Annie Tuttle Jeffers, Elizabeth Tuttle,, Jeffers, Joseph Jeffers, Robinson Jeffers, Tor House, Una Jeffers, Una Kuster, William Hamilton Jeffers

Robinson Jeffers Meets Una Call Kuster

Robinson Jeffers attained his Bachelor of Arts degree at 18 years of age from Occidental College in 1905.  After summer vacation he immediately enrolled in graduate school at the University of Southern California, signing up for classes in Spanish and Oratory, a course in Old English and having time for just one more class he decided to brush up on his German and signed up for Miss Borthwick’s Advanced German where the class would read and discuss the classic German legend, Faust.

Una Call Kuster Jeffers

Una Call was born January 6, 1884 in Mason, Ingham County Michigan.  Her father, Harrison Orlando Call was from New York and her mother Isabelle Lindsay from Michigan. Isabelle’s father, who lived with the Call’s, was from Ballyminstra, Killinchy, County Down, Ireland.  It was her Irish grandfather, who taught Una how to play the organ and encouraged her love of music.  She was also well educated and encouraged by her family to go to college.

At age 17, Una left her hometown to attend the University of California at Berkeley.  It was here that she met a young attorney, Edward “Ted” Kuster. Within the year they had married. 

The newlyweds moved to Los Angeles, where Ted set up a law practice.  Una adjusted well to the roll of a successful lawyer’s wife, she enjoying all of the upper-class social events that went along with the title Mrs. Edward Kuster. 
Una was intelligent and outgoing, tiny, a little over five feet, and had beautiful chestnut hair that she wore in a braid either long down her back or in a big loop around her head. But having married young and having left Berkeley before completing her degree, Una soon became restless with being just Mrs. Edward Kuster.  Ted adored Una and was very accepting of  her desire to return to college to complete her bachelor’s degree, as long as it did not interrupt the busy social or private life that they had together.

With Ted’s approval, Una returned to school in 1905, this time at the University of Southern California.  She registered for Miss Borthwick’s Advanced German and it was in this class that Robinson Jeffers met Una Call Kuster.  

To Canidia
Nay, is there need of witchcraft still,
Witch-girl, to  break my stronger will?
Of strange enchantments, and of song
In far pine-forests all night long?
What use is there of woven charms?
Have I not held you in my arms?
And is there stronger spell than this,
The burning memory of your kiss?
Or mightier charm can you prepare
Than the long wonder of your hair?
But tho’ the madness of desire
Burn body and spirit as with fire,
Tho’ the wild longing never cease
To seek out you and find out peace,
I, being more strong than you, no more
Will set my feet to seek your door. (1)

Robin and Una

“Una had an unusual and dangerous combination of gifts:  brains, beauty, and distinction.  Because of these gifts she attracted both men and women to her, making a lasting impression on all who knew her and exerting a strong influence on most of them.  There were few men who met Una who were not attracted to her.  Una herself was conscious of their interest with almost naive wonder, occasionally testing her power with doubting hesitancy in mild flirtations.

This was the young woman, then, who had attracted Robin.  It was not long before he was walking Una home from college, carrying her books like any other young man with his girl.  That their interest in each other at this time was very deep is doubtful.  When Nettie Carter, Una’s neighbor and good friend, asked her about Robin, Una answered, “Oh that’s just a young man who attends my German class.  He’s very gifted linguist and writes very immature verse.”” (2)

After the completion of his first year in graduate school, Robin accompanied his parents back to Europe where they lived at the Pension Tiefenau, and Robin entered the University of Zurich.  With instruction mostly in German, he took courses in Philosophy, Old English, Dante’s Life and Work, and, just because he had some extra time, Spanish Romance Poetry.

Then Robin became restless. His parents had hoped he would stay in Zurich, but in September 1906, when he had completed these courses, he returned to the United States.

