The definitive website on the life and work of the pioneering feminist writer, film-maker, and media personality Mary MacLane (1881-1929)
From Michael R. Brown's introduction to the forthcoming Petrarca Press collection, Mary MacLane's Journalism: Interviews and Articles:
Mary MacLane's posture in every medium of expression she made use of - from the telegram to the personal letter to the newspaper feature article - was individual. As with the other great personalities of the day, her voice is identifiable within a few seconds, and like them she did not shrink from social disapproval in her pursuit of true expression. This did not stop newspaper reporters from manufacturing, as in Jack London's Martin Eden seven years later, interviews - complete with "Mary" conveniently quoting chapter and verse from I Await the Devil's Coming. An authentic MacLane interview, however, has an uncanny air of surreal confrontation. In her early public personal persona, the writer took over the observing, judging eye of a social pillar and turned it upon society itself. She was not the one peculiar or lacking - it was the reporter before her gaze who should sit nervously. Some of them were discomfited, some were amused, and some (like Zone Gale), recognizing that they were in for a unique experience, played their part.
These interviews have, except for Zona Gale's outstanding August 1902 interview for the New York World, below, never been reprinted before. New interviews continue to be found, so check back here and subscribe to our blog for new finds. For information on Petrarca Press' forthcoming comprehensive collection of writing - press, literary, and scholarly - about Mary MacLane, Mary in the Press: Miss MacLane and Her Fame, click here.
“How like a woman, and a very young woman at that,” the listener exclaims under his breath.
“What do I care for your opinion?” says the genius of the keen intuition, and little creepy chills chase one another down one’s back when the pretty, youthful face looks up at one, immovable as a sphinx, and the cool, decisive voice reiterates, “You don’t interest me in the least. I don’t like you, either. To look at you one can see you have a heart of dough half cooked. You don’t understand me at all. How can you, for I am a genius?”
“I understand myself. I alone understand myself,” said Miss MacLane. “I could reason with myself when I was three years old. Ever since then I have analyzed myself. I know my soul. Nobody does or can. Is it not enough that one knows oneself? I do not blame people for failing to understand me. I do not hate, neither do I love. Hating is an intense passion and occupies three-fourths of one’s time and ruins the brain. I used to hate when I was 12 years old. Then I stopped. My brain I did not wish to ruin.
“People will not understand the book. I do not expect them to understand it. I care only because I want the book to be appreciated. Perhaps,” with a laugh, “if they do not understand it they will read it. If it is roasted by the Bookman, Current Literature, the Eastern papers, then its success is assured. If it is only mentioned casually then it will not have the remarkable sale Mr. Stone predicts for it. I do not care what they say about the book. I do not, however, want personal attacks. Why should I?”
Miss MacLane leaned forward when she asked the question and her visitor said that he did not know and then she added, abruptly, “As you sit there you are nothing to me!” Somewhat confused was her visitor, but not so much so as when after a few moments speaking of her book she asked, “Are you a nice young man?” This question was awkwardly evaded and she went on, “I have known newspaper men who were nice externally but behind the eyes they were devils.” The visitor remarked that he had never been considered a devil and Miss McLane exclaimed, “I like devils!”
“Are you writing another book?” asked the visitor, to change the subject. “No,” replied the writer and added, presently: “I would not tell you even if I were.”
Members of Mary MacLane’s family do not honor her [by] passing thoughtful criticisms on either her or the book she has written. They content themselves with saying that she is hard to understand. They give her a meed of praise as a good household worker. “We know she can do her work well,” they say. “That is enough for us.”
“Of course it is,” said Mary. “Housework, housework, all the time — no leisure for cultivation of the soul; no time for communion with the stars. Always the walls to keep clean, the lawn to take care of.”
In the course of the conversation Miss MacLane volunteered the information that she wasn’t particularly fond of literary people, but wouldn’t object to meeting William Dean Howells, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Mary Johnston and a few others.
“My favorite authors?” said she, in response to a question. “Oh, Maria Louise Poole, Victor Hugo and J.T. Trowbridge. A wide range? You may think so. I do not.
“What value do you put on [Albert] Ross?” “Two cents,” was the answer. “Then Hugo ought to be about $1.50,” was suggested. “Hugo is $2.65,” Miss MacLane responded.
“Tell me something about your work. Do you sit up in the twilight and think, or do you arise in the cold gloom of the early morning and write? Or is the glare of day your favorite time? Perhaps it is in the calm afternoon?” “I have no favorite time,” was the reply. “I write any time.” “When inspired,” cried her visitor, gleefully. “I have no inspirations,” was the cold, dispassionate reply. “Do you use great white sheets of paper?” was asked. “Oh, no,” replied Miss MacLane, smiling; “I use scraps. I find that I cannot write as well upon large clean sheets of paper as I can upon scraps.” “Can you be talked to when writing?” was the next catapaultic question. “Oh, no; I must not be bothered,” replied Miss MacLane. “My family and friends thoroughly rrrunderstand that. I must be let severely alone.”
"I want to live quietly," she said, "and the less that is said about me and my book and my doings the better I will like it."
An offer from the New York World was also received by the young lady during the past week. The paper wanted her to come to New York at once and asked her to name her terms. "I offered to go for $100 a week and my expenses," said the young authoress. "They wired back saying it was too much, but offered $50 a week. They required, however, that I sign a contract with them not to write for any other publication but the World. This I will not consent to do. I would much prefer to write for the magazines, and that is what I want to do."
She calls the typical afternoon tea a "rabble," as it goes without saying that this young authoress is not at her best at one of the above functions, for on these occasions she is cynical, unjustly critical, sharp-spoken and utterly regardless of how she directs her conversation, flinging shots at random at this one and at that one.
The advance man of a theatrical company made it his business yesterday to rush to a newspaper office and announce that under no circumstances would his company engage Miss MacLane to appear with it. As a matter of fact, Miss MacLane never had any such intention and was rather indignant when she saw the thing In print. She said to the Miner:
"The statement made in last night's Inter Mountain that I tried to secure a position with the Frawley company is absolutely baseless. I have never heard of the Frawley company, and that alone would make my so-called attempt to make a debut on the stage in the ranks of that company a most unheard of thing.
"My intention to lecture is as vague as my intention is to go on the stage. I will never consider an offer to lecture, not because I despise the vocation, but because I have no desire to appear on the public rostrum."
The young authoress lives in Butte, on the fashionable street, Excelsior avenue. She makes her home with her mother, sister and stepfather, and they occupy a modest residence that has an air of comfort and evidence of refinement. In appearance this young, inexperienced, suddenly famous authoress is good looking, and, in spite of her claims to untidiness, like her claims to sinfulness, there is no evidence of it. Miss MacLane is of medium height, slender of build, with light brown hair, and a peculiar and indescribable, cold, grayish eye.
"It is not a diary,” she said. “It is a portrayal — a portrayal of my soul; a communion with my inner self during a period of three months.
“You make such frequent references to ‘perfect ladies’ in your book and writings. Will you please tell m what you mean by a ‘perfect lady’?” “Well,” said she, “a perfect lady is one that wears a silk petticoat and calls on her friends and sips tea and eats little cakes, all the while talking about — oh, such shocking things, in a tragical whisper.”
When asked when she first discovered the spark of genius within herself she replied, “Since I was 3 years old. I analyzed myself, but it was only two years ago that I began to write. I know myself, oh, so well. I am a genius. The MacLanes are a strange family. I have an aunt from whom I inherit my nature. She was not a genius, but her life was one of bitter disappointment from beginning to end, and so will mine be. I can look at her and see how I will look when I get old.” It was suggested to the morbid young woman that she had it in her power to change her life by changing her thoughts. “Oh, I do not mind,” she replied; “it is the inevitable. There is no happiness for me. I cannot get away from myself. I am bound.”
Miss MacLane said she did not expect to make a fortune from her book. “There is no publisher who would let an author make a fortune out of a book. They would cheat you out of your eyes. I shall have a literary career, but I shall never write of anything but myself. I am morbid and cannot get away from my thoughts.”
“But, Miss MacLane, you are a virtuous girl? “Yes, in the negative,” she replied. “But if the proper temptation should come I would fail.” “Do you have the sensations that you described in your book?” “I certainly do,” said the erratic soul. In reply to the question whether she had ever seen any man who resembled her devil, she said, “No; there are only a few real devils, although many counterfeits.”
Miss MacLane confesses to one strange and mad passion — her love for a former girl schoolmate. She says she thinks of the young lady night and day, and for a long time she sent her three letters a day; but the object of her affection deceived her in that she discussed her peculiarities with other schoolmates. Miss MacLane now thinks of her girl sweetheart in secret. “Of course,” she added, “I think most of myself, but I cannot get her out of my mind.” She claims to have but one true friend and thinks that friendship might have been blighted had not the object moved away from Butte. This is the lady spoken of in her book, being the only character mentioned besides Miss MacLane and her devil.
Speaking of her book, the authoress said: “there is a vein of humor running all through it, but of course, it is not of the kind that leaves a bad taste in your mouth.” She did not intend her book to be sensational, and she objects very much to the newspapers calling it erotic. There is a sort of litany in her work in which she calls upon the “good devil” to deliver her from her various grievances. “There is one plague that I should have added to my litany, and that is ‘Good devil, deliver me from the newspapers,’” she said.
When asked about her habits in writing, Miss MacLane said: “I use a pencil when I don’t use a pen, and I do not write on a table or desk. I usually hold the paper in my lap. I prefer scraps to large, clean sheets of paper. Scraps give more freedom of thought.
"I scrub twice a week, make beds, wash dishes, sweep and dust, and so on, and do not mind it,” she said in speaking of her daily life outside of her literary work. After this remark she suddenly said, “Oh, let us talk about something else — say, beefsteak and onions.”
Before the interview with Miss MacLane there was a time for a few words with her mother, Mrs. Klenze, who confessed that her daughter was an enigma to her. She could not understand her daughter and was in ignorance of the fact that she had written a book until she saw it mentioned in the papers. Of the contents of the book she is still ignorant. Of her mother, Miss MacLane said: “She is a perfect stranger to me. She does not understand me. She is nothing to me. My father was the acme of selfishness.” Her uncongenial life at home is one of her favorite subjects, and her utter indifference to her parents is very marked.
In conversation this young authoress is anything but complimentary and has a habit of asking very direct questions. Not long ago she accosted a lady with: “Are those tails on your boa artificial or real? Artificial? I am so glad, for I hate real things and I detest a perfect lady.” She had been heard to remark: “I would as soon tell a lie as eat my dinner. In fact I am going to the devil as fast as I can. Some call it the demnition bow-wows—it’s all the same. After I am dead I shall be herded along with the goats.” Her usual way of showing her peculiarities to a stranger is to announce: “I am a genius. I care nothing for your opinion; you are nothing to me. You have only a glass heart, and any one can see through you; but I am a genius; that is sufficient."
