Friday, January 22, 2016

Mrs. Edgar Saltus (1883-1960)

Née Marie Florence Giles
Poet, Novelist, Short Story Writer, Biographer
Born May 15, 1883, Morristown, New Jersey
Died March 20, 1960, Hollywood, California

Weird Tales was a magazine with a special appeal to women, and, in general, there was no shame or embarrassment in having one's name in its pages. Most of the women who contributed to the magazine used their own names. A few employed pseudonyms or their first and middle initials. Fewer still--three at least--used their husband's names: Mrs. Chetwood Smith (Mary Chapin Smith), Mrs. Harry Pugh Smith, and Mrs. Edgar Saltus. In their time, not many readers would have known the names of the two Smiths. There would not have been much cachet there. But in the early part of the twentieth century, Edgar Saltus (1855-1921) was a familiar figure among the reading public. Being known as Mrs. Edgar Saltus would have carried some weight and probably helped to sell a few books.

Mrs. Edgar Saltus was born Marie Florence Giles in Morristown, New Jersey, on May 15, 1883--or at least that's the year on her memorial. According to a contemporary article in The Writer (below), Marie F. Giles published her book The End of the Journey when she was seventeen. As near as I can make out, the year of publication for that book was 1897, meaning she was born in about 1880 rather than 1883. In any case, Marie began writing when she was quite young and had her first books published before she was twenty. Following is a list of her works:
  • The End of the Journey (New York: G.W. Dillingham Co., 1897)
  • Though Your Sins Be as Scarlet (New York: F. Tennyson Neely, 1898)
  • Her Game of Consequences (New York: F. Tennyson Neely, 1898)
  • "As a Man Thinketh" (short story) in The Arena, July 1902
  • "Kaivalya" (short story) in Weird Tales, Dec. 1924
  • "Reincarnation" (poem) in Argosy All-Story Weekly, May 2, 1925
  • Edgar Saltus: The Man (biography, 1925)
  • Poppies and Mandragora (verse, 1926) by Edgar Saltus and Marie Giles Saltus
The following article tells a little more about her:

From The Writer, Volume 15 (1902), p.  152.

Marie Giles met her future husband when she was quite young as well. Early into her writing career and imagining herself "an embryonic Ouida," she was introduced to Edgar Saltus on the beach at Narragansett Pier in Rhode Island. The year was probably no later than 1900. He was then more than twice her age and married to his second wife. (1) "Startlingly handsome," with a reputation as "a Don Juan and a Casanova rolled into one," he immediately began wooing young Marie. In their first conversation, they spoke of reincarnation among other things. "From the time I was able to think at all," she told him, "I remembered many events from former lives." Whether by her prompting or his own searching, Saltus "began to study along a new line," Marie remembered, continuing:
Puzzled and confused as to what he really believed, he agreed to study the sacred books of the East. None were omitted,--the Zend-Avesta, the Upanishads, the Vedas, the Mahabharata--with its jewel the Bhagavad-Gitâ,--the Egyptian Book of the Dead,--the Talmud and the Koran.
     Between their leaves he found a new world. Thereafter he was forever digging for jewels,--which when found dazzled him with their beauty. With the enthusiasm Balboa may have felt at discovering an unknown ocean, Mr. Saltus went up the heights to the Garden of God, steeping himself in the perfume of occult and esoteric lore. Subconsciously, he had found food for his soul.
If he was in fact a seeker of wisdom and truth--as we all are, each in his or her own manner--then it can be little wonder that Edgar Saltus fell in love with Marie Florence Giles, for she had given him "food for his soul." (2)

In 1909, Edgar Saltus made a confession of faith, announcing that he had found in Theosophy "a solution to the mystery of life": 

From the Los Angeles Herald, Sept. 9, 1909.

