Janet Miriam Holland Taylor Caldwell
(September 7, 1900–August 30, 1985) was an Anglo
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...
novelist and prolific author of popular fiction, also known by the pen names Marcus Holland and Max Reiner, and by her married name of J. Miriam Reback.
In her fiction, she often used real historical events or persons. Taylor Caldwell's best-known works include Dynasty of Death
Dynasty of Death was the debut novel of the Anglo-American writer Taylor Caldwell . When Caldwell submitted the manuscript to Maxwell Perkins in 1937, she was an unknown housewife from Buffalo, New York...
, Dear and Glorious Physician
(about Saint Luke
Luke the Evangelist was an Early Christian writer whom Church Fathers such as Jerome and Eusebius said was the author of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles...
), and Captains and the Kings
. Her last major novel, Answer as a Man
, appeared in 1980.
Taylor Caldwell was born in Manchester
Manchester is a city and metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, England. According to the Office for National Statistics, the 2010 mid-year population estimate for Manchester was 498,800. Manchester lies within one of the UK's largest metropolitan areas, the metropolitan county of Greater...
, England, into a family of Scottish background. Her family descended from the Scottish clan
Scottish clans , give a sense of identity and shared descent to people in Scotland and to their relations throughout the world, with a formal structure of Clan Chiefs recognised by the court of the Lord Lyon, King of Arms which acts as an authority concerning matters of heraldry and Coat of Arms...
of MacGregor of which the Taylors
Taylor is a surname in the English language which originated as an occupational surname in England The name is derived from the Old French tailleur, which is in turn derived from the Late Latin taliator, from taliare meaning "to cut"...
are a subsidiary clan. In 1907 she emigrated to the United States with her parents and younger brother. Her father died shortly after the move, and the family struggled. At the age of eight she started to write stories, and in fact wrote her first novel, The Romance of Atlantis
The Romance of Atlantis is a fantasy novel by Taylor Caldwell about the ancient, erudite, and very advanced civilisation of Atlantis.Taylor Caldwell wrote this novel when she was twelve years old, and had attempted to publish it through her Grandfather's publishing company, but he accused her of...
, at the age of twelve (although it remained unpublished until 1975). Her father did not approve such activity for women, and sent her to work in a bindery
Bindery refers to a studio, workshop or factory where sheets of paper are fastened together to make books, but also where gold and other decorative elements are added to the exterior of books, where boxes or slipcases for books are made and where the restoration of books is carried out.-Overview:A...
. She continued to write prolifically, however, despite ill health. (In 1947, according to TIME magazine, her husband Marcus Reback discarded and burned the manuscripts of 140 unpublished novels.)
In 1918-1919, she served in the United States Navy Reserve
The United States Navy Reserve, until 2005 known as the United States Naval Reserve, is the Reserve Component of the United States Navy...
. In 1919 she married William F. Combs. In 1920, they had a daughter, Mary (known as "Peggy"). From 1923 to 1924 she was a court reporter
A court reporter, stenotype reporter, voice writing reporter, or transcriber is a person whose occupation is to transcribe spoken or recorded speech into written form, using machine shorthand or voice writing equipment to produce official transcripts of court hearings, depositions and other...
in New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...
State Department of Labor in Buffalo, New York
Buffalo is the second most populous city in the state of New York, after New York City. Located in Western New York on the eastern shores of Lake Erie and at the head of the Niagara River across from Fort Erie, Ontario, Buffalo is the seat of Erie County and the principal city of the...
. In 1924, she went to work for the United States Department of Justice
The United States Department of Justice , is the United States federal executive department responsible for the enforcement of the law and administration of justice, equivalent to the justice or interior ministries of other countries.The Department is led by the Attorney General, who is nominated...
, as a member of the Board of Special Inquiry (an immigration tribunal) in Buffalo. In 1931 she graduated from the University of Buffalo
University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, also commonly known as the University at Buffalo or UB, is a public research university and a "University Center" in the State University of New York system. The university was founded by Millard Fillmore in 1846. UB has multiple campuses...
