Who is Marguerite Young?

A Web Site dedicated to the living legacy of

Marguerite Vivian Young, American author, 1908-1995

Marguerite Vivian Young

(Click on photos to link to photo gallery)

Marguerite Young upon completion of Miss MacIntosh My Darling

She had cried outside many gates of stillness where only her own voice had cried back to her, bouncing like the echo, little doubt, or like a ball, and sometimes she had heard that echo of which there had been no voice as there had been no shadow of her, and she had knocked at many doors which had not opened to her knocking, and some said that she was only the shadow and thus did not recognize herself, for the shadow knew not the substance although the substance knew the shadow, and some said that there had never been a lady but this lady who was lost and wandering through mountain storms where wandered also the sails of yachts white as that snow through which they wandered from pole to pole -- but how much more successful she had been in her failure than if only one door had opened to her knock. She had not been committed to one destiny. Who heard the knock of her dead heart? Success would have limited her as if with a golden compass had been drawn an arc omitting all but her path between two stars, but failure left many questions unanswered, or so it seemed to the old lawyer in that still house where he had been of two opinions, of two minds as to the door -- (MMMD, 652)


For the past year, ArtOnAir has been expanding their digital archives of WBAI's 1976-1977 Radio Broadcast series "The Reading Experiment" to include dramatic readings from Miss MacIntosh, My Darling. Most recent additions include Chapter 61, John Ford Noonan's rendition of "Mr. Spitzer Meets the Old Frog Musician"; Chapter 29, Michael Wager's "The Butterflies"; and Chapter 64, "The Bald Childhood of Miss MacIntosh" read by Osceola Archer. All readings are underscored with soundscapes and music by artist Rob Wynne. The digital archive has grown to such an extent that ArtOnAir has dedicated a new page to house the collection of Miss MacIntosh My Darling readings.

To enjoy the complete series, here is a link: http://artonair.org/series/marguerite-young-miss-macintosh-my-darling

Many thanks to David Weinstein, Managing Director, the staff at ArtOnAir, and to Charles Ruas for his invaluable help and guidance restoring the series.

The reel-to-reel and cassette tapes were archived in the Marguerite Young Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The Library successfully retrieved and converted the originals to a digital format so that new generations can discover and appreciate the genius of Marguerite Young.

Click on to any of the segments below to access broadcasts of the original "Reading Experiment" dedicated to Marguerite Young.

Charles Ruas Interviews Marguerite Young

This program introduces the novel Miss MacIntosh, My Darling by author Marguerite Young (1908-1995). This under-recognized masterpiece of American literature was read on the air over the course of a year, as part of Charles Ruas' radio Reading Experiment of 1976-77. In similar form to the Angel in the Forest segment, Anaïs Nin provides a poetic introduction for the author. Charles Ruas then conducts an intimate and revealing interview with Marguerite Young in the WBAI studio. Often compared to James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, Young's novel resonates with unique and poignant observations of American culture, in an epic and surrealist poetic prose. It took Young eighteen years of work to complete this dense, two volume novel.

Charles Ruas Interviews Anaïs Nin

In this introductory segment to the newly restored radio series on the life and work of author Marguerite Young, we hear the great Anaïs Nin with Charles Ruas in the WBAI studios in 1976. Nin poetically describes the enigmatic, iconoclastic writer and then, with Ruas and Joan Schwartz, analyzes one of Young's masterworks, the non-fiction utopian study, Angel in the Forest.

Miss MacIntosh, My Darling Chapter 1

Author and poet Doris Dana reads a portrait of Marguerite Young, based on an article published in Changes magazine by Erica Duncan. Actress Betty Lou Holland then reads of Chapter 1 of Miss MacIntosh, My Darling.

Miss MacIntosh, My Darling Chapter 2

Marian Seldes reads Chapter 2 of Miss MacIntosh, My Darling. Seldes is a celebrated stage, film, radio and television actress whose career spanned over six decades, and whose talents elected her to the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 1995 and awarded her the Tony Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010.

As new chapter readings are featured and added to the ArtOnAir archives, they can be located at the Charles Ruas site.

An original production of the play Harp Song for a Radical was performed by students at the University of Washington Meany Theater, Seattle, WA, in the fall of 2011. According to Director Jeffrey Fracé, the success of the show generated audience interest in the labor movement, current politics, and the work of Marguerite Young. There are good possibilities that the show will re-open in 2013. The ensemble was invited to perform the play at the 2012 Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. As some company members already had contracts to do other shows this summer, the hope is to perform the play at the 2013 Fringe Festival and also in a professional venue in Seattle. See a trailer to the production at http://vimeo.com/35174038

August 26, 2012, Co-Celebrate Marguerite Young's self-proclaimed birthday on Wayne McEvilly's Twitter site http://twitter.com/waynemcevilly. See Wayne's letter from Marguerite when she was approaching her 65th birthday, and visit the other interesting postings about Marguerite Young and Anaïs Nin on his blogspot.

Click here to hear the "Miss MacIntosh My Darling" song by Andrew Bunney, Australian songwriter. To listen to this audio clip as well as the audio clips of Marguerite Young reading from Miss MacIntosh My Darling (click on Harp icons below), you will need an mp3 player. Lyrics to the song by Andrew Bunney are posted in the MESSAGE BOARD ARCHIVE, 02 October 2001.

Thanks to Alan Frank in California who e-mailed the question to the Marguerite Young website that prompted the effort to access the Reading Series for online listeners.

