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Margaret Prescott Montague, Author, Papers

 Collection
Collection Number: A&M.1110

Scope and Contents

Correspondence, manuscripts, notes and notebooks, diaries, press clippings, photographs, and printed material of a West Virginia essayist, short-story writer, poet and novelist, who won the first O. Henry Memorial Prize in 1919 for her short story, "England to America." The papers include correspondence from editors, publishers, agents and critics; readers' correspondence; family letters; manuscripts of short stories and other works; outlines, plots, and drafts; and diaries and notebooks primarily concerned with religious meditation, Christian mysticism, and Miss Montague's concept of human ennoblement through suffering. Correspondents include Bernard Baruch, Russell Doubleday, Howard M. Gore, M.A. DeWolfe Howe, Vachel Lindsay, Christopher Morley, Philip Van Doren Stern, Joseph P. Tumulty, and Woodrow Wilson.

Dates

  • 1893-1958

Creator

Language of Materials

English

Conditions Governing Access

No special access restriction applies.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. For more information, please contact the West Virginia and Regional History Center.

Biographical / Historical

Margaret Prescott Montague was born on November 28, 1878 at “Oakhurst," the Montague homestead near White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Of New England parentages, she inherited the cultural milieu of the Back Bay as well as that of the West Virginia highlands. Her early education was undertaken by her parents; in her middle teens she was attending Miss Gussie Daniel's school in Richmond, Virginia. It was Miss Gussie, according to Miss Montague, who "discovered my small ability."

Under the influence of the local colorists, Miss Montague turned to the mountain folk of West Virginia for her early novels: The Poet, Miss Kate , and I (1905), The Sowing of Alderson Cree (1907), and In Calvert's Valley (1908). Linda (1912), showed a trend away from the earlier folk literature, oscillating as the novel did between the Back Bay and the back woods.

From 1909 on Miss Montague was subject to “severe physical afflictions” that left her partially blind and deaf for the rest of her career. Always an intensely religious person, she now sought to find self-realization and truth in Christian mysticism and a philosophy of ennoblement through suffering. These themes marked much of her work after 1915. Closed Doors (1915) was a study of handicapped children at the West Virginia School of the Deaf and Blind. In "The Lucky Lady” (1933) Miss Montague asserted that man was still master of his fate and also his handicaps. She recorded her mystical experiences in such articles as "Twenty Minutes of Reality” (1916) and “Leaves from a Secret Journal'' (1926) written under the nome de plume of Jane Steger.

From 1915 she turned more and more to the shorter forms of prose, the short story and essay. She wrote a series of wartime stories, and won the first O. Henry Memorial Prize in 1919 for "England to America" which has become an American classic. Her passionate interest in politics, absent in most of her writings, was the moving force of “Uncle Sam of Freedom Ridge” (1920), a plea for ratification of the League Covenant. The story was made into a film and became an issue in the presidential election of 1920.

In Deep Channel (1923), her last full length novel, Miss Montague returned to the locale of her earlier novels, yet the book was a more skillful and sophisticated work, closely tied to the new literature of the 1920s and, in the words of Professor Stuart P. Sherman, "animated by the passion for self-realization.” In a lighter vein were the legendary exploits of Tony Beaver, the Paul Bunyan of West Virginia, which Miss Montague published as a collection of short stories in Up Eel River (1928).

While the author continued writing short stories, essays, poetry, and completed a long unpublished novel in the 1930s, her didactic writings had been part of a world less harsh and irrational than that the United States of the depression decade. Her works now belong to a passing era. Nevertheless, she was active with her pen almost until the time of her death in Richmond, Virginia on September 26, 1955.

Extent

6.5 Linear Feet (Summary: 6 ft. 5 3/4 in. (14 document cases, 5 in. each); (3 document cases, 2 1/2 in. each); (1 oversize folder, 1/4 in.))

Physical Location

West Virginia and Regional History Center / West Virginia University / 1549 University Avenue / P.O. Box 6069 / Morgantown, WV 26506-6069 / Phone: 304-293-3536 / Fax: 304-293-3981 / URL: https://wvrhc.lib.wvu.edu/

Related A&M Collections

582, 1110, 1348, 2218

Processing Information

In September 2018, A&M 1152 and 1169 were formally merged into this collection. The former custodian of this collection had donated A&M 1152 and 1169 the year following the donation of A&M 1110, likely with the intention of adding them to the first collection. Previous processors had already interfiled 1152 and 1169 into this collection and described the three collections as one. When reprocessing this collection, we tried to maintain the original intellectual arrangement as best we could. The note from the original paper finding aid is as follows:
The Montague papers were presented to the West Virginia Collection by the author's brother, the Reverend Cary Montague of Richmond, Virginia. Miss Ellen Lee Ball had custody of the papers from 1955 to 1958 and spent much time and effort in arranging and annotating the collection. Further processing and cataloging has been done by the staff of the West Virginia Collection.
Title
Margaret Prescott Montague, Author, Papers
Author
Staff of the West Virginia & Regional History Center
Description rules
dacs
Language of description
English

Repository Details

Part of the West Virginia and Regional History Center Repository

Contact:
1549 University Ave.
P.O. Box 6069
Morgantown WV 26506-6069 US
304-293-3536