Caldwell, Taylor (1900–1985)
Caldwell, Taylor (1900–1985)
English-American fiction writer whose historical romances were bestsellers and often adapted as motion pictures. Name variations: (pseudonym) Max Reiner. Born Janet Miriam Taylor Caldwell on September 7, 1900, in Prestwich, Manchester, England; died of lung cancer on August 30, 1985, in Greenwich, Connecticut; daughter of Anna (Marks or Markham) Caldwell and Arthur Francis Caldwell (a commercial artist); attended University of Buffalo, BA, 1931; marriedWilliam Fairfax Coombes (sometimes spelled Combs), on May 27, 1919 (divorced 1931); married Marcus Reback (a linguist and advisor to Herbert Hoover), on May 12, 1931 (died 1970); married William E. Stancell, on June 17, 1972; married William Robert Prestie, in 1978; children: (first marriage) Mary Margaret Coombes Fried; (second marriage) Judith Ann Reback Goodman (d. 1979).
Dynasty of Death (1938); The Eagles Gather (1940); The Earth Is the Lord's (1941); (under pseudonym Max Reiner) Time No Longer (1941); The Arm and the Darkness (1943); This Side of Innocence (1946); Let Love Come Last (1949); Balance Wheel (1951); The Devil's Advocate (1952); Never Victorious, Never Defeated (1954); Tender Victory (1956); The Sound of Thunder (1957); Dear and Glorious Physician (1959); A Prologue to Love (1961); The Late Clara Beame (1963); A Pillar of Iron (1965); Testimony of Two Men (1968); Captains and the Kings (1973); Glory and Lightening (1974); (with Jess Stearn) The Romance of Atlantis (1975); Ceremony of the Innocent (1977); (with Stearn) I, Judas (1977); Bright Flows the River (1978); Answer as a Man (1981).
Taylor Caldwell's Scottish father Arthur, a commercial artist, moved his family from Manchester, England, to Buffalo, New York, in 1907, hoping to escape the increasing ethnic and religious diversity in England. He had a "strange antipathy for almost everyone but Scotsmen, Presbyterians and Caldwells," reported Current Biography in 1940, "and because in England his profession was full of Germans he brought his family to America." On the crossing, Caldwell was snubbed by first-class children but forbidden to play with those of the third class; her "first lesson in undemocracy," she noted.
Janet Taylor Caldwell, called Taylor by her family, was nine when she began writing fiction. Preferring writing to playing with others, she also illustrated her own stories, which she made into books. After their completion, she set these aside; they were later incinerated by her father to clear the home of clutter.
Caldwell's father did not believe in higher education for women, and she quit school at age 15 to begin working. Trained as a stenographer, she married at 19 and enlisted in the Naval Reserve where she served as a "yeomanette" (1918–19). By 1923, she was enrolled at the University of Buffalo and worked her way through night classes as a court reporter for the State Department of Labor (1923–24), and as
secretary to a board of special inquiry of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (1924–31), both in Buffalo. Following her graduation in 1931, she married her second husband, linguist Marcus Reback. Caldwell, who had one daughter with her first husband, had a second with Reback.
Beginning with Dynasty of Death in 1938, Caldwell became a popular romance novelist. She was also a founding member of the New York State Conservative Party, and her stories often reflected her conservative views. She and Reback, who advanced to an advisory position with Herbert Hoover, collaborated frequently as writers. Caldwell was often praised for her storytelling but more often criticized for her lack of style and tendency to overwrite. Several of Caldwell's novels became popular movies. Reback died in 1970. Caldwell lived in their Greenwich, Connecticut, home until her death in 1985.
Block, Maxine, ed. Current Biography 1940. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1940, pp. 137–138.
Buck, Claire, ed. The Bloomsbury Guide to Women's Literature. NY: Prentice Hall, 1992.
Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 28. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1984.
The Oxford Companion to American Literature. 5th ed. Oxford University Press, 1983.
Caldwell, Taylor. On Growing Up Tough. Devin-Adair, 1971.
Stearn, Jess. Search for a Soul: Taylor Caldwell's Psychic Lives. Doubleday, 1973.
——. In Search of Taylor Caldwell. NY: Stein and Day, 1981.
Crista Martin , Boston, Massachusetts