Exorcism: A Play in One Act 9780300186055

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Exorcism a play in one act

Eugene O’Neill foreword by

Edward Albee

new haven and london in association with the

beinecke rare book and manuscript library

Exorcism was originally published in the New Yorker. Copyright © 2012 by Yale University. Foreword copyright © 2012 by Edward Albee. Introduction copyright © 2012 by Louise Bernard. All rights reserved. This book may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, including illustrations, in any form (beyond that copying permitted by Sections 107 and 108 of the U.S. Copyright Law and except by reviewers for the public press), without written permission from the publishers. Yale University Press books may be purchased in quantity for educational, business, or promotional use. For information, please e-mail [email protected] (U.S. office) or [email protected] (U.K. office). Designed and set in Centaur type by Katy Homans. Printed in the United States of America. Library of Congress Control Number: 2011939151 isbn 978-0-300-18131-9 (hardcover: alk. paper) A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. This paper meets the requirements of ansi/niso z39.48-1992 (Permanence of Paper). 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

caution: Professionals and amateurs are hereby warned that Exorcism, being fully protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America, the British Commonwealth, including Canada, and all other countries of the copyright union, is subject to royalties. All rights, including professional and amateur performance, motion picture, recitation, public reading, radio broadcasting, and the rights of translation into foreign languages, are strictly reserved. All inquiries regarding production rights to this play should be addressed to International Creative Management (ICM), 730 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10019, Attn. Val Day. All other inquiries should be addressed to Yale University, Office of the General Counsel, P.O. Box 208255, New Haven, CT 06520-8255.

the eugene o’neill collection was founded at the Yale University Library in 1931 by Carlotta Monterey O’Neill. It includes notes, photographs, and the manuscripts of plays. All royalties from the sale of the Yale editions of this book go to Yale University for the benefit of the Eugene O’Neill collection, for the purchase of books in the field of drama, and for the establishment of Eugene O’Neill Scholarships in the Yale School of Drama. Typescript facsimile and endpapers Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Contents Foreword Exorcism—the Play O’Neill Tried to Destroy edward albee

vii Introduction Time and the Archive louise bernard

xi Exorcism 1 Typescript Facsimile 59

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foreword Exorcism—the Play O’Neill Tried to Destroy edward albee In the middle 1950s, while I was still safely in my twenties, I wrote my first play. It was called The Zoo Story; it involved a meeting in New York City’s Central Park of two men, one of whom had come there to read on a Sunday afternoon. By the end of the play one of the men was dead, the action of the play concerning itself much more with the why of the event than the event itself. The play had its world premiere in West Berlin, Germany, at the Werkstatt of the Schiller Theater on September 28, 1959—in German!—on a double bill with Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape. (How fortunate can a young playwright be!) The U.S. premiere was (in English!) on the same double bill at the Provincetown Playhouse in New York City’s Greenwich Village on January 12, 1960. The evening was well reviewed and The Zoo Story ran for nearly three years. vii

I had quit my job delivering telegrams for Western Union when I went to Berlin for the premiere, and I have spent the years since—mostly in the United States—writing plays and essays, teaching, and directing. As I mentioned above, The Zoo Story was my first play— and there it sits in all definings: Edward Albee’s first play. And I think of it that way. The only possible complication here is that I wrote three or four plays before I wrote The Zoo Story—before I wrote my first play—before I wrote my Opus 1. We all do this, of course; we commit student work— sometimes a lot of it—before we have accomplished something we feel is professional or good enough to be singled out as worthy of inclusion in a corpus. Felix Mendelssohn, the composer, as an example, wrote fourteen string quartets—including one, the final one, I think, which contains a fugue worthy of J. S. Bach—which he listed as student work—pre-opus. Painters do it; poets do it; we all do it. We finally decide “Okay, this is good enough to list it among the pieces I’m willing to take credit for.” (Or the blame for.)


In the case of The Zoo Story, it was a lot better than the stuff I wrote before it, rather as if my talent—such as it was—had matured enough to have it examined seriously. We separate our student work from our theoretically mature work, and we’re usually right. * * *

What do we do, however, about a playwright who decides to destroy his work, especially—as in Eugene O’Neill’s case —when the usual career designations (student; professional) are not helpful? His play Exorcism, the subject here, is not a very important milestone in his development as a dramatist, and I suspect his drive to do away with it has less to do with its subject—O’Neill’s own attempted suicide—than it does with his dissatisfaction with the play’s structure and resolution—especially the fact of the play’s anti-dramatic second and final scene, which takes the play nowhere and has little to do with dramatic logic. And we all know that if the facts get in the way of dramatic logic they are expendable. What is fascinating about Exorcism is how much it


does have to do with The Iceman Cometh, his long and ungainly and deeply involving memory play about his youthful life and hard times, more or less on the streets. Exorcism could be a scene from The Iceman Cometh—indeed, would make it a better play. While The Iceman Cometh lacks the clarity and focus of O’Neill’s masterpiece—Long Day’s Journey into Night—it stands out as a worthy confrere, as one of the two plays he wrote which deal honestly and fully with the author as subject matter. They are O’Neill’s two most revealing plays and are the most moving. O’Neill has always seemed several playwrights to me— all instructive and skillful but the work made, most of it, out of whole cloth you wouldn’t call finest wool. It is with The Iceman Cometh and Long Day’s Journey into Night that O’Neill dealt most perceptively with his demons, and it is for this reason that Exorcism is worth examining as an essential part of that fabric. new york city, 2011


introduction Time and the Archive louise bernard There is much to be said for the relationship between Time and the Archive, each term capitalized here as befitting its symbolic function. Time—that ineffable thing which signifies the broad sweep of history—is at once deep and long and granular, an (in)finite string of fleeting moments that constitute something like duration. Although human endeavor appears to follow a teleological thrust, chronology is equally tied to happenstance and hence to a host of disjointed patterns that refuse easy coherence. Even as we break down time into digestible parts (days, years, centuries, or broad, expansive eras), such arbitrary units necessarily rub up against their opposite: the intangible stream of human consciousness as a fluid movement of thought, or elusive recollection. Thus, when we speak of time, we also speak, inevitably, of memory, of piecing together the import of events large and small, which brings us, by association, to the figure of the archive itself.


