Sunday, 6 May 2012

Bellevue Hospital, New York

Bellevue Hospital, New York, at 1st Avenue and 27th Street in Manhattan, close to the East River and some three blocks east of the house in which Melville had died (his "Last Address").

Lowry was admitted as a voluntary patient following the intervention of his friend, Eric Estorick in May or June of 1936 for psychiatric observation after an attack of delirium tremens. Lowry was there for approximaely ten days. Later, he stated that his admittance was a "deliberate pilgrimage" in order to write a book about his experiences.

Douglas Day (Malcolm Lowry, 200) gives an account of the shock effect of Lowry's seeing lives destroyed by alcohol and patients dying of syphilis. Lowry was distressed when in 1944 Charles Jackson's The Lost Weekend appeared, set in part in the Bellevue Psychiatric Ward, "where Don Birnam spends an interesting afternoon" (Collected Letters Vol Pg. 503). Lowry felt that his own writing was compromised by the appearance of Jackson's book given his personal theme of the ordeal of an alcoholic.

The name "Bellevue" coincidentally anticipating the Hotel Bella Vista in Quauhnahuac, or Cuernavaca, where Yvonne sees the dishevelled figure of the Consul - yet another example of Lowry seeing his life written in symbols.

The final scenes in Lowry's short story 'In Le Havre' are set in a nightmarish world of fog ending with the newspaperman going to a bar for another drink. This may reveal the extent Lowry realised how he was descending into alcoholism portending the future of his internment in Bellevue Hospital.

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