Sara Jeannette Duncan/Lily Lewis Archive

The Making of Books (Washington Post, August 23 1885)


Duncan comments on the news that Col. Frederick Dent Grant, Ulysses Grant’s son, will be writing a biography of his father (no copies of which seem to be in existence). Duncan suggests that writing such a biography will cause more division in the still-healing United States. She suggests that someone should tell Dent Grant that biographers do not really become successful; she also seems to suggest that simply having lots of life material on someone does not make one qualified to write a biography (indicating that Dent Grant’s biases may detract from the writing). Then, she shares that Alice Field, the daughter of Cyrus West Field, who laid the first telegraph cable across the Atlantic. Duncan likely is referring to Palermo: A Christmas Story. She talks about how the novel could be a pinnacle of genius, making it sad that Alice will only be remembered for being Cyrus’s daughter. She talks about how many people will think his fame accounts for his daughter’s. Duncan begins to talk (in an exaggerated tone) about the forgone days before “ready-made reputations” when poets had to work harder; she seems more concerned with exposing nepotism towards Alice than defending her. She then begins talking about a development at another newspaper (The Post) regarding hiring an “advisory editor” who will offer an “elaborate essay” to each writing who gets rejected. Duncan discusses Julia Magruder’s recently released Across the Chasm, a novel about marriage between an American Southern woman and a Northern man--only because he is the best “behaved”. Duncan bemoans how “chivalrous heroes and uncalculating heroines” have gone out of style in favor of an unexciting etiquette guide in disguise.


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