Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Louise Guiney

Who is Josephine Peabody?

Posted on March 11, 2010

Scores of women fell in love with Gibran and vice versa, in the US and abroad (France, Egypt and Lebanon) and love letters on both sides kept the post office pretty busy.

May Ziadi, a Lebanese author who settled in Egypt and who was a deeply literate, polivalent and a female activist, and respected by the literate Egyptian circles. Gibran and Miss. Ziadi swapped all kinds of letters until his death. She didn’t travel to the US to ever meet with Gibran and she wrote in one of her latest letters: “I refuse to be a mere flower in your garden

The Lebanese author Salim Mujais published “Letters of Khalil Gibran to Josephine Peabody”.

It is an Arabic book and the author decided on a new style: Gibran 82 letters are translated and Josephine diary “Psychic” is included, date to date, so that you are reading a joint diary of two people in love with no interference of the author’s opinions or comments.

When Josephine poems relates to Gibran, they are included in the daily commentary.  In addition, when Gibran’s works relate to Josephine, excerpts are attached to the joint diary.  It is unfortunate that Josephine’s letters to Gibran are still not found, although Gibran’s letters were gathered by Josephine.

Gibran (Jubran) sent her a drawing through his mentor F.H. Day with these words “To the dear unknown Josephine Peabody”.

In the meantime, Gibran had traveled to Lebanon to learn Arabic and French at the college of Hekmeh (Wise) in Beirut.  Three months later, Gibran receives an unexpected letter from Josephine.

The letter says, in weak English) something to the effect:

“Mr. Day showed me many of your drawings and paintings in his possession; we talked about you.  I felt ecstatic the whole day after seeing your drawings because I could understand you through them. 

I think your soul lives in a beautiful space.  This is the fate of people who can create beautiful things in arts; they enjoy complete happiness when they share their bread with others.  I live in an environment of noise in a crowded city.  I feel like a lost child seeking his true self.  Have you seen any deserts?  I think you listen to silence.  Forward me your news and I will tell you mine”

Gibran, still not mastering the English language, replied on Feb. 3, 1899 from Lebanon. The letter says: (words in brackets are as they were written)

“(When I received your letter) O, how happy, I was? How glad? So happy that the tongue of poor pen cannot put my joy in words. I feel (discontent) when I come to write (English), because I know not how to translate my thoughts as I want, but perhaps you (want) mind that, and I think I know enough to tell you that will keep your friendship in (midest) of my heart, and over that many miles of land and sea will always have a certain love for you and will keep the thought of you near my heart and will be no separation between you and my mind.  

You wrote in your letter “I always keep things of that sort” and for a certain thing I am just like camera and my heart is the plate. I will not forget when you spoke with me that night in Mr. Day’s exhibition.  I asked Mr. Day “Who is the lady in black?”. He said “She is miss (Beabody), a young poet and her sister is an artist”…

I wonder “do you ever sit in a dark silent room listening to the music of the rain so calm that is”… With this letter I send a little drawing for remembrance.”

The correspondence lasted till 1908.  Many letters are not dated and Josephine must have thrown away many letters during period of disagreement. Josephine died in 1922; she was married to Lionel Marx and had children.

Probably, Josephine was:

1. the first person to organize Gibran’s first drawing exhibition;

2. the first who compared Gibran drawings to Blake’s;

3. the first to translate his poems to English;

4. the first who wrote poems on Gibran;

5. the first woman in Gibran’s drawings and paintings;

6. The first woman hero and main character in Gibran written works.

Josephine Peabody was Gibran’s first true love and muse (his genie).

Josephine is the woman who made Gibran to experience love, pain, sorrows, chagrin, and ecstasy.

Born in 1874, Josephine started to publish poems in magazines at age 14.  She received a grant to study at Radcliff (1894-96).  Her first book is “Old Greek folk stories told anew, 1897”, then a book of poems “Wayfarers, 1898”.

In 1900, Josephine published a one part play “Fortune and Men’s eyes” and a poetic play “Marlowe, 1901”.  She taught at Wellesley till 1903.

Josephine Peabody married Lionel Marx and they moved to Germany where Lionel was teaching at a university.  The couple returned to Boston.

Josephine published her poetic play “The Wings” in 1907.  Josephine had her first daughter Allison in 1907 and she published a book of songs for children “Book of the Little Past” in July 1907.  

In 1909, she published the play “The Pied Piper” and won the Stratford award among 300 participants.

Josephine published “The Singing Man” in 1911 where she included the poem “The Prophet” that she had written around 1900 and in which she imagines Gibran’s childhood period.

In 1913, Josephine toured Europe, Egypt, Palestine, and Syria and published on her return “The Wolf of Gubbio”.  WWI generated her book of poems “Harvest Moon

Josephine didn’t meet Gibran again until 1914, while attending the play “The mask of the bird”.

In this month of February, Josephine invited Gibran to tea and showed him the album of her children. She had dinner with Gibran at Mrs Ford; and dinner at Edwin Robinson.

Gibran wrote to Mary Haskel “Josephine appears to belong to Cambridge and not the world. Josephine didn’t changeshe wore the same cloths

Josephine published her play “The chameleon” in 1918 and then “Portrait of Mrs. W” in 1922.  Josephine diary “Psychic” where she talks about Gibran is of 51 pages and span from December 1902 to January 1904.  She died in December 1922.

Gibran had to kill the “genie” of Josephine.

He wrote in an Arabic article titled “A ship in the fog”: “Hover over this white corps in white cloth amid white flowers the silence of time and the dread of eternity”

Note 1: Gibran was enamored (platonic) with several women much older than him, before he met Josephine Peabody.  For example, Louise Guiney (1861-1920) who was FH Day girlfriend; the artist Lilla Cabot Perry (1848-1933) who painted Gibran in Arabic attire (painting at Savannah museum); and the gifted photographer Sarah Choates Sears (1858-1935) who arranged to send many artists to Europe.

Note 2: East of USA in the early 20th century was very different from today.  People had this renaissance streak; they were polyvalent, spoke many languages, and traveled to Europe to acquire knowledge and arts.  People encouraged young foreigners with talents financially and with contacts.

Note 3: Gibran’s English was still tentative, and it will take him years to master this language, thanks to Mary Haskell who made it a point to edit all his English works. Gibran bequeathed his English work to Haskell after his death.

Note 5: Unfortunately, he missed to bequeath his Arabic works to May Ziadi. Miss. Ziadi would have spread Gibran works faster and wider in the Arabic speaking world and might have earned a new phase in her active life. Ziadi returned to Lebanon to be harassed by her relatives for her fortune, and even attempted to incarcerate her in a mental hospital.


adonis49

adonis49

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