Sent: Aug 19, 2010 10:36 AM
Subject: WBAI readings

I read that Charles Ruas produced some readings from MMMD with many readers and music which was on WBAI radio years ago. Was that production recorded and could I get my hands on that or is it archived online somewhere?

Alan Frank.

Charles Ruas' 1977 interview with Marguerite Young published in The Paris Review can be accessed online The Art of Fiction No. 66. This interview concentrates on her writing, both Angel in the Forest and Miss Macintosh My Darling.

Steven Moore has written a magnus opus, The Novel, An Alternative History of the Novel, published by Continuum Press in April 2010. Marguerite Young gets due praise in his account of 20th century novelists. Moore's book also gets rave reviews. See Alberto Manguel's Review of Steven Moore's The Novel, An Alternative History of the Novel in the Washington Post, August 22, 2010.

On the first page of the Message Board Archive you will find Steven's account of his publishing relationship with Marguerite Young when he was working for Dalkey Archive Press in the late 1980's and 1990's.

Two articles about Marguerite Young can be found in the Summer 2000 issue of The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Vol. XX, no.2. One is an overview essay on the life and work of Marguerite Young by Constance Eichenlaub, and the second is a biographical memoir by Bruce Kellner. The journal can be ordered online. Bruce Kellner's memoir of Marguerite Young is also included in a collection entitled Kiss Me Again: An Invitation to a Group of Noble Dames, published by Turtle Point Press.

The 1989 issue of The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Vol. 9, is devoted to Marguerite Young, Kathy Acker, and Christine Brooke-Rose.

A Wikipedia site about Marguerite Young can be accessed here Marguerite Young.


The audio portions of this web site have been completed in part with the support of the Center for Advanced Research Technology in the Arts and Humanities (CARTAH) at the University of Washington. Thanks to the American Audio Prose Library for permission to use audio portions.

Contact Webmaster at gobetween@cableone.net with questions, suggestions, and contributions to this growing website.

Thanks to Dalkey Archive Press for permission to quote passages from Miss MacIntosh My Darling.


You may be familiar with the names of some of the major women authors of American literature in this century: Marianne Moore, Anaïs Nin, Gertrude Stein, Djuna Barnes, Mari Sandoz, Carson McCullers - but you may not be familiar with the name of Marguerite Young, a friend and in some cases a mentor of these renowned writers. Flannery O'Connor, a student of one of Young's protegés, Paul Griffith, referred to her as her "dearest grand-mére." But Young's work is not included in anthologies of American Literature, even those that claim to include the work of disenfranchised women and minority-group writers. For those who have read her work and appreciate the munificence of her literary talent, she is the heir apparent to Hermann Melville, Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, an American James Joyce - a feminine Homeric Muse whose words are the notes of a magnificent symphony. Why has Young's beautiful poetic prose not received wide acknowledgement, her name not been entered into the canon of American Literature?

When I first read Young's major epic, Miss MacIntosh My Darling (1965), I was astonished, overtaken with the beauty and mystery of her words. I tried to get in touch with her because I felt the excitement of a master storyteller in our midst: but I was two years too late. She had died November 17, 1995, in Indianapolis, Indiana, her birthplace (August 26, 1908), close to those who loved her. A memorial service was held by her Greenwich Village friends and associates, many of them students of her popular writing classes at the New School of Social Research where she had taught frequently for over thirty years.

After the publication of Miss MacIntosh, as she realized that renown during her lifetime was perhaps an unrealizable dream, Young went into semi-seclusion, living solely for her writing and teaching. Young labored until the very end of her life on her final opus, a biographical account of the life and times of Eugene Debs, American Socialist, train porter and union organizer. Although she had originally hoped to complete three volumes, she was able to finish only volume one of her intended project which was no less than a full-scale treatment of 19th century utopian thought and the founding of the Socialist movement in this country. Alfred A. Knopf Publishing House (now affiliated with Random House, Inc.) purchased the 1750-page manuscript of Volume One in 1992. The manuscript, now entitled Harp Song for a Radical: The Life and Times of Eugene Victor Debs, was finally published in September, 1999.

A writer of epic prose cannot hope to be compensated adequately for a quarter century of labor. Young's first epic, Miss MacIntosh, took eighteen years of work, and reaped only brief acclaim. Young deserves more than to be remembered as the "most famous neglected novelist of our time" (Dudar, 20). It is important to record the memories of those individuals still living who knew her. Because she made her living as a teacher of other writers, she touched hundreds if not thousands of individuals. If you are one of those individuals, this web site is a medium whereby you can share your memories and impressions of Young with others who knew her, or those who would like to have known her. If you knew her, how would you like her to be remembered? What are some of your favorite anecdotes about Young? Please contribute if you can, by sending recollections to Connie Eichenlaub at Webmaster address. Your stories, vignettes, even the briefest of impressions will contribute to Young's legacy. Check the MESSAGE BOARD ARCHIVE for the stories collected thus far.


Marguerite Vivian YoungBirthdate: 08/26/08. Young's childhood was both troubled and fantastic. Her mother and father separated when she was three, leaving Marguerite and a younger sister to be raised by her maternal grandmother, Marguerite Herron Knight, who nurtured Marguerite's imagination and literary education. Marguerite's mother, always absent, was said to be a beautiful women who had many husbands. Her father was a descendant of Brigham Young. The ancestry on her mother's side was French Huguenot (William Sublette) as well as Scottish (John Knox). Marguerite's grandmother became a stroke victim during Young's adolescence, and both she and her sister bore the brunt of caring for an old woman who lived somewhere between life and death. In her grandmother's "poetic and cosmic" semi-hallucinatory state she would speak of angels in the house and other unearthly creatures (Ruas, 97). So it is no surprise that one of Young's earliest poems, written at age 17, was dedicated to her grandmother.

