Marguerite Young made her living as a teacher of other writers, touching hundreds if not thousands of others. If you are one of those individuals, please share your memories and impressions of Marguerite Young. How would you like her to be remembered? What are some of your favorite anecdotes about Young? Your stories, vignettes, even the briefest of impressions will contribute to Young’s legacy.
Recollections of Marguerite Young will be incorporated into this Shared Memories page.
The following recollections are from people whose lives were touched by Marguerite Young. They are presented chronologically.
DATE: 16 March, 1999
FROM: Steven Moore
I first learned of Young in the early 1970’s from Anais Nin’s book The Novel of the Future; her rapturous praise of Miss MacIntosh My Darling led me to pick up first the Signet paperback edition, which I soon traded up for a Scribner’s hardback edition. Although I glanced through it over the years, I didn’t get around to actually reading it until the late 1980’s, by which time I was working for Dalkey Archive Press and its literary journal, the Review of Contemporary Fiction. I wasthe copy editor for its Acker/Brooke-Rose/Young issue, and working on those essays (and verifying quotations from Young’s works) inspired me to begin reading Miss MacIntosh.
I immediately fell in love with it. I’ve always liked big, ambitious books, and have a penchant for what some people denigrate as “purple prose.” Needless to say, no one’s prose is purpler than Marguerite’s!. Young magically transformed 1930’s U.S.A. into a land of Arabian Nights enchantment, unearthing the dream life of ordinary (and some extraordinary) Americans in a totally unique way. I remember reading it at night, then going to sleep, only to find Young’s prose roaring through my dreams. Right around the same time (early 1990’s), I received a phone call from a young editor at the New York office of Oxford University Press (whose name escapes me). He was a huge fan of Young’s, knew her slightly, and knew of both RCF‘s special issue on her and Dalkey’s reprint program. He called me to ask if we would be interested in reprinting Miss MacIntosh. I didn’t know that the book was out of print then–I thought the two-volume Harvest edition was still available–but it wasn’t, and this guy had already talked to Marguerite about Dalkey. I told him yes, we’d love to (at that time Dalkey’s editor John O’Brien trusted my judgement on such matters, even though Young wasn’t his type of author), so I called Marguerite (the friend had supplied her phone number) and sure enough she agreed. The “business” part of our conversation lasted about five minutes, but she spent about an hour talking about everything else under the sun, especially people she knew and who admired her work. (She was rather vain in this regard; she made sure I knew she was descended from Brigham Young, relayed her “dear friend” Saul Bellows’ opinion of her work to me, etc. etc.). I told her Dalkey didn’t have much money to pay for an advance–especially considering the astronomical printing bill that would result–but she said she’d waive the advance as long as we agreed to publish it the way she wanted it; in two volumes. I balked at this because I preferred one big book (like the original edition), but she insisted. She said the one-volume edition intimidated people, scared them off; she wanted something more portable, something people could read on the subway. She was very insistent–in fact said she’d withdraw her offer to let us publish it otherwise–so I relented. In fact, she told me she regretted waiting until the entire novel was finished before publishing it; she wished she had published it in shorter installments throughout the 1950’s and early 1960’s, the way British writers do (Anthony Powell’s Dance to the Music of Time, Lawrence Durrell’s quartet and quintet, Doris Lessing’s Martha Quest series & sci-fic quintet). I remember the title she would have used for the final (Esther Longtree) section was “Mule”. Miss MacIntosh contains many novellas within it, and it’s interesting to speculate howher reputation might be different had she published them separately.
I had to go to NYC for business in the summer of 1992, so the Oxford Univ. Press arranged for me to meet Marguerite at a restaurant in the West Village near her apartment. (It was a diner favored by transvestites; one of them, a rather dizzy-looking blond, greeted Marguerite while I was there, and I later learned that MMMD was a favorite of the literary gay community.) Since Marguerite had never signed the contract I’d sent her, I’d brought another one along and had her sign it there; she couldn’t remember her Social Security number, and after digging around in her purse came up with what later turned out to be her dentist’s phone number or something. I’d also brought along my copy of MMMD, which she gladly signed, and when I asked if she wanted to make any changes to the dedication page, she said yes and (with my encouragement) crossed out and amended the dedication page in my book, only to decide at the end to leave it as it was. (I didn’t mind; I now have a unique copy.) She also gave me a packet of old photographs, which I used both for the covers of Dalkey’s edition of MMMD (it was my idea to use a “before and after” approach) and for the photo inserts in Marguerite Young, Our Darling. We then walked the few blocks to her Bleecker Street apartment–she walked very slowly–and up the stairs to her bizarre apartment; books everywhere, boxes and boxes of manuscripts (which she was readying for sale to Yale), countless dolls. I couldn’t get much concrete information from her: every question of mine was answered by a flight of fancy that was entertaining but not always informative. (I have to say that she treated the OUP guy rather rudely, ignoring him most of the time when not treating him like a lackey.)
