Hence in a Cumulo-Nimbus Mood

Hugh Nibley in uniform

Hugh Nibley in uniform

Camp Ritchie, Oct. 29, and 1943

Dear Mother,

This day ends a strange and eventful furlough.  After a couple of days among the Amish in the Pennsylvania Dutch country (the autumn colors were incredibly brilliant) I ended up in New York where a whirlwind courtship culminated in a flat refusal. Hence in a cumulo-nimbus mood to Washington…

I have been made a Master Sergeant and in the great press of affairs take the liberty to saddle you with all my financial affairs on this continent.  That means you will receive an allotment of $100 a month plus a war-bond.  Such a sum would only embarrass me in the field — as it is I will get $40 a month — and you might find use for it.  The enclosed bond was picked up during a drive.  I will let you know what and when I can.  

It is unbelievable how many people there are in New York with nothing to do but look for something to do.  No artist is so bad, no art so bizarre, that it will not command an instantaneous and eager audience.  Everyone seems waiting and hoping that something good will show up.  This situation is vigorously exploited by the most pitifully ill-equipped performers in every field.  They fool nobody, of course, but get by simply on the vast and restless reserve-pool of first-nighters.  Perhaps I have not seen enough but to me it appears next to impossible for a good artist to go unnoticed for 36 hours in N.Y.  Reid should give it a try — just for the fun of it.  A horrible city, but big and lavish.  I must rush off now.



Editor’s note from Alex Nibley:

This letter was written shortly before HN shipped overseas from Camp Richie, which was the training facility for Military Intelligence during World War II. The incident HN refers to as the “whirlwind courtship [which] culminated in a flat refusal” was when he proposed to one Anahid Iskian, something he mentioned in other letters he was planning to do. (Hasty marriages as men were about to ship out were common at the time.)

After I wrote Sergeant Nibley PhD: Memories of an Unlikely Screaming Eagle, I heard the other side of the story. The friend who had introduced Hugh to Anahid read Sergeant Nibley PhD told me that after reading about it she had asked Anahid about the incident. Anahid had no recollection that Hugh had made her any offer at all. Apparently whatever proposal he had made was subtle enough or abstruse enough that its target failed to know that it even happened, and Anahid Iskian never married.

This was Hugh’s second attempt at getting married, the first time actually resulting in an engagement in 1941 to a Prussian modern dancer with Nazi sympathies, who also never married.



About Hugh Nibley

Hugh Nibley, 1910-2005, was simultaneously the LDS Church's greatest intellectual defender from attack from the outside and Mormon culture's strongest critic from the inside. This blog is composed mainly from Nibley's unpublished writings, letters, interviews and conversations, with occasional posts from associates who had personal interactions with him.
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5 Responses to Hence in a Cumulo-Nimbus Mood

  1. Hugh Nibley says:

    Lynn, Hugh met more than one rare book connection in Ritchie that he later leveraged to acquire works for BYU. There was also George Allen, who dealt rare books out of Philadelphia, as well as Goldschmidt, and Allen also was involved in helping to build the Ancient Studies collection. I had to check with Boyd Petersen, who knows more about that, and he confirmed that it was Goldschmidt who found the Patrologia and sold them to BYU. For more on that, Boyd covers it in Chapter 15 of A Consecrated Life: http://gregkofford.com/products/hugh-nibley-a-consecrated-life

  2. Hugh Nibley says:

    Lynn, thanks for your question. Anahid was indeed Armenian. Hugh didn’t meet her at Camp Ritchie, but there is a Ritchie connection. It was there in Intelligence training that Hugh met Lucien Goldschmidt, a European immigrant who had a rare book shop in New York. Goldschmidt became a close personal friend and eventually, through Hugh’s efforts after the war, also became the source of some valuable additions to BYU’s Ancient Studies collection.

    While at Ritchie, Hugh went on leave to New York and visited Goldschmidt’s shop. It was there that he met Anahid, who worked in the shop. It was Lucien’s wife, Marguerite Goldschmidt, who told me the story of how Anahid never realized she had been proposed to.


    • Lynn Jenson says:

      Since BYU’s ancient studies collection was like a rose blossoming in the desert due to Hugh’s efforts, I’m curious as to what some of the valuable additions were that Lucien Goldschmidt helped with, if you it’s not too much trouble for you to find out. Was he connected with the wonderful collection of Patrologia?

  3. Lynn Jenson says:

    Anahid Iskian is obviously an Armenian name. Any more background on her, her roots, and how Hugh came to meet her, i.e., was she connected with his training at Camp Ritchie in any way?

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