At age 22, Young graduates from Butler University, Indiana with a BA in English and French in 1930, and publishes her poetry for the first time in Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, Vol. 36, edited by Harriet Monroe in Chicago. These first poems are "Ballad-Loving" (written about her grandmother), "Lot's Wife," "A Girl's Song," "Recurring." In this same volume appear four poems of Marya Zaturensky, whose husband worked with Young on the journal Tiger's Eye in the late 1940's, started by her Chicago friends John and Ruth Stephan (heiress of the Walgreen Estate). Ruth Stephan, founder of the Poetry Centers in Tuscon, Arizona and Austin, Texas remained a life-long friend of Young's.

In 1936 Young receives her MA from the University of Chicago, having studied epic and Elizabethan and Jacobean literature with Robert Morrs Lovett, Ronald S. Crane, and T. V. Smith. Her thesis is about the birds and beasts of Euphues and His England. She lives for awhile in Shelbyville, Kentucky, where she writes poetry in the graveyards.

Young's first volume of poetry, Prismatic Ground, is published in 1937 by the MacMillan Co., New York. If you have this volume of poetry, or find it in a used bookstore, hang onto it as it is very hard to find. Young continued to live in Indianapolis, teaching English at Shortridge High School. Having been invited by her mother and step-father to visit them in New Harmony, Indiana, where they owned a motion picture business, Marguerite became fascinated with the history of Utopian communities established there in the early 19th century. Young states in a 1985 interview (Ruas, p. 101) that she lived in New Harmony "for seven years off and on and gradually began to write about it." Also see the account of this period in New Harmony in a 1988 interview done by Miriam Fuchs and Ellen Friedman, pp. 148-49. She begins her poetic history of two Utopian communities, the Rappites, and the Owenites, as a series of sixty ballads, and then converts this to blank verse, writing at night and teaching during the day.

Young studies for her doctorate in philosophy and English at the University of Iowa, and becomes a candidate in 1940. In 1941 she continues to work on her doctorate while teaching at Indiana University for the Indiana Writer's Conference in addition to teaching at Shortridge High School. In 1942 she is awarded a lectureship in the department of English at the University of Iowa and receives a creative writing fellowship at the University's Writer's Workshop. One of her professors, Austin Warren, gives her name to a talent scout from Reynal & Hitchcock of New York, and in 1943 she submits to Mark Van Doren, an editor for Reynal & Hitchcock, manuscripts for a second volume of poetry, Moderate Fable (some of these poems had already been published in the Southern Review, 1942 Spring), and her final prose version of Angel in the Forest: A Fairy Tale of Two Utopias. Both mansucripts are accepted for publication. With the financial assistance of an AAUW Kathryn McHale Fellowship, Marguerite is able to move to New York City and finish her novel, hoping to make her living as a writer. She develops her prose style, and embraces the novel as the "epic of modernity" (Ruas, 1985, p. 103).

Marguerite Vivian YoungYoung's first work of fiction is published in 1943 in American Prefaces, a short story entitled "Dead Women" (reprinted in Inviting the Muses, 1994, by Dalkey Archive Press). Other work quickly follows. Young's short story "Old James" is included in the 1944 collection of O. Henry Memorial Award Prize Stories (Garden City, NY: Doubleday). Moderate Fable is published in 1944, and wins the 1945 American Academy of Arts and Letters Award. That same year she also receives a National Institute of Arts and Letters Award. Her first work of prose, Angel in the Forest is published in 1945. She submits a draft of what will become Miss MacIntosh to Maxwell Perkins at Scribner's, who had been Thomas Wolfe's editor. She is given a contract for her first novel. In 1945 she coedits with Henry Miller the Conscientious Objector. She is also one of the founding fiction editors for The Tiger's Eye, and in 1947 selects for the journal's first issue "The Sealed Room" by Anaïs Nin.

Marguerite Vivian YoungIn the summers of 1946 (05/02-07/27) and 1947 (05/19-07/26) Young is invited to join the literary guests at Yaddo, an artists' colony in Saratoga Springs, New York. There she meets Truman Capote and Carson McCullers in addition to Newton Arvin, Leo Lerman, Jerre Mangione, Agnes Smedley, Louise Talma, Ulysses Kay, Robert Lowell, and Theodore Roethke. In 1947 Burroughs Mitchell becomes the new editor of MMMD upon Maxwell Perkins' death. Starting in the 40's and 50's and continuing through the 70's, she reviews books and writes regularly for Flair, Vogue, Mademoiselle, The New York Times, New York Herald Tribune, the Chicago Sun, Washington Post Book World, Western Review, Literary Review, Nation, Harper's Bazaar, New World Writing, the Kenyon Review, Partisan Review, Sewanee Review, New Directions, New York Times Book Review, and others.

In 1948 Young receives the Guggenheim Foundation award, and the Newberry Library award in 1951. In 1952 Young takes a break from the New York scene and travels to Rome, continuing her travels throughout England and the Continent for two years. She moves to Iowa upon her return in 1954, and receives a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship to complete MMMD. She teaches at the University of Iowa Writers Workshop 1954-57, where she is teacher and mentor to John Gardner among many others.