Then I began the 3-book project that resulted in August 1994 with the publication of Inviting the Muses, Miriam Fuchs’ festschrift, and the reprint of Angel in the Forest. “Negotiations” for these three were pretty casual; Marguerite agreed
enthusiastically to all three, but never returned the contracts I sent her. They arrived just about the time she fell ill and left NYC to return to the Midwest, and apparently were left behind. So I sent a second set to Marguerite’s niece (I think; I can’t remember exactly who she was staying with), but despite frequent requests, the niece never got Marguerite to sign them. So we published the books without a contract; I had Marguerite’s verbal permission, of course, and she was delighted to see the books, so there never was a problem. But still, I felt a bit uneasy about that.
At that time (1994-95) Marguerite began having doubts whether Knopf was serious in its intent to publish the Debs book–they said it would have to be cut (a knee jerk publisher’s reaction to any long book, it seems)–so Marguerite asked if Dalkey would be interested in publishing the book (uncut). After consulting with O’Brien, who by that time didn’t trust my judgement as much but saw the publicity value in publishing this “legendary” work, I told her would indeed be happy to publish it. So Marguerite called Knopf and tried to get the book back, but her editor there (Victoria Wilson, I think) insisted Knopf really wanted to do it, etc., so it stayed there. (It was all very confusing; I’d talk to Marguerite on the phone, but she was out of it most of the time, then let a friend or cousin act as middleman, which didn’t help matters. And then Marguerite died). But it’s just as well; I left Dalkey in disgust the following year (1996), and since O’Brien wasn’t interested in her work, Lord knows what would have become of it. (O’Brien’s indifference also led to canceling our contract with Martha Sattler to publish her Young bibliography, as we had announced in several places; O’Brien didn’t want to do any more bibliographies or scholarly books. It would be terrific if you could add Sattler’s bibliography to this Web site, since it’s unlikely anyone will ever publish it.) And that was the end of my involvement with Young’s works, though the prospect of reading the Debs book–finally!–excites me to
no end. [NOTE: Martha Sattler’s bibliography of Young’s work has never surfaced. Unfortunately Martha Sattler passed away in 2017. If anyone knows of where Sattler’s papers may be archived please contact webmaster of this site.]
I remember Marguerite told me she had come across a few novellas she had written long ago, might even have been sections cut from MMMD; I told her Dalkey would love to publish them, but then never heard anymore about them.
Young’s continued neglect is largely due to critics’ preconceived notions of canon, genre, etc. (which she stands outside of, though anyone who likes Proust and Woolf should be able to read her). I like your point about “Young’s ability to allow imagery to have a life of its own” which accounts for those marvelous flights of fancy that apparently bewildered her reviewers. (My favorite example is on the bottom of p. 186 of MMMD, where the Queen Maud Mountains undergo personification; even though MMMD is an intensely serious work, there’s a great deal of whimsy in it, which for me adds to its immense charm.)
NOTE: Steven Moore has written a magnus opus, The Novel, An Alternative History of the Novel, published by Continuum Press in April 2010. See Alberto Manguel’s Review of Steven Moore’s The Novel, An Alternative History of the Novel in the Washington Post, August 22, 2010 and a 2013 interview by Publishers Weekly https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/authors/interviews/article/58707-necessary-revisionism-pw-talks-with-steven-moore.html .
DATE: 3 June 1999
FROM: C Kalbacher
I found your summary/outline enlightening, but the mysteries of Young’s search still baffle me. Questions: 1)Do you suppose if Maxwell Perkins had lived long enough the final manuscript would have turned out differently? Specifically, shorter? 2)I’ve read a number of Young’s students/friends…I suppose I find Anais Nin most similar to Young, and I remember the same sense of “liquescence” (did one critic use that term to describe her style) in reading Nin. I felt I was under water most of the time. 3)Did Young herself ever respond to readers/critics who criticized the “unreadability” of this work? 4)It does seem sad that she’s so little noticed/anthologized especially in the women’s lit canon, since I sense that she has much to say about feminine identity, but it is–to my limited mind–unwieldy. 5)Has any thought been given to dividing it up (cf. Anais Nin’s several “novels” based on her diaries) into separate, shorter volumes? I could never assign this book to a class, for instance, since it would take the entire semester in an undergraduate course, to work our way through it. 6) What is the significance of Vera’s marriage to a deaf man? I should go back and read that section, but I’ve loaned my copy out and don’t have it handy. 7) Have any efforts been made to present MMMD to a Women’s Studies (or even MLA) Conference/publication? Is this something to consider? Finally, congratulations on a masterful job of compression. I wish I’d read this before tackling the book!
Catherine Kalbacher, Ph.D.
English Professor, Gallaudet University, Washington D.C.
DATE: 14 September 1999
FROM: Michael Segers
Thanks so much for your lovely web-tribute to Marguerite Young. I thought you would like to know that I have linked to your site in a recent article.
I am a columnist/reviewer for Peanut.org (People Electronically Acting Neighborly Using Technology), the first and still only community freenet in Georgia.
My article about Marguerite (“Love Song for an Author”) can be found at —
Please note: Michael Segers’ websites have been taken down since his premature death at age 28.