His mother Annie’s physician had promised Robin a job back in California  translating German medical papers, which Robin accepted.  With this, Robin’s interest turned to medicine and he decided to enter medical school in the fall of 1907, at where else, the University of Southern California.

In 1908 Una Call Kuster received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Southern California, and immediately began work on her master’s.  By this time, Robin and Una  were seeing each other almost daily.  Together, they were developing mutual interests and sharing social experiences. Neither ever considered including Una’s husband Ted in their adventures.  In fact  it had now been three years since Robin and Una met, and not one time in those three years had Una ever invited Robin to her home to met her husband.  

By 1910, Una’s marriage to Ted was in trouble and Robin and Una’s relationship had clearly moved beyond friendship. But Robin, thinking ahead, knew that he would not be able to support a family with Una until he received his inheritance from John Robinson’s estate in 1912, so he made the decision to put distance between himself and Una hoping that this would extinguish, or at least cool, their growing love for one another. So although Robin had distinguished himself in his medical school courses, and was offered a job teaching Physiology in Dr. Lyman Stookey’s medical clinic, he left medical school and along with his parents moved to Washington State where he switched gears again, this time entering the University of Washington to study Forestry. 

But this too would not last, less than a year into his studies of Forestry, Robin would be restless again.  Leaving Washington in the summer of 1911 and returning to Southern California, he spotted Una behind the wheel of her roadster in a busy intersection less than half an hour after arriving back in Los Angeles. This chance meeting reignited their love affair. 

In one last effort to try and save her marriage, Una agreed to travel by herself to Europe for a few months.  She and Ted had hoped that this time apart from each other, and Robin, would help them sort through their marital problems. Una left for Europe April of 1912.

It was that same year that Robin received his inheritance from John Robinson. With Una “out of the picture,” he decided to use some of this money to publish his first book of poetry, Flagons and Apples. It is in this book that Robin wrote of his turbulent on again, off again love affair with Una.  He sent a copy to her with this inscription on the inside cover:  “To my little Una, my dearest, Who is very responsible for this book but not to blame for it. R. J.” (3)

That same year, while Una was in Europe, her husband Ted met sixteen year old Edith Emmons, who was working in her fathers law office in Bakersfield. Though Ted was twice her age a courtship began between the two of them before Una returned from Europe later in the year.   

In 1913 divorce was scandalous, but in the case of Una and Ted, it was eminent.  The legal dissolution of their marriage became official August 1, 1913. The following day, August 2, 1913, Robin and Una were married, and so were Ted and Edith.      

Next: Robin and Una Jeffers
Part 1 Family Background
Part 2 Robinson Jeffers – The Early Years 

Credits and Photos 

Black and White photo of Una Call Kuster 1908 – Melba Berry Bennett, The Stone Mason of Tor House – The Life and Work of Robinson Jeffers (The Ward Ritchie Press, 1966).

Black and White photo of Una Call Kuster 1902, James Karman, Robinson Jeffers Poet of California, Photo from Jeffers Literary Properties.

Black and White photo of Una at Villa d Este near Tivoli, Italy 1912, Of Una Jeffers – A Memoir, Edith Greenan, Edited by James Karman, Published by Story Line Press, page 8, Photo from Photography Collection,  Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin.
(1) John Robinson Jeffers, Flagons and Apples (Grafton Publishing Company, 1912), 29.

(2) Melba Berry Bennett, The Stone Mason of Tor House – The Life and Work of Robinson Jeffers (The Ward Ritchie Press, 1966), 39.

(3) Bennett, 61.

Annie Tuttle Jeffers, Elizabeth Tuttle,, Robinson Jeffers, Tor House, Una Jeffers, Una Kuster, William Hamilton Jeffers

Robinson Jeffers – The Early Years

Robinson Jeffers
The Early Years

Annie and William settled into life with their young son Robinson. In 1888, using some money from the $60,000 he inherited from his late wife’s estate, William built a three story brick house on Thorn Street in Sewickley, a borough in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania,  just a few miles from Pittsburgh along the Ohio River.