Young moves back to New York in 1958, and begins teaching at the New School of Social Research and Columbia University. For two years, 1960-62, she teaches at Fairleigh Dickenson while living in New York. From 1966-1977 she teaches periodically at Fordham University, and from 1971-77 she teaches periodically at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. From 1977-92 she teaches primarily at the New School of Social Research.

1965 is the first publication date of Miss MacIntosh, My Darling by Scribner's. Angel in the Forest is reprinted by Scribner's with an introduction by Mark Van Doren in 1966. Peter Owen in London publishes both Angel in the Forest, and Miss MacIntosh, My Darling (one volume), also in 1966.

In 1966 Young continues with a writing project which she had begun before writing MMMD, a biography of Indiana poet, James Whitcomb Riley. As she does further research into his friendship with Eugene V. Debs, she decides to change the book's focus to the life of Debs. She carries on for the next twenty-five years what eventually becomes a vast amount of research material on both historical figures.

The journal Under The Sign of Pisces, co-edited by Anaïs Nin, dedicates an issue to Marguerite Young in Fall of 1974. Charles Ruas writes a short review of MMMD for this issue; other contributors are Erika Duncan, Leslie B. Tanner, Richard Centing, Honey Rovit. WBAI Radio broadcasts a program about Young, and passages from MMMD are read aloud by well-known Broadway actors; Charles Ruas is the director of the radio series. The Diary of Anaïs Nin 1955-1966 published in 1976 includes references to Nin's friendship with Young.

Before her death in 1977, Anaïs Nin persuaded Harcourt Brace Jovanovich to buy paperback rights to MMMD, and 10,000 copies are printed in 1979; Anaïs Nin also wrote the preface to this edition. In 1983 Young is celebrated in St. Louis at the annual meeting of the Associated Writing Programs (AWP) for a lifetime of achievement, shamefully neglected. At the conference she meets R. Eric Staley, whose account of his frustrated efforts to gather a renowned group of her literary peers and friends for a celebration program is recounted in chapter one of his 1993 dissertation, "No Landscape but the Soul's: A Critical Study of the Work of Marguerite Young." Young first asked Staley to help edit her Debs manuscript. She had always projected that the work would require three volumes, Vol. I entitled Prelude in the Golden Key: The Life and Times of Eugene Victor Debs, Vol. II Cloud Wreck, Water Wreck, Star Wreck, Earth Wreck, and Vol. III Harp Song for a Radical: The Life and Times of Eugene Victor Debs. However, she was never able to complete more than Volume One, which totalled 2,400 pages at this time. Staley was unable to take on the task, and Charles Ruas was hired in the fall of 1994 by Knopf Publishing to edit the manuscript. The manuscript of the Debs biography, entitled Harp Song for a Radical: The Life and Times of Eugene Victor Debs, was published in fall of 1999.

In 1985, the 20th anniversary of MMMD's first publication, there is a renewed interest in Young's work. Charles Ruas and Erika Duncan republish earlier interviews with Young. A 1989 issue of Dalkey Archive Press' literary journal, the Review of Contemporary Fiction, Vol. 9, is devoted to Marguerite Young, Kathy Acker, and Christine Brooke-Rose. Dalkey Archive Press, with the guidance and enthusiasm of publisher Steven Moore, releases a new paperback edition of MMMD in 1993. A new edition of Angel in the Forest is published in August 1994. Also in 1994 Dalkey Press publishes Young's collection of essays and short fiction, entitled Inviting the Muses: Stories/Essays/Reviews, in addition to a volume of tributes entitled Marguerite Young, Our Darling, edited by Miriam Fuchs, currently Professor of English, University of Hawaii. Miriam Fuchs and Ellen G. Friedman had earlier contributed their 1988 interview with Young to the 1989 Review of Contemporary Fiction tribute.

In 1992 Young's friend Elinor Langer arranges for Young's papers to be archived at the Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The Young archive currently consists of approximately eighty-four uncatalogued boxes of material. In late 1992 Young submits the completed volume one of her Debs biography to Alfred A. Knopf Publishing House, and a contract is signed in January of 1993. In 1993 Young, in very ill health, moves back to Indianapolis where she is cared for by her niece until her death. Young's final work consisted of constant revisions to the Debs manuscript (none of which were used in the final published version), and a return to her original medium of writing, poetry.

November 17, 1995 Marguerite Young dies at age 87. Respice finem.

"I bear a heavy gift"

Who is Miss MacIntosh?


All citations from the novel quoted with the permission of Dalkey Archive Press, Normal, IL.

Click on the Harp Images imbedded in the quotations below to hear Young reciting from her epic poetic prose. Audio portions are in MP3 format and each clip averages 356mb.

There was now no landscape but the soul's, and that is the inexactitude, the ever shifting and the distant....Every heart is the other heart. Every soul is the other soul. Every face is the other face. The individual is the one illusion. (MMMD, 4-5)

Miss MacIntosh, My Darling is the Divine Comedy at the end of the Enlightenment - the sunset of all sunsets - the journey of all journeys - the alchemical Red Lily, growing in a landscape of all souls, all hearts. Vera Cartwheel, the young female protagonist, is on a search for nothing less than truth, love, and wisdom.

