The Mary MacLane Project

The definitive website on the life and work of the pioneering feminist writer, film-maker, and media personality Mary MacLane (1881-1929)

This is a small selection from thousands of items of present and past critical opinion on Mary MacLane. Due to the volume of writing on this author it is by necessity somewhat scattershot but gives a sense of the amplitude of response. A selection of foreign language criticism is in preparation, and a full collection in all languages will be provided in the forthcoming study of published reactions to Mary MacLane, Mary in the Press: Miss MacLane and Her Fame and will be put in context in the forthcoming biography/literary analysis A Quite Unusual Intensity of Life: The Lives, Worlds, and Works of Mary MacLane.

n.b.: "The Story of Mary MacLane" was the publisher's title for MacLane's first book, which was titled in manuscript "I Await the Devil's Coming"; the manuscript title appears as a subtitle ("originally published as...") in Tender Darkness: A Mary MacLane Anthology (1993) and is given as the book's title in the Melville House reissue (2013) and subsequent reissues and translations.

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[I Await the Devil's Coming is] a small masterpiece, full of camp and swagger. - Parul Sehgal, NPR

Crackles with its author's outsized personality and outrageous proclamations, yet its shock tactics are rooted in genuine feeling ... anyone who reads her will never forget her voice. - Biographile

Shocking ... sensational ... heartfelt and stirring ... exalted, Blakean language ... She flouted conventional morality to be true to the playful, spirited woman she was. - Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

Confessional journalists have people like Mary MacLane to thank for their blunt style of autobiographical writing ... [an] unflinching memoir. - Flavorwire

[I Await the Devil's Coming is] a book unlike any I've ever read ... What's notable in the book is her voice: her enthusiasm, her arrogance, her intensity, her insistent blasphemy. She wants to shock because this is how hopes to get noticed. Her poetry is one of extremes: the lust for happiness and the despair for life. - The Hairy Dog Review

In a pre-soundbite age she already knew how to draw blood in one direct sentence. - The Awl

A milestone... Heartwarming, sensual and candid, I Await the Devil's Coming offers reflections that remain evocative and powerful today. - California Bookwatch

There was a time - a brief few years in the first decade of the twentieth century - when a nineteen-year-old author from Montana so bewitched, amused, enraged and seduced the American public that she gave the mother of Jesus a run for her money for the rights to the mononymic label, "Mary". Unrepentantly self-centred, this Mary was brash, solipsistic, and oftentimes confusing, but she was never predictable. - [I Await the Devil's Coming's] opening lines remain one of the most memorable forays into public life ever accomplished[, and the book] remains a reading experience unlike any other. MacLane's unabashed self-interest is, in context, a potent form of resistance. In a time when women still could not vote or open bank accounts and were just beginning to creep into the university system, MacLane declared without blushing that "There are people and people of varying depths and intricacies of character, but there is none to compare with me." She took the supple and blurred boundaries of nineteenth-century femininity, which we are so used to thinking of as no more than a restrictive corset, and transformed them into a nuclear bomb. - If MacLane's critics didn't manage to break her spirit, they did at least succeed in sweeping her from the canon. [A MacLane anthology] could spur a re-evaluation of the way we understand the history of queer and women's literature. It could also serve as one more sad piece of evidence that despite criticism's love of re-discovery, the renegade's exile is usually permanent. - She was certainly influential, but with nine decades of obscurity clouding the view, it's hard to determine just what effect she had on those who followed her. The freedom and lack of guilt with which she explored her gender and sexuality are astounding - there is no word other than the anachronistic "queer" to describe MacLane's anti-normative understanding of her social self and her desires. But the mainstream of American culture would not reflect this radical awareness until the end of the century, and queer theory made its strides without any memory of MacLane. - One exchange from Annabel Lee seems eerily prescient in light of MacLane's ambiguous legacy: "'Then which is better, to be remembered, and remembered shortly, by the multitudes; or to be forgot by the multitudes and remembered long by the one or two?' 'It is incomparably better to be remembered long by the one or two,' said Annabel Lee. 'To be forgotten by anyone or anything that once remembered you is solely bitter to the heart.'" The one or two have been holding down the fort for nearly a century now; perhaps it is time that the multitudes finally give Mary the attention she always wanted - and deserved. - "A Forgotten Icon: The Return of Mary MacLane" - by Ian Beattie - The Scrivener Review (2012)

Sometimes a work is neglected merely for the unease it creates. Read again, such a work can often force a re-evaluation of the very criteria that excluded it. - Such is the case with the work of Mary MacLane. Tender Darkness from now on must take a prominent place in any discussions of American women's writing and the literature of the West. - Peter Donahue, Oklahoma State University - Weber Studies (Winter 1995)

A pioneering newswoman and later a silent-screen star, considered the veritable spirit of the iconoclastic Twenties. - Boston Globe (1994)

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"New Butte Authoress" - Des Moines Daily Capital [Iowa], April 1902

From the Chicago Journal - Out in Butte, Mont., there lives a 19-year-old girl named Mary MacLane. During three months last year she wandered alone over the surrounding barren sand, whose vegetables had been blasted by the sulphur fumes coming from the mines, and as she wandered she meditated. At night, returning home, she fixed her meditations upon paper, and at the end of the three months, sent the accumulated manuscript to Herbert S. Stone & Co., the Chicago publishers.

If “The Story of Mary MacLane” does not create a literary sensation then the world is suffering from brain fog and nervous prostration, and it is time for all of us to get on our grave clothes and prepare to be dead, comfortable and nice. Mad you say? A fool? Perhaps. Perhaps not. If you read “The Story of Mary MacLane” to the end you may incline to think that here is one human being who makes no immodest display of an inhuman modesty but has the courage-which Rousseau lacked, which Marie Bashkirtseff merely thought she possessed-to bare its soul to the naked eye.

It is true, as she herself admits, that she has “astonishing vanity and conceit.” But are you, sir, are you, dear madam, free from these agreeable imperfections, or, nursing them fondly, do you merely keep them covered from the world? However this may be, certain it is that Mary MacLane has something besides vanity and conceit. For one thing, she has a wonderful faculty of self-analysis. All women feel, but few know what or how or why. Mary MacLean knows and is not afraid to say.

She finds herself “fraught with a poignant misery-the misery of nothingness." She craves excitement. Feeling herself capable of great emotions. She rusts, and the rust eats into her soul. If she had been born a man, she would do something. Being only a woman, she can do nothing but beat her fragile wings against the bars of the cage in which her destiny has confined her, and long for the world of manifold beautiful things, a memory of which her blood bears stamped on its red corpuscles. What woman confined within the bars of a woman’s narrow destiny, has not, at some still moment in her arid life, uttered this same despairing cry? For many woman have not stopped it in their throats, lest it might be heard?

And this is the feminine philosophy - which we men have seldom heard till now, save, perhaps, in some particularly intimate hour of wedlock - to which the insatiable, insatiable demand for happiness has led lonely Mary MacLane.

The profanity is unfeminine, you say? You don’t know women. Set the nerves of the nicest woman on edge and keep them there a sufficiently long time, and see what happens. Here is a woman - this child of a Mary MacLane - who knows nothing by herself; who feels all that every woman feels, but with a multiplied intensity; who has the brain to dissect her emotions; who has the courage to record her experiments. Above all, here is a woman who is frank! Was there ever another since the evening and the morning were the first day?

Yes, Mary MacLane has other things than her “astonishing vanity and conceit.” For another thing, she has the artistic sense. Only an artist could have made poetry of materialism. She has fallen in love with Napoleon because he was strong, and has had an ecstasy of pleasure in fancying herself his beloved. Then, suddenly overcome with a sense of the real, she is maddened by its nothingness. As she gazes moodily out of window her eyes light upon a pile of stones and a barrel of lime. Do you perceive, also, the subtle literary art in that modulated iteration of “A Pile of Stones and a Barrel of Lime?” Maeterlinck’s art is no more subtle. No more skillfully does that great artist play upon the nerves of his reader as upon strings.

The wonderful thing about the “Story of Mary MacLane” is not that it was written, but that this child of ignorance and loneliness and barbarism wrote it. If it were the work of maturity, the work of a practiced literary artist, we should simply laugh at it. Coming from this young girl, it should rather inspire a feeling of awe, as if we stood in the presence of the priestess of the Delphian Apollo uttering the oracles of the god. You can no more explain Mary MacLane than you can explain Charlotte Bronte, shut up there on the bleak and lonely moor and yet making of the magic crystal of her soul a microcosm.

But she is here among us, whether we can explain her or not; and here is her book. If you want to know whether her book is a true picture you have only to compare it with the same picture drawn by Defoe in “Moll Flanders.”

She is the genius she proclaims herself. Just now she is strongly influenced by Walt Whitman, by Marie Bashkirtseff, by Maurice Maeterlinck. But these have merely influenced her She has not imitated them. What will she do when she dares to stand alone, when she has known life and men and women and the world?

"Strangest Book Yet" - Washington Post, May 1902

"The Story of Mary MacLane" a Dare to the World - Portrayal of a Girl's Life - Author Was Barely Nineteen When She Wrote the Volume - Outdoes Rousseau and Marie Bashkirtseff - Says She Is a Moral Vagabond, but a Genius - Takes an Uncanny View of Things

A feminine Rousseau - only more frank - a nineteen-year-old Amiel, with ten times Amiel's feeling: a Marie Bashkirtseff without a conscience, strong where the Russian girl was weak, such is the mysterious, lonely, loving, elfish Mary MacLane. A wonderful book, indeed, is this "Story of Mary MacLane." Gladstone said of Marie Bashkirtseff's journal that it was a "book without a parallel." The same thing will have to be said of "The Story of Mary MacLane," whether there be a Gladstone to make the declaration or not.

"The Story of Mary MacLane" is probably the most astounding book that has been brought out in years. The publishers state that the "girl is a real girl of the name she uses." One can hardly believe it. Who could think of a young woman of nineteen putting down her innermost thoughts, some of the strangest thoughts, too, that ever coursed through the brain of an erratic mortal? Mary tells us what she likes, and what she doesn't like. She says she is not writing a journal or diary like that of Marie Bashkirtseff. Hers is a "portrayal," she says.

There is marked originality in the book, in fact the originality holds one spellbound, and the person must be busy or absolutely devoid of curiosity who can lay the book down after once starting to read it. It is a human document the like of which has never before been published over the signature of the author. Realism and idealism, courage and cowardice, fact and falsehood run riot through the pages in such kaleidoscopic fashion that the brain of the reader is in a whirl. Incoherent to the point of insanity, sacrilegious in the extreme, one is puzzled and startled by turns. She appeals to the "devil" and lavishes such phrases as "dear, kind, good devil" in her supplications. She says she has no conscience, does not believe in virtue, and doesn't care to be virtuous.

Something of a Mystic

She walks a great deal, and the only consolation she gets is in her own thoughts, in contemplating the "red, red line of the sky," which evidently has a mystic symbolism for her. It seems to signify intense happiness, the satisfaction of intense desire, although she does not say so in so many words. She is rebellious, and she hates, although she has infinite capacity for love.

