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Scroll down for more... Click here for a later picture of Mazo and Caroline Mazo De La Roche and Caroline Clement

A Couple Diary entries and One poem by Mazo to Caroline

Caroline, from First to Last: Mazo De La Roche

by Barbara Grier alias Marily Barrow [from Lesbian Lives by Barbara Grier. Reproduced with permission from author]

Thanks for increasing frankness in literature, we are beginning to get a few honest biographies- particularly of literary lights. It would be a pleasure to report that Ronald Hambleton's recent biography of Mazo De La Roche belongs in that brave group. Sadly, it does not. However, reading it lead to my reading of Mazo's own little heralded autobiographical efforts, and by adding them to Mr. Hambleton's portrait in Mazo De La Roche of Jalna, a very telling picture is formed. Miss De La Roche was deliberately one of the least "public" of authors. She was shunned in her own country, supposedly for her "English" bias. In turn, she loathed the United States, though it was here that she had her greatest success. She enjoyed lying about her personal life to such an extent that it is nearly impossible to separate truth from fancy. She is more erroneous legend today than human being. She was born January 15, 1879 and died July 12, 1961. She was an only, and a lonely, child. She did not begin her professional writing career until relatively late in life. Her first novel, Possession, was published in 1923, when she was forty-four years old. Just four years later she received the $10,000 Atlantic-Little, Brown award for Jalna, the first in the famous Jalna series, with which she is identified. The critics, at least after Jalna was pubilshed, considered her writing beneath criticism... Before she began the Jalna series, she had written several novels and was considered one of Canada's better writers in the naturalistic vein. The $10,000 which gave her the material freedom from worry that she desperately needed, may also have shaped and directed her career. Some feel it may have trapped and killed her talent. [but at least it gave her the freedom to live as she chose.] During the 1930's, Mazo was a very popular writer. Times and interests change, and she was, in a sense, a World War II casualty. Except for a steadily dwindling coterie of fans, few paid any attention to her during the last twenty years of her life. In view of this, we do owe Mr. Hambleton a debt for taking them time to research and write about a subject he well must have known would attract little interest. The real history of Mazo De La Roche began with her seventh year when se first met her cousin, Caroline Clement. Caroline was also an only child, and worse, she was orphaned. Mazo describes her first meeting with Caroline in her autobiography, Ringing the Changes, as being the most important day in her life. From that time on, these two were to live together until the death of Mazo in 1961. In a chapter entitled "A Partnership in life," Ronald Hambleton states that Mazo felt she owed her life and her writing almost entirely to Caroline. He goes on to say: "Caroline Clement was almost Mazo's other self. These two dissimilar, but perfectly attuned persons, lived one of the most unusual and certainly most productive partnerships in the history of literature. Its length alone, over seventy years without a separation longer than a few months, and those at long intervals, distinguishes it from an association like the Wordsworths, its fruitfulness from that of Swinburne and Theodore Watts-Dunton, its completeness as a family from that of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas for Mazo and Caroline brought up two adopted children... During the years that Mazo was struggling to get started as a writer, Caroline held down a clerical job. After the award for Jalna, Caroline was able to quit work and simply act as housekeeper (a function she had always performed in addition to her working full time). From 1928 to 1938, Mazo and Caroline lived outside of Canada for the most part, primarily in England. In 1930, while on a trip, they learned of the death of friends which left a little girl, two-and-a-half years old, and a thirteen-month-old baby boy orphaned. Mazo was fifty-one years old, much past the age usually associated with adoption. Caroline was just slightly younger (her age is not known). Mazo raised heaven and earth doing it, but with the aid of one of her publishers, she put up the necessary arguments as to character and means and got the two children. With the exception of her popular success during the 1930's, little of excitement happened to Mazo De La Roche. She and Caroline lived quietly, had few friends, and certainly no close friends. They raised their two children (both [of their children] are married and have families of their own now). Mazo was shy, and were quiet. Her one outward expression of temper was to refuse to go anywhere when Caroline was not also automatically invited. What a different pair these Canadian ladies of Llangollen were, despite the tremendously similar basic relationship. One wonders what literary history will make of them one hundred years from now? Bibliography Mazo De La Roche. Beside a Norman Tower. Boston: Little, Brown, 1934. Mazo De La Roche. Portrait of a Dog. Boston: Little, Brown, 1930. Mazo De La Roche. Ringing the Changes; An Autobiography. Boston: Little, Brown, 1957. (Dedication reads: "For Caroline, From First to Last.") Mazo De La Roche. The Very House. Boston: Little, Brown, 1937. Ronald Hambleton. Mazo De La Roche of Jalna. N.Y.: Hawthorne Books, 1966,1967. {I have listened to _The Building of Jalna_ on Books on Tape and found it very entertaining and amusing. It is not about lesbians but it is still very good.}