John P. Marquand
|John P. Marquand|
|Born||John Phillips Marquand
November 10, 1893
|Died||July 16, 1960
|Pen name||J.P. Marquand|
|Spouse(s)||Christina Davenport Sedgwick (September 1922–1935)
Adelaide Hooker (1937–1968?)
John Phillips Marquand (November 10, 1893 – July 16, 1960) was an American writer. Originally best known for his Mr. Moto spy stories, he achieved popular success and critical respect for his satirical novels, winning a Pulitzer Prize for The Late George Apley in 1938. One of his abiding themes was the confining nature of life in America's upper class and among those who aspired to join it. Marquand treated those whose lives were bound by these unwritten codes with a characteristic mix of respect and satire.
Youth and early adulthood
Marquand was a scion of an old Newburyport, Massachusetts, family. He was a great-nephew of 19th-century writer Margaret Fuller and a cousin of Buckminster Fuller, who gained fame in the 20th century as the inventor of the geodesic dome. Marquand was born in Wilmington, Delaware, and grew up in the New York suburbs. When financial reverses broke up the family's comfortable household, he was sent to Newburyport, Massachusetts, where he was raised by his eccentric aunts, who lived in a crumbling Federal Period mansion surrounded by remnants of the family's vanished glory. (Marquand's ancestors had been successful merchants in the Revolutionary period; Margaret Fuller and other aunts had been actively involved with the Transcendentalist and abolitionist movements.)
Marquand attended Newburyport High School, where he won a scholarship that enabled him to attend Harvard College. As an impecunious public school graduate in the heyday of Harvard's "Gold Coast," he was an unclubbable outsider. Though turned down by the college newspaper, the Harvard Crimson, Marquand succeeded in being elected to the editorial board of the humor magazine, the Harvard Lampoon. After graduating in 1915, Marquand was hired by The Boston Evening Transcript, working initially as a reporter and later on the Transcript's bi-weekly magazine section.
Like many of his classmates, he served in the First World War. While he was a student at Harvard, Marquand joined Battery A of the Massachusetts National Guard, which, in 1916, was activated. In July 1916, Marquand was sent to the Mexican border.
Marquand's life and work reflected his ambivalence about American society—and, in particular, the power of its old line elites. Being rebuffed by fashionable Harvard did not discourage his social aspirations. In 1922, he married Christina Sedgwick, niece of The Atlantic Monthly editor Ellery Sedgwick. In 1925, Marquand published his first important book, Lord Timothy Dexter, an exploration of the life and legend of eighteenth century Newburyport eccentric Timothy Dexter (1763–1806).
By the mid-1930s he was a prolific and successful writer of fiction for slick magazines like the Saturday Evening Post; during this period Marquand began producing a series of novels on the dilemmas of class, most centered on New England. The first of these, The Late George Apley (1937), a satire of Boston's upper class, won the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel in 1938. Other Marquand novels exploring New England and class themes include Wickford Point (1939), H.M. Pulham, Esquire (1941), and Point of No Return (1949). The last is especially notable for its satirical portrayal of Harvard anthropologist W. Lloyd Warner, whose Yankee City study attempted (and in Marquand's view, dismally failed) to describe and analyze the manners and mores of Marquand's Newburyport.
Before gaining acclaim for his serious novels, Marquand achieved great popular and commercial success with a series of formulaic spy novels about the fictional Mr. Moto. The first, Your Turn, Mr. Moto appeared in 1935; the last, Right You Are, Mr. Moto, in 1957. The series inspired eight films, starring Peter Lorre, which are only very loosely based on the novels. James S. Koga states that Moto is not a proper Japanese surname. He notes that "[Mr. Moto] is never the main protagonist of the story—rather he appears at strategic points in the story, a catalyst for action." "The typical storyline", he says, "involves an American male, somewhat tarnished by past experiences in the U.S., who finds himself in the Orient ... overwhelmed by the foreignness of Asia. This protagonist gets involved in some international intrigue by happenstance, usually coinciding with meeting Mr. Moto ... falls deeper into the plot and then finds himself in deadly peril. Along the way, he meets an attractive American woman who also becomes entangled, and by resourcefulness (and not a little help from Mr. Moto) overcomes the peril and then gets the girl."
