Fascinating collection of eight ALSs from Alice de Forest Sedgwick, the mother of Edie Sedgwick, each addressed to her niece Lily Saarinen, who for several months served as Edie’s art instructor in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Also included is one handwritten letter from Saarinen to Edie, dated January 18, 1969. Alice’s letters, the majority penned on ‘Rancho La Laguna’ letterhead, offer a unique glimpse into the perspective of one of Edie’s greatest supporters, alternating between pride, hope, and worry, questioning her move to New York City to model when her daughter was so naturally talented as an artist and horsewoman. The letters are dated sans year, however, two accompanying mailing envelopes are postmarked to 1964; given this and the subject matter, we suspect that these letters date between 1963 and 1965.
A portion of the letters read as follows:
November 15, (1963): “This is really nice of you to take Edie on, as a pupil. It will be wonderful for her, in every respect. I am sending her portfolio of drawings, also some of her ceramic work, etc., which she ought to receive early next week. Within the limits of your convenience, I hope Edie will work regular hours & a regular number of hours, even on the days she does not have a lesson. Apparently, her idea is to wait, about getting in touch with Demetrios, until she has figured out her schedule with you, plus her lessons in Spanish.”
May 7, (1964): “Thank you immensely for your letter, which I think I had better not have Edie see, right now, thoroughly, as I understand your not wanting anything to be ‘behind her back.’ If you can catch her, just say it to her face & not that you wrote me! But I’m sick about the horse!…Please don’t feel that you have failed; because of necessary absence! With Edie’s talent, none of us expected to have her stop working & substitute even more party-going as an outlet, a mistaken one, for her energies. Right now, all I can say is this: the best plan, in everyone’s opinion, is to get her to come west, with Jonathan, on May 28th. Then we can talk with her & make future plans, while she cannot help but change her night-into-day present pattern. She’s a superb horsewoman, she can help me with some newly trained colts…Indeed, we all seem to have our problems with our young & so have they within themselves!”
May 8th: “Just as I was sitting down to write Edie, a letter arrived from her, dated May 6th. She had been in bed with the flu (small wonder!) earlier this week but she said she was going back to ‘her corner’ in your studio that day…This last trip to N.Y. was to sign some papers because she’s 21. She didn’t need to stay there over the week-end but, evidently, she did.”
June 15th: “As you probably know, Edie’s summer plans have undergone a change (she promised she would call you): we want her to come home & not spend the summer in Cambridge, for a variety of reasons, one of them being she needs some simple country life with riding, swimming & plenty of sleep. She has been in N.Y. looking into modeling jobs, which we don’t think too much of but, following both Jonathan’s & Suky’s advice, we are letting her try & hopefully, get it out of her system. We hope she will come west in a week, or so, but have not yet approached the question of length of stay, which I think will take care of itself, once she’s back on the ranch, which she loves. We, also want to talk over her plans for next winter. She doesn’t seem to want to be in Cambridge (how I wish she could have had more work with you) so the alternatives must be carefully weighed. Another problem, I don’t think she is ready, yet, to be entirely on her own. Both Duke & I are so grateful to you, for all you have done, this year, to help Edie. I am dying to see the horse, which I am sure is taking up unnecessary room in your studio. What should we do, or has Edie taken care of this herself?”
July 12th, regarding Edie’s plans: “We don’t know yet, whether she has landed a job modeling, but she has worked, quite hard, looking & eliminating. She has a group of appointments this coming week, with the magazine ‘Mademoiselle,’ her best bet. Actually, Kate & Jonathan think this experience is good for Edie, & we do, too. She seems to have settled down, quite a bit, so we’ll just wait & see. She may want to be in N.Y. next winter but let us just wait & see, re the remaining lessons. Edie told me, at the time, she was leaving her doctor in Cambridge, that he was no longer doing her any good, & she may be right…Everyone seems to be agreed that this is Edie’s chance to do something on her own & one & all say ‘Edie’s fine; you don’t need to worry.’ I’ll keep you posted. With infinite thanks for all you have done for Edie.”
September 3rd: “I telephoned my Ma’s apartment (Mrs. H. W. de Forest, 730 Park-Regent 7-1260) & told the trusty Agnes to grab Edie & have her communicate with you. I trust she did! This was nice of you & if only the appreciation of someone, totally strange, could stimulate Edie to get back to her artistic endeavor, we would be so pleased. This idea of modeling is all wrong but we cannot do much about it.”
No date (circa December 1964): “All the best wishes for Christmas & the New Year. I am so sad about our fiasco when you came west & Edie was so ill. She has been in the hospital (though she was at home then & too sick to see anyone) one & off ever since. If you come out again, please come up for a visit.”
Lily’s 1969 letter to Edie reads, in part: “I was so touched to get your dear letter of Dec. 16th, & relieved that you had gone back to the ranch for a while—probably instinctively to ‘take stock and consolidate gains’—as everyone must now & then. It was a beautifully written letter—like an artist’s (mine aren’t however).” In overall fine condition.
Accompanied by mourning cards for Edie’s grandmother, Julia Gilman Noyes, and her father, Francis Minturn Sedgwick, and newspaper clippings related to Edie’s death. Horses served as a creative anchoring point for Sedgwick throughout her life, a go-to subject from a childhood spent on California ranches. According to her brother Jonathan Sedgwick: ‘I always thought Edie wanted to escape on her horse, but she couldn’t get off the ranch. She was penned in. Usually it started with a battle with my father. She always felt that he would come and get her. So she could only run away on the ranch. She would just disappear into the mountains with her horse, Chub, and you never knew where she was. Then she’d come back mellowed out.’