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Anderson, Margaret Carolyn (1886–1973)

Anderson, Margaret Carolyn (1886–1973)

American founder, editor, and publisher of the avantgarde literary magazine the Little Review between 1914 and 1929. Born Margaret Carolyn Anderson on November 24, 1886, in Indianapolis, Indiana; died from emphysema on October 15, 1973, at Le Cannet, France; daughter of Arthur Aubrey (an electric railway executive) and Jessie (Shortridge) Anderson; attended high school in Indianapolis, and two-year junior preparatory classes at Western College in Miami, Ohio; lived with Georgette Leblanc (the French singer, 1922–41); never married; no children.

Moved frequently with family throughout Midwest; book critic of the Chicago Evening Post (1912); made editor of The Continent and founded Little Review in Chicago (1914); moved magazine to New York (1916); began serialization of James Joyce's Ulysses in the Little Review (1918); convicted, along with editor Jane Heap, on obscenity charges for publishing Ulysses (1921); published final issue of the Little Review in Paris (1929).

Selected works:

The Fiery Fountains (1951); The "Little Review" Anthology (1953); The Unknowable Gurdjieff (1962); My Thirty Years' War (1969); The Strange Necessity (1969).

Margaret Carolyn Anderson reached the pinnacle of her career during and immediately following World War I—a period that brought with it a distrust of foreigners, the Espionage Act of 1917, and a dread of communism that became known as "the red scare." In this atmosphere of national angst, Anderson and others like her turned to art as a defense against a world in chaos. Out of this avant-garde movement in the American Midwest emerged a group known as the Chicago Renaissance. According to Dale Kramer, "The Renaissance had sprung from the freshness of hope and idealism and dedication which the war largely strangled." Along with Floyd Dell, Theodore Dreiser, Sherwood Anderson, and Harriet Monroe , Kramer also includes the editor and writer Margaret Anderson among the ten figures named as the chief Renaissance makers.

Anderson's childhood was spent mostly in Indianapolis, Indiana. Born into a family of substantial means, she was the daughter of a socially ambitious mother and a charming but ineffectual father who was unable to take a stand against his wife. Jessie Anderson wanted only the finer things for her daughters, but the life of bridge games and country clubs that attracted her were never meaningful to her eldest daughter. The daughter's relationship with her mother remained strained throughout their lives, and Margaret and her two younger sisters referred to their home as "The Great Divide" because it was filled with their mother's "taunts, threats, misinterpretations and revilings."

Soon after her return home from two years at Western College in Ohio, boredom with her family's bourgeois values led Anderson to write to Clara Laughlin , who conducted the "So You're Going to Paris" department at Good Housekeeping magazine, pleading for advice on "how a perfectly nice but revolting girl could leave home." In reply, Anderson received an invitation to meet Laughlin, and in November 1912 she headed for Chicago, accompanied by her sister Lois.

There is nothing stronger than the force of a conviction. It will drive you to success.

—Margaret Anderson

Laughlin, who was also editor of The Continent, a religious weekly, hired Anderson to write book reviews, and she soon found a second job reviewing for the Chicago Evening Post under literary editor Francis Hackett. While the sisters lived at the YWCA, Margaret never missed the Saturday night and Sunday afternoon concerts of the Chicago Symphony. In April 1913, the sisters were caught not only smoking but introducing other young women to the practice, and were forced to leave the Y; since they were also deeply in debt, they returned home.

By June 1913, Margaret Anderson was back in Chicago alone, working as a clerk at Browne's Bookstore in the Fine Arts building for eight dollars a week. Shortly thereafter, she became chief literary assistant for Francis F. Browne at The Dial, a literary review originally founded by Edgar Allan Poe, and began to learn about proofreading, magazine make-up, and composition.

In 1914, when Laughlin left her position at The Continent, Anderson took over as literary editor, ready by this time to declare her views on the sterility of the current art scene. When she wrote a complimentary review of Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie and was lambasted by readers because she had not prefaced her observations with a disclaimer on the book's immoral content, Anderson's first reaction to the uproar was to respond, "How was I to know what is immoral?" Her next was to decide to start her own magazine.

