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From: "Peter_McCrae" <>
Subject: BORDEN: Mary Borden--d;2/12/1968>UK
Date: Thu, 17 Aug 2006 21:32:50 +0100
Source: Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2003.
Entry Updated : 12/17/2003
Mary Borden served as a director of French field hospitals in both World
Wars, for which she received military medals for bravery, and was married to
a British army general and member of Parliament. She drew upon these
experiences for the backgrounds in several of her novels. "Borden wrote in a
tightly scripted style, every word carefully chosen to evoke the right
feeling and atmosphere," wrote P. Campbell in Twentieth-Century Romance and
Many of Borden's novels concern illicit love affairs. In Action for Slander,
Major Daviot is accused of cheating at cards and takes his accuser to court.
But Daviot is secretly having an affair with his accuser's wife and this is
the underlying reason the charge of cheating was made. D. L. Mann in Boston
Transcript praised the "understanding of human nature" exhibited by Bentley
in her novel, and called Action for Slander "a remorselessly moral story."
Sarah Gay deals with the love affair between a young English woman working,
as did Borden herself, for the French Red Cross during World War I, and a
Frenchman she meets at the hospital. Sarah gives up her husband and children
back home to live in Paris with her new lover. But when one of her children
becomes ill, Sarah returns to England.
In A Woman with White Eyes, Borden wrote a more impressionistic novel that
explored new stylistic techniques than did her usual work. Telling the
retrospective stories of two female friends nearing sixty, the novel details
their relationships with husbands, lovers and family members over a
sometimes-stormy lifetime. Calling A Woman with White Eyes "perhaps the most
complex novel of the year," Fanny Butcher of the Chicago Daily Tribune found
the profusion of memories a bit overwhelming, saying "if A Woman with White
Eyes had been a little less diffused, technically, it would have been a much
more powerful book." Margaret Wallace in the New York Evening Post thought
the novel "lacks the homely virtues of clarity and simplicity" although
being a "brilliant and subtle piece of writing." L. A. G. Strong in
Spectator concluded that A Woman with White Eyes "is a most impressive and
moving book, full of scenes that haunt the memory."
After her death, the London Times commented, "Miss Borden was a writer of
very real and obvious gifts. Intelligent, resourceful, and accomplished, not
seldom impressive in their sustained narrative power, most of her novels
were nevertheless somewhat narrowly confined to the experience of the very
rich and exalted and in the result were stamped by a certain conventionality
of outlook. She tried in time to broaden the field of her observation and
imaginative sympathy, but continued for the most part to make the best use
of her talents in keeping to the type of wealthy and fashionable milieu
which for many years she knew best."
Family: Born May 15, 1886, in Chicago, IL; died December 2, 1968; daughter
of William and Mary (Whiting) Borden; married George Douglas Turner; married
Sir Edward Spears (a major general, British Army, member of Parliament, and
historian), 1918; children: (first marriage) Joyce Comfort Hart-Davis, Mary
Hamilton Hall; (second marriage) Michael (deceased). Education: Vassar
College, B.A., 1907. Politics: Conservative. Religion: Protestant.
Memberships: Society of Authors.
British medals for war service, 1914-18; French Legion of Honor and Croix de
Guerre with bar and palm.
Author. Organizer and director of field hospitals for the French in both
World Wars. Official hostess at British legations in Beirut and Damascus
when husband was minister plenipotentiary to Syria and Lebanon, 1942-44.
WRITINGS BY THE AUTHOR:
* The Tortoise, Knopf (New York City), 1921.
* Jane--Our Stranger, Knopf, 1923.
* Three Pilgrims and a Tinker, Knopf, 1924.
* The Technique of Marriage, Heinemann (London), 1924, Doubleday, Doran (New
York City), 1933.
* Jericho Sands, Heinemann, 1925, Knopf, 1926.
* Four O'Clock, and Other Stories, Doubleday, Page, 1927.
* Flamingo, or the American Tower, Doubleday, Page, 1927.
* Jehovah's Day, Heinemann, 1928, Doubleday, Doran, 1929.
* The Forbidden Zone, Heinemann, 1929, Doubleday, Doran, 1930.
* A Woman with White Eyes, Doubleday, Doran, 1930.