Is She a Genius?

Her strong, defiant nature has moods of tenderness and she pleads for love. In fact, she says she desires love, happiness, above all else in life. What sort of woman, elf, imp, or what not wrote this book? Blasphemous, some will call it; others will be appalled. None will apprise her correctly. There is no standard by which she may be judged. A precocious child who should have been spanked more frequently will be the view of many. Wild, pagan, agnostic, deistic, there are so many contradictory moods that one cannot grasp them before they fade like the hues of a rainbow.

Yet here is a nature that craves sympathy, the sympathy of one who could appreciate her thoughts, her passions, and her turbulent emotions. A mind all the incongruities heaped page on page there is an appealing note that runs like a golden thread, the key to this strange labyrinth of human mystery. In the seething tumult of her nature, a boiling whirlpool at one time, running in noisy, sunlit shallows at another, we come upon deeps that require long sounding lines. Here the incoherent babble ceases, and we wonder if this untamed, undisciplined Montana girl is not, after all, a genius. But there is no adequate definition of genius, and so we label her sui generis and put her in a class by herself.

Touches of human nature that could come from no insipid mind, no matter how warped, stir the reader by their truth. The girl thinks for herself - and she thinks. She has a fine grasp of literature, the best literature at that. She bears no evidences of having been influenced by cheap and tawdry novels. Some of her descriptions are remarkable for their color, and her wit is illimitable, as, for instance, her picture of the cosmopolitanism of Butte.

Morbid, untamed, sacrilegious, and abnormal as Mary MacLane may be, "The Story of Mary MacLane" is a remarkable human document, the strangest book printed in years.

"A Young Messalina Out of the West?" - New York Times Book Review, May 1902

Might there not be contrived an automatic slipper, which would rise and fall with the force and unerring precision of the stamps in silver mills, not on the just and the unjust, but where it would do the most good, and for the special benefit of Miss Mary MacLane, way out there in Butte, Mont., where she belongs?

Mrs. Peattie Writes of Howells, Mary MacLane, and Owen Wister - Chicago Daily Tribune, June 1902

Miss MacLane, out in Butte, has taken only the first step of the genius. She has emphasized the first person singular, and she looms up out of her barren land, grotesque, pathetic, and impressive. She effects the imagination tremendously - like the Bad Lands of the Dakotas or the Painted Desert of Arizona. But, dear, shocked friends, the girl thinks. She has cerebration. Of course, there must be other people in Montana thinking, but who are they? They have not thought in such original manner, as to permit us the felicity of knowing their names. Ask any one today who in Montana is writing, and the answer must be Mary MacLane of Butte.

Just by way of watching this process of great man building-for, whether she fulfills her promise or not, Mary MacLane is now original, independent, and notable - let us observe without any moral nervousness a few of her remarks and decide whether or not they are truly literature. There is much writing as there are many mountains under the blue sky. But gold-gold is rare. And literature is gold.

Now, confess, is not all this well done - eloquent, peculiar, splendidly frank and honest? When Mary MacLane says that most of us lie about ourselves all the time she tells the truth. Few of us have sufficient genius - leaving courage out of the question - to tell the truth. We have not the ability to perceive it, nor the art to depict it. Let us be a little more patient with this remarkable child, who has sown her wild little wind and reaped such an overwhelming of dislike and contempt. She is, if you will only believe it, the most representative, indigenous thing that the west has produced.

The time has passed when intelligent persons set Walt Whitman aside as a man of evil, or one of mere pretence. He was an outcome of his time and place, and in no sense an imitator. The same words apply to Mary MacLane. Moreover, she is learning her lessons, and one which she has undoubtedly learned by this time is that she cannot give out wrath and contempt and insolence and expect a return of love and trust and admiration. It is not polite to insult the world, nor to kick the present time, nor slap circumstance in the face. Let Miss MacLane try a new experiment - that of loving a few persons who need and are entitled to her love. It will be better for her and for her books of which she may yet write many.

But, truly, Miss MacLane is what might have been expected. Those mesas and mountains, those deserts and plains, those vastnesses and silences out west were bound to produce something characteristic. For they at once enchant and dismay the spirit. They confound and taunt. If the pain and passion of that great land has found even a semi coherency, let us accept it with appreciation, not with fear and averted faces and silly, uplifted hands.

"The New Books" - Life, June 1902

The Story of Mary MacLane, by herself, is frankly inspired by the journal of Marie Bashkirtseff. Miss MacLane claims to be a resident of Butte, Montana, and an unappreciated genius. The book is compounded of chronic morbidity and stupendous, though wholly unfounded, egotism, and is quite valueless even if it be genuine. - J.B. Kerfoot

"A Lesson From Mary Mclane [sic.]" - by Forrest Crissey - Perry Daily Chief [Iowa], July 1902

Happily the best lesson taught by the notorious Story of Mary McLane [sic.] is to be had without reading the book! But it has a moral worth the pointing - even worth wading through a few chapters of the best-abused volume of the day to get at.

No matter how crudely it may be done, there is a sure welcome waiting for the author who lets us watch the workings of an average human mind, who uncovers the sensations of an ordinary soul, who takes the cap off and allows us to see the mental whheels go round, who lets us look upon the chemicalization of genuine human emotion. The truth about trivial things is often interesting and every human heart beats quicker when it is invited to share the secret thoughts of another mind on the deeper problems of life. And how seldom are those thoughts actually shared! Often we pretend to do so-almost every book published is a pretense of this kind-but the drapery of conventionality is generally hugged about our mental nakedness.

But there are sure laurels for the literary novice of average mental and emotional force who will think out loud - which is to say on paper - about the inside experiences which are common to all humanity.

This is the shortest road possible to quick literary success, and it need not lead into the mire, either.

One thing is sure, however, it will take nerve to do it with the thoroughness that means success. Only a brave heart can travel that path to fame.

"The Story Of Mary Maclane" - The Literary World, Jul 1902

We are lost in amazement that any reputable publisher should have considered it worth while to stand sponsor to a book as foul, foolish, and futile as this. There is no "story" to Mary MacLane. It is the record of an empty, selfish, worthless girl, who holds happiness a right to be secured at any price by any means; dislikes her own family, despises her neighbors, loathes Montana - in which territory her home happens to be, is quite sure that - given opportunity - she could easily become great

She draws the reader's attention to her portrait in the frontispiece - the picture of a rather plain, ill-bred looking, defiant young woman; and explains that the curves of her figure are assisted by nine pocket handkerchiefs artistically disposed to complement and improve nature!

Reading her ravings we feel that Mary MacLane must be a caricature, invented by some evil minded journalist, intent on making the worst possible picture of a woman: and then again we wonder if she is not the product of certain modern instances. If one could imagine Marie Bashkirtseff raised to the cth [CK] power of ignorance, indecency, and an illimitable self- absorption, with a dash of delirium tremens added, we shall pretty nearly arrive at Butte, Montana, and Mary MacLane.

"The Story of Mary MacLane - By herself" - by R.V. Risley - The Reader, November 1902

A soul yet crude and indeterminate in its angry yearning, avid with a certain rough force, vibrative with an energy repressed, jejunely earnest - a soul groping, unaware either of its possibilities or of its limitations. As yet she is a curiosity - a freak in the jumbled museum of contemporary letters. She has bored an artesian well in her heart - and the well has "spouted." She is peering into the crater of her emotions; she has not yet opened her mind to take a bird's-eye view of the world.

She erupts her mental palpitations in a stacatto volley; her emotion has no contiguity; she, I think, disdains that quality which we know under the name of "poise" because she has so far failed to acquire it - disdains it with the spontaneous and almost instinctive contrariness of her rebel spirit. One might be tempted to say that the chord of her discordant soul was pride.

This half-edged energy - this unselfcontrolled avidity - this vindictive, sombre, and desperately desolate nature - is significant; significant even though it lessen and disappear, of that infinite emancipation which has grown through the dark of the centuries - of that sudden liberty which proclaims at last that humanity dares to be itself.

Mary MacLane is as yet not more than a sign-board; but the hint she unconsciously gives is momentous.

"The Story of Mary Maclane" - The Oxford Point of View, May 1903

So many young women have, during the past two years, inflicted their letters, their diaries, or their confession albums upon the patient public, and so many of these young women have eventually been proved to be mere men, that even the conscientious reviewer is often apt to be prejudiced and inclined to ascribe deliberate fraud to innocent "first attempts." Now Miss Mary Maclane is sufficiently original to present her interesting sympathizers with her portrait, and sufficiently candid to give her address, thereby disarming those who come to scoff, if not successful in inducing them to remain to pray.

It is the story of one of our modern neuroses tortured by the ennui of life in a provincial American town. Some of the "revelations" are powerful, and the tirade against tooth-brushes is wonderfully true. If M. Nordau assigns her a chapter in the next edition of Degeneration, will such recognition illuminate her life?

Blue Grass Blade [Lexington, Kentucky], August 1903

Mary MacLane, next to May L. Collins, is the most wonderful young woman America has produced. In 50 years from now this country will possibly have sense enough to appreciate her.

She is a genius with an orbit like a comet. A gang of libidinous, fool newspaper reporters blackguarded her until she could not stand the racket and she seems to have retired in disgust.

"Went Up A Rocket, Comes Down A Stick" - Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 1903

Mary Maclane Threatens to Disappoint Her Admirers by a Book of Solemn Cynicism.

Mary Maclane appears to be in a fizzle. It may seem an unkindness to say so, but the unkindness is all on the side of Mary Maclane. She never expected any amusement from the critics, but the critics expected some amusement from her.

Miss Maclane showed genuine originality when she first unburdened her soul of its labor of egotism. She was audacious and angry; she defied the conventions. Consequently she achieved a genuine success - that of being ridiculed and caricatured and copied by newspapers throughout the land. All she had to do was to be more audacious, more angry and more unconventional and to tell us more about that interesting ingénue, Mary Maclane of Butte, Montana. Instead of which[, with My Friend Annabel Lee] she turns her back to the tide and pulls against it in the punt of platitude.

"General Literature" - How to Know the Books, September1903

"My Friend Annabel Lee" is the latest emanation from the brilliant Mary McLane. The book offers quaint bits of philosophy by a Japanese image, and also thoughts from the mind of the whimsical author of the book. Depth and beauty are distinguishing qualities of the book.

"Best Books of the Day Reviewed by Our Critic" - Times-Dispatch [Richmond, Virginia], September 1903

Ever since the coming into the mart of Miss MacLane's book has been mentioned there has been a feeling of eager interest about its appearance, the originality of her first production having invested its authoress with a distinctiveness in personality which extends by association to the work of her hands and head, to say nothing of her heart.

Her new book] recalls her first in its whimsicality, its crisp epigrammatic sentences, and its half-humorous, half-pathetic tone. It differs from it in that it is far less full of extravangances in style and expression.

It is not a romance or a connected story. It is, instead, a series of monologues, purporting to be dialogues, expressive of confidences interchanged between Miss MacLean [sic.] and her friend, Annabel Lee, the latter being neither more nor less than "a very pretty little black and terra-cotta and white statue of a Japanese woman," clothed upon with speech and mentality for purposes of Miss MacLean's own.