The aim of her new publication, as she saw it, was to subvert literary oppression by filling the magazine "with the best conversation the world has to offer." It was an act born out of the kind of naive confidence she described 15 years later when she wrote in the final issue: "There was no creative opinion in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1912. So I went to Chicago and tried to produce it, in 1914, by founding the Little Review."

The same confidence allowed her to ignore issues like money, backing, and contributors. After persuading Dewitt Wing, editor of Breeders Gazette, to become her original financial backer by announcing she was "going to publish the best art magazine in the world," she concerned herself with its goals, about which she wrote:

My conviction in founding the Little Review was that people who make Art are more interesting than those who don't; that they have a special illumination about life; that this illumination is the subject-matter of all inspired conversation; that one might as well be dead as to live outside this radiance. I was sure that I could impose my conviction by creating a magazine dedicated to Art for Art's sake.

Laughlin, Clara E. (1873–1941)

American author and lecturer. Born Clara Elizabeth Laughlin in New York City on August 3, 1873; died on March 3, 1941; daughter of Samuel Wilson and Elizabeth (Abbott) Laughlin; attended Chicago public schools; graduated from North Division high school; never married.

Clara Laughlin, the author of a well-known series of travel guides, also founded the Clara Laughlin Travel Services in Chicago, New York, Paris, and London. Her first book, So You're Going to Paris (1924), met with instant success. She followed this with travels guides for other countries, including Italy, England, France, and was a frequent contributor to magazines and newspapers. Her 1934 memoirs were appropriately entitled Traveling Through Life.

Her slogan for the publication was, "The Little Review, making no compromise with the public taste." (Ezra Pound later wanted to change it to, "The magazine that is read by those who write the others.") In the first issue, launched in March 1914, Anderson declared its high purpose with a spirited editorial:

If you've ever read poetry with a feeling that it was your religion, your very life; if you've ever come suddenly upon the whiteness of a Venus in a dim, deep room; if you've ever felt music replacing your shabby soul with a new one of shining gold; if, in the early morning, you've watched a bird with great white wings fly from the edge of the sea straight up into the rose-colored sun—if these things have happened to you and continue to happen till you're left speechless with the wonder of it all, then you'll understand our hope to bring them near to the common experience of the people who read us.

Contributors were not paid, but over the next 15 years the Little Review would help to change the course of American literature by introducing the world to such artists as Amy Lowell, Djuna Barnes , H.D. (Hilda Doolittle ), Dorothy Richardson , Sherwood Anderson, Carl Sandburg, Vachel Lindsay, Gertrude Stein , Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, and William Butler Yeats. The publication was never profitable, but it gained wide respect for its editorial willingness to take risks.

As early as May 1914, the magazine took on an anarchist tone after Anderson became acquainted with Emma Goldman . The radical and controversial Goldman, sent to prison for saying that "women need not always keep their mouths shut and their wombs open," eventually led Dewitt to pull his financial support, but Anderson and her magazine managed to persevere.

Choice combined at times with economic circumstance to draw Anderson into a truly bohemian lifestyle. A lack of funds as well as her sense of adventure led Anderson, in the spring of 1915, to persuade both her sisters, as well as Harriet Dean , Caesar Awaska, Lois' children, and their housekeeper, to move into tents with

wood floors set up on the beach at Braeside, near Lake Bluff outside Chicago. Anderson swam every morning before work, ate by campfire in the evenings, and slept under the stars at night. The Chicago Tribune did a full-page Sunday story with color photos of the gathering, while Sherwood Anderson, Lawrence Langner of the New York Theatre Guild, and others would frequent their camp in the evenings to extol group action and socialism, share stories, and intoxicate themselves on ideas. The camp lasted for six months before it was declared illegal and burned down by the police. "It is marvelous," Anderson wrote in her autobiography, The Strange Necessity, "to be more in imagination than in abundance."

