Myrtle Reed


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Myrtle Reed, (1874-1911), American poet, journalist, and author wrote Lavender and Old Lace (1902).

With a light touch of humour when dealing with morality and offering advice in her works, Reed realised the responsibility and opportunity she had as a writer to affect younger women's lives. Thomas Carlyle's Transcendental movement inspiring novel Sartor Resartus was a favourite of hers, motivating her to add her own philosophy on life in her popular fiction works such as Old Rose and Silver (1909) and Master of the Vineyard (1910).

"We take our sermons and philosophy so much more readily through fiction than fact, than through didactic preaching. See what a rare opportunity I should have of influencing young people--especially young women--for I shall always write stories of simple lives and homes--stories that I hope will make women think of their particular duties in the home life, and that will set before young girls a high ideal of life--the highest ideal as exemplified in daily home life, and, perhaps, homely, simple tasks. I do not believe in divorce, and I am going to try to lift my voice against it by my indirect preaching with the pen."

Myrtle Reed was the daughter of preacher Hiram von Reed and his wife Elizabeth Armstrong, an author of theological works. She was born in Norwood Park, Illinois, on 27 September 1874. Young Myrtle was influenced early on by both parents to read and write.

After high school Reed put her efforts into writing poems and stories, her first published in The Acorn, a magazine catering to children. Soon after she was a regular contributor to such periodicals as Munsey's, Harper's Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, and National magazines.

Love Letters of a Musician (1899) was Reed's first novel, well-received by the public. It was followed by Later Love Letters of a Musician (1900). The Spinster Book (1901) is a compilation of essays on matters of the heart. However, it was Lavender and Old Lace (1902), in a special lavender binding designed by Margaret Armstrong that finally established her as an author of romance, even inspiring a theatre production in 1938. President Theodore Roosevelt read Reed's The Book of Clever Beasts (1904) and wrote her a letter in praise of it. The Master's Violin (1904), At the Sign of the Jack o' Lantern (1905), and A Spinner in the Sun (1906) followed. Love Affairs of Literary Men (1907) included Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, Thomas Carlyle and Edgar Allan Poe.

In 1906 Reed and James Sydney McCullough married. She had met him through correspondence in high school. As portrayed in her stories, Reed found much satisfaction in domestic matters, and her series of cookbooks under the pseudonym Olive Green are evidence of a happy homelife and love of entertaining friends and family. What to Have for Breakfast (1905) was followed by One Thousand Simple Soups (1907). Interspersed with the recipes were humorous little sketches such as "The Kitchen Rubaiyat" and "The Philosophy of Breakfast". Everyday Desserts (1911) and the Myrtle Reed Cookbook (1916) were published posthumously.

A Weaver of Dreams (1911) was Reed's last book. She died of a drug overdose on 17 August 1911 in Chicago, Illinois.

Biography written by C.D. Merriman for Jalic Inc. Copyright Jalic Inc 2006. All Rights Reserved.

The above biography is copyrighted. Do not republish it without permission.

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