From early childhood, Marguerite Vivian Young believed she was destined to be a writer. She was right: Her long career was devoted to writing, as author, editor, and teacher. While she published few books during her lifetime, the sheer mass of two of them clearly illustrates her passion for writing. Although many now agree that Young’s books were received less enthusiastically than they deserved, they nonetheless earned for her a respected position within the body of twentieth century American writers.
Young’s parents divorced when she was three, an event both disruptive and momentous in her life. Marguerite and her younger sister were then raised by their maternal grandmother but remained in contact with their parents and stepparents. Their grandmother helped instill in young Marguerite a love of literature and the desire to express herself creatively. With her grandmother’s support and encouragement, Young read well and widely as a child and young adult, feasting on the works of William Makepeace Thackeray, George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Honoré de Balzac, and other classic English and French writers. After a stroke altered her mental state, Young’s grandmother sometimes spoke delusively about angels and other such creatures, a recurrent theme throughout some of Young’s later works.
With an English and French major and a criminology minor, Young earned a B.A. from Butler University in Indianapolis in 1930. She helped edit the university’s poetry publication (The Cocoon) and literary magazine (The Tower). Shortly after graduation, she experienced her first published success with the inclusion of four poems in Chicago’s Poetry: A Magazine of Verse. After earning her M.A. from the University of Chicago in 1936 with a focus on epic, Elizabethan, and Jacobean literature, Young did some postgraduate work at the University of Iowa but never completed the degree. Returning to Indianapolis after a brief period of living in Kentucky, she accepted a position teaching high school English in her hometown.
The year 1937 saw the publication of Young’s first volume of poetry, Prismatic Ground; it was also the year she began her fascination with a topic that would fuel her third book. During a visit with her mother and...
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