What motive in this quest but the search for life, for love, for truth that does not fail? I had come because of my own heart's need for an answer. I had come because of the searchings of other souls, the dead, the lost, because of a chance remark overheard on the city streets, because of the encompassing darkness, because of my mind which had been filled with self, because I must find my way from the darkness to the ultimate light. I had come because of a dead girl's love letters scattered on the floor of her empty bedroom, the palm leaves crossed above the marble mantel piece, her rosary hanging on a brass bedpost, because of her suicide, because of a deaf musician, because of a drunkard's celestial dream of childhood, because of the answers not heard, because of a blind man's groping for his coffee cup at an all-night quick-lunch stand on the fog-shrouded waterfront of that great harbor city as he had asked of his companion -- When shall the light, Peter, enter my soul? (MMMD, 8)

Chapter One introduces us to Vera and her two traveling companions on a Grey Goose bus, driven by the drunken bus driver, Moses Hunnecker, veering towards a destination in southern Indiana. Madge Edwards, an ornately dressed young woman, is pregnant and married to Homer. Madge and Homer dream and argue about Madge's hometown rival for Homer's affections, Jackie. Vera narrates the conditions of her journey, and states that she is nearing the end of a life-long search for her nursemaid, Georgia MacIntosh, who walked into the ocean never to be seen again when Vera was only fourteen.

Chapter Two introduces two figures from Vera's past: her mother, Catherine Helena Cartwheel, née Snowden, widow of Jock Cartwheel, and Joachim Spitzer, an unmarried estate lawyer. Catherine is a beautiful invalid, addicted to Res Tacamah, an opium anodyne. Her companion and forever rejected, dejected admirer and caretaker is Joachim Spitzer. Together they fantasize about Joachim's dead brother Peron, whom Catherine preferred, much to Joachim's bewilderment. Catherine has inherited from her parents the maze-like mansion which she inhabits on the New England seacoast. On a site adjacent to a garden for the deaf, her father built a Garden for the Blind for her mother who had gradually lost her sense of sight.

Chapter Three is an introduction and vignette of Miss MacIntosh, an old woman, living on the dole, hired by Mr. Spitzer to look after Vera at age seven: "an unwanted child born of a fugitive marriage" who represents to her mother only an "immense sense of meaningless woe expressed by flesh and blood" (13). Unlike the dilated, irrational soul of Catherine, who lives in a lunar hysteria, Georgia MacIntosh, a native of What Cheer, Iowa, is the acme of common sense, her "whole sensorium repelled by the dream of imagination" (10). It is her task to restore Vera's "waning common sense" (192).

What could Miss MacIntosh, a simple woman with a broken nose, find to admire in any broken marble statue, that which had been sculptured by man dreaming that he was other than he was or that he was man? Her religion was truth to nature, nothing else, as she would always say with a severity of good humor inviting no argument, no sad or meandering response....for was she not sensible, the last person who would ever be taken in by what existed nowhere but in the dreaming mind, a plain, old-fashioned nursemaid, a red-headed and practical Middle Westerner, stoutly girded by her whale-boned corset, plainly clothed, visible to all, one who had kept her head above the waters in Chicago and elsewhere, one who had rejected an aura which should distinguish her from others, one who, with her way clearly set and her heart not foolish, would submit to no luxurious temptation of this old crazy house on a desolate stretch of the primitive New England coast, there where, though all the ghosts of the universe wandered, shrieking like winds, like tides, like daft sea birds, she had seen nothing but what was plain, the desolation which was enough for her? (MMMD, 10)

Miss MacIntosh is the central heart, Vera's moral guide, her finest sense. The loss of Miss MacIntosh at age fourteen is the beginning of a long illness and a great chaos for Vera, and it takes many years for her to regain a sense of "life that needed no dream of death" (8).

Chapter Four is a brief transition to Vera's narrative in the present, and Chapters 5-8 return to her companions on the Midwestern bus ride to southern Indiana. The end of Chapter 8 will not be picked up again until Chapter 67. Chapter 9 begins Vera's narrative of her katabasis into the "disrelations of the spiritual" (191).

Vera's initiatory vision of the "dark side of the moon" is also the truth of her prophetic dream in Chapter 17: Miss MacIntosh is not who she seems, and has only disguised her true, androgynous identity with a veil of red hair. Miss MacIntosh becomes the monster, the angelic demon, revealed as Eros in the night. Chapter 18 is an incredible account of the violence of Dionysus, a moment of rapture, betrayal and abandonment, after which Vera is left to wander like Psyche, bereft of her beloved Eros. At age fourteen, Vera must experience the disillusioning power of a "false Dawn," the wounding of a "dark negation." Her landscape becomes "barren, impoverished." Chapter 23 ends the beginning of this ring composition, which is not picked up again until chapter 63, and then completed in Chapter 66.

Chapters 24-29 are a digression and expansion of Chapter Two's introduction to Catherine Cartwheel and Joachim Spitzer. Chapter 30 begins a novella about Catherine's cousin Hannah Freemount-Snowden, a famous New England suffragette. Mr. Spitzer in his official capacity as "lawyer for the dead" has been responsible for her final will and testament, and was present in her final months of illness and death. As he unlocks the forty trunks scattered throughout her mansion, he discovers that each contains a wedding dress. The imagery of coffins, water birds, the springs of Lethe, the boat of Charon, all contribute to Mr. Spitzer's characterization as a hierophant of the dead, perhaps a reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian embalmer. His membership in the Society of Interplanetary Butterfly Lovers (SIBL) is a constant motif throughout his imagistic soliloquies on the metaphysics of death, dualism and transcendence. His words are in the elegiac mode, the "man who had missed love," who lived in the great alienation of the two hearts eternally divided. His Orpheus song becomes the overriding melody of Young's epic, until we are returned to Vera's present.

