Alice Duer Miller
Biography of Alice Duer Miller
Alice Duer Miller was an American writer and poet.
Alice Duer was born in New York City on July 28, 1874 into a wealthy family. She is the daughter of James Gore King Duer and Elizabeth Wilson Meads, daughter of Orlando Meads of Albany, New York. Her paternal great grandfather, was William Duer, an American lawyer, developer, and speculator from New York City. He had served in the Continental Congress and the convention that framed the New York Constitution. In 1778, he signed the United States Articles of Confederation and was the president of Columbia College, 1829-1842; and her great great grandfather was William Alexander, who claimed the disputed title of Earl of Stirling, and was an American Major-General during the American Revolutionary War.
She was also a descendant of Senator Rufus King, who was an American lawyer, politician, and diplomat. He was a delegate for Massachusetts to the Continental Congress. He also attended the Constitutional Convention and was one of the signers of the United States Constitution on September 17, 1787, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He represented New York in the United States Senate, served as Minister to Britain, and was the Federalist candidate for both Vice President (1804, 1808) and President of the United States (1816)
At the time of her entrance into society, her family lost most of its fortune. She entered Barnard College in 1895 studying mathematics and astronomy (she was a brilliant mathematician). She helped to pay for her studies by selling novels and short essays. She and her sister Caroline King Duer published a joint book of poems. Alice graduated in June 1899.
On October 5, 1899, she married Henry Wise Miller at Grace Church Chapel in New York City. He was born in 1877, the son of Lt. Commander Jacob Miller, in Nice, France, where his father was serving with the U.S. Navy. He was an 1892 graduate of Harvard University. They left for Costa Rica, where he attempted to develop rubber cultivation. This venture eventually failed; in 1903, she, her husband and young son returned to New York, where they lived in difficulty for some time, he working in the Stock Exchange, she teaching, which she hated. After a time, her husband earned more and she was able to dedicate her working time entirely to writing.
She became known as a campaigner for women's suffrage and published a brilliant series of satirical poems in the New York Tribune. These were published subsequently as Are Women People?. These words became a catchphrase of the suffrage movement. She followed this collection with Women are People! (1917).
As a novelist, she scored her first real success with Come Out of the Kitchen in 1916. The story was made into a play and later the 1948 film Spring in Park Lane. She followed it with a series of other short novels, many of which were staged and (increasingly) made into films. At about the same time, her husband began to make money on the Exchange and their money problems were over.
Her marriage endured to the end of her life, but was not entirely tranquil. Her novel in verse Forsaking All Others (1933) about a tragic love affair, which many consider her greatest work, reflects this, though it is certainly not autobiographical.
In the 1920s and 1930s, many of her stories were used for motion pictures, such as Roberta (1935) and Irene (1940), taking her to Hollywood. She also became involved in a number of motion picture screenplays, including Wife vs. Secretary (1936). Her name appears in the very first issue of The New Yorker as an "advisory editor".
In 1940, she wrote the verse novel The White Cliffs. The story is of an American girl who coming to London as a tourist, meets and marries a young upper-class Englishman in the period just before the First World War. The War begins and he goes to the front. He is killed just before the end of the War, leaving her with a young son. Her son is the heir to the family estate. Despite the pull of her own country and the impoverished condition of the estate, she decides to stay and live the traditional life of a member of the English upper class. The story concludes as The Second World War commences and she worries that her son, like his father, will be killed fighting for the country he loves
...I am American bred
I have seen much to hate here - much to forgive,
But in a world in which England is finished and dead,
I do not wish to live.
The poem was spectacularly successful on both sides of the Atlantic, selling eventually approaching a million copies - an unheard of number for a book of verse. It was broadcast and the story was made into the 1944 film The White Cliffs of Dover, starring Irene Dunne. Like her earlier suffrage poems, it had a significant effect on American public opinion and it was one of the influences leading the United States to enter the War. Sir Walter Layton, who held positions in the Ministries of Supply and Munitions during the Second World War, even brought it to the attention of then-Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
Alice Duer Miller died in 1942, and was interred at Evergreen Cemetery in Morristown, New Jersey.
Alice Duer Miller's Works:
Modern Obstacle (1903)
The Blue Arch (1910)
Are Women People? (1915)
Come Out of the Kitchen (1916)
Women Are People! (1917)
Ladies Must Live (1917)
The Happiest Time of Their Lives (1918)
Wings in the Night (1918)
The Charm School (1919)
The Beauty and the Bolshevist (1920)
Priceless Pearl (1924)
The Reluctant Duchess (1925)
Forsaking All Others (1931)
Gowns by Roberta (1933)
The Rising Star (1935)
And One Was Beautiful (1937)
The White Cliffs (1940
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Alice Duer Miller Poems
The White Cliffs
I I have loved England, dearly and deeply, Since that first morning, shining and pure, The white cliffs of Dover I saw rising steeply
How Like a Woman
I WANTED you to come to-day Or so I told you in my letter And yet, if you had stayed away, I should have liked you so much better.
A Lady's Choice
Her old love in tears and silence had been building her a palace Ringed by moats and flanked with towers, he had set it on a hill
COURAGE to ask of love neither sign nor token, Wisdom to wait, silence and faith are better; Fear, not alone lest the bond be some day broken, But, that love, too desperately dear, become a fetter.
The Woman at the Cross-roads
AN equal love between a man and woman, This is the only charm to set us free, And this the only omen Of immortality.
After a Year
YES, you have guessed it. Do not blame me, dear. Indeed, I did not dream, 0 tender eyes, When first we met, that in a little year My words would dim you with pain's dumb surprise.
IN this still cloister where the roses grow Waist-high between the arches and the well, You would have walked a thousand years ago, So faithful, who are now so infidel;
HE: I am in trouble, give me your advice. SHE: No, for I'm sure 'twould not be carried out. HE: It shall, I swear it shall, at any price. SHE:If that's agreed, what is this all about?
An Exhortation to Gentleness
You who are strong, and do not know the need That weaker spirits feel, but do not plead - The need to lean on someone who is strong - Oh! see you give their silent want good heed.
THERE is a magic pathway through the wood, There is a current in the troubled stream, A happy course to steer, if one but could, A meaning to the dream.
In a School Chapel
THE clear young voices rise and soar: 'Oh, pray Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they Shall prosper that love thee.' Yet each boy's heart Harbors the hope that he may have a part
LAST night I saw a city by the sea, Outlined in sparks of fire; Those wreathed lamps made all a fantasy - Arch, dome and spire.
The Railroad Station
JUST a very common thing - Shouts and whistles, bells that ring, Just a platform in the rain And a slowly moving train;
To an Old Lady in a Train
HER hair was beautifully white Beneath her bonnet, black as night, Which, plainly of New England kin, Was tied with strings beneath her chin.
After a Year
YES, you have guessed it. Do not blame me, dear.
Indeed, I did not dream, 0 tender eyes,
When first we met, that in a little year
My words would dim you with pain's dumb surprise.
Do not reproach me, for I suffer too
An agony of shame and self-contempt;
And know that I shall miss, far more than you,
The lost illusions of this dream we've dreamt.