A short time ago Miss MacLane’s picture appeared in one of the newspapers, and the circumstances caused her to remark: “Heretofore I have been wont to set my intrinsic value at precisely four cents. You may, if you like, call it presumptuous in me to value my poor miserable ‘bone and rag and hank of hair’ at such a sum. Possibly it is, considering that I reckon the worth of the ordinary human atom at a cent and a half. That, also, is as it may be. But now and henceforward pray remember my value is six cents exactly.”
"It is with pain that I read of the dire effects of my book upon the minds of young girls," said Miss Mary MacLane, gazing out across the housetops of Butte. "I think that the book has appealed to them. I think that I have written something that creeps into the barrennesses of their lives and illumines the darkness that is within 'em. "I read of the Kalamazoo girl who killed herself after reading the book. I am not at all surprised. She lived in Kalamazoo, for one thing, and then she read the book. Who should be blamed, me or Kalamazoo?"
The pale young man with aspirations of deviltry hazarded the guess that it was up to the Michigan town.
"Girls of strong mentality," continued Miss MacLane, "after reading the book realize that there isn't anything left for them. They are, in the coarse Butte parlance, 'dead ones,' literarily speaking. There was Minnie Gugler, a 15 year-old Denver girl. She read the book, and now she will read no other. This Denver girl read the book and then emptied into her sweet stomach a couple of ounces of carbolic acid. Her mother was near by and a doctor was called. After a hard hour's work the girl was saved and the book was burned. Now, then, the Gugler girl realized that none could understand her. She had read my book and she knew all that she could hope to know. All through the East there are Mary MacLane girl clubs. They are studying my book."
“It was to save me from whiskey,” explained Miss MacLane, “that I entered into such a contract. The cigar man was going to name a whiskey after me, but he promised not to if I would let him use my name for a brand of cigars. Of the two I preferred the cigars.” It appears that Miss MacLane has hunted up the law on the matter and there is no redress for names spoken, if they are not printed. “So they can name all the puppies, babies and highballs after me and I cannot help myself,” said Miss MacLane.
“Yet,” persisted one of the group, “there would be some satisfaction in knowing that you had not given your consent to the use of your name and picture on cigars or anything else.”
It was evidently all in the point of view, and Miss MacLane has decided views of her own. She admitted that her views on many subjects have changed since she wrote her book two years ago, when she was only nineteen. Even the prospect of going away and attending college is not quite what it would have been two years ago. “I don’t care so much now, and it won’t mean so much to me as it would have then, but I shall make the best of every opportunity, you may depend on me,” said Miss MacLane.
“Why don’t you take up literature?” she was asked. “Why should I? I don’t need it. When such persons as Hamlin Garland and others equally as famous say my English is faultless, that ought to be sufficient reason why I should take up some other study.” “Is chemistry, then, one of your favorite studies?” “No, but one must choose something if one wants to go to college.” “It is the association that you seek then, not the actual routine of school work?” “Yes. My publishers have told me I must get away from Butte, that there is no literature here; nothing to write about; and they advise a complete change; no half-way change, such as a residence in Chicago would be, and Miss Corbin thinks I should know the East. So I am going, and perhaps I may never come back.
“But I shall miss my sand and barrenness,” she added, with a pensive look. “I have made many friends in the last two months; friends who did service for me, and my book has had a wonderful sale. It has reached 80,000, and the demand is increasing."
“My book, I am confident, will live for at least two years. No, I am not writing another, and shall not think of doing so for two or three years." Miss MacLane was willing to admit there was some merit in the newspaper notoriety she has received; even the adverse criticisms were not to be sneezed at; but, on the whole, Miss MacLane believes she has helped the newspapers vastly more than they have helped her. “The newspaper reviews are really of no consequence. It is the opinion of such men as Hamlin Garland, Henry M. Fuller, the well-known lawyer of Chicago, and Prof. Trigg [sic - Triggs], of the University of Chicago, that I prize. They have written me encouragingly. They think the chapter ‘Italian Peddler Woman’ is the best in my book. No, I like the gray dawn the best, but it is nice to have their opinion.”
“Reporters! Reporters!” she said, “I hate reporters, and I hate newspapers. They don’t understand me — they don’t go deep enough.” “You’ll like us by and by,” said one of the newspaper men. Then slipping her satchel and her books, they escorted her to a cab and drove to Miss Monroe’s home. “This looks like kidnapping,” she exclaimed; “but I am not afraid, if I am alone in a cab with three men. “You notice, if you notice anything, that this long ride from Butte has made me weary. The next time I come I’ll walk."
“Now, when you get to Radcliffe college you are not going to let any professor try to tell you how to write, are you?” “I am not,” she said. “If I, at 19, could have written the beautiful book I did write, don’t you think that now that I am one-and-twenty I have sense enough to know that I know more than Harvard can teach me about English? I have a strong, pure Anglo-Saxon style.” This was said with an easy sense of superiority. “I am going to write another book in two years and it will be a ‘shocker,’ too. You newspaper men must have to do many things you do not like, but I do not think you would really kidnap me. Still, I don’t know,” she said, doubtfully. “We are all out for the dough.”
Miss MacLane looked out the window and showed that she was different from the rest of the women in Chicago. “I like it.” She said — “it” being the rain. “I’d like to get out in it again. I wanted to be out in a storm.”
“You don’t like to be interviewed?” “I’d go out of my way a half inch to hate it. It’s a long way, as I don’t like to hate things—at least, not to go out of my way to hate them.”
“When did you begin to write?” she was asked. It was not an exceptionally brilliant question, but it might have served to break the ice. “At the age of 8,” she answered. “Didn’t they begin to teach you before that?” “No, they didn’t,” she exclaimed. “But wasn’t it good of them to do it at all? Just think! They taught me to write.”
“Is Butte really so bad?” “I love Butte.” “It can’t be so bad since it produced a good book.” “Butte did not produce it. It was Mary MacLane that produced it.” “Didn’t environment have anything to do with it? Could it have been produced in Chicago?” “No, it could not have been produced in Chicago. Chicago has not got the virile atmosphere.”
All this time, Miss MacLane had been sitting in a large armchair, holding her epigrams in readiness to be loosed upon questions. Her personal appearance was as baffling as some of her moods. She can’t be called pretty, but she is something better. Her voice is another puzzling quantity, but it was low and firm.
“Is the book the truth?” “It’s the truth.” “A confession?” “No, a portrayal.”
She herself brought up the marriage question. Some one had said that “robust western atmosphere,” such as they have at Butte, according to Miss MacLane, consisted of red shirted cowboys with revolvers at their hips. “I have seen only two in my life,” she said. “One was in a show. The other was on a range—but he did not have a revolver.” Then she meditated a moment. “He was the awfullest eater I ever knew,” she said. “If he had not been such an eater I could have married that man. And, what’s more to the point, he would have married me. I have lots of men I would have married, but they would not have married me.” “Are you seeing them still?” “Not now. I have only seen one person. That is Miss Harriet Monroe. Will you marry me? We will go to Butte and live on liver and bacon.” “And steak and fried onions?” laughed Miss Monroe.
“The public does not understand me,” said Miss MacLane. “I could have written a book and made myself out a sweet, nice girl, but I chose to tell the truth. And now see what the public says. They are shocked. They cannot understand.” “You intend to write more books?” “Of course; but not just now.”
In answer to questions she said she would stay in Chicago a week and that she was going to Radcliffe college. “Did you choose Radcliffe?” she was asked. “It was chosen for me.” “By your advisers?” “I have no advisers.”
It was again suggested timidly and with due reverence that Miss MacLane jumped on a question with the idea of tearing it to pieces if possible and not of answering it and that this indicated an Irish craft showing that she was with the opposition as a matter of principle. “No, it’s only with some people,” she said.
“Let the Harvard professors teach me English? I know more than they do."
Once she took offense at an extravagant word of thanks. “Are you sure you are a thousand times obliged? Now, if you had said you were obliged, I should have said you were quite welcome, but I do not know what to say to that.”
“You took the same exception to a sentiment of Harriet this morning,” said Miss Lucy Monroe. “She said that some boys in swimming looked perfectly happy.” “I just wanted to know how she knew they were perfectly happy. She never was a young boy. I could not tell. I was never a young boy.” She admitted that she had brothers. “But they never told me they were perfectly happy in swimming. Besides they could not go swimming in Butte. There is no river. You can go down and get in the springs and freeze.”
“How did she like Chicago?” “I have been asked that before.” “Then the answer will be new.” “But I shan’t answer it — not for three months.”
When she reached Chicago she had a candy box which once contained chocolates. It had fudges in it. Men had given her the chocolates. “But they were fools — crazy. Old men interest me. The young ones don’t.”
Do you know I love both Miss Lucy and Miss Harriett Monroe. I wanted to like Miss Lucy best, but now for the first time I am perplexed. I don’t know which I like best.” Her eyes were half closed, her hands had fallen in her lap, she dropped her head, and in a half whisper added: “They are doing all they can to make me happy. It is a beautiful home, it is all nice: but I am — I am — yes, I am homesick.” She started from her chair. “Homesick or in love, Miss MacLane?” “Homesick.”
“But don’t you think you have great talents?” “I don’t know; I don’t think about it; now I only know that I exist. Genius has laws. I recognize the laws after I see them, but I can’t define them. Now, I have never met a genius, but I know what genius is.” She is not an author, she says; she is only a young woman who has expressed herself to the world. “I told the truth about myself,” she said, “and the people liked it. But that doesn’t make an author."
"I am going to stay over a day with my 'anemone lady's' sister. No, I won't tell her address. Maybe the 'anemone lady' will be there, but I think not. She is in Boston now. I will visit Niagara, and then go direct to Boston for a three weeks' visit with my 'anemone lady.' And then - oh, then - then it will be New Yor-r-k!" declared Miss MacLane, ecstatically. "New Yorr-r-k! I have been there in my dreams. Do you know, I am almost afraid to go there. I don't know why, but I am."
"Will you be sorry to leave Chicago?" was asked. "M-m-m-m, I don't know. It's kind of nice, and the Misses Monroe are awfully nice. I bought a pair of gloves this morning. White silk. Aren't they pretty?" "It was generally understood -" That I wasn't going to New York? Well, I've changed my mind. I want to see new York worse than I wanted to see Chicago. Changed my mind, that's all. Had a right to."
Regarding her plans after arriving in Gotham, Miss MacLane said: "I don't know what I'm going to do after I get there. I expect to be in New York about the second week in August. I've never made plans for more than a day ahead. What do you think? The manager of 'Floradora' offered me $500 to join something he calls a sextet. The idea! Things will be real bad with little Mary MacLane when she goes on the stage. I prefer scrubbing, smelters, and sand."