The archive, as the careful assemblage and ordering of documents into discrete bodies of information that capture and record the various workings of the public sphere, provides much fodder for the ever-subjective production of history. Yet, while the archive’s origins are bureaucratic in nature, the idea of the archive as it relates to creativity acquires added resonance when we consider not only the aesthetic lure of the archive as a mode of artistic practice (the playful use of archival accoutrements—filing cabinet, typewriter, index card—in the work, for instance, of the Surrealists) but the way in which the paper trail itself presents an object lesson in the machinations of biography— the interplay of presence and absence that undergirds the telling of an individual’s life story. The Eugene O’Neill archive at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University comprises four collections classified according to provenance: the Eugene O’Neill Papers, the Eugene O’Neill Collection, the Agnes Boulton Collection of Eugene O’Neill, and the Eugene O’Neill, Jr. Collection. The Eugene O’Neill Papers, the


“organic” hub of the archive, were a gift of O’Neill and his third wife, Carlotta, and the estate of Carlotta Monterey O’Neill following her death in 1970. The Papers date from 1942, when O’Neill, fearing for his work’s safety during the war years, distributed his original manuscripts between the Museum of the City of New York and his short-lived alma mater Princeton, with work relating to his later plays sent to the Yale Library. After the war, as O’Neill came to terms with his deteriorating health and his physical inability to write, he donated his remaining unpublished writings and other materials to Yale, the only institution from which he accepted an honorary degree. Although O’Neill’s papers and his reading library are, in keeping with the uprooted and often mobile nature of the archive, partly dispersed, the Eugene O’Neill Papers at the Beinecke Library (stretching over ninety linear feet), along with the related O’Neill collections, provide in the fullness of O’Neill’s careful keeping and collation (aided by Carlotta in the role of irrepressible helpmate), a vivid sense of the writer attached to the very materiality of his work.


While we find the expected editorial process of manuscript drafts—holograph and typescript, corrected across multiple versions—or varied ephemera such as programs, clippings, and personal and production photographs, along with the obligatory correspondence, we also find those personal effects that reveal something about the man and his surrounds beyond that which can be directly discerned in his artistic output. As such, the archive extends outside the boundary of mere papers to include a host of book-related items— bookends, bookplates, various kinds of stationery, and favored writing tools (notably O’Neill’s Eberhard Faber Black Wing pencils)—as well as locks of Carlotta’s hair, money that O’Neill won in a craps game on the SS Coblenz in 1928, O’Neill and Carlotta’s engraved gold rings, and their beloved Dalmatian Blemie’s dog collar. The working papers, personal items, and other decorative pieces or memorabilia evoke a particular, evolving kind of picture, one that is attached, irrevocably, to the relentless passing of time—from photographs of O’Neill as a baby to his death certificate and autopsy report. The archive represents, therefore, a distillation of experience,


a journey at once attached to the singular life and yet somehow disassociated from it—a wealth of experience replete with incredible highs and impossible lows, all collapsed into a series of neatly ordered boxes. It is with the idea of Time and the Archive in mind, then, that I broach the discovery of O’Neill’s famously “lost” oneact play Exorcism (1919)—a play, based on his suicide attempt in 1912, that saw a standard two-week run by the Provincetown Players in New York City in the spring of 1920. The script, however, was one that O’Neill chose to recall and to dispose of, effectively deleting the text from his corpus of work, leaving behind only the trace of mixed reviews, including one particularly glowing notice from Alexander Woollcott writing in the New York Times, along with the season’s playbill as witness to its relatively brief appearance on the stage. An undated early sketch and a record in his aptly, if torturously, titled workbook “List of all plays ever written by me, including those I later destroyed, giving where and when they were written” further delineate the apparently short span that existed between composition and erasure.


As far as the trope of loss goes, however, the play was, of course, not so much mislaid or forgotten as willfully destroyed by the writer’s own hand, and yet this decisive mark of authorial agency was, in turn, radically undercut by the unwitting design of O’Neill’s second wife, Agnes Boulton, who, at the time of their divorce in 1929, failed to return to O’Neill certain manuscript materials in her possession. While O’Neill’s often-stormy relationship with Carlotta Monterey is glossed over in his many loving inscriptions to her, a final barbed reproach toward Agnes, the woman he deserted in favor of Carlotta’s charms and whom Carlotta, in turn, attempted to excise from the historical record whenever possible, is documented on the title leaf of the first volume of his Work Diary (1924–1933), wherein O’Neill writes: “(1925 from memory & few records, diary of that year having been stolen and sold by former wife . . . ).” The parenthetical accusation seems to nod its head to that most gothic of documents—the “purloined letter.” But, whatever her crime, Agnes had not, in actuality, sold O’Neill’s “Scribbling” diary for 1925, and as retained in her own papers,


it remains the only evidence of the more detailed journaling that O’Neill readily discarded once he had copied all of the information he wished to preserve in the separate Work Diary, the latter being a simplified listing of a given day’s activities or preoccupations. Nor did Agnes sell the typescript of Exorcism that she had also apparently kept and, whether “stolen” or not, later gifted, probably sometime in the 1940s, to the screenwriter and producer Philip Yordan, with the now near-cryptic “something you said you’d like to have” jotted on a label, the envelope adorned—such kitsch irreverence—with Christmas stickers. That the play should emerge out of Philip Yordan’s own papers, discovered by his widow, Faith Yordan, in the process of sorting through her late husband’s archive, some ninety years after it was first written, produced, believed destroyed, and cast into the depths of O’Neillian lore, gives one pause as to the secret life of manuscripts—the means by which such wayward paperwork can seemingly take on an existence of its own. When the historian John Lewis Gaddis, in The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past, considers how time and


space act upon historical methodology, he concludes that “all we can say for sure is that we’ll only in part be remembered for what we consider significant about ourselves, or from what we choose to leave behind in the documents and artifacts that will survive us.” The assertion, we might note, is one that must be couched in a certain recognition that those emblems of the past “that will survive us” do so with a volition that often operates beyond the pale of our presumed control. As such, we might read Exorcism in light of what Freud termed the uncanny, here the reemergence or unintentional return of that which is purposefully “buried” or repressed. Just as O’Neill’s suicide bid was abortive, its reenactment introducing a whiff of the Beckettian absurd into his characteristically somber play, so his attempt to destroy, on paper, that which would become a forceful subject in his work, did little to thwart the manuscript’s strange buoyancy, its ability to resurface, out of the blue, after so many decades. It should perhaps come as no surprise that Freud’s essay “The Uncanny,” itself a reworking of an “old paper


