Marianne Moore: Poetry


This page will note various events of Moore’s life drawn from her letters and elsewhere. Please click on the images to enlarge them.

Moore Cousins from Hawaii

Selected Letters(1997) contains one letter from Moore to Edith Moore Love (1951) and one to her daughter,

Edith Moore, left

Mary-Louise Love Schneeberger.  As the editors note, these are cousins of Moore’s on her father’s side, not known to Marianne until her brother encountered them in Hawaii during World War II.  They became the source of a long lost connection and information about the family of John Milton Moore of Portsmouth, Ohio.

Edith Moore, born in Ohio in 1878, was the daughter of Enos Bascom Moore and his second wife, Mary Switzer. She married Hawaiian-born William A. Love, a stockbroker, lived in Honolulu and died in Monterey, California, in 1974. Her father was a brother of William Moore, father of John Milton. Thus, Edith and John Milton were first cousins; her daughter Mary-Louise (1906-2005) and Marianne were second cousins.

Mary-Louise was born in Honolulu and educated at the Punahou School (Oahu College) there and the Sorbonne. She married Philip Schneeberger (1887-1964), a research chemist trained at Johns Hopkins (PhD 1913), and lived later in Carmel, California, where she contributed to the Carmel Pine Cone and was a board member of Friends of Photography. She was active in promoting the work of Robinson Jeffers and in 1965 presented, in Carmel, an arrangement of “Point Lobos” using “Prometheus Bound,” a symphonic rhapsody by Usigli.  In 1975 she won a Golden Eagle Award for a video , “A Child’s Garden of Verses.” Her 1968 gift to Moore of a “huge check” suggests that she was a woman of means.

Alfred Kreymborg, Poet, Editor, Literary Adventurer

Alfred Kreymborg (1883-1966) was born in New York to Herman C. and Louisa Kreymborg, natives of Germany. His father ran a cigar store on


First Avenue. A champion chess player,  Alfred became interested in modern arts and letters and in 1913 founded Glebe magazine which attracted poems by William Carlos Williams and Ezra Pound. Staked by Walter Arensberg, he founded Others in July, 1915, and published Moore’s work in its December issue. About that time, Kreymborg came to know Alfred Stieglitz and his 291 Gallery.

When Moore met Kreymborg in the fall of 1915, he was married to Gertrude Lord (1891-1982) who, Moore said, “has the loveliest smile I have ever seen.” She was the daughter of Austin Willard Lord, a distinguished architect, a member of McKim, Mead and White until he founded his own firm; he later headed the Architecture School at Columbia and the American School in Rome. Gertrude’s and Kremborg’s  marriage lasted for about a year; Gertrude later married the artist Carl Schmitt, had ten children, and lived in Wilton, Connecticut. Kreymborg married Dorothy “Dot” Bloom.

Kreymborg became editor of Broom  in the 1920s and later, American Caravan.. He continued to publish anthologies, books of his poetry, a few novels, and verse plays like Lima Beans starring Mina Loy and William Carlos Williams. He remained active in the literary world, writing radio plays, judging poetry contests, and publishing his fictionalized autobiography, Troubadour, in 1925.

Moore published “Pantomime” in The Dial for January, 1926. In writing about it to Alyse Gregory she said: “The only place in the make-up which we were first able to find for it was between S[cofield] T[hayer] and Yeats! The stately Alianthus came to our rescue and the pigeon follows Anatole France.” (Selected Letters, 221)

A pigeon stands outside her window-pane,

A puppet bobbing for bread or grain or nuts;

Craning and twisting his head within the frame,

Scraping his wings along the sill, he struts

And pouts and bows, wooing above, below,

Cooing chromatics up and down the glass,

Spreading his wings to fly, closing them slow:

Each wile parades a wish to let him pass.

The lass unfolds two fingers and a thumb,

Raises the transparent wall sufficiently

To let her palm release the modicum

Of food essential to his minstrelsy:

An open pantomime lays out the crumb

And gives the troubadour the balcony.

 For further information please see:

Suzanne W. Churchill. The Little Magazine Others and the Renovation of Modern American Poetry. Ashgate, 2006.

W. W. E. Ross, Canadian Poet Published and Reviewed by Moore

At The Dial (April 1928),  Moore published work of Canadian poet William Wrightson Eustice Ross. Later, she reviewed his Laconics (1931) and Sonnets (1933) in Poetry Magazine (see Complete Prose pp. 265-66 and 296-97). Since both books were self-published, it is likely that Ross sent her copies and Moore chose to place her reviews in Poetry; Poetry’s archive at the University of Chicago would confirm whether or not that is the case.

Adapted from The Dictionary of Literary Biography (online):

“The first poet in Canada to use real factual things unadorned by metaphor,” critic Peter Stevens has called W. W. E. Ross was born in Peterborough, Ontario, on June 14, 1894, and died in Toronto on August 26, 1966.  He earned a degree in chemistry from the University of Toronto in 1914. His interest in the natural world took him on two surveying trips in the summers of 1912 and 1913, both to northern Ontario wilderness regions–Algonquin and Algoma. He served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in World War I as a private in the signal corps. On his return, he took up lifelong employment as a geophysicist at the Dominion Magnetic Observatory at Agincourt, Ontario, a few miles north of Toronto.

His earliest works, dated 1923-1925 by his editors, are written in free verse and reflect a knowledge of both imagism and Japanese poetry. Although acquainted with the works of numerous American writers, including William Carlos Williams, Robert Frost, Ezra Pound, Vachel Lindsay, Carl Sandburg, and Amy Lowell, his chief American influences were E. E. Cummings and Marianne Moore. He objected to both difficult and ornate verse and found the conventional romanticism of Canada’s Confederation poets particularly unappealing. His first publications were in Marianne Moore’s Dial (in 1928) and in Poetry (Chicago). These were followed by two slim collections, Laconics (1930) and Sonnets (1932), both of which he signed with the initials E. R.

Laconics collects the imagist poems Ross is best known for, poems constructed of discrete two-stress lines and direct, factual images; many of these poems present the northern Ontario landscape in the stark manner of the Group of Seven. Sonnets reveals a lesser-known side of Ross–the classicist and traditional metricist concerned not only with factual reality but also with spiritual truth.

