Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Carolyn Wells (1862 - 1942) - American writer, poet and journalist

Carolyn was born on 18th June 1862 in Rahway, New Jersey, USA.   Her parents were William Edmund Wells and his wife Anna Wells nee Potter Woodruff.  Two of Carolyn's sisters died in childhood.

At the age of six, Carolyn contracted Scarlet Fever and as a result suffered a loss of hearing.  She nevertheless overcame the handicap and went on to graduate from school and was then taught at home by private tutors, studying the humanities and science.  Carolyn worked as a librarian at Rahway Library Association.  During her life-time, Carolyn wrote and had published over 170 books including detective stories, children's books, humour, parody and poetry.  Her work was published in "Punch" magazine and she also wrote for various newspapers and contributed to "The Yellow Book".   Her detective books were particularly popular.  In 1913, she published "The Technique of the Mystery Story".

In 1918, at the age of 55, Carolyn married 62-year old widower Hadwin Houghton who was heir to the Houghton-Mifflin publishing company.  The couple went to live in an apartment block in Manhatten where Hadwin died the following year.  Carolyn lived in New York until her death on 26th March 1942.

Carolyn's life-story "The Rest of my Life" was published in 1937.

With grateful thanks to Dr. Margaret Stetz, May and Robert Carter Professor of Women's Studies and Professor of Humanities, Delaware University, USA for bringing Carolyn Wells to my attention and for suggesting I look at the following poem written by Carolyn and published in 1919:


I seem to wander in a world of books,
With titles such as, "'Neath the Trumpet's Blare",
And "Sammy Fire-Away!" and "Private Snooks", And "Hank, the Yank", and "Danny Do-and-Dare!" And though the war is over, Over There,
Yet must be published books already penned They pour from presses daily I declare
Of making many war books there's no end!
And, somehow I opine-the way it looks - That for an aftermath we must prepare:
Adventure yarns of wartime cranks and crooks, And lives of heroes who have done their share. True tales of noble deeds of courage rare;
Histories of events, as yet unkenned: Journals and diaries, and such small ware-
Of making many war books there's no end !
And there'll be messages from soldier spooks, Transmitted through a wily medium's care;
Telling of waving trees and limpid brooks
Where rove the souls who've climbed the Golden Stair: And poems "Lyric Lines To France, the Fair",
"Red Poppy Fields", "My Faithful Four Years' Friend", "Heroic Feet", "A Lock of Lemuel's Hair"-
Of making many war books there's no end ! L'Etoile:
Publisher, Printer, Editor, forbear !
Nor longer than you must, your lists extend :
Do let this gushing output stop somewhere Of making many war books there's no end !

First published in "The Bookman", January 1919, page 643


Dr. Margaret Stetz "The Transatlantic" and late Nineteenth-Century American Women's Humor" published in "Studies in American Humor", Volume 1, 2015, Pensylvania State University, PA.

"Encyclopedia of American Humorists" Edited by Stephen H. Gale, Routledge, Abingdon, Oxford, 1988

"Mysteries Unlocked Essays in Honour of Douglas G. Greene, edited by Curtis Evans, published by McFarland and Company, Jefferson, 2014