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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