Numerous Marquand novels became Hollywood films, but several bore little resemblance to the books. Mr. Moto, a tough-minded spy in Marquand's novels, became a genial police agent in the Peter Lorre films of the 1930s. The final Mr. Moto novel, in the 1950s, was filmed as a spy story, but Moto's character was eliminated.
Marquand's 1951 novel, Melville Goodwin, USA, was unrecognizable in the 1957 motion picture A Top-Secret Affair. The book was a satire about publicists trying to cover up a general's adultery, but movie writers transformed the general into a bachelor. According to Marquand's biographers, he took these Hollywood liberties in stride. (Actor Humphrey Bogart was in pre-production for the film version of "Melville Goodwin, USA" in January, 1956, when he was diagnosed with throat cancer, forcing him into retirement. The 1957 film, with the replacement title noted above, starred Kirk Douglas.)
In his later years, Marquand also contributed an occasional satiric short story to Sports Illustrated. A collection was later published as a book, with the title Life at Happy Knoll. The stories humorously dealt with the problems of an "old-line" country club as it tried to adjust to changing times and a competing "upstart" country club nearby.
Mr Moto novels
- No Hero. Boston, Little Brown, 1935 ; as Mr. Moto Takes a Hand, London, Hale, 1940 ; as Your Turn, Mr. Moto, New York, Berkley, 1963.
- Thank You, Mr. Moto. Boston, Little Brown, 1936 ; London, Jenkins, 1937.
- Think Fast, Mr. Moto. Boston, Little Brown, 1937 ; London, Hale, 1938.
- Mr. Moto Is So Sorry. Boston, Little Brown, 1938 ; London, Hale, 1939.
- Last Laugh, Mr. Moto. Boston, Little Brown, 1942 ; London, Hale, 1943.
- Stopover: Tokyo. Boston, Little Brown, and London, Collins, 1957 ; as The Last of Mr. Moto, New York, Berkley, 1963 ; as Right You Are, Mr. Moto, New York, Popular Library, 1977.
Other crime novels
- Ming Yellow. Boston, Little Brown, and London, Lovat Dickson, 1935.
- Don't Ask Questions. London, Hale, 1941 .
- Repent in Haste. Boston, Little Brown, 1945 ; London, Hale, 1949.
- It's Loaded, Mr. Bauer. London, Hale, 1949.
- The Unspeakable Gentleman. New York, Scribner, and London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1922.
- The Black Cargo. New York, Scribner, and London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1925.
- Haven's End. Boston, Little Brown, 1933 ; London, Hale, 1938.
Literary non-historical novels
- Warning Hill. Boston, Little Brown, 1930.
- The Late George Apley. Boston, Little Brown, 1937
- Wickford Point. Boston, Little Brown, 1939
- H.M. Pulham, Esquire. Boston, Little Brown, and London, Hale, 1942.
- So Little Time. Boston, Little Brown, 1943 ; London, Hale, 1944.
- B.F.'s Daughter. Boston, Little Brown, 1946 ; as Polly Fulton, London, Hale, 1947.
- Point of No Return. Boston, Little Brown, and London, Hale, 1949.
- Melville Goodwin, USA. Boston, Little Brown, 1951 ; London, Hale, 1952.
- Sincerely, Willis Wayde. Boston, Little Brown, and London, Hale, 1955.
- Women and Thomas Harrow. Boston, Little Brown, 1958 ; London, Collins, 1959.
Collections of short stories
- Four of a Kind, 1923.
- Thirty Years, 1954.
- Life at Happy Knoll, 1957.
Marquand's short stories from 1921 through 1952
There is no collected edition of Marquand's short stories. The following titles come from The Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature. Highlighted are the seven stories re-appearing in Thirty Years (which also contained five new stories and some non-fiction).