In the imaginary conversations held between the statue and the woman, which fill pages and chapters, there are scattered throughout the whole many bright thoughts and witty sayings.

"Genius Is Toned Down" - Morning Telegram [Winnipeg], September 1903

Mary MacLane Writes a Book More Temperate and Humorous - Tells About Tour of New England - Shows Best Side of Nature

It is about a year since that young woman came out of the west and dealt the public a blow between the eyes with the story of herself that made it wake up to her existence. Having attracted the attention of that astonished public in this unceremonious way, she is now willing to use milder methods and even to smile up into the face of that public and show it the best that is in her, instead of the worst. There is nothing to scandalize, nothing to shock, and much, very much to praise in this second effort.

Mary MacLane has not been tamed or spoiled but the genius she boasted of, and with reason, has been put in leash, subdued, made captive, and Mary MacLane of Butte, Mont., at 21 years of age, is hailed as a brilliant writer, a student of human nature and a ponderer on topics grave and deep. Nor does she stumble upon the rock of over seriousness; there is always lurking near at hand the saving grace of humor and a sane appreciation of the ridiculous. She forgets or scorns to be kind sometimes in making fun of things and the way she recalls her school companions is merciless.

Still, it is funny and the story of Willie Kaatenstein could hardly be improved.

The volume of impressions, stories, letters, what-not, is called "My Friend Annabel Lee" and the title, beyond suggesting the beautiful old poem, conveys little meaning to the uninitiated. Let it be explained at once, then, that Annabel Lee is a little black and terra-cotta and white statue of a Japanese woman. Just why this Japanese bit of bric-a-brac should be given the English name is not apparent until the author sweeps aside all questions by declaring that "that was always her name-that is who she is. Among the myriad names that are, that alone is the one which suits her."

The book is a series of conversations carried on by these two. Sometimes Annabel Lee tells the story - sometimes Mary MacLane - but always it is Mary who moves around. Annabel Lee stands on her little shelf and is by turns sarcastic, gentle, witty, friendly, but never unresponsive. In Boston, Mary tells about a little corner down by the East Boston wharf where she often sits on cold days, hidden between two great barrels; she describes with a glowing pen the wonders that come to her mind as she contemplates the mural decorations of the public library, and again she goes to the south station and sees Massachusetts pass by.

In a chapter - "A Small House in the Country" - she paints a word picture of "a lodging place far down in the country; a tiny house by the side of a fishy, mossy pond, in summer time, with a clump of willows and an oak tree growing near." It is a peaceful and gentle rural scene she goes on to describe where she would dwell with a friend of her heart. After which "'you would not,' said my friend Annabel Lee, 'stay long in such a place.'"

Some Mystical Ideas

Would you know a few things about the "half-conscious soul" - for such Annabel Lee tells her she possesses? It is a sample of the wild beauty of some of her lines.

There are whole pages of beautiful descriptions and especially in the fantastic story of the spoon-bills and in the visions of Annabel Lee in the red castle is there opportunity for a lavish display of the young writer's marvelous gift of expression.

A portrait of the author in the front of the book shows an attractive young face, rather pensive in expression.

"Mary MacLane Again" - New York Times, September 1903

That unhappy girl (if it really is a girl) who signs her cheerless utterances with the name of Mary MacLane is out with another book, entitled "My Friend, Annabel Lee." [sic.]

Even if one could quite believe in Mary MacLane one's heart would not be touched by her plight. She is unhappy without reason. Think of the hundreds of poor, lonesome girls working at the making of literature who cannot get their literature printed and published! Think of the hundreds working at the making of shirts who would rather be making literature! Perhaps some day the author may do something worth doing, but (if this is a true picture of her mind) she is not now in the way of doing it.

"More Mary MacLane" - Washington Times [Washington, D.C.], Septemer 1903

The announcement of a new book by Mary MacLane has created mild or even decided interest among those who read her first remarkable production. It is called "My Friend Annabel Lee," and readers may be informed in advance that it contains little of the startling stuff that was in the author's autobiography, and that one may read for many pages without coming upon any reference to the devil. Mary MacLane has reached the point at which the devil is merely a past episode. She is occupied with more agreeable subjects.

Annabel Lee is the fanciful name which she gives to a Japanese porcelain figurine, and the book consists of dialogues which she and this friend of her soul carry on at intervals. It is safe to recommend this book to college girls, or imaginative girls of any type. It will have a peculiar charm for them. But the sensation-loving mob who read the first book more for its self-revelation than its pathos, more for its violence than its poetry, will probably call this book slow.

If Mary MacLane should confine herself to recording her impressions of things and people familiar to the public, she would be writing "best selling books" for the rest of her life, for she can make word pictures of a singular felicity.

Then there is the chapter about the Kaatenstein children, who were a large family of small Hebrews with a thrifty mother, who forbade them to do a great many more things than they were allowed to do. The story of the Kaatensteins is of the same make as the interview with the peddler woman in the other book, but there is more of it.

In the most part the book is made up of desultory talk, such as two fanciful girls might have if each could express her thoughts in exact book language. One sees the little room in Boston, the tan deer that stands on the desk, the Japanese figurine, the Oriental and Indian bric-a-brac and pet books - including "those young books of Trowbridge" - one sees the whole of the old, half-pathetic girl Bohemian establishment, quite different from a man's bachelor quarters, but containing many things which men do not know about. Most college girls will understand the book - they are in the mood to like it, at least, in part - but married women and housekeepers, matter-of-fact people, who have learned the joys of a home, will probably consider it rubbish.

There is talent in this bundle of incongruities with their mysterious fitness for one another's company. The same scraps hung on a plot as most young writers would hang them, or wrought into the bones of the plot, as Mary MacLane herself may do it a few years hence, would make a striking book. The people in this stately collection are described in passing, but described exactly. If the next book has less of Mary MacLane's moods and a good deal more about other people, it is likely to be the hit of the season.

"New Literature" - Boston Daily Globe, September 1903

The budding genius of Mary MacLane bursts forth again, not from Butte, Mont, but from Boston, Mass. All that this talented by eccentric young author has imbibed in her changed surroundings she confides to her friend Annabel Lee. Annabel lee is a porcelain statue bought in a Boylston-st shop, and Miss MacLane characterizes their relationship.

And what she writes covers a wide variety of subjects. Of course one of the first subjects Miss MacLane discusses with her friend Annabel Lee is Boston. Miss MacLane likes Boston, Mass, but she likes Butte, Mont. better. But after all she sees many things in Boston; the public library, the South station, Trinity church and the Museum of Fine Arts. To her even the air of Boston is wonderful.

But even Boston is too small to hold Miss MacLane when she feels that she must unburden her mind to her friend Annabel lee. There is no philosophy too intricate or too simple to pass unnoticed, and it is to be hoped that the character and personality of Annabel Lee is broadened and strengthened by this generous outpouring of a young soul which seems to hold so steadfastly to its self-imposed task of confession.

Surely she, and the reader also, will catch a note of sincerity in what Miss MacLane has to say, and all will agree that the author gives her inmost thoughts to the world, which is after all refreshing in these days of cant and simulation.

"Annabel Lee" - Polly Pry ("A Journal of Criticism and Comment"), September 1903

Someone ought to send for the doctor for Miss McLane [sic.]. She needs medicine. Soul medicine as well as body medicine, and when she has taken it, her friends will be amazed at what a fine broth of a girl she will make. - The Critic

"TITLE?" - Book News, October 1903

Miss MacLane's first book was a human document. She wrote what she knew. She knew what she wrote. Few do either. Generally, writers know what some one else has written and write that and add to the echoing echoes which fill all the weary halls of letters. This time Miss MacLane is literary and littered. The scrap-bag of a girl's reading is used to make a sort of crazy quilt essay-book. "Everything escheats to the sea at last." A sentence like that scores. It stands alone. "Annabel Lee" is Japanese porcelain. They, she and it, talk, Butte, Boston and all the rest. This has been done before. This is the best of reasons for doing it again and better. But here are only three finger exercises in various kinds of writing, much out of time, touch and rhythm. The simple fact is that the thing we know and know early exists for us; but that which we read and imitate is rubbish.

"The Man at the Window" - by Thomas Wood Stevens - The Inland Printer, October 1903

Mary MacLane's new book, "My Friend Annabel Lee," has just been published by H.S. Stone & Co.

It is not just like the first book she wrote; she is different now; she no longer questions in wailing [sic.], and gets no delight from shocking people any more. Then, too, the machinery of the book is different; it consists of miscellanies evolved and conversed between Mary MacLane and a Japanese statuette whom she has named Annabel Lee. The title exemplifies the writer's artistic creed - which saith that nothing is so strong as a delicate incongruity.

There is a fair proportion of philosophical meditation, for the most part, mixed with incongruities that are evidently meant to tease the reader along.

Then Mary MacLane goes in for artistic and dramatic criticism; she rhapsodizes about Puvis de Chavannes, and applies the delicate incongruity to Minnie Maddern Fiske. In these chapters she shows that she can handle such subjects prettily; she shows she is still young, for she is still eloquent in criticism; and she advances her ideas freshly - whether they are new or not.

In this line may be mentioned her chapter on "The Young-Books of Trowbridge," which has in it some very healthy feeling, some good, direct writing, and some little touches of pose. Here she was writing on a common theme - yet not so common either, since so few have seen a theme in it - and she must needs interject her personal mannerism - lest, being interested, you forget who speaks.

But the most hopeful phases of "Annabel Lee" are the stories she tells now and then. In these there are good bits of narrative, told in a rather forced way, but narrative with motive power in it.

Sometimes the narratives are purely fantastic, such as the tragic history of the spoon-bill birds along the river Nile - which is a jolly bit of foolishness such as one seldom finds outside of books that have nowhere to go. Then sometimes the muse turns realistic, and one sees where the real strength of the author lies; of this kind is the story of "Little Willy Kaatenstein," which is in some respects clever, and has in it some perfectly efficient adjectives, the usual tendency toward the refrain, and the distinctness of vision that is so rare and so likely to prove the mark of the master.

Then there are some photographic reminiscences of Butte High School, and a number of similar things. She has done the photographic effects before; she does them well.

The peculiar things in the book are two. First, that she has come to write occasionally in a genuine sympathetic vein, and second, that she has been able to cast a lot of really entertaining stuff in the conscious, formless form that used to be called the "pastel."

Every editor knows there are still many women and young men in the country districts who write pastels; but, in her own phrase, Mary MacLane's pastels are not pastels. Taken as a whole, "Annabel Lee" is a journal, consciously written with the printed effect held uppermost; it has no continuity, but holds the attention by continued mild surprise; so some chapters appeal to some people, cetera ccteribus. It does not attempt to be important - asks little, answers nothing in particular. There is good humor, a wholesome lack of sentimentality, and good digestion in it.

