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The mauve decade (1926)
American life at the end of the nineteenth century

by Thomas Beer

CHAPTER I: The Titaness
CHAPTER 2: Wasted Land
CHAPTER 3: Depravity
CHAPTER 4: Dear Harp
CHAPTER 5: The Unholy Host
CHAPTER 6: The American Magazines
CHAPTER 7: Figures of Earth

Prepared for Gaslight by Diana Patterson





ALCOTT, AMOS BRONSON (1799-1888). Born at Walcott, Conn. Pedlar, schoolmaster, lecturer, practicing philosopher. Established a communist colony for farming in Harvard township, 1843. Subsequently dean of the Concord school of philosophy. Principal works: Orphic Sayings, Tablets, Ralph Waldo Emerson: His Character and Genius.

ALCOTT, LOUISA MAY (1832-1888). Born in Germantown, Pa. Educated at random. Began literary hackwork in 1855. Health impaired by illness contracted while nursing soldiers at Georgetown in 1862-3. Principal works: Hospital and Campfire Sketches, Moods, Little Women, Little Men, An Old-fashioned Girl, Eight Cousins, Rose in Bloom, Jo's Boys, Jack and Jill, and Under the Lilacs.

ALDEN, HENRY MILLS (1836-1919). Born at Mount Tabor, Vt. Educated for the ministry. Attracted attention through studies in Hellenic culture, Editorially connected with Harper's Magazine and Harper's Weekly for forty years. His volumes of metaphysic, God in His World and A Study of Death, are similar in theory to ideas of Henri Bergson.

ALDRICH, THOMAS BAILEY (1836-1907). Born at Portsmouth, N.H. His light verse and compressed, graceful tales made him popular in the '70's. He inherited The Atlantic Monthly's editorship from William Dean Howells in 1881 and held it until 1890. His importance was largely that of remarkable personal charm, although he sometimes produced pleasing effects in verse. Principal works: The Story of a Bad Boy, Marjorie Daw, Mercedes and Later Lyrics, Judith of Bethulia.

ALLEN, CHARLES GRANT BLAIRFINDIE (1848-1899). Born at Kingston, Canada. Began to write as an undergraduate at Merton College, Oxford. Taught school in Jamaica and returned to London. He lectured extensively and wrote numbers of brilliant critical essays, uncollected, showing a considerable bent for psychology. Principal works: Physiological Aesthetics, The Color Sense, Philistia, The Woman Who Did, Hilda Wade, The Evolution of the Idea of God, and a translation of The Attis of Catullus.

BIERCE, AMBROSE (1842-?). Born in Meigs County, Ohio. He served with gallantry in the Civil War, and was severely wounded. Even his earliest humorous sketches were grim. He was a journalist and editor in California until 1895, when he came to the East. His work was not unappreciated but, in spite of its genuine distinction, it was unpopular owing to a monotonous insistence on death and fantastic calamity. Bierce vanished in Mexico in 1916 and his end is unknown. Principal works: In the Midst of Life, Black Beetles in Amber, The Devil's Dictionary, The Monk and the Hangman's Daughter.

BURTON, SIR RICHARD (1821-1890). He was largely educated in Europe and acquired an amazing dextrousness in Oriental languages during his early life in India and Africa. His reputation was established by a pilgrimage in disguise to Medina and Mecca in 1852. He translated The Arabian Nights, without expurgation, as well as Il Pentamerone and the poems of Camoens. His other translations, books of travel and essays in geography make up twenty volumes.

CARRYL, GUY WETMORE (1872-1903). Born in New York. His cynical, light verse stamped him as a humorist and in Zut he used the artificial forms of Robert Louis Stevenson, but his last work, The Lieutenant Governor, showed a drift into realism and satire.

COPE, EDWARD DRINKER (1840-1897). Born at Philadelphia of a distinguished Quaker family. His aptitude for natural science appeared when he was a child and at sixteen he was already writing notes, in Quaker dialect, on fossils. He spent his life in zoology and paleontology and in exploring the west for specimens. His scientific writings and discussions are too candidly free of popular values to be read by people without an education in the subject, but his influence was tremendous both in Europe and America. He cooperated with Josiah Willard Gibbs, the American authority on thermodynamics and statistical mechanics, in forwarding the Society for the Advancement of Science. His name appears upward of five thousand times in the proceedings of European and English scientific bodies.