dug out of a drawer,” was first published in 1919 and is therefore contemporaneous with O’Neill’s lost play. The seeming foreignness of the uncanny experience, one we might align, for example, with the odd sensation of déjà vu, is wedded to the idea of the familiar, and it is familiarity in its absolute sense, the autobiographical thrust of O’Neill’s work from his early seafaring plays to the bared soul of Long Day’s Journey into Night (published posthumously by Yale University Press in 1956), that signals his compulsion to repeat, to return to the scene of those formative experiences—scenes that would stamp, so indelibly, his life as an artist. “It was a great mistake, my being born a man,” says Edmund in act 4 of Long Day’s Journey. “I would have been much more successful as a sea gull or a fish. As it is, I will always be a stranger who never feels at home, who does not really want and is not really wanted, who can never belong, who must always be a little in love with death!” If Exorcism, with all the terse economy of the one-act form and its close alignment to the Aristotelian unities of time, place, and action, is understood (at least in regard to


its initial conception) to be a play about catharsis, a play that heralds, to some degree, O’Neill’s transition from fledgling playwright to master of his craft (he receives three of his four Pulitzer Prizes in the following decade, the first for Beyond the Horizon in 1920), then it also reflects the uncanny significance of time in O’Neill’s work and career broadly understood. He was to some degree obsessed with the idea of the eternally deferred, that which is unreachable and, therefore, in essence, failed—the idea, in terms of temporality, of what we call tomorrow, the day that never comes. It is a trope that O’Neill grapples with in his only published fiction, the short story “Tomorrow” (written in 1916 and appearing in Seven Arts the following year), which tells the tale of Jimmy Byth (in the story named “Jimmy Anderson” and later “Jimmy Tomorrow” in The Iceman Cometh), aspiring journalist, professional ne’er-do-well, and O’Neill’s close friend and fellow roomer at Jimmy “the Priest” Condon’s flophouse on Fulton Street in lower Manhattan. The sense of foreboding for O’Neill’s first-person narrator in “Tomorrow” is palpable—“my phantoms, however


foolish, refused to be laid. I got dressed in a hurry, anxious to escape from this room, bright with sunlight, dark with uncanny threat”—an air of dour anticipation that the playwright knew only too well from his own decision to overdose on Veronal tablets just a few years earlier. That it is Jimmy Byth (called simply “Jimmy” in Exorcism) who helped to save O’Neill in 1912 but who would himself commit suicide in the very same rooming house the following year (the painful memory of which is summoned afresh in Parritt’s fatal fall at the end of The Iceman Cometh) illuminates the extent to which death and despair marked O’Neill as he struggled to find himself in the world, leaving behind his life at sea and his weak attempts at poetry, reaching as it were for a modern, dramatic sensibility previously unseen in the American theater. The writing of “Tomorrow” as a veiled prelude to Exorcism becomes all the more poignant when we consider that O’Neill’s morphine-addicted mother, Ella Quinlan O’Neill, had also attempted suicide, that it was rumored that his paternal grandfather, Edward O’Neil [sic], had possibly been


a suicide, and that both of his sons, Eugene, Jr., and Shane, would, in later years, take their own lives. (Carlotta’s third husband, Ralph Barton, committed suicide not long after she married O’Neill.) As such, Exorcism becomes something more than the embellished story of O’Neill’s brush with death that he first conveyed to Agnes and to his friend the theater critic George Jean Nathan. Rather, as a preparatory sketch for the epic works that will come toward the end of his career, the play signifies his first attempt to commit to paper and to the stage (the most intimate and visceral of spaces) a crucial moment not only in his literal biography but in the overarching trajectory of his writing life. Writing, for O’Neill, was indeed tantamount to salvation. He kept writing, he said, because he had “such a love of it. I was highly introspective, intensely nervous and self-conscious. . . . When I was writing I was alive.” The underlying sentiment of this assertion, seemingly of the moment and yet tied simultaneously to the past tense, is in accord with the mandate of the archive itself, with the purpose not only of safekeeping—often of the most fragile and ephemeral of


things—but of rendering in a tangible way the artistic imprints of longevity and legacy; the archive as a vestige of immortal presence. And so we come to the crux of the matter, why the autobiographical subject of Exorcism might inform the play’s reclamation and publication above and beyond O’Neill’s express wish that it be struck from the authorial record, his insistence, as he wrote to Provincetown Player Frank Shay in 1922, that “the sooner all memory of it dies the better pleased I’ll be.” While O’Neill was utterly decisive in his wish to destroy the play (whether for personal or creative reasons, or a combination of both), we might turn in this instance to Albert Camus, who proposes in The Myth of Sisyphus that “if the only significant history of human thought were to be written, it would have to be the history of its successive regrets and impotences.” There is a certain existential insight to be gained by that which is otherwise deemed failed or flawed, but, more important, it is the connection between O’Neill’s “early” attempt to harness the autobiographical impulse and the “late” work of his magnum opus


Long Day’s Journey into Night (set in the summer of 1912 and reflective of his earlier suicide attempt) that enriches our understanding of the playwright’s development over time. Such reclamation, however, must be appreciated with the nuance of biographical context, for needless to say, it was Carlotta who willfully overturned O’Neill’s equally explicit direction to restrict publication of Long Day’s Journey until twenty-five years after his death. As executrix of the O’Neill estate and steward of her husband’s memory, Carlotta understood only too well that the posthumous work, for all of its intimate grief, was the crowning achievement of her husband’s career. We are reminded that even as the archive is associated ostensibly with the past, it is not fixed or static but a fluid, shifting entity—a literal, if metaphoric, concept endlessly reshaped by the vagaries of the rare book marketplace, by scholarly engagement and imagination, by new technologies that endeavor to open up the repository to the broader contours of an increasingly digitized world. And so it is in the spirit of the archive’s reinvigoration (attuned to the inter-


play of time and chance and the unexpected ways in which the hidden comes to light) that we embrace the reemergence of this one-act play by Eugene O’Neill, a play that offers us a new portrait of the artist as a young man. louise bernard curator of prose and drama yale collection of american literature beinecke rare book and manuscript library


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Characters Ned Malloy Jimmy, his roommate Major Andrews Edward Malloy, Ned’s father Nordstrum


Scene A small bedroom on the top story of a squalid rooming house occupying the three upper floors of a building on a side street near the downtown waterfront, New York City—the ground floor being a saloon of the lowest type of grog shop. On the left of the room, forward, a rickety chest of drawers. Farther back, a window looking out on a fire escape. To the rear of the window, a washstand with bowl and pitcher, and then another window. A pile of books, stacked up against the wall, lies on the floor in the left corner. In the rear, left, a door opening on the hallway. To the right of door, a cot with a thin straw mattress, dirty blanket, and a lumpy pillow without a case placed at the end nearest the door. Against the right wall, another cot with the same meagre equipment. The pillow of this cot is set at the end toward the rear. Two chairs are in the room—one left center, the other by the head of the cot on the right. On the latter are placed a small lighted lamp with a smudgy chimney, a package of cheap tobacco, matches, cigarette papers, etc.