Great writers have the gift of phrase, in most cases; it is as important to them as the brush to the painter; yet some painters manage fairly well with their fingers and palette knives - or they become plasterers, when the trowel will suffice. Mary MacLane has the gift of phrase. Yet she does not use it as a brush; rather she tacks it to the canvas and calls it a picture. It is not to her an instrument whereby great things may be accomplished. It is art, and the object of art.

And, Mary MacLane, it is an art that can not stand alone. You are strong in words, but what do you say? Why are you not a minor poet? Only because you think your verse is rotten? Never mind that - the rest don't. Be a minor poet, as you ought. Then people will cease talking about you; your fame will sink like a golden ripple into the deep green waters, and under the rain and the night the face of the sea will be still.

"Mary MacLane's Second Book" - National Magazine, October 1903

"My Friend Annabel Lee" is distinctly better work than "The Story of Mary MacLane." It has not the impassioned lyric cry that was in the first book done by the little girl from Butte, but it reaches higher levels of imagination, and displays a finer literary art. The first book was of Butte and Mary MacLane. The second is of Boston and Mary MacLane's friend, Annabel Lee. Annabel Lee tells stories to Mary MacLane. Some of these stories will be read with delight and at least partial comprehension by children who know Grimm and Andersen. At least one other is likely to become a classic in the hands of those best of story-tellers, the commercial travelers. I mean the story of the Wettenstein [sic. - Kaatenstein] children. It is irresistibly comic. It is satire colored with sympathy. It a gem among short stories. - Frank Putnam

"For Book Lovers" - Ainslee's, December 1903

That remarkable young woman, Mary MacLane, has evolved another remarkable book, "Annabel Lee," which Stone, of Chicago, publishes. It is a collection of conversations and introspections which the writer carries on with the aid of a Japanese doll, for whom the book is named.

Fanciful in the extreme and self-conscious as these pages are, there is the same youthful originality in them that marked the previous weird bit of literature that made the Montana girl known. There is also the same habit of repetition in the phrasing and a philosophy that mystifies as to its meaning and conveys the impression at times that the writer only half knows what she is trying to express.

But there is no gainsaying the oddness of the sketches and the occasional bits of misty poetry that are dreamy, fascinating and feminine. The MacLane humor is uncanny, but she has ceased to be profane and to repine over the sameness of toothbrushes.

"Mary MacLane's Secret" - by Anne Shannon Monroe - Common-Sense, May 1904

Japanese Literature of 1000 Years Ago Her Inspiration

Poor little Mary MacLane!

At first, almost without exception, she was condemned for the free and easy manner with which she handled words the public were more accustomed to see expressed by dashes; then a few people hied themselves to a corner with a copy of "The Story of Mary MacLane," read it through without drawing a breath, felt the enchanting spell of her "Gray Dawn," and a sympathetic thrill in the seemingly original style of her writing, and pronounced it "literature."

It appears that about 900 years ago a young woman lived - not in Butte - but in beautiful Japan. Her name was Sei Shonagon, author of Makura Zoshi, or "Pillow Sketches."

The Makura Zoshi is the first of a style of writing that became popular in Japan, under the name of Zuihitsu, or "following the pen." There is no attempt at continuity of arrangement. The author jots down anything which occurs to her, at the moment: enumerations of dismal, incongruous, abominable, and dreary things, descriptions of flowers, mountains and rivers, and sketches of various phases of life, suggested from a contemplation of Nature - all go to make up her medley of productions.

Could anything be more like Mary MacLane's disjointed style of writing of the things she likes and the things she dislikes, the people to whom she "talked back," and her appreciation of her own wit and cleverness?

"How like Mary MacLane!" one thinks, on reading paragraphs from Sei Shonagon. "How like Sei Shonagon!" one thinks, on reading "The Story of Mary MacLane."

Mary MacLane, with her love of good literature, her original way of hunting out that which she liked and gloating over it, even as with sensual relish she enjoyed an olive, found this wonderfully human work of Sei Shonagon, absorbed it and allowed it to color the style of her expression and even her thoughts and her attitude toward the world. She developed an intensely beautiful style from the study of Sei Shonagon's writings. It is to be regretted that she put some things into her book which caused it to be condemned by many and kept it from general appreciation and correct understanding.

Paraphrasing her own comparison of herself and Marie Bashkirtseff, I would say, after a thorough study of both writers: Where Sei Shonagon is deep Mary MacLane is deeper. Where Sei Shonagon is wonderful in her intensity, Mary MacLane is still more wonderful in her intensity. Where Sei Shonagon had philosophy, Mary MacLane is a philosopher. Where Sei Shonagon had astonishing vanity and conceit, Mary MacLane has yet more astonishing vanity and conceit.

In short, even as Shakespeare took the plots of other authors on which to build his plays and is justified in so doing by the immortality of his success, so Mary MacLane adopted the style of Sei Shonagon, and used it well; her first book will be appreciated in the years to come when it shall be read for its literary value, far better than it is today.

Sei Shonagon has been dead 900 years - "and yet liveth." She has a true disciple in this valiant young woman of Butte.

It is interesting to realize that Japan's favorite author has attained an immortal existence through a daughter of the country she would emulate, America.

"The Importance of the Unimportant and Other Phenomena" - by Porter Garnett - Pacific Monthly, October 1907

We cease to regard poets and authors as artists and look upon their works merely as so many related phenomena of expression a basis of comparison is at once established. We can then measure Ella Wheeler Wilcox with the Marquis de Sade, Rabelais with Cardinal Newman, Nietzsche with James Whitcomb Riley, Havelock Ellis with Gelett Burgess, and Alfred Austin with Mary MacLane. There can be no question whatever but what Mary McLane is a far more interesting phenomenon than the poet-laureate; the one is sui generis, the other a mere variant.

"Chesterton's Picture of Shaw" - by H.L. Mencken - The Smart Set, January 1910

If you approach Gilbert K. Chesterton's George Bernard Shaw as serious biography, you will find it amazing in the things it contains and irritating beyond measure in the things it doesn't contain; but if you throttle your yearning for facts and look only for entertainment you will fairly wallow in it. The cleverest man in all the world, with the second cleverest as his subject, is here doing his cleverest writing. The result is a volume as diverting as Nietzsche's Also Sprach Zarathustra, and as obviously unauthentic. It belongs, not to history, but to philosophic fable. I have shelved it among my more furious epics, cheek by jowl with The Estimable [sic.] Life of the Great Gargantua, the Book of Revelation, Fécondité and The Story of Mary MacLane. "An Overdose of Novels" - by H.L. Mencken - The Smart Set, December 1911

A new edition of "the Story Of Mary Maclane" (Duffield) has just come from the press - a new edition with an epilogue by the Mary MacLane of today, twenty-eight by the family Bible and considerably dephlogisticated by the harsh winds of the world. Let me confess a frank partiality for that extraordinary book - partiality grounded upon the notion that it is very respectable as a work of art - perhaps as respectable as any other the Western steppes have yet yielded. When it was first published, in 1902, the yellow journalists fell upon it with a whoop. Mary became famous overnight - but in the way that Cesare Lombroso, Camille Flammarion, Hall Caine, Marie Corelli and other such gladiators of the Sunday supplements were famous. The fact that one living in Butte, Montana, should have a horror of codfish balls, colored underwear, tapeworms, fried beefsteak, nice old ladies, unripe bananas, gentlemen, false teeth and the works of Archibald Clavering Gunter, and that, having this horror, she should mention it in company - this caused the whole American people to stop, look and listen. But besides the fact that Mary's phobias were vastly less remarkable than her way of defending them; that she not only had something to say, but knew how to say it with quite amazing effectiveness - there was a fact that got lost in the excitement. If you are one of those who failed to find it, my advice is that you gallop to the nearest department store for this new edition, with its epilogue in B flat minor and its two portraits of Mary at twenty-eight. And if, after reading that epilogue, you will kindly send me upon a postcard the names of six living American scriveners who could have written it, or any other piece of prose comparable to it for barbaric color, for bizarre individuality, for the skillful extraction and compounding of toxic verbal juices, alkaloids, miasmas - then I shall be very glad indeed to present you with a lock of my hair.

"Fiction - I, Mary MacLane" - The Book Seller [CK NAME], April 1917

Fifteen years ago the literary world woke up with a start, roused from its peaceful dreams by "The Story of Mary MacLane" and not since then has it received such a sensation as it will experience on April 23rd when the new book by the same author will be published. The same author? Yes, but what a difference between the outpourings of a school girl's heart and these mature, finished expressions of thought. In fifteen years the author has lived and learned and it is not to his satanic majesty that she pleads to be shown the world.

A casual glance through advance sheets reveals a power of expression, a beauty of language, and an originality of idea that can be interpreted only as the work of a literary genius. Gertrude Atherton says of it, "Mary MacLane's book is as great a piece of literature as I felt sure it would be, absorbing, interesting, and so original that no one else in the world could have written it." Witter Bynner, the poet, also eulogizes it as "an extraordinary work, full of perspicacity and poetry - a confession in the open by the Bashkirtself of Butte - a diary in prose by the Amy Lowell of Montana."

"New Book - I, Mary McLane: A Diary of Human Days" - The Bookseller, [CK NAME - SEE ABOVE - SAME?] April 1917

Mary MacLane, like electricity, is very wonderful, but not to be explained. Is she laughing up her sleeve that her readers take her seriously? Is she laying bare her innermost thoughts? Does she believe in the God to whom she writes?

Who can tell whether it is the cunning of a clever fraud or the inspiration of a genius which has prompted the writing of "I, Mary MacLane"? Only this is indisputable, that Mary MacLane has the most original gift of language of any writer of today. Her pictures are perfect, her choice of words is remarkable and her fancies are as boundless as the air itself. Beautiful conceptions of God and one's duty to one's country contrast with a eulogy to a cold, boiled potato. Again a vivid interpretation of human nature in its frailty and weakness is found in a word picture of Lot's wife, perhaps the most brilliant and finished bit of writing in the book. Fifteen years ago, the first book, "The Story of Mary MacLane," was probably more widely discussed than anything that has appeared in the twentieth century. Then it was forgotten or brought to mind by some other egotistical effusion in imitation of it, but lacking the originality and spontaneity of the original. Today the new Mary MacLane book finds the public in a different mood and no exploitation of the ego can appeal as it did before. But as years have passed and moods have changed, so has the author matured. It is not of herself that she writes, but of everything in life that touches her - music, poetry, religion, virtue, vice, poverty, sorrow, mystery, politics, the children who work in the coal mines; the grey-purple beauty of the mountains that surround her home; New York which she loves with all her "surfaces"; the sleep of the dead; "instinct - a 'first law,'" and of a hundred and one other moods and fancies. Perhaps as conventionally understood, there is no real sequence of thought in this "Diary of Human Days," but in how many lives do we find a logical sequence of events unless they are very commonplace? Yet as an interpretation of life itself with its vagaries, its introspection and retrospection, there is a sequence in each chapter, for mood follows mood. There is the gradual rising to heights of happiness, the collapse to utter despair; the indifference of the selfish spectator, the keen interest in human affairs; the complete selfabnegation [CK DASH] and the ego rampant - paradox in its most perfect form. Such is the new book by Mary MacLane, a book that fascinates, and that repels, a book that deserves the most sincere consideration and yet a book that will perhaps create more diverse expressions of opinion than any book that has been written for years.

