Craigie, Pearl Mary Teresa (DNB12)

CRAIGIE, Mrs. PEARL MARY TERESA (1867–1906), novelist and dramatist, writing under the pseudonym of John Oliver Hobbes, born at Chelsea, near Boston, Massachusetts, on 3 Nov. 1867, was eldest child in a family of three sons and two daughters of Mr. John Morgan Richards, a merchant of New York. Her mother was Laura Hortense, fourth daughter of Seth Harris Arnold of Chelsea, Massachusetts. The father was summoned to London within a week of the child's birth to conduct a manufacturing chemist's business there. Mother and daughter joined him in February 1868. London remained Pearl's home for life, though she was proud of her American origin and often revisited America. In London her parents resided successively at Kennington, Bloomsbury, and Bays water. From 1872 she chiefly spent the summer with her parents in the Isle of Wight, at Ventnor, whither she constantly retired for purposes of work in later years.

Pearl was educated at the Misses Godwin's boarding school at Newbury, Berkshire (1876-7), and subsequently at private day schools in London. A lively child, fond of story-telling and story- writing, she read widely for herself. Her parents regularly attended the services at the City Temple of the congregational preacher Joseph Parker [q. v. Suppl. II], and Parker, who became a close family friend, first encouraged the girl to pursue literary composition. He accepted stories from her at the age of nine for his newspaper ' The Fountain.' During 1885 she studied music in Paris and became an accomplished pianist. In November 1886 she visited America, and on her return in February 1887 she married in London, when little more than nineteen, Mr. Reginald Walpole Craigie.

The unhappiness of her wedded life profoundly affected her career and temperament. A son, John Churchill Craigie, was born to her at Rock Cottage, Ventnor, on 15 Aug. 1890, but in the following spring she left her husband for good. Emotional suffering working on a mind of a mystical cast impelled her after due reflection to join the Roman catholic church. She was admitted in London on 5 July 1892, taking the additional Christian names of 'Mary Teresa.' She was regular in the observances of her new faith, in which she found spiritual solace, although it failed to silence all spiritual questionings. In July 1895 she was granted on her petition a divorce from Mr. Craigie with the exclusive custody of their child. The public trial occasioned her acute distress.

During her early married life Mrs. Craigio decided to adopt the literary profession. For a weekly periodical, 'Life,' she wrote the dramatic and art criticism as well as a series of articles 'The Note-book of a Diner-out, by Diogenes Pessimus,' which showed a cynical vein of humour. But as her domestic sorrows increased, she grew ambitious of accomplishing more serious work and began a varied preliminary course of study. With a private tutor she worked at mathematics, and then on her separation from her husband she entered University College, London, chiefly devoting herself to Greek, Latin, and English literature. Her teachers were impressed by her promise and eager interest. In 1891 she published in Mr. Fisher Unwin's 'Pseudonym Library' her first book, 'Some Emotions and a Moral.' The epigrammatic style and lightly cynical flavour ensured a popular success. In England alone 6000 copies were sold within a year, and over 40,000 in her lifetime. In this volume Mrs. Craigie first adopted the pseudonym of John Oliver Hobbes, to which she adhered throughout her career. It was a combination of her father and son's name of John, of Cromwell's Christian name, and of the homely surname of the great philosopher whose severe dialectic she admired. In May 1892 there followed her second book of like texture, 'The Sinner's Comedy,' which was sketched, she wrote, 'under the strain of unspeakable grief and anxiety.' Thenceforth Mrs. Craigie wrote incessantly. 'A Study in Temptations' (1893). 'A Bundle of Life' (1894), and 'The 'Gods, Some Mortals, and Lord Wickenham' (1895), which ran serially through the 'Pall Mall Budget,' failed to win the popularity of her first volume, whilst 'The Herb Moon : a Fantasia' (1896) was a comparative failure. Yet collectively these novels established her position as a brilliant observer and critic of current social life.

At her father's house she gathered round her a large literary and musical circle, and was a welcome figure in fashionable London society. She frequented theatres and concert rooms and took an active part in philanthropic and literary movements, serving as president of the Society of Women Journalists in 1895-6. Despite weak health her energy seemed inexhaustible, but her occasional withdrawal for religious meditation to the Convent of the Assumption in Kensington Square apparently provided her with adequate rest.

Friends encouraged a wish to try her fortune in drama, and under the influence of the modern French theatre she assiduously sought the suffrages of English playgoers with varying results. Her 'Journeys end in Lovers meeting,' a 'one-act proverb,' was produced at Daly's Theatre (June 1895) with Miss Ellen Terry, Mr. Forbes Robertson, and William Terriss in the three parts ; it was first printed in 'Tales about Temperaments' (1901). The theme of a comedy which she next planned for Sir Henry Irving failed to attract the actor, and she converted the draft into a novel, 'The School for Saints' (1897), which proved a more serious effort in psychology than she had yet essayed. But her zeal for drama was undiminished. To her gratification, 'The Ambassador,' a comedy by her in four acts, was produced by (Sir) George Alexander at St. James's Theatre on 2 June 1898, and ran through the season. Witty dialogue atoned for the slenderness and some incoherence in the plot and characterisation. In the same year she finished a more serious dramatic effort, 'Osbern and Ursyne,' a tragedy in verse, which was first published in Lady Randolph Churchill's Anglo-Saxon Review.' In 1899 (Sir) George Alexander produced 'A Repentance,' a vague dramatic study of character which was based on an incident in the Carlist wars, and was ill received. Another rebuff attended the production of her comedy 'The Wisdom of the Wise,' which came out at St. James's Theatre on 22 Nov. 1900. Her next effort, 'The Bishop's Move,' in which Murray Carson collaborated, was produced with popular acceptance at the Garrick Theatre (1902), Mr. Arthur Bourchier and Miss Violet Vanbrugh assuming the chief roles. But the success proved fleeting. A fanciful drama in four acts, 'The Flute of Pan,' after successful production by Miss Olga Nethersoleat the Queen's Theatre, Manchester, on 21 April 1904, was unfavourably received at the first London performance at the Shaftesbury Theatre on 12 Nov. 1904. The play was quickly withdrawn and Mrs. Craigie converted it into a novel.