- Right that Failed--Saturday Evening Post (SEP), Jul 1921 *Eight Million Bubbles--SEP, Jan 1922 *Only a Few of Us Left--SEP, Jan 1922 *Different From Other Girls--Ladies Home Journal, Jul 1922 *Land of Bunk--SEP, Sep 1922 *Captain His Soul--SEP, Nov 1922 *Ship—Scribner's Magazine, Jan 1923 *By the Board--SEP, Mar 1923 *Last of the Tories--SEP, Mar 1924 *How Willie Came Across--SEP, Apr 1924 *Jervis Furniture--SEP, Apr 1924 *Pozzi of Perugia--SEP, Nov 1924 *Friend of the Family--SEP, Dec 1924 *Big Guys--SEP, Feb 1925 *Educated Money--SEP, Feb 1925 *Foot of the Class--SEP, Mar 1925 *Much Too Clever--SEP, Apr 1925 *Old Man--SEP, Jun 1925 *Jamaica Road--SEP, Jul 1925 *Last of the Hoopwells--SEP, Dec 1925
- Fun and Neighbors--SEP, Feb 1926 *Blame of Youth--SEP, May 1926 *Tea Leaves--SEP, May 1926 *Thousands in the Bank--SEP, May 1926 *Spitting Cat--SEP, Jul 1926 *Artistic Touch--SEP, Feb 1927 *Cinderalla Motif--SEP, Mar 1927 *Lord Chesterfield--SEP, Jun 1927 *Unknown Hero--SEP, Jul 1927 *Harvard Square Student--SEP, Dec 1927 *As the Case May Be--SEP, Jun 1928 *Aye, In the Catalogue--SEP, Aug 1928 *Good Black Sheep--SEP, Aug 1928 *Good Morning, Major--SEP, Aug 1928 *End of the Story—Collier's, Apr 1929 *Oh Major, Major--SEP, Apr 1929 *Another Redskin Story--SEP, May 1929 *Darkest Horse--SEP, May 1929 *Mr Goof--SEP, May 1929 *Powaw's Head--SEP, Jul 1929 *Rain of Right--SEP, Jul 1929 *Best Must Always Go--SEP, Aug 1929 *Captain Whetstone--SEP, Aug 1929 *A Dog, A Woman--SEP, Oct 1929 *Ships Must Sail--SEP, Nov 1929 *Jack's the Lad--SEP, Dec 1929 *Bobby Shaftoe--SEP, Feb 1930 *Leave Her, Johnny, Leave Her--SEP, Mar 1930 *Slave Catcher--SEP, Apr 1930 *Obligations--SEP, Jul 1930 *Simon Pure—Collier's, Jul 1930 *Same Things--SEP, Aug 1930 *Master of the House--SEP, Sep 1930 *There is a Destiny--SEP, Nov 1930 *Rainbows--SEP, Dec 1930
- Golden Lads--SEP, Feb 1931 *All Play—Woman's Home Companion, Apr 1931 *Upstairs--SEP, Aug 1931 *Tolerance--SEP, Oct 1931 *Call Me Joe--SEP, Nov 1931 *Gentleman Ride--SEP, Nov 1931 *Ask Him--SEP, Jan 1932 *Deep Water--SEP, Feb 1932 *Music--SEP, Feb 1932 *Sold South--SEP, Mar 1932 *Join the Cavalry--SEP, Apr 1932 *Jack Still--SEP, Jun 1932 *Far Away--SEP, Aug 1932 *High Tide--SEP, Oct 1932 *Dispatch Box No. 3--SEP, Nov 1932 *Fourth Down--SEP, Nov 1932 *Number One Good Girl--SEP, May 1933 *Winner Take All--SEP, Feb 1934 *Blockade--SEP, Mar 1934 *Davy Jones--SEP, Mar 1934 *Lord and Master—Collier's, Apr 1934 *Step Easy Stranger--SEP, Apr 1934 *Take the Man Away--SEP, Apr 1934 *Time for Us to Go--SEP, Apr 1934 *Back Pay—American Mercury, Apr 1934 *Sea Change--SEP, May 1935 *Flutter in Continentals--SEP, Jun 1935 *You Can't Do That--SEP, Jun 1935 *What's It Get You?--SEP, Jul 1935 *Yankee Notion--SEP, Nov 1935
- Hang it on the Horn--SEP, Mar 1936 *No One Ever Would--SEP, Apr 1936 *Put Those Things Away--SEP, Jun 1936 *Don't Cry for Me--SEP, Nov 1936 *Troy Weight--SEP, Dec 1936 *Marches Always Pay--SEP, Jan 1937 *Maharajah's Flower--SEP, Mar 1937 *"3-3-08"--SEP, Apr 1937 *Just Break the News--SEP, Jul 1937 *Pull, Pull Together--SEP, Jul 1937 *Everything's Fine—Collier's Oct 1937 *Castle Sinister—Collier's, Feb 1938 *Shirt Giver--SEP, Apr 1938 *Wickford Point--SEP, Feb 1939 *Beginning Now--SEP, Apr 1939 *Tell Me about the War--SEP, Jun 1939 *Don't Ask Questions--SEP, Oct 1939 *March On, He Said--SEP, Jun 1940 *Children's Page--SEP, Aug 1940