"Mary MacLane Comes Back" - Boston Daily Globe, April 1917

In an Astounding Book the Butte, Mont. Authoress Lays bare the Mysteries of Her Soul With a Frankness That Makes Her Readers Gasp - Few Things About "ME" Are Left Untold

Once upon a time Mary MacLane of Butte, Mont. wrote a book. It was an astonishing book. Such of the American public as didn't laugh sat back and gasped. Now she has written another, called "I, Mary MacLane." It could not have been called anything else. In it, describing that earlier volume, Mary MacLane says: "It was a poetic book and had insight and vision, and a riot of color with youth as its keynote. And it was human and figuratively and literally full of the devil."

All this is true of "I, Mary MacLane." Only, instead of being full of the devil, this second book is full of her sex feelings. They make the book amazing, they make it even more wonderful that the book could get itself published. But the Frederick G. Stokes Company of New York did it.

In all that she does, Mary MacLane, now as before, is a dealer in superlatives. Even in little things she picks apart sensation down to cell-structure.

Mary MacLane, the Egotist of Butte, Back Pedals - By Clarence J. Bulleit - Boston Daily Globe, April 1917

Poor little Mary MacLane! After all, this picturesque young girl worshipper of the devil, this voluptuous eater of olives, this prose poetess of the toothbrush, was a whole lot of fantastic fourflusher. She admits it herself, now, only she says she was a liar. Mary, at the ripe age of 28, looks back with pity and amusement on the 19-year-old "genius" who, in 1902, aroused the wrath of the prudish, the scorn of the ultra-respectable, the amusement of the wise and the wonder of everybody by publishing a little volume of self-analysis in which she exposed, with apparently the utmost candor, her thoughts and feelings on all subjects, conventional and unconventional, in a challengingly egotistical fashion.

As an egotist, indeed, she took immediate rank with Bernard Shaw, Victor Hugo, Dante, Milton, Dryden and many other literary lights, but as a "genius," little Mary was sadly lacking in several essentials, notably sincerity.

Mary MacLane's world, at 19, was Butte, Mont., and the hills and deserts surrounding it. Since then she has seen the big world - the world of people - the world of Chicago, Boston, New York - and she has added a postscript to "The Story of Mary MacLane," which has just been republished by Duffields, in which she herself gives the most vividly truthful and sympathetic criticism possible for the presumptuous little egotist of a decade ago. The woman Mary loves the girl Mary, but she smiles at the scornful vanity of the little minx, secretly admiring, however, her fine spirit of revolt, and as proud of her, withal, as a doting parent is of a smart, spoiled child.

She still has a good opinion of herself, but that opinion is abundantly justified by her achievements. For Mary, even at 19, had a literary style of splendid vigor and an imagination that scorned the beaten paths. At 28 her style is still vigorous, and it has the added touch of sincerity, and her imagination, still uncurbed by convention, has been turned into channels hewed out by experience. She is now a young woman you would like to meet on the street every morning on your way to work and be privileged to greet with a hearty "Good morning, Mary!" For you would be sure to get in return a cheery "Hello!" that would inspire you to do a better day's work.

Her picturesque concluding paragraph gives birth to a spark of hope that Mary MacLane, may in time, give to the world a truly authentic autobiography which may be the feminine counterpart of Rousseau's wonderful "Confessions."

[She is] an inspired prose poetess of things as they are in the world of people.

Mary MacLane's egotism, too, is forgivable, since it doubtless was inspired by her reading of geniuses who were egotists. In her youthful exuberance, she probably thought egotism a sign of genius, or, at least, an inseparable attribute, and maybe she was right.

"Mary MacLane" - The Bookseller [CK NAME], May 1917

In her own words, she was, as a child, "stubborn and morose, with a speculative mind, fantastic day dreams, and a free hoydenish way of life." She had a devouring appetite for reading, and at the age of thirteen had gone through many of the classics, as well as much else of thrilling content, but more or less inferior worth. In spite of her wild, free spirit she was ever solitary and self-sufficient, with few friends, except the woods and windy hills that surrounded her home city.

It was this girl - singularly conversant with the literature of France and England, introspective, brooding, secretly observant, of but meagre worldly experience - who at the age of eighteen began her first book of self-interpretation. "The Story of Mary MacLane." The book was in many ways amateurish, but it had unique literary merit which was not appreciated in this country. It did, however, have an enormous sale for its sensational features, and brought her the money which enabled her to extend her horizon and broaden her experience by travel. For the next eight years she was much in the East, for some time in London and Paris. The old solitary mood was thrown aside, she plunged into a bright world of friendships and eventfulness. She read widely. She stored up vivid mental images of persons and places, which her keen, merciless intellect was ever at work upon - dissecting, analyzing, interpreting.

Fifteen years after the publication of her first book, the woman who writes "I, Mary' MacLane" is broader in experience, more practised in vision, more matured in artistic power. Her book is at once an illuminating and spell-binding analysis of the hidden self of Everywoman, and a piercing satiric comment on the outer aspect of affairs and men. A long period of illness which followed closely on the years of travel, swept her back to her old introspective self, from which she was able to look back on scenes and people as across a chasm. It gave her perspective.

"Mary MacLane Pops Up Again, Ego Oozing Out" - by Fanny Butcher - Chicago Daily Tribune, May 1917

Mary MacLane again! After fifteen years of silence she looks into her heart, thirty-odd years sophisticated, and writes down where all may read all what she sees there. "I, Mary MacLane" (Stokes) she calls the chronicle, and over every page there broods a vociferous "I-ness." It is an open clinic of a soul and a body and a mind with an introspective Self wielding the skilled knife, and the world is called in to see the soul squirm, the body writhe, and the mind wriggle. There are no anesthetics administered.

How she has changed, how she has grown since those days fifteen years ago, when she invocated the devil I can't tell. I have only the vaguest memories of "The Story of Mary MacLane." I was too young to read it either with understanding or interest. I remember only that some of the older girls in the school went around constantly urging the kind devil to deliver them from something or somebody, that they had a pompous little secret club and called themselves the M.M.L.'s, and that if it hadn't been for Mary MacLane and her confessions I should never have learned how to sew a button on with a safety pin, which was the only secret of the M.M.L.'s that was divulged. I didn't realize that it was all in a book. It seemed like some part of the social system of the universe, like the G.A.R. which made Decoration Day the most gorgeous memory of the year by marching in beautiful blue soldier clothes, or like the Masons, of whom I knew two awe inspiring things, that if you wanted to belong - and you never could if you were a girl - you had to ride a goat, a bucking broncho of a goat, and you had to go to every funeral of every great man and wear a fancy hat with a long white feather in it.

Mine not to reason shy, G.A.R., or the Masons, or the M.M.L.'s. Mine simply to accept them as one does the fact of molasses and sulphur in the spring.

Reading "I, Mary MacLane," I am glad of that memory. It rather cleared up Mary for me, and saved me from reading the 19 year Marie Bashkirtsheffing of the young Mary MacLane. If a group of girls in a grammar school could find in her outpourings of soul something that banded them together surely she couldn't have been the strange, wild, unrivaled Self that she thought she was. There must have been something in her of the foundational young girlhood.

Mary MacLane isn't "queer." She's the essential woman analyzed to the nth power. As for the literary quality of the book - you see, she insists first of all that she is a personality, and after that a writer, and so one must talk about her personality first - there are some exquisite bits of poetry in it, prose poetry outimaging the imagists because the images she draws do not need a pictorial glossary. She unquestionably has a gift of gab with her pen. She's subtle, keen, humorous, and a chooser of picturesque words which make a day in her chronicle worth, dictionally, a cycle in most prose of today. She has some exquisite phantasies of thought, some satirical leaps of imagination.

There is gold in "I, Mary MacLane," but you have to dig through barren earth to find it.

"Book Reviews - I, Mary MacLane" - Utica Press [New York], May 1917

She has genius, as anyone who reads her book can see, but she spends too much time trying to analyze her wavering character instead of exerting herself to think of others and get out of herself. She has too much temperament and too many yearnings. She has too much ego. She bares her soul to the public and delights in doing it. She tears herself to pieces just as children sometimes tear flies or other insects. She is cruel to herself.

Brentano's Book Chat, May-June 1917

Mary MacLane has written another book of self-revelation. She calls her second {sic.] expression, "I, Mary MacLane: A Diary of Human Days" (Stokes). Like the first it is powerfully written - powerful in the sense that the young woman impresses her personality with all the insistence of spirit which comes from a complete lack of reticence. She has no sense of reserve. That, no doubt, was her intention, and the result compels the reader to take breath and pause. "I write this book of Me," she says, "my Soul, my Heart, my sentient body, my magic Mind: their potentialities and contradictions," and, certainly, she fully achieves her purpose. Like Marie Bashkirtseff she lays bare her very soul, but with even a bolder method and I might almost say aggressiveness. It is this feeling of aggressiveness, however, that arouses us to a sense of almost resentment. We feel that Mary MacLane's simplicity and directness is not so much the outcome of innocence as it is meditated and purposeful. None the less the impression her autobiography leaves is one of astonishment, not only at her experiences, but at her power of relating those experiences - a power which could come only from utter sincerity.

"Fire of Youth" - by Harriet Monroe - Poetry Magazine, June 1917

Some years ago - twelve or thirteen - a weird witch-light descended out of the air upon me in the person of Miss Mary MacLane. Anything more quaint and subversive - wise in deep ways, absurd in odd vanities, both quiet and volcanic, with a mind that undermined into dark corners and shook its little torch at the sun itself - I never expect to see in human flesh than this young and pretty girl from Butte, Montana.

She had written a book of wild youthful revolt, a book which made a noise even though it had a streak of genius in it. The noise subsided, and the maker of it has not again interrupted the silence until now. The new book, I, Mary MacLane, is once more introspective, but more mature (though still absurdly young in spots) and less rebellious. It is not poetry, but one may step out of Poetry's province to say a word for its prose, which rises at times to heights of pure beauty and bright imaginative intensity. Of an odd and whimsical, or even tragical, humor of laughter in such chapters as the one on Lot's wife or the Finn woman, it becomes in others - those on Keats, or her dream child, or the voices of children - poignantly wistful, sorrowful with the sorrows of the world.

There are absurdities, no doubt - moments of world-obliterating egotism which fail to convince. But on the whole one gets an impression of piercing sincerity and strange beauty, at times of poetic and luminous vision.

"Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary" - by Dorothy Day - The Masses, August 1917

Unfortunately my father got hold of the copy [of I, Mary MacLane] I was reviewing, and, putting it immediately in a class with Havelock Ellis and Greenwich Village and short hair and other radical things, tore it into small bits.

"Strange Mary MacLane Analyzed" - by Mabel Dodge - Washington Times, August 1917

She has no capacity for experience because she is incapable of exchanging energy with anyone outside of herself. She is a shut-in. The natural part of her make-up is diminished and thin.

