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CATHRYN HALVERSON Mary MacLane's Story t the turn of the twentieth century, American read- .ers were outraged and enthralled by the diaries of the Russian artist Marie Bashkirtseff, and her homegrown American successor Mary MacLane. These two writers captivated the nation in making a claim for themselves that women simply were not supposed to make: they wete geniuses, endowed with greatness and destined for fame. Both Bashkirtseff and MacLane were extremely successful commercially, and were heavily reviewed in newspapers and magazines; their fame approached culthood. The occasional article is still written about Bashkirtseff , usually in French. However, with the exception of an inclusion in Margo Culley's anthology ofwomen diarists,1 MacLane seems to have been all but forgotten since her death in 1929. I intend to give a brief overview of Bashkirtseff's journal and examine its influence on the American literary scene, make an extensive textual analysis of The Story ofMary MacLane, and discuss MacLane's American reviews. However , my central intent is simply to demonstrate that Mary MacLane deserves to have readers again. The first edition of the almost one-thousand-page The Journal of Marie Bashkirtseff, written in French, was published in Paris in 1887. It consists of entties selected from the diary Bashkirtseff kept from the age of fourteen to her death from tuberculosis at twenty-six, and it not only records the myriad of events and people that filled the writer's life, but reveals as well her endlessly unsatisfied desire for fame, love, and artistic success—as she calls it, her struggle "to get all that I have been crying for since the world began."2 Bashkirtseff also expresses her frustration with the restricted life of the bourgeois nineteenth-century European woman; Simone de Beauvoir considered her self-love and Arizona Quarterly Volume 50, Number 4, Winter 1994 Copyright © 1 994 by Arizona Board of Regents ISSN 0004- 16 10 32Cathryn Halverson absorption so great as to use her as an example of narcissism in The Second Sex.3 Defending herself in advance against such charges, Bashkirtseff writes, "it's perhaps silly to praise myself so much; but authors always describe their heroine, and I am my own heroine" (31). Towards the end of her life, Bashkirtseff asked, "It is possible that I have become what is called un être uncompris7. I think not, and yet. . . . Is there anyone who could understand me thoroughly, to whom I could say everything?" (641). Het journal serves as a substitute for this person , and through it she meant to become known, even if only after death. She was terrified of being forgotten, and with the help of the Marie Bashkirtseff shrine (which was to be erected posthumously), Bashkirtseff hoped that her journal would grant her immortality.4 In it she determined to abandon all the poses she adopted for family and society, and moreover was certain that her future readers would be a "handful of beings of the elite, superior people, dear beloved confidants ," far more perceptive than those of her quotidian experience (622). In one of her bitterer moments, Bashkirtseff complains that "a man who is indignant . . . mounts the platform and makes himself a reputation . But a woman has no platform at her disposal . . . she grows indignant , but can only be eloquent before her dressing-table; result, zero" (420). Bashkirtseff determined to rectify this situation through her journal. Although a diary was an established place for a young lady to wax "eloquent," by planning from the onset to make het journal public , Bashkirtseff aimed to turn this genteel forum into a "platform." In the journal itself she often mentions her plans for publication, and occasionally muses over how it will be received. In the preface she wrote to her own work, she argues that her plans for publication had not had any impact upon her writing: IfI [die young], I will have my journal published, which cannot fail to be interesting. But as I talk of publicity, this idea of being read has perhaps spoilt, nay, destroyed, the sole merit of such a book? Well, no! To begin with, I wrote for a long time without a thought of being read, and in the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1558-9595
Print ISSN
0004-1610
Pages
pp. 31-61
Launched on MUSE
2014-04-02
Open Access
No
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