“What did you come to Silver Bay for?” one girl asked another on the last night of the conference. “I came,” said the other, “to see if Christianity had a left leg to stand on.” “What have you decided?” “That it is a regular centipede!” was the reply.
— Miriam Vedder, Wellesley, Class of 1916, in The North American Student, October, 1915
A YWCA Silver Bay conference attendee, Miriam Vedder hailed from Schenectady, N.Y., served as editor of the Wellesley College News and won its first [John] Masefield Prize for verse in 1916. She was also on the Wellesley archery team (far right, below), but it is her verse that interests me.
In 1920, she inadvertently became involved in a mystery that may have involved one of the most elusive figures of the early 20th century, Arthur Craven. That year, a young man named Dorian Hope persuaded G.P. Putnam’s Sons of New York and London to publish a volume of his poetry, Pearls and Pomegranates. When Miriam Vedder bought a copy, she discovered 26 of the poems were hers. She went to the publisher’s office in New York and, upon investigation, they found Vedder was correct and that the rest of the poems were by the late Augustin Lardy; “Dorian Hope” had obtained the dead man’s poems from his mother, unaware that Lardy had shared his poetry with Miss Vedder, and that her own poems she had sent to Lardy were shuffled in among the manuscripts. The publisher withdrew the book immediately; Dorian Hope was seen no more in New York, but soon after a young man going as Dorian Hope, and Sebastian Hope, was peddling forgeries of Oscar Wilde manuscripts in Paris and Amsterdam. Some biographers of Arthur Craven believe that Hope and Craven were one in the same.
Arthur Craven was a nephew of Oscar Wilde, who made a life out of getting into trouble and disappearing. In Paris, circa 1910-15, he made his way as a performance artist and a boxer, and during lectures would drink heavily, hurl abuse at his audience, take off all his clothes and moon the front row. Admirers of outrage were delighted. He was said to have disappeared at sea in 1918, but these later sightings in New York, Paris and Amsterdam kept people buzzing.
And so Miriam Vedder, Silver bay conference attendee, had a brush with fame and intrigue. On her own, in 1931 and ’32, she had 29 pieces published in The New Yorker. The poem below appeared in the September 17, 1932, issue:
“Horoscopes” – By Miriam Vedder, Wellesley Class of 1916.
I’ve high esteem for horoscopes
They give one such romantic hopes.
Mine said I’d meet a very fine
Young man in 1929,
And intimated wedding rings,
And other such inspiring things,
I waited for him all the year,
But that young man did not appear
Unless he was a tax-collector,
Or, possibly, the dog-inspector.
In 1930 speculation
Was to achieve the elevation
Of my depressed financial state.
But something might have sidetracked Fate
The stocks I bought that happy spring
Today are not worth anything.
A voyager upon the sea,
A traveller in wagons-lits,
I should, before the year was done,
Have been in 1931.
And yet, despite the friendly stars,
I only rode on trolley cars.
But though my fortunes have declined,
I’m vastly gratified to find
That 1932 should be
A most propitious year for me,
With riches knocking on my doors,
And sojourning on foreign shores,
And gentlemen of many nations
Offering fervent protestations.
For even though I seem to stay
At home in quite the usual way,
And no one names me as an heir,
And suitors are extremely rare,
It’s very comforting to know
That Heaven never planned things so!
* * *
Pearls and Pomegranates (1920) was withdrawn from publication, but is available today in reprint editions made from the few copies that survived. I would suggest that Miss Vedder’s later poetry in The New Yorker showed delightful improvement from her earlier efforts.