* Sarah Defiant, Doubleday, Doran, 1931.
* Sarah Gay, Heinemann, 1931.
* (With E. M. Delafield and Susan Ertz) Man, Proud Man, Hamilton, 1932.
* Mary of Nazareth, Doubleday, Doran, 1933.
* The King of the Jews, Little, Brown (Boston), 1935.
* Action for Slander, Heinemann, 1936, Harper (New York City), 1937.
* The Black Virgin, Heinemann, 1937, published as Strange Week-end, Harper,
* Passport for a Girl, Harper, 1939.
* Journey Down a Blind Alley, Harper, 1946.
* No. 2 Shovel Street, Heinemann, 1949.
* Catspaw, Longmans, Green, 1950 (published in England as For the Record,
* You, the Jury (Book-of-the-Month Club selection), Longmans, Green, 1952
(published in England as Martin Merriedew, Heinemann, 1952).
* Margin of Error, Longmans, Green, 1954.
* The Hungry Leopard, Longmans, Green, 1956.
UNDER PSEUDONYM BRIDGET MACLAGAN
* The Mistress of Kingdoms; or Smoking Wax, Duckworth, 1912.
* Collision, Duckworth, 1913.
* The Romantic Lady, Constable, 1916, (under name Mary Borden), Knopf, 1920,
(under name Mary Borden-Turner), Heinemann, 1924.
Adapted novel, Action for Slander, for motion picture of the same title.
Writer of scripts for British Broadcasting Corp.'s Saturday Night Theatre.
Also known as: Bridget Maclagan, Mary Borden-Turner
Birth: May 15, 1886 in Chicago, Illinois, United States
Death: December 2, 1968
Source: Twentieth-Century Romance & Historical Writers, 3rd ed. St. James
Mary Borden was an American who settled in England on her marriage to an
English officer. Borden served in French field hospitals in both World Wars,
and received commendations for her bravery. She used the experience and
knowledge gained through her hospital work, and her knowledge of British
political life as a background to several of her novels. Borden wrote in a
tightly scripted style, every word carefully chosen to evoke the right
feeling and atmosphere. Whether set in a courtroom (Action for Slander), or
in Vienna after the annexation of Austria (Passport for a Girl), her books
have intricate backgrounds against which her characters can act out their
Passport for a Girl is probably one of Borden's most interesting books. Set
against World War II, it tells the love story of April, an English girl from
an aristocratic and politically powerful family, and Hans Hartmann, an
Austrian Jew. However, more importantly it gives a good insight into British
attitudes to the rise of Nazism. The political background to the annexation
of Austria and Britain's reaction to it is seen through the eyes of Hag
Goodchild, a British diplomat who has `hands-on' experience of the
machinations of the government.
April, Hag's stepdaughter, goes to Vienna and falls in love with Hans, a
journalist and a political dissident wanted by the Nazis. Borden contrasts
the experiences of Hag and Christine, who don't believe that there will be a
war, and Hans and April, experiencing the tension and danger firsthand.
Written in 1939, Passport for a Girl is an extremely interesting book with
copious detail about the politics and war of the time. The love of Hans and
April defies boundaries, fascism, and war--and the reader knows if Hans dies
in the concentration camp April would rather die than live without him.
Sarah Gay is a different kind of love story, dealing with an adulterous
love. It begins in France in 1918, and the story revolves around the strong
love between Sarah and John. While working for the French Red Cross (like
Borden herself) Sarah meets and falls in love with John Gay, and gives up
her marriage, her reputation, and her children for him. The couple live in
Paris until she has to return to England when her child becomes ill.
Circumstances prevent her from returning to Paris, and John begins an affair
with someone else. Sarah tries to shoot his lover but the couple end up
marrying at the end of the book. The male characters in Sarah Gay are
unappealing: George is weak, boring, flaccid; John is charming, feckless,
and unfaithful. Sarah comes out of this book well, but only after she has
shown herself to have some moral fibre, staying in England because of her
children, her nurse, and her husband.
