PATTON, George S. (1885-1945). Letter signed ("G S Patton Jr.") to Mrs. Charles G. Rice, of "Turner Hill," Camp Meade, Maryland, 5 August, 1920. 1 page, 4to (8 1/2 x 11 in.) folded once and enclosed in a three-ring leather binder. [With:] Thirty typed poems, some with corrections, annotations and handwritten punctuation marks. 38 pp. (6 x 9 1/2 in.).
PATTON'S POETICAL WORKS, TO A WOMAN WHO SAVED HIS LIFE: "EVER SINCE YOU SO FOOLISHLY PREVENTED MY UNTIMELY DEPARTURE TO ANOTHER WORLD I HAVE TAKEN OCCASION TO REMIND YOU OF YOUR ERROR."
So begins an excellent letter to the woman who six years previously had saved Patton's life. The letter is accompanied by what is likely to be one of the only extant collections of Patton's original poetry. The incident is recounted by Harry Reasoner: (Before the Colors Fade, 1981, p.65), quoting a witness: "Robert Reece, a frequent guest of the Rice household, came upon an overturned Ford nearby in the Ipswich road. From beneath projected a pair of booted legs. Reece...managed to lift up the car and drag out the strange young man in the polo clothes. He was unrecognizable as his face had been ground into the gravel and was masked in dirty crank-case oil. The only action which seemed to him appropriate was to take the unconscious body to Turner Hill...the butler...[announced that] 'Mr. Reece is outside with a dead man.' This was almost true, so grandmother ordered the body placed on a bed and with Reece's help pried open its jaws, and reached down the throat with her fingers to remove the sludge of gravel and oil which was slowly strangling him. She had no idea who the man was and in undressing him found that his undershirt bore the label 'Frederick Ayer Jr.' This seemed unreasonable as her new son-in-law was at that time on his honeymoon on a schooner off the coast of Maine." [Patton had married Beatrice Banning Ayer, whose brother had married a Rice.] "So, after scrubbing the black from what was left of the face she concluded...that the still half-dead horseman was Uncle George. Not until she had finished her ministrations and wrapped the man up in blankets did she call a doctor. Patton was thereafter grateful and all during grandmother's life wrote her letters and sent her small gifts...Among the gifts Uncle George sent her was, in 1920, a notebook containing copies of some of his poems and with a letter."
Patton's letter continues: "Yet since you still seem friendly towards me I have decided to expose to you in all its horror the full enormity of your action. To do this I am sending you an expurgated edition of some of my so called poems. These give a better index to my utter depravity than anything else I know of. having read one or two you are at liberty to destroy them lest they infect the minds of the young and gently nurtured. Should your friendship for me survive this book I hope that for many years I shall have the pleasure of reminding you of what you did for me...Very affectionately, G S Patton Jr."
Patton's favorite books were Homer's liad, Kipling's verses and the bible. He patterned himself on the legendary heroes of antiguity and identified most with the mythos of the warrior poet. His knickname of 'Old Blood and Guts' fits well with his efforts at versification. From The Attack: "While louder and yet louder, Increased the awful roar, While acrid in their nostrils rose, The stink of fresh spilled gore. And now the trench is entered, The bayonets thrust home; From mangled flesh, round prodding points, Ooze out the guts and foam. They struggle in that [rhapsody] Which only fighters know; They club and thrust, while trampling, Torn friend and writhing foe." It seems clear that the poems were typed, corrected, repunctuated and annotated by Patton himself. For instance in the above verse, ["rhapsody"] is first typed "raplay", then struck out and handwritten over, "rapshsody." Patton was severely dyslexic, and tortured by his deficiencies in spelling and grammer (although in later life he proclaimed that most people can only spell a word one way, while he can spell it many different ways). A particular difficulty he had was punctuation, and in the most of the poems the punctuation is hand-corrected, probably by its author.