- She Was Always a Swell Girl—Good Housekeeping, Dec 1941 *Doctor's Orders—Collier's, May 1942 *Taxi Dance—Good Housekeeping, May 1942 *It's Loaded, Mr Bauer—Collier's, Jun 1942 *The End Game—Good Housekeeping—Mar 1944 *Island—Good Housekeeping—Sep 1944 *I Heard an Old Man Say—Good Housekeeping—Oct 1944 *Just the Day for Tea—Scholastic—Sep 1944 *Lunch in Honolulu—Harpers—Aug 1945 *Repent in Haste—Harpers—Nov 1945
- Close to Home—Good Housekeeping—Nov 1947
Social network and reputation
For all of his ambivalence about America's elite, Marquand ultimately succeeded not only in joining it, but in embodying its characteristics. He forgave the upper crust classmates who had snubbed him in college (relationships he satirized in H.M. Pulham, Esq and The Late George Apley). He was invited to join all the right social clubs in Boston (Tavern, Somerset) and New York (Century Association, University).
Through his second marriage to Adelaide Ferry Hooker, he became linked to the Rockefeller family (her sister, Blanchette, was married to John D. Rockefeller III). He maintained luxury homes in Newburyport and in the Caribbean.
Marquand died in Newburyport in 1960. Although his major work is largely out of print, his spy fiction remains in print. Like his contemporary John O'Hara (and with a lighter touch), Marquand addressed issue of privilege and inequality. Marquand's financial success and seeming veneration for the upper classes, like O'Hara's, was sufficient to cause academia to ignore him. Marquand was unsparing in his own scorn for academics, notably in Point of No Return (in which he lampoons anthropologist W. Lloyd Warner) and Wickford Point (in which he mocks a prominent member of Harvard's English Department).
Although currently in eclipse, Marquand's reputation may be poised for a revival. Jonathan Yardley, in a 2003 Washington Post column, says Marquand's contemporaries "found [his] satires of that world both hilarious and accurate, and so do I. That Marquand has almost vanished from the literary landscape is to me an unfathomable mystery. From ... 1937 ... until 1960, Marquand was one of the most popular novelists in the country. The literati turned up their noses at him (as they do to this day) because he had done a fair amount of hackwork in his early career and continued to write, unashamedly, for popular magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post."
Critic Martha Spaulding, writing in The Atlantic Monthly in 2004, noted that "in his day Marquand was compared to Sinclair Lewis and John O'Hara, and his social portrait of twentieth-century America was likened to Balzac's Comédie Humaine, [but] critics rarely took him very seriously. Throughout his career he believed, resentfully, that their lack of regard stemmed from his early success in the "slicks". Praising his "seductive, sonorous prose", she states that he "deserves to be rediscovered."