In the 1930s Ross’s interest in things spiritual led him to translate work by the surrealist Max Jacob and to write prose poems influenced by Jacob and Franz Kafka; some of the prose poems were published in New Directions in Prose & Poetry for 1937. His work in this period incorporates elements of automatic writing, transcendentalism, mysticism, and archetypal imagery.

Hilda Sprague-Smith, Who Introduced MM to New York

Hilda Sprague Smith figures prominently for a brief but important moment in Moore’s college years. A classmate, Hilda invited Moore to visit her in New York in February, 1909, their senior year. Moore spent two nights, probably January 31 and February 1, at the Sprague Smith home at 29 W. 68th Street and wrote extensive letters home about the experience (well documented in Selected Letters, pp. 54-62).

Hilda was the only child of Charles Sprague Smith, professor of German and comparative literature at Columbia University and founder and director of the People’s Institute of New York at Cooper Union. The Institute’s responsibility was “to teach the theory and practice of government and social philosophy to workers and recent immigrants in New York City. It sponsored lectures, classes, concerts, and other community activities at Cooper Union and throughout New York City, though principally on Manhattan’s Lower East Side” (New York Public Library: People’s Institute Papers).

Hilda’s mother was Isabelle Dwight, daughter of Benjamin Woodbridge Dwight, PhD, of Clinton, New York, great-granddaughter of Timothy Dwight, president of Yale. She served as an art teacher, principal of the Veltin School for Girls (where she engaged Robert Henri to teach painting), founder of the Bach Society at Winter Park, Florida, and board member of the MacDowell Colony.

After preparation at the Veltin School, Hilda attended Bryn Mawr. She married Victor Starzenski, the son of Count Maurice Starzenski, a Polish aristocrat, in New

York in 1912 and moved with him to Schenectady, New York, where he worked  as an engineer for General Electric. An article in the Washington Postfor February

Arnold Genthe (1912) Library of Congress

28, 1916, tells how Hilda researched the four ways a New Yorker could be married and, in addition to a civil ceremony and a church wedding, she chose a marriage contract in which she would not be “given in marriage” by a man (her father having died two years previously) but rather gave herself. The article goes on to note her Bryn Mawr study in “history, poetry, and economics” and her abilities at golf, tennis, basketball, and as a “daring” horseback rider.

While the record is sketchy, Hilda divorced Starzenski between about 1921 and 1924 (he remarried and had a child by 1925), took back her maiden name, and was living, in 1930, with her mother and Louise Veltin, the school’s foundress, in Bryn Mawr virtually on the campus. Winters were spent in Winter Park and summers in Seal Harbor, Maine. Hilda must have died in the 1940s; she is mentioned in a Winter Park publication in 1939 and her mother, who died in 1950, bequeathed to Bryn Mawr a library book-buying fund in Hilda’s memory.

Mildred Pressinger von Kienbusch, College Classmate

Mildred Pressinger by Robert Henri, 1914

One of Moore’s Bryn Mawr classmates, Mildred Clarke Pressinger, became a lifelong friend; Moore mentioned her in a letter home on December 12, 1908 (SL 3). Born in New York to Austin Edmund Pressinger and Mabel Lillie Currier, Mildred attended the Veltin School for Girls on West 74th Street, not far from her home at 5 West 81st. Her father, Austin E. Pressinger, was a lawyer in New York.

Mildred married Carl Otto von Kienbusch in 1912 and had three children, Millicent, Juliana, and William. Carl von Kienbusch worked in the leaf tobacco business, as had his father and grandfather, and beginning about 1928, began to collect armor and swords under the tutelage of a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Thirty years later, he had filled his five-storey brownstone with more than 800 pieces which he subsequently willed to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. (See The New Yorker for July 6, 1957, pp. 18-20.)

Mildred was active in the Society of Mayflower Descendants,  the National Society of Colonial Dames, The Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Women’s Fly Fishers Club. Princeton University houses a collection of letters from Moore to Mildred, 1959-1966.

Her son William Kienbusch (who dropped the “von” from his name) received his degree magna cum laude from Princeton and became a successful abstract expressionist painter. In an interview given to Forrest Selvig  of the Archives of American Art, November 1, 1968, Kienbusch reflected on armor and Moore:

Well, to use the image of screwing the strings up on a violin, I think that we’ve screwed them so tight that we are in a great degree unshockable. I think also we try and protect ourselves constantly as human beings from excessive shock. . . .. We have been so

William Kienbush, 1960

conditioned to the loser, to the tragedy, the shock that we’ve finally reached the point where you have to protect yourself. One of our greatest poets – incidentally the only really famous person I know – is Marianne Moore – I know her quite well. She writes poems about little animals that have armor, and why does my father collect armor? We’re all encasing ourselves against really these terrible slings and arrows I really do believe.

To the right is Kienbusch’s Sea Garden, Little Dutch Island, oil on canvas, 1960.

When Kienbusch raises the issue of Moore’s writing about armor and armored animals, he generates speculation about a possible connection between his father’s enormous collection of armor and Moore’s 1950 poem, “Armor’s Underlying Modesty.”

On Wanting to Write, 1908

Moore wrote to her college friend Marcet Haldeaman on February 28, 1908 (SL 40):  “’Is it that you want to write or is it that you have something to say?’ I came on in The Atlantic yesterday.  I have come to the conclusion—that “I ‘want to write’ but that shortly I will have something to say.” It is likely that she was reading the December 1906 issue where there appears the following advertisement for subscriptions to Forest and Stream:

If you are a lover of outdoor life and nature you should read the FOREST AND STREAM, it has to do with the simple natural life, in which the camper, the gunner, the big-game hunter, the angler, the yachtsman and the woods traveler are brought close to the real things of earth. It is filled with interesting stories of camp life, hunting adventure, angling luck, and yachting, and withal contains a vast fund of practical and helpful information on the sports of which it treats. Its contributors write because they have something to say; they see and do things in their outings worth the telling, and tell them in a way worth the reading. For thirty-five years it has been the favorite medium for this interchange of experience; sons are reading it to-day whose fathers and fathers’ fathers read it before them. If you are interested in its attractive subjects, you should have the FOREST AND STREAM in your mail — its weekly coming is the next best thing to an actual outing.