She is a born old maid. She knows no more about life than a typewriting machine.

Living is the outcome of being in relation to others of our kind. The stuff of life is what we exchange with each other. Exclusion - voluntary or involuntary - from the herd is death.

"Mary MacLane Again" - Bookseller and Stationer, 1917

"I, Mary MacLane: A Diary of Human Days," by the author of "The Story of Mary MacLane," which created such a sensation a few years ago, may be described as a curtain drawn aside - disclosing a soul essentially rare and unusual, dwelling apart. Its attributes are lyric beauty; chaotic disregard of the conventionalities; passionate humanness; and a sense of humor which is elusive, creative, delicate.

In the modern world Mary MacLane scarcely "belongs." Yet in this fiery merciless baring of self the reader will discover odd compelling similarities to his own strengths and weaknesses.

In Defense of Women - by H.L. Mencken - Philip Goodman, New York, 1918

One finds, indeed, a sort of general conspiracy, infinitely alert and jealous, against the publication of the esoteric wisdom of the sex, and even against the acknowledgment that any such body of erudition exists at all. Men having more vanity and less discretion, are a good deal less cautious. There is, in fact, a whole literature of masculine blabbing, ranging from Machiavelli's appalling confession of political theory to the egoistic confidences of such men as Nietzsche, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Casanova, Max Stirner, Napoleon Bonaparte, Lord Chesterfield and E.W. Howe. But it is very rarely that a Mary MacLane lets down the veils which conceal the acroamatic doctrine of the other sex. It is transmitted from mother to daughter, so to speak, behind the door. One observes its practical workings, but hears little about its principles. The causes of this secrecy are obvious. Women, in the last analysis, can prevail against men in the great struggle for power and security only by keeping men disarmed, and, in the main, unwarned.

"The Butte Bashkirtseff" in Prejudices: First Series - by H.L. Mencken - 1919, Knopf (New York)

Of all the pseudo-rebels who have raised a tarletan black flag in These States, surely Mary MacLane is one of the most pathetic. When, at nineteen, she fluttered Vassar with The Story of Mary MacLane," the truth about her was still left somewhat obscure; the charm of her flapperhood, so to speak, distracted attention from it, and so concealed it. But when, at thirty-five, she achieved I, Mary MacLane, it emerged crystal-clear; she had learned to describe her malady accurately, though she still wondered, a bit wistfully, just what it was. And that malady? That truth? Simply that a Scotch Presbyterian with a soaring soul is as cruelly beset as a wolf with fleas, a zebra with the botts. Let a spark of the divine fire spring to life in that arid corpse, and it must fight its way to flame through a drum fire of wet sponges. A humming bird immersed in Kartoffelsuppe. Walter Pater writing for the London Daily Mail. Lucullus traveling steerage....A Puritan wooed and tortured by the leers of beauty, Mary MacLane in a moral republic, in a Presbyterian diocese, in Butte....

I hope my figures of speech are not too abstruse. What I mean to say is simply this: that the secret of Mary MacLane is simply this: that the origin of all her inchoate naughtiness is simply this: that she is a Puritan who has heard the call of joy and is struggling against it damnably. Remember so much, and the whole of her wistful heresy becomes intelligible. On the one hand the loveliness of the world enchants her; on the other hand the fires of hell warn her. This tortuous conflict accounts for her whole bag of tricks; her timorous flirtations with the devil, her occasional outbreaks of finishing-school rebellion, her hurried protestations of virginity, above all her incurable Philistinism. One need not be told that she admires the late Major General Roosevelt and Mrs. Atherton, that she wallows in the poetry of Keats. One knows quite as well that her phonograph plays the "Peer Gynt" suite, and that she is charmed by the syllogisms of G.K. Chesterton. She is, in brief, an absolutely typical American of the transition stage between Christian Endeavor and civilization. There is in her a definite poison of ideas, an ęsthetic impulse that will not down - but every time she yields to it she is halted and plucked back by qualms and doubts, by the dominant superstitions of her race and time, by the dead hand of her kirk-crazy Scotch forebears.

It is precisely this grisly touch upon her shoulder that stimulates her to those naive explosions of scandalous confidence which make her what she is. If there were no sepulchral voice in her ear, warning her that it is the mark of a hussy to be kissed by a man with "iron-gray hair, a brow like Apollo and a jowl like Bill Sykes," she would not confess it and boast of it, as she does on page 121 of I, Mary MacLane. If it were not a Presbyterian axiom that a lady who says "damn" is fit only to join the white slaves, she would not pen a defiant Damniad, as she does on pages 108, 109 and 110. And if it were not held universally in Butte that sex passion is the exclusive infirmity of the male, she would not blab out in meeting that - but here I get into forbidden waters and had better refer you to page 209. It is not the godless voluptuary who patronizes leg-shows and the cabaret; it is the Methodist deacon with unaccustomed vine-leaves in his hair. It is not genuine artists, serving beauty reverently and proudly, who herd in Greenwich Village and bawl for art; it is precisely a mob of Middle Western Baptists to whom the very idea of art is still novel, and intoxicating, and more than a little bawdy. And to make an end, it is not cocottes who read the highly-spiced magazines which burden all the book-stalls; it is sedentary married women who, while faithful to their depressing husbands in the flesh, yet allow their imaginations to play furtively upon the charms of theoretical intrigues with such pretty fellows as Francis X. Bushman, Enrico Caruso and Vincent Astor.

An understanding of this plain fact not only explains the MacLane and her gingery carnalities of the chair; it also explains a good part of latter-day American literature. That literature is the self-expression of a people who have got only half way up the ladder leading from moral slavery to intellectual freedom. At every step there is a warning tug, a protest from below. Sometimes the climber docilely drops back; sometimes he emits a petulant defiance and reaches boldly for the next round. It is this occasional defiance which accounts for the periodical efflorescence of mere school-boy naughtiness in the midst of our oleaginous virtue - for the shouldering out of the Ladies' Home Journal by magazines of adultery all compact - for the provocative baring of calf and scapula by women who regard it as immoral to take Benedictine with their coffee - for the peopling of Greenwich Village by oafs who think it a devilish adventure to victual in cellars, and read Krafft-Ebing, and stare at the corset-scarred nakedness of decadent cloak-models.

I have said that the climber is but half way up the ladder. I wish I could add that he is moving ahead, but the truth is that he is probably quite stationary. We have our spasms of revolt, our flarings up of peekaboo waists, free love and "art," but a mighty backwash of piety fetches each and every one of them soon or late. A mongrel and inferior people, incapable of any spiritual aspiration above that of second-rate English colonials, we seek refuge inevitably in the one sort of superiority that the lower castes of men can authentically boast, to wit, superiority in docility, in credulity, in resignation, in morals. We are the most moral race in the world; there is not another that we do not look down upon in that department; our confessed aim and destiny as a nation is to inoculate them all with our incomparable rectitude. In the last analysis, all ideas are judged among us by moral standards; moral values are our only permanent tests of worth, whether in the arts, in politics, in philosophy or in life itself. Even the instincts of man, so intrinsically immoral, so innocent, are fitted with moral false-faces. That bedevilment by sex ideas which punishes continence, so abhorrent to nature, is converted into a moral frenzy, pathological in the end. The impulse to cavort and kick up one's legs, so healthy, so universal, is hedged in by incomprehensible taboos; it becomes stealthy, dirty, degrading. The desire to create and linger over beauty, the sign and touchstone of man's rise above the brute, is held down by doubts and hesitations; when it breaks through it must do so by orgy and explosion, half ludicrous and half pathetic. Our function, we choose to believe, is to teach and inspire the world. We are wrong. Our function is to amuse the world. We are the Bryan, the Henry Ford, the Billy Sunday among the nations....

- in Prejudices: First Series (1919), electronic edition - Mencken, Henry Louis, 1880-1956 - Text scanned (OCR) by Jeremy Jones - Text encoded by Melanie Polutta and Natalia Smith - First edition, 1998 - ca. 400K - Academic Affairs Library, UNC-CH - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1998. - © This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.

"The Flood of Fiction - A Jewel in the Sand - by Alma Newton" - New York Evening Post, May 1920

All that the young girl one so often meets thinks to be "perfectly wonderful," "just dear" and "so true," Miss Alma Newton, has set forth in "A Jewel in the Sand." It Is a story mildly reminiscent of the erstwhile illustrious Mary McLane - all about a young girl's struggle to escape from the narrowness of home life where nobody understands her or has any vision of an existence of romance and achievement.

"Polish Woman Novelist - Kobiety a Psychological Study" - New York Tribune, October 1920

Mme. Nalkowska, the Author, Is Compared With Marie Bashkirtseff

So it has come to this!

"Just now I was thinking how I should like to lock Janusz up in a nice cage and have him all to myself. I should give him plenty of food, but neither let him read (that prohibition he would not find very hard) nor talk to anyone; so that he, with all his treasures of vitality, might be mine alone. And occassionally I should enter the cage."

Run, boys! It is the cave woman.

There are times when one is certain that Mme. Nalkowska knows her Nietzsche, and then again we wonder whether or not echoes of our own Mary McLain [sic.] may not have reached even to far-off Poland. It may even be that this vacillating in the philosophic plane between the standard of the famous German's study and that of Butte is what makes "Kobiety" the extraordinary analysis of feminine psychology it is claimed to be. It is not for a mere man to say what may be the gamut of a woman's soul.

"The New Log-Rolling" - by Ernest A. Boyd - The Freeman, September1920<

The anonymous heroine [of Magdeleine Marx's novel Woman] is a species of Parisianized Mary MacLane. She is filled with fabulous notions about sex, and pours out her soul-or rather allows it to evaporate-in cloudy verbiage. She is evidently suffering from some grievance, but what it is does not transpire. She wants to Live Her Own Life, to be Free, to soar above the commonplace conventions and trammels of this wicked world.

"Two Daughters of Unrest" - Bismarck Tribune [North Dakota], August 1921

Mary MacLane, you may remember, once sued Butte, Montana, for divorce – or words to that effect - on the grounds of incompatibility. And Carol Kennicott of "Main Street" had virtually the same kind of a falling out with Gopher Prairie. Both yearned passionately for the city, for the hectic or the artistic life of greater centers, where they would be understood.

Funny, isn't it, that Mary MacLane came originally from Fergus Falls and Carol Kennicott, or her creator, from Sauk Centre? And though Mary dealt with Butte, not Fergus Falls, and though Sinclair Lewis has disclaimed writing Sauk Center into Gopher Prairie, still, both these Minnesota towns should pause and reflect a bit, and look about them.

May be if Fergus had done the right thing by Mary MacLane, or Sauk Center had risen properly to higher things, neither Mary nor Sinclair would have gone out into the world and boiled that unrest over into the pages of books. It should be a lesson to all the other towns and to all people. The shy, sensitive young souls about us may be brooding, nobody knows how bitterly, over the failure of the folks next door to understand what is irking their inmost spirits.

