Born Janet Miriam Caldwell, 7 September 1900, Manchester, England; died 30 August 1985
Also wrote under: Marcus Holland, Max Reiner
Daughter of Arthur F. and Anna Marks Caldwell; married William Combs, 1919; Marcus Reback, 1931
Born of Scottish parents in England, Taylor Caldwell was educated at the University of Buffalo, New York. She wrote her first novel, "The Romance of Atlantis," when she was twelve and wrote for many years before the publication of her first book, Dynasty of Death (1938). In addition to her own work as a novelist, Caldwell collaborated with psychic Jess Stearn and served as secretary on the Board of Special Inquiry of the U.S. Department of Immigration and Naturalization. She won many awards from such groups as the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), and the National League of Penwomen. From childhood she suffered from severely impaired hearing.
Caldwell published over three dozen novels in the last 50 years, most of which attained popular if not critical success. In general her subjects alternate between power-hungry upper-class American families of the late-19th and early-20th centuries and historical figures of the ancient world. Successes from the 1960s and 1970s include Testimony of Two Men (1968; later serialized for television and reprinted in 1983), a saga of Dr. Jonathan Ferrier's pioneering attempts to improve the medical profession; Captains and the Kings (1972; later serialized for television and reprinted in 1982), about a Kennedy-like family of Irish immigrants who build a dynasty and spawn a president; A Pillar of Iron (1965, 1983), with Cicero as protagonist; Glory and the Lightning (1974, 1983), centering on Pericles; Dear and Glorious Physician (1959, 1981), employing the gospel according to St. Luke as its storyline; Great Lion of God (1970, 1985), a portrait of St. Paul; and I, Judas (1978), a novel about the betrayal of Jesus Christ.
An early reviewer stated that Caldwell had a gift for storytelling but lamented that she lacked the style to go with it; his evaluation still holds. Caldwell is adept at building suspense and at setting scenes, particularly those of ancient Greece, Rome, and Palestine. However, her prose is florid and her characters tend to borrow the more famous statements of Shakespeare, Emerson, Kennedy, and Hopkins, to name a few. In addition, her personal philosophies are obtrusive; many of her protagonists possess a Coriolanian contempt for the lower classes, regarded as destructive rabble, incapable of thought or feelings. Her American protagonists assert an almost paranoiac conviction that freedom has steadily decreased since Teddy Roosevelt was president. Caldwell can be thought of as a modern Jeremiah, bewailing our fall from grace and its resultant consequences.
The Eagles Gather (1939). The Earth Is the Lord's (1940). The Strong City (1941). The Arm and the Darkness (1943, 1982). The Turnbulls (1943). The Final Hour (1944). The Wide House (1945). This Side of Innocence (1946, 1974, 1984). There Was a Time (1947). Melissa (1948). Let Love Come Last (1949). The Balance Wheel (1951). The Devil's Advocate (1952). Never Victorious, Never Defeated (1954, 1982, 1984). Tender Victory (1956). The Sound of Thunder (1957). The Listener (1960). A Prologue to Love (1962). To See the Glory (1963). The Late Clara Beame (1964). Dialogues with the Devil (1968). On Growing Up Tough (1971). The Romance of Atlantis (1975). Ceremony of the Innocent (1976, 1983). Bright Flows the River (1978, 1983). Answer as a Man (1981). Yours Sins and Mine (1983).
Schnabel, M. An Annotated Bibliography of the Works By and About Taylor Caldwell in the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, 1938-1981 (1983). Stearn, J., In Search of Taylor Caldwell (1981).
American Novelists of Today (1951). Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia (1991). Oxford Companion to Women's Writing in the United States (1995). TCA (1942).
Life (6 April 1959). Newsweek (3 Oct. 1938). NYT (18 Sept. 1938, 15 March 1959). NYTBR (28 April 1946 to April 1949, 27 June 1965). PW (15 Oct. 1938). Time (9 Jan. 1956). Saturday Review of Literature (6 Jan. 1940). WLB (Feb. 1940).
—CYNTHIA L. WALKER