The ad appeared on p. 51 of The Atlantic Monthly Advertiser, evidently a supplement to the magazine.

Russian Art, 1929

Moore made a habit of visiting New York galleries, particularly when she lived in the Village. She reported in her editor’s column in The Dial for July, 1929 (C Prose 219), on an exhibition of Russian art and crafts held at the Grand Central Palace, a cavernous hall on Lexington between 43rd and 44th Streets.  Among the works she saw, Moore mentioned a drawing by D. I. Mitrokhin, a wood engraving by V. A. Favorsky of “sheaves and reapers,” and an ink drawing of boxers by A. A. Deyneka.

“Street in Winter,” 1929, India Ink, Pen, Watercolor

Dmitry Isidorovich Mitrokhin (1883-1973) studied art in Russia and in Paris. He achieved fame as a graphic artist, illustrating and designing books, although he worked in watercolor and ink as well. In 1915, he illustrated O’ Henry’s  The Heart of the West for a Russian edition and later he worked on translations of Poe, Coleridge, and Ben Jonson. He spent most of his life in Leningrad, moving to Moscow in 1944. He was considered the father of graphic art in Russia.

Reaper with Sickle and Combine

Vladimir Andreyevich Favorsky (1886-1954), wood engraver, illustrated editions of Dante, Pushkin, Dostoevsky; his illustrations to The Tale of Igor, received special praise.  He was a respected teacher who encouraged revolutionary work, although his own style remained realistic.


Alexander Aleksandrovich Deineka (1899-1969) worked chiefly in Moscow, creating paintings, sculpture, mosaics, illustrations, and posters. His subjects included military personnel, machinery, landscapes,  dancers, and, after a trip to the United States in 1935, images of American life.  For many years, he taught art in Moscow. Toward the end of his life, he became a vice- president (1962-1966), and later,  an academician-secretary (1966-1968) of the Decorative Arts Department of the Arts Academy of the USSR.

Mary Jackson Norcross

Mary Jackson Norcross (5 Mar 1875-14 Feb 1935) was one of four daughters of George and Louisa Jackson Norcross. She was born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where her father was pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church. She attended Miss Mary E. Stevens’s School in Germantown, Pennsylvania, to prepare for Bryn Mawr College, from which she graduated in 1900, having majored in history and political science. She spent two years as assistant bursar at the college (1901-1903). According to the 1917 Bryn Mawr College Register of Alumnae and Former Students, Mary was a “hand weaver, 1905-10,” and a “suffrage worker, 1912-15.”  The History of Women Suffrage: 1900-1920 by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, et al., lists her as a president of a section of Pennsylvania in 1915 in the Pennsylvania Women’s Suffrage Association (which later became the League of Women Voters).

As is well known from Moore’s Selected Letters and biographical accounts, Mary Norcross took a role in preparing Marianne for Bryn Mawr, accompanied her when she matriculated, and was perhaps the inspiration for Moore’s pursuing the major in history, economics, and political science. While Marianne and her brother were away at college, Mary occasionally stayed at the Moore house where she kept one of her looms for a while.

Eventually, Mary built a craftsman-style home in Sterrett’s Gap, Rye Township, Perry County, Pennsylvania, just north of Carlisle. Marianne and her mother visited there occasionally, and at least once, Mary joined them in New York at 14 St. Luke’s Place. The Moores bestowed a nickname on Mary, “the Beaver,” a sign of familial closeness.

For additional information, see Linda Leavell’s “Marianne Moore, the James Family, and the Politics of Celibacy” in Twentieth Century Literature, Summer, 2003.

Lot in Sodom

Lot in Sodom, a 27-minute film created by Dr. James Sibley Watson, Jr., and Melville Webber, premiered at the Little Carnegie Theater in New York on December 25, 1933. Moore had seen it by September 3, 1933, when she wrote to Hildegarde Watson, the filmmaker’s wife and the actress who played Lot’s wife:

“We are overwhelmed by the film — by the strength of it and the interrelated beauty of the various high points; by the rapt listening effect and premonitoriness of your face and attitudes throughout; and one notices of course the harmoniousness with you — of the daughter. The painting-and-poetry is very nearly too exciting for a patron of the old newsreel, and the general power and aesthetic correlation of the various influences literally overwhelmed us. As Mother remarked earnestly to Mr. Gale [founder of the Art in Cinema Society] afterward, “It should be seen by a conventicle of scholars.” He said, “Conventicle sounds Scotch but then Dr. Watson is Scotch, I imagine.” . . . The angel surely realized the requirements of illusion; Lot was astonishingly real, and “Hebrew”. The symbol of iniquity with beady eyes and the spots on the lily are dazzling; a chill passed over me as the blood wandered down the torso of the prostrate body, and I thought the use of slow motion and distortion, the Blake designs in the fire, and the Pascin, Giotto, and El Greco effects, wonderful.”

–Cyrus Hoy, ed. “Marianne Moore: Letters to Hildegarde Watson (1933-1964) University of Rochester Library Bulletin 39 (Summer 1976) 93-183.

Moore set to work on her review of the film to be published in Bryher’s film magazine Close Up, 19 (December 1933), 318-19 (Prose, 310-12).

The Art in Cinema Society gives the following description of the film in its 1947 catalogue: “Lot in Sodom (American 1933) written, produced, directed and photographed by Dr. [James Sibley] Watson and Melville Webber. Music by Louis Siegal.  With Frederick Haak, Hildegarde Watson,  [Dorothy Haus (or House)], and Louis Whitbeck, Jr. A lyrical, symbolic interpretation of the story from Genesis. “with an accumulative intensity of feeling it reduces the biblical story to its essentially imaginative symbols. The director is the poet, and these smoking plains, fluctuating shapes, tongues of fire, melted together in unusual rhythms, constitute his personal vision of the destruction of Sodom.” (William Troy in NATION 138: 82-4 Jan. 17, 1934.)