Demolition of Marquand's summer home
Marquand bought a small farmhouse on a 466-acre (1.89 km2) tract of land called Kent's Island in Newbury, Massachusetts, in October 1935 for less than $5,000 (perhaps because the water supply was unreliable and the home required renovation). However, by the year of his death, his home at Kent's Island had been transformed into a rambling mansion by Marquand and his second wife. The couple had made numerous additions to the original structure, which held a collection of museum-quality antiques and family heirlooms, including a Gilbert Stuart portrait of a Marquand ancestor, as well as a silver tray fashioned by Paul Revere.
Marquand expressed concern for the future of his estate shortly before his death. In Marquand, biographer Millicent Bell, wrote: "He wondered what would happen to Kent's Island when he died; he willed it to his three younger children but foresaw a time when they might not want it and imagined it enduring ... under the protection of a preservation agency."  Marquand's concern was not unfounded. The children sold the vast property in April 1974 for $305,000 to the State of Massachusetts. The state maintained the mansion and kept a state police trooper there as a caretaker until 1978 when the well finally went dry. After the well dried and the home became vacant, it deteriorated rapidly. By 1984, the mansion was in poor condition due to vandalism and exposure to the elements.
During 1984, a ten-year-old boy named Jeffrey Noonan wrote a letter to then-Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis asking that action be taken in order to begin efforts to restore the home. His letter was answered by the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. The letter effectively informed the child that there were plans to raze the building. He took the letter, pedaled a bicycle to the office of the Newburyport Daily News and asked to see the editor. The newspaper interviewed and photographed the child for a front-page story. This started a local interest in the cause to save the home of the Pulitzer Prize winner from destruction.
Newburyport Magazine re-visited the story in its Fall, 2008 edition and interviewed Jeffrey Noonan (aka Jeffrey Justice) for the article. Discussing the youth's tenacity, the writer mentioned that the state was ready to pursue the demolition by 1984. "But they hadn't reckoned with Jeffrey. The fifth-grader kept up a barrage of publicity—more newspaper stories and an interview on a Boston TV station. He went to the State House to talk to legislators."
The article also allowed for a broader understanding of the nature of the opposition: "There was a backlash, too. Noonan—now a 34-year old licensed psychic who goes by the name Jeffrey Justice—recalls an angry telephone call, possibly fueled by alcohol, from a woman who had worked for Marquand, and other comments from older Newburyporters who had not approved of the novelist's sometimes messy personal life."
- Holman, C. Hugh (1965), John P. Marquand, Minneapolis, Minnesota: U of Minnesota Press, p. 10, ISBN 0-8166-0350-2
- Do Tell Me, Doctor Johnson was privately printed in small numbers, 1928 (one story, 47 pages).
- Marquand wrote of this "According to my best recollection, the second short story I ever offered an editor was purchased by the Saturday Evening Post in the summer of 1921, and for many years after this initial success I managed to dispose of all the stories I wrote to a few competing sources at gradually rising prices"--See Thirty Years--Forward p. xiv.
- Yardley, Jonathan. "John Marquand, Zinging Wasps With a Smooth Sting", Washington Post, February 20, 2003.
- Bell, Millicent (1979) Marquand Little, Brown and Company, p. 261 ISBN 019316088285
- Bell, Millicent (1979) Marquand Little, Brown and Company, pp. 477 19478 ISBN 019316088285
- Newburyport Magazine Fall, 2008 edition.
- Stephen Birmingham, The Late John Marquand: A Biography, J. B. Lippincott Company 1972
- Works by John P. Marquand at Project Gutenberg
- The Mr. Moto novels of John P. Marquand, website by James S. Koga.
- Extensive biography on Marquand
- Photos of the first edition of The Late George Apley
- Yale University Library, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale Collection of American Literature, Copyright © 1996-2007 by the Yale University Library. Guide to the John P. Marquand Collection, YCAL MSS 48, by T. Michael Womack, May 1990, Revised: 2010-02-10