The room is filthy. The walls and low ceiling, white-washed in some remote past, are spotted with the greasy imprints of groping hands and fingers. The plaster has scaled off in places showing the lathes beneath. The floor is carpeted with an accumulation of old newspapers, cigarette butts, ashes, burnt matches, etc. It is just after dark of a miserable foggy day in the middle of March some years ago. The windows, stained by the sediment of old rains, glimmer grayly with a fresh layer of moisture. * * *

At the rise of the curtain Jimmy is discovered lying on the cot at right reading a newspaper by the light of the lamp on the chair. It is cold in the room, so although he is fully dressed, he has the blanket drawn up well over his shoulders. After a moment he throws this off with a grunt of annoyance at having to disturb himself, puts his newspaper aside, and swings his feet to the floor. Sitting on the side of the cot, he fills his corncob pipe and lights it, shivering in the chill air. He is an undersized stout little man of forty dressed in a worn and shiny black suit. His face is that of a fat but anemic baby—round, flabby-cheeked, pasty-complected, looselipped. His eyes of a faded blue stare mildly from their wrinkled pouches. His untrimmed hair, thin and graying, sticks limply to his skull. There is an air about him of a meticulous neatness gone to seed. His high wing


collar is soiled, the white shirt front beneath the cheap bow tie is crumpled and grimy. He speaks with a careful precision but the tone of the voice itself is vague. His pudgy little hands tremble as he lights his pipe. Steps are heard from the hallway stairs and Jimmy turns his face expectantly. The door in the rear is opened and Ned Malloy enters. He is a tall slender young fellow of twenty-four dressed in a shabby brown raincoat over a frayed, gray sack suit. His face is oval, lean, the cheek bones prominent, lines of sleeplessness and dissipation deep about the eyes and mouth. His mouth is wide, the lips twisted by a bitter, self-mocking irony. His eyes are large and blue, with the peculiar possessed expression of the inveterate dreamer’s. His forehead, under a thick mass of black hair, is broad and wide; but his chin reveals weakness, indecision. The upper section of his face seems at war with the lower, giving the whole an appearance of conflict, of inner disharmony. Just now this is intensified, for he is evidently in an abnormal state of strain. * * *

jimmy Suddenly brightening up and beaming with friendliness as he sees his roommate. Hello, Ned.


ned Putting his black slouch hat on the washstand and throwing his raincoat in a heap on the floor—shortly. Hello, Jimmy.

jimmy Contentedly puffing at his pipe, ready to engage in endless conversation. It’s a rotten night out, isn’t it? I thought for a while of going over to Brooklyn—you know, to see that party I was telling you about. I’d catch him in at night, I think, and I’m sure I could make a touch on him for a ten spot— Hopefully. maybe a twenty. We used to be pals in the old days—years ago—when I was on easy street and he wasn’t. I’ve helped him many a time and never reminded him of it.

ned With sudden savagery. Then it’s hopeless, you fool, don’t you see, dammit!


jimmy Taken aback. Eh?

ned If you really helped him that other time, I mean. You won’t get a nickel from him. Why, you poor nut, he’ll only take delight in seeing you down and out—and helping to keep you there. The best you can hope for will be a snivelling moral lecture on the evils of drink—and his advice to mend your ways, which he’ll hope you won’t take.

jimmy In a hurt tone. Oh, I don’t know. People aren’t all as bad as you’d like to make out.


ned Caustically. Aren’t they? Well, I haven’t seen them all. He has the air of being excited by a false interest in this conversation as if he were trying to distract his thoughts.

jimmy Anyway, I’m glad I didn’t go. I waited around in the bar downstairs to see if it wouldn’t clear. Tom Henderson was in. He blew me to a couple of whiskies.

ned Hmm! I was wondering where your optimism came from.

jimmy But the beastly drizzle kept right on. It hadn’t let up when you came in, had it?

ned No. Muck under foot and muck overhead—and in between. God’s giving us the naked truth today.


jimmy A bit shocked. You shouldn’t say that. Then in a consoling tone. You’ve got the blue devils today, haven’t you?

ned I haven’t had two whiskies.

jimmy Henderson slipped me a dollar when he was going. We can go downstairs and—

ned Gruffly. No. Then more kindly. Thanks just the same.


jimmy With a grin. You must be feeling queer. Later, then?

ned With a grim smile. Later? Supposing there wasn’t any—

jimmy You mean I’ll spend it before? No, Ned, I promise.

ned Don’t be a fool. I wasn’t talking of that. I was speaking of— later.

jimmy You have got the blues all right. I don’t blame you. It’s this devilish weather. It’s enough to— Well, cheer up! It’s the middle of March now. Spring will soon be here.


ned Sardonically. That’ll be a blessing!

jimmy Taking this at its face value. Yes, won’t it? Do you know, Ned, spring is my favorite season of the year.

ned Suddenly. How long have you been living here?

jimmy Six years, more or less. Why?

ned I should think all the seasons would be alike in this rotten dump.


jimmy A bit huffily. Come now, Ned, this place isn’t so bad. Where else could we get a room on such long credit as Old John allows us?

ned Yes, I suppose I ought to be grateful that, thanks to knowing you, I had this place to land in when the Old Man kicked me from the family fireside. Well, I was grateful then; but that was six months ago. Excitedly. Anyway, I’m leaving it now.

jimmy Astonished. You’re leaving? For good?

ned With a harsh laugh. You’re damn right—for good!


