I have mentioned some of the Linky story before, but here follows the final, complete, definitive account. With it told, I can put the whole matter behind me and move on.
As I was reading for review the third volume of “The Samuel Beckett Letters,” I came across an interesting footnote. Beckett was in the gallant habit of ending his letters with a greeting to the recipient’s partner or spouse. In a letter to his American publisher, Barney Rosset of Grove Press, he sent a greeting to Linc. Barney informed him, a dubious speller at best, that the correct spelling should end in a K, not a C. So, in a later letter, Sam concluded with an enormous K.
Of special interest to me was the footnote that Mary Lincoln Bonnell, for many years but no longer Rosset’s girlfriend, had died in 2013. This moved me. Linky with a K, as I had known her, had been one of my youthful loves. Over the years, I occasionally wistfully recalled her. Here is what it was all about.
While still at Harvard’s Graduate School, I frequented a long since gone joint named St.Clair’s, featuring excellent chocolate ice cream sodas. One evening, I noticed in a booth across from me, a gaggle of Cliffies (i.e., Radcliffe students) laughingly surrounding a stunning blonde. She caught my eye but also something deeper: I had to get to know her!
I forget exactly how—some phone calls were involved—I tracked down Linky Bonnell. Nor do I remember exactly how I got her to go out with me, but I suppose my being a teaching fellow impressed her. Anyway, we started dating.
Linky must have been the most beautiful Cliffie of that era. As I try to visualize her so many years later, I would have been helped by photgraphs. Frustratingly, only one tiny snapshot survives, the others somehow got lost, possibly destroyed by a jealous subsequent inamorata.
The picture that does remain is a 35-millimeter print I pasted into a volume of poems by my beloved Stephane Mallarme, above a sonnet beginning “A la nue accablante tu,” which so infuriated Tolstoy.
Linky had shoulder-length, gently undulant blond hair, blue eyes and exquisite features. A perfect figure, lovely arms and flawless legs. I never saw her feet, but can vouch for the pleasing size of her shoes. She also had a charming voice and an infectious laugh. I had taken her to the banks of the Charles for a photo shoot. In the picture, she stands gracefully on a piece of wood jutting into the river, her left arm extended to hold on to a tree trunk, the right one dangling loose. She is wearing a black or navy dress, with a white neckline and hem. The mid-calf skirt unfortunately hides too much leg. In the background, there is a solitary skiff.
I went off to Paris on a Fulbright, and corresponded with Linky. She answered two letters in a charmingly girlish handwriting and with chatty content. But this stopped. I guessed that she had found another chap of interest.
Then, however, in the spring, came a letter from Linky. She would be in Paris on such and such a day, and would I please meet her at the Invalides, the final stop of the bus from Orly airport. She would be returning from Italy, where, a talented sculptress, she had gone for lessons from the distinguished classicist Arturo Martini (not to be confused with the modernist Marino Marini), and would spend a few days with me.
Duly, I showed up, and there she was in all her radiance. Miracle of miracles, she had rented a room, in all that great Paris, only a block or two from mine in the sixteenth Arrondissement. But now came the contretemps.
Like other American girls of the period, she had remained chaste in the States, but was ready for sex abroad, which is where I was to come in. Alas, I had fallen for and had an affair with June Morris, an American dancer with one of the two Ballets Russes. The company had been on tour, and she once again fell for a gay premier danseur. (It used to be Johnny Kriza, and was now John Gilpin.) As a result, she had been avoiding my frantic long distance phone calls. This time, after considerable effort, I tracked her down having lunch with colleagues at Harry’s Bar and joined her there.
Now, I had two tickets to the Opera that evening for the rarely seen Berlioz “La Damnation de Faust.” As June was dancing that evening, I spent time with her during the day, but invited Linky for the evening. She came, but wept all through the performance: I had let her down. During intermission, she sat on the edge of a fountain, adding to the waterworks. I stood by, helpless. In the morning, she was gone, without so much as a good bye.
I next saw Linky much later in New York, where I took her to one of the performances by the guesting Old Vic, with such greats as Olivier, Richardson, and Vivien Leigh. She wasn’t especially impressed or friendly. When I took her home, she not only didn’t invite me in, she also made cruel fun of everything I said. On a very last occasion, on a street in Cambridge, she crossed to the other side to avoid me.
We now skip forward some years, and I learn that she is the girlfriend of Barney Rosset, and that, on his money, they were both seeing the same shrink for joint sessions, something disapproved of in those days. And nothing further.
Fast forward a few years more, and my wife and I are invited to a big dinner event chez the painter Larry Rivers. At the preceding cocktail party, I get to talk to Rosset and ask about Linky, with whom he had by then split. He tells me she is very well and cheerfully sculpting away.
Now on to a recent year, with me leafing through the Manhattan phone book. I come across Mary Lincoln Bonnell. Should I call her, I wonder? What’s the point, I conclude, and don’t. And now that footnote in the Beckett letters: Deceased, 2013.
Requiescat in pace.