DATE: 27 September 1999
FROM: Allan H. Clark
I knew Marguerite Young only slightly. When I was President of Clarkson University, we invited her to come to the North Country to read at the four local universities as a means of putting a bit of money in her pocket and encouraging local writers. She was very generous with her time and her interest. A friend, Terry Taylor, who had arranged all this, and his wife Judy drove her up from New York City. She arrived for dinner looking rather eccentric and smoking continuously. Throughout dinner she held the table fascinated with literary anecdotes and opinion of writers she had known. no one else spoke, or really wanted to. In a whispered aside to me, one member of the English faculty described her in the words of Woody Allen as “a major loon.”
After dinner when we adjourned to the living room, she fell strangelysilent. By that time everyone else had forgotten how to talk and the awkward pause made us all uncomfortable. Finally someone in a misguided attempt to restore the spoken word to use among us, asked her how it was that she had never married. I was appalled and on the point of apologizing for the discourtesy, when she burst to life again with the statement that she had enjoyed many affairs and proceeded to a lengthy
I saw her in New York for dinner sometime in the early nineties. She only went to one restaurant, Tiffany’s, in Greenwich Village. I took along a copy of Miss MacIntosh for her to sign, and she wrote a lovely inscription, “with beautiful memories of our time together.” I remarked that I’d heard of her illness and she said that her stay in St. Vincent’s had not been a loss because Mark Twain had come to visit her. This raised fears for her mental condition, but she continued the story saying, “I asked him why he had come and he said to tell me that dying was nothing to fear, that it was very easy and pleasant.”
“Well,” she said, “easy for you–you died rich and famous. I have nothing.” “Oh,” he replied, “Marguerite, if you only knew how well your books are received in Heaven. Emily Dickinson just finished Miss MacIntosh and loved every word, and Virginia Woolf is halfway through and can’t put it down.”
It was a delightfuly story and entertains everyone who hears it. And it made me realize that essentially she was a fabulist. Her talent was for telling stories. Her stories were better than life, more charming, more exciting, more beautiful. And if whatever gods rule the world failed to back them with substance, it was their fault, not hers.
DATE: 09 December 1999
FROM: Tom Healy
Thank you for maintaining a website to honor the legacy of Marguerite Young. I just encountered her work with Harp Song and am now going through the stacks at the Indianapolis Public Library to read Prismatic Ground and Angel in the Forest. Like so many literary jewels who have Hoosier roots, Ms. Young has been totally neglected in the city of her birth.
This site is a trove of information for which I am truly appreciative and reaffirms the value of the WWW as an information resource/tool.
DATE: 09 April 2000
FROM: Roger Wiehe
I made it through 1200 pages of Miss MacIntosh and then read your explanation of what was going on. It was at times something of a chore; I found that sweeping over a page, trying to pick up some narrative framework amid the endlessly proliferating imagery was a help to getting through. Young was a teacher of writing, the attached biography said. I find it hard to know what she imparted to her students. There are, of course, endless allusions, historical, mythological, literary, artistic. The circumstances of “here and now” are somewhat sparse and not at all realistic; the bus driver does engage in a diatribe against the New Deal; Mr. Spitzer seems to remember the era of horse carriages in Boston but Miss macIntosh, the bald, could be almost any time or anywhere as could Mrs. Cartwheel. I found myself trying to picture the house, the specific coastline, the work of the servants, the particular fishing industry involved–and one can’t really; the phantasmagoric house is kept by servants who spend their time catering to imaginary guests, but who pays their wages, sets their hours, and why is Miss MacIntosh with her busyness doing what they presumably are doing? Yes, she is the spartan realist who is nevertheless creating a physical illusion of wholeness. I take it that Young intends this as a critique of pragmatism or Calvinism, perhaps–but why throw the family tableclothes into the surf? Is the ocean into which she supposedly disappears, though Vera (truth?) doesn’t accept that, the unconscious? And what about the suffragette sister, certainly an anomaly in New Deal times even–is her story a plea for both courage and love? She is ambivalent in her values, and Mr. Spitzer is unsure of what is past or future and confused at times with his brother, the hedonist. I can’t at this moment think how he fits into the schematism, and I suppose that’s part of my difficulty: I want human beings, people in somewhat determinate places, times, and relationships, but what one gets is states of mind or musings about existence, illusion, afterlife, personal identity. The ending with Esther marrying a man with a Brooklyn accent seems rather arbitrary. Perhaps one is supposed to read the pages as a kind of prolonged meditation. Is it sort of like Herrigal’s Zen and the Art of Archery where one repeats the same gestures or processes or inner movements again and again until suddenly one is transported to a new level of being?
DATE: 09 April 2000
FROM: Gregory Feeley
It’s hard for me to read through Miss MacIntosh, My Darling without seeing striking parallels with many of the mythopoeic elements of Finnegans Wake — Mr. Spitzer’s shared identity with a radically dissimilar brother, Vera’s mother’s dream flights through history, and the eternally pregnant Esther Longtree, and so on. These affinities seem to be a fruitful subject for critical inquiry, but Young firmly denied the possibility of any influence by Joyce, and her respectful scholars seemed to accede to this and leave the point alone. Has their been any discussion of this in the years since her death?
