Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Noted American Novelist Margaret Deland Attended Bolton Priory School in Pelham Manor

Margaretya Wade Campbell Deland (known as Margaret and Maggie) was a noted American novelist, short story author, and poet who began writing in the last quarter of the 19th century.  Her works, generally, are considered part of the literary realism movement.  

Deland first gained fame and acclaim with her novel John Ward, Preacher published in 1888.  The novel became a national best-seller and was an indictment of Calvinism.  

Deland was born Margaretya Wade Campbell in Allegheny, Pennsylvania on February 23, 1857.  Her mother died due to complications during her birth.  Tragically, her father died two weeks later.  She was placed in the care of an aunt and uncle named Lois Wade Blake and Benjamin Campbell Blake.  Margaret married Lorin Fuller Deland on May 12, 1880.  Deland published at least eighteen novels between 1888 and 1932.  Between 1893 and 1935 she published an additional nine short story collections.  She also published an autobiography in two volumes published in 1935 and 1941.

Margaret Deland attended Pelham Priory in Pelham Manor in 1874.  She attended Cooper Union in New York City in 1875 and, thereafter, taught drawing briefly at what is now Hunter College.  After her marriage to Lorin Fuller Deland, the couple settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts and summered in Kennebunkport, Maine, on their estate known as "Graywood."  

In 1926 Deland was elected to the National Society of Arts and Letters.  She received the Legion of Honor from the French Government for relief work she performed in France during World War I.  Deland died at the age of 87 in Boston, Massachusetts on January 13, 1945.  

Some of Deland's papers are held by the University of New England.  See Margaret Wade Campbell Deland Collection, Maine Women Writers Collection, University of New England, Portland Maine, description available at http://www.une.edu/mwwc/research/featuredwriters/delandm.cfm (visited May 7, 2014).  

Margaret Deland in 1894.
Source:  Wikimedia Commons, from
Stedman, Edmund C. & Hutchinson, Ellen M., eds., A Library
of American Literature:  From the Earliest Settlement to the Present
Time, Vol. XI, p. 244 (NY, NY:  Charles L. Webster & Co., 1894).

As a young woman, Margaret Deland (known as Maggie Campbell) attended the school overseen by Nanette and Adele Bolton of Bolton Priory in Pelham Manor.  She attended the school in 1874.  Her days at the Bolton Priory School (also called "Pelham Priory") turned out to be quite formative.  Much has been written of her time there.   

I have written before of Margaret Deland's attendance at the Priory School.  See Fri., Mar. 2, 2007:  A Brief Account by American Author Margaret Deland of Her Education at Pelham Priory in the 19th Century.  

Margaret Deland says in the second volume of her autobiography that she was sent away to Pelham Priory "to recover from a broken heart."  Deland, Margaret, Golden Yesterdays:  An Adventure in Living Which Spanned Five Vivid Decades, Vol. 2, p. 23 (NY, NY:  Harper, 1941).  Clearly Deland was a young rebel, particularly for a young woman in the 19th century. Her "broken heart" resulted when it was discovered that, at the tender age of sixteen, she had become engaged to marry a thirty-eight-year-old neighbor.  Margaret's aunt promptly bundled her up and shipped her off to Pelham Priory.  See Morse-Harding, Chloe, Margaret Deland, Boston Athenaeum, available at https://www.bostonathenaeum.org/library/book-recommendations/athenaeum-authors/margaret-deland (visited May 7, 2014). 

Margaret Deland once was asked about the influence "college life" had on her intellectual development.  She replied:

'When I was seventeen I went to Pelham Priory to boarding school -- a delightful old school kept by English ladies.  In those days the girls had no examinations, and they studied or not, as they wanted to. They were instructed in deportment and religion, to respect their elders and betters, to enter and leave the room with dignity, to fear God, and to disregard man as much as possible, for, as the housekeeper remarked to me once, 'The hactions of the young ladies in regard to young gentlemen are so hexceedingly silly.'  Other things were incidental, and might or might not be acquired, according to the inclination of the pupils. My inclination, I suppose, was neither for religion nor deportment, and certainly not for the ordinary branches of education. The result is that I am a very ill-educated woman to-day. After this episode I studied at the Cooper Institute for a year, and then taught mechanical and industrial drawing at the New York Normal College.'"

Source:  MARGARET DELAND. -- The Genesis of Her Books and Her Methods of Work, NY Times, Apr. 19, 1902.  See also Halsey, Francis Whiting, ed., Women Authors of Our Day in Their Homes - Personal Descriptions & Interviews, p. 56 (NY, NY: James Pott & Company 1903) (same text).

 Margaret Deland as a Young Woman.
Source:  In Woman's Realm:  MARGARET DELAND --
The Truth About "John Ward, Preacher" -- 
Her Own Peculiar Philanthropy, The Salt Lake Herald,
Jan. 22, 1893, p. 16, cols. 1-5.

Home of Margaret Deland and Her Husband that Stood
On the "Left Hand Side of Mount Vernon Street In Boston,
And at the Corner of a Queer Little Alley Which Enters At
Chestnut Avenue and Emerges at Malcolm Street."
Source:  In Woman's Realm:  MARGARET DELAND --
The Truth About "John Ward, Preacher" --
Her Own Peculiar Philanthropy, The Salt Lake Herald,
Jan. 22, 1893, p. 16, cols. 1-5.