Her publisher furnished her to-day with New York exchange in four figures and a roll of bills as big as an elephant's foot. Mrs. Woods is the name of the woman in Buffalo who will entertain the "mountain maid."
She said to a Chicago reporter that she hates reporters and candy — “only fools eat it.” She says: “The public wanted me to lie to them. I told the truth. The result: Badly shocked fools. I could have written a book and made myself out a sweet, nice girl, but I chose to tell the truth. The public is shocked.”
"I don't want to talk to newspaper men," she said. "Reporters are all of them unjust, dishonest and liars. I refuse to talk to them, and yet they write interviews with me. They can't tell the truth. They are ungentlemanly, and you are no exception. Then when I refuse to answer questions they write anything, for they have to fill their papers and so they sit down and write their one story a day and then they don't get it right."
"I have been treated very unjustly by the reporters whom I have met, and I decline to answer any questions." "Is it true." she was asked, "that you think reporters are one degree worse than murderers?" "Yes," she declared, "and I have become doubly impressed with this fact since I visited this part of the country."
"Do you know it is rather refreshing to meet some one who has not read my books. I hate people who do the obvious thing, just as I hate the word 'nice' and the word 'charming.' I never in my life met a 'charming person' who was not repellent to me. I believe in using words that mean what I mean. That was why I used 'damned' so frequently in the book. I avoid that word in conversation just as I do slang phrases, but I don't see any reason why I should not use it when I choose. But I am not an accepted idea and never will be."
"Hasn't it occurred to you that you will need to know literature better before you try to write more? You can't always write of yourself, you know. Although you are interesting, people might tire of you."
"Oh, yes, I realize that, and I shall be stout as well as uninteresting by the time I am 30; although, to be sure[,"] humorously["], I am slim enough now. And because of all this," she continued, "I have been studying people. I think and think of people I have now in my mind the characters and plan of a story I shall write within two years. I must study and then go back to my sand and barrenness and write more and more."
"People at 40 and 50 are apt to forget all about themselves when they were 19 or 21. I am 21, not 19, but that is a very little difference, you see. People at 40 and 50 have no sympathy with a girl of 21, especially when, like myself, she has written such a book as I have written. They are narrow and circumscribed in their own little lives. You would understand what I mean," she continued, as her countenance lit up for a moment, "if you had lived in Butte, where the people so much more virile and full of life and where the large horizon broadens the imagination. You have to live in such a place to understand it."
"But you can't have met many people?" suggested the writer. "Well - I can see it plainly. I can feel as well as see. It is in the atmosphere here."
She said she would probably enter some school in the vicinity of Boston and study chemistry. "Why chemistry?" was the next question. "Well, largely because I know nothing about it." "But something must have stirred your curiosity in regard to this subject." "Well, the study of chemistry means hard work and I want to work." "You are fond of work, then?" "Yes. But I have not absolutely decided on anything yet."
"You see, I have said things that other people think, but do not dare to write. It is quite a thing to have written that book at 19 - don't you think so? My best critics, such as Hamlin Garland, think so. Have you read my book?" "Only in part." "How did it impress you?" "Well, it impressed me as being strong in the use of words and in its suggestiveness, but it also impressed me as being somewhat incoherent in spots." "If you had read it through you would have seen the coherence in it, I think." "Did you have any purpose in writing the book?" "None whatever. It is without a purpose."
"You have studied theosophy, Miss MacLane?" "Yes, I am a theosophist." "Then you have read Mme. Blavatsky? "No." "Whom have you read?" "I have read very little on the subject. One can be a theosophist without much reading. That is the beauty of theosophy." The writer suggested that Kipling had called theosophy the “philosophy of broken teacups” and further remarked that these words appeared to be meaningless and vague.
“Yes,” said Miss MacLane, “Kipling is cute in the use of words. Sometimes his sentences sound well and mean little.” “You think Kipling is a ‘word slinger’: that is, he uses words in combination that are sonorous and suggestive but mean little.” "Yes. That’s it. I have that power of putting sonorous words together. I understand it. Perhaps you noticed that in my book.” “Yes, I thought I detected it; but did not imagine it was studied.” At this Miss MacLane smiled a wise smile. There is no doubt but this young woman has studied carefully “word-sound” and understands its application to expression of ideas.
Speaking of the men who give soft, persistent, maddening glances to women on the street, the writer suggested that some women were addicted to the same habit. “Yes, I know,” said Miss MacLane, “but it is nothing compared to the insolent look which some men give a woman. And a sensitive woman feels that look most keenly.” After a little further talk on men and woman and some of the conventionalities which Miss MacLane abhors, the writer suggested that most of the absurd conventionalities of society were wholly due to women and that whenever the average woman joins a movement or interested herself in anything she wanted to put ribbons of conventionality on that thing whether it was a pug dog or a pink tea. “Ah! you are speaking of ladies, not women,” was the calm reply. “There is a distinction, you know. But then woman is so weak and frail, you know, and has always been treated as such. She has less of a chance than a man.”
Miss MacLane says she has never written verse and does not like modern verse. She likes Poe’s poetry and some of Byron, also Virgil and Victor Hugo’s Toilers of the Sea. She is a great admirer of Emily Bronte.Speaking of her own nature, the writer suggested that she had a very distinct dual nature. “Yes,” she replied. “I have, but it is even more than that, it is complex.” “Then you feel that you have more than two personalities.” “Yes, I have,” she calmly replied, and the writer wondered as he departed which personality or how many of them he had been talking with.
"I like people. I like almost everybody and I love a few dear friends. The only thing for which I really care is the love of these people - five women in Butte, two in Chicago, and Miss Corbin, who is always my 'anemone lady.'" "Haven't you been sorry, caring for Miss Corbin as you do, that you mentioned her name in your book, and so caused her a great deal of annoyance?" "Oh! no. Of course I do not like to feel that she has been troubled, but she was a part of my life, and it was necessary, for the book's truth, that she should be in the book."
"Analysis of My Soul."
"The book, you understand, was not written for publication. It was the portrayal of my emotions, the analysis of my own soul life during three months of my nineteenth year. I wrote then all the time, just as I do now, but, though the book is in diary form, it is not a diary. Just why I sent it to the publishers would be hard to say, but when I had finished it I felt that it was literature, because it is real and because it was well written. And I know that the world wants such things.
"Are you as sure now as you were then that you are a genius?" "No. You may think me crude, and probably I am crude, but I am not so crude as I was, for I am clever enough to see that the girl of nineteen who thought herself a genius was only an unusual girl writing her heart out. I am not interested now in my book, and I am not at all impressed by the people who say 'So glad to meet you, Miss MacLane! Liked your book so much.' That kind of thing means nothing to me. I am just glad of the book because it has opened for me the way to future writing."
It was suggested to Miss MacLane that some people say her book is vulgar. "Oh, but they are wrong," she replied quickly. "Am I vulgar? Do you feel me to be vulgar as well as crude? Well, if I am not vulgar, neither is my book. I wrote myself. Suggestiveness is always vulgar. But truth never. My book is not even remotely suggestive. I call things by their names. That is all."
"Yes, but why such curious names? Why all that about the Devil, for instance?" "Simply because that word was less hackneyed than 'prince' or 'ideal.' All girls of nineteen are waiting for someone that many of them call the 'prince,' many others the 'ideal.' I called him by 'devil with steel-gray eyes.' But that has passed. That was all a part of being nineteen. I don't think I like Cambridge. Perhaps I shall like Boston better. If I can study Chemistry at the [Massachusetts] Institute of Technology, I shall wish to live in Boston. There I can hear music. I do not sing nor play, but I adore music, particularly Chopin. I like him because I cannot understand him."
“I have never read the Song of Myself. The Chicago literary people told me I was wonderfully like Whitman, but I have no knowledge of that. I write only what I feel in myself.” She numerated the authors she likes and said that she liked James Whitcomb Riley because of his delicate touch of real people. “Do you, then, like people?” “Oh, yes. I like almost everybody, and I love a few dear friends. The only thing for which I care is the love of these people, five women in Butte, two in Chicago and Miss Corbin, who is always my ‘anemone lady.’”
“I am not vulgar, neither is my book. I wrote myself. Suggestiveness is always vulgar. But truth never. My book is not even remotely suggestive. I call things by their names, that is all.”
“Have you decided where you will study?” “No, but I have decided what I shall study. It is chemistry. The reason I shall study that is because my mind does not run at all in that direction.”
Chicago Journal: “I hate you,” Mary MacLane said pleasantly to me this morning, “because you are a newspaper man. But you may carry my bundles.”
As she was getting in[to the carriage] a newspaper photographer snapped a camera at her. She stamped her foot and turned her back. “He may take the back of my head if he chooses,” she said.
The first thing she said was that she was sorry Miss Monroe had missed her at the train because, “The only reason I am in Chicago is because Miss Monroe lives here. I liked her letters so much.”
“How did you come to write your book?” “Writing that book was not extraordinary,” she said. “I had been writing like that for two years. I simply gathered up my writings for a couple months and published them. I told the truth in that book and it struck the spot.” “But why the revelations you made? Why the telling of things that are usually left unsaid by young women?” “Because I wished to. I know as well as you do that if I had wanted to I could have written a nice, pretty book and people would have thought I was a sweet, good girl. But, you see, I don’t care what people think.”
“Don’t you care anything for the reviews of your book?” I asked, thinking of the many writing ladies and gentlemen who had gone out of their way to either throw rocks at Mary or to burn incense before her. “I read them,” she answered, “which is more than I will do with the stuff you will write about me today. I don’t read interviews. I do read the reviews. I read what Barrett Eastman said about my book in The Journal. He caught the literary style all right, but he missed the genius in it. Most of the critics did that, although Clarence Darrow caught it, while he missed the workmanship."
I asked Miss MacLane if the woman whose book of poems she held in her lap was a favorite of hers. “No,” she said. “Mrs. Wilcox is wiser now than she was. She isn’t writing poetry any more.”
A reporter for The American and one for The Post stopped the carriage to know if they could ride to Miss Monroe’s. Miss MacLane consented, although a minute later she laughed a little nervous laugh and said: “Isn’t it customary to have a chaperon?” “Mrs. Wilcox says it is,” said one of us, going to the real judgment seat in matters of etiquette. “Well,” said Mary, “we’ll pretend the chaperon is on the roof of the carriage. Then we’ll be all right. Do you know that I hate all newspaper men? It’s queer that I am riding with men I hate. Think of what you could do with me. You could kidnap me if you wanted to.” This suggestion struck the man from the American as a positive inspiration.
“We’ll do it,” he said. “We’ll lose you, and think of the story it will make.” “I would consent if I were not so very tired,” she said. “You newspaper men must have to do many things you do not like, but I do not think you would really kidnap me. Still I don’t know,” she said doubtfully, “we are all out for the dough.”
