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.
Edward J. Doherty (1890-1975)
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
It didn't sound very promising.
"Yes, your excellency,
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,