…and he said you want to go to the opening (Feb. 2) of Nutcracker with him, and he’s going to buy your ticket out of the five. So you can leave it so, or write him different.
The enclosed is a pin-money present for my Sweet Singer from County Cork. Spend it in good health.
My love to Larry and Fairfield and their respective households.
Remember me to our mother the sea.
Tourjours ton bête,
From The Letters of James Schuyler to Frank O’Hara. Edited by William Corbett. New York: Turtle Point Press, 2006.
James Schuyler reading Love Poems in New York.
A documentary (c. 1966) following Frank O’Hara around the city.