Ranous, Dora Knowlton (Thompson)

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RANOUS, Dora Knowlton (Thompson)

Born 16 August 1859, Ashfield, Massachusetts; died 19 January 1916, New York, New York

Daughter of Alexander H. and Augusta Knowlton Thompson; married William V. Ranous, 1881

An author, editor, and translator, Dora Knowlton Ranous was the younger of two daughters in a learned, affluent Massachusetts family. Their birthplace, the Knowlton Homestead, attracted such scholars as James Lowell during the summer months, "lending to Mrs. Thompson's dinner table an air of scholarship." Ranous graduated from the Sanderson Academy in Ashfield, completing her formal education at the Packer Institute in New York City.

Ranous's acting career was encouraged by her mother. In her journal, Ranous writes of the trials and tribulations of a young actress seeking her first engagement. These experiences were published in Ranous' autobiographical Diary of a Daly Debutante (1910), an interesting period piece of theatrical life in the late 19th century. Ranous is unassuming but confident, describing numerous rehearsals and travels; her strength lies in vivid characterization of associates and friends.

Newspaper and magazine reviews of the book were almost unanimously enthusiastic. Public reaction was also strong; readers evidently asked Ranous to continue the story by documenting later experiences with the Kiralfy Theatre Company. She continued writing a journal, but the manuscript remains unpublished.

Ranous might not have found her literary career had her marriage succeeded. While part of the Kiralfy group, she met her husband and left the stage. But after the marriage dissolved, Ranous mastered stenography in order to earn a living for herself and her daughter. This led to work in rare books and editing. As a result, Ranous translated and edited works by authors such as de Maupassant, Flaubert, and D'Annunzio. In one of her early projects, Ranous initiated and completed (with Rossiter Johnson) a set of 16 volumes on the literature of Italy (1907), including translations and biographical notes on authors from the time of Dante to the early 20th century.

Ranous' last book, Good English in Good Form (1916), is a remarkably useful reference guide. A basic composition text, its topics include "The Art of Punctuation" and "Words and Sentences," although lengthy chapters on "Words Derived from Latin and Greek" are perhaps less useful. Ranous' literary contributions are remarkable in their diversity. It is difficult to ascertain her place among American writers, but her works are examples of concise, lucid prose, and her translations are strong. Ranous' coeditors and translators eulogized her as one "of brilliant intellect," with "great literary ability."

Other Works:

The Conquest of Rome by M. Serao (translated by Ranous, 1906). The Flame by G. D'Annunzio (translated by Ranous, 1906). An Anthology of Italian Authors from Cavalcanti to Fogazzaro, 1270-1907 (edited by Ranous, with R. Johnson; 16 vols., 1907). The Complete Works of Guy de Maupassant (translated by Ranous, 1910). Zibeline by P. de Massa (translated by Ranous, 1910). Influence, and How to Exert It by B. D. Blanchard (translated by Ranous, 1916). Madame Bovary by G. Flaubert (translated by Ranous, 1919). Salammbo by G. Flaubert (translated by Ranous, 1922). Sentimental Education by G. Flaubert (translated by Ranous, 1922). The Temptation of Saint Antony, and the Legend of St. Julien the Hospitaler by G. Flaubert (translated by Ranous, 1923).


Johnson, R., Dora Knowlton Ranous: A Simple Record of a Noble Life (1916).

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