Chicago: Herbert S. Stone and Company, 1902.
First Edition. Hardcover. The radical, openly bisexual, avowed feminist, nineteen-year-old Mary Maclane originally entitled this debut memoir "I Await the Devil's Coming," but her publisher demurred. On its publication, The Story of Mary Maclane sparked immediate controversy, from heated censure and dismissal from male critics to fanatic approval from schoolgirls across the country. This particular copy displays some of the extremes to which public and intellectual opinion took on Maclane's writing and her person, in two period newspaper clippings pasted in, one featuring a Professor Triggs of the University of Chicago approving the book as a "notable event in the history of American literature," which "ought not to be read to any one who does not wish to know what life is or to look upon a naked soul," and the other reporting on Mary Maclane, "a young woman of fair ability and a morbid desire for money-making notoriety," visiting a "lady friend in Cambridge," and a pencilled proclamation to the front free endpaper: "!!!Notice!!! To be read only, by the Wise, and the Charitable. In it is naked truth; [illegible] folly; with some beautiful, and striking thoughts." The memoir sold over one hundred thousand copies in its first month of publication and made her an overnight hit. Maclane's scandalously frank, direct, and self-aware writing about topics such as self-love, her wish to marry the Devil, her sexual attraction to other women, and her dissatisfaction with daily life in Butte, Montana helped usher in the confessional movement in autobiographical writing. Her words remain startlingly fresh today. As author Emily Gould wrote in an article for The Rumpus: "[T]he medium she was born to write in had not yet been invented. MacLane’s public diary entries, with their succinct, crystalline descriptions of quotidian events, would have made her an instant star on the Internet, if the Internet had existed in 1902. She was a blogger avant la lettre, to an extent that is almost eerie." Nearly 120 years later, Maclane's writing has found new influence, with this, her first book, forming the basis and inspiration for Emily M. Danforth's gothic lesbian horror novel Plain Bad Heriones. An admittedly well-loved and cover-worn first printing, unique for its inclusion of two period newspaper clippings about the book and its scandalous author and the handwritten statement by an admiring reader of the time.
7 3/4" X 4 7/8". 322pp. Red cloth over boards, with upper board and spine lettered in white within decorative white frame and publisher's device in white to rear. Rather heavy wear to binding, with scattered rubbing, corners turned in and split, bumping to extremities, and some rubbing and fading to lettering at spine. Top edge gilt, other edges untrimmed. Hinges tender. Binding remains sound. Other than an occasional soft pencil mark, pages are clean and unmarked. Faint ripple to frontispiece of the author. There appears to be some debate about variations in the color of the cloth binding indicating a first or second printing. In any case, this appears to be the first printing in the lighter of the two cloth colors. Good. Item #6163