NOTE: See Gregory Feeley’s 1994 book review of Miss MacIntosh posted on his blogspot, Ballast For My Gorge.
DATE: 09 April 2000
FROM: Connie Eichenlaub
Yes, it seems to be the case that no one has done a serious comparative study of Joyce and M. Young. Perhaps scholars are too impressed by Young’s own attempts to discourage such comparisons. And yet if such a study were done I think it would become clear to academics and the public that Young deserves as much attention as Joyce, if only because she is as good a writer. Another good comparative study would be one that explored similarities of style between Virginia Woolf and Young. Again, if such essays were written, academics would have fewer and fewer excuses NOT to require Young in college English/American Literature courses alongside Woolf and Joyce.
DATE: 10 April 2000
FROM: Gregory Feeley
I picked up a copy of MMMD in the mid-seventies, when I was an undergraduate; I was intrigued by the idea of an enormous modernist novel that no one was paying attention to but which some people had early hailed as a masterpiece. I didn’t read all of it then (I was taking as many lit courses as Yale would permit, and was quickly overloaded), but was intrigued by the beauty of the individual scenes and bewildered by the lack of referents that would allow one, trained (whether we knew it or not) in the New Criticism, to anchor the book somehow — determine what year it is set, or gain from internal clues anindication of which scenes are real and which, by implication, must be phantasmagorical. I set it down and, despite occasional readings in it, did not succeed in a complete reading for 20 years, when I reviewed the batch of Dalkey titles for the Washington Post.
There doesn’t seem any question that Finnegans Wake exerted an influence over the novel; and that Young scholarship during her lifetime was respectful of Young personally to the point of deference; avenues of inquiry that Young insisted were blind alleys were duly left unexplored. I don’t know to what degree this has changed in the five years since her death.
One interesting aspect of MMMD is that a reader coming to the text without any prior knowledge of Marguerite Young (and I have to assume that few of its readers had ever already read one of her books) would have no reason to infer from it that Young was a social radical. The book seems to possess no political dimension at all; one would be unsurprised to hear that the author felt an affinity with Anais Nin, but astonished to hear that she revered Debs and Dreiser and felt profound solidarity with the labor left. It does not read like the novel of a socialist, or of one greatly concerned with any kind of dialectical
Has anyone here read Harp Song for a Radical yet? I’m afraid I have not. John Leonard’s long review in The Nation
is very sympathetic to Young but ultimately rather exasperated; he says that the book “is disdainful of the ideology and party politics of anything that smacks of ‘scientific socialism.’ It comes out instead for moonbeams.” He suggests that the book shows Young the utopian, not Young the radical.
DATE: 02 October 2001
FROM: Andrew Bunney
I have just found your address on the web under Marguerite Young, inviting contributions. I have recently acquired and read a second hand first edition of Miss MacIntosh, My Darling after it was recommended by an Australian woman writer as her favourite book on national radio. I was greatly amused and moved by the experience. I live in Adelaide where I write, among other things, songs. I wrote and recorded a song inspired by the book and I have enclosed the text for your information. I’m keen to forward a copy of the CD [called “Mayday”], to someone you might deem appropriate, perhaps you. Please contact me in regard to considering it as a contribution. I would certainly be delighted to share my song for free through an mp3 file or similar [See mp3 version]. It combines essences of Young’s paradoxical and inventive imagery with a sweet, dark
tune rendered with cello, guitar and harmonious voices in a waltz mode.
MISS MacINTOSH, MY DARLING (Heart of the Rose)
A shadow of a shadow, a mirror in a mirror
Crossing the beach, out on the bay
Cloaked in sanity and a black umbrella
Keeping a promise you never made
Some dreams crumble into reality
Another dream crumbles into a dream
The unrealised, the unrealisable
Curled up again in the womb of the sea
Where are you now, Miss MacIntosh, my darling?
Where did those summers of certainty go?
Where are you now, Miss MacIntosh, my darling?
Can you hear the thunder in the heart of the rose?
Can you hear the thunder in the heart of the rose?
You cannot break something that’s already broken
And time will not heal the wounds of time
The lawyer, the gambler, the hangman, the suicide
Truth like granite and sunlight
We’re made up as much of roads we’ve never travelled
Those not drowned at sea, drown on the shore
Haunted by ghosts of the future
While a lonely seashell continues to roar
Where are you now, Miss MacIntosh, my darling?
Where did those summers of certainty go?
Where are you now, Miss MacIntosh, my darling?
Can you hear the thunder in the heart of the rose?
Can you hear the thunder in the heart of the rose?