jimmy Are you going home? Has your father—

ned Welcomed me back to his bosom? No.

jimmy Then where are you going?

ned If I knew that— He pauses—then adds quietly. I’d be a wise guy indeed. Then excitedly. But I’m talking rot. What was it you were holding forth about? Sardonically. Oh, yes—the beautiful spring!


jimmy Defensively. Well, it is beautiful. Of course, you don’t get much chance to see it here in the city, but still I walk down to Battery Park every morning as soon as it gets warm enough.

ned Somberly. It wasn’t very beautiful down at the Battery today—a miserable, soaking strip of mud, the trees dead, and the bay as filthy as an overgrown sewer.

jimmy Surprised. You were down there today?

ned For six hours—till it got dark.

jimmy But what were you doing—


ned Sitting on a bench—with the rest of the flotsam.

jimmy In the rain? Why, you must be soaked! You’ll catch a cold sure.

ned What’s the difference? Irritably. Oh shut up, you old woman! You’re worse than a wet nurse. Pass me the tobacco, will you? I’ll roll a cigarette.

jimmy Passing him the tobacco—in puzzled tones. You chose a funny time to loaf on the Battery, I must say.

ned No other place. I wanted to be alone—and think. He bends his head, appearing engrossed in rolling the cigarette. Jimmy looks at him uneasily.


jimmy As if he wanted to change the subject. Well, you couldn’t get a very favorable impression of it down there today. It’s different later. In the middle of spring—

ned Oh, to hell with spring! What significance can spring have to you—or to me—or any of the others in this hole?

jimmy A lump in his throat. Spring means something to me that you can’t very well understand, Ned. There have been springs in my life—in better days—when—

ned Exasperated—throwing away the lighted match with which he has not yet lit his cigarette. Stop! Stop right there, Jimmy!


He loses control over himself and rages hysterically at the astounded and frightened Jimmy. I’ll be damned if I’ll stand for listening to that story again! No! Oh, I know you too well! I can see it coming, that story you’ve told me a thousand times. You always start in that way. But you’re not drunk now and you’ve no excuse for telling it; and I’m not drunk and so I won’t endure listening to it! You’re worse than Major Andrews downstairs who insists on showing me the scar on his leg when he’s on his pension drunk every month. I suppose you think yours is a wound, too, you sentimental rabbit! Of all the abject illusions! Listen to me! I’ll tell you the truth for once in your life. By your own story, a thousand times retold, you prove that that wife who ran away from you seven years ago was a worthless nonentity—and guilty in the bargain!

jimmy In a horrified gasp. Ned!


ned And yet you hug her memory to your breast like a dried rose! Why, you ought to be thanking God you got rid of her! You weren’t happy then, you know it. But you are now. Yes, you are—in spite of everything. You’re secure—home at last—because this place is bedrock. After this there’s nothing—but the Morgue. Only you feel it’s morally wrong for you to live happy on this dunghill. You want an excuse— Bah! The Major is the same. He’s here, he laments, because his daughter abandoned him in his old age—that same religious crank of a daughter who, by his own story, wouldn’t let him drink and made him go to church twice every Sunday. And now he’s happy as a king in this sink where no one gives a damn what he does. Then suddenly sinking back on his cot—wearily. Hell! What’s the use of talking?

jimmy His lips quivering. You—you’re not so good yourself, when it comes to that.


ned I? I’m no good and I know it. I make no excuses. I’m here because I belong here, but I’m not happy about it. Besides, what is the meaning of that word “good”? To be what you are and face it—that’s good. Come, confess it. Our only “bad” is lack of money to stay drunk on, isn’t it? With a sudden wild laugh. Here I am arguing like an imbecile! Blessed last moments!

jimmy Rising to his feet—with dignity. You’re very insulting. For old friendship’s sake—I prefer to forget your words. They were not those of a gentleman—or a friend—I never thought you— He breaks down like a child.

ned Jumping up and putting his hand on Jimmy’s shoulder—contritely. Forgive me, Jimmy. I’m all unstrung. I apologize. It was all nonsense, what I said. Forget it. I didn’t mean to hurt you, honestly, Jimmy.


jimmy Recovers himself immediately and beams at his friend affectionately. It’s all right, Ned. Only your damned tongue—

ned Remorsefully. Forget it.

jimmy Filling his pipe. Oh, it’s all forgotten. Ned lights his cigarette and smokes in a gloomy, nervous abstraction. Jimmy lights his pipe and looks at his friend curiously. Finally he ventures: You haven’t been acting like your old self, Ned.

ned How could I? He’s dead—most of him—and the rest—

jimmy You don’t look well. Are you sick?


ned Frowning. No. I didn’t sleep much last night.

jimmy With alarmed solicitude. You didn’t come back here. You don’t mean to say you were walking the streets all night?

ned No. With a shudder of disgust. Oh, I found a warm bed—quicklime!

jimmy Startled. Eh? Ned doesn’t seem to hear him but stares across the room, the expression of strained tension on his face seeming to grow momentarily more intense. Jimmy clears his throat timorously. Did you go to see—your father?


ned No.

jimmy He refused to talk to you?

ned No. I didn’t try. It stuck in my craw at the last moment. I’ve held out ever since our row and I made up my mind I’d not give him the satisfaction.

jimmy But—now that you’ve chucked that job you’ve got to do something.

ned With somber emphasis. I’m going to—do something. Jimmy squirms uneasily.


jimmy After a pause—hesitatingly. Nordstrum—the big Swede, you know, that comes in from the Market—I was talking to him last night. He says he’s going out West—Minnesota—just as soon as it gets warmer. He won’t have any money. He’s going to beat his way and foot it. Some relative has a farm out there. The Swede is sick of the city, he says. He wants to get where there’s fresh air.

ned Gloomily. He won’t find it. There’s no fresh air in this world.

jimmy Why don’t you go with him? He’d take you along. He likes you, he told me so. And it would be a wonderful trip— in spring.


ned Oh, damn your spring! But I’m thinking myself of taking— a long trip.

jimmy Twists uneasily on the cot—uncertainly. It would be just the thing for you.

ned Just!

jimmy Not that I’m anxious to have you go, you know, but—

ned No. You will be sorry, won’t you? Yes, you’re one of the few. Suddenly. Do you know where I went yesterday?

jimmy No.


ned To the lawyer’s.

