Gay Courage Comes When It’s Needed!

Smithsonian Spirit of St. Louis
Spirit of St. Louis

“Where do you get the inspiration for your books?” Emilie Loring was asked. “From everywhere!” she replied. In May, 1927, Charles Lindbergh’s first nonstop, solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean suggested “gay courage,” not only to Emilie Loring, but to all who needed it.

The whole world waited in watchful suspense and then erupted in awe-filled jubilation. Yes! He made it!

Emilie was happy. Her first grandson was born only weeks before the Lindbergh flight, and the Lorings spent the summer planning a new cottage across the road from Stone House.

But two of her close friends were up against it. Clara Endicott Sears had shrunk down to 110 pounds while caring for her dying mother. Sara Ware had been ill for over a year with an undiagnosed illness and was ordered to take a complete rest with no writing, no reading, no effort.

This letter from Clara to Sara Ware comes from the archives at Boston Public Library. It is a personal look into their friendship, their shared passion for writing, and the lift that came from one very long flight.

Kick frog kick
“‘Gay courage.’ The phrase has stuck in my mind.”

June 20, 1927

Dear Miss Bassett

For several days I had been thinking that all was not well with you & I was about to write, when I happened to go down to Fruitlands & Mrs Jones, who knows that you & I are good friends, told me that a lady to whom she had been showing the houses had told her that you were very miserably this summer. I think it was someone who knows Miss Cummings. I suppose they were giving news about mutual friends.

I went home much disturbed & the next morning your letter came!

Sara Ware Bassett

Now dear Miss Bassett I cannot express how much I deplore the fact of making obliged to drift through what you hoped would be a busy summer, but you just hold it right before you that good is going to come out of it, & that when you get well you will be able to write as you never wrote before,–just from the very fact of having had this experience.

For all experience, of whatever kind it happens to be, whether uninteresting or otherwise can be made to quicken the understanding & adjust our sense of values. You were going it too hard & your body resented it.

And perhaps it did you a good turn for I can hardly believe that a book written by force of will could equal one that evolves from a rested mind. Mr. Shoemaker [their publisher and Emilie’s] was driving you too hard & expecting too much. You will lose nothing by waiting.

For after all it is the quality of what one gives forth that counts. With the mass of literature that loads down the book counters nowadays one cannot afford to write so fast that what we give out is unfinished & inconsequent, & perhaps you would have felt so hurried that this would have happened.

Green Dolphin
“Yankee wit and Cape Cod cooking”

After so good a book as your last one [The Green Dolphin] that would have been a pity, for you gave so much pleasure—people would have reached out for another equally good & weighed it against the other to see if it measured up to the same standard. If it fell short at all they would have been disappointed & you would have lost by it instead of gaining.

But now you have an opportunity to quietly open your mind out & receive new inspiration without haste or agitation. You may not feel anything but a blank in your brain, but just the same if you hold that attitude of mind wonderful things happen without any consciousness of the process that brings them about.

I know that this has been a sore trial for you to pass through. Well, the longer I live the more I see that we are bound to be tested out, & tried out, & refined in the fire.

I make a point of telling myself daily that we are all workers in the Vineyard & that our job is to do the task of the moment without questioning the whys or wherefores. I long to eagerly hear—“Well done, good and faithful servant!” I find that by keeping my mind thus turned the hard things slip away, & I keep rested. I pass the thought on to you because rest of mind & body is what you want. You were all tired out when you left town.

I look across the valley from my balcony to the lights of Princeton after nightfall. Is your light among them? I like to think it is. I also am passing through difficult experiences. When I came here I was so tired that I was frightened, because you see I have to carry my responsibilities alone,–It would never do for me to get down & out.

Clara Endicott Sears
“I shall come out all right.”

But I shan’t. I shall come out all right. As an old farmer I once had used to say—“I’ll get by!” The country air has already restored me. I thrill over my cows & my pigs, which is a sign of health & normality!


Did you see Nancy Byrd Turner’s “Ballad of Lucky Lindburgh” in the Herald the other day? I am crazy about it! I thought it beautiful.