Chapters 51 through 62 are a novella devoted to the "Immortal Ego" (681) of Mr. Spitzer and his "sublunary knowledge" (691). Chapter 62 contains the longest of Young's 'drag-net' sentences, the most lengthy being 126 lines on pp. 847-50. Let me know if you find one longer. Here is Young at her most mysterious and finest, and I suspect she is practicing an ancient spiritual grammar, perhaps learned from the Indian poet and Vedic philosopher Bhartrihari, author of the fifth century C.E. work On Sentence and Word (Vakyapadiya).

Chapter 63 resumes the ring composition interrupted in Chapter 23, with Miss MacIntosh's anguished vendetta against "electric lights." The tension between Vera and Georgia, two very different personalities (or two different aspects of one personality), becomes intensified. Georgia is the one who is broken by the betrayal of Vera's affirmation of her young adulthood and denial of Georgia's absolute authority over her life. When Vera senses Georgia's helpless anguish, she suddenly realizes that she cannot live without Miss MacIntosh. She tries to reconcile their relationship, to heal Georgia's shame, but to no avail. As Georgia tells the story of her life, Vera realizes the vastness of the old woman's loneliness and sorrow. Their last month is only a long, mournful prelude to Georgia's suicidal walk into the sea.

Where there was only water, the firmament laid upon the firmament, I should remember her as the lonely heart of all, even as she had been in that last month where the old values had shifted before my eyes, the old certainties had been broken and like the waves wandering and tossed as the sorrows of the human heart were enlarged beyond nature...Her hands busy or folded at the wound where the breast was missing, she would sit still by the window, wrapped in those memories beyond the province of sense, but then, suddenly bethinking herself of her common sense which had been so lavish, must stir, move, cry out. And there was nothing certain but, at last, her baldness which had ever been hers from the beginning, from the first day to the last and the outgoing of the morning and the outgoing of the evening when she should be seen no more but as the essential loneliness of every mortal heart and soul and body when each must go alone even upon the wings of the wind, even upon the tide which does not return. (885-86)

Her face changes colors, her moods change, and in her final days Georgia seems to undergo an elemental metamorphosis, becoming a "storm center of mirages" (894). The pain of loss and transformation is the beginning of Vera's journey to learn the wisdom of the middle way.

Chapter 67 resumes the ring composition interrupted at the end of Chapter 8. Vera's words beginning her descent: "To come to a village at night may be never to know it with that clarity which one realizes if he comes to that same village in the beautiful sunlight of day" are echoed at the beginning of Chapter 68: "To come into a village by night may mean perhaps never to know it in the same way as if one came in the incandescence of sunlight." In Wabash country, late winter is now turning into spring.

Chapters 68-71 introduce three minor characters, the Christian hangman Mr. Weed; Dr. O'Leary; and Mrs. Hogden who temporarily replaced Miss MacIntosh upon her mysterious death.

Chapters 72-81 are a novella about the character Esther Longtree, a women who is eternally pregnant with wanted but illusionary children. Chapter 82, the final chapter, is about Vera's resolution of her loss, and the final farewell to her childhood. She is now her own woman. Her mother's death came about when a great storm swept the mansion into the sea, Mr. Spitzer having been the only survivor of her childhood companions.

Vera stays in southern Indiana, and finds the wisdom to live and love. She marries and conceives a child by a man who is stone-deaf, whose "musical voice" she can hear, but who cannot hear her.

"And yet what difference if there was the communication of love and long enchantment in this sleeping world?" (1196).


Cultural archaeology? A Bestiary for modernity? Imagination run amuck? Feminist manifesto? Post-avant-garde? Magic Realism?

Feel free to enter the Message Board (in the left frame) and state your interpretation, understanding, questions about Marguerite Young's work. If you have read Miss MacIntosh, Angel in the Forest, or Harp Song for a Radical, what do you like/dislike about her work?

Also see secondary material in bibliography.


Burke, Kenneth. 1945. "The Work of Regeneration." The Kenyon Review 7.4:696-700.

Byatt, A. S. 1978. "Women Writers in America." Harpers & Queen Int'l. July 1978:71.
____________. 1966. "The Obsession with Amorphous Mankind: Marguerite Young's Strange Bestseller." Encounter 27:63-69.

Cohen, Lisa. 1994. "The Long Goodbye: Rediscovering Marguerite Young." Village Voice Literary Supplement. October 1994:9-11.

Dudar, Helen. 1985. "Marguerite Young: A Literary Vocation." The Wall Street Journal. 25 March 1985:20.

Duncan, Erika. 1984. "Marguerite Young." In Unless Soul Clap Its Hands, 3-16. NY: Schocken Books. Reprint of "The Literary Life and How It's Lived: A Reminiscence with Marguerite Young." Book Forum (1977) 3:426-35.

Durand, Régis. 1975. "La fabrique de la fiction: lecture du roman de Marguerite Young, Miss MacIntosh, My Darling." Caliban 12:45-60. Series: Annales Universitae de Toulouse.

Edelstein, J. M. 1965. Review of Miss MaIntosh My Darling. The New Republic October 1965:28. See response by Ned O'Gorman in "The Dark Angel."