George Evans, a cousin of the Annie, writes of Robin during the early years, “During times when they lived within easy walking distance from Aunt Philena’s the Jeffers family usually came over in the evening.  My first pictures in memory of Robin are of a child of about four, being pushed in a child’s carriage by his father, who seemed to arch forward over it almost dangerously and gaze straight ahead at mother.  Then there came a couple of years later another baby, Hamilton, who took his place in the carriage.  Sometimes the mother would be pushing and in that case, the Doctor would be ambling on ahead, followed by Robin who would be imitating his father’s very walk and stoop and long steps.” (1) 

In the summer of 1891 Robinson traveled to Europe with his parents. In June, at age three, he started kindergarten in Zurich Switzerland. “He was allowed to dig in the sand to  make a little garden, planting his own seeds, the blooming to be eventually enjoyed some other little boy since Robin was taken out of the school in three weeks.  The following summer he entered in a kindergarten at Lucerne where he stayed for a somewhat longer period.” (2) 

In the fall of 1891 the Jeffers family returned from Europe to their home on Thorn Street in Sewickley. Much to William’s dismay, Robinson’s friends began to visit the house, a distraction that made it difficult for William to concentrate on his work.  There was only one way to rectify this situation, move.

In October 1893 the Jeffers sold their Thorn Street house and moved to Edgeworth, a borough in Allegheny County Pennsylvania about a mile from John Robinson’s house. This was far enough out in the country to give William the privacy that he desired, as it was too far for Robinson, now six years old to keep in touch with friends. The following year, 1894, Robinson’s little brother Hamilton was born.

By the time Robinson was ten, he had attended two kindergartens in Europe, a private school in Sewickley, the Park Institute in Allegheny, and the Pittsburg Academy.  Though well advanced in his schooling, he was starting to resent his father’s pressure to study constantly and ignore any contact with boys his age. 

Believing that his son’s would receive a better education in Europe, William decided that Robinson and Hamilton should attend boarding school in Europe.  Annie spent the next four years, from 1898 – 1902, abroad with her two sons, her husband joining them only during the summer.

For the first six months Robinson was in Europe, he attended Leipzig day school, where instruction was in German. In 1899 Robinson was moved to a school in Switzerland where the instruction was in French.  Now twelve years old he could speak German and French fluently, he had a good knowledge of Latin, and was able to read though not speak Greek.

When William visited his family that summer he decided to move Robinson again, this time to the school Château de Vidy at Lausanne, where he stayed for a year. Yet the next year he and his brother Hamilton, who was now seven, were placed in the pension at International Thudichum at Geneva. 

“Whether the doctor had an irrational compulsion about leaving his son in any school longer than a year or whether he had some definite plan, we don’t know, but every year that he joined his family in Switzerland he removed Robin from whichever school he was attending and placed him in another one.  It is no wonder that Robin kept to himself.  He probably thought that it was not worth the terrific effort it cost to make new friends, only to be snatched away from them.” (3)

Later Robinson Jeffers wrote of this period, “I had little or no companionship with other children, and spent much time in daydreams, but I don’t remember imagining companions (meaning playmates).  I was usually alone against the (imaginary) world,… Thus, up to fourteen or so, when I found satisfactory companionship of my own age.” (4)  

By 1902 Robinson’s early education must have been completed to his father’s satisfaction because Annie and her boys returned to America at which point Robinson, now 15, was enrolled at the University of Western Pennsylvania (now the University of Pittsburgh) in September with a sophomore status.

In April 1903, William, now 67 years old and in poor health decided that the family should move again, this time to Long Beach, California.  The Jeffers lived there only a short time before a home was purchased for $4,000 in the Highland Park area of Los Angeles, at 346 Avenue 57. 

That fall, Robinson now 16, enrolled with a junior status in Occidental College. It was here that he began to contribute his poetry to student magazines, The Aurora and The Occidental. The first poem Robinson received payment for, was published in the June 1904 in The Youth’s Companion.  He received $12 for his poem, “The Condor.”

