a telegram






The novelist Theodore Dreiser met Helen (Patges) Richardson in Greenwich Village, where he was then living, in September 1919. They became lovers and moved to Los Angeles shortly after beginning their romance. Helen Richardson was an aspiring actress. She became Dreiser’s second wife.

The following telegram from Helen to Dreiser was dated October 18, 1920.

Can you imagine getting such a telegram? I cannot recall reading any form of correspondence with such a desperate, anguished plea. In fifteen words.


— posted by Roger W. Smith

   January 2019





Helen (Patges) Richardson

4 thoughts on “a telegram

  1. Pete Smith

    Helen doesn’t strike me as a very attractive or very balanced woman in this photo. Desperate, for sure. Interesting that Dreiser was at the Bohemian Club, which I know well.

  2. Roger W. Smith Post author

    Pete — she was very attractive and (I never met her!) sexy. Yes, she was “unbalanced.” Meaning that all her life she suffered from bad relationships, flightiness, enthusiasms of a New Age-y sort that usually didn’t last, and mood swings. Something like that. I am not an expert. She had a cousin whom I met, a very nice man, who became director of the Dreiser Trust. He got her interested in spiritual type things, but it didn’t last (on her part).

    I have read a lot about her in various books about Dreiser, and there are intimate details in Dreiser’s published diaries. She wrote a book after Dreiser’s death, and shortly before her own death, entitled “My Life with Dreiser.”

    I would say that, on balance, she was a lot nicer person than Dreiser.

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