“The debauched people of Sodom indulge in frenzied orgies.  Their voluptuous faces and sensual bodies fuse into a Bacchanal revelry. Only Lot with the elders prays for his sinful people. On returning from the temple, he is visited by an angel, but the angry young Sodomites resent the stranger. Lot tries to appease them, and offers his daughter as a sacrifice. To make the young men purge their evil souls Lot evokes the symbol of purity—the majestic and inspiring beauty of human childbirth. The Sodomites ignore Lot’s warning and he flees with his wife and daughter as fire from heaven rains on the debauched city. Lot’s wife makes the fatal mistake of looking back—and she is turned into stone.”

Lot in Sodom is available on YouTube in three segments. For the original version (with the Louis Siegal music) go to for the last segment in which Hildegarde Watson turns into a pillar of salt.

C. Bertram Hartman

Hartman by Jo Hopper, 1949

C. Bertram Hartman (1882-1960), born in Junction City, Kansas, studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1921, he joined Marguerite and William Zorach, Gaston Lachaise, Elie Nadelman, Alfeo Faggi and other artists to form  “The Salons of America,” a society to promote exhibitions of its members’ work; Hartman became treasurer.  By 1921, Moore reported in a letter to Robert McAlmon  (SL 161) that she had visited one of his shows at a Manhattan gallery, and the letter makes clear that she and Hartman were friends.  He contributed illustrations to The Dial during her tenure there. The literature about Ernest Hemingway often includes an account of Hartman’s traveling with Ernest and his first wife, Hadley, to Schruns, Austria, in the winter of 1924.

The following account,  from “Comments on the Arts,” an unsigned article in The Arts I (August-September, 1921), 42, provides a window on Hartman’s work at the time Moore attended his exhibition.

“C. Bernard HARTMAN is showing water-colors at the Montross Gallery. He has a fine sense for

“Trinity Church and Wall Street,” 1929

decorative color. That is something his friends have known for many years. His show of water colors reveal something which even his most intimate friends did not know a year or two back. We did not know that he had an equally fine appreciation for architectural form. In using the term “architectural form” I do not mean “architecture.” I mean that most logical use of form which we associate with architecture but which may be equally well the basis of a pure abstraction. Giotto, Piero della Francesco, Signorelli, Michael Angelo and. in our days, Picasso, are masters of what I call “architectural form.” Ghirlandajo, Murillo, Greuze, Charles C. Curran, could never recognize “architectural form,” even when associated with the qualities which make a work of art popular. Back of all the greatest works of art throughout the ages there has ever been in the structure of the work of art itself that logical building up of form which we associate with great architecture. It is the inherent logic of its form which has made each of these works of art great, not the artist’s success in copying the outward semblance of nature.

“Hartman has given to his water colors of lower Manhattan the sense of form which we feel in the paintings of the masters. He has effected this with little deviation from literal truth. The man


who can make a stirring story out of the incidents of his daily life has a distinct gift. Hartman has made a series of views of the sky-scrapers which are all but literally true. They are dramatic, stirring. Where a lesser man would have had to exaggerate unduly Hartman had but to tell the truth.

“His water colors of Maine are also good, but they have not the intimate quality of his work in lower Manhattan. He has not lived so long in Maine as he has in New York.”

Marcet Haldeman-Julius, Literary Feminist Classmate

Emmanuel and Marcet Haldeman-Julius

During the spring semester, 1908, Marianne Moore had an extensive correspondence with Marcet Haldeman who had left Bryn Mawr at the end of the previous semester. Both young women had a literary bent in common, and Moore’s letters (in Selected Letters) reflect this interest. Marcet’s letters to Moore (at Rosenbach) and Moore’s to Marcet (at Bryn Mawr) seem to fade out not long after that year. But the intensity of the letters suggests a strong friendship, and it is likely that Moore followed her friend’s career, even if from afar.

Marcet Haldeman (1887-1941) was born in Girard, Kansas, the daughter of a Republican, Presbyterian banker and a niece of Jane Addams of Chicago Hull House fame. Educated first at Rockford (Illinois) Seminary for Young Ladies, she then attended Dearborn Seminary in Chicago to prepare for Bryn Mawr College. She entered the college with the class of 1911 but in 1908 moved on to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York and a brief acting career. In 1915, she returned to Girard to become Vice-President of the State Bank of Girard, the family enterprise. Her mother willed her a fortune if she would remain for a year at the bank; she stayed for ten. In 1916, she married Philadelphian Emmanuel Julius (1889-1951), a self-taught socialist and litterateur.  The couple became officially Mr. and Mrs. Haldeman-Julius, at the suggestion of Aunt Jane.

In 1919, Marcet and Emmanuel bought the socialist newspaper Appeal to Reason, published in Girard. The most widely circulated socialist paper in the country, the Appeal featured such writers as Upton Sinclair, Jack London, Stephen Crane, and Eugene Debs. Two years later, the couple published their first joint novel, Dust, a story of rural Kansas Live, followed in 1929 by Violence, concerning racial strife in Detroit.

The Haldeman-Julius partnership is today best known for the Little Blue Books, stapled pamphlets the size of an index card reprinting classics, serious modern literature, self-help, how-to, humor—virtually every genre the editor (Emmanuel) thought would interest their public. At a nickel a copy, they quickly attracted a readership. Over time, the books numbered 500 million copies in 6,000 titles with a world-wide popularity. Highly collectible today, the Little Blue Books’ phenomenal history is outlined at

Marcet and Julius published other works together, including plays and short stories. Washburn University’s Center for Kansas Studies presents them on its website:

Marcet and her husband separated legally in 1933 but continued to live together in their farmhouse in Crawford County in the southeast corner of Kansas. She died of cancer in 1941.

Marguerite Thompson Zorach (1878-1967)

Moore saw an exhibition of modern art at Wanamaker’s Department Store in New York and reported on it to H. D. in a letter of July 26, 1921 (SL 172). Included was “a wool map of New York in minute stitches, by Marguerite Zorach: “the color is lovely; blue, lavender and champagne floor, green and much orange.”

“New York”

“Marguerite Zorach (1878-1968), painter, textile artist and wife of the sculptor William Zorach . . . was something of a pioneer of European Modernism in the United States. [Her] earliest and boldest works reflect the impact of four years of study in Paris (1908-12), where Zorach saw the work of the Fauves and began to paint landscapes in strong, flat colors, often outlined in black. [In work in the next few years such as] ”Skiff in Waves,” from 1914,

Skiff  in Waves, 1914

she makes a foray into Cubo-Futurism. With ”New England Farm,” from around 1918, she gets some helpful hints from folk art, and with ”Prohibition,” of 1920, which features a nude and two dressed men, she seems to be looking at Matisse and Chagall.