The Condor
My head is bald with cleaving heaven,
And rough my feathers with the grip
Of clashing winds and clouds wind-driven.
But what of that?  My winds can dare
All loneliest hanging heights of air;
Above the jagged mountain-lip
Their solemn slant and downward dip
Greet the red sun each morn and even.
The storm knows well their broad expanse,
For they can breast its pulsing power
When even the steadfast planets dance
Dizzily thro’ the riotous rack
Of ruined, tattered clouds that scour
O’er heaven.  On the tempest’s back
I clasp my wings, and like a horse
I rein it, mastering its force.
Then, tiring of the sport, I stretch
Upward above its region, far
As if I strove to climb and fetch
The utmost little silver star.
Then I lean low with a flat wing
Upon the lucid air, and swing
Amid the regions of pure peace.
I reck not of the earth below,
But swing, and soar, and never cease,
In circles large and full and slow,
With such a movement, such a grace
That I forget my ugliness.  

For the first time since he had started school, Robinson continued in the same school for two years, graduating Occidental College with ten other students (the largest class at the time) on June 15, 1905 at 18 years of age.

Next:  Robinson Jeffers Meets Una Call Kuster
Part I Robinson Jeffers Family Background

Photograph Robinson Jeffers 1899 – James Karman, Robinson Jeffers Poet of California, Photo from Jeffers Literary Properties.

Photograph William, Annie, Robinson 1893 – Melba Berry Bennett, The Stone Mason of Tor House – The Life and Work of Robinson Jeffers (The Ward Ritchie Press, 1966).

Photograph Robinson, Annie, and Hamilton Jeffers 1900 – Melba Berry Bennett, The Stone Mason of Tor House – The Life and Work of Robinson Jeffers (The Ward Ritchie Press, 1966).

 (1) Letter from Evans to Melba Berry Bennett August 8, 1943 – Melba Berry Bennett, The Stone Mason of Tor House – The Life and Work of Robinson Jeffers (The Ward Ritchie Press, 1966), 18.

(2)  Bennett, 21.

(3)  Bennett,  27.

(4)  Bennett,  23.

Annie Tuttle Jeffers, Elizabeth Tuttle, Family Background,, Robinson Jeffers, Tor House, Una Jeffers, Una Kuster, William Hamilton Jeffers

Robinson Jeffers – Family Background

 Paternal Background

Robinson Jeffers grandfather, Joseph Jeffers, came to America in the early 1800’s from County Monaghan Ireland a Province of Ulster, his Grandmother Barbara’s family from Palatinate, Bavaria.  After their marriage, Robinson’s grandparents, who were members of the Covenanter Church, a Presbyterian movement, settled in Ohio where Joseph worked as a farmer and frontier schoolteacher. On May 1, 1838, in Cadiz, Ohio, William Hamilton Jeffers, Robinson’s father was born.

Raised in an extremely religious home, William Hamilton Jeffers graduated from Geneva College in 1855 and Xenia Theological Seminary in 1859, and became a minister.  In 1865 he took a position as a professor of Latin and Hebrew at Westminster College. From 1877 to 1885 he held a chair and was a professor of Old Testament Literature at the Western Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh. By 1885, Dr. William Hamilton Jeffers, A.B., D.D., LL.D., a brilliant scholar of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, with a doctoral degree in divinity and law, was a widower, and after the death of his two young sons, childless.