Meanwhile Mrs, Craigie was very busy in many other directions. She pursued her earlier path in fiction in 'The Serious Wooing' (1901) and 'Love and the Soul Hunters' (1902). In 'Robert Orange,' a novel which appeared in July 1902, she ingeniously elaborated the psychological study which she began in 'The School for Saints.' The hero, Robert Orange, was a deliberately idealised portrait of Disraeli, in whose career and character she developed an intense interest. The statesman also figured in the book under his own name in his historical guise. 'The Vineyard,' her penultimate novel, ran serially through the 'Pall Mall Magazine' and was issued inde- pendently in 1904. She was then at work on her final novel, 'The Dream and the Business' (issued in August 1906), in which she contrasted the Roman catholic with the nonconformist temper of mind.

Requests for sketches or essays at the same time were growing. Travelling constantly for pleasure, rest, or the local colour of her novels and plays, she repeatedly described such experiences in the press. Among her most intimate friends was Miss Mary Leiter of Washington, who married Lord Curzon in 1895. At the Delhi durbar in January 1903 she was the guest of Lord and Lady Curzon, and she narrated the incidents of the pageantry in letters to the London 'Daily Graphic' and 'Collier's Weekly' of New York, which were collected as 'Imperial India' in 1903. To the 'Academy,' the ownership of which her father acquired in 1896, she contributed in a very different style during 1903 a series of thoughtful essays, 'Letters from a Silent Study' (republished in 1904). Her critical power was seen to best advantage in an admirable notice of George Eliot written in 1901 for the 10th edition of the 'Encyclopaedia Britannica,' and in a critical essay on George Sand prepared for a series of English translations of French novels edited by Mr. Edmund Gosse (1902). At the end of 1905 she undertook a lecture tour in America, where her popularity ran high, but she overtaxed her strength and abandoned the tour in Feb. 1906.

In England, where she lately found her chief recreation in motor tours, she mainly divided her time between her father's residences, 56 Lancaster Gate, London, and Steephill Castle, Ventnor. Since 1900 she rented near Steephill Castle a small house, St. Lawrence Lodge, where she wrote much. On Sunday 12 Aug. 1906 she left Ventnor for her London home. The next morning she was found dead in bed of cardiac failure. Her will directed that her body should be cremated; but cremation was forbidden by the Roman church, and she was buried in St. Mary's cemetery, Kensal Green, after a requiem mass at the church of the Jesuit fathers in Farm Street. Her gross personalty was proved at 24,502l. 8s., but the net personalty only amounted to 975l. 3s. l1d. (The Times, 26 Sept. 1906).

Mrs. Craigie wrote that she lived two lives in one. Her worldly delight in social pleasures and activities seemed to be combined with a mystical conviction of their hollowness and futility. In spite of marked business aptitudes and a capacity to make money, she spent more than she could afford, and failed to husband her resources. With her sincere devotion to the creed of her adoption, there went a deep despondency which colours much of her intimate correspondence and is in painful contrast with her vivacity in social intercourse. Her sensitiveness to criticism and her eagerness to defend her work at all hazards against public censure are hard to reconcile with her claim to be treated as an idealist. Such inconsistencies were doubtless due in part to uncertain health and the shock of her unhappy marriage, but mainly to intellectual instability and impulsive emotion. Well acquainted with French and Italian, and widely read in philosophy and theology as well as in fiction and belles lettres, she was more ambitious of the reputation of a serious thinker than of a witty novelist. Her philosophic ideas are, however, too dim and elusive to be quite intelligible; her psychological insight, although fitfully luminous, lacked a steady glow, while her plots were too often without adequate coherence. But her command of epigram humorous, caustic, and cynical gives her work high value, and her style, which owes much to her literary heroes, Newman, Disraeli, George Meredith, and George Eliot, is notable for its vivid picturesqueness.

An oil painting by Miss L. Stacpoole in 1885, which is reproduced in the 'Life' (1911), belongs to her family. A portrait plaque in bronze was placed by her friends in University College, London, being unveiled by Lord Curzon of Kedleston on 2 July 1908. A replica was presented to Barnard College, New York. A John Oliver Hobbes scholarship for English literature was founded at University College at the same time. After her death her house at Ventnor was purchased by her father and renamed 'Craigie Lodge.'

[The Life of John Oliver Hobbes, told in her correspondence, with biogr. sketch by her father, John Morgan Richards, and introd. by Bishop Welldon (with portraits), 1911; The Times, 14 Aug. 1906; William Archer, Real Conversations, 1904; personal knowledge.]

S. L.