But here a serious doubt springs up. What if Fergus Falls, or Sauk Center, had comprennayed Mary and Sinclair? We might not have read "The Story of Mary MacLane," which pleaded for beauty some years before Carol Kennicott took up the noble work. And we might never have had a "Main Street." Like as not, we have both towns to thank for a real service, to say nothing of the renown for Minnesota. - Minneapolis Tribune

"The Literary Capital of the United States" - by H.L. Mencken - in The Freeman Pamphlets: On American Books, B.W. Huebsch (New York), 1920

Go back twenty or thirty years, and you will scarcely find an American literary movement that did not originate under the shadow of the stockyards. In the eighteen-nineties New York turned its eyes toward England, but Chicago had Savoys of its own, and at least one publishing house that grandly proclaimed the doom of the old order, and trotted out its Fullers> and Mary MacLanes, and imported Ibsen and Maeterlinck, then as strange as Heliogabalus. The new poetry movement is thoroughly Chicagoan; the majority of its chief poets are from the Middle West; Poetry, the organ of the movement, is published in Chicago. So with the little theater movement. Long before it was heard of in New York, it was firmly on its legs in Chicago. And to support these various reforms and revolts, some of them already of great influence, others abortive and quickly forgotten, there is in Chicago a body of critical opinion that is unsurpassed for discretion and intelligence in America

The Invisible Censor - by Francis Hackett - B.W. Huebsch (New York), 1921

This is possibly why Samuel Butler, in his autobiographical way, is so remarkable as a Victorian. In the midst of innumerable edifying figures, he declined to edify. When people said to him, "Honor thy father and thy mother," he answered in effect that his father was a pinhead theologian who had wanted to cripple his mentality, and his mother was, to use his own phrase, full of the seven deadly virtues. This was not decorous but it had the merit of being true. And all the people whose unbidden censors had been forcing good round impulses into stubborn parental polygons immediately felt the relief of this revelation.

A similar work is performed by such highly personal confessants as Marie Bashkirtseff and W.N.P. Barbellion, and even by Mary MacLane. The account that these impulsive human beings give of themselves is sensational simply because it clashes with the strict preconception that we are taught to establish. But only a man who remembers nothing or admits nothing of his own impulses can deny the validity of theirs.

"Literature and Geography" - By H.L. Mencken - Chicago Daily Tribune, May 1925

Idaho, it appears, is a complete vacuum; not a single practitioner of any of the fine arts lives within its borders. And Montana has but one - and he is out of service. He is Charles W. Towne, who wrote some excellent humorous books, two decades ago, under the pen name of Gideon Wurdz.

But he is now press agent for the Anaconda Copper company, and has apparently not published a line since he moved to Butte. Where is Mary MacLane? Non est! And her successors? She has none.

from Grotesques and Other Reflections - by Mary Cass Canfield - Harper & Bros. (New York), 1927 (orig. pub. 1917),

"I am Mary MacLane: of no importance to the wide bright world and dearly and damnably important to Me.

"Face to face I look at Me with some hatred, with despair, and with great intentness.

"I put Me in a crucible of my own making and set it in the flaming trivial Inferno of my mind. And I assay thus:

"I am rare - I am in some ways exquisite.

"I am pagan within and without.

"I am vain and shallow and false.

"I am of woman-sex and most things that go with that, with some other pointes.

"I am dynamic but devasted, laid waste in spirit.

"I'm like a leopard and I'm like a poet and I'm like a religieuse and I'm like an outlaw.

"I have brain, cerebration - not powerful, but fine and of a remarkable quality.

"I am slender in body and someway fragile and firm-fleshed and sweet.

"I am oddly a fool and a strange complex liar and a spiritual vagabond.

"I am eternally self-conscious but sincere in it.

"I am young, but not very young.

"I am wistful; I am infamous.

"In brief, I am a human being.

"And were I not so tensely tiredly sane I would say that I am mad."

This is how Mary MacLane of Butte, Montana (author, at the age of eighteen, of a volume called The Story of Mary MacLane), sums herself up in the opening chapter of her latest autobiography. No, I will not say sums herself up, for the above rather confused list of qualities pales into nothingness when compared with the subsequent expansions which fill her curious book. The too facile pen of this lonely lady plumbs with passionate, although remarkably uncontrolled and vague, intensity, the remotest depths of her own personality. I, Mary MacLane, contains 317 pages of self-expression, as I suppose it will be called. And whether Mary MacLane is telling us how her inner soul gloats over a "Cold Boiled Potato at Midnight," or how "Of inanimate things" she "most hates a loose shutter rattling at night in the wind" - the subject matter is always Mary MacLane, her intimate hates, loves, lonelinesses, doubts, aspirations, and despairs.

There is a popular superstition that any human being who sincerely writes himself or herself down for the public will create an interesting record for others to read. Cellini did it, and Marie Bashkirtseff, and the gentle and melancholy Amiel; but Cellini was a vainglorious artist writing out the events of his life with Latin brio and humour, and Amiel was a reserved philosopher of delicate and unerring taste, while Marie Bashkirtseff, oversensitive and introspective as she was, yet had an objective eye when looking at herself, a certain reasonable quality, and mixed her conceited self-analysis with a good deal of healthy outer ambition and interest in the people and happenings of her time.

Not so with Miss Mary MacLane. She lives in a morass of demoralized and despondent self-interest. All worlds revolve in Blinding Flames of Power - as she easily might, but does not, say - about her Tempestuous, Unsatisfied Ego. She is badly in need of change and diversion, as the doctors put it. Her book has such a shut-in atmosphere that one cries out, "More air," as one penetrates the labyrinth of its complexities. "Expressing breeds the last Expressions," says Mary MacLane, thus diagnosing her own disease. Her last Expressions are so complicated, so illusive, and so darkly worded that I defy most of the reading public to "get" them.

"I live long hours of nervous, profound, passionate self-communion. I discover the subtle panting Ego - the wonderful thing that lives and waits in its garbled radiance just beneath my skin."

What, oh, what, in the name of the Jabberwock, is a "garbled radiance"?

Heartbreaking is Miss MacLane's choice of adjectives, terrifying the continuous stream of them. At times she approaches Miss Gertrude Stein in a sort of frenzied lack of meaning, and a twisting and crippling of the EngIish tongue, which will cause her to be looked at askance by Swift and Bacon, Addison, Pater, and Stevenson, when she reaches another and a better world. Oscar Wilde, if he sees her there, will instantly invent some special form of torture for her, and the limpid Poe will wrap a black cloak more closely about him as he passes her by. Bad taste is in fact the dark shadow spreading over what is, after all, only an extra-ordinary book - the singular record of a not very singular ingrowing temperament. Melancholy, introspection, and sensitiveness are not ugly qualities, as the eternally graceful Hamlet bears witness, and yet I, Mary MacLane, is quite definitely ugly.

Undoubtedly this is because there is no sense of art in it, no intellectual control, no choice, no discarding. It is full of repetition of mood, overcrowding of inadequate adjectives and general lack of construction - in short, there is no honest artist's toil in it.

There is some danger that I, Mary MacLane may be embraced by a certain section of the public, which is always full of that hyper-sentimental curiosity that in this country washes up like a great sloppy sea at the feet of "Personality" - capital P. It is characteristic of a young race to want to solve every problem, penetrate every nook and cranny of existence, and know every secret of a man's soul, just as these things are characteristic of a very young person. The conserving power of reserve and the steady footsteps of silence it does not understand.

Neither, one may say, does Miss MacLane, Whether she confesses, "I am fond of green peas, baseball, and diamond rings," which has humour, or, "I wear No. 6 gloves, the calf of my leg is a shapely thing," or "I do not want of God a passport, a safe conduct into Heaven," one sees that Miss MacLane makes the mistake of considering all self-revelation interesting.

Her book is a weird medley of intelligence and acutely irritating stupidity, because she totally lacks the artist's rigorous sense of proportion, although she is an artist in the sense that her mind sees relations between things and resemblances. Her talent has remarkable blind spots. Her style, for instance, is what no writer's can afford to be - inconsiderate. I have a good mental picture of Miss MacLane sliding, rapidly downhill on a toboggan of frantic individualism. Her temperament has really fatally run away with her - she has not the canny and cold self-control of the artist, and her creation is no creation at all, but a rather indigestible mixed drink. "I am not Respectable, nor Refined, nor in Good Taste," says Mary MacLane, applying the sentence with perhaps a certain rebel satisfaction to her outer conduct; but unfortunately the judgment also applies to her as a writer, and makes her a bad one. It would be better for her to realize that good taste is the respectability of the brain, as it is also the real refinement and aristocracy of the soul.

Having expostulated with the weaknesses and exaggerations of I, Mary MacLane, and predicted a speedy tomb for it after its first succes de curiosite, I now want to weave a garland of regret over the monument. There are passages of rare intelligence and discernment, passages which are unfortunately swamped by the mass of trivialities, false oddities, and mistaken sincerities, which Miss MacLane has written down. Her chapter called "The Sleep of the Dead" has the quality of a fine prose poem; there is in it originality of thought and rhythm - a beautiful instinctive fitting of words to thoughts.

"When I'm dead I want to rest awhile in my grave; for I'm Tired, Tired always.

"My Soul must go on as it has gone on up to now. It has a long way to go, and it has come a long way ....

"But the sleep of the dead!

"I imagine Me wrapped in a shroud of soft thin wool cloth of a pale colour, laid in a plain wood coffin: and my eyelids are closed, and my tired feet are dead, and my hands are folded on my breast. And the coffin is nine feet down in the ground and the earth covers it. Upon that same, green sod: and above, the ancient blue deep sheltering sky: and the clouds and the winds and the suns and moons, and the days and nights and circling horizons - those above my grave.

"And my Body laid at its length, eyes closed, hands folded, clown there Resting: my Soul not yet gone but laid beside my Body in the coffin, Resting.

"- might we lie like that - Resting, Resting, for weeks, months, ages -

"Year after long year, Resting."

Again, in the little chapter called "The Strange Braveness," there is objective, clearly-thought-out poetry, with something in it of Walt Whitman's universal sympathy. At moments, too, Mary MacLane has finishes of delightful hurnour and a certain super-acute insight. Here is a strange little revelation of the human dread of discomfort:

"It is not Death I fear, nor Life. I horridly fear something this side of Death but outpacing Life a little: a nervousness in my Stomach - a very Muddy Street, a Lonely Hotel Room."

"I am tranquil, for to-day I had a walk that made me feel Sincere and Safe. It is a comforting feeling: it is like a beef-sandwich."

"I suppose I'm very lonely. It is luck - luck from the stars - not to be beset by clusters of people, people who do their thinking outside their heads, 'cheerful' people, people who say 'Pardon me': all the damning sorts scattered about obstructing one's views of the horizons."

When she does look at herself objectively as a character and stops telling us with her frankness, which savours uncomfortably of bravado, what kind of cold cream she uses, and just how devilish she thinks the smell of turpentine is, Miss MacLane is sometimes remarkably interesting. She says of herself: "She had not the usual defensive armour of the normal woman, for she was not a normal woman, but certain trends of varying individuals gathered into one sensitive wornan-envelope."


