Amélie Rives Troubetzkoy

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Amélie Rives Troubetzkoy
Amélie Rives 001.jpg
Amélie Rives in 1890
Born Amélie Louise Rives
August 23, 1863
Richmond, Virginia, U.S.
Died June 15, 1945(1945-06-15) (aged 81)
Resting place Rives Troubetzkoy Cemetery, Cismont, Virginia
Occupation novelist, poet, playwright
Language English
Nationality American
Spouse John Armstrong Chanler (m. 1888)Pierre Troubetzkoy (m. 1896)
Relatives William Cabell Rives (grandfather)
Robert E. Lee (godfather)

Amélie Louise Rives Troubetzkoy (August 23, 1863 - June 15, 1945) was an American novelist, poet and playwright. Nothing that she ever wrote created the sensation of the Quick and the Dead, her first novel, which appeared in 1888. It was her most famous and popular work, which sold 300,000 copies. Her 1914 novel, World's End was reputed to be "the best seller in New York City". That she was a genius could not be denied, but she was also morbidly sensitive. She was characterized as a woman of moods and fancies, but in manner as simple as a child.[1] She died in 1945.

Early life and education[edit]

Amélie Rives, by Richard G. Tietze

Amélie Louise Rives was born in 1863 in Richmond, Virginia to noted engineer Alfred L. Rives and the former Sadie MacMurdo. She was named after her aunt Amélie, a goddaughter of French Queen Marie-Amélie.[2] She was a goddaughter of Robert E. Lee and a granddaughter of the engineer and Senator William Cabell Rives, Minister Plenipotentiary to France in the early part of the 19th century.[3]

Castle Hill

Troubetzkoy's early life was spent at Castle Hill, Albemarle County, Virginia, and later the family moved to Mobile, Alabama. She was educated entirely at home under private tutors. She was always an imaginative child who delighted in gathering around her the neighbors' children and rehearsing to them her new ideas. She was then and later, morbidly sensitive, and there was no estimating how much that may have accounted for many of her peculiarities, and much concerning her that was not understood.[1]


The editor of the "Atlantic Monthly," who was the first to discover her talent as a writer, says that she never talked of herself or her writings, as she has been accused, and, "Instead of pushing her work upon me, she was so modest about it that I had to get the first story published through her mother." Her Brother to Dragons also appeared in "Atlantic Monthly". It attracted immediate attention on account of its daring originality. She had written verses, essays, and stories long before she was 15, but with no intention of publishing them. Like Nathaniel Hawthorne for many years, she destroyed all that she wrote. Flattered and gratified by the reception given to her first story, she followed it with others—Farrier Lam of Piping Pebworth, Nurse Crumpet's Story, Story of Arnon, and Virginia of Virginia, besides some poems.[1]

Nothing that she ever wrote, however, created the sensation of the Quick and the Dead, her first novel, which appeared in 1888. It was her most famous and popular work, which sold 300,000 copies.[4] The work depicted the erotic passions of a newly widowed woman and earned Rives notoriety. It was condemned at once as "immoral," "unfit to be read," and "impure." This very condemnation by the press, sad to say, was the best advertisement that the book could have had, and it soon had scores of readers,[1] far outnumbering those of her previous works. She was criticized for pandering to public taste in a work which reflected no credit upon the author and one which offended the tastes of the more refined class of her readers—those who had been charmed by the stories that had preceded it.[5]

A tragedy in five acts, Herod and Mariamne, a verse drama, followed in 1889. The work was based upon historical facts given by Josephus and it was filled with passion, deep intrigue, wild jealousy, hatred, murder, and terrible revenge. It was undoubtedly a strong play, demonstrating literary and' dramatic genius, but it was said to need "pruning to rid it of its coarseness and passion, and make it acceptable". Had Troubetzkhoy intended all that her readers found in her last named works she would have continued in the same vein when Barbara Denny appeared. This was as free as possible from all that could offend, showing that the author was not conscious of much that her former words implied.[6] Her 1914 novel, World's End was reputed to be "the best seller in New York City".[7] Her other works included The Witness of the Sun, Athelwold, According to St. John, and Tanis, the Sand Digger. "The Critic" said, "She sees Nature with the eye of a painter, and describes it with the voice of a poet."[6]

Later, she turned to theater and began writing plays for Broadway. Her play The Fear Market ran for 118 performances at the Booth Theatre in 1916.[8]

Personal life[edit]

In 1888, Troubetzkoy married John Armstrong Chanler, a great-great grandson of John Jacob Astor and the oldest of 10 orphaned siblings, born to John Winthrop Chanler and Margaret Astor Ward of the Astor family.[9] The courtship was at Newport. They spent the years of 1890—91 in Europe.[6] The Rives-Chanler marriage was scandalous, and unhappy. The couple spent seven years as husband and wife, but most of the time lived apart.[4] Rives flirted with George Curzon[9] and began using drugs.[4]

