Bruce Kellner traded congenial letters with Alice Toklas, Gertrude Stein’s partner, until shortly before her death in 1967. In an essay published in the Turtle Point Press Magazine, Kellner remembers their correspondence, which began while he served in the Korean War and led to their meeting in 1962. Here, Kellner describes meeting the elderly Toklas in her Paris home:

Alice Toklas sat in an enormous armchair, nearly hidden in its recesses, in a corner of the room against the tall windows that gave a gray afternoon light through the drizzle of rain. I remembered her remark about landscapes: she liked a view but she liked to sit with her back turned to it.

“Will you forgive me? Will you forgive me for confusing the days?” the bass voice croaked, rich from years of cigarettes.

The tables on either side of her chair had ashtrays overflowing with Pall Mall butts, and she added to the debris, chain-smoking as the afternoon progressed. A rosary lay on one table, a reminder of her recent conversion to Roman Catholicism, and from time to time during our visit she held it or wound it around her wrist. Her black hair, only lightly streaked with gray, was combed forward over her forehead to just above her eyes, and she wore glasses with lenses as thick as coasters for a davenport. A large, beautiful brooch of some dull stone rested hat the neckline of her loose dress, and she had old sandals on her feet. Her nose was beaked, her eyes bright, her skin tissue-papery, and she had a quite definite, quite dark and downy moustache.

Much more at the Turtle Point Press.

Originally Published: June 27th, 2012