The Cereus Society

Eloquence and concision are scarce in academic writers, but Suzanne Marrs achieves it with aplomb in this passage about Eudora’s gay circle of the ‘30s.

“Though she would join the Junior League in deference to her friends who were already members, Eudora’s interests were rather different and her circle of friends more wide-ranging. Four young men were particularly important to her, and all were iconoclastic sorts. Nash Burger had returned to Jackson from the University of the South and had become a teacher at Central High School, Lehman Engel summered in Jackson while he was studying at Juilliard, Hubert Creekmore was back in residence after attending the Yale School of Drama, and Frank Lyell visited during his summer vacations from Princeton.

During summers of the early thirties, the group gathered frequently at the Welty house to drink and talk and laugh and listen to music—literature and the theater and the New York scene filled their conversations, and they loved hearing both classical music and jazz. They also engaged in activities that Lehman eventually labeled “camp.” When Jackson ladies, for instance, advertised that their night-blooming cereuses would be in flower on a given night and invited one and all to witness the annual bloomings, Eudora and her friends attended.

They went on to name themselves the Night-Blooming Cereus Club and took as their motto a slightly altered line from a Rudy Vallee song: “Don’t take it cereus (sic), Life’s too mysterious.” Years later, in The Golden Apples, Eudora would use the “naked, luminous, complicated flower” as an emblem of life’s beauty and its fragility, and she would have a character repeat what one Jackson lady had said about the cereus bloom, “Tomorrow it’ll look like a wrung chicken’s neck.”

But at the time, none of the Night-Blooming Cereus Club members anticipated such symbolic implications of their activities. For them the cereus was and remained an emblem of good fellowship, of the pleasure imaginative individuals could share if they embraced the world around them.”

2 Replies to “The Cereus Society”

  1. hello
    i am an active cultivator of The Queen of the Night since 1981 when a co- worker showed me her plant n gave me one small clipping from her plant.
    39 years later i have 9 other plants from that “mother” plant and have produced over (est) 500 blossoms those years.
    just recently from 2020 july 26 to sept 4 the 10 plants have produced 112 blossoms….i am VERY proud of their bounty!!!
    in fact 10 blooms from last night were still open at 8-10AM…what a wonderful discovery!!!
    i would like to communicate with others who are adamant about this ugly but wonderful plant. we can share our experience and knowledge. I thank you~

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