In 1916, she hired Jane Heap to become editor for the Little Review. Heap was a gifted conversationalist, and their friendship developed into an intimate relationship that lasted for three years and a close professional relationship that lasted until 1922. By 1916, they had moved the magazine to New York; Anderson's infatuation with anarchism came to an end that year after an argument between Heap and Goldman. Also in 1916, Ezra Pound became the magazine's foreign editor, working out of London, and responsible for introducing both Yeats and Joyce to the Little Review.

In March 1918, Anderson and Heap launched a literary controversy when the Little Review began the serialization of James Joyce's Ulysses. In October 1920, John S. Sumner, secretary for the Society for Suppression of Vice, served papers on the publisher and her editor. Their conviction on an obscenity charge on February 21, 1921, resulted in a fine of $100 and a prohibition against publishing any part of Ulysses.

The charges focused specifically on the book's Episode XIII. According to Assistant District Attorney Joseph Forrester, quoted in a New York Times interview in 1921, "Some of the chief objections had to do with a too frank expression concerning a woman's dress when the woman was in the clothes described." In Four Lives in Paris, Hugh Ford points out that the passages deemed "obscene" were never actually read aloud during the trial, apparently because one of the judges refused to allow the material to be read in the presence of a lady—Margaret Anderson. The fact that Anderson had been the publisher of the work did not appear to be germane, in his opinion, because "she probably did not understand the 'significance' of what she was publishing." The case, which was to go to the U.S. Supreme Court, resulted in suspension of publication of the Little Review from 1926 until the final issue, in 1929.

Anderson, meanwhile, had met Georgette Leblanc , the French singer and ex-companion of the Belgian writer Maurice Maeterlinck. In 1922, Anderson moved to Paris, where the two would live together for almost 20 years, until Leblanc's death in October 1941. From the time Leblanc showed the first signs of illness with a bout of pneumonia in 1934, until she died of cancer, Anderson would see to her welfare with loving care. Of their relationship, Anderson wrote, "Someone who inspires great love gives you so much to think about that you never come to the end of your remembrances."

In 1923, after she had moved to France, Anderson turned over the editorship of the Little Review to Jane Heap. By 1924, Anderson, Leblanc, and Heap were all living at the institute established by the philosopher and spiritual leader George Gurdjieff at Fountainebleau-Avon. Anderson never became totally committed to his influence, and, in 1962, she would write about her faltering spiritual journey in The Unknowable Gurdjieff. From 1936–38, Anderson experienced a period of depression, which she would describe in her first full-length book, The Fiery Fountains, published in 1951. During this time, she also kept intimate ties with journalist and poet Solita Solano , who occasionally provided her with financial help.

In June 1942, on a voyage back to America to escape the onslaught of war in France, Anderson met Dorothy Caruso widow of the opera star Enrico Caruso. "She was the last great friendship of my life," said Anderson, after the death of Caruso in 1955. "She was 62, young, lovely, handsome and strong; and I couldn't believe she would die." Margaret Anderson, who lived to be 82, died of emphysema on October 15, 1973, at Le Cannet, France. She was buried in Notre Dame des Anges Cemetery beside Georgette Leblanc.

Ezra Pound once described Margaret Anderson as the only editor in America who "ever felt the need of, or responsibility for, getting the best writers concentrated in an American periodical." According to her New York Times obituary, because of Margaret Anderson, "contemporary art had 'arrived'; for a hundred years perhaps, the literary world would produce repetitions only."


Anderson, Margaret. Forbidden Fires. Edited and with an introduction by Mathilda Hills. Naiad, 1996.

——. The "Little Review" Anthology. NY: Horizon Press, 1953.

——. My Thirty Years' War. NY: Horizon Press, 1969.

——. The Strange Necessity. NY: Horizon Press, 1969.

Blau, Eleanor. "Margaret Anderson dies at 82," in The New York Times. October 19, 1973, p. 34.

Ford, Hugh. Four Lives in Paris. San Francisco, CA: North Point Press, 1987.

"Improper novel costs women $100," in The New York Times. February 22, 1921, p. 13.