jimmy Opening his eyes. Ah—you mean your wife’s lawyer?

ned Yes. I told you, didn’t I, he’d written me a couple of times to come and see him—and arrange matters. I got half-shot yesterday morning in preparation for a stormy interview with the Old Man, but after I got that way I felt too independent to compromise with him. I wanted adventure—so I went to call on her lawyer.

jimmy Curiously. Well, what did he say?


ned Tried first to be kind and fatherly—good advice—said my fair frau was willing to forgive and forget if I would promise to behave and settle down. It didn’t take. I told him she might be willing but I was not. I wouldn’t forgive or forget the fact that I despise her.

jimmy Ned!

ned Exasperated. Now, Jimmy, for Christ’s sake, if you want to hear this— and I do want to tell you so that things will be understood by someone afterwards—it’s choking me!—then you’ve got to can your sentimental drivel. Save it for your own sorrow. Fiercely. I won’t put up with it, do you hear?


jimmy Hastily. Yes. Then sorrowfully. I’ve always hoped—you’d go back to her finally.

ned Angrily. Jimmy! You’re an ass!

jimmy Pathetically. But didn’t you—don’t you care for her at all?

ned With a hopeless groan. Oh, my God! Then vehemently. Not a damn! Not a single, solitary, infinitesimal tinker’s damn! I never did! Body—that was what I wanted in her


and she in me. And I married her for an obsolete reason— a gentleman’s reason, you’d call it—and because a perverse devil whispered in my ear that marriage was one of the few things I hadn’t done. That’s all it was, so help me—a silly gesture of honor—and a stunt!

jimmy Agitatedly. I can’t believe it, Ned.

ned It’s a fact, nevertheless. So don’t be sentimental. Leave that to her.

jimmy Miserably. Then she is actually going to get a divorce?


ned Of course. She’s rich. She’ll be married again within a year. Her pinhead won’t even retain a memory of what happened two years ago. With irritable excitement. Damn your questions! They set me off the track. All that is immaterial—too futile to discuss. It’s not what I want to tell, not what has moved me—to desire a long trip. More and more excitedly. When we got down to cases the lawyer quit his fooling and gave his advice as to— He shudders. the evidence. You know the law in New York. There’s only one ground that goes.

jimmy Yes—adultery.

ned So we arranged a time and place.


jimmy But that’s collusion, isn’t it?

ned Only if it’s found out. It was arranged that I should go, with witnesses, to a certain—house of ill fame, as the newspapers call them. The lawyer even offered to foot the bill in case I was broke; but I still had enough money left and I waved his offer magnificently aside—my last flair of honor, Jimmy! He pauses for a moment—then bursts out. That was where I spent the night—the warm bed I spoke of, Jimmy.

jimmy Inclined to grin. And the quicklime?

ned Searing to the brain! Getting up and pacing back and forth—with growing intensity.


Now it comes, Jimmy—what I wanted to tell. I don’t remember much about getting there—or my choosing the correspondent. We arrived in the small hours and I was very drunk. I must have fallen asleep—almost immediately. When I awoke the room was strange to me. It wasn’t dawn, it was mid-day, but it appeared like dawn, with faint streaks of light shedding from the edges of the green shades and the whole room in a sort of dead half-darkness with a close smell of powder and perfume—and Lysol. Gradually I remembered, lying there without moving, the night before. I felt suddenly stone cold sober and I grew conscious of soft breathing, of the warmth of that other body. I was afraid to look. Why? The whole thing was no new experience—but I was afraid! Then I forced myself to turn— With a shudder. She was pretty, but she looked—there were all the weak sins of the world in her face—she looked like a painted clown with the black on her eyes and the greasy rouge on her lips— like a clown, you understand, a pitiable clown—and yet loathsome—oh, unutterably! And then, if she was that— what was I? And all of a sudden she turned over on her


back and began to snore—more gross than a pig! And it seemed to me that suddenly everything I had ever done, my whole life—all life—had become too rotten! My head had been pushed under, I was drowning and the thick slime of loathing poured down my throat—strangling me! He swallows convulsively. I jumped up and got away without waking her. He sinks on the cot limply, his head in his hands. That’s all.

jimmy After a pause—not knowing what to say. Hmm—I think I understand. I’ve had the same experience.

ned Fiercely. Oh no, not the same! You’re here now, aren’t you? You wouldn’t be if—I tell you this was frightful—the end of everything—the last straw! Frenziedly.


Don’t you see what I mean, you fool? How can I go on, eh? No! It’s over! I’m done! I’m through!—when all beauty is gone out of the world!

jimmy After a pause—philosophically. Well, you’ll get over it. You mustn’t take it so seriously, Ned. Insinuatingly. I’ve still got that dollar. Come on down and have a drink and forget it.

ned No! Furiously. You don’t understand. Go on! Get out of here! I want to be alone!

jimmy But don’t you want something to eat? You’d better.


ned No! Leave me alone, will you? After stopping uncertainly for a moment, staring uneasily at Ned, Jimmy goes out. As soon as he is gone Ned comes over to the lamp. He takes several pillboxes from his pockets and empties their contents on the chair—a small heap of white tablets. He picks up the pitcher and pours out a glass of water. He puts the tablets in the palm of his hand and, shaking off a momentary hesitation with a frowning jerk of his head, swallows them and washes them down with the water. He mutters with a grim smile: Well, that’s over. Turns down the lamp and lies down on his cot, closing his eyes with a deep sigh, pulling the blanket up over his shoulders. The curtain is lowered to denote the passage of twenty-four hours. When it rises again the scene is unchanged. By the dim light of the lamp, its wick turned low, the face of Ned Malloy can be seen. He is still lying on the cot fast asleep, the blanket pulled up over his shoulders. His face has a singularly peaceful and calm expression, the strained look of tension is gone. Steps are heard from the hall outside and men’s voices raised in


dispute. There is a warning Ssshh from one of them as the door is opened slowly and Jimmy and Major Andrews come into the room. They are both quite drunk. Jimmy’s face beams like a sentimental moon on a popular song cover. The Major is a tall, spare man of a ramrod bearing, dressed in clothes of the English style which have evidently seen long wear and assiduous brushing. With his small bright eyes like a bird’s, his boney sharp face, red complexion, stiff white hair and military mustache, and self-important, strutting air, the Major irresistibly recalls to mind a White Leghorn cockerel on the brink of his first crow. They move carefully to the cotside and stand with bowed heads, side by side, as if paying the last honors to a corpse.

jimmy In a thick whisper—on the verge of tears. Alive—thank God!

major Shaking his head—sentimentally. Poor young chap! To think—he owes his life to you—yes, Jimmy boy, to you.


jimmy Generously. And to you, too, Major—you, too! You helped me walk him around. With a gulp. God bless you, old friend!

major With dignity. We’ll say no more. I love the poor young chap. Sentimentally. Ah, the fair sex—wives, sweethearts and daughters—what devilish tricks they play us, Jimmy boy. Then briskly. Shall we wake him up now? When is his father coming for him?

jimmy At eight. It’s nearly that now. As the Major grabs Ned by the shoulder.