Andrew Bunney 1998
Based on images from the book Miss MacIntosh, My Darling
by Marguerite Young
DATE: 10 April 2002
FROM: Richard Airis
yes, i met marguerite near the end of her life. at the time, i knew little about her. through the years, i’ve often wondered who this woman really was and was excited to learn of this web page. i regret i didn’t spend more time with her when i had the chance, even though they were not the best of times.
i had been visiting a mother and daughter in the early ’90’s on the west side of indianapolis. they had been neighbors of mine who ended up, as many of us will, in that great holding tank…the nursing home. as someone not familiar with this hapless institution, it was sobering to see how one’s final days, regardless of how fruitful or rewarding his/her life may have been, could end in such dismal circumstances. this seemed to be no exception.
as was my habit, i had come for my semiannual visit to the mother and daughter at the nursing home. to my dismay, the daughter had died and another woman had taken residence in her bed. i remember saying to myself, “just like that, one day you’re here, the next you’re gone, and never an empty bed there be.” at any rate, i sat and chatted with the mother who unfortunately spent most of her fetal positioned life in sleep and pain. while there, i couldn’t help but turn my attention to
this other woman in the next bed. i gave her an obligatory hello and smile where upon she chirped up and animated a smile that suggested she wanted company. it didn’t take long to find that this woman had history…and it was interesting! i had no idea who this marguerite young was, but i was to find out. though labored, she would tell me little tidbits of herself. my eyes got bigger as she would bandy about names like capote, miller, and roethke. i kept thinking, “what is this woman doing in a place like this?” she told me of her accident in ny where some construction debris fell on her shoulder as she was walking near her home. because she couldn’t take care of herself, she was brought back to indianapolis where a relative was purportedly taking care of her. her name was daphne. maybe a niece or something. needless to say, marguerite was not happy being sent to this nursing home and wanted to be back in ny at home with all her dolls, which she prized so dearly.
on my next visit, i returned with a 1st edition copy of MMMD for her to sign. she was flattered that i would do something like that and was happy to autograph it. i remember her shaking hand as she tried to maneuver it onto the page. as i watched, i thought of how that hand must of written with such abandon in her earlier years, and now she could barely write her name. it was sad to see her in such a state. but, as with most of the others there, she was starved for attention, soi would sit with her and listen to it all…the good and the bad. her stories all seemed to ramble from one place to another, but i couldn’t help taking all of it in. i wish i would have taken notes or brought in a tape recorder because she had some great stories. whether they were exaggerations, i don’t know. even the construction accident seemed a bit strange, but it really didn’t matter.
i saw marguerite one more time before she left the nursing home. i’m not sure where she went from there, if to a hospital or to that relative in town. she gave me a number of who was taking care of her but when i called and got no answer, i decided to let it all go. after all, i was just a visitor that happened upon her and didn’t want her relatives to think of my interest as being anything questionable. and then later, i came across her death notice in the paper.
if there was anything i learned from my short time with marguerite, it was that you never know who may happen along in your life if you don’t take the time to open your heart to those who desperately seek it. i felt that marguerite, as with the mother and daughter who i initially visited, were placed on the “do not disturb” sidelines while they lived out their final days. and as i passed the other open doorway.
DATE: May 2002
FROM: Connie Eichenlaub
On a recent visit to NYC I was able to meet with a dear and old friend of Marguerite’s who gave me a tour of the Bleecker Street neighborhood that she so loved. The friend was even able to show me the site of the so called “construction site” accident. Apparently Marguerite tripped into or over a fire hydrant that was not as visible as it would be normally due to inclement weather. This foot injury put her in the hospital, and as she was on in years this healing process took quite a while, and it was shortly after that that she had to give up her apartment and move to Indianapolis where her niece took care of her in her home until Marguerite became quite ill. It was at this point she moved to the nursing home. The old friend’s fond memories of Marguerite always carried a caveat that Marguerite was the premiere raconteur and that any event was a legitimate opportunity for narrative embellishment and the fantastic.
DATE: 24 May 2003
FROM: Honey Rovit
I have just returned from Paris, France where I lived from 1985 to 2002. Someone I hardly recalled, wrote to me on seeing my name on a website for an art exhibit. I was shocked! and in trying to find my name, I came upon it, again, on your website. I last saw Marguerite while she was still on Bleecker Street and not well (I did a sketch of her), on a quick visit from France. I have been afraid to find out whether she was still alive and I wept when I just read that she died in 1997. I was–with Frances Field, Anais, and Hugo Guiler–one of her intimate circle and, the beautiful young mascot I think. Marguerite wanted me with her when she was photographed, even when she dragged me to the Academy and Jill Krementz took our photo with Marguerite’s former student, Kurt Vonnegut. Charles might still have some photos. I feel a little like Rip Van Winkle.
DATE: 27 October 2006
FROM: Wayne McEvilly
Thank you for maintaining the Marguerite Young website. Keeping the memory of Miss Young green is a very important task in the world of literature. Although I believe her existence is within the pages of her masterwork, it will be important for future generations to realize that at the heart of this great muse and literary genius is the universal heart of love which lives within her as an eternal flame. I have never known anyone more truly kind, compassionate, loving, and adoring of all God’s children and creations than Miss Young. Bless you in your work.
Wayne McEvilly was a musician (in addition to being a writer) and knew Marguerite Young in the 1950’s and 60’s.
