“But I want first of all — in fact as an end to these other desires — to be at peace with myself. I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry out these obligations and activities as well as I can. I want in fact—to borrow from the language of the saints — to live 'in grace' as much of the time as possible. I am not using this term in a strictly theological sense. By grace I mean an inner harmony, essentially spiritual, which can be translated into outward harmony.”—Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift From the Sea (1955)
(It was the lot of Anne Morrow, born on this day in 1906, to share her fate with her dashing but complicated aviator-hero husband, Charles Lindbergh. She fascinates me not just because of this marital association with “The Lone Eagle,” however, but because she came from a prominent family in my hometown, Englewood, N.J.—her father was at various points in his career a lawyer, J.P. Morgan partner, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, and Senator from New Jersey, while her older sister Elisabeth founded a private elementary school in town that still stands. Moreover, she interests me as a case of a quiet and shy person who achieved distinction in her own right.
Though in youth she shared many of her husband’s adventures and, of course, tragedy and turmoil, by middle age she had chafed at his controlling nature, and embarked on a short-lived affair. In turn, Lindbergh embarked on separate, longer-lasting emotional relationships of his own while traveling in Germany, resulting in the birth of three children by a German mistress—facts unknown to his family until DNA testing proved it nearly 30 years after his death.
No matter the unsettled state of her own private life in the last two decades of her marriage, Anne certainly achieved the “grace” she sought in her writing, as not only Gift From the Sea but a series of diaries won her considerable critical acclaim. In fact, so accomplished was her writing that for awhile, some suspected her of ghostwriting her husband’s Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir, The Spirit of St. Louis.)
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