John P. Marquand Biography


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

John Phillips Marquand was born in 1893, a relative of such respected New Englanders as Margaret Fuller and Edward Everett Hale. When his father lost his money in the panic of 1907 and had to resume his work as an engineer, however, Marquand became a poor relation. Although Marquand eventually worked his way to the top of New England society by dint of sheet effort, there was always a taint on his achievement. He attended Harvard University, majored in chemistry, and was graduated in 1915, but he was not selected for any of the important clubs and worked only on The Harvard Lampoon. After graduation, he married Christine Sedgwick of the family that edited The Atlantic Monthly, began to work as a magazine writer, and spent more than a decade perfecting his craft. Ultimately, he was one of the most skillful and highly paid fiction writers in the United States, but he was looked down on by his associates, who wanted him to write “serious” fiction.

The tension between what Marquand had worked to become and what society expected him to be was reflected in his personal life, which was unsettled. He divorced Christine Sedgwick after the birth of a son, John P. Marquand, Jr., and a daughter, Christine; he married Adelaide Hooker in 1937, had three children with her—Blanch Ferry Marquand, Timothy Fuller Marquand, and Elon Huntington Hooker Marquand—and divorced her in 1958. Marquand’s frequently unpleasant relations with women were mirrored in his last, valedictory novel, Women and Thomas Harrow (1958). Marquand died at home in his sleep in 1960.

The financial success of Marquand’s magazine stories and the Mr. Moto novels freed him to do the kind of writing he had always wanted to try—novels about a successful man who is nevertheless unhappy because he has had to make too many compromises or because he lives in a new world that he does not understand and that does not appreciate his accomplishments and values. In this vein, Marquand wrote The Late George Apley (1937), for which he won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, and followed it with other successful social novels—Wickford Point (1939), H. M. Pulham, Esquire (1941), B. F.’s Daughter (1946), Point of No Return (1949), Melville Goodwin, USA (1951), and Sincerely, Willis Wayde (1955)—several of which were made into plays and films.

John P. Marquand Biography

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

John Phillips Marquand was born in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 10, 1893. The history of his family reaches back into the precolonial world of the Puritans: he was a descendant on his mother’s side of Thomas and Joseph Dudley, early governors of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and he was a grand-nephew of Margaret Fuller. The Marquands, of Norman-French ancestry, emigrated from the Guernsey islands to New England in 1732, where they settled in Newburyport, north of Boston. Marquand came from a long line of shipbuilders, mariners, and Harvard men. During his early years, he lived in New York City, where his father made a comfortable living as a stockbroker. The family went broke during the Panic of 1907, and young Marquand was sent to live with two aunts and a great-aunt at the family home at Curzon’s Mill, Kent’s Island, west of Newburyport; his parents moved to the Panama Canal Zone when his father returned to a career in civil engineering.

Although he was unable to attend preparatory school, because of a lack of funds, Marquand did receive a scholarship to attend Harvard after he completed public high school. He felt keenly the class differences at Harvard and passed rather lonely years there devoting himself to reading and writing. With the exception of working on the Lampoon, he did not join any clubs.

After his graduation in 1915, Marquand went to work for the Boston Evening Transcript at fifteen dollars per week. During this time, he enlisted in a local battery of the Massachusetts National Guard, which was soon mobilized and sent to El Paso, Texas, for duty on the Mexican border. Originally mustered in as a private, he was sent in April, 1917, to Officers’ Training Camp at Plattsburg, New York, where he headed the class of candidates. After receiving his commission in August, Marquand was shipped overseas with the Fourth Army to join the Allied Expeditionary Force in France, where he fought with the 77th Field Artillery at Saint-Michel, at the Vesle River, and in the Argonne. He returned to the United States in November, 1918, and was demobilized as a captain. Marquand returned to journalism when he got a job with the magazine section of The New York Herald Tribune; he soon left, however, for a copywriting job in advertising with the J. Walter Thompson Agency.

In 1921, with four hundred dollars saved from his job, Marquand moved back to Curzon’s Mill to write a historical romance based on an early nineteenth century gentleman, Henry Shelton. Set in Newburyport, the novel, of little consequence now, was of considerable importance to Marquand. In the novel, he introduced a number of those large themes, such as the New England past and theprotagonist as a member of the upper class brought low by changing social and/or economic circumstances, which later provided such strong bonds among his novels. The acceptance of the novel for serialization by the Ladies’ Home Journal and its subsequent publication as a book by Scribner’s launched Marquand as a professional writer. In the same year, he sold stories to George Horace Lorimer of The Saturday Evening Post and to Ray Long of Cosmopolitan, beginning a long and profitable association with both periodicals.

On the proceeds from his first novel, Marquand traveled to Europe, where he became engaged to Christina Sedgwick, whose uncle was editor of The Atlantic and one of the literary arbiters of Boston. The couple was married on September 8, 1922, and moved to an old house on Beacon Hill in Cambridge, where they joined the social set. A son, John, Jr., was born in 1923 and a daughter, Christine, in 1927. Between 1921 and 1931, Marquand published five serials and fifty-nine short stories in the “slicks.” As he was to write later, it was a period of apprenticeship during which he learned the craft of writing fiction. His second book, Four of a Kind, appeared in 1923. In 1925, Marquand published two books set at least in part in Newburyport. The first, The Black Cargo, originally a serial, dealt with the romantic exploits of a Yankee clipper-ship captain and his adventures in the Pacific. The second was a historical biography of an eccentric New Englander, Lord Timothy Dexter of Newburyport, Mass., and proved to be of lasting interest to Marquand; a revised version of it was the last thing he published before his death.

In addition to the historical books, Marquand was also beginning to move toward the themes of his later and more important works. In Warning Hill, another serial published as a book in 1930, Marquand...

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John P. Marquand Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

John Phillips Marquand (mahr-KWAHND) is, according to many, the inheritor of the mantle of Sinclair Lewis as an attentive reporter of social customs, personal ambitions, and class structures in American society. Unlike Lewis, however, whose social satire is laid on with a heavy hand, Marquand presents his pictures of upper-class New England life with a clarity and simplicity that keep the reader from immediately sensing the bitterness of the novelist’s observations. Indeed, Marquand works a vein of good-mannered but tart social comment that can be found also in the novels of William Dean Howells and Ellen Glasgow.

Marquand was admirably equipped for the task to which he set himself in his fiction. He was born into a well-to-do family with New England connections; his great-aunt was Margaret Fuller, the transcendentalist. In Wickford Point and other novels he reflected the aura of tradition of his ancestral town of Newburyport, Massachusetts. Marquand’s youth was, however, not a financially secure one; his family lost money in the crash of 1907, and when Marquand attended Harvard University he was forced to rely on scholarships and the help of friends. As a result of feeling socially excluded Marquand learned to look at his chosen subject matter from both sides.

After college Marquand accumulated war experience on the Mexican border and in France, but he did not find this experience of danger and fear especially suggestive in a literary way. More stimulating were several years spent in an advertising agency in New York. After two years with the New York...

(The entire section is 651 words.)