He wrote an interesting analysis of Anais Nin’s Seduction of the Minotaur which appeared in The New Mexico Quarterly, 38.4 (1968). His exploration of the “world of woman’s wisdom” resonates with the artistic talents of Young.
DATE: 16 January 2007
FROM: McEvoy Campbell
I came across your web site, and thought that since the message board has not been updated recently, you might like a new addition to reminisinces about Marguerite Young.
I first heard, or rather read, about her during a dreary summer (just after freshman year) in arid dry Fremont, California (where there is less there there than Oakland). This was the early 1980s. There was nothing to do so I read all of Anais Nin’s autobriography, in which Young makes a prominent appearance. Skip several years and I’ve moved to New York, and I really did not believe it when I read that a “Marguerite Young” was teaching creative writing. I convinced a friend that we had to take this class, that Young was a major writer, a *true* writer (I think this was all on the strength of Nin’s recommendation.)
She was beginning to become feeble, and there was a sad aspect to her life (apparently a student stole her Debs manuscript, and generally caused havoc–because of her comments about the difficulty of recapturing/replacing what was stolen, I can’t bring myself to read it–it’s too sad). She loved “Dead Souls” by Gogol and I remember telling her I read it at a very young age (12?), and didn’t understand it: she told me I had! She rambled a little…about how writing wasn’t the same without cigarettes (she smoked, but I think it was on the sly). She conveyed a clear sense of the Americanism of Henry James, in the tradition of Gertrude Stein (rather than the T.S. Eliot school). Stein appears to have written a poem about Young, perhaps called “Marguerite”–they met, I believe, at the University of Chicago.
I used to have two copies of the 1 volume “Miss MacIntosh”–I read about 2/3 of it (enjoying it immensely, but stopped for some biographical reason)–she resented the 2 volume edition (and I follwed her on this). Foolishly, I lent one to a friend who was going to Europe for the summer…I don’t know what happened to the other. She was a little bit of a prude when it came to Proust and others. Her sense of Utopia has been very influential on me (and I’ve not even read her book on New Harmony)–almost every history is about Utopian failures, but all of these are written with the benefit–or crutch–of hindsight: Walter Benjamin has a lot to say about this…
No one has captured better the stellar implications of a Greyhound bus at night.
DATE: 07 December 2008
FROM: Stephanie Golden
I was a student of Marguerite’s in her New School class in NY during the 1970s. Oddly enough, at the time I worked at Oxford University Press–I see from your archived messages that someone there was involved in getting Miss Macintosh reprinted. I left Oxford in 1984, so I doubt I knew him. But most of Marguerite’s interest in me was because I worked there–she saw Oxford as part of the great literary establishment that she wanted recognition from.
Anyway, I found your website on Marguerite today because I mentioned being in her writing class in my blog and went looking for a page to link to so readers could see who she was. I’m writing to let you know about this mention, in case you’re interested.
DATE: 03 April 2008
FROM: Bruce Rafferty
You’re a little off about Marguerite’s time at Seton Hall. I was in her writing class there in 1969, and I believe she’d been teaching there for another year or so. She was a very caring teacher. I’d go to her room there every week for what now might be called a teacher’s conference, and we’d spend anything up to an hour with her going over my week’s work. She was great! She was definitely there in Sept of 1968. I believe that wasn’t her first year there, either, but I might be wrong.
DATE: 19 August 2010
FROM: Alan Frank
I read that Charles Ruas produced some readings from MMMD with many readers and music which was on WBAI radio years ago. Was that production recorded and could I get my hands on that or is it archived online somewhere?
NOTE: SEE ANNOUNCEMENT ON MAIN PAGE REGARDING the ArtOnAir project to digitize this Reading Series in 2011.
DATE: 03 September 2010
FROM: Alan Frank
I saw mention of MMMD in a book titled The Novel: An Alternative History by Steven Moore. I think he says some nice things about MMMD in that.
anyway, I have just started MMMD and it is so far really great. Beautiful writing. Like entering someone else’s dream…
It is strange that I have never heard of it before. What is that all about?
NOTE: See Alberto Manguel’s Review of Steven Moore’s The Novel, An Alternative History of the Novel in the Washington Post, August 22, 2010.
DATE: 04 June 2011
FROM: Richard Voorhees
I recently encountered the Marguerite Young website. I interviewed Marguerite in 1992 while preparing a study of Mari Sandoz’s years in New York. As a part of my preparation I read her collection of poems entitled Moderate Fable. One of the poems is “The Clinic” about an execution–it is attached. It turns out that the poem is about Joe Arridy who was executed in Colorado in 1939. The poem opened another consideration of Arridy who received a full Pardon from Gov. Ritter this past January. The Pardon announcement is also attached. There is a website regarding this process: http://www.friendsofjoearridy.com/
606 Oakwood St. S.
Bayport, MN 55003
Richard Voorhees. In 1992 I visited New York City in the course of research on Mari Sandoz’s (Old Jules, Crazy Horse etc.) years living in Greenwich Village. I interviewed several of her friends. Among them was Marguerite Young (Miss MacIntosh My Darling, Angel in the Forest). When I came upon the following poem I sent it to Bob Perske. We’ve been friends since the late 50’s when he regularly aggravated me as I tried to serve meals to the staff of the Española, New Mexico hospital. Bob discovered that the poem was about Joe Arridy. Young did not recall her source. It is likely that it was Mari Sandoz. Sandoz was living in Denver at the time of Joe’s trials and execution. See Robert Perske, Deadly Innocence, Abingdon Press (back in print; to be available on e-book). See also the Arridy website: http://www.friendsofjoearridy.com/
Marguerite Young, “The Clinic,” Moderate Fable, New York, Reynal & Hitchcock, 1944.