, and also was divorced from William Combs.
Caldwell then married her second husband, Marcus Reback, a fellow Justice employee. She had a second child with Reback, a daughter Judith, in 1932. They were married for 40 years, until his death in 1971.
In 1934, she began to work on the novel Dynasty of Death
Dynasty of Death was the debut novel of the Anglo-American writer Taylor Caldwell . When Caldwell submitted the manuscript to Maxwell Perkins in 1937, she was an unknown housewife from Buffalo, New York...
, which she and Reback completed in collaboration. It was published in 1938 and became a best-seller. "Taylor Caldwell" was presumed to be a man, and there was some public stir when the author was revealed to be a woman. Over the next 43 years, she published 42 more novels, many of them best-sellers. For instance, This Side of Innocence
was the biggest fiction seller of 1946. Her works sold an estimated 30 million copies. She became wealthy, traveling to Europe and elsewhere, though she still lived near Buffalo.
Her books were big sellers right up to the end of her career. In 1979, she signed a two-novel deal for $3.9 million.
During her career as a writer, she received several awards.
- The National League of American Pen Women gold medal (1948)
- The Buffalo Evening News Award (1949)
- The Grand Prix Chatvain (1950)
She was an outspoken conservative and for a time wrote for the John Birch Society
The John Birch Society is an American political advocacy group that supports anti-communism, limited government, a Constitutional Republic and personal freedom. It has been described as radical right-wing....
's monthly journal American Opinion
and even associated with the anti-Semitic Liberty Lobby
Liberty Lobby was an American political advocacy organization founded in 1958 that went bankrupt in 2001. It was founded by Willis Carto. In their own words,-Antisemitic world-view:...
Her memoir, On Growing Up Tough
, appeared in 1971, consisting of many edited-down articles from American Opinion
Around 1970, she became interested in reincarnation
Reincarnation best describes the concept where the soul or spirit, after the death of the body, is believed to return to live in a new human body, or, in some traditions, either as a human being, animal or plant...
. She had become friends with well-known occultist author Jess Stearn
Jess Stearn , born in Syracuse, New York, was a journalist and author of more than thirty books, nine of which were bestsellers. He was a prize-winning reporter for the New York Daily News for 17 years, and was later an Associate Editor at Newsweek...
, who suggested that the vivid detail in her many historical novels was actually subconscious recollection of previous lives. Supposedly, she agreed to be hypnotized and undergo "past-life regression" to disprove reincarnation. According to Stearn's book, The Search of a Soul - Taylor Caldwell's Psychic Lives
(1973), Caldwell instead began to recall her own past lives - eleven in all, including one on the "lost continent" of Lemuria
Lemuria is the name of a hypothetical "lost land" variously located in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The concept's 19th century origins lie in attempts to account for discontinuities in biogeography; however, the concept of Lemuria has been rendered obsolete by modern theories of plate tectonics...
In 1972, she married William Everett Stancell, a retired real estate developer, but divorced him in 1973. In 1978, she married William Robert Prestie, an eccentric Canadian
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...
17 years her junior. This led to difficulties with her children. She had a long dispute with her daughter Judith over the estate of Judith's father Marcus; in 1979, Judith committed suicide
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...
Also in 1979, Caldwell suffered a stroke
A stroke, previously known medically as a cerebrovascular accident , is the rapidly developing loss of brain function due to disturbance in the blood supply to the brain. This can be due to ischemia caused by blockage , or a hemorrhage...
, which left her unable to speak, though she could still write. (She had been deaf since about 1965.) Her daughter Peggy accused Prestie of abusing and exploiting Caldwell, and there was a legal battle over her substantial assets.