Young Maggie clearly found her time at Pelham Priory to be stifling.  Indeed, she once got into trouble for running in a hallway.  As one account notes, "it became clear that there was not nearly as much freedom at Pelham Priory as there had been back at the family home" and "[a]fter a year of this dreary boarding school existence, Miss Campbell finally won family permission, in 1875, to live in New York City and study design at the Cooper Union."  Branton, Harriet, Margaret Deland:  Maple Grove Author Made Impact on Development of American Novel, Observer-Reporter, Jul. 16, 1986, Section C, p. C-1, col. 2. 

A recent book on Margaret Deland's life that I highly recommend describes Deland's time at Pelham Priory.  I have quoted an excerpt below, followed by a citation to the source and a link for those who might wish to purchase the book to learn about Deland's life.

"There can be no doubt that the culture at the Priory greatly influenced Maggie at a crucial point in her overall development.  Margaret later told of 'religious teaching, not only a beauty too deep for mere Reason, but also (though I did not, of course, appreciate it then) of a spiritual reasonableness, for which I am grateful now.'  She told how the elegant, dignified Miss Nanette conducted the Sunday collect class, seated in a high-backed, carved teakwood chair, dressed in a wide-skirted, black silk gown.  Both Sunday services and most of the weekday classes were held in the large central hall that had once been used as the local church.  It was later called the Armory, and Margaret described that room:

. . . wainscoated to the ceiling; the fireplace, with seats hollowed into the vast, sooty chimney stack; the old suits of armor along the wall; the casements of leaded glass opening out against ivy and blossoming honeysuckle, each with the Bolton Arms, in color, on its clear glass square. Beautiful windows!--

*     *     *

In addition to the constant emphasis upon religion and deportment, the girls studied English, French, German, Latin, art, algebra, and other academic subjects.  When classes met in the Armory, teacher and students sat around one extremely large table.  Most of the teachers were excellent, but Maggie thought the one who taught English was utterly uninspiring.  She was surprised, however, when that teacher had students read, and even memorize, some of Lord Byron's work.  Maggie had previously been informed that 'no lady ever reads Lord Byron,' so she was astonished at such openness.  

Some classes such as art, were held in separate rooms.  Margaret described the art teacher, Monsieur Rondell, as 'superbly handsome, with a great mane of snow-white hair, and flashing black eyes.'  She thought he was bored with instructing, but added that 'if any of his pupils had real ability, he was ruthlessly and creatively critical . . . 

[T]wo important rooms were just off the Armory, one Miss Nanette's office, the other a study room presided over by Miss Adele.  She monitored the class schedule, told the students when they should attend recitations, and the rest of the time watched their studying.  In the study room, the girls sat at tables that were pushed against the walls.  The books they used were fastened by long cords to the walls, and were not allowed to be removed from that room.  There were cabinets along the walls, filled with nature specimens ranging from rocks and dried plants to stuffed animals and birds.  The schedule of classes and study time ran continuously from 9 A.M. until 5 P.M., except for the noontime meal. . . . 

The stress upon proper ladylike decorum at the Priory placed many other constraints upon Maggie.  For example, she was reprimanded by Miss Bolton after having been seen to run in the hall.  Her reason, trying to catch up with the housekeeper, to say that her roommate was ill and wished to see her, carried no weight whatever with the Headmistress.  Margaret described part of her reprimand interview:

Miss Bolton looked at me sadly.  'Maggie,' she said, 'I am sure you are aware that it was an indecorum?  Your dear Mama would have been grieved at such unladylike behavior.  And what would your sainted grandfather, Major Wade -- now in heaven -- say, if he had seen you running across the schoolroom floor!'

The effect of such views upon Maggie, who was used to running freely in the fields and orchards at Maple Grove, is not hard to imagine, but the comments Margaret made about the incident were reserved. . . . 

Although Maggie respected the Misses Bolton, and learned much that was valuable from them, the lasting effect of her time at the Priory was not what the good ladies would have desired.  In Margaret's later writings, the extremes to which manners, customs, and the fine points of ladyhood were carried drew sharp criticism.  But Maggie also adopted and retained many of the qualities then essential to the nineteenth century image of the proper, elite lady's role.  The refinement that she absorbed at the Priory later proved invaluable when she faced Boston's high society and career demands."

Source:  Filer, Ruth Maxa, Margaret Deland:  Writing Toward Insight, pp. 64-67 (BalboaPress, Mar. 4, 2014), available via Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/Margaret-Deland-Writing-Toward-Insight/dp/1452591172/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1399471906&sr=1-1&keywords=%22Margaret+Deland+Writing+Toward+Insight%22


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At 11:19 PM, Blogger Snowbrush said...

Thank you for the excellent post.

I think I spotted an error. According to Ruth Maxa Filer’s wonderful biography, which you referenced, (see page 41) her birth father died March 13, 1866, a few weeks after Margaret turned nine. According to the same book (page 10) Margaret’s mother died on March 6, 1857, from complications related to Margaret’s birth on February 23.


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