Wednesday, January 23, 2013

She Was Brilliant with Them

Mary Cadwalader Rawle, of Philadelphia, married Frederic Rhinelander Jones, of New York, on Thursday, March 24, 1870. Freddy's immediate family did not attend the wedding. They were, at the time, living in Paris. Minnie, as Mary was known, first met eight-year-old Edith in Paris, and immediately became as an older sister to her. Freddy and Minnie's only child, Beatrix Cadwalader Jones, was born on June 19, 1872. A plaque on the outside of 21 East 11th Street, just east of Fifth Avenue, identifies the handsome, but understated, Greek Revival row house as the birthplace of Beatrix.

21 East 11th Street, built in 1848.
(Photograph by Nicholas Strini, courtesy of PropertyShark.)

In 1895, after having studied at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston and traveled in Italy and England, Beatrix set up a landscape gardening office in a room in the house. And it was in this house that, on December 17, 1913, 41-year-old Beatrix married a 44-year-old Yale professor and historian named Max Farrand. Their reception took place in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Stuart Duncan at 3 East 75th Street (1902-04, C.P.H. Gilbert). (The house was next door to the home of Edward S. Harkness, 1 East 75th Street, which would, in 1952, become the headquarters of the Commonwealth Fund, founded by Harkness in 1918 and the first director of which was Max Farrand.) By the time of her marriage, Beatrix was well established in her landscape gardening career, but she is famous today under her married name, Beatrix Farrand. Max and Beatrix led what seems a charmed life together, dividing their time between her mother's Reef Point Estate in Bar Harbor, Maine, and Montecito, in Santa Barbara County, California, where in 1927 Max became the director of the Huntington Library--and where Beatrix designed the library's landscape setting. Beatrix, by the way, got her love and much of her knowledge of gardening from her father's side of the family, not least from Edith's mother, Lucretia, an avid gardener at the family's Pencraig estate in Newport. As for Beatrix's mother, "Her inability to identify even the simplest flowers sometimes amused friends and relatives," according to Cynthia Zaitzevsky in her excellent 2009 book Long Island Landscapes and the Women Who Designed Them.

Her ignorance of flowers notwithstanding, Mary Cadwalader Jones was a woman of parts. She and Edith's brother Freddy were divorced in 1896, but had lived apart for five years. Yet Minnie and Edith remained the closest of friends. Minnie lived at 21 East 11th Street until her death in 1935--65 years in the same house. She was descended from two prominent old Philadelphia families, the Rawles and the Cadwaladers, and was born in the landmark Powel House, a beautiful 1765 house at 244 South 3rd Street.

Powel House, 1765, 244 South 3rd Street, Philadelphia.
(By See below (Wiki Takes Philadelphia) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)

Minnie was born in 1850. In her memoir of her Philadelphia girlhood, Lantern Slides, which was posthumously printed by the great Merrymount Press in 1937, Minnie recalled both the quiet charms of 19th-century Society Hill as well as the remarkable men she met as a result of her father's--William Henry Rawle's--career as a prominent lawyer. (Rawle & Henderson, founded by Minnie's great-grandfather in 1783, is today the oldest existing law firm in America.) Joseph Bonaparte was a house guest. So, too, was William Makepeace Thackeray--merely the first of several great novelists whom Minnie would call friend. In 1862, the year of Edith Wharton's birth, Minnie accompanied her widowed father to Washington, where she met President Lincoln. "I only noticed that Mr. Lincoln was very tall, that he spoke with an accent unfamiliar to me, and that his clothes fitted him badly; they were much too loose and his trousers bagged at the knees." In his review of Lantern Slides in the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography (April 1938), Boies Penrose (the son of Senator Penrose) wrote, "her delineation of Philadelphia in the Civil War period is as vivid as Henry Adams' picture of the Boston of the same day in his Education." Adams and Minnie, incidentally, were friends. Lantern Slides appeared in the year of Edith Wharton's death. Edith had agreed to write a foreword to the book, but was too ill to do so.

William Oliver Stone, portrait of Mary Cadwalader Rawle, 1868. (From the Metropolitan Museum of Art.)

On East 11th Street Minnie maintained a kind of salon, entertaining artistic and literary luminaries of the day, including Augustus Saint-Gaudens, John Singer Sargent, and the novelist Francis Marion Crawford. Another attendee was John LaFarge, Henry Adams's close friend whose magnificent Ascension mural was painted in situ right around the corner at the Church of the Ascension, Fifth Avenue and 10th Street, in 1888, eighteen years after the Joneses moved to 11th Street. In 1913, three years after LaFarge's death, Minnie arranged the publication (by Macmillan) of, and wrote the preface to, LaFarge's unfinished book The Gospel Story in Art. (Google Books has a copy bearing the book plate of the art historian Paul J. Sachs.) It was before LaFarge's great mural that Minnie's memorial service was held at the Church of the Ascension on what would have been her 85th birthday, December 12, 1935.

John LaFarge, Ascension mural, Church of the Ascension, 1888.
(John LaFarge [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons.)

Macmillan had published, in 1900, Minnie's book European Travel for Women, a still highly readable and entertaining book. She was also known in her lifetime for her service to the field of nursing and advocacy of nursing education. As chairman of the Advisory Board of the New York City Training School for Nurses, she administered a modified version of the Hippocratic Oath to graduating nurses--she was the first, indeed, to recognize that nurses, as well as physicians, should take a version of the Oath. She also wrote a fine essay on the history and meaning of the Oath in the American Journal of Nursing (January 1909).

Not least, Minnie befriended Henry James. They first met in New York in March 1883, at a dinner party held by E.L. Godkin, editor of the New York Evening Post. That July, James visited Minnie in Bar Harbor. Minnie believed, in her own words, "that the most natural friendships are those between men and women. Probably my upbringing had something to do with this conviction, but throughout my life my intimate friends, with few exceptions, have been men, and I have found that if they are treated fairly, as decent men treat each other, and not tricked or used, as they so often are by women, they 'respond to treatment,' as the medical jargon has it, admirably." In 1911, James announced that Minnie and the novelist Howard Sturgis "are my best friends." James twice, on his last two visits to America (1904-05 and 1910-11), stayed in the 11th Street house. (On both visits James also stayed with the Whartons at The Mount.)

And Edith spent her last night in America, in 1923, when she had come to accept an honorary doctorate from Yale, under Minnie's roof on East 11th Street.

Minnie died, from pneumonia, in London on September 22, 1935, on her way back to New York after having spent part of the summer with Edith at Pavillon Colombe, outside of Paris. She was 84 years old. She is buried in the Aldbury churchyard in Hertfordshire--"like me," Hermione Lee quotes Edith saying to Bernard Berenson, "she had a horror of dead bodies carried from one end of the world to the other." At her memorial service nearly three months later, at Church of the Ascension, the art critic Royal Cortissoz eulogized Minnie. He spoke of the brilliant writers and artists she had known--Theodore Roosevelt, Henry James, John LaFarge. (Minnie's correspondence, preserved at Beinecke Library at Yale, also includes letters from Grover Cleveland, Nikola Tesla, and H.G. Wells.) "And," said Cortissoz, "she was brilliant with them."

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