Prohibition, 1920

. . . Zorach also worked in watercolor and drawing and from 1917 to the early ’30s devoted most of her energies to needlepoint pieces that she considered paintings in wool and that were hailed as such by critics. Collected by Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, among others, they helped keep food on her family’s table.”

–adapted from a review of a Zorach exhibition at the Gerald Peters Gallery by Roberta Smith, New York Times, June 21, 2007

Born in Santa Rosa, California, Zorach studied art in France before marrying William Zorach, a sculptor. She exhibited in the notorious Armory Show of 1913. She later concentrated on needlework and textile art. In 1925, Zorach painted this portrait of Moore and her mother, Mary Warner Moore. It hangs today in the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.


Katherine Jones, Marcia K. Chamberlain,Friends

About 1942, Moore met Katherine Jones and Marcia K. Chamberlain who lived in Brookline, MA, and who would prove to be most attentive friends, particularly at the time of Mrs. Moore’s death in 1947. Katherine Jones wrote to Moore in 1942, admiring her poems (SL 419), beginning a relationship that lasted until Katherine’s death in 1952 and Marcia’s in 1955.  With  a kind of mutual attentiveness, they invited Moore to stay at their Ellsworth, Maine, summer home the summer her mother died and in succeeding years; in turn, Moore cared for Marcia in her last illness, after Katherine had died.

Who were these women? More important, perhaps, is who they were not: not fellow writers, not admirers competing for the poet’s attention, not relatives. They must have been interesting women, generous in friendship.

Katherine Jones

Katherine Jones (1883-1952) was the only daughter of Mary E. Brown, of New Orleans, and James Arnold Jones, a native of Wellfleet, Massachusetts. James worked for the Boston Fruit Company, later merged with the United Fruit Company, with plantations in Jamaica where the family lived from 1891-98. Otherwise, their home was in Brookline. Katherine attended the Walnut Hill School and thereafter lived with his widowed mother on a private income that allowed travel to Europe, the Orient, and the West Indies.

Marcia D. King (1880-1955) was born in Lamoine, Maine, one of several children of  William R. (a huckster, according to the 1880 Census) and Clara C. King. She graduated from Radcliffe College and about 1914 married John L. Chamberlain, a dentist with a practice in Brookline. After her divorce some time before 1920, she worked as bookkeeper for her brothers, both dentists in Boston. She seems to have maintained a business in this line until the 1950s.

Marcia placed her small archive of Moore materials at Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Marcia Chamberlain

There are present all Moore’s letters to her, as well as clippings and other memorabilia. Also with the papers is a copy of Moore’s poem “By Disposition of Angels,” signed and dated 1952. Published in 1948, the poem commemorates Mrs. Moore and the gift of the manuscript to Marcia (and perhaps to Katherine as well) suggests a shared intimacy or emotion, possibly a connection between the summer of 1947, Moore’s grief, and the kindness of these two friends who made her welcome in Maine during that time.

Katherine published Miss Gifford’s (Exposition Press, 1948), her only novel, which Moore reviewed in The Saturday Review of Literature (C Prose 419-20), calling its “profundities” “a prism of fascination.”

Katherine was a woman of some means, and without her will, one can only speculate that she left funds to Marcia when she died. In turn, Marcia left bequests to Radcliffe College, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and Marianne Moore.

The letters of both women to Moore are at the Rosenbach Museum & Library.

Professor Heckler’s Flea Circus

Moore must have paid a visit to Hubert’s Museum in Times Square since she writes to her brother on May 4, 1928 (SL 240) that her mother quizzed her about whether she could see the fleas or “had to use opera glasses, how large was the merry-go-round, . . . what the flea hotel was like, & so on.” Just to confirm that our poet continued to be interested in the unusual, here is what she might have seen:

Professor Heckler’s Flea Circus’

For the full story of this tiny phenomenon, see the following web site:










Adolf Wolff: Poet, Sculptor, Anarchist

Adolf Wolff

Moore made a trip to New York in December, 1915, with Mary Hall Cowdrey, a friend from Carlisle, and stayed at the National Training School of the YWCA at 135 E. 42nd Street. She described the trip in great detail in letters home (see Selected Letters, pp. 103-112), referring to the experience as “The Sojourn in the Whale.” Among the many artists and writers she encountered was Adolf Wolff (1883-1944), a Belgian born sculptor and poet, whom she met through Alfred Kreymborg. As described in the extensive discussion of Wolff and his work by Francis Naumann and Paul Avrich, he was a “Poet, Sculptor and Revolutionist, but Mostly Revolutionist” (Art Bulletin 67 [September 1985] 486-500).

Kreymborg used his first issue of The Glebe, predecessor of Others, to publish Wolff’s poems, Songs, Sighs, and Curses (New York: The Glebe, 1913). A number of the poems suggest Wolff’s concerns:

The Toilers

Crouching they cling like vermin to the earth

And with their bleeding fingers scrape the earth

But for a little dust, their sustenance,

A little dust mixed with the sweat of brow,

The blood of fingers and the tears of pain. (p.13)

Wolff was more revolutionary sculptor than poet. His work was exhibited at the Modern Gallery (the month before Moore went there during her New York trip) and elsewhere. Despite his sculptures having vanished from sight except for a few pieces in private collections, they drew praise:

Adolf Wolff, is a man of large talents and more than ordinary intelligence. One of his three-dimensional studies in the present exhibition surpasses, in sensitivity and ability, many of Archipenko’s pieces and all of Gaudier-Brzeska’s.

–Willard Huntington Wright, reviewing an exhibition at the Bourgois Galleries in International Studio, 61 (April 1917) 63..

The day of her meeting with Wolff, Kreymborg read Moore one of Wolff’s poems “about men

“The Family”

carrying buckets, bent like patriarchs” (SL 105). Then they went to Wolff’s studio where she saw his plaster sculptures, “the best things I have seen for a long time . . . full of drollery and wit . . . . One I liked particularly of a mother holding two children—the first child sitting on the mother’s lap with his feet straight out in front of him and the second child sitting on the first in the same position.” (See Naumann, p. 491, photograph taken from Vanity Fair, October 1914; dimensions unknown.)

