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4 1882–87 “My chief annoyance is that I should have to write in order to live” When Julian stepped from the steamer in New York on March 13, 1882, he touched native soil for the first time in nearly a decade. He joined his family at the Wayside in Concord, where he had last lived in the summer of 1868. At his home nearby, Ralph Waldo Emerson was dying. In his final years, Emerson suffered from dementia, or, as Julian put it, his “external memory seemed to have been wiped clean.” W. D. Howells described the condition as “a sort of Jovian oblivion of this nether world.” When Julian went to Emerson’s home to pay his respects, he was met by Ellen Emerson , literally the gatekeeper, who permitted him to visit her father briefly. The Sage didn’t recognize him, but they spoke of Nathaniel, whom he did remember. “I think of [Emerson] oftenest as I saw him last,” Julian wrote later, “when he had laid aside his shining armor and keen weapons, and in tranquil patience awaited the summons to depart.” He and Minne dined with the Emersons on April 11 and the Sage died two weeks later. After his funeral, Julian joined the procession that followed the coffin to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, where Emerson was buried on Authors’ Ridge a stone’s throw from Nathaniel’s grave. Julian reminisced about him in Harper’s for July 1882, to Ellen’s evident delight: “We didn’t know that [Julian] knew so much about Father or felt so much affection for him.”1 Pressed for cash as usual upon his return to the States, Julian raised the price of his fiction from ten dollars to fifteen dollars per thousand words, and he contracted to contribute all of his short stories to the new Bacheller syndicate in Brooklyn and the McClure syndicate in New York. Writing pulp fiction for newspapers was a marked step down for an established writer like Julian, as if a well-known stage actor could no longer find work with a respectable company and instead performed in vaudeville. But, as he admitted, if authors“are not to find an outlet in syndicates, the prospects for 100 part ii: the hack them are dark.The magazines are all overstocked, and no author can live on the royalties of his books.” Julian’s first order of business, however, was to finish Dust for Our Continent. Set in London in 1816 during “the ‘Vanity Fair’ epoch,” the historical romance depicts a love triangle among a poet, his seemingly amoral wife, and the beautiful Machiavellian femme fatale Perdita. In this novel, even more than in his earlier ones, Julian stressed the sexuality of his characters, as when Perdita “loosened the front of her dress and exposed a bosom white as milk and curved like the bowl of Ganymede.” During the summer of 1882, Julian seems to have suffered occasional writer’s block. Because his manuscript had failed to arrive on time, the editor of Our Continent, Albion Tourgée, was twice forced to omit installments of Dust. The thirty-third and final part of the novel finally appeared in mid-January 1883, and the novel was published in cloth covers the next month. It was surprisingly popular, with a first printing of thirteen hundred copies selling out the first day. Julian earned $525 in royalties for the novel. However, as had become the norm for his books, its critical reception was mixed. While the Atlantic praised its“cleverness,”“good writing,”and“skillful touches,” other critics joked it was as“dry”as its title.The Saturday Review dismissed it as “silly and tiresome.” The Nation recognized that it was written in a minor key by a type of small-bore Trollope: Julian not only spurned the principles of “the modern ‘analytical’ novel,” but his latest novel also “has as little analysis in it as any story with which we have met for some time.”2 Within a month of his return to Concord, Julian again turned the cachet of his surname to account. In mid-April 1882 he proposed to James Osgood to write the definitive biography of his parents. Though he had protested the publication of George Lathrop’s Study in 1876 on the grounds that his father had forbade his family from cooperating with any biographer, Julian had overcome his scruples six years later. To increase the sales appeal of his biography he planned to append to it...


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