Don’t tell him his father’s coming, Major. Let’s leave it a surprise. Poor Ned! How happy—he’ll be.

major Shakes Ned vigorously. Wake up! My dear young chap! Wake up, that’s a good lad!

jimmy Shouting. Ned! Wake up!

ned Blinking his eyes open—sleepily. What the hell—? He suddenly straightens up in bed with startled eyes as recollection dawns on him.

jimmy With a maudlin giggle. Oh, you’re alive, all right.


ned With a savage gesture. Shut up! I want to think. He remains in deep thought for a moment, staring perplexedly around the room—then mutters in a tone of deep self-disgust. Missed fire, by God!

major Importantly. A damned narrow squeak of it, my dear young chap. You owe your life to our friend Jimmy, here.

jimmy Maudlinly. No, you too, Major! You, too!

ned Disgustedly. You fools! I might have known it. To Jimmy impatiently. What happened? Tell me, you idiot!


jimmy Well, when I went downstairs, when you drove me out, I was worried about you, worried to death—we’re chums, aren’t we—chums! He insists on shaking Ned’s hand.

ned Restraining his anger. Yes, yes, of course. Then what?

jimmy With a cunning wink. You’d been dropping hints—dark, dark hints—you weren’t yourself, you know—and I had my suspicions—and was worried, worried to death about you.

major So he came back upstairs—and there you were, old chap!


jimmy Stiff and stark—like a corpse.

major So he ran for a doctor—

jimmy And called the Major—

major And the doctor came, and you were frightfully ill, poor chap. You’d taken too much of an overdose, you know. And he worked on you—

jimmy With a stomach pump—

major And we walked you about, pummelling you—you’ll be sore today, I fancy.


jimmy You were like a log—

major But we had to keep you moving—

jimmy Then the doctor came again and said it would be all right to let you sleep off the rest of it—

major You’ve been dead to the world for twenty-four hours, poor chap. And there you are!

ned Slowly. Yes, here I am. And now—what? Turning to Jimmy suddenly. Of course, you phoned to my father and told him all about it, I’ll bet!


jimmy With pride. I did better.

ned Furiously. Damn!

jimmy Alarmed. But, Ned, I had to—the doctor and everything. We had no money. After I knew you were all right I went to see him. I had a difficult time—breaking the news. Your poor father— he loves you, Ned!

ned Shut up! How much did he give you?

jimmy He wanted you taken to the best hospital but I told him the doctor said it wasn’t necessary.


ned How much did he give you?

jimmy Fifty dollars. He chuckles cunningly.

ned Astonished. What ho! He must have been stricken to the heart. So that’s how you raised the wind? I was wondering where the price of your jags came from.

major Walking about—huffily. Tut-tut! Nothing of the sort! There is the sound of steps from the stairs outside. Jimmy nudges the Major with his elbow.


jimmy In a loud whisper. It must be him coming, Major.

major Hurriedly. Ahem—we’ll leave you now, old chap—for a moment— ahem. They both sidle out the door.

ned Excitedly. What’s this? What are you up to now, damn you! He recognizes his father’s voice talking to them outside the door—furiously. The old man! Hell! His father enters the room. Malloy is a tall, portly, well-dressed, important-looking man of fifty-five or so with the serene, self-complacent countenance of one who has achieved success in his chosen line—by his own unaided endeavors, he believes. His manner is somewhat stern and dictatorial; he expects his word to be accepted as the last as a matter of course.


Just now he is as emotionally moved as it is possible for him to be. In appearance he bears but little resemblance to his son.

malloy Coming to the cotside. Ned! He extends his hand which Ned takes after a second’s indecision. How are you, boy?

ned Awkwardly. Oh, all right, I guess. There is a pause.

malloy Clearing his throat—condescendingly. We’ll let bygones be bygones, my boy. Though how you could think of taking a step which amounts to a crime— without consideration for your family—if your poor mother was alive—


ned Impatiently. If you came to talk about that, it’s no use.

malloy Flushing angrily but restraining himself. No, I did not. The past is past. We’ll bury it. But you must see the necessity of leaving this filthy dive as soon as possible. I’ve come in the car to bring you home.

ned Uneasily. I feel very weak. I think I’d better stay in bed here tonight.

malloy Frowning. Of course, if you don’t feel up to it. I’ll send the car for you tomorrow morning, then?


ned Relieved. All right.

malloy After a pause. Margaret is at home staying with me.

ned Starting. Ha!

malloy I thought it my duty to phone and let her know what had happened. She was out of her mind with grief, Ned. If she had ever dreamed the divorce proceedings would have hit you so hard—

ned Aha! So that’s what she thinks! The devil!


malloy She thought you didn’t care. She did everything in her power to bring you to your senses before taking the decisive step—offered to forgive and forget—and she has forgiven you, Ned, because she loves you like a true woman. She has withdrawn the divorce proceedings, I needn’t add.

ned Aghast. And she’s waiting at our house—now—for me?

malloy Yes, to welcome you home. She even desired to come to you at once but I dissuaded her. I knew you wouldn’t want her to see you here.

ned After a pause. Well, I suppose she and I have got to have it out face to face finally.


malloy Hastily. Not at once. Let matters have time to adjust themselves between you. You need a good rest, my boy, to regain equilibrium.

ned Eagerly. Yes. Rest is what I want.

malloy We suggest, Margaret and I—your sisters, too, think it advisable—that you go to some rest cure institution for a time and build up in body and mind.

ned Wait a moment. He remains in deep thought for a while—then seems to make a sudden decision and grins sardonically. Well, I’m agreeable. For a month, say. It’ll be spring then. As long as it’s a place where I can be alone—and think.