For the time that she was writing in, Borden introduces seemingly risqué
subjects--passion, affairs, and sexual relationships are discussed honestly
and openly. She tackles a particularly sensitive subject in Collision, when,
writing as Bridget Maclagan, she introduces the subject of interracial love
and marriage. Imogen, a socialist, comes to India wanting to meet real
Indian men and women, and ends up falling in love with a married English
man. Their relationship ends when his wife falls ill, and Imogen realizes
that she really wants Choula, an Indian doctor. Ironically, she offers
herself to him as a workmate and life-partner, but Choula says: `...
intermarriage is revolting to my taste for the fitness of things... And
you', he was saying, `wanted to do it because it was, you thought, a brave
and daring thing to do'.
Illicit love affairs are also featured in many of Borden's other books. In
Action for Slander, the story revolves around a court case in which Major
Daviot has been accused of cheating at cards--Daviot is actually having an
affair with the wife of the man that accused him of cheating.
In addition to books set in the war and love stories, Borden also produced
two very interesting and very ambitious books, Mary of Nazareth and The King
of the Jews. The first book, Mary of Nazareth is based on the life of Jesus
and his mother according to the four gospels. Borden also wrote a couple of
autobiographical books about her life in France during the war, and an
interesting sociological study on marriage.
Pseudonym: Bridget Maclagan. Nationality: American. Settled in England after
her second marriage. Born: Chicago, Illinois, 15 May 1886. Education: Vassar
College, Poughkeepsie, New York, B.A. 1907. Family: Married1) George Douglas
Turner; 2) Sir Edward Spears in 1918; two daughters and one son. Career:
Director of French field hospitals in both World Wars; resided in England
after marriage; official hostess at British legations, Beirut and Damascus,
1942-44; script writer for Saturday Night Theatre, BBC Radio, London.
Awards: Légion d'honneur; Croix de Guerre with bar and palm. Died: 2
Romance and Historical Publications
* The Tortoise. New York, Knopf, 1921.
* Jane--Our Stranger. London, Heinemann, and New York, Knopf, 1923.
* The Technique of Marriage. London, Heinemann, 1924; New York, Doubleday
* Three Pilgrims and a Tinker. London, Heinemann, and New York, Knopf, 1924.
* Jericho Sands. London, Heinemann, 1925; New York, Knopf, 1926.
* Flamingo; or, The American Tower. London, Heinemann, and New York,
Doubleday Page, 1927.
* Jehovah's Day. London, Heinemann, 1928; New York, Doubleday Doran, 1929.
* A Woman with White Eyes. London, Heinemann, and Doubleday Doran, 1930.
* Sarah Defiant. New York, Doubleday Doran, 1931.
* Sarah Gay. London, Heinemann, 1931.
* Mary of Nazareth. London, Heinemann, and Doubleday Doran, 1933.
* The King of the Jews. London, Heinemann, 1935; as King of the Jews, New
York, Little Brown, 1935.
* Action for Slander. London, Heinemann, 1936; New York, Harper, 1937.
* The Black Virgin. London, Heinemann, 1937; as Strange Week-end, New York,
* Passport for a Girl. London, Heinemann, and New York, Harper, 1939.
* No 2 Shovel Street. London, Heinemann, 1949.
* For the Record. London, Heinemann, 1950; as Catspaw, New York, Longmans
* Martin Merriedew. London, Heinemann, 1952; as You, The Jury, New York,
* Margin of Error. London, Heinemann, 1952; New York, Longman, 1954.
* The Hungry Leopard. London, Heinemann, and New York, Longman, 1956.
Novels as Bridget Maclagan
* The Mistress of Kingdoms or Smoking Wax. London, Duckworth, 1912.
* Collision. London, Duckworth, 1913.
* The Romantic Lady. London, Constable, 1916; (as Mary Borden) New York,
Knopf, 1920; (as Mary Borden-Turner) London, Heinemann, 1924.
* Four O'clock and Other Stories. London, Heinemann, 1926; New York,
Doubleday Page, 1927.
* The Forbidden Zone (autobiography). London, Heinemann, 1929; New York,
Doubleday Doran, 1930.
* Man, Proud Man, with E.M. Delafield, and Susan Ertz. London, Hamilton,
* Journey Down a Blind Alley (autobiographical). London, Hutchinson, 1946.
* Action for Slander, 1937.
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