My first encounter with Octave Thanet/Alice French was the four paragraphs in Lilian Faderman's classic work Surpassing the Love of Men: Romantic Friendship and Love Between Women From the Renaissance to the Present:
In America the author Alice French, who wrote under the name Octave Thanet, and Jane Crawford, her companion of almost half a century, also had a relationship in which the energies of both went into the career of one. Octave, who for thirty years was among the highest paid writers in the United States, also came to literature as a business--and her success in it was due at least in part to the nurturing support that Jane gave her.
Thanet's success and her relationship with Crawford would be enough to gain my interest; after all, my dissertation focuses on three-named female writers who may or may not have been lesbians who were highly successful and are all but forgotten: Mary Wilkins Freeman, Sarah Orne Jewett, Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Sure, we all read a single short story by these women in our American Literature surveys, but they were as successful or more so than their contemporary male writers like Twain, Hawthorne, and Melville.
Add to the mix here that Thanet and Crawford owned a property in Clover Bend, Arkansas that they named "Thanford" and that Alice/Octave was anti-suffrage, worked in her woodshop, was a skilled photographer, and, according to Faderman, "seemed to view humanity as having three sexes--men, women, and Octave Thanet" how could I not go on a voyage to figure Octave Thanet out?
And, on the morning I decided to start, what do I see but an article "Keeping Queer Company in the Short Fiction of Alice French" by Meg Gillette in the most recent issue of American Literary Realism.
So, old Alice is getting other folks' attention too. I'll be starting my primary text reading with Knitters in the Sun, her collection from 1887. While I have the copy pictured below, I'll be using the scanned text to save my first edition.
About this project:
I've been saying since 2004 that I was going to write a critical biography of Octave Thanet (Alice French). This blog is the start of that work and will include notes, links to research, and other OT related tidbits.