Maternal Background
Annie Tuttle was a descendant of William and Elizabeth Tuttle who came to America during the Great Migration from England on the ship Planter in 1635.  Born September 5, 1860, Annie was the second child of Edwin and Mary Tuttle of North East, Pennsylvania.  A few months after the birth of their third child, Mary Georgiana (Minnie), on May 19, 1863, Edwin Tuttle passed away leaving his thirty-one year old wife Mary Tuttle, in poor health herself, to care for their three daughters under 6 years of age.
Mary Tuttle lived eleven more years.  After her passing Annie, age fourteen in 1874, and her two sisters went to live with their father, Edwin’s first cousin, John Robinson, and his wife Philena in Sewickley, a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
John and Philena had no children of their own, but having the means, he was a founding member of Robinson Brothers banking, they agreed to raise Annie and her sisters.
For seven years, Annie pursued the study of music. Then using her talent she taught piano lessons to the neighborhood children at John Way’s Edgeworth Seminary during the week, and on Sunday played the organ at the Presbyterian Congregational Church where her uncle John Robinson was an elder.
In 1884, Dr. Bittinger, the pastor of the Presbyterian Congregational Church who was in poor health requested a supply preacher.  Dr.William Hamilton Jeffers of Western Theological Seminary was contacted and asked to fill in during Dr. Bittinger convalescence. 
At the time it was customary for church elders to invite visiting preachers to their home for dinner. And it was here in the home of elder John Robinson, Dr. William Hamilton Jeffers became acquainted with the church organist, Anne Tuttle.

Very soon it was evident to John and Philena that the visiting pastor was romantically interested in Annie.  “When the doctor asked John, “What is your objection to me?”  John replied tersely, “My objection is, you.”” (1)  But, the pastor finally won over the objection of the Robinsons. 

Dr. and Mrs. William Hamilton Jeffers
In a letter to her aunt Hetty Bosworth on February 10, 1885, Annie wrote, “A gentleman called here one evening, requesting a confidential talk with me, and when he went, I found myself engaged to be married! It happened a week ago, and I have hardly been able to take it in yet. I know you are surprised even more than I am, and I am awfully surprised.  He never paid me the least bit of attention publicly, and he lives in Allegheny, so it will be a perfect surprise for everybody here.  What is his name and business, and what does he look like, you say?  Prepare for another surprise, and perhaps a little disappointment.  His name is Rev. Dr. W. H. Jeffers, and he is a deal older than I am, and not a bit handsome; very tall and, in fact, quite homely but so good!  And so good and kind and thoughtful for me.  I am happy, and will be happy, though he is nearly twice as old as I am.”(2)
On April 30, 1885, 25 year old Annie and 47 year old William were married in the Robinsons’ parlor.  Immediately following the wedding, the newlyweds returned to Allegheny to a house at 723 Ridge Avenue where one of John Robinson’s brothers, Dr.Thomas Robinson and his wife lived. It was in this house on January 10, 1887 their first son was born.

Annie and William’s son was baptized April 30, 1887 of which Annie wrote, “Today being the anniversary of our wedding we thought it a very appropriate time to have the baby baptized. After considerable thought and discussion pro and con we decided to call our boy John Robinson.  Cousin John seemed pleased, and shows his appreciation in various ways; one way was by sending him a beautiful new dress for his baptismal robe…Cousin Thomas administered the baptism. The baby was just as good and sweet as possible all through the service; but afterwards when everybody began to talk and to crowd around him he looked around with a frightened gaze, his lips trembling and then such a piteous cry burst forth. He was soon pacified however, and just as good as ever…”(3) 

Next:  Robinson Jeffers – The Early Years 1891 – 1905 
Photo Annie Robinson Tuttle (Jeffers) – Melba Berry Bennett, The Stone Mason of Tor House – The Life and Work of Robinson Jeffers (The Ward Ritchie Press, 1966). 

Photo Robinson Jeffers, 7 months in baptismal dress from John Robinson  – Melba Berry Bennett, The Stone Mason of Tor House – The Life and Work of Robinson Jeffers (The Ward Ritchie Press, 1966).       

(1) Melba Berry Bennett, The Stone Mason of Tor House – The Life and Work of Robinson Jeffers     (The Ward Ritchie Press, 1966), 13.

(2) Bennett, 13.

(3) Bennett, 15.