Socialism and Christianity in Early 20th Century America

By Jacob H. Dorn | Go to book overview

White seemed content with the life he made for himself in the mountains. He published nothing after 1932, but he was able to satisfy his need for a public forum by speaking about his pottery to women's clubs and on local radio. On these excursions he was always immaculately dressed, perfectly charming, and reasonably lucid. But those who knew him well couldn't help noticing that his mind wasn't always in tune with reality. He fantasized that he was a full-blooded Iroquois and for a while wore only a loincloth. 146 Despite the fact that his pottery sold very well, he was miserly to the point of begging rotten vegetables from the village grocery. 149

The flurry of publicity that greeted the release of The Toast of New York prompted a retrospective interview and feature article in the New York Herald Tribune. By 1937 White "had arrived at a mellow view point." He no longer hated the capitalists but felt compassion for them. Still convinced that he knew the answer to the world's problems, he was content to wait for its leaders to come to him. He felt confident that the world would soon "revert to a 'society of cities.'" He looked back on his days as an agitator with regret. "I want to make that plain," he said: "My protest . . . took the form of wild, ineffectual demonstrations. In its fruiting, it didn't amount to a hill of beans and, therefore, it was unsound. The only way to explain it is that collective lunacy was getting into my nerve centers along with those of all the rest. It made me unwise." Though the reporter found him "strong and tanned at sixty-two," the question of growing old and dying crept into the interview. White's answer revealed that he had given the matter some thought.

Death has to come to us sometime. . . . And I feel that disease could be met better in a beautiful spot like this than in any other area I can think of. If you've got to pass away slowly it is more natural to do so here in the sun than in some city tenement. Up here you become accustomed to the idea that decay is as natural as growth--that if spring is natural, so is autumn. Age with the aching tooth will come upon me. I am ready for them. I expect them. 150

White's dream of living out his time in the mountains was not realized. In 1945 he suffered a stroke and was admitted to the Menands Home for Aged Men in Albany. He died there in January 1951. Praying for the world's salvation to the end, he left little behind but a tortuously written plan for the beautification of the Hudson River Valley. 151


NOTES
1.
Who Was Who in America with World Notables 5 ( Chicago: Marquis Who's Who, 1969- 1973): 773. Although White was known as Charles or Charlie until he was past thirty, he will be referred to as Bouck throughout to distinguish him from his father and because he preferred that name.
2.
Middleburgh (New York) Gazette, 24 October 1874, Irvin G. Wyllie papers, hereafter cited as IGW. The historian Irvin G. Wyllie collected materials for a scholarly biography of Bouck White in the period 1948- 1950. He laid the project aside and did not return to it before his death in 1975. Consisting largely of correspondence, interview notes, clippings, pamplets, and photographs, the Wyllie Bouck White collection was donated to the author in 1977 by the professor's widow, Mrs. Harriet Wyllie.

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