"I am a hundred times more introspective than most people, most women. Most women, even conventional ones, are lawless - the more conventional, the more lawless usually. And so most women beat me to life. Where they yield to an impulse the moment they feel it, I, because an impulse itself is adventure-fabric - I feet of its quality, test it for defects, wash a little corner of it to see if the color will run - and conclude not to use it."

And here, to end with, is Mary MacLane's voice as she raises it to interpret human struggle and weariness, singing almost at her best in the chapter called "The Strange Braveness":

If God has human feelings he must often have a burning at the eyes and a fullness at the throat at the strange Braveness of human people: their braveness as they go on in the daily life, with aching dumbish minds and disgruntled bereft bodies and flattened pinched gnawed hearts.

The easy human slattern way would be to sink beneath the burden.

Instead, people: I and Another and all others - seamstresses and monotonous clerks and lawyers and housewives: sit upright in chairs and talk into telephones and walk fast and eat breakfast and brush hair: all the while marooned in a morass of small wild unexciting tasteless Pain.

Of others - what do I know?

But I might say, "Look, God, I am not fallen on the ground, from this and that - utterly lost and down. But sitting, drooping but strong, in a chair, mending a lamp-shade - neat, orderly, and at-it in my misery."

[ Note: some of Canfield's quotations are abridgings of the published text. Quotations are rendered as published in Canfield's piece. ]

Montana: A State Guide Book - by Workers of the Writers's Program of the W.P.A. in the State of Montana - The Viking Press, New York, 1939

Reputedly the earliest fiction produced in Montana is the novel, Claire Lincoln [sic. - Clare Lincoln], by Decius M. Wade (1835-1905). It was published in i875. Writers from various parts of America have frequently used the Northwestern country for background, notably Owen Wister in The Virginian; but Montana writers did not claim popular attention until after 1900.

In 1902 The Story of Mary MacLane, a forerunner of the modern autobiographical novel, created a sensation. Discussion of its frank revelations swept from end to end of the country and made Mary MacLane (1881-1929) famous. H. L. Mencken devoted a chapter in Prejudices: First Series to this "Butte Bashkirtseff," in which he expressed the opinion that Butte was a Puritan town - a suggestion no doubt startling to the citizens.

Copper Camp: Stories of the World's Greatest Mining Town - Butte, Montana - by Workers of the Writers's Program of the W.P.A. in the State of Montana - Hastings House, New York, 1943

from the Introduction -

Butte is unpredictable. Yesterday, today and probably tomorrow she is a city of paradox - virtuous yet wanton, vindictive and forgiving, hard headed or charitable, kind, cruel, religious, agnostic, sordid, exalted, gay and tragic.

Magnificent when viewed by night from the Continental Divide, Butte has been likened to a diamond set in jet, but by day she is an uncorseted wench, dissipated from the night before. "Perch of the devil," she has been called by some, and "merciful mother of the mountains," by others.

This is the city where in 1902, a ghost, haunting the environs of adjoining Centerville shared space in the nation's press with Mary MacLane, a precocious young writer who was then communing with the devil at a cemetery on Montana Street, southern extremity of the camp, while writing her sensational autobiography, The Story of Mary MacLane. About the same period, Callahan the Bum spent the better part of a summer afternoon trying to hang himself from an awning rope on one of the main streets of the business district. When no heed was paid by the passing throng, he finally gave up in disgust, remarking that he would have succeeded but for the fact "the damn rope liked to choke him to death." Two sparrows in a fight to the death in front of a newspaper office caused a crowd of several hundred to gather and urge on the tiny gladiators, the newspaper holding up its presses so as to announce the victor in its afternoon edition.

Butte boasts of suburbs called Nanny Goat Hill, Hungry Hill, Seldom Seen, Dogtown, Chicken Flats and Butchertown. The society pages of the daily papers often feature side by side the likeness of a West Side society matron and that of a promised bride, whose address might be the kitchen of a Finnish boarding house on the "wrong" side of town.

Her saloons have been named The Alley Cat, Bucket of Blood, The Water Hole, Frozen Inn, Big Stope, The Cesspool, Collar and Elbow, Open-All-Night, Graveyard, The Good Old Summer Time, Pick and Shovel, The Beer Can, Saturday Night, and Pay Day.


"Love Tales in a Bulky Collection" - reviewed by August Derleth - Chicago Daily Tribune, November 1945

Modern Women In Love, ed. by Christina Stead and William Blake - Intro. by Louis Untermeyer.

It is undeniable that the editors have taken great pains to put together a book which is in its own way unique even among the flood of contemporary anthologies. It is a pleasure to meet again Mary MacLane, for instance, and Rayner Heppenstall, to name but two of the authors represented. Those authors include Colette, James Joyce, Caldwell, Huxley, Proust, Fitzgerald, Swinnerton, H.T., Romains, Rolland, Mansfield, Woolf, Stein, Faulkner, Schnitzler, Dorothy Parker, Sherwood Anderson, and Katherine Anne Porter. The emphasis has been definitely on the intellectual side throughout, tho purely from the perspective of editorial choice.

The Confident Years - by Van Wyck Brooks - Dutton, New York, 1952

Few Western writers of this earlier time [i.e., the early years of the Twentieth Century] could bear comparison with the least of these [i.e., the great Eastern writers], for Fuller and Bierce alone were consciously artists, and Hamlin Garland, at best a heavy-handed craftsman, had largely lost the intensity of his early stories .... All the forts and agencies had their own visiting painters now who found the ragged Indians in tinsel and store-clothes as picturesque as Italian lazzaroni, but the books in which [Hamlin] Garland stated their case - for example, The Captain of the Grey-Horse Troop - were as undistinguished as The Story of Mary MacLane. This book by the Montana Marie Bashkirtseff was a great sensation in literary circles when the author went East to be lionized in Boston and New York after looking out, from her window in Butte, for several years before 1902, on the "deep, high, heavy, silent, sombre" mountains. For Butte was in the heart of the mountain West where in every little town no doubt there were other girls who felt they were "set in the wrong niche" but who were unable, like Mary MacLane - as they walked the "long lonely streets" with "long lonely thoughts" - to whistle in the dark. But, waiting for the devil, as she said she was, or a man who was "bad to his heart's core," this diarist who liked to think of Messalina had little else to think about except the things she might have done if she had not been "half buried ... in this barren ground." She was maddened by the six toothbrushes in the family bathroom, she wrote pages about the art of eating an olive, and she wandered over the green coppery dumps by the mines on the outskirts of Butte with a crazy old crone from Dublin Gulch.

Surveying, in her windy Montana town, the "grim wall of the arid Rockies that separates this Butte from New York," Mary MacLane would have been predestined for Greenwich Village a decade later - she was one of the types of the Villager of the pre-world-war years. Her "unleashed sex-fancy," as she described it, her confessions of the Lesbian and the demi-vierge for whom there was nothing more monstrous than a virtuous woman, made her for a while the most talked of young writer in the country; but her diary was much more cry than wool and Mary MacLane was a startling figure only because the times were so colourless and mild. In poetry especially the prevailing note was saccharine and timid, conventional and thin if also fastidious in form, so that William Vaughn Moody's poems and plays, suggested in part by the mountain West, seemed startling too at the time in their boldness and talent. In Chicago, teaching at the university, Moody had known Hamlin Garland, and in 1901 the two had taken a horseback camping trip through the cattle-raising country of Colorado and the wilder Rockies. They had crossed the flower-strewn, mountain meadows that were scattered between the canyons and peaks and the scenes of Moody's play The Great Divide, a Bret Harte story dramatized in a miner's cabin in Arizona, which Mood visited again in 1904.

from The Inner World of Mental Illness - by Bert Kaplan - Harper & Row, New York, 1964

"I am not good. I am not virtuous. I am not sympathetic. I am not generous. I am merely and above all a creature of intense, passionate feeling. I feel - everything. It is my genius. It burns me like fire."

Mary MacLane's genius of "intense, passionate feeling" is in a sense the genius of mental illness also. Despite all of its destructiveness and pain, the attempt to move into the realm of intense feeling, which is perhaps synonymous with intense experiencing and existence, is the one positive element in mental illness which we may understand and sympathize with. The dilemma of alienation and nothingness which Mary MacLane describes so beautifully and poignantly, is widespread in western society; and her suggestion that if goodness, and its corollary, normality, are nothingness, badness (and madness) comprehend a greater amount of intense feeling - and of life. Here, as in several of our documents, most notably perhaps Lara Jefferson's, there is the suggestion that within mental illness human existence is being lived in its most intense, naked, and perhaps most real form, real in the sense that it is unprotected by the structure of comforts and myths which we call culture, and also in the sense that whatever myths and delusions in terms of which one lives are one's own productions and not borrowed ones that are disguised as social realities.

Miss MacLane's book was written in 1901, before the days of Sartre and D.H. Lawrence, and probably in innocence of Dostoevsky and Nietzsche, but is in their tradition and in its style and originality not completely unworthy of them. Her final plea, "Oh, that someone may understand it," is a challenge aimed directly at us. If we apply the coldly clinical "schizoid personality" or "schizophrenic" to her and send her on to the madhouse, or diagnose her as neurotic and send her to the psychiatrist for treatment, we will be doing what she dreads most when she asks "Will the wise wide world give me in my outstretched hand a stone?"

The sympathy that psychiatry has had for its patients has always been the sympathy of the well for the sick. It is a sympathy tinged with superiority, with an injunction to change, and, it seems to me, with the person who is suffering rather than with his illness. In the case where the two, person and illness, can be separated, this, perhaps, is good sense. But where the two cannot be separated, where, as in the case of Mary MacLane, what we might call the illness of psychopathology is nothing else than the person himself, it is not possible to sympathize with one and not the other. Sympathy then requires us to see what is valuable and meaningful in the illness itself, rather than to see it as something to be cured or replaced. Surely to say to Mary MacLane that we can help her be like all the people she feels alienated from is to give her a stone. What we can give her in its place is difficult to see. She says she wants understanding, love, and relationship. Perhaps the answer to understanding the problem of psychopathology is as simple as that.

Mabel Dodge Luhan: New Woman, New Worlds - Lois Palken Rudnick, 1984

[Mabel's] first topic [in her syndicated column, obtained through the help of Arthur Brisbane of the New York Journal], which was assigned to her, was most appropriate. She was asked to review I, Mary MacLane, the second volume of memoirs written by a woman who reads like a caricature of Mabel. MacLane had been born and lived most of her life in Butte, Montana, in an atmosphere devoid of cultural resources. She had devoted herself to fantasizing about herself as queen of a universe in which she was all-important and powerful.

Because Mabel was tempted by just this kind of solipsism at various intervals, she had no difficulty recognizing a case of "arrested development" that was so close to home. Her advice to MacLane sounds very much like the humanitarianism she had preached during her Village days: "Living is the outcome of being in relation to others of our kind"; exclusion from them is "death." Only now she recommended psychotherapy rather than involvement in radical causes.


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