As a revolutionist, Wolff succeeded in ways beyond his artistic ability. The publication of his book of poems occasioned a party to establish the A.W.W., or “Art Workers of the World, attended by publisher Kreymborg, Harry Kelly, “a big leaguer among philosophical anarchists” (New York Tribune, October 9, 1913, 18), and Leonard Abbott, an editor at Current Opinion. Emma Goldman, with whom Wolff taught at the Modern School in Harlem, was too busy writing a play to attend.  In April, 1914, Wolff was arrested for shouting at police during a rally supporting the I.W.W.  The New York Tribune put a photograph of him pinned by two policemen on its front page and labeled him an “anarchist who calls himself a sculptor” (April 5, 1914). The judge at his hearing asked Wolff to read his poems and then sentenced him to avoid all I.W.W. meetings for a year.  (The New York Tribune for February 21, 1915, said he had “served a term in the workhouse,” a place for drunks and disorderlies on Blackwell’s Island, now Roosevelt Island.)

Moore concludes her description of the visit to Wolff’s studio with an invitation from the anarchist-poet-sculptor which she probably never took him up on: “’Miss Moore: Come and see me.’”

Evelyn and Cyril Kay Scott

During the week of February 13, Lola Ridge invited Moore to a gathering for Laura and William Rose Benet and Evelyn (1893-1963) and Cyril Kay Scott (1879-1960). Moore had been assigned Mr. Scott’s Blind Mice to review for Doran, who published the book later that year (Letter to John Warner Moore, February 20, 1921 (SL 145).

Escapade by Evelyn Scott

Escapade by Evelyn Scott

Moore likely did not know that the Scotts had been Elsie Dunn and Frederick Creighton Wellman, formerly Dean of the School of Tropical Medicine at Tulane University, a common law couple who shed their names while in Brazil during the 1910s and moved to New York as the Scotts, she as a poet and he as a novelist.

Evelyn Scott published Escapade in 1923, an account of her adventures in Brazil. While it is doubtful Moore read the work, she surely would have known about it, and she knew of her poems published as Precipitations (New York: Brown, 1920). She mentioned her poetry in her 1926 essay “’New’ Poetry Since 1912” (C Prose, 123)





Charlie Chaplin in The Kid

On Thursday, February 14, 1921, Moore went to The Strand theater in New York to see Charlie Chaplin’s first feature film, The Kid. James Sibley Watson, co-owner of The Dial, had recommended it to her earlier that week.

–Letter to John Warner Moore, February 20, 1921 (SL 145)


Stein and Beaton (an encounter at the dentist’s)

In a letter of May 23, 1933, Moore writes to Morton Dauwen Zabel, of Poetry Magazine, that while at the dentist’s she had seen “the Gertrude Stein,” which he had mentioned to her, and “Cecil Beaton’s account of his sister Nancy’s wedding.” (SL, 306) The Stein was no doubt the first appearance of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas in The Atlantic Monthly (Part I,  151: 5 (May, 1933), [513]-27).

The second was Beaton’s photograph in Vogue, May 1, 1933, captioned as follows:

“Though Cecil Beaton regularly photographed the brightest lights of society and celebrity, for this image he turned his camera on a family affair. The photograph, taken during the wedding of his sister Lady Smiley (formerly Nancy Beaton) to Sir Hugh Houston Smiley, depicts Nancy’s bridesmaids, from left: Lady Violet Pakenham, Baba Beaton, Lady Anne Wellesley, Margaret Whigham, and Liticia Chattock.”



Moore Travels to the West Coast, 1923

Marianne and her mother traveled by train, boat, train and ferry from New York to Seattle in the summer of 1923.  Here is a probably reconstruction, although the boat trip through the Great Lakes may well have been on another, although similar, vessel. The trip took about ten days.

Day 1: Leave New York for Buffalo, 9-hour trip via New York Central Railway; board boat

Day 2 to Day 6, by steamboat to Duluth

Day 7: by train from Duluth to St. Paul; overnight at the YWCA

Day 8 to Day 11: by train to Vancouver, with stop at Banff, Saskatchewan, arriving Tuesday

Day 11: by ferry to Seattle, arriving late in the day

One likely Great Lakes Steamboat was the City of Buffalo. Moore describes her trip to Monroe Wheeler in a letter written on August 25th (SL 203-05):

[The trip] was a delightful contrast to all that I had anticipated. In spite of the fact that there was a great herd of people on the boat, we had all the room we wanted and plenty to eat and so much sun and wind that I feolt when we got to Duluth, as if I had been in Maine a month.

Accommodations on The City of Buffalo were comfortable if not lavish:

City of Buffalo

View of the gallery above the salon (or “saloon” as it was called).

The City of Buffalo had a 250 foot grand salon, public and private dining rooms, 160 staterooms,
and 640 berths. It generally ran between Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, and Duluth.
The City of Buffalo was owned and operated by the Detroit and Cleveland Navigation Company. A sidewheeler, it was launched in 1895 and was at that time the largest passenger ship on the lakes at 308 feet long. It was capable of carrying 800 tons of general cargo and 3,000 passengers.

During the summer, more than 27,000 passengers traveled across the Great Lakes where ports of call included Cleveland,  Detroit, Mackinac Island, but the scenery, according to Moore, was not arresting: “The scenery was tame except for the sunsets and some little lighthouses.”

+ + + + + +

Moore Mentioned in Indian School Investigation

Carlisle Indian School, Winter

On March 22, 1914, S. J. Nori, Clerk at the Indian School, was arrested for embezzlement, as Moore mentioned in a letter to her brother that day. Conditions at the school were under investigation by Congress (the School was a government institution) and hearings were held there in February, 1914, and on March 24th. The school then had about 80 teachers and 1,000 students. While Moore was not called upon to testify, her name did come up in the hearings in the testimony of an unnamed female student:

Committee Chairman: How many girls are there in the business department?

Student: There must be eight or nine.

CC: Who is at the head?

S: Miss Moore. She stays downtown [she lives in Carlisle, not at the school].