The Warden wept before the lethal beans
Were dropped that night in the airless room,
Fifty faces apeering against glassed screens,
A clinic crowd outside the tomb.
In the corridor a toy train pursued
Its tracks past countryside and painted station
Of tinny folk. The doomed man's eyes were glued
On these, he was the tearless one
Who waited unknowing why the warden wept
And watched the toy train with the prisoner
Who watched the train, or ate, or simply slept.
The warden wrote a sorry letter,
"The man you kill tonight is six years old,
He has no idea why he dies,"
Yet he must die in the room the state has walled
Transparent to its glassy eyes.
And yet suppose no human is more than he,
The highest good to which mankind attains
This dry-eyed child who watches joyously
The shining speed of toy trains,
What warden weeps in the stony corridor,
What mournful eyes are peering through the glass,
Who will ever shut a final door
And watch the fume upon a face?
OFFICE OF GOV. BILL RITTER, JR.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FRIDAY, JAN. 7, 2011
Evan Dreyer, 720.350.8370, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tyler Smith, 720.413.2492, email@example.com
GOV. RITTER GRANTS POSTHUMOUS PARDON IN CASE DATING BACK TO 1930s
Gov. Bill Ritter granted a full and unconditional posthumous pardon today to Joe Arridy, who was convicted of killing a 15-year-old girl, sentenced to death and executed by lethal gas seven decades ago.
Arridy, who had an I.Q. of 46 and behaved more like a child than a man, confessed to the 1936 sexual assault and murder of Dorothy Drain in Pueblo. Drain and her sister were found in their home, both having been attacked with a hatchet.
But an overwhelming body of evidence indicates the 23-year-old Arridy was innocent, including false and coerced confessions, the likelihood that Arridy was not in Pueblo at the time of the killing, and an admission of guilt by someone else. In addition, it would be unconstitutional today to impose the death penalty on anyone as intellectually disabled as Arridy. Arridy spent 18 months on death row, always smiling and always playing with a toy train. He requested just ice cream for his final three meals and stepped into the gas chamber still grinning like a little boy.
“Granting a posthumous pardon is an extraordinary remedy,” Gov. Ritter said. “But the tragic conviction of Mr. Arridy and his subsequent execution on Jan. 6, 1939, merit such relief based on the great likelihood that Mr. Arridy was, in fact, innocent of the crime for which he was executed, and his severe mental disability at the time of his trial and execution. Pardoning Mr. Arridy cannot undo this tragic event in Colorado history. It is in the interests of justice and simple decency, however, to restore his good name.”
The Arridy case has been featured in books, magazines and newspapers nationwide. The request for Arridy’s pardon was brought to Gov. Ritter by local attorney David A. Martinez, who has spent years researching the case.
Complete text of Gov. Ritter’s executive order granting the pardon:
Pursuant to the authority vested in the Governor of the State of Colorado by Article IV, Section 7 of the Colorado Constitution, I, Bill Ritter, Jr., Governor of the State of Colorado, hereby issue this Executive Order granting a posthumous pardon to Joe Arridy.
In 1937, Joe Arridy was convicted of one count of murder. He was sentenced to death and executed by lethal gas at the Colorado State Penitentiary on January 6, 1939. Granting a pardon is an extraordinary remedy and granting a posthumous pardon is a particularly extraordinary remedy. The tragic conviction of Mr. Arridy and his subsequent execution merit such relief based on the most compelling circumstances imaginable: The great likelihood that Mr. Arridy was, in fact, innocent of the crime for which he was executed and his severe mental disability at the time of his trial and execution.
Even a brief overview of some of the more salient facts pointing to his innocence is sufficient to demonstrate that it is unlikely that Mr. Arridy had any involvement in the murder of Dorothy Drain. Mr. Arridy had an I.Q. of 46. At ten years of age, he was committed by the Pueblo County Court to the State Home and Training for Mental Defectives in Grand Junction. On August 8, 1936, he ran away with some other boys from the institution and jumped on a train. On August 24, 1936, Sheriff George Carroll of Cheyenne, Wyoming reported that Mr. Arridy had confessed to the murder and sexual assault of 15-year-old Dorothy Drain, who was killed in Pueblo sometime in the night or early in the morning on August 15 or August 16, 1936. Indeed, there was compelling evidence that Mr. Arridy was not even in Pueblo at the time of the murder.
