Deland, Margaret (Wade) Campbell
DELAND, Margaret (Wade) Campbell
Born Margaretta Campbell, 28 February 1857, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; died 1945, Boston, Massachusetts
Daughter of Sample and Margaretta Wade Campbell; married Lorin F. Deland, 1880
At sixteen, after attending private schools, Margaret Campbell Deland was sent for a year to Pelham Priory, a strict boarding school near New Rochelle, New York, and then enrolled in the Cooper Union, New York City, for a course in design, perspective, freehand, and geometrical drawing. After finishing her studies at the Cooper Union, she was appointed assistant instructor in drawing and design at Girls' Normal School (now Hunter College).
Deland's first novel, John Ward, Preacher (1888), is a story of religious doubt and adamant orthodoxy. Deland had been brought up a strict Presbyterian, but in the years following her marriage she found herself painfully questioning her earlier religious attitudes. She finally left her family's denomination and, with her husband, was confirmed in the Episcopal church. It was many years, however, before she was at peace with her convictions, and John Ward, Preacher was the result of her own soul searching. It made her suddenly famous, for it was much discussed, and often angrily denounced as wicked and immoral.
Deland followed this first novel with a steady output of fiction so popular that she became one of the best-known writers of her day. Four honorary doctorates were awarded to her: Rutgers, 1917; Tufts, 1920; Bates, 1929; and Bowdoin, 1931. She was also one of the first women elected to membership in the National Institute of Arts and Letters (1926).
"Essentially a novelist of character," as one writer calls her, Deland created a group of likable men, women, and children who appear time after time in her various novels and short stories. These are inhabitants of a small town, "Old Chester," which was modeled on Manchester, where she grew up. Dominating the Old Chester scene is the all-wise, all-compassionate Dr. Lavendar, Rector of St. Michael's Church. The plots are concerned with sin and its expiation, self-sacrifice, maternal love, pride, and oddly assorted marriages. Through them all runs a strong current of religion, for Deland's people conceive of a deity who is intensely personal. Also apparent is a delightful appreciation of nature—the shifting seasons, flowers, hills, rivers.
Though Deland's fiction is definitely dated, it is extremely useful to any student seeking to understand the values and mores of a bygone era. Further, while its faint gloss of sentimentality, its assertions regarding extramarital relations, and its firm insistence on the need for renouncing "sin" may seem quaint and unreal to the modern reader, Deland's work does portray the timeless qualities of personal integrity, devotion, and courage.
The Old Garden (1886). A Summer Day (1889). Philip and His Wife (1890). Sidney: The Story of a Child (1892). The Wisdom of Fools (1894). Mr. Tommy Dove and Other Stories (1897). Old Chester Tales (1899). Dr. Lavendar's People (1903). The Common Way (1904). The Awakening of Helena Richie (1906). An Encore (1907). The Iron Woman (1911). The Voice (1912). Partners (1913). The Hands of Esau (1914). Around Old Chester (1915). The Rising Tide (1916). The Vehement Flame (1922). New Friends in Old Chester (1924). The Kays (1926). Captain Archer's Daughter (1932). Old Chester Days (1935). If This Be I (1935). Golden Yesterdays (1941).
Dodd, L. H., Celebrities at Our Hearthside (1959). Overton, G., The Women Who Make Our Novels (1928). Reep, D. C., The Rescue and the Romance: Popular Novels before World War I (1982). Smith, H. F., The Popular American Novel, 1865-1920 (1980). Welter, B., Dimity Convictions: The American Women in the Nineteenth Century (1976). Williams, B. C., Our Short Story Writers (1920).
NAW, 1607-1950 (1971). Oxford Companion to Women's Writing in the United States (1995). TCA (1942).
American Literature (June 1990). NYT (14 Jan. 1945).
—ABIGAIL ANN HAMBLEN