“Life in a boarding house can not be very sweet,” said Miss MacLane, “but after all life is what we make it. The environment is not so material. But, then, it may be like this candy. These chocolate creams that I do not like were given to me by an idiotic man. The fudges are home-made. I like them better.”
The sitters’ register was a blank save for the name of an actress for a neighboring theatre, who had dropped in for advertising poses.
“Do you wish a sitting?” inquired the reception room attendant [of Mary MacLane]. “No!” “Well, if you did,” suggested the attendant, “you would first finish eating that olive, of course.” “O no, what’s the difference on top of a galloping horse!” And she continued to peck at the fruit like a robin at a cherry. Presently the actress stepped gracefully into the room to register, and this seemed to start a contrary current of thought and desire in the mind of the wisp, and she asked abruptly as the actress vanished behind the portieres into the operating room: “Can’t I have a sitting before that lady?” “Certainly,” pleasantly replied the reception room attendant. “We make a practice of sitting regular customers before those who have professional rates. Won’t you step into the dressing room and get ready?” “No need of that at all. I’m fixed.” “Your name then, please,” indifferently. “Mary MacLane,” between bites at the olive. The reception room attendant expressed not the least interest or surprise as she wrote the name on the register—Mary McLean. “What’s that? M-cL-e-a-n. Spell that M-a-c-L-a-n-e,” with emphasis.
The olive still persisting, the operator requested that she lay it aside. “Why, I couldn’t think of leaving a rich olive for a sitting,” replied Mary, as she slipped into the chair, biting into the luscious green fruit; and, to the surprise of the operator, suffered the head to be fixed in the holder. “I’m just like a child,” she mused, “when I want to do a thing, I must do it. I’ve got to do it. Olives are nice and sittings aren’t. I like olives and must have them.”
“Now see here,” she said, “I want my picture taken with my face to the front and head lowered this way.” And she fixed herself to suit herself. “There. That’s the way I want it. I know what I want.” It was a modest pose, almost meek in its attitude.
“Now that’s tame,” said the operator from beneath the camera covering. “I don’t care if it is. I want it just this way,” replied the olive-eater. “Suppose you try my idea, too, Miss MacLane. You are rather haughty and taken with your head down that way all the haughtiness disappears.” “Yes, I’m haughty. It’s my nature. I feel that way. I can’t help it, being born that way.” The operator had wormed out a concession to his idea by pouring a little oil to smooth the movement of the psychological machinery behind the sly, brown eyes. Then he asked, carelessly, “How do you like Boston? “I like the streets.” “That’s what I meant. I did not refer to the people.” “Well, it is a beautiful city,” replied Mary from Butte.
She expressed a desire to have her picture taken two-thirds length, with her hat on. It was evident that this was done not to please herself, but somebody else, for when she returned from the dressing room and saw the operator fixing the background for the picture, she stepped up to him and whispered in language, strongly flavored with western hilarity, her opinion of such a pose. Then she quickly turned and swept into a dignified position, her hat jauntily set above her now saucy, tantalizing face. When she left the studio a few minutes afterward, she threw the pit of the omnipresent olive on the floor and hallooed in a voice somewhat as shrill as a Butte farm girl might use in calling the cows, “Goodby!”
Miss MacLane received the reporter with a cordial handshake. Asked to tell the object of her visit to New York, she smiled and said in her even, somewhat expressionless tones: “That is none of your business. Why should I tell you?”
“Do you intend to write about New York?” was the reporters next question. Again Miss MacLane smiled, the innocent baby smile which is such an unexpected revelation of her character. “I will write about New York if I feel like it. Why should I tell you what I intend to do?”
“Then you intend to write about New York and the east?” “I have already told you that is my business. But I will add — just because it pleases me — that I do intend to write about New York and the east. You need not stay any longer. I have said all I intend to say.”
"Why should I give you my impressions, the coin of my brain, the product of my genius? It would be robbing myself. I may want to write what I think."
"The expression 'devil' may have been used symbolically. I don't say it was. But I think now that I shall never find my devil. When I was 19 I wished to find him. Now I give him warning that I don't want him. It is better that we should never know each other."
She says she is not thinking of being a genius any more. It does not interest her.
"In Chicago I did some very tall capering. At a luncheon there I met Miss Ruth Hanna. I thought her clothes fitted her beautifully. You know," explained Miss MacLane ingenuously, "the fashionable figure for women is like a shad. Miss Hanna asked me if I liked her. I was not sure, so I said merely that I supposed so. She stopped talking."
Mary MacLane, of Butte, Montana, wrote the story of herself and committed it to the "wise, wide world." She told everything she knew about herself, and everything she thought and felt - but not everything she is.
For last week, as I sat with her for three hours at the home of Miss Corbin, her "Anemone Lady," in Cambridge, and as we two lunched together next day, I believe I saw her as she is, and I believe I know the real Mary MacLane. And so this is the story of Mary MacLane, which her book does not tell.
Inasmuch as I did not go to Cambridge to pass judgment on Mary MacLane, or to find out whether she poses or whether she is a genius, or whether she is good, or she loves her mother, or steals - or indeed whether any of her book is really herself - I shall not say what I thought about any of these things.
I will simply tell what she did and said in the time we were together, prefaced by two statements which ought to be taken into consideration at every step.
First: she is exceedingly pretty - far prettier than her pictures.
Second: nobody can repeat what she says verbatim and at the same time be perfectly fair to her. For her manner and her voice and her pretty ripply laugh are extra-illustrations not to be reproduced.
When I heard her steps on the stair at the home of the "Anemone Lady," they came tapping out a little refrain, the burden of her portrayal of herself: "I am not good," they said, singing from her book; "I am not virtuous; I am not generous. I am awaiting the coming of the Devil and I know that he usually comes. I am a genius."
"And, oh dear," I thought, "you are not pretty. For only otherwise unattractive people give out that they are not good."
She came in and took my hand in her own warm and firm and rather large hand. She sat down in a big leather chair and waited for me to begin. The little refrain her tan boots had tapped out died in my head as I looked at her.
Mary MacLane, alert for the coming of the Devil, looks like a Madonna, and a pot of sweet lavender and a fall of old lace. Mary MacLane is not little. She is tall - 5 feet and 6 inches, really - and she has a pretty figure and a well-set head.
Her hair, which is her chief glory, is all ripples and brown shadows, and in tendrils about her face.
Her eyes are blue and direct and old and sad. Her chin is round and petulant and faintly dimpled like a child's.
Her mouth is nearly perfect.
Her nose is straight and delicate, and all her features are small.
She looks both child and woman. She has a ready, merry little laugh, like a child's, and a frequent, only partly-suppressed yawn, like a child's, and a quick nod of understanding that is some way childlike, too.
Her eyes alone are old, and "her eyelids are a little weary." Yet, curiously enough, her sudden far-away look, the droop of her mouth sometimes, and even her direct gaze, are more childish tiredness than ennui.
When she makes the most outre statements you feel a quick impulse to have her learn her lesson better; but the next minute she may be teaching you.
She was wearing a little pale-blue muslin frock, flowery and trailing, with something dainty and tucked and white for a yoke, and little clusters of baby-blue ribbons. She looked like a Dresden shepherdess, or like Phyllis at a spinning-wheel, and far, far less wise than either ingenue or debutante.
Yet for that matter she herself had written: "None of my acquaintances would suspect I am a thief. I look so respectable, so refined, so `nice,' so inoffensive, so sweet, even!"
And yet she had also written: "The world is like a little marsh filled with mint and white hawthorn."
At all events, I decided she should have the benefit of the mint and white hawthorn side of her. And I straightaway tried to forget everything her book had said and to start afresh on the story of Mary MacLane.
"Do you wish you hadn't published your book?" I asked. For she so little resembled her book that her answer seemed inevitable, and my question pardonable.
"No," she said, "because when I wrote it I was only nineteen. Now I am twenty-one."
"Is it the true story of yourself as you were then?" I said, "and don't you mind the `wise, wide world' knowing all about it?"
"It is the true story of myself," she answered. "Why should I have written untruly? The only joy I had was writing what was. That book was. It no longer amuses me to be all the things I was when I wrote that. But it is my story as I was then.
"I am a genius. Then it amused me to keep saying so, but now it does not. I expected to be happy sometime. Now I know I shall never be."
I looked at the dimple in her chin.
"Why not?" I said.
"The only time I could ever be happy," said Mary MacLane, "would be not when I was really happy, but just the instant before that happiness. And that I am sure I shall never have.
"When I wrote my book I wanted to love someone. I wanted to be in love. Now I know that I shall never be in love - and I no longer wish to be.
"I don't like men. I met a man in Chicago with whom I should like to have been in love," she added, "but I couldn't fall in love with him. I was born to be alone, and I always shall be; but now I want to be.
"When I wrote my book," she went on, "I hated Butte. I hated the sand and the barrenness. I hated the people and the life.
"Now I know I should love to go back there and live there. I know that I love Butte. I didn't at nineteen. I do at twenty-one."
It began to look as if these two years had made a woman out of the child who laid bare her soul to the "wide, wise world." Here was no self-assertive being breathing invectives at home and the universe. Here was a girl with shadow hair and a blue flowered gown who said she longed for her home.
"And the Devil," I asked her; "you are not waiting for him?"
"Oh, yes, I am," she said, simply.
So there we were back two full years.
"Such a mountain has been made of that," she said, "hasn't there? I don't want the Devil particularly, but I do want experience. So does every one. Every one keeps quite still about it and goes softly along to meet the Devil, quite silently. I said I was going to meet him, and the rest didn't know I spoke for them too. But I knew. Don't let's talk of that."
"There are two things in your book," I said, "that I wish you hadn't written. One was that your mother is nothing to you."
"Of course," she answered, without surprise, "I don't expect you to approve of that. I don't approve of it myself. Only it was true, so I said it. Oh!" she exclaimed, "don't think that I approve of what I say in my book. I don't - of much of it. I don't approve of myself.
"I know I am unworthy, through and through, and I don't approve of that, but it is all true.
"I was writing about myself as I knew myself. And so I put in everything. What was the other thing you didn't like?"
"I wish," I said, "that you had not said that you are a thief."
"Oh!" said Mary MacLane, laughing, "but I'm not now. It doesn't amuse me any longer. It used to then. But I really haven't stolen anything now in some months."
"Now see," I said, "never mind for a minute about the morality of stealing. Suppose that we set that aside. Do you think it is good breeding to steal?"
"Why," she said, "if it amuses you, and the people you steal from are not inconvenienced, I don't see why it is any worse than half the diversions of society, and just as honest too. I did steal eight spoons on the dining-car, but they were to give away. Besides, every one steals dining-car things.