Kramer, Dale. Chicago Renaissance. NY: Appleton-Century, 1966.

"Little Review in court," in The New York Times. February 15, 1921, p. 4.

Sicherman Barbara, and Carol Hurd Green, eds. Notable American Women. Vol. IV. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980, pp. 21–23.

suggested reading:

Goldman, Emma. Living My Life. NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1931.

Leblanc, Georgette. La Machine à Courage. Paris, 1947.

Scott, Thomas L., and Melvin J. Friedman, eds. Pound/The Little Review. NY: New Directions Books, 1988.

Carla Stoner , freelance writer in American literature, San Diego State University, California

Heap, Jane (1887–1964)

American philanthropist and publisher. Name variations: jane heap. Born in 1887; died in 1964.

Though Margaret Carolyn Anderson founded the Little Review, Jane Heap doubled as cook and editor in their cramped office in the Fine Arts Building on Michigan Avenue in Chicago as well as in Greenwich Village; as a confirmed modernist, she also exerted a profound influence on the contents of the journal. When the Review folded in 1929, Heap was convinced they had published nothing of lasting value, except for their serialization of James Joyce's Ulysses, which prompted the obscenity trial of 1920. Jane Heap also presided over a small group of Gurdjieff disciples in Montparnasse in the studio of Georgette Leblanc .

Leblanc, Georgette (c. 1875–1941)

French opera singer and actress. Name variations: Le Blanc. Born around 1875; died in October, possibly the 26th, 1941; grew up in Rouen, France; daughter of an Italian father and Norman mother; educated by her older brother Maurice Leblanc (author of the detective novels of Arsène Lupin); married at 17 to escape her father's household; companion of Belgian poet and playwright Maurice Maeterlinck, 1895–1918; lived with Margaret Carolyn Anderson (editor of Little Review), 1922–41.

Entered a sanitarium at 18 to escape an unhappy marriage; created the role of Thaïs at the Théâtre de la Monnaie, Brussels; inaugurated the new Opéra-Comique, appearing as Carmen (December 15, 1898); appeared as Ariane in Ariane and Bluebeard (1907); sang Mélisande in Pélléas and Mélisande at the Boston Opera (1912).

Growing up in Rouen, France, Georgette Leblanc "sang madly, anything at all, provided it dealt with a broken heart." Her mother, whom she adored, died when she was 13. "Dressed for a ball," recalled Leblanc, "lighted by her jewels beneath the great chandelier, she fell dead in my arms." That same year, her only friend killed herself. After a disastrous ten-month marriage, Leblanc made her debut at Paris' Opéra-Comique and, "dazzled by my liberty," began to hold soirées in her studio apartment.

In 1895, she met the poet and playwright Maurice Maeterlinck (1862–1949) and was his inspiration and companion for 20 years. Leblanc fitted up an apartment at the Villa Dupont in the rue Pergolèse in Paris in what she called "Island of Walkeren" style, hired a Belgian cook, and established a brilliant salon where the great artists of the period were guests. There, and at their presbytery at Gruchet-Saint-Siméon, she entertained Octave Mirabeau, Anatole France, Rodin, Jules Renard, Judith Gautier, Colette , Mallarmé, Oscar Wilde, Saint-Saëns, and Rachilde (pseudonym of Marguerite Vallette ).

Though Maeterlinck wrote several of his plays for Leblanc, including Aglavaine and Sélysette, Monna Vanna, and Mary Magdalene, they agreed marriage was not for them and swore they would give each other—her favorite word—liberty. "I kept my word," Leblanc wrote, "without understanding that a man does not wish liberty that is authorized. He prefers simply to take it and is even offended if the woman doesn't mind." After their breakup and his subsequent marriage to actress Renée Dahon in 1919, Leblanc left for America where she remained for four years. She began living with Margaret Anderson in 1922, and their relationship would continue until LeBlanc's death in 1941. In 1932, LeBlanc published Souvenirs: My Life with Maeterlinck (translated from the French by Janet Flanner .) She also adapted Maeterlinck's The Blue Bird into The Children's Blue Bird.

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