After I discovered who the author of one of my favorite children”s books was, I did a little research on her.Here”s her Wikipedia entry “Helen Palmer Geisel was born in 1899 and died in 1967, 24 years before her husband died.” They met at Oxford, and apparently she persuaded him not to become a professor, but to be an artist instead.
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She published several other books in addition to A Fish Out of Water, and worked as an actress. And, she committed suicide. Wikipedia attributes her suicide to “a series of illnesses (including cancer) spanning 13 years.”But a story in The New York Times offers a different, somewhat seedier version. Geisel, it seems, remarried. His second wife was a woman named Audrey Diamond.To let the Times pick up the tale:
Were you thinking the widow of the country”s most beloved children”s writer must have been a sentimental and devoted mom, admitting only the most traditional family values?
d was married with two children when she fell in love with Ted Geisel. Mr. Geisel, 18 years her senior, was also married. In the wake of their affair, Mr. Geisel”s wife, Helen, committed suicide, causing, as Mrs. Geisel puts it, “”a rather large ripple in the community of La Jolla.”” Mrs. Dimond divorced her husband to marry Mr. Geisel, 64, and when she did, her daughters, 9 and 14, were sent away to school.
“”They wouldn”t have been happy with Ted, and Ted wouldn”t have been happy with them. He”s the man who said of children, “You have “em and I”ll entertain “em.” “”
“”Ted”s a hard man to break down, but this is who he was. He lived his whole life without children and he was very happy without children. I”ve never been very maternal. There were too many other things I wanted to do. My life with him was what I wanted my life to be.”” ….
Might be nice to have some of Helen Palmer”s words as well. Here”s the first Mrs. Geisel”s suicide note to her husband:
As one Dear Ted, What has happened to us? I don”t know. I feel myself in a spiral, going down down down, into a
black hole from which there is no escape, no brightness. And loud in my ears from every side I hear, “failure, failure, failure… I love you so much … I am too old and enmeshed in everything you do and are, that I cannot conceive of life without you … My going will leave quite a rumor but you can say I was overworked and overwrought. Your reputation with your friends and fans will not be harmed … Sometimes think of the fun we had all thru the years …” Source: Judith and Neil Morgan. Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel: A Biography. pg. 195.
I wonder if I will ever be able to look at that picture book — or any book by Dr. Seuss — the same way?
I suppose that”s a straw man of a question, though. Can we ever look at things we knew as children in the same way, once we”ve grown up and our innocence is lost? Adult lives are complicated and often messy. It appears that Seuss”s life was just messier than average.
It is possible to be both charmed by the work and disturbed by the life. No different from Tiger Woods, really. Have to love the man”s inimitable ability as an athlete. His personal life, not so much.