"I do think," she added, "that the point you make about good breeding is an important one. All the Ten Commandments that really need be kept and that are not now outworn, are those that offend good taste only. There is really no right and wrong. I recognize no right and wrong."
"Why did you say a moment ago that you were unworthy, then?" I asked. "Don't you want to speak quite frankly for a minute and let us talk about whichever is not the pose?"
It is curious when you begin to be frank how hopelessly rude you have to be. A perfectly truthful world would be intensely bad-mannered.
"But I pose all the time," said Mary MacLane. "I never give my real self. I have a hundred sides, and I turn first one way and then the other. I am playing a deep game. I have a number of strong cards up my sleeve. I have never been myself, excepting to two friends."
I laughed and took her hand.
"Your real self was in every sentence just then," I said, "don't you see?"
"But," she exclaimed, "why shouldn't everybody pose? Most people are stupid unless they do. I wouldn't be, but it is so amusing to pose. Besides, unless you aren't clever enough to select poses, why ever be yourself to any one? You have a right to yourself for yourself and a few friends. Why should I give myself to you? You are nothing to me."
"That motorman," I said, "looks better in his uniform than in silver armor or doublet and hose. But you and I take it for granted. We don't say it to the motorman, especially when the motorman is out guest."
The blue figure flashed across the room and put out its hand.
"I know," she said, with a pretty gesture. "I beg your pardon."
"See the ink," she observed presently, looking at her finger, "but don't look at my hands. They are large. I don't like my hands, but I do like my feet. Don't you?" she added.
She pointed forward a prettily shaped buckled shoe.
"When people say I have pretty hair," she went on, "I always correct them by saying at once, `I have beautiful hair.' It is so funny. I did that several times in Chicago. Oh," she said, "the people at the teas in Chicago - you should have seen me caper for them.
"I dislike myself far less for capering than those for wanting to see me. `How do you do, Miss MacLane? I am so interested in you,' they all said. Many of them didn't know how to be interested in me. Oh, but there were a few," she said, "whom I did love."
Her face was very tender for a minute, until she recalled something.
"One woman," she said, "said to me, `Oh, you haven't found yourself yet. That's all. You will.' How I hated her. Don't they suppose I know I'm not the way I will be? Why can't they see I am the way I am, and I say so; that's all."
"Don't you think you will be different in two years?" I asked her.
"Yes," she said, "I know I shall. I shall write three more books - four in all. I shall do these before I am twenty-five. After that I shall be nothing. We MacLanes all go down after twenty-five.
"My other books will be very different from this. I don't know whether they will be novels or not. But people are going to say, `Oh, that is her real self now.' They will say that of each book.
"But fifty years after I am dead they will say, `Her first book was her masterpiece.' Not only that, but it is a masterpiece."
"And what will become of you after you are twenty-five?" I asked her.
"I don't care. But I shall not be forgotten."
She leaned back in the deep leather chair and let the lace ruffles fall over her hands.
"I am," she said simply, "one of the great ones of earth."
"Tell me," I said, "whom of the other great ones of earth you are most fond of. What do you read?"
"I don't read," she said.
"They say you are a feminine Walt Whitman," I suggested, "who began younger."
"I have never read a line of Walt Whitman," she declared.
"They say," I went on, "that you are, now and then, like Elbert Hubbard."
"I never read him," she said. "I have seen a copy or two of The Philistine, that is."
"They say," I concluded, "that you are like Marie Bashkirtseff. Do you think that?"
"I am greater than she," she said. "I have only read two or three entries in her journal, but I know that."
Then she told me what she had read.
"I don't care at all about Browning," she began. "I hold Mrs Browning far more of a poet than he. No, I haven't read all he wrote, of course. I don't know Christina Rossetti, but I know a few of Dante Rossetti's. And Longfellow I don't care for.
"Of poets I put Virgil first - he was greatest. Poe next, and the greatest thing he wrote was `Annabel Lee.' And Chaucer third. `Annabel Lee' is the greatest poem ever written.
"I have read Stevenson - I like him. And some of Dickens, and Jane Eyre, and Albert Ross."
"In your book," I said, "you quoted `The lure of green things growing.' You evidently liked that. Wouldn't you like to read Keats and Pater and Dante and Shakespeare and find more like that?"
"No," she said, "I don't have to do that. I have all those beautiful things in myself."
There was a pause.
"Read me something from my book," she said, finally. "Read me the chapter I like best - the one about the Gray Dawn. That has all my soul in it. I will tell you if I don't like the way you read it."
I read it, and when I misplaced a word she told me just what was wrong.
"Now read the entry about Greece," she said, "and then the one about asking for bread and receiving a stone. The last is the most intense in the book. In the first a Chicago woman emphasized the word `music' as she read. I could have murdered her."
"When I wrote my book," she said after I finished, "I wrote from nine or ten at night until four in the morning. Then I would be too exhausted to undress and I would throw myself on the bed and sleep. But at six the next morning I was up again and out in the sand to see the Gray Dawn. All of myself is in that book - myself, as I was then."
"`Why should I give myself?'" I quoted from her words. "Why did you give yourself?"
"I wished to, then," she answered. "No," she answered me in a moment, quite simply. "I do not see any beauty in self-restraint. Give something. If not yourself, then a pose. I gave myself."
Then she read to me - the chapter about her sense of humor and the Italian woman-peddler.
"` - an angle-worm pattern in a calico dressing-jacket,'" she read. "Wasn't that clever of me to select just that?" she looked up to say.
"` - and tacks and dream-books and mouth-organs,'" she read. "Mouth-organs, do you fancy?" she broke off again. "Wasn't that a fine streak of mine to say mouth-organs?
"` - on her brown brass-ringed hands, on her black satine wrapper' - wasn't that wonderful detail to say black satine wrapper?" she interrupted herself. "Yes, that is where I am great - in my use of detail."
It was growing dark in the drawing-room of the Anemone Lady. Outside the window a group of curious girls stood, pointing out the house.
Mary MacLane read on, her voice vibrating with real feeling and notable for its complete lack of emphasis. There is a curious levelness in her voice. She reads and talks as one pronounces French words.
Often she turned her face to the window and read on as faultlessly as Cyrano read his letter. She knows every word of her story of herself.
In the half light her blue gown and lace ruffles and her hair looked so newly inconsistent that I could not resist reassuring myself, at the door, that it was she.
"What would you rather do with your life than anything in the world - honestly?" I asked her.
"I would rather be a fairly happy wife and mother," she said simply. "There is nothing better in the world. But I never shall be. I am not worthy to be. You see, all the tastes and instincts with which I was born are not high. I am not good at heart."
So I said good-night to her, standing in the vine-set doorway of the old Cambridge house, looking like a pot of lavender and a fall of old lace.
The next day we lunched together.
I talked with her about Radcliffe, about Boston, about Butte, about frankness, about Chicago people, about a book or two, about those at the other tables. Of all these it was naturally the personal aspect and its relation to her which interested her.
"Indeed," runs one paragraph in Mary MacLane's book, "my conversation is at all times devoted, directly or indirectly, to myself."
Over luncheon she never for a moment ceased to do her part.
"One must always say things that aim to interest," she said, "because in the world one must after all pay for one's keep."
These two things happened -
From the little dish of cracked ice Miss MacLane took half a dozen olives and dropped them deliberately in the blouse of her shirt-waist.
"I love them so!" she explained. "They are wonderful to eat - in very small bites."
And when the waiter was bowing over his tip she addressed him -
"Waiter," said Miss MacLane, "will you match me for the tip?"
"Madam?" said the waiter.
"Will you match me for the tip?" she asked.
"But yes, Madam," he complied. The first quarter he lost; the second time he won them both.
"Do you think I am crazy, waiter?" asked Miss MacLane, as she rose.
"No, madam," said the waiter, "I have seen many others many times."
"And yet," I said to Mary MacLane, "you wrote well indeed about the three gold rocks that came up out of the sea."
She crossed Tremont Street to the Common, and her lithe, athletic figure and erect head were those of any healthy-minded girl, only a bit more attractive than most. As she walked she ate an olive delicately.
“There has been a great deal written about that devil. Some of it was very much exaggerated. Why do you ask me about the devil? Everybody does that. I should think you would try to invent some original questions.”
“Do you still consider yourself a genius?” “I am a genius. That is, I would be if I thought about it at all. But I have ceased to think about it. It does not interest me.” “But at 19 you wrote that you were a genius. How did you know?” “How do I know that I am Mary MacLane? We all have the same idea of what a genius is. No one has ever before done what I have done. I wrote about Mary MacLane in many of her phases. Not in all of them, for I was reckoning them up the other day and I found that there were 80 or 90 of them. When I was in Chicago I showed a phase that is not in my book. I did the pathetic act. The women all thought I was such a dear. And they said I was so different. People all say I am different.
“Have you been anywhere else in the East except at Buffalo and Boston?” the reporter asked. “Yes. I have been in Newport. I was at the wedding of Ethel Davies last Saturday. I was at the Casino, at Bailey’s Beach and other places there.” “What did you think of social life at Newport?” Again Miss MacLane smiled, that smile that has all the charm of childhood, all the mystery of the Sphinx. "Why should I tell you? If Mary MacLane of Butte, Mont., wants people to know what she thinks she will write.”
“Then you intend to write about New York and the East?” “I do not intend to look at buildings, to be shown sights. I will get at the heart of things. And I will write about them as they seem to Mary MacLane. One of my greatest merits is being just myself. I do not read, for fear that I will borrow thoughts from other people. I have no need to do that; for I am Mary MacLane."
“When I enter college I will not try to play basket ball or throw a baseball like a man. It is of much more importance to a woman to be able to hurl her ideas than to make a record pitching at baseball.”
When asked to discuss these phases Mary MacLane refused. “I cannot talk about such things. I can only write,” she said. “Besides I have only partly discovered myself yet. I am making new discoveries every day about that strange creature, Mary MacLane.” “Newport must have created some new phases of her” suggested the reporter. “Oh! you can’t draw me out. Why should I tell you anything? You are nothing to me."
I don’t care to practice writing because I have a style now, and I mustn’t spoil it. All the critics that count say a style like mine is a thing worth working a lifetime for, and to have it at 19 is to possess a treasure.”
By a curious chance she came suddenly upon us very recently at Coney Island, whither she had been sent by a leading journal to gather that important thing to the impressionable — an impression.
She declared toward the end of the meal that she intended walking all the way back to her hotel in New York — some twenty miles or so. “Why shouldn’t I?” she asked. “I walked five miles this morning, just for exercise. Twenty miles a day is nothing to me.” “But it is night now,” we humbly suggested. “What difference does that make? In Montana I often walk at night. It is the most beautiful of all times, particularly out in the wilds. Afraid of what? There is nothing near but mountain lions, and they won’t harm you. What is a mountain lion? It is like the other kind, only without a mane.”