Eichenlaub, Constance. 1998. "Aporias of Reception." Chapter 4 of "The Practice of Inner Sense: Redirection in an Age of Negative Aesthetics." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Washington, Seattle.

Fuchs, Miriam, editor. 1994. Marguerite Young, Our Darling: Tributes and Essays. Normal, IL: Dalkey Archive Press.
___________, and Friedman, E. G.,eds. 1989(1). Breaking the Sequence: Women's Experimental Fiction. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
___________. 1989(2). "Marguerite Young's Miss MacIntosh My Darling: Liquescence as Form." In Breaking the Sequence, 188-98.
___________, and Friedman, E. G. 1989(3). "A Conversation with Marguerite Young." Rev. of Contemporary Fiction 9:147-54.
___________. 1989(4) . "Marguerite Young's Utopias: 'The Most Beautiful Music [They] Had Never Heard'." Rev. of Contemporary Fiction 9:166-76.

Gardner, John. 1967. "An Invective Against Mere Fiction." The Southern Review III.2:444-67.

Goyen, William. 1965. "A Fable of Illusion and Reality." NY Times Book Review 12 Sept. 1965:5.

Hauser, Marianne. 1967. "The Crucial Flower." Sewanne Review 75:731-40.

Ingalls, Jeremy. 1945(1). "Bishop Berkeley and the Whales." Review of Moderate Fable in Poetry: A Magazine of Verse LXV.4:215-18.
_______________. 1945(2). Review of Angel in the Forest in Accent: A Quarterly of New Literature V.4:246-48.

Lebowitz, Martin. 1945. "Work of Art." Review of Angel in the Forest. The Nation 160, 12 May 1945:547.

Lerman, Leo. 1965. Short article with excerpts from Miss MacIntosh, My Darling and the essay "Inviting the Muses." Mademoiselle, Sept. 1965:192ff.

McEvilly, W. 1969. "The Philosopher without Answers: A Look at Metaphysics and Marguerite Young." Studies in the Twentieth Century 3:73-81.

Neville, Susan. 1995. "Where the Landscape Moved Like Waves: An Interview with Marguerite Young." Arts Indiana 17.3:20-23.

Newquist, Roy. 1967. "Marguerite Young." In Conversations, 496-505. NY: Rand McNally & Co..

Nin, Anais. 1982. The Diary of Anais Nin, Volume 7. Gunther Stuhlmann, ed. NY: Harvest/Harcourt Brace & Co. See "Index" for references to Marguerite Young passim.
__________. 1976. The Diary of Anais Nin, Volume 6. Gunther Stuhlmann, ed. NY: Harvest/Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers. See "Index" for references to Marguerite Young passim.
__________. 1974. The Diary of Anais Nin, Volume 5. Gunther Stuhlmann, ed. NY: Harvest/Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers. See reference in the Spring of 1955, p. 237, to Nin's first meeting with M. Young through their mutual acquaintance, Lawrence Maxwell.
"The Issue of Marguerite Young." Under the Sign of Pisces: Anaïs Nin and Her Circle. Fall, 1974, Vol. 5.4. Includes updates on projects, reviews, and four short essays: Erika Duncan, "The Shadows in Miss Macintosh My Darling." Honey Rovit, "The Private and the Public Marguerite Young." Charles Ruas, "Miss MacIntosh, My Darling: The Reading Experience." Leslie B. Tanner, "The Teachings of Marguerite Young."

O'Gorman, Ned. 1966. "The Dark Angel." Review of Angel in the Forest in The New Republic 12 March 1966:25-27.

Ruas, Charles. 1999. Editor, Marguerite Young, Harp Song for a Radical: The Life and Times of Eugene Victor Debs. NY: Alfred A. Knopf.
_____________. 1996. Essay about his friendship with Anais Nin and Marguerite Young. In Recollections of Anais Nin, ed. Benjamin Franklin V, 132-137. Athens: Ohio University Press.
_____________. 1994. "Marguerite Young and the Epic Imagination." In Marguerite Our Darling: Tributes and Essays, ed. Miriam Fuchs, 80-84. Normal, IL: Dalkey Archive Press.
_____________. 1985. "Marguerite Young." In Conversations with American Writers, 91-127. NY: Alfred A. Knopf. Interview explores her life, personality, her vision of the United States, and her ongoing work on the biography of Eugene Victor Debs.
_____________. 1977. Interview with Marguerite Young in The Paris Review, 71:58-75.

Shaviro, Steve. 1990. "Lost Chords and Interrupted Births: Marguerite Young's Exorbitant Vision." Critique 31:213-22.
___________. 1989. "Exorbitance and Death: Marguerite Young's Vision." Rev. of Contemporary Fiction 9:191-197. Reprinted 1994 in Marguerite Our Darling, ed. M. Fuchs.

Staley, R. Eric. 1993. "No Landscape But The Soul's: A Critical Study of the Work of Marguerite Young." Ph.D. dissertation, Univ. of Missouri-Columbia.

Swallow, Alan, ed. 1944. American Writing 1943 . Boston: Bruce Humphries, Inc. Publishers. Includes "Winter Scene" and honor roll mention of 11 of Young's 1942 poems published in the Southern Review, Poetry, Accent, Kenyon Review, American Prefaces.
_______________. 1943. American Writing 1942. Boston: Bruce Humphries, Inc. Publishers. Young's poem, "Summer Day," published in the Kenyon Review, Summer, 1941 is included in Honor Roll.