DAVIS, REBECCA HARDING (1831-1910). Born at Washington, Pa. She achieved an almost scandalous fame in 1862 by the publication of Life in the Iron Mills and Margaret Howth, both social studies of unusual frankness. Her temperament was realistic and her feminism took the highly practical bent of demanding respectable wages and vocational freedom for women. Her later fiction is of no great interest but her essays on celebrities and localities were amusing and vigorous to the last.

DU CHAILLU, PAUL BELLONI (1835-1903). Born in New Orleans but removed to France as a child. His first accounts of explorations in equatorial Africa were received with open derision as fabulous and for years he was involved in arguments and assertions until subsequent explorers righted him with the public. He became interested in Scandinavia and produced an excellent text on its primitive civilizations. In his later life he resided considerably in New York. He is best represented by The Gorilla Country, Explorations and Adventures in Equatorial Africa, and The Viking Age.

FORD, PAUL LEICESTER (1865-1902). Born in Brooklyn. He was privately educated and widely travelled before he became interested in historiography. He edited the writings of Thomas Jefferson, explored Americana of the eighteenth century, wrote sketches of Washington and Franklin which show the tide of American historical writing on the turn from sentimental bombast to research and sanity. His fiction is generally banal, although The Honorable Peter Stirling is amusing as a description of a heavy politician. Mr. Ford busied himself in calling attention to the wretched preservation of documents and records in the United States and established a magazine of bibliography shortly before he was brutally murdered by his brother in 1902.

GEORGE, HENRY (1839-1897). Born at Philadelphia. After a roving boyhood he appeared as a radical journalist in San Francisco. The publication, in 1879, of Progress and Poverty made him famous. His advocacy of the single tax — i.e., the reduction of real estate to common property by the imposition of a tax equal to the total rental value of the land, aroused horror and admiration. He was even denounced by the Duke of Argyll. In 1886 he was a contestant for the mayoralty of New York City in a political turmoil accelerated by the priest, Edward McGylnn, who denounced Catholic interference with American affairs. Mr. George was defeated by the combined forces of conservatives and Catholics. He died in 1897 while candidate a second time for the mayoralty of New York.

GODKIN, EDWIN LAWRENCE (1831-1902). Born at Moyne, Ireland. He came to the United States in 1856. In 1881 his review, The Nation, became a weekly issue of The New York Evening Post, Godkin assuming the editorship of both the newspaper and the magazine. His editorials indubitably influenced public thought in the United States and aided in the renovation of the Democratic Party in 1884. For a competent characterization see Some Newspapers and Newspapermen, by Oswald Villard, as Mr. Godkin's official biography is an atrocity.

HUNTINGTON, COLLIS POTTER (1821-1900). Born at Harwinton, Conn. At the age of sixteen he became a clock pedlar and did very well. In 1849 he transferred his abilities to California. In 1860 he, with Charles Crocker, Leland Stanford and Mark Hopkins, conceived the transcontinental railway and in 1869 the Central Pacific was finished, at the expense of a number of people and states. This line was absorbed in the Southern Pacific Railroad, of which Mr. Huntington was the controlling power. His character was constantly attacked, and when the Southern Pacific attempted to excuse itself from the debts of the Central Pacific, the financier became an object of malignant insinuations. But he built a church in his native town to the memory of his mother, donated extensively to Hampton Institute in Virginia, gave $50,000 to Tuskegee Institute in Alabama and expressed his benevolence in countless ways, so that his aid was sought by representatives of the most respected organizations for the promotion of human well-being and of reform.

NORRIS, FRANK (1870-1902). Born at Chicago. He studied in Paris and at Harvard. His first important novel, Vandiver and the Brute, could not be published until after his death. He edited "The Wave" at San Francisco, reported the Cuban campaign and then lived in New York for a short period. His principal works are: McTeague, Blix, The Octopus, and The Pit.

(End of preface.)

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