TABLE OF CONTENTS


Descriptive Summary of the Collection

Administrative Information

Biography of Alice French (pseudonym: Octave Thanet)

Scope and Content of the Collection

Organization

Selected Search Terms

Container List

Series 1: Correspondence, ca. 1892-1932

Series 2: Works and Miscellaneous Material, 1878-1934

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Inventory of the Alice French Papers, 1871-1934


The Newberry Library
Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections
60 West Walton Street
Chicago, Illinois 60610-7324
USA
Phone: 312-255-3506
Fax: 312-255-3646
E-Mail: specialcolls@newberry.org
URL: http://www.newberry.org

Machine-readable finding aid encoded by Lisa Janssen, 2003.

©2000.


Descriptive Summary of the Collection

Creator Thanet, Octave, 1850-1934
Title Alice French Papers
Dates 1871-1934
Extent 4.3 llinear feet (7 boxes and 1 oversize box)
Abstract Correspondence, diaries, literary manuscripts, clippings and other miscellaneous material relating to Alice French, author of short stories, novels and essays, who wrote under the pseudonym Octave Thanet.
Language Materials are in English.
Repository Newberry Library, Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections
Collection Call Number Midwest MS Thanet
Collection Stack Location 3a 39 10

Administrative Information

Cite As

Alice French Papers, The Newberry Library, Chicago.

Provenance

Gift of Grace French Evans, 1951.

Processed by

Amy Nyholm, 1953; Virginia H. Smith, 2000.

Acknowledgements

This inventory was created with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this inventory do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Access

The Alice French Papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 5 folders at a time maximum (Priority II).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Alice French Papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

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Biography of Alice French (pseudonym: Octave Thanet)

American author, primarily of short stories, who published under the name Octave Thanet.

Alice French was born in New England in 1850, but grew up in Davenport, Iowa. A talented writer, she early found her metier in the genre of the short story, and because short fiction was immensely popular in the late nineteenth century she had no difficulty in finding an audience. Between 1887 and 1911, French was particularly prolific with nine collections of her stories gleaned from the periodicals that had been publishing her work since 1878, such as Century Magazine, Harper's Monthly, Scribner's Magazine and Atlantic Monthly. Although French wrote three novels, two volumes of non-fiction sketches of Arkansas plantation life and "American types" and numerous articles of social commentary, it was the short story upon which her reputation rests.

French might be described as a "local colorist," and she called herself a "realist," for she attempted to bring to life the lives and problems of the different people she observed around her in Iowa and on her Arkansas plantation. Interested in the social caste system, in her early writing she recorded dialect and explored regional themes. After the turn-of-the-century, she concentrated on domestic scenes and the lives of workers and women, centering on conflicts between personal and social responsibility. However, French was no progressive; her work shows an inherent superiority of the upper classes as she develops plots around industrial and labor problems, the effects of slavery and race relations, immigration, women suffrage and other societal matters.

By 1911 with the publication of Stories That End Well, French's popularity began to decline due to the emergence of naturalism in contemporary literature and a waning reader interest in local-color, somewhat over-dramatic, didactic tales that usually resolved in happy endings. She continued to be active in her friendships and in her public life, as she was much admired by many of her contemporaries. She was entertained by Teddy Roosevelt at the White House, assisted Hamlin Garland (for whom she had acted as a mentor) in founding the Society of Midland Authors in 1914, and was involved in the activities of the Octave Thanet Society at the University of Iowa in the 1920's and 1930's. Alice French died in 1934.

Although Alice French is not among the first rank of American authors, she should be remembered for her authentic depictions of the language, domestic life, social issues and personal relationships of a particular region and time.

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Scope and Content of the Collection

The Alice French Papers consist of one box of correspondence, primarily incoming; six boxes of works and miscellaneous material, including twelve diaries written between 1905 and 1931; two reels of microfilm; and an oversize container. The letters are from friends and family members, publishers, admiring fans and literary and/or social associations. Besides the diaries recording daily activities, there are typescripts of unpublished fiction and several short pieces, speeches and articles. There is a generous collection of reviews of her work.

Narrative descriptions of the subject matter, types of material, and arrangement of each series are available through the organization section of the finding aid.

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Organization

Papers are organized in the following series:

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Selected Search Terms

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Newberry Library's public catalog. Researchers desiring additional materials on a particular topic should search the catalog using these headings.