Countess Troubetskoy and Fang the wolf

In 1896, just four months after their divorce, she married Prince Pierre Troubetzkoy, an artist and aristocrat[4] after Oscar Wilde introduced them in London. The couple resided at Castle Hill.[10]

She studied art in Paris, and her friends feared that its fascinations would interfere with her literary work. Her health became impaired, however, so that she was forced to abandon the brush and then it was that she resumed the pen.[6] Troubetzkoy was a close friend of novelist Julia Magruder, a frequent guest at Castle Hill,[11] as well as prominent New York novelist Louis Auchincloss, who included a chapter on her in his memoir, A Writer's Capital.[citation needed]

Death and legacy[edit]

She died June 15, 1945, and was buried at Rives Troubetzkoy Cemetery, Cismont, Albemarle County, Virginia.[12] Troubetzkoy's papers reside at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia.


  • A Brother to Dragons and Other Old-time Tales (Harper & Brothers, New York, 1888)
  • Virginia of Virginia (Harper & Brothers, New York, 1888)
  • Herod and Mariamne (Harper & Brothers, New York, 1888)
  • The Quick or the Dead? A Study (J. B. Lippincott Co., Philadelphia, 1888)
  • Witness of the Sun (J. B. Lippincott Co., Philadelphia, 1889)
  • According to St. John (John W. Lovell Co., New York, 1891)
  • Barbara Dering: A Sequel to The Quick or the Dead? (J. B. Lippincott Co., Philadelphia, 1893)
  • Tanis the Sang-Digger (Town Topics Publishing Co. New York, 1893)
  • Athelwold (Harper & Brothers, New York, 1893)
  • Meriel (Chatto & Windas, London, 1898)
  • Augustine the Man (John Lane Company, New York, 1906)
  • Seléné (Harper & Brothers, New York, 1905)
  • A Damsel Errant (Harper & Brothers, New York, 1908)
  • The Golden Rose: The Romance of A Strange Soul (Harper & Brothers, New York, 1908)
  • Trix and Over-the-Moon (Harper & Brothers, New York, 1909)
  • Pan's Mountain (Harper & Brothers, New York, 1910)
  • Hidden House (J. B. Lippincott Co., Philadelphia, 1912)
  • World's End (Frederick A. Stokes & Co., New York, 1914)
  • Shadows of Flames (Hurst & Blackett, Ltd., London, 1915)
  • The Elusive Lady (Hurst & Blackett, Ltd., London)
  • The Ghost Garden (S. B. Gundy, Toronto, 1918)
  • As The Wind Blew (Frederick A. Stokes & Co., New York, 1920)
  • The Sea-Woman's Cloak and November Eve (Stewart Kidd Co., Cincinnati, 1923)
  • The Queerness of Celia (Grosset & Dunlap, New York, 1926)
  • Firedamp (Frederick A. Stokes & Co., New York, 1930)


  1. ^ a b c d Rutherford 1894, p. 636.
  2. ^ Louis Auchincloss: A Writer's Capital. New York, Houghton Mifflin, 1974
  3. ^ Rutherford 1894, p. 635-36.
  4. ^ a b c d Prose, Francine (July 30, 2006). "Lifestyles of the Rich and Infamous". The Washington Post. p. BW15. 
  5. ^ Rutherford 1894, p. 6367.
  6. ^ a b c d Rutherford 1894, p. 637.
  7. ^ "People who write". The Independent. Jul 6, 1914. Retrieved July 30, 2012. 
  8. ^ "A Voice of Their Own: Women Playwrights". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved 2010-01-09. 
  9. ^ a b Maslin, Janet (July 3, 2006). "'Archie and Amélie': A Combustible Couple in a Torrid Descent Amid Opulence". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-10. 
  10. ^ National Park Service - Journey Through Hallowed Ground – Castle Hill
  11. ^ Virginia Encyclopedia
  12. ^ "Amelie Louise Rives Troubetzkoy (1863 - 1945) - Find A Grave Memorial". Retrieved 20 June 2017. 



  • Lucey, Donna M. (2006). Archie and Amélie: Love and Madness in the Gilded Age. New York: Harmony Books. ISBN 1-4000-4852-4. 
  • Longest, George C. (1978). Three Virginia writer: Mary Johnston, Thomas Nelson Page, and Amelie Rives Troubetzkoy : a reference guide. Boston, MA: G. K. Hall. ISBN 0-8161-7841-0. 
  • Taylor, Welford Dunaway (1973). Amélie Rives (Princess Troubetzkoy). Twayne's United States author's series. New York: Twayne Publishers. OCLC 623248. 

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