Annie Eichberg Lane, 1853–1927
Kitwyk. London and New York: John Lane, 1903.
The Boston-based writer and society hostess, Louise Chandler Moulton, made matches of various kinds in the London salon that she maintained every summer from 1876 to 1906. Most were of a professional nature, involving introductions of authors to publishers and journalists to editors. But her drawing room was also the site of at least one match that linked literary business to marriage, when she brought together John Lane (1854–1925) and Anna Eichberg King, the well-to-do widow of an American lawyer. Known as “Annie” and originally from Geneva, Switzerland, but raised in Boston, where her father was a prominent musician, she was a society figure who also wrote short stories. Her ambitions, however, were too large for America. As she admitted in Lilian Whiting’s 1910 biography of Moulton, “I was brought up with a deep veneration for all things literary in England.” She moved to the epicenter of the London literary scene by marrying Lane, proprietor of The Bodley Head, which had made its reputation by publishing Aesthetes and Decadents—most famously, the Yellow Book (1894–97). Their union occurred in 1898, when Lane’s publishing firm was in financial straits, and it led to his new wife investing large sums to prop up the business. Lane, in turn, became not only her husband but her publisher, reissuing Kitwyk—a volume of eighteenth-century Dutch local color stories, originally published in the United States in 1895—as though it were a new title, this time by “Mrs. John Lane.”
Lady Randolph Spencer Churchill (née Jennie Jerome), 1854–1921
The Anglo-Saxon Review: A Quarterly Miscellany, edited by Lady Randolph Spencer Churchill, March 1900.
This short-lived magazine of literature, art, and politics—often quite conservative and pro-Imperialist politics—was, as Carol de Saint Victor puts it, “conceived by a woman who, recently widowed, financially insecure, and professionally untrained, wanted something more than the life that her wit, beauty, and high social status guaranteed her” (British Literary Magazines, 1984). Arriving from her native Brooklyn, New York, Jennie Jerome became every Englishwoman’s worst nightmare when, at age twenty, she married a member of the British aristocracy and acquired a title. She perfectly embodied that much-discussed type, “The American Girl”—willful, glamorous, and free-living. (One of her lovers was no less a personage than the future king, Edward VII.) But she also had loyal women friends, among them another American expatriate, Pearl Richards Craigie, who wrote as “John Oliver Hobbes” and who served unofficially as the literary adviser to the Anglo-Saxon Review. Craigie, described by Lady Randolph Churchill in her 1908 volume of reminiscences as having “the art of drawing every one out,” may also have helped to draw in John Lane as publisher. Lane’s Yellow Book (to which Craigie contributed) had ended its run in 1897, and he was attracted to the idea of issuing a more expensive magazine, targeted at the elite. In its two years of existence, the Anglo-Saxon Review featured an impressive array of talent—everyone from Henry James, Stephen Crane, and Elizabeth Robins to G. B. Shaw, Max Beerbohm, and Edmund Gosse. Even the notorious poet and friend of the Pre-Raphaelites, Algernon Swinburne, was represented. Though a commercial failure, the magazine was eye-catching and opulent-looking, like the woman behind it, who is captured here in all her lush glory in a portrait by John Singer Sargent.
Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton, 1857–1948
American Wives and English Husbands: A Novel. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1898.
“Verbose, sprawling, irresponsible, and without a sign of the literary touch as regards its style.” This was how a critic writing in 1898 for the British magazine, the Academy, described Gertrude Atherton’s Patience Sparhawk and Her Times (1897), which was issued by John Lane, The Bodley Head (publisher of the avant-garde Yellow Book and the Keynotes Series). When critics in England wished not to take her seriously, whether because of the melodramatic plots of her fiction or because of her popularity and commercial success, they tried to dismiss her as a rootin’, tootin’ cowgirl from the Wild West. In fact, she was a would-be Aesthete from San Francisco, the city that also served as birthplace for the female protagonist of American Wives and English Husbands. In drawing a defiant young heroine who is promised in marriage from childhood to an English lord, Atherton created a fictional situation very different from the stereotypical one, involving rich American women determinedly snaring titled husbands. Atherton herself, who first came to London in 1889 and then for a longer period in 1894, was more interested in experience-hunting than in title-grabbing. Among the memorable acquaintances she made there was Jane, Lady Wilde, mother of Oscar, about whom she wrote in a memoir, Adventures of a Novelist (1932).
Edith Wharton, 1862–1937
The House of Mirth: Illustrated by A. B. Wenzell. New York: Charles Scribner Sons, 1905.
The Buccaneers (1938), Edith Wharton’s unfinished and posthumously published novel, returned to a late-Victorian controversy—the transatlantic trading of sex for titles, between young American women and aristocratic English suitors. Said to have been based in part on the story of Jennie Jerome (later Lady Randolph Churchill), it was the last of many works of fiction by Wharton that decried the nineteenth-century institution of the “marriage market” in general and exposed its ruinous effects on both men’s and women’s lives, even among the privileged. An earlier and more famous example was The House of Mirth. In this novel, the evidence of Wharton’s long acquaintance with Britain was subtler. (She made her first transatlantic trip at age four, with her parents, as one of her older brothers was entering Cambridge University, then returned many times and was there both before and during WWI, often visiting her dear friend, Henry James.) Her beautiful American heroine dreams of marrying a man who is not “merely rich” but titled: “Lily’s preference would have been for an English nobleman with political ambitions and vast estates.” Interestingly, the first illustrator of the novel, A. B. (Albert Beck) Wenzell (1864–1917), showed his own fascination with British culture in this image of Gerty Farish protectively cradling her friend, Lily—a homoerotically suggestive pose with distinct allusions to D. G. Rossetti’s famous frontispiece for Christina Rossetti’s poem, Goblin Market (1862).
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This exhibition is associated with the conference, "Useful & Beautiful: The Transatlantic Arts of William Morris and the Pre-Raphaelites," which will be held October 7–9, 2010, at the University of Delaware (Newark, DE) and at the Delaware Art Museum and the Winterthur Museum & Country Estate (Wilmington, DE).