The first smile on her lips was before that crescent of bedizened, dancing, singing “girls” in the “Bowery,” who contribute to the gayety of nations from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m., and go through their little stunts quite solemnly. There were all ages, from 15 to 50, one of the latter wearing glasses, looking as conscientious and circumspect as any mother of a family. “They really take themselves seriously,” murmured Miss MacLane, who can see others, if not herself.
Mary MacLane Has a Sister Who Believes in Marriage Ceremony - After Brief Engagement - She Becomes the Wife of a Young Newspaper Man
“She is not so well set up as I,” said Mary MacLane modestly “and she has not my beautiful hair. But she is sweet — sweet — sweet! She is pretty. She wears a red crepe dress. When she goes down the street in her red crepe dress every one looks at her. It is not at the dress they look at — though it is prettier than most of mine — but they look at Dorothy. She is pretty in red crepe. I saw a girl one day who looked like Dorothy, so I talked with her." In Boston after she had met and talked with a young woman, she suddenly remarked, “I should like to talk you over with my sister tonight. Always at night,” she went on, “my sister and I go up to our little box of a room. We have a little sitting-room together, which is a little box of a room. There we let down our hair and talk about the people that have been good to us and bad to us. I know just what we would say about you. My sister would let down her hair and look at me and smile and say, 'Oh, my!' And I would let down my hair and look at my sister and smile back and say 'Oh, my.' “I can hear us now, talking about you.”
"Do you know, I have twenty different natures. I am peculiar now because I am in love — in love with a man. I get more than one hundred proposals every day, from all sorts of men, but I merely look at the signatures to the letters and pitch them contemptuously into the waste basket." "Are none of these letters from devils?" the woman at her side asked, with a sly smile. "You have read my book, then? The devils, the devils. Ah, that was when I was nineteen. I am older, you know. Many pose as devils, but they are not such. There are no real devils in the world today."
"I stayed in New York awhile, and I told stuff to the newspapers. I hope it was tame enough to suit the people. It was such an effort to be tame enough for New York."
Timidly, as the nails were clipped and polished, the girl beside the genius remarked: "Your hair is pretty," and then looked away abashed. Miss MacLane allowed her blue eyes to snap and her lips to curve in a smile of satire before she answered. "You are mistaken, young woman, my hair is not pretty, but beautiful, it is distracting." "Oh," said the manicurist, as she subsided. "My hands, too, are beautiful, and that diamond ring, the large one, was given to me by Miss Corbin, dear anemone lady.
"I have left that hotel of money, where they charge for the very air one breathes, and now I am living at Win throp, where the salt waves kiss the shores under my window and sing to me the sweetest songs; songs that only the voice of a subdued monster can sing to a reponsive soul. I am studying chemistry, and it is hard as hell. That is why I study it, why I study it each day until my deep blue eyes cry out against the damned symbols that glare like the fiery orbs of a mother lion from every one of the three hundred heavy pages." Then, as though moved to pity, her face assumed an air of deep concern and she remarked soothingly to the girl before her as her hands were caressed: "You have a devil of a hard job."
"What do you think of men? Do you not find them all alike? Are they not as disappointing in variety as two lengths of cloth cut from the same spinning? Tell me about your men, the sort you meet here and those who seek you socially." "We cannot discuss our customers," the girl replied. Mary from Butte laughed and showed her teeth in glee. "Deceivers here in Boston as well as in cold Montana, where the air snaps and talks. You will discuss me when I go away from here. You will discuss my clothes my hat, my shoes, and then you will discuss my eyes, discuss my hair, discuss my face and say that I am ugly/ And after that you will wonder if I am really all that I said when I wrote my book. You will ask if I still wear the cambric handkerchiefs, and then discuss my liver. Oh, yes, you discuss customers, and you must discuss Mary MacLane, for every one does that."
As she handed over the money she remarked, indifferently: "I am well off. My one little book has made me rich."
Reaching the door, Miss MacLane paused and then turned back. Approaching the woman who had attended her she held out a bit of pasteboard. "Here is my card. I don't know why I leave it, but I may be really famous some day, you know, and you will be glad to know you met me and have my card." Then she swept out and down the stairs.
At the Adams house Miss MacLane turned in, [and] a moment later came out. With her was a woman burdened with many years. She looked tired and worn, yet her air betokened deep interest in the girl who walked beside her. Miss MacLane was in a playful mood when she sat down at the water's edge and took a little bundle of schoolbooks from the hands of the old woman in black. "How is my chemistry ogre today?" she asked, with a glance toward her companion — a glance which, if shot at a man, might have been called coquettish. The old lady in black dictated notes, which Miss MacLane took down — "disciplining her mind," she called it.
Suddenly Miss MacLane looked up and moved uneasily on the bench as she watched two or three people stroll by. One man sat down on the bench with them, and Miss MacLane said: "There's an awful lot of rubbering here. Let's change our seats."
"You will continue your lessons regularly," the aged companion said with a peculiar emphasis on the word "regularly," "Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays I will hear you recite," and then in louder tones they drifted on to other topics. Newspapers were mentioned and the eyes of the author flashed. With a voice that seemed to be subdued and intense with passionate hatred she said: "I wish that the devil had all the newspapers!"|
Miss MacLane describes her new book, “My Friend Annabel Lee,” as follows: “It is made up of reflections and impressions and sketches - but I hate the words - and my reflections are not reflections, and my impressions are not impressions, and my sketches aren’t sketches in the least. The book is not quite a diary, for it has no dates, but ‘tis all in the first person. It has a tinge of the first book, and it’s a fascinating book, but yet - it relates to my friend Annabel Lee and me. It is more Annabel Lee than me. I take the part of a foil to my friend Annabel Lee. I take the part well. It is particularly effective contrasted with the all - egotistic part I take in the other book. In this one, compared to Annabel Lee, I am the next thing to nothing. The very next thing to nothing. I do that well. ‘Tis the best thing in the entire idea. The book is her conversation - and some of mine. It is her ideas - mostly. She talks exquisitely well, times, and is even marvelous. I left my friend Annabel Lee in Boston. Yet she follows me here. Not that she ever follows - no, but I travel frequently to Boston to find her. All the difficulty I have had in writing and cutting out, and pruning and inking over, is in that my poor miserable pen cannot always do justice to my friend Annabel Lee. The names of some of the chapters are ‘Boston,’ ‘The Flat Surfaces of Things,’ ‘The Young - Books of Trowbridge,’ ‘When I Went to the Butte High School,’ ‘Minnie Maddern Fiske,’ ‘To Fall in Love,’ ‘Relative,’ ‘A Lute with No Strings’ - only no one has the least idea what I may have written about them."
Hitherto she has declared all men hateful to her, particularly young men, who, she declared, bored her and were puppies. All men, she said, were tiresome, but she has finally confessed that she likes two of them. "I don't need a lot of people," she said. "There are perhaps two, or three of whom I am fond. I like Gelett Burgess, he is very interesting; and I like Mr. Stone, my publisher. Elements are necessary to my happiness. There are so many elements that go to make my world."
Mary MacLane entered the room and coldly recognized her caller. To the attempt to make a pleasant if formal introduction to an interview Miss MacLane is reported to have replied with a startling abruptness and rigidity: "I will give you just ten minutes of my time, and if you have anything to say to me you would not waste it on trivil speeches." "Ten minutes in which to know a genius is a rather short period. No doubt I shall have to ask questions so rapidly that they will seem impertinent. Will you forgive the impertinence?" "All journalists are impertinent . All newspapers are a mass of lying inventions." "We should get on famously with this beginning." "We shall get on infamously." "Suppose I set down exactly what I say to you and you say to me, will that be satisfactory?" "Certainly not. In the first place, I don't know you" - and don't care to, said the cruel eyes - "and in the second place, people don't say things that amount to anvthing in the first ten minutes of meeting, unless, indeed, they are rare souls." "And the atmosphere here is an ideal one, an old house filled with beautiful memories. You must enjoy living here. Do you like old things, Miss MacLane?" "I like this house." "That is nobody's business." "Let us talk about the other book. I have been wondering if the great plains and prairies of the west were not responsible for the soul misery with which you filled it, and if coming east to live in a gentler natural environment you have not changed inwardly in your attitude toward the world. Is it not so?" "Why do you bring up that old book?" "Is it distasteful to you now?" "No, it is not. It was a great work, a very great work; but in getting it published I accomplished a purpose, and I am not going to discuss it today."
Miss Mary MacLane, “the girl from Butte,” who created such a furore three years ago by her peculiar novel, “The Story of Mary MacLane,” is hard at work on another volume guaranteed to be even more “peculiar.”
“It is the true story of my thoughts and emotions,” she declared, and then made this interesting assertion: “It is even truer and more real than my first book and so I fear it will be hard to find a publisher who will dare to bring it out. I don’t know what I will call it yet. I never liked the title of my first book and it certainly will be different from that. You see, the publishers named that book.”
“Perhaps you are interested in phonetic spelling,” ventured the correspondent. “No, it isn’t pretty enough. I shall never use the new words in my work.”
“Yes, my new book is to be the true story of my thoughts and emotions. Sometimes I write every day for four months and then for the next few months I do nothing but tear up and burn what I have written. That is when I think I have not succeeded in putting in words just the real truth of myself.” “You are, of course, writing for literary reasons rather than for mere financial motives,” ventured the correspondent, “so why not let me have a few hundred words to publish as a sort of treat for the general public?” “Oh, no, indeed; you are very wrong, that would spoil the sale of my book. I want to have it come out suddenly and unexpectedly, as did my first book, and then it will be just as much of a success.”
“Yes; I am writing something, and it will bear marks of the lessons I’ve learned.”
In her rooms in a South End apartment hotel in Boston she proclaims that she has never actually been in love. “Perhaps it may be that the right man has never come along,” says Mary, “or,” she adds sadly, “it may be that it is not in me to love. I’ve been in love, you know — oh, about 600 times — but never the really one great passion for a man. Sometimes I love to shock a youth of twenty. But you can’t fall in love with a boy of twenty! When they are older it is different — but I can’t seem to love any of them. Now the literary man, for instance, or the artist. They will sit down and talk to you by the hour, and then get up to go and tell you how fascinatingly interesting you are. They are poseurs and egotists. There are exceptions, of course. Some of my best friends are among the literary men. But, alas — I am not in love.
