Thursday, February 13, 2014

How George Barton helped to launch the literary career of Emily Post

When you say the name “Emily Post” most people automatically think of her contributions as ‘Miss Manners.’ Although they were actually very close in age, it is probably a forgotten fact that George Edward Barton acted as her “Godfather” and editor who helped to launch her literary career.

A very reasonable question is “How was George Barton associated with Emily Post?” In 1889 Emily Price (Post) was a debutante and her arrival on the social scene is well documented in various New York newspapers of the day as well as summarized quite thoroughly by Claridge (2008). At about the same time, George Barton was riding a bicycle through the English countryside, whistling operatic arias and singing with King Edward VII.

Tuxedo Park is likely the point of commonality that brought George Barton and Emily Price (Post) into contact with each other. Emily Price’s father, Bruce Price, was also an architect and his most famous work involved the design of the Tuxedo Park community, as commissioned by Pierre Lorillard (Claridge, p.50).

Bruce Price was a contemporary of R. Clipston Sturgis, a famous Boston Architect. Price and Sturgis were both members of the Architectural League of New York. Sturgis was President from 1889-1893 and Price was President from 1897-1899.

Upon the completion of his apprenticeship, it is presumed that Barton worked as an architect and became associated with Sturgis. This presumption is based on the fact that Barton ultimately joined him in practice in 1902 (Commercial and Financial New England Illustrated, 1906). Sturgis and Barton had two offices: one in Boston and the other in Tuxedo Park, NY.  It is this association that likely brought George Barton to Tuxedo Park.

It is also likely that Barton had a home in Tuxedo Park. He is listed as a member in the Tuxedo Club in 1902. As an additional point of documentation, George Barton is noted as ‘arriving’ at Tuxedo Park in a 1905 article in the New York Times that documents the comings and goings of society elites in the ‘social pages.’

There is no mention of George Barton in the Claridge biography of Emily Post. However, there is documentation of their relationship in a newspaper article from The American Weekly (1949):

One day George Barton, a very old friend and one of the architects for whom she made several models, said to her: "You have always written amusing letters. I am sure you could write. By the way, where are those letters you showed me once that you wrote to your father from Europe? They were full of amusing details. Perhaps they might make a book. Let me look at them again."

 Not really believing them to be of any use, she fetched the letters. Little by little, with his help, she actually did make them into a book by writing a fictional beginning and end, and by running the thread of a romance through it. The hero's name was Lord Bobby Kirth!

 Her struggle with the first chapter is, perhaps, the key to her success. She rewrote it 27 times. When her critic then pronounced it acceptable, his comment was, "You'll write!"  

Interestingly, the Claridge biography mentions a George Barr Baker several times as the pivotal person who served as editor for her first book ‘The Flight of a Moth.’ This inconsistency would be difficult to reconcile, were it not for the inscription she wrote in a copy of the book that she gave to George Barton, that is currently in my care. Here is a picture of the book:




The inscription reads:








 The combined facts of the American Weekly article, the inscription in The Flight of a Moth, and the fact that these were all found among George Barton's possessions are strong indicators that the 'G.B.' in the inscription is referent to George Barton.

It is curious that she refers to herself as Barton's 'Goddaughter' but the Claridge biography provides very important details that may explain this.  Pierre Lorillard was Emily Post's true Godfather, but his scandalous behavior certainly caused her to re-consider the value of the association, despite the fact that he had been her benefactor.  Shortly after the Lorillard scandal and his death, her father also died.  The Flight of a Moth was published in 1904, at the same time that she was experiencing these other losses and very near to the time that her own marriage was dissolving.  It is likely that as a 'longtime friend' George Barton was a source of support and encouragement for her through these difficult times.

Based on all of this documentation, it seems evident that George Edward Barton was an important figure in Emily Price Post's life.  Just as with the presence of the Louisa May Alcott photograph, the fact that he kept this photograph of Emily Price Post is also an indicator of the significance of their relationship.






 References:

Architectural League of New York (1913). Annual Report of the Officers and Committees of the Architectural League. London: Forgotten Books. Available online at http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=14&ved=0CDYQFjADOAo&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.forgottenbooks.org%2Fdownload_pdf%2FAnnual_Report_of_the_Officers_and_Committees_of_the_Architectural_1000153702.pdf&ei=CFX8Ut62N4mMyQHnvYCgCw&usg=AFQjCNEj9iw-Afl6XL2EAc9VVWNNTGhN7Q&sig2=tzCgAdniafNJvvTqp_iHeQ&bvm=bv.61190604,d.aWc&cad=rja

Claridge, L. (2008). Emily Post: Daughter of the Gilded Age, Mistress of American manners. New York: Random House.

Commerical and Financial New England, Illustrated. (1906). The Boston Herald. Retrieved online at http://books.google.com/books?id=EXRPAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA254&lpg=PA254&dq=tuxedo+park+george+barton&source=bl&ots=2xwSDu4e2t&sig=dy2aTMjj-k1dP6vHQZoVbPq3IK0&hl=en&sa=X&ei=-ZTpUuTuAtS0kQfU2oGQBQ&ved=0CEUQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=tuxedo%20park%20george%20barton&f=false

Engle, W. (1949, February 6). The Emily Post Story. The American Weekly, pp 18-19.

New York Times (1905, June 11). Retrieved from http://www.newspapers.com/newspage/20324167/

The Tuxedo Club (1908). The Tuxedo Club Book. Retrieved from http://www.thehistorybox.com/ny_city/society/printerfriendly/nycity_society_club_1908_article00197.htm