Elizabeth Smart was in her 20s when she first met and fell for fellow poet George Barker; despite his already being married, by 1941 she was pregnant with the first of their four children. Smart and Barker’s unorthodox relationship was a famously rocky affair due in no small part to their excessive drinking and Barker’s repeated empty promises to leave his wife, Jessica. In September of 1946, Smart left him once again, and not for the last time. This was her parting letter. Their relationship eventually waned and Smart brought up the children on her own. George Barker remarried and went on to have fifteen children by four different women.
(Photo: Graham Spry / Library and Archives Canada / e003641903.)
27th September 1946
I do not think that I want to lie down in your crowded bed for bouts of therapeutic lovemaking. Loving you, I see no beauty in lopsided true love. It really is in sorrow & not anger that I say: I do not want you any more because I simply cannot bear it. It isn’t only the unfaithfulness. It’s the loneliness, the weeks and months of being alone, really cut off from you, receiving perhaps a postcard saying I fuck you as you pause for breath in fucking somebody else. It would have been better if I had married before I met you, because then you could have given me a few months of fulfilling attentions which is all, apparently, that women need, & then I could have returned to the someone who, possibly, would have cared for me. For you do not want the responsibility even of love & by this I do not mean either money or guilt.
I realize that if you had cared about me the small necessary amount you would not have left me alone with so much pain, but would have contrived to find some other way of doing what you had to. This is the depths & the final & the end of my misery & degradation & if I say goodbye to you now I will be able to keep from being bitter because I am so grateful to you for your last few moments of frankness.
Dearest George, I will NOT give up the belief in true love or if you will romantic love—IT IS possible I KNOW. I never wanted anyone since you. IT IS possible to cometh to rest in someone—but you have not evidently had enough pleasure and power. Maybe I want the middle-aged things now. I’ve had my fuck, but I’ve lost my love. My womb won’t tear me to pieces now, maybe, but my heart certainly will. Goodbye. Elizabeth.