Two Children's Stories by H.D.:
Introduction by Michael Boughn

Between 1906, when H.D. left Bryn Mawr, and January, 1913, when she first burst into the world of poetry with the publication of three of her poems by Harriet Monroe in _Poetry_, H.D. spent several years trying to earn a living as a professional writer. As she later wrote to Norman Holmes Pearson, "I did some column length stories for the Maclure Syndicate, Mary Marshall got those first published and she and her sister suggested trying the Sunday School papers as they paid well." The first of these pieces appeared in December, 1909, syndicated by the Associated Literary Press. Between then and September 1913, H.D. published at least fourteen stories, most under the name Edith Gray, either through ALP or in _Forward for Youth_ or _The Comrade_, two national Presbyterian Sunday School magazines published out of Philadelphia. In addition, several unpublished manuscripts from the same period are housed at the Beinecke Library at Yale.

These two stories are representative of the best of that early work. H.D. was 23 years old when the first was published, so they are hardly "juvenilia." Although they have been referred to as "moralistic sub-Alcott feuilletons in Protestant magazines," on closer scrutiny these stories seem much more. H.D. has adopted the form of the moralistic child story that was popular in the periodicals of the time, but she has subjected it to a subversive torsion. Most of those stories focussed on inculcating children with socially sanctioned moral lessons about money or manners. These stories, however, are concerned with teaching children how to preserve the integrity and freedom of their imagination in the midst of a world bent on circumscribing it with prohibitions. In that sense these stories are more comparable to the great writing for children done by Dodgson, Potter, Barrie, Milne, and Seuss, than to the work of the moralist genre writers.

A further interest of these stories is the way they link the circumscription and fragmentation of the imagination to issues of gender. They articulate H.D.'s already well-developed concern with the difficulties facing the framented self in the sexual world and the complex relations of its many voices and dimensions. Later, she would return to the form of the child story to address the same issues in _The Hedgehog_ (1936). But equally, these same voices can clearly be heard echoing within the complexities of _Nights_ (1935), _Vale Ave_ (1957, published 1982) and _Helen in Egypt_ (1951-54, published 1961), not to mention the rest of her work. These stories bear tender witness to the origins of H.D.'s determined, passionate quest to make sense in art of her experience of the enormous, confusing, and sometimes terrifying forces of sexuality and gender.

Old Tommy appeared in The Comrade, April 30, 1911. Winter Woods appeared there also, nearly a year later on March 2, 1912.

Michael Boughn is the author of H.D., A Bibliography 1905-1990, and two books of poems, A little post-apocalyptic suite for RC with thanks for the rhino, and Iterations of the Diagonal.

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Two Children's Stories by H.D. : Introduction, Rev. December 27, 2001 ( Please send comments and suggestions to