“But I am fascinated right now by Alice Lloyd. I can’t explain to you the fascination she has for me. Were I to see her drink a glass of water, or tie her shoes, it would give me pleasure. I would like to see her drink a Martini cocktail, because a Martini with its amber light would suit her. A Manhattan would be an incongruity. It would violate every artistic sense in me. I remember every song she sang and every gown she wore, and while she was here I saw her about every afternoon. I spend an hour or two every day wondering about her, dreaming about her, what her home life has been, what she is like off the stage. When I have seen her, every expression was part of her work. I wonder what she would be like when her expressions came in answer to the passing impulse. Why, Alice Lloyd is infinitely more interesting to me than a hundred men. Maybe it is because I know men so well, understand then so well — and she is the unknown quantity.”
Embittered by the shocked virtue with which her first effort was met, it is still with a very little smile that she speaks of that part of her past and its attainment. “I loved that book. It had the same fascination for me then that Alice Lloyd has now. I wrote it and loved it, and the public was shocked when I gave it to them. And yet the book had an enormous sale. It was the shocked attitude of the public that I remembered, though, and the things the yellow press said. The next thing I did was a most lady-like little affair. There was positively nothing in it that could offend anybody’s virtue. And nobody read it. Its sale was honestly laughable compared with the sale of the other one.
“Yes, my next book will be about me. All books that are written are about the authors. You can’t put into a book things you don’t know, and if you know a thing it is part of you.”
“I’m just out for a good time. Do I find it? Does it satisfy me? No. One is never satisfied. I am staying here because I like it. I am going to little dinners, little parties, and meeting my few friends. I am here to enjoy myself. I do not mean that I am ‘doing the city.’ The city itself means nothing to me. I like bits of it. I know every corner and restaurant in Chinatown. It has color, personality. I love it.”
“I was curious also to test my impressions of Butte after seven years’ absence. I hoped I might find it more endurable. But, pah! it is the same hideous home of drudging devils and seared scenery it was always.
It was a perfectly feminine little scream of delight that she gave when she descended from the train the day before Christmas and launched herself into the arms of the family group awaiting her in the dingy railroad station. “How lovely it is to see you all,” she cried. Then she threw her arms about her mother and sister and hugged them as ecstatically as any other young woman would have done after seven years’ expatiation from home and family.
“No,” said she to a school girl friend, two days after her return. “I did not miss this place for a day, not for a moment. Of course, I missed and longed for my people and my friends, and wished for them time and again; and I often thought of visiting Butte to see them. But one would think of purgatory in the same way, if one had dear friends and relative there. The ugliness of this place always made me ache. I shan’t stay long, I believe the people here grow to look as ugly as the place. Not you, dear, of course not.”
“Since I left Butte I have had the sort of life that suited me. It has been a life of ideas. I have not permitted the ugly, monotonous, sordid particulars of existence to obtrude upon me at all. All this I’ve kept out.” She made a sweeping motion toward the outer world that embraced Butte and its ugly mine buildings and other unpleasant structures.
“What will I do in the future? Write. I will pursue the same life. I love it. I have many plans, but all of them include writing and devotion to literary work.” She is always looking for new ideas and new scenes and characters, and she wanted to see the west with the new vision acquired by her years of roaming and culture in the east and south. The other purpose was to look for a ranch. "Yes,” she said, “I may buy a ranch in Montana. Not now. That is a future consideration. But I shall do it some day. It will be postponed by my literary work for some years, but I shall eventually return to Montana. The east has culture, and I love the south; it is so restful. Yet the west is the place of freedom, and at times I have felt cramped in the east, and yearned for the boundless open places of the great west. Butte stands alone in its grime and barrenness.”
“I am feeling in the best of shape, so I cannot give you anything better than a brief, rambling talk. All I will say regarding my present plans is this: I have started in to write up prize fights from a woman’s point of view. I intend making a specialty of this line of work for a press syndicate, but not to the exclusion of everything else. Of course I am going to Reno to write up the Johnson-Jeffries fight. That is all I will say about my plans at present.
“What do I think of boxing? Boxing is a clean, manly sport. In fact, it is the king of all sports. Remember, I say boxing; for there is a vast difference between a contest with padded mitts, skillful maneuvers and iron-clad rules, and a mere test of brute strength. “In all ages the people who fostered prize fights and other forms of athletics were the leaders in every field of endeavor.
“While the Greeks and Romans were boxers and wrestlers they ruled the world — the intellectual as well as the physical world. Once they ceased to be athletes they became effete and went down before the barbarians of the north and West. And it would seem as if history is about to repeat itself in the destiny of the people of the British Isles. Thirty years ago the English and the Irish were unmatchable in the field of athletics as well as on the battlefield, and the chessboard of diplomacy. During the last twenty years they have produced very few champions and concomitant with the deterioration of their fistic prowess is a marked decline of their superiority in practically every other sphere. Many keen observers profess to see the disintegration of the British empire, and England reduced to the rank of a fourth-class power, within the next decade.
“Most of those ‘good people’ opposed to pugilism claim that it is a relic of barbarism.
“Let us say for arguments sake that it is. But is not healthy barbarism a much better condition than effete civilization?
“It is claimed by some that boxing has a demoralizing effect upon the young; that it inspires them to the too frequent use of their fists in the settlement of their differences. As to that assertion I will say that if men were trained to rely more upon nature’s weapons there would soon be an appreciable decrease in the number of homicides through the use of the gun, the knife and the bludgeon.
“Are prize fighters a low set of brawlers? I have met quite a number of the knights of the mitts, but never knew a first-class, nor even a good second-class, man who was a braggart or bully. On the contrary, your average prize fighter — the real prize fighter — is one of the most peaceable of men. Coolness and a good temper are the two prime requisites in a ring career. Of course, there may be an occasional cheap sixth-rater who would rather swagger around a barroom than get into a clean fistic argument in the ring. In the former place, he will remain. No real prize fighter has the slightest use for him.
“A modern champion of the prize ring must be possessed of a far greater mental equipment than most people suppose. The cartoonists’ scrapper, with a head and face half bulldog and half gorilla, and a supposedly corresponding brain development, has long since been relegated to the scrap heap of pugilism.
“What is the use of this hysterical outcry against prize fighting, mostly by people who have never witnessed a boxing match? These people do not know what they are talking about. In the first place, they talk about the brutality of the sport; men pounding each other’s faces into jelly and so forth. As a matter of fact, men do not suffer half as much in the prize ring as the average person imagines. They are trained and hardened for the encounter. They know how to defend themselves against the heavier blows and their bodies are in such healthy condition that their bruises disappear in a remarkably short time.
“And even if it were a downright brutal sport, what then? If a man chooses to don the gloves, take a thrashing, or win money and fame with his fists, it is his own business. His swollen nose or blackened eyes do not hurt the neighbors. They do not even have to read of it.”
(From an Interview Given in Chicago in 1903 [sic. - 1902]) "I hate men. I cannot analyze the hatred, but I hate them all.” “Then you will never marry?” she was asked. “No; not unless I can marry a woman.” “Then you did not mean all you said concerning your love for the ‘Man Devil’ whom you would some day meet?” “I suppose I meant it when I wrote it.” “You do not mean it now?” “No, I hate him. I hope he will never come. I never want to see or hear of him. I do not think the man lives who understands my book,” she said next. “Why? You would not ask if you could read the letters I receive from men. Women do not write about my book. But the men give me advice, depraved, horrible, fiendish advice. They tell me to mend my evil ways and settle down and get married. They pity me in my wickedness. They condole and enumerate my vices. They preach, preach, preach. Then others ask to meet me, and say they are my devil; and still others ask me to marry them, or tell me how to invest the money from my book. I never read the letters any more. I throw them away unopened. What do men know of a woman’s soul? My book is a soul." She giggled again. The blush was gone. "I have no manners. I hate people with manners. They are like men, arrant fools, Fools because they pretend to be what they are not. I would not be what I am not because it is too much trouble. Besides, I am better as I am.” “Then why do you fuzz your hair?” “Because I am vain.” “According to your own standard, is it not hypocrisy to fuzz your hair?” “No, because you can see it is ‘fuzzed.’ Hypocrisy is to pretend something you are not. You can see I ‘fuzz’ my hair. By ‘fuzzing’ my hair I admit I am vain.” “Are you really a thief, as you said in your book?” “Yes, I am naturally a thief. I am also naturally a gambler.” [End 1902 copy.]
After four years of comparative obscurity the girl who has loved 600 times, “Montana Marie Bashkirtseff,” the girl cynic and literary black sheep who set the world by its ears in one short week, is to return to our midst. Everybody knows of the expected visit and everybody is preparing for the onslaught of “poor little Mary’s” pessimistic and grilling pen.
“[My play] is to be a problem affair, played by a company of real stars, and it will surely knock the dear old public a twister.”
One unknown man sent her a bouquet of American beauty roses worth at least $25. In relating the occurrence Miss McLane [sic.] said quaintly: “How like a man; what I needed was not American beauties but a warm suit of underwear.”
"I shall not anticipate its story by giving a hint on what it is all about. It will tell a strong, simple story, with very little plot complication and but few characters. I have, I believe, achieved some fine, if not stupendous, dramatic effects.”
She described her latest effort as “A character analysis, seasoned by the experience of 10 added years.” The new book will exhibit a change in the author’s conception of the hold life has on youth, and there will be contrasts offered to certain portions of her narrative in “The Story of Mary MacLane.” Miss MacLane said that if her present book attains the selling qualities of her first sensation she will consider the past few years well spent. She has spent much time on this latest effort, the name of which she has not determined. The date of publication has not been determined, but the work is near completion. “After my first book the public expected so much. There was a demand for a second book. My Friend Annabel [sic.] was the result, but it was written in a hurry. I have taken care with this book and it represents my thoughts today just as effectively as did The Story of Mary MacLane represent the thoughts of a 19-year-old school girl. Just say it is Mary MacLane seasoned by a span of years.”
Perhaps the secret is that the MacLane never travels without her soul. It was with her today at the Blackstone Hotel. “Ah, I would like to be walking along the shores of that lake right now.” “Are you unhappy, Miss MacLane?” The answer comes, “No.”
“Unhappy,” she repeats. “Yes, in a way. I must write business things today, Telegrams and things. I cannot stare at myself. I must stare at my pen. Did you like my book? I hope you didn’t. It wasn’t a nice book. I didn’t mean it to be nice. I only photographed what was in me. I do not try to write artificially. I only spread myself out upon paper, as truthfully as I can, like some spiritual sandwich. But I love trees. They are my gods. In Chicago there are trees and I love Chicago for that, and for this lake which looks up at me in all its colored mysteries. I could not live in Chicago, though. Yet, where could I live? In Butte they lynch people. Ah, Butte is hard, stony and queer. But so is the world, very often. People are roasting me so much. It gets to be monotonous. I would like to be praised, to be loved. And yet I am doomed to the other because I sit with my soul alone and tell the world the secrets it tells to me. You ask me of art, of life? I know nothing of such things. I know only myself, Mary MacLane of Butte. That is all.”