CC: You think [Superintendent Moses Friedman] comes around about once in three months and asks how you are getting on?

S: I could not say it has been once in three months but he has not been in there very often.

CC: How long have you been in there?

S: Three years now.

CC: How long does he stay when he comes around?

S: About five minutes as a rule. He comes in and takes off his hat, and Miss Moore shows him papers, and he walks off.

CC: What are you taking? Stenography?

S: Yes, sir.

CC: How long have you been taking it?

S: Three years. Miss Moore was just a student herself. She started in there, and she had a large class, and she had to teach each one individually. It was kind of discouraging at first.

The above testimony occurs in: Carlisle Indian School: Hearings before a Joint Committee of the Congress of the United States of the Sixty-Third Congress to Investigate Indian Affairs</em>, February 6, 7, 8, March 25, 1914, Part II. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1914, pp. 1046-47. See the following site for a copy of the hearings.


Carlisle Commercial College,

from a postcard mailed in 1906

“Following the advice of a counselor at Bryn Mawr, [Moore] enrolled in courses at Carlisle Commercial College, courses that included shorthand and typing. Moore probably decided to do this while still at college, for she signed the entry register at the Commercial College on June 7. 1909. . . . But the courses were far from congenial.” (Charles Molesworth. Marianne Moore: A Literary Life. Boston: Northeastern University Press

+ + + + +

Carlisle Indian School, Students

Moore taught at the Carlisle Indian School, a very short trolley ride from her home, from 1911 to 1914. The school was founded in 1879 by General Richard Pratt who believed that Native American children should become fully integrated into white culture. To that end, he recruited children from nearly 70 tribes, brought them to Pennsylvania, cut their hair, put them in uniforms, and forbade them to speak their languages.

Indian School children upon entrance,   November 4, 1886. Just four months later, the same children posed for another photograph:

For more information, paste this link in your brower for a history of the Indian School:

or click to the right under “Biography” for another site.

+ + + + +

Moore As Art Student

Virginia Wright Garber’s cover illustration for Agnes Godfrey Gay’s Mon Livre de Petites Histoires (New York: W. R. Jenkins, 1909)

Moore told Donald Hall in the well-known interview (MM Reader; Paris Review) that she had less interest in poetry than art when she finished Bryn Mawr:
“I believe I was interested in painting then. At least I said so. I remember Mrs. Otis Skinner asking at commencement time . . . ‘What would you like to be?’
“‘A painter,’ I said.
“‘Well, I’m not surprised,’ Mrs. Skinner answered.”
From Writers at Work, Second Series. New York: Viking, 1963, p.65.

In her last semester at Bryn Mawr, Moore was on the cusp of not graduating for want of a single course grade of 70 (she did get the grade) but still she had time for extracurricular activities. One of them was painting. A letter to her family of February, 1909 (day to follow when I find it), says she was invited to the art studio of a Miss Garber near Miss Baldwin’s School (just outside the college gates) where she painted two small still lifes. Miss Garber appears to have called Moore’s work “stunning,” a result Marianne disputed in the letter. But she planned to go back and work on larger subjects.

Virginia Wright Garber would join the Bryn Mawr faculty by 1915 when the college catalog listed her credentials: “Teacher of Drawing and Modelling. Student, the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art, the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts, and Pupil of Jules Lefebre, Benjamin Constant, Professor Charles Roth, William M. Chase, Childe Hassam, and Howard Pyle. Head of the White Gate Studios, Bryn Mawr, Pa., 1911-15.”
From Bryn Mawr College Calendar, May, 1915, p. 16 (See Google Books)

Moore was doubtless delighted by Garber’s praise, but the cumulative record of her letters home from college shows that she tried very hard to be a writer, despite regular references to “dashing off” poems of “no merit.”

+ + + + +

Carlisle, Old Home Week, 1909

“‘Carlisle Old and New’–the words wake to music the chords of memory in countless hearts the wide world over. Many there are, not only of those that still dwell within its borders but of those that have gone elsewhere, who would unhesitatingly name this ancient borough the ‘spot of earth supremely blest, a dearer, sweeter spot than all the rest.’ Happy the mother who has such a rich heritage of love and loyalty in the hearts of her children! . . .[Let visitors] study a map of the Keystone State, and there not far from Mason and Dixon’s line, in the fruitful valley of Cumberland, they will find it. Mountains, spurs of the Blue Ridge chain, stretch their protecting arms nearly around it; and yet the valley, like the far-off vale of Rasselas, is wide enough at this point so that one feels like throwing back his shoulders and breathing deep and free.”

–From Carlisle Old and New by the Civic CLub of Carlisle, Pennsylovania. Harrisburg, 1907. pp. 25-26.

Reading in January, 1914

The Lila Window, Bosler Public Library, Carlisle, PA.  After “Hope” by Sir  Edmund Burne-Jones. The library opened in 1900. The window is a memorial to Miss Lila McClellan Bosler, daughter of Mr. J. Herman Bosler, a family with whom the Moores were acquainted.


Moore’s letter to her brother of January 25, 1914, lists the reading she is doing that day:

Finished Meredith’s Essay on Comedy

John Pentland Mahaffy. Greek Life and Thought from Alexander to the Roman Conquest. Many editions, circa 1896

Edith Wharton. The Reef.  (“unessential”)

Issues of The Masses

The Vanguard. There are two likely candidates: Edgar Beecher Johnson, Doran, 1914, adventures in the Sierras and the great plains; The Vanguard: Tales of Korea by James S. Gale, Revell, 1904.

Bryn Mawr Musical Performances, 1909

Pembroke Hall, Bryn Mawr College, where Moore lived 1905-09


February 21, 1909

In a letter to her mother, Moore itemizes her expenses for the beginning of her last semester at Bryn Mawr. Among them are:
Ticket to hear Ignacy Paderewski, the Polish pianist
Ticket to hear Mischa Elman (18), the Ukrainian violinist
Ticket to see Debussy’s Pelleas et Melisande but not starring Mary Garden
Book purchases: Tolstoi, Renan, Rosetti, (no titles given) and “Wealth of Nations” (required for a course)*
* Letter of February 5, 1909, yields this information:
Tolstoi: Anna Karenina, 2 volumes;
Mountstuart E. Grant Duff. Ernst Renan:In Memoriam. New York: Macmillan, 1893;
Rossetti (notes it was an autobiography by Rossetti’s father and had illustrations by D. G. Roasetti which were her main interest): Gabriele Rossetti: A Versified Autobiography, translated and supplemented by William Michael Rossetti. New York: Dutton, 1902.