malloy I’m glad to find you in such a sensible frame of mind. I was afraid—your action, you know, pointed to derangement. But I’ve heard of a place in the country—quite select— strict secrecy—only a very few patients allowed.

ned His eyes now twinkling with a tickled humor. That’s fine!

malloy Pleased. That’s settled, then. Good boy! And afterwards—we’ll see. Your old position in my office is always open to you, of course.

ned Frowning. Let’s talk of that—afterwards.


malloy Very well. I won’t disturb you any longer. You need rest and sleep. Till tomorrow, Ned.

ned Good-bye for the present. They shake hands. Malloy goes out. Ned, waiting until he is out of earshot, bursts into a fit of hearty, mocking laughter. God, this is a funny world! And I wanted to die! The door is opened and the Major enters, drunker than ever. He comes and stands stiffly, swaying by the cotside.

major As if he were making a report of military operations. Jimmy is foraging below to—hic—purchase a quart. We will drink to your long life, my boy, now that you—hic—are happily reunited to your family. My dear chap, I’m so glad. Your father appears an—hic—estimable gentleman. Dolorously. Ah, it’s a thankless task to bring children into the world! What is it the Great Bard—hic—says? “How sharper than a


serpent’s—hic—tooth to have a thankless child.” My dear lad, I speak from sad experience. My daughter whom I nourished and cherished—hic—brought my grey hairs to what you see me now. Have I ever told you—?

ned Quickly with a grin of malice. Yes, you have. How she wouldn’t let you get drunk and made you go to church twice every Sunday until you had to run away from her.

major Greatly piqued, stalks stiffly about the room. Nothing of the—hic—sort. It was she who heartlessly abandoned me. With stern reproof. I have not yet—hic—expressed my disapproval at your attempt at self-destruction. It was funk, sir, pure funk! I know from experience. I’ve seen my own men—hic—give way to it before a battle. Why the very day—in the Zulu


war, it was, not in the Soudan—when I got this wound in the leg from a spear—a very devil—hic—of a gash—an awful weapon, my lad. I’ll bear the marks of it till the day I die. Did I ever—hic—show you? He starts to roll up his trousers.

ned With solemn seriousness. Since the last time, Major, you never have. But the Major is interrupted by the stumbling of footsteps on the stairs and Jimmy’s voice whining out: “Oh you take the high road and I’ll take the low road.”

major Going hurriedly to the door, his pants on one leg half rolled up to the knee. By Jove, you know, he’ll—hic—drop the bottle. But Jimmy enters with it successfully clutched in one hand and four whiskey glasses in the other, and staggers to a seat on the edge of his cot. He is followed by Nordstrum, a tall, husky, blond Swede dressed in flannel shirt and working overalls.


ned Throwing off the blanket and jumping up. He shakes the Swede’s hand. Hello, Nordy. I was just thinking about you. Will you let me go along with you when you start for the West?

nordstrum Heartily. Sure, I like like haal for gat you along, Ned.

ned It’s a go, then. You start toward the end of April, don’t you?

nordstrum Yes.

ned I’ll be ready by then. I need a month’s rest to get in physical shape for it. Get busy there, Jimmy. Give us a drink. Jimmy hands out the glasses and the bottle and they all pour out a drink.


major Solemnly. Long life to you—hic—my dear young chap.

jimmy And may you—may you—turn over—new leaf. They are about to drink.

ned Stop! New leaf be damned. It’s a new book without a leaf of the old left in it. The Past is finally cremated. I feel reborn, I tell you! I’ve had a bath! I’ve been to confession! My sins are forgiven me! God judges by our intentions, they say, and my intentions last night were of the best. He evidently wants to retain my services here below—for what I don’t know yet but I’m going to find out—and I feel of use already! So here’s looking forward to the new life, reform or no reform, as long as it’s new. To spring—and fresh air—and Minnesota. Skoal, Nordy.


nordstrum With a grin. Skoal! They all drink.

jimmy Blubberingly. Spring—did you say, Ned? If you had been through—all I have—in better years—in spring—

ned With grinning exasperation. Woof! He’s started!

nordstrum With a roar of laughter. Py yimminy, he tal dat story twenty time to me tonight!


ned Drown him out, Nordy! He commences to sing raucously: “Come on and hear! Come on and hear! Alexander’s ragtime band!”

nordstrum Singing with a deep bellow at the same time. “Oh you bootiful doll, you great big bootiful doll!”

major His hands over his ears, trying to make himself heard in protest. My dear young chaps! My dear young chaps! Jimmy weeps brokenheartedly at the heartlessness of his fellow men as The Curtain Falls

eugene o’neill, provincetown, mass.


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Eugene Gladstone O’Neill (1888–1953) was born in New York City, the son of James O’Neill, a popular actor, and Ella Quinlan. During his childhood years he lived mainly in hotels with his family, following the touring schedule of his father’s company. The only permanent home the young O’Neill knew was a summer cottage in New London, Connecticut, which later became the setting for Long Day’s Journey into Night. As an adolescent, O’Neill attended eastern preparatory schools and Princeton University, which he decided to leave before the end of his first year. During the next five years he worked as a gold prospector, a sailor, an actor, and a reporter. He also became immersed in a life of dissolution, rooming among derelicts on the Manhattan waterfront. The experience was one that helped to shape his worldview and creative sensibility. O’Neill began writing plays in 1913, and by 1916 his oneact play Bound East for Cardiff was produced in New York City by the Provincetown Players, a group he had helped found. In 1920 his full-length play Beyond the Horizon won O’Neill the first of his four Pulitzer Prizes.


Exorcism: A Play in One Act was written in 1919 and performed in 1920 at the Provincetown Playhouse, before O’Neill ordered all copies destroyed. Remarkably, it was unearthed among the papers of the screenwriter and producer Philip Yordan in 2011, and acquired by the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University later that year. During decades of extraordinary productivity, O’Neill published 24 other full-length plays. After receiving the Nobel Prize for literature in 1936, he published two of his most celebrated plays, The Iceman Cometh and A Moon for the Misbegotten. O’Neill died in Boston in 1953. Long Day’s Journey into Night, often regarded as his finest work, was published by Yale University Press three years after his death. The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University is the principal repository for the Eugene O’Neill archive.