The confession, which only Sheriff Caroll heard, was full of contradictions and inaccuracies. Worse, the confession was clearly false, including statements that he acted alone and that he killed her with a blunt instrument instead of a hatchet, which was conclusively proven to be the case. On August 20, 1936, Frank Aguilar was arrested at Ms. Drain’s funeral in Pueblo, and he was also charged with her murder. Faced with the inconsistencies and inaccuracies in Mr. Arridy’s initial confession, Sheriff Caroll obtained a second false confession in which he changed his story to indicate that he was with Mr. Aguilar when he murdered her instead of acting alone as he stated in his first confession. Mr. Aguilar had, however, always maintained that he had never met Mr. Arridy. During his own trial, Mr. Aguilar confessed his guilt to his attorney. In fact, the murder weapon, which was a hatchet with distinctive notches in the blade that matched Ms. Drain’s wounds, was found in Mr. Aguilar’s home hidden in a basket covered by rags. At an insanity hearing, Mr. Arridy testified that he had never seen a hatchet and did not even know what a hatchet was. Mr. Aguilar was found guilty at trial, and he was executed on August 17, 1937.
Although it does not relate to his innocence, the facts surrounding Mr. Arridy’s execution were nothing short of appalling. In a sworn affidavit, Dr. B.L. Jefferson, who was the Superintendent of the State Home and Training School for Mental Defectives at Grand Junction, Colorado opined that Mr. Arridy “has the mind of a child of not to exceed six and one-half years of age and was not capable of giving either a dependable confession or of testifying and defending himself on the witness stand.”
Mr. Arridy’s actions on death row demonstrate all too clearly the accuracy of Dr. Jefferson’s evaluation. The warden referred to him as the “happiest man to ever live on death row.” He happily spent his days playing with a toy train and a toy automobile. Mr. Arridy clearly had no idea that he was about to be executed by the State of Colorado. For his last three meals, he requested nothing but ice cream–exactly what any child would do if they were told that they could eat anything they wanted. Father Albert Schaller, O.S.B., affirmed that he did not understand that he was going to die. In light of his intellectual disability, Father Schaller determined that under Catholic doctrine he should administer last rites to Mr. Arridy as if he was a child. During the administration of these last rights, Mr. Arridy complied with Father Schaller’s request for him to put down his toy train and say prayers. Devastatingly, Father Schaller had to lead him through the Lord’s Prayer two words at a time, for that is all that Mr. Arridy could remember.
This posthumous pardon is not being viewed solely through the lenses of 2011 norms. Numerous people at the time found it unconscionable that Mr. Arridy was sentenced to death. Gail Ireland, who went on to become the Colorado Attorney General, agreed to represent Mr. Arridy pro bono after his conviction. Throughout his representation of Mr. Arridy, Mr. Ireland obtained at that time an unprecedented number of stays of his execution from the Colorado Supreme Court—all by 4-3 votes. Notably, every time Mr. Arridy was informed that his execution had been stayed he showed no reaction and merely continued to play with his toys. Chief Justice Bakke made the following statement in an opinion denying one of Mr. Arridy’s appeals:
[A]cknowledgment should be made of the commendable effort on the part of defendant’s counsel and others to save Arridy from the death sentence. We are aware that such effort was prompted by the highest motives which move the hearts and minds of men, but until such time as the race, in its evolutionary process, can work out a more intelligent solution of cases such as is here presented, it remains the duty of the courts only, to safeguard the rights of the defendant and see that he has a fair and impartial trial under the law of the state as it now is, not under what we wish it might, or should, or may be at some time in the future.
Arridy v. People, 82 P.2d 757, 761 ( Colo. 1938).
Fortunately, the law has evolved in just the manner contemplated by Justice Bakke. Under current law it would be unconstitutional to execute a person such as Mr. Arridy. In 2002, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia that “executions of mentally retarded criminals are ‘cruel and unusual punishments’ prohibited by the Eighth Amendment.” 536 U.S. 304, 311-12 (2002). The Court stated in an earlier case that the “basic concept underlying the Eight Amendment is nothing less than the dignity of man. . . . The Amendment must draw its meaning for the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.” Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86, 100-01 (1958).
Pardoning Mr. Arridy cannot undo this tragic event in Colorado history. It is in the interests of justice and simple decency, however, to restore his good name. Granting this pardon demonstrates that Colorado has, in fact, matured in its understanding of mental disability.
II. Grant of Clemency
Joe Arridy be and hereby is granted a full and unconditional pardon of the above described conviction.
GIVEN under my hand and the Executive Seal of the State of Colorado this seventh day of January, 2011.
Bill Ritter, Jr.
DATE: April 17, 2020
By Jacob Siegfried
DATE: 09 September, 2022
FROM: James McCourt
Often we would see Marguerite sitting in the back of Walgreens at the corner of 8th Street and Sixth Avenue in Greenwich, writing away on MMMD. Sometimes we would wave, even say hello, as she’d smile back and go back to work. At Lunch time she would take a break and have a tuna fish sandwich and a cup of tea. No walk in the Village in those days before dropping into Walgreens to wave at Marguerite Young.