  1. Pat, I’ve been secretly hoping that you might work your research magic on Mary Hall Cowdrey and her younger sister Ruth. They are the ones who took MM to New York just after Thanksgiving in 1915. They invited both MM and her mother to attend training sessions at the YWCA Training Center in New York, but only MM went. I find from just a little internet research that the Cowdreys became quite active in YWCA work thereafter.

    Also, one of those marvelous coincidences that I can’t work into my book at all is that the founder and director of the YWCA Training Center (where MM and the Cowdreys stayed in NY) was Carolyn B. Dow, who is now best remembered for funding Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Vassar education.

    Comment by Linda Leavell — October 13, 2011 @ 3:39 pm |Reply

  2. It wasn’t just any cat, and it wasn’t abducted. MM was 22, one year past graduation from Bryn Mawr, where she did dissect a variety of animals, including a rabbit, in biology lab. She had a summer job at Melvil Dewey’s Lake Placid resort. Clarence Graham (Yale 1909), a friend of Dewey’s son, was a guest at the resort. He was a medical student at Johns Hopkins and ordered a cat to dissect with instruments he brought with him. When he changed his mind, Marianne asked if she could borrow his instruments and dissect the cat herself. She used chloroform to kill the cat, which was considered humane treatment. Afterward she carefully buried the dead cat. She was curious about how the cat’s leg was put together because she had recently removed a bullet from the leg of the family dog Max.

    I’ve never seen evidence that she enjoyed “sick humor,” certainly not cruelty of any kind. On the other hand, she might have been showing off a little for Clarence Graham’s benefit.

    Comment by Linda Leavell — October 13, 2011 @ 3:23 pm |Reply

  3. I just don’t think she is legally able to grab just any cat and dissect it. I think it has to be sick humor. I’m not saying she wasn’t CAPABLE of doing it on a technical basis, but on a moral basis it’s obviously completely askew. If she did do this she is closer to William Burroughs than previously thought. How do we know for certain and beyond a doubt that she was capable of abducting cats at large and dissecting them? Did she have a cat laboratory in Brooklyn? This is completely askew, and I still don’t accept it as factual. Sorry to get back so much later, I didn’t realize this thread had continued.

    Comment by kirby olson — October 13, 2011 @ 1:14 pm |Reply

    • About Adam Smith: Moore’s copy of Wealth of Nations is at Rosenbach: Smith, Adam, 1723-1790.: Select chapters and passages from the Wealth of Nations of Adam Smith, 1776. New York : Macmillan, 1908, c1894.REecord from their online catalog.

      Comment by moore123 — October 13, 2011 @ 8:41 pm |Reply

  4. BTW, I didn’t mean to suggest that the poem Peter is sentimental. Peter, however, was a real cat to which Marianne was deeply attached.

    Comment by Linda Leavell — July 22, 2011 @ 2:11 pm |Reply

  5. Hi, Pat. It is you, as I suspected! Thanks much for the reply. You’re so right that the friendship with Kathrine (pronounced Kathreen) and Marcia was important to Moore, especially after her mother’s death. I have skimmed _Miss Gifford’s_, Kathrine’s novel which Moore helped to get published, but I had not been able to locate the source of her wealth or any background information about either of the women until this morning, when I found it here. As you probably know, the friendship started in the spring of 1942, when Kathrine Jones read a review of _What Are Years_ in _Time_ magazine and wrote Moore a fan letter. ~Linda

    Comment by Linda Leavell — July 22, 2011 @ 2:04 pm |Reply

  6. What marvelous gems of Moore biography!

    First, the cat dissection is real. Moore could be extraordinarily sentimental about cats, such as Peter, but she learned to dissect animals in biology classes at Bryn Mawr and took a certain pride in her scientific detachment here.

    Am curious, moore123, where you found the biographical information on Kathrine Jones and Marcia K. Chamberlain. This is a treasure!

    Comment by Linda Leavell — July 22, 2011 @ 12:54 pm |Reply

    • Dear LInda,

      The Katherine Jones and Marcia Chamberlain data came from various online sources, particularly Ancestry which aggregates census info, passport applications (with pictures) and passenger lists. Also, as one thing led to another, data from United Fruit and Walnut Hill School popped up. I’d be happy to send you my raw data. I was intrigued by Jones and Chamberlain because MM seemed to count on them after MWM died.

      I so greatly look forward to your opus. Hope it goes well.


      Comment by moore123 — July 22, 2011 @ 1:44 pm |Reply

  7. Oh, I hope not. I’m squeamish. She calls the kitty endearing names. I think it’s black humor.

    Is there any other letter like that — unpublished — where she goes to town on a defenseless kitten?

    If so, I should start thinking of her as a female Sade or Burroughs, I guess.

    I thought her major at college was history and politics.

    I know she took a class or two in biology, but I don’t think she ever trained to be a vet.

    If so, this would be unconscionable to just collect a cat and go to town on it. What an amazing letter!

    Comment by Kirby Olson — April 30, 2010 @ 5:27 pm |Reply

  8. P. 84 (SLMM), the dissection scene at Lake Placid. What the? comic fantasy, right?

    Comment by Kirby Olson — April 7, 2010 @ 5:29 pm |Reply

    • I took the dissection for real. Something she would have learned to do in college classes.

      Comment by moore123 — April 21, 2010 @ 10:35 am |Reply

  9. Where did you find the letter where she says she bought Wealth of Nations? I looked in SLMM and there is no letter on that date. Is it in the Rosenbach? Or listed somewhere else?

    Also, does that copy of her book still exist, with her own margin notes?

    Comment by Kirby Olson — April 6, 2010 @ 2:42 pm |Reply

    • “Wealth of Nations”is mentioned in the letter cited. The letter is not in Selected Letters but it is at the Rosenbach.

      Comment by moore123 — April 9, 2010 @ 1:42 pm |Reply

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