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HYDE PARK, Wednesday—I went down to New York City on Monday morning, leaving here a little before 7 o'clock and driving my own car. It was so lovely and springlike that I kept wondering why I didn't always get up and out at that hour.

To my horror, when I reached my apartment in New York, I found that a gentleman who I thought was coming the next day had been waiting an hour because I had wired him to come on Monday instead of Tuesday! However, I found that what he wanted to discuss was something I knew so little about that I gave him letters of introduction to the proper people and he went on his way.

I was then able to devote a little time to my aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. David Gray, who had arrived from Ireland on Sunday. It is wonderful to have them here for even a short time, but I had so many engagements that day that I felt as though my greetings were somewhat breathless.

* * *

At a little before 11, after seeing several other people, I went uptown to the Museum of Modern Art, where Rene d'Harnoncourt showed me the exhibition of the primitive arts of the South Seas. It is one of the most extraordinary exhibitions I have ever seen.

The natives used wood almost exclusively to make instruments for household use, for war, or for religious ceremonies. Their tools, for the most part, were extremely limited, being largely made of shells or sharpened stones or rats' teeth. And yet the designs and shapes and colors they created are some of the most beautiful I have ever seen in primitive art.

It was a little shocking to me to find that cannibalism does not necessarily denote a lack of ethics, since apparently you must never eat your victim if he has been angry before death—and I suppose fright would be as harmful as anger! In many cases, it was the custom to be particularly nice to people for a month or so before they were eaten, giving them the best of food and shelter and the most desirable of wives.

You were paying someone, I was told, a great compliment when you ate him, because you made him part of yourself, and so, in order to improve the quality of your own soul, you made sure that you ate someone for whom you had great admiration. I still think it must have been somewhat uncomfortable for the victim and I cannot say I like the idea, but it was the first time that I ever thought there was any ethical standard back of the ritual of cannibalism.

E.R.

(WORLD COPYRIGHT, 1946, BY UNITED FEATURE SYNDICATE, INC.; REPRODUCTION IN WHOLE OR PART PROHIBITED.)


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  • Hyde Park (Dutchess County, N.Y., United States) [ index ]


About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, April 25, 1946

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Digital edition published 2008, 2017 by
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MEP edition publlished on 2008-06-30

TEI-P5 edition published on 2017-04-28

Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.
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