She died of heart failure in Greenwich, Connecticut
Greenwich is a town in Fairfield County, Connecticut, United States. As of the 2010 census, the town had a total population of 61,171. It is home to many hedge funds and other financial service companies. Greenwich is the southernmost and westernmost municipality in Connecticut and is 38+ minutes ...
on August 30, 1985.
Dynasty of Death
was her first published work, a family saga lasting from 1837 to World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...
, about two families in western Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...
who rise to control a great armaments business. The story was continued in The Eagles Gather
(1940) and The Final Hour
As a writer Caldwell was praised for her intricately plotted and suspenseful stories, which depicted family tensions and the development of the U.S. from an agrarian society into the leading industrial state of the world. Caldwell's heroes are self-made men of pronounced ethnic background, such as the German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...
immigrants in The Strong City
(1942) and The Balance Wheel
(1951). Her themes are ethnic, religious and personal intolerance (The Wide House
, 1945), the failure of parental discipline (Let Love Come Last
, 1949) and the conflict between the desire for power and money and the human values of love and sense of family (Melissa
(1948), A Prologue to Love
(1962), and Bright Flows the River
In her later works Caldwell explored the American Dream
The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States in which freedom includes a promise of the possibility of prosperity and success. In the definition of the American Dream by James Truslow Adams in 1931, "life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each...
and wrote stories of the "rags to riches" course of life. Among these was her last great best-seller, Captains and the Kings
Captains and the Kings is a 1972 historical novel by Taylor Caldwell chronicling the rise to wealth and power of an Irish immigrant, Joseph Francis Xavier Armagh, who arrives penniless as a teenager in the United States of America...
(1972), which chronicles the rise to wealth of a poor Irish
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...
immigrant to America in the 1800s. Captains and the Kings
was made into a television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...
mini-series in 1976. Another was her last novel, Answer as a Man
She wrote many historical novels, including several about famous religious figures.
Dear and Glorious Physician
(1959) was about Saint Luke; Great Lion of God
(1970) was about Saint Paul
Paul the Apostle , also known as Saul of Tarsus, is described in the Christian New Testament as one of the most influential early Christian missionaries, with the writings ascribed to him by the church forming a considerable portion of the New Testament...
; and I, Judas
(1977) was about Judas Iscariot
Judas Iscariot was, according to the New Testament, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. He is best known for his betrayal of Jesus to the hands of the chief priests for 30 pieces of silver.-Etymology:...
In The Earth Is the Lord's
(1941), she fictionalized Genghis Khan
Genghis Khan , born Temujin and occasionally known by his temple name Taizu , was the founder and Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, which became the largest contiguous empire in history after his death....
; in The Arm and the Darkness
(1943), Cardinal Richelieu; in A Pillar of Iron
(1965), the Roman
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....
senator and orator Cicero; and in Glory and the Lightning
Aspasia was a Milesian woman who was famous for her involvement with the Athenian statesman Pericles. Very little is known about the details of her life. She spent most of her adult life in Athens, and she may have influenced Pericles and Athenian politics...
, mistress of the Athenian
The city of Athens during the classical period of Ancient Greece was a notable polis of Attica, Greece, leading the Delian League in the Peloponnesian War against Sparta and the Peloponnesian League. Athenian democracy was established in 508 BC under Cleisthenes following the tyranny of Hippias...
Pericles was a prominent and influential statesman, orator, and general of Athens during the city's Golden Age—specifically, the time between the Persian and Peloponnesian wars...
Caldwell addressed religious themes in several works.
For instance, Answer as a Man
begins with the clamor of the bells of a little church and ends with an evocation of renewed faith.
- "Jason raised his eyes and smiled. God is good. He moves mysteriously, as the priests say, but he has his ways, he has his ways! He is not the adversary of man. Man is, Jason thought. God is not to be understood by man. He is just to be trusted."
In Dialogues with the Devil
(1967) Caldwell explicitly addresses religious subjects: the story is in the form of correspondence between Lucifer
Traditionally, Lucifer is a name that in English generally refers to the devil or Satan before being cast from Heaven, although this is not the original meaning of the term. In Latin, from which the English word is derived, Lucifer means "light-bearer"...
