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Edward J. Doherty (1890-1975)

AS I MAY HAVE HINTED in Gall and Honey, I don't mind writing about myself; though, if given my choice, I'd rather write about something more interesting. However, I can deal with the subject more sympathetically than any other biographer possibly could, or would. And that's something.

Gall and Honey was written after my wife, Mildred, was killed in Beverly Hills, California. It ran serially in Liberty magazine under the title, "Newspaperman." It was butchered, of course. I wrote about 80,000 words. The magazine printed 30,000.

I didn't mind the butchery. I've been a newspaperman most of my life, and copy-readers have slaughtcred my stuff day after day for many years. I get even with them only by refusing to read anything of mine after it gets into print. So, of course, I don't mind, and-my stuff never bores me.

I was abroad when the story was published. Liberty had sent me flying the Atlantic to write storics of the German bombs falling on London. I had a great time in London, but no bombs fell. I went all over England, but couldn't find anything exciting. I flew to France, but found no fight there. Bottles, yes; but no battles.

It was the period of the "sit-down war," the "bore war," the "phony war." Eventually my editor, Fulton Oursler, got the idea there was going to be no action at all, so he called me home. I cabled him that I was en route to New York, but I took a round-about course, by way of Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Helsinki.

The Finns wcre having a real war with Russia, and I got a good look at it. Before I left Finland I had visited the western front, and spent several hours within half a mile of the Russian line. I didn't want to return to New York. I was having the most exciting time of my more mature years, being bombed, machinegunned, half-frozen, and constantly endangered by Finnish chauffeurs who insisted on traveling at one hundred kilometres an hour over the icy roads, constantly skidding and unskidding.

I refused to answer cables from the front office which asked "Why don't you come home?" or to heed those reading, in effect, "Come home or else!" But my visa permitted me just so long a visit; and when it terminated I was forced to leave.

It was with very bad grace that I returned to New York. The boss should have fired me for disobedience, or acting without orders, or something. But he didn't. He kept me on the magazine staff, and gave me assignments close to home, where he could watch me.

When the Germans started through Belgium and France and Norway and Denmark, I expected to be sent back to Europe. But, to my chagrin, I was merely sent to Harlem to get material for an article that was to be called "The Wickedest City in the World."

Me in Harlem! The great Eddie Doherty who should have been riding in the nose of bombers, or standing on the bridge with an admiral, or travelling with armies plunging into battle, was assigned the prosaic and distasteful job of writing about vice and crime in the streets and night clubs of New York's Negro section. The man who should have been thrilling all America with his accounts of heroic effort, epic suffering, and triumphs hammered out of overwhelming defeats, was spending his days and nights gathering trivial facts from cops, gin-mill managers, street-walkers, and paid tipsters. Me, I! How had the mighty fallen!

The Lord God Almighty was shaping my destiny; but I was too blind and too picayune to realize it.

In Harlem, quite by accident, I met a Russian woman.

I had met lots of Russians in Finland. They lay in burned tanks alongside the roads. They lay buried in the snow. They filled the woods. Russian soldiers frozen months before.

But this Russian woman had nothing frozen about her. She burned with the love of God. So great was the flame of that love that it warmed and quickened all who came close to her.

This was the Baroness Catherine de Hueck, founder of Friendship House, a social settlement in 135th street, between Fifth and Lenox avenues-a social settlement different than any I had ever
stumbled upon in all my hoodlum years.

Friendship House worked for and with the Negroes. It dispensed charity of all kinds, without asking questions, without hesitation. It fought for interracial justice. It fostered study clubs, credit unions, co-operative associations, and other advanced ideas of self-help for the Negro poor. And it disseminated Catholicity in a thousand ways.

I became enamored with the place, with the young people who worked under the direction of the Baroness, and with their mode of life. And, eventually, of course, I fell in love with the foundress.

These young men and women were college graduates, mostly, with the right to put letters after their names, if they wished. They had left good jobs to enter Friendship House. They received no salaries. They were given second-hand clothes to wear. They ate at a common table, and there were times when there was nothing but stale bread and warmed-over tea on that table. Yet they were the happiest group in New York. They loved "holy poverty" - I had never heard that phrase used until I visited Friendship House - and they loved to talk about God.

Imagine that! A little band of saints in "the wickedest city in the world!"

I went to school to the Baroness and to her "children;" and for the first time in fifty years began to get some little insight into the warmth, the beauty, the majesty, the color, the infinite glory of the Catholic Church.

One day I brought to the Baroness the manuscript of "Newspaperman," which I had retitled "Gall and Honey."

"You used to be a literary agent," I said, "maybe you can sell this. No other agent has been able to do so. It has come back from every publisher. Maybe it's too 'Catholic' for them. You probably know a Catholic publisher or two."

"I'll read it," she answered. "If I like it, I'll sell it."

For the first time I felt a little queasy about the book. Millions
of people had already read it in Liberty, and I hadn't minded that at all, though I had, in effect, made a general confession to those millions. But making the same confession to this particular woman - that was different. Reading the manuscript might alter her good opinion of me. And it was important to me - why, I couldn't have told anybody at the time - that she didn't think I was too big a heel.

She read the book, and the only reaction it seemed to have had on her was to make her curious about me. Which was wonderful. It gave me the opportunity to take her here and there, of an evening, and to talk to her for hours at a time in some quiet cafe or some out-of-the-way restaurant where the music played softly and the lights were not too bright.