Smithsonian portrait Lindbergh
Charles Lindbergh

And what a Godsend that young man is to this blasé, sophisticated, pessimistic, old world! He has inoculated its veins with romance & hero-worship, & has quickened a craving for what is sincere & straight.

My cousin, Mrs. Carnegie met him in London when he visited Westminster Abbey. She says he has a very remarkable personality—quiet, reserved & singularly poised, & that London simply went wild & lost its head over him!

Well now dear Miss Bassett is not that good to hear? After all, life is a grand adventure, & right prevails! Now Au revoir. I have written you a long meandering letter.


Clara Endicott Sears

P.S. I will tell Mrs. Jones to keep quiet.


Smithsonian photo Lindbergh flight

“The Ballad of Lucky Lindbergh”

by Nancy Byrd Turner (1927)

Speech in the gloom, and the shadows stirred,

Smithsonian photo Lindbergh departs
“A great gray eagle is spread for flight”

A glimmer of shapes in the lifting light;

And a great gray eagle is spread for flight.

Up, with the dark on its dauntless wings,

Keen and clean through the dripping dawn,

Up from the sleeping midst of things,

Young America out and gone!

He is up and off with the East in his eyes

And all of his destiny in his hand.

Dim below him in beauty lies

The quaint-curved coast of his native land.

Here a tower and there a spire

Pricks his course in the gathering day;

With a face like flint and a Heart on fire,

Lucky Lindbergh is off and away!

Luck of a body strong and straight

As a taut young pine on the top of a hill;

Luck of a purpose that early, late,

Wrought and strove with a steadfast will;

Luck of a dream Youth dreamed until

The hour was on him to do and dare–

After a night of murk and chill

This is the luck that took the air!

There is rain on the sea, there is wrath in the sky.

The angry ocean is loud below,

The hosts of the hail are shrieking by,

And the wildest winds of the compass blow;

But up and on, with the ice in his hair,

Climbing the clouds, a valiant form.

Forward and forward, swift and spare,

Lindbergh the Lucky outrides the storm.

A day and a night, a day and a night–

Smithsonian St Louis cockpit
“Never was man so stark alone!”

Never was man so stark alone!

Behind, no gleam of a homeland light,

Beyond, no shore but the black Unknown;

The winds of the worlds against his brow,

The chill of the universe on his breath,

Danger a demon beside his prow,

And every moment at grips with death!

A day and a night where the tempests meet,

Each furious mile like a fierce refrain;

The blood of his Viking fathers beat

A wild old melody in his brain:

He would make, as they made, a path for men.

He would fling a trail down the trackless sky–

So it surged in the tumult again, again.

The luck of Lindbergh that would not die.

The luck that lives in the heart’s great plan

And will not falter for any fear;

The dream that stirs in the deep of a man–

Flame of his spirit, keen and clear:

That was the vision that would not rest,

Pure, unquenchable, upward drawn;

That was the luck that out of the West

Clave, like an arrow, the second dawn.

Till late at last, in a drift of green,

Ireland, fairer than heart had known;

England, brushed with a silver sheen,

Devon pasture and Cornish stone;

The Channel thin as he forges higher;

Then, at the leap of his longing glance,

Haven of hope and his heart’s desire,

Lovely as Heaven–France! France! France!

Fling out the banners of two great lands,

Lift two songs that shall blend as one,

Over the conquered sea–strike hands!

This tired stripling is Glory’s son!

For earth’s adventurers, near and far,

For all Youth’s passion of life and soul–

Drawn of his Dream and steered by his Star,

Lucky Lindbergh has made the goal!

“After all, life is a grand adventure!”

6 thoughts on “Gay Courage Comes When It’s Needed!

  1. Great letter and poem. It always helpful to be encouraged by the great things people have accomplished, in the past and now. Pioneers of various sorts impress me greatly. Those who pioneer in science, medicine, math, business, various studies of this and that, leaders of helpful movements, truly gifted or determined athletes, etc, are truly inspirational to me. Especially in prior decades when the technology and other material resources were not available. People had their own strength and will to accomplish this thing. And many people relied on faith in a higher being. Many such accomplishments occurring in the early 20C when Emilie Loring was writing and experienced such incredible changes as the possibility of human flight and “wireless” radio.


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