Names

  • Barton, Clara, 1821-1912
  • Carnegie, Andrew, 1835-1919
  • Chatfield-Taylor, Rose
  • Deland, Margaret Wade Campbell, 1857-1945
  • Derby, Ethel Roosevelt
  • Fejervary, Celestine
  • Ficke, Arthur Davison, 1883-1945
  • Field, Eugene, 1850-1895
  • Field, Marshall, 1834-1906
  • Fields, Annie, 1834-1915
  • Garland, Hamlin, 1860-1940
  • Harland, Marion, 1830-1922
  • Higginson, Thomas Wentworth, 1823-1911
  • Howells, Mildred, b. 1872
  • Howells, William Dean, 1837-1920
  • Jewett, Sarah Orne, 1849-1909
  • Repplier, Agnes, 1855-1950
  • Roosevelt, Edith Kermit Carow, 1861-1948
  • Roosevelt, Theodore, 1858-1919
  • Schlesinger, Arthur Meier, 1888-1965
  • Tarbell, Ida M. (Ida Minerva), 1857-1944
  • Thanet, Octave, 1850-1934
  • White, William Allen, 1868-1944

Subjects

  • American fiction -- Women authors
  • Correspondence -- 1901-1950
  • Correspondence -- 1951-1900
  • Diaries -- 1901-1950
  • Manuscripts, American--Arkansas
  • Manuscripts, American--Iowa
  • Regionalism in literature
  • Short stories, American -- Women authors
  • Women authors, American -- Middle West
  • Women authors, American -- Southern States

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Container List

Series 1: Correspondence, ca. 1892-1932

Outgoing correspondence consists of six letters of Alice French, four to her sister and two to acquaintances. The bulk of letters are incoming, among the correspondents are: Clara Barton (1), Andrew Carnegie (1), Rose Chatfield-Taylor (1), Margaret Deland (5), Ethel Roosevelt Derby (3), Celestine Fejervary (14), Arthur Davison Ficke (1), Eugene Field (1), Marshall Field (2), Annie Fields (1), Hamlin Garland (3), Thomas Wentworth Higginson (2), Mildred Howells (4), William Dean Howells (1), Sarah Orne Jewett (4), Agnes Repplier (6), Edith Kermit Roosevelt (12, including a secretary's letter), Theodore Roosevelt (telegram), Arthur M. Schlesinger (1), Ida M. Tarbell (1), Mary Virginia Terhune (pseudonym: Marion Harland) (3), William A. White (1).
Arranged alphabetically.

Box Folder Contents
1 1 A
1 2 Ba - Bo
1 3 Br - Bu
1 4 C
1 5 D
1 6 E
1 7 Fa - Fe
1 8 Fi - Fr
1 9 French, Alice
1 10 G
1 11 Ha - Hi
1 12 Ho - Hu
1 13 J
1 14 K - L
1 15 M
1 16 N - P
1 17 Re - Ri
1 18 Ro
1 19 Sa - Se
1 20 Si - St
1 21 T
1 22 Wa - Wh
1 23 Wi - Wo
1 24 Y
1 25 Unknown Writers

Series 2: Works and Miscellaneous Material, 1878-1934

The bulk of the Alice French Papers consists of five boxes of typescripts of her published and unpublished work, diaries, clippings, numerous reviews of her writings, a sketchbook, and several speeches. The diaries record, sometimes intermittently, activities and observations regarding social engagements, visits with friends, family doings, the weather and other minutiae of daily life. Seven diaries cover 1905-1918 and the rest date 1922, 1923, 1926 and 1931. In addition, there is a small journal kept on a European journey taken with Andrew Carnegie and his party in 1881. The literary manuscripts include a typescript of her first published story, "Hugo's Waiting," (1871), several variants of an unpublished work called The Coming of Abdallah, several variants of a mystery novel to be titled either Footsteps of Fear, Footprints of Fear or Mystery of the Red Hand, and miscellaneous fragments of both stories and articles. There are several speeches and a great many newspaper reviews. Also, an oversize ledger book covering the years 1893 to 1898, which contains the following: lists of articles and stories sent to publishers; expenses and money received; engagements; books received; names of papers and magazines containing reviews; lists of literary correspondents; clippings and a few other miscellaneous items. Included in the collection are two reels of microfilm: an unpublished biography by Ruth Tucker (ca. 1940) and a copy of an 1871 diary of her mother, Frances Morton French. The originals of the microfilms were returned in 1951 to Grace F. Evans, French's niece and the donor of the papers.
Arranged alphabetically by title or type of material.

Box Folder Contents
2 26-43 A - C
3 44-49 Diaries, 1905-1918
4 50 - 55 Diaries, (fragment), 1918
5 56-67 F - K
6 68-93 M - Z
7 Microfilms
8 Oversize: "Work Record and Acts. [Accounts] for 1894-5," 1894-1895