Mary says in her announcement:"I, Mary MacLane, am going into the movies. As I gave the world something new in feminine autobiographies, so I shall give it a new vampire - the languid vampire. I shall dramatize my story, "Men Who Have Made Love to Me," for a salary of many thousands of dollars a week. It isn't the money that lures me into the movies," she said. "It is to escape boredom. It is a new toy to me. I don't think the poor public will be bored. Preachers, censors and old ladies may not like it, but if it interferes with the normal action of one's liver, that person need not see it."
“My chief ambition is to interpret my soul correctly, so every one may know the truth. That’s why I am delighted at the prospect of entering the movies. I believe the screen offers so much greater opportunity for me to reveal my unseen self than does the pen. Little Mary McAlister shall be my model when I act. At first I could not understand how a child of 6 could act so perfectly. I studied her work. Then my soul came to the rescue and whispered that the secret was just being natural. A child has none of the vanities of adults. A child is just itself, its natural self. That’s why children are so wonderful on the screen and stage. I shall try to be a child when before the camera.
“I shall be a languid vampire vamping against her inclination. Do I look like a vampire? No, I do not. But I shall do my best to be a screen vampire. I shall practice before my boudoir mirror until I look seductively wicked, then if I look more like 'poor butterfly' than a heartless vampire when I appear on the screen, I shall at least have the satisfaction of knowing that I have done my best.”
Wonderful tribute is paid the acting ability of Little Mary McAllister, Essanay’s six-year-old star, by Miss Mary MacLane, the gifted authoress and student of the stage and screen. Miss MacLane, who is now being filmed by Essanay as a vampire in screen versions of her own writings, has studied the work of the child actress closely since she has started “vamping” in the Essanay studios. “I had often seen Little Mary on the screen, and I knew she was wonderful,” explained Miss MacLane, “But not until I saw her being filmed did the full import of her acting strike home. It is almost unbelievable that a child of six years can show such skill and such marvelous judgment in carrying out the action called for in the scenario."
“I should like to see the Kaiser hung on the highest gallows in the world. I should like to look up at his limp body swaying in the wind, and into his drawn and contorted face, and say: ‘Well, you poor fish, you couldn’t get away with it.’” The banal queries of the interviewer - banal because logical and because “logic” is “a silly thing” - seemed to act as a sedative.
“I hate the Kaiser with more energy than I have expended on loving or hating anything else-even life itself. I lie awake nights, staring into the still dark paraded with the phantoms of murdered babies and execrate him. I have given myself indigestion hating him. The most utterly contemptible thing about him is his endeavor to exculpate himself-to explain! Ponderous blundering German logic is always dinning into the weary ears of the world the alleged inevitable “reasons” for ‘frightfulness.’ If he had faced the world with a grim truculence that said: ‘I have done these things; I shall do them again,’ and had not attempted to justify himself, to writhe around until he had somehow emerged from the damning skein of his own misdeeds, I could find in my heart a little bit of admiration for him. But he has sinned unpardonably in seeking for excuses. So it is with the whole world. We break the putty barriers of convention and then making a whining appeal to be heard on the ‘why’ of our actions. Every court, every community is every day the scene of cowardly endeavors to enjoy the fruits of transgression and yet escape the pain of the penalty. I ask that the motive of the deed be its own vindication. By that I do not mean a ‘good’ motive, as we view goodness. I mean merely a powerful insistent overmastering motive that wins the will and sways the soul. A motive must be powerful to triumph over incidental detail. Suppose I were plotting to murder some one down in the lobby. What obstacle would require the greatest incentive? I think it would be the trivial detail of pressing the button for the elevator. This is so because the action of summoning the lift is not integral with our passions or purposes: It is a commonplace, insentient thing, powerful enough to deter us from the real deed only because it diverts our attention. So when a motive is so gloriously insistent that it can batter its way to attainment it is a shameful and pitiful thing to rob it of its intrinsic vigor and rigor by explaining ‘why.’ If the German emperor had said, ‘I want world dominion,’ and had repeated it again and again when the world wept over the Lusitania and shuddered over Belgium, he would really have been a magnificent figure, titanic in moral might. Instead we see an evil old man, strong to plot and execute, but too weak to face the still query of dead victims and their bereaved countrymen. So it is with all of us. We are cowards. I have admitted scores of times in my book that I am a coward. It is not discovery to point out that while striving to rend the curtain from my innermost thoughts, while striving to analyze myself, to dissect me, I have shared that common frailty and have been afraid and have failed.”
“It has been said,” remarked the interviewer, “that you are a ‘born old maid,’ that you possess a thin, stifled, anemic spirit and that, in consequence, you have contributed nothing at all to the world’s fund of positive thought.” Mary MacLane smiled. “I admit I have contributed nothing at all to the world’s knowledge, because I have written of myself. But in doing that I have pointed the way for each individual to do likewise. I believe that I have rather popularized frank contemplation of the ego. Most of us know our own moods little better than we know the intimate affairs of our neighbors. As for being a ‘born old maid’-well, that is ridiculous. If my critics knew of some of my exploits, past and contemplated,” she declared, smiling, “they would revise their estimate of my character. However, it is not true that I am engaged to anyone.”
The interviewer hoped that one of her famous “devilish”: moods was about to descend upon her, but she relapsed into a reverie. “I am weary,” she admits. “Weary in body and soul. I can see two or three of each of you at this minute!”
“To what circumstance do you attribute the writing of your first book?” “To Butte,” she said emphatically. “Had I lived in New York, anywhere else, perhaps, I should never have written it. Environment certainly molds moods, actions, all phases of life. It was the loneliness, the bitterness of it all. I had very few friends - none who understood me. My family are the most interesting people in the world - because to them I am a mystery, and to me their views are utterly incomprehensible. One cannot understand my book in a single hasty reading. No one can grasp the weary, bitter exasperation in which it was penned. No one, perhaps, can grasp it at all. It is a personal thing - it is as intimate an analysis of my soul as I, battling against timidity and convention and irresolution could make it. It explains Me to Me. Perhaps not to anyone else. I do not think it will ever precipitate a real vogue for unabashed publication of one’s innermost thought. Of course a number of ‘trimmers’ have sought out my publishers with similar manuscripts, eager to float others on the wave of my popularity.”
“They were mostly women, of course,” suggested the interviewer. “They were mostly men, as a matter of fact,” she flashed back. “But whoever they were, they lacked the pioneering spirit. No copy can carry the soul-impress of the original. Because they were trying to imitate they had bartered the one real quality that would have made their work worth while. They have sat down and coaxed ‘moods,’ and ‘moods’ when summoned, because they live and lurk in a creature of convention, come all dressed up in artificial garb, ready to say banal, artificial things. They didn’t know that one must come upon thoughts and emotions, startling them, catching them unaware, meeting them without their ‘company greeting,’ smirks and mannerisms.”
“Do you ever build dream Utopias with your marvelous imagination?” she was asked. “No,” she replied, “I don’t, because Utopias are supposed to take root in the characteristics of people, and human nature was not designed for the Utopian theory. We are all too petty and mean and uncertain and cowardly and selfish and superficial to want with genuine desire half of the goals to which we pretend to strive. Each one of us sees in the present something we would not exchange for a wider, commoner good. We are hypocritical. I hate hypocrisy.”
She doesn’t like our mayor.
“No, I don’t like your burgomaster,” she said, blowing a wreath of smoke from her cigarette. “We hang 'em like that in Butte, where I come from. I wish we could arrange a kind of judicial hanging for him here, then I’d stay for it.”
Miss MacLane is just from New York. Although an ardent admirer of Jeanette Rankin, Miss MacLane doesn’t side with the anti-war opinions of the woman congressman or with the members of the Woman’s Peace party. “Dear, misguided souls,” she called them, delicately. The suffrage pickets in Washington also came in for a measure of her scorn, as did the women in short skirts whose northern extremities “were unkindly shaped by God.”
She will remain in Chicago until she has arranged for the work which she hopes to do in Paris in connection with the war.
Mary MacLane says she considers cigarette-smoking one of the most graceful habits a woman can possess. "There are many worse things than cigarette smoking. I prefer it to sitting idle, gossiping about my neighbors.
"If you seek to get a good close-up squint at yourself, just hibernate in a small town for a year. Live where it is quiet, where you can study yourself undisturbed - and you'll be surprised at the revelation of your faults and virtues. That is how I managed to define myself in my book, I, Mary MacLane."
“Nothing contributes less to my ego than praise of my book I, Mary MacLane.”
“I, Mary MacLane, look for the soul of things. It is part of the experience of life, and I paint the things as I see them and as they are.”
Once speaking of a famous actress Mary declared "she was the sort of woman who did not consider whether or not life was delightful — her work was hard enough to keep her out of mischief," and she envied her.
A woman is as beautiful as her thoughts. This is the belief of Mary MacLane, the famous authoress and star of George K. Spoor's photoplay, Men Who Have made Love to Me. "A beautiful woman is not beautiful every day. Physical beauty is controlled by mental activity alone. One is attractive only on days when her thoughts are beautiful. In reviewing my picture, I can easily see how my measure of attractiveness is regulated by the spirit of scenes in which I am appearing."
“If you know a beautiful woman who seems at certain times to be of less pleasing face, you may justly suspect that her mind has been harassed by unhappy thoughts."
Mary MacLane is an inveterate moviegoer. "I have always loved motion pictures," she said. "Screen players, I believe, are large-souled people with something constructive to hand out to their followers. From being a great means of giving artistic and constructive entertaniment to a class who would not in any other way be capable of obtaining such inspiration, motion pictures have become a great passion of people of all classes."
“People say that I am crazy, eccentric or something of the kind, just because I don’t choose to act along the same conventiona lines of ninety-nine people out of a hundred. Thank the Lord, then, that I am crazy, or whatever they call me, for at least I am different from the general run and have a chance to display a little individuality of my own. If I had to go everywhere and do everything just as other people wanted me to, life wouldn’t be worth living.”
Mme. Alla Ripley, a modiste, charged she had failed to return gowns, hats, and furs borrowed for her appearance in the movies. “If I tried to think epigrams about this place; the ride in the wagon, or the cloisterlike detention home, I’m afraid I’d faint on this warm day."
"Many a better person than I has been in a worse place. May I never be in a worse."
“’Larceny as bailee’ is not the name for it. The fact is, I’m in debt and can’t pay what I owe. Is that stealing?”
“Are you going to put your experience in your next book?” she was asked. “If I do,” she replied, “I’ll say something nice about the detention home and Mrs. Shay. If any girl is in need of a friend, I’d advise her to seek out Mrs. Shay. She’s been a mother and a big sister to me. The detention home is not a jail. It’s more like a beautiful, quiet convent, where one can find rest and peace. It is a little backwater in the swirling stream of humanity.”
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