There was no doubt about it. "Gall and Honey" drew us closer and closer together. Friends of mine began to make remarks. "I always knew you had the gall of a burglar, and I see you've got a new honey." Wise-cracks like that.

The new honey was sweet, after the bitter gall I had swallowed in the death of Mildred. But it would have been just as sweet, had I never tasted gall. And I was determined to keep that honey close to me all the rest of my life.

But Honey said "No."

She had two Friendship Houses now. The second one had
opened in Chicago with Anne Harrigan and Ellen Tarry in charge. There were two dozen or more staff workers. It would be impossible, the Baroness said, to marry anybody. She must remain in the work of the lay apostolate.

Priests close to the work of Friendship House, and at least one bishop who knew the scope of its activities, had told her she could not marry. So she wasn't going to marry me. Uh-uh. Never. It was like one of those love stories you read about. "I love you, I love you, I love you; but I can never marry you-never, never, never! There is a barrier between us that cannot be removed until I die."

A man can try to be light and funny, writing about it years afterwards. But at the time there was nothing to laugh about. The barrier was there, and there was no climbing it, no flanking it. It seemed to be the will of God that two people, though they were very much in love with each other, should go their separate ways and never see each other again-all for the greatcr honor and glory of God in the extending of His kingdom.

So we stayed away from each other for long intervals. And it was during these intervals that I began to write Splendor of Sorrow. Ever since I was a child, and much concerned with the seven sorrows of Our Lady, I had wanted to write a book about her. The idea had died, apparently. But, through Friendship House, it had been resurrected. The Baroness and those crazy kids who couldn't talk about anything except God, brought the idea back to life and nourished it into an obsession.

I started to work on the first sorrow, and learned to my consternation, that I didn't know enough of my religion to write the book. I began asking questions. But I couldn't always get answers. I went to priests and nuns and bishops, but still the right answers would not come. I didn't realize I was asking questions that only theologians could answer - that is, theologians who had given their whole lives to the study.

Well, you know how newspapermen operate. When they want
to write a story with a banking angle they call up a banker, ask a lot of questions, and produce a story that is authentic. Whcn they want to write of an operation, they question a surgeon as to his technique.

So, being compelled to write this book of Our Lady's sorrows, and being unable to get adequate information from authorities on this earth, I decided to call on the saints in heaven.

Lying in bed at night, half-asleep and half-awake, I would talk to the saints, ask them innumerable questions-and receive innumerable answers.

This was an extremely pleasant pastime, for I not only enjoyed the company of these celestial friends, but also, for the time being, I was not feeling sorry for myself and the woman I loved. It was pleasant, even though I came out of these interviews wide awake to grab a pencil and a pad of paper and to write, sitting up in bed and getting iced all over, for an hour or two or three, the things I was given to write.

I didn't see the saints. I had no visions of any kind. Nor did I hear voices. The answers came to me as silently as I issued the questions. The thing that amazed me was that the answers were so clear, so simple, so positive. Still, I thought, I don't know that these answers are right. Maybe I'm making them up myself. Any real Catholic who reads this stuff will tell me I'm ninety-nine percent wrong and one percent crazy.

But, one night, I was asking St. Joseph about the boy Jesus. He was lost, and St. Joseph and Mary were looking for Him, and could not find Him. I wanted to know what color His eyes were. St. Joseph said: "Why I don't know; I never noticed." That astonished me. No man had ever been so close to Jesus in His lifetime. He must have looked into those eyes thousands of times. I asked the question again, and St. Joseph answered: "What's the color of God's glory. That's the color of His eyes."

St. Joseph saw in his Foster Son, only the glory of God! That answer convinced me I really had interviewed the saints. And so I finished the book.

I was living in California when I wrote the last chapter. I was also writing the story of the Sullivans, for the movies. I had been
away from the Baroness for many, many weeks. And I decided that enough was enough. I flew to New York and made this proposition:

"The time has come when you can leave the local Friendship Houses to the direction of others. You have Nancy Grenell in New York and Anne Harrigan in Chicago. Let's go to see our friend Bishop Sheil in Chicago. If he says we can't marry, then it's goodbye for the rest of our lives. It's all or nothing. If he changes his mind and allows us to marry - then we'll be married as soon as we can. What do you say?"

"The voice of the bishop," she answered, "is the voice of God, to me!"

It was a bit terrifying, waiting on the veranda of the Bishop's residence, to hear the verdict. A judgment pronounced by the voice of God! I wondered how the soul feels-awaiting the blessing or the curse of Almighty God. And I wondered why my hands were sweating so.

"A long time ago," the Bishop said, after a long pause, glancing from me to the Baroness, "I made you promise me, Catherine, that you wouldn't marry."

It didn't sound very promising.

"Yes, your excellency, I promised."

The bishop nodded his benign head, and then he smiled.

"At that time your marriage would have wrecked Friendship
House. But now - things have changed. Friendship House has grown up. It can stand on its own feet, both in New York and Chicago. It still needs your general supervision. But there is no longer any reason why you shouldn't marry."

So we were married and lived happily ever after.

And Friendship House and its crazy kids acquired a step-father
who was very, very fond of them.


Originally published by Walter Romig in The Book of Catholic Authors Volume Three, copyright 1945

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