Although he didn't mention Marie Giles in the article above, Saltus seems to have owed his achieving "complete contentment" to her. According to John V. Glass, she was the person who "introduced him to theosophy [sic] and the occult." (3)

After many years of chasing after the young authoress, Saltus finally secured a divorce from his second wife, and he and Marie were married on August 16, 1911. They spent the next decade together until his death on July 31, 1921. She recounted their time together in Edgar Saltus: The Man, described as an "extremely intimate and sometimes scandalously frank biography of her husband." (4)

According to Wikipedia, "Kaivalya . . . is the ultimate goal of Raja yoga and means 'solitude,' 'detachment' or 'isolation'." It is also the title of Mrs. Saltus' only story for Weird Tales, from December 1924. She followed that up with a poem, "Reincarnation," in Argosy All-Story Weekly for May 2, 1925. Those two works, along with the short story "As a Man Thinketh," from The Arena, July 1902, are her only known genre works. They also involve Eastern mystical concepts. (5)

"As a Man Thinketh" is an interesting story for students of fantasy, science fiction, and their penumbrae. First, it shows that, even early on, Marie Giles was "deeply interested in metaphysical research and mental science," as the first article above says. That deep interest helped to convert her husband and seems to have carried throughout her life.

Second, the story is an example of how science, more accurately pseudoscience, became and is hopelessly entangled with pseudoreligion and science fiction. I would add pseudohistory to that entanglement as well. All as we know them--pseudoscience, pseudoreligion, pseudohistory, and science fiction--originated or evolved in the nineteenth century. The ideas behind Theosophy, Christian Science, and Lysenkoism (a twentieth-century outgrowth of the pseudoscience, pseudohistory, and pseudoreligion of Marxism) are evident in "As a Man Thinketh." Other such belief systems from the 1800s include the hollow earth theory, phrenology, mesmerism, spiritualism, and socialism. All or most have also shown up in science fiction and fantasy.

Finally, "As a Man Thinketh" has a construction that later readers of Weird Tales would have recognized: the club-story format, the upper-class milieu, the use of diary entries, newspaper articles, and other documents to tell part of the story, and, more than anything, the twist ending, right down to the shocking revelation in the last sentence, printed of course in italics!

Marie Florence Giles Saltus survived her husband by nearly forty years. She died on March 20, 1960, in Hollywood, California, at age seventy-six. Her earthly remains were cremated and placed in the Chapel of the Pines Crematory in Los Angeles. Two other people connected to fictional reanimation--Helen Chandler and Colin Clive--are also interred there. If she was right in her beliefs, Mrs. Edgar Saltus--Marie Florence Giles--may very well be walking among us today. (6)

(1) Edgar Saltus was married three times, first, to Helen Sturgis Read in November 1883; second, to Elsie Welch Smith on October 8, 1895; and third, to Marie Florence Giles on August 16, 1911.
(2) The quotes are from Edgar Saltus: The Man by Marie Saltus (1925). The entire text of the book is available on Project Gutenberg at the following URL:

(3) From "Saltus, Edgar [Evertson]" in The Continuum Encyclopedia of American Literature, edited by Steven R. Serafin and Alfred Bendixen (A & C Black, 2005), p. 986.
(4) From "In Brief Review," in The Bookman, Dec. 1925, p. 504.
(5) You can read "As a Man Thinketh" by clicking here.
(6) Marie Giles' grandmother was Mrs. Peter Darlington, who lived under every American president except George Washington until her death on August 20, 1899, at age 101.

Mrs. Edgar Saltus' Story in Weird Tales
"Kaivalya" (Dec. 1924)

Further Reading
Edgar Saltus: The Man by Marie Saltus (1925), link above.

You can read Marie F. Giles' story "As a Man Thinketh" by clicking here.

Marie Saltus in a painting from 1925 by Hope Bryson (1887-1944). This image is from Marie's book Edgar Saltus: The Man. The caption reads: "Sitting at the Table on which her Husband wrote his Books, burning Incense before a Siamese Buddha and meditating on a Stanza from the Bhagavad Gitâ." Hope Bryson's picture could almost have been a cover for Weird Tales.

Original text and captions copyright 2016, 2023 Terence E. Hanley

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