Michael , Micha'el or Mîkhā'ēl; , Mikhaḗl; or Míchaël; , Mīkhā'īl) is an archangel in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic teachings. Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and Lutherans refer to him as Saint Michael the Archangel and also simply as Saint Michael...
. Mixed into this dialogue are old tales, stories of a lost continent and of other worlds, and theological speculations.
- —"Childish raptures! said Lucifer, with scorn, his eyes flashing like lightning. "Are we indeed whimpering and craven children, or slaves? Can we be content with toys and little deliciousnesses? Are we not mind, as well as emotion? And is not the mind, of both angel and man, the noblest of possessions, and worth exercising. It is in our minds that we approach the closest of Him, Who is all Mind. Mind is the creator of all philosophy, all order, all beauty, all satisfaction, but emotion is the lowliest of the virtues, if it is a virtue at all. Mind has in it the capacity to know all things, or, at least, the minds of angels."
"The nature of human beings never changes; it is immutable. The present generation of children and the present generation of young adults from the age of thirteen to eighteen is, therefore, no different from that of their great-great-grandparents. Political fads come and go; theories rise and fall; the scientific ‘truth’ of today becomes the discarded error of tomorrow. Man’s ideas change, but not his inherent nature. That remains. So, if the children are monstrous today – even criminal – it is not because their natures have become polluted, but because they have not been taught better, nor disciplined.” – On Growing Up Tough, chapter The Purple Lodge
In her 1957 social/political article "Honoria" she chronicles the rise and fall of the fictitious country she calls "Honoria". She ends the article with a very foreboding rebuke of society. “It is a stern fact of history that no nation that rushed to the abyss ever turned back. Not ever, in the long history of the world. We are now on the edge of the abyss. Can we, for the first time in history, turn back? It is up to you.”
Many of Caldwell's books centered on the idea that a small cabal of rich, powerful men secretly control the world.
- In Search of Taylor Caldwell by Jess Stearn (1974)
- Twentieth-Century Romance & Historical Writers, ed. by Lesley Henderson (1990)
- World Authors 1900-1950, ed. by Martin Seymour-Smith and Andrew C. Kimmens (1996, vol. 1).
- "There can be help. There's always God," said Amy. "I'm ashamed. I'd forgotten about Him.” She was quiet for a time. When she lifted her head she looked older and resolute. “Don’t blame yourself too much, Cousin Caroline,” she said. “That’s as bad as taking no blame at all. I’m not going to blame everything on Ames; I was a little fool myself. I was old enough to know that things aren’t simple.” - A Prologue to Love
- "The American insanity for Loving Everybody is ruining my good temper and delivering my stomach to enormous bouts with acidity." - On Growing Up Tough, "Dolts and Love Cultists"
- "There is no solid satisfaction in any career for a woman like myself. There is no home, no true freedom, no hope, no joy, no expectation for tomorrow, no contentment. I would rather cook a meal for a man and bring him his slippers and feel myself in the protection of his arms than have all the citations and awards and honors I have received worldwide, including the Ribbon of Legion of Honor and my property and my bank accounts. They mean nothing to me. And I am only one among the millions of sad women like myself." - Ask Them Yourself
- "Antonius heartily agreed with him [sc. Cicero] that the budget should be balanced, that the Treasury should be refilled, that the public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of the generals should be tempered and controlled, that assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt, that the mobs should be forced to work and not depend on government for subsistence, and that prudence and frugality should be put into practice as soon as possible." - A Pillar of Iron; this sentence is regularly attributed to Cicero, but it's Caldwell's own, not in Cicero's actual work. It can be found on page 483 of the 1965 edition published by Doubleday (Garden City, NY.)
- Taylor Caldwell at Pegasos (from where most of this article is drawn - thanks to Petri Liukkonen for permission)