Since my last post, I’ve battled a retched cold and come through the victor. Despite my sniffly, sneezy state, I was not neglectful in my Miss Hallie Erminie Rives research homework. What can I say? I love a good mystery. This is good considering, among other things, Miss Rives was a renowned mystery writer of her day. I’ve scraped together an outline biography from a handful of New York Times newspaper clippings. Thank God for the Internet and some dear librarian’s deft scanner; otherwise, I wonder if Hallie’s hard-earned standing as a lauded female author would be virtually lost outside of the antique copies drifting through used bookstores.
It’s a reminder to me of how far we’ve come and yet, how little has changed. Certainly, technology makes it easier to time capsule our current life, society and literature more effectively as compared to our predecessors; yet, when we stumble upon the historical threads of those long passed peoples, we see such striking similarities to ourselves that it functions as a metaphorical mirror reflecting parallel generations. It’s a bit creepy and at the same time, inspirational to know how close in ties we are to those before us… how close our ties will be to those a hundred years in the future.
All this from a book picked up at a dusty bookshop tucked away in the Katrina-ravaged French Quarter of New Orleans. I’m surprised the book wasn’t lost for all time in the floods! As I said in my last post: It’s positively providential.
I’m still in the process of researching Miss Rives… oh, excuse me, Miss Hallie Erminie Rives Wheeler. She married Mr. Post Wheeler, a fellow writer and American diplomat, on December 29, 1906 in Tokyo. Yes, Japan! This woman had such a fascinating life. It reads like a novel all its own!
I won’t dangle the carrot in front of you any longer. Here’s what I’ve discovered thus far, though I get the inkling I’m just scratching the surface.
Personal life: She was born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, on May 2, 1874, the daughter of Colonel Stephen T. Rives. (Have I mentioned that I am the daughter of Colonel C.L. McCoy? Yes, another similarity that raised the hairs on my arms.) She was educated in Kentucky but then went to New York with her mother. At the age of twenty-two, her mother died, and she moved with her father to Amherst County, Virginia. (Note: I am well familiar with this county! One of my dearest friends lives here, and I even referenced it in my novel The Time It Snowed In Puerto Rico. It’s Blake’s hometown. Hello—goosebumps.)
As I commented on, she married George Post Wheeler in 1906. The earliest documentation I’ve found regarding his diplomacy is that he was the Secretary of the American Embassy at Rome, Italy, when they wed; the U.S. Minister to Paraguay from 1929-1933 and to Albania 1933-1934. He was a fellow writer—a poet, children’s book author, and novelist—and interestingly, a Freemason.
I’ve not discovered whether or not they had any children. There has been no mention of any in the newspapers. However, I believe it was poor etiquette to talk babies publicly in the early 1900s. (That is one area where customs have changed dramatically.) They could have had a Rives-Wheeler baseball team at home for all I know. I’ll keep digging to find a concrete answer to that question.
Hallie’s death is interesting to me, too. She and Post died the same year: 1956. While I have yet to determine his exact date of death, Hallie passed away on August 16 in New York City. I can’t help but romantically wonder: Who died first and of what? And did the other die of heartbrokenness? After all, they’d been together for exactly fifty years. They are buried together at Riverside Cemetery in Hopkinsville, Kentucky.
Bibliography: Rives’ debut book was a novella and stories entitled The Singing Wire and Other Stories published in 1892. This was followed by the novels A Fool In Spots (1894); Smoking Flax (1897); As The Hart Panteth (1898); A Furnace of Earth (1900); Hearts Courageous (1902); The Castaway (1904); Tales From Dickens (1905); Satan Sanderson (1907); The Kingdom of The Slender Swords (1910); Valiants of Virginia (1912); The complete Book of Etiquette (1926); and The John Book (1947).
After her release of Hearts Courageous, a Washington Times reporter described her: “She is one of those delightful Southern characters, whose whole personality seems to express force and romance, the qualities most needed in the successful writing of modern fiction, and whose charm of speech and grace of manner draw one immediately to her and hold one’s attention.”
During the interview, Hallie pointed to her gown (“lace over white silk,” the interviewer noted) and said, “This dress is made from the wedding dress of my great-grandmother and I cherish it more than anything I possess.” She explained, “I love old things.” She went on to say, “Most of my people were from Virginia and it just happened that I am a Kentuckian, but you know Kentucky is really the daughter of Virginia and we love the old state which made us almost as much as our own.”
What a character! To read her quotes makes me feel I can almost hear her voice, clear as a bell.
This is what I have so far, but rest assured, Miss Rives holds my imagination CAPTIVE.
Yours truly, Sarah