Thompson, Heidi. 1996. "Young/Labyrinth," in "Uroboros: Visions of the Androgyne (Virginia Woolf, Djuna Barnes, Marguerite Young, Alice Walker, Kathy Acker)." 237-91. Ph.D. dissertation, Univ. of Washington, Seattle.

Young, Marguerite. 1999(1). Harp Song for a Radical: The Life and Times of Eugene Victor Debs. New York: Alfred A. Knopf Publisher.
_______________. 1999(2). "Black Widow." Excerpt from Harp Song for a Radical. In Conjunctions 33.
_______________. 1994(1). Inviting the Muses: Stories, Essays, Reviews. Normal, IL: Dalkey Archive Press.
_______________. 1994(2). Angel in the Forest: A Fairy Tale of Two Utopias, 2nd edition. Normal IL: Dalkey Archive Press. First published in 1945 by Reynal and Hitchock.
_______________. 1993. Miss MacIntosh, My Darling. Normal, IL: Dalkey Archive Press. First published in 1965 by Scribner's.
_______________. 1989. "From Prelude in the Golden Key: The Life and Times of Eugene Victor Debs." Rev. of Contemporary Fiction 9:155-63.
_______________. 1979. Miss MacIntosh, My Darling. NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Harvest Series.
_______________. 1966(1). Miss MacIntosh, My Darling. London: Peter Owen.
_______________. 1966(2). Angel in the Forest: A Fairy Tale of Two Utopias. London: Peter Owen.
_______________. 1966(3). Angel in the Forest: A Fairy Tale of Two Utopias. New York: Scribners.
_______________. 1965. Miss MacIntosh, My Darling. New York: Scribners.
_______________. 1954. "No Old Maid's Romance." In Western Review 4, Vol. 18. 291-314.
_______________. 1950(1). "The Doll People." In Mademoiselle.
_______________. 1950(2). "Horse Utopia." In Flair.
_______________. 1948(1). "Mr. Bonebreaker." In Bazaar February Issue.
_______________. 1948(2). "The Arctic Explorer at the Stock Exchange." In Tiger's Eye 6:1-13.
_______________. 1947(1). Poem in Tiger's Eye 1:40-41.
_______________. 1947(2). "Illusion is the Key: About our Elegantly Mental Young Writers and their Dealings with Illusion." Vogue 15 January 1947:84-85, 134.
_______________. 1945(1). Angel in the Forest: A Fairy Tale of Two Utopias. NY: Reynal and Hitchcock.
_______________. 1945(2). "Of Deed, Love, Death." Kenyon Review, Vol. VII, Winter:69-70.
_______________. 1944(1). Moderate Fable. Cornwall, NY: Reynal & Hitchcock.
_______________. 1944(2). "Old James." In Kenyon Review VI (Winter):73-90. Reprinted in the 1944 O. Henry Memorial Award Prize Stories, eds. H. Brickell and M. Fuller. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc., 1944. pp. 234-50.
_______________. 1944(3). "Winter Scene." In American Writing 1943, ed. A. Swallow, 137. Poem also in Moderate Fable.
_______________. 1943(1). Short Story "Dead Women." In American Prefaces 8.3:243-48, eds. Paul Engle and Jean Garrigne. University of Iowa.
_______________. 1943(2). "Noah's Ark" In American Prefaces 8.4:308, eds. Paul Engle and Jean Garrigne. University of Iowa.
______________. 1942(1). Six poems in Southern Review, Spring:852-55. All six poems later included in Moderate Fable.
______________. 1942(2). "A Crystal Principle" and "Moderate Fable" in Kenyon Review IV (Autumn):358-60. Both poems included in Moderate Fable.
_______________. 1940. "Ventriloquist: The Coffee Hour." Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 56:132-34. Poem is included in Moderate Fable.
_______________. 1937(1). Prismatic Ground. NY: The Macmillan Co.. Reviewed by Jessica Nelson North, Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 51:109-11.
_______________. 1937(2). Six poems in Poetry: A Magazine of Verse. 49:315-19. All six poems are included in Prismatic Ground.
_______________. 1930. "Ballad-Loving," "Lot's Wife," "A Girl's Song," "Recurring." Poetry: A Magazine of Verse. 36:260-62. All four poems are later included in Prismatic Ground.

Biographical information for Marguerite Young can be found in the following references.

Available on cassette tape from The American Audio Prose Library (www.americanaudioprose.com): May 1983 interview in New York City by Kay Bonetti, and readings by Marguerite Young from Miss MaIntosh My Darling.

World Authors, 1950-1970. Ed. J. Wakeman, 1584-86. NY: The W. H. Wilson Co., 1975.

Contemporary Authors, permanent series Vol. I. Ed. C. D. Kinsman, 694-95. Detroit: Gale Research, 1975.

Contemporary Authors, Vol. 150. Ed. K. Edgar, 483. Detroit: Gale Research, 1996.

American Women Writers, Vol. 4. Ed. Tina Mainiero, 488-89. NY: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1982. Entry written by Lorene Pouncey.

Contemporary Novelists (1972, 1975 1982). Eds. J. Vinson, et. al. NY: Macmillan. Entries written by William Goyen.

Contemporary Literary Criticism, Vol. 82. 394-421. Detroit: Gale Research, Inc., 1994.

Writer's Directory. St. James Press, 1994.