Biography

Neith Who?

Neith Boyce (1872-1951) was a Progressive-Era writer who worked in poetry, theater, short stories, novels, and various forms of creative nonfiction. She began her literary career with fiction published in her father's newspaper in Los Angeles and in California "little magazines," moving to write for cultural magazines edited by her mother in Boston in the late 1880s. From there she migrated to New York and worked on Lincoln Steffens' Commercial Advertiser in the 1890s and lived in Greenwich Village. There she met the radical journalist Hutchins Hapgood (1869-1944), whom she married in 1899.

Together the couple had a life of ideas, the arts, social issues, and four children. Thanks to Hutch’s private income, they lived in all the places where modernism bloomed: Paris, Florence, New York, and Provincetown—with many stops in between. They also maintained a large circle of friends who became famous: Carl Van Vechten, Gertrude Stein, Mabel Dodge Luhan, John Reed, Margaret Sanger, Susan Glaspell, John Dos Passos, Mina Loy, and many others. Their papers at Yale’s Collection of American Literature comprise some 100,000 items and are a rich trove for mining by scholars of social and cultural history. Perhaps the most-used items are the couple’s letters to each other, which they never intended for publication or even for reading by their children. These remarkable epistles chart a complicated marriage initiated on the basis of equality, but that proved to be difficult. In fact, it was a forecast of the struggles in many later-century marriages, which assumed sexual expression and personal autonomy as basic rights.

Neith published four critically acclaimed books between 1900-1910, dozens of short stories in major magazines through 1920, and plays that are once again being assessed as crucial to an understanding of the development of "New Theater" in America. Her "Constancy" opened the Provincetown Players in 1915, performed in her home, the rented Bissell Cottage, in Provincetown.

Hutchins Hapgood at Harvard
Boyce and Hapgood

Neith published four critically acclaimed books between 1900-1910, dozens of short stories in major magazines through 1920, and plays that are once again being assessed as crucial to an understanding of the development of "New Theater" in America. Her "Constancy" opened the Provincetown Players in 1915, performed in her home, the rented Bissell Cottage, in Provincetown.

Two volumes that appeared in 1923, the memoir Harry: A Portrait and the novel Proud Lady, signaled the end of her publishing career. However, she continued to write with publication in mind until the end of her life. These works include an autobiography, diaries, several works of history that bend the definition of the genre, a novel about Key West, short stories, and plays (including one that nearly made it into production on Broadway).

Largely ignored as a writer after the 1930s, Neith was "rediscovered" in the 1970s for her involvement with the women thinkers of Greenwich Village in the early years of the 20th century. Her role in the creation of literary modernism was highlighted in the 1987 book, Writing for Their Lives: The Modernist Women 1910-1940 by Gillian Hanscombe and Virginia L. Smyers (Northeastern Press). Recent biographies of her friend, Susan Glaspell, show that Neith, along with others, was instrumental in the new strategies of voice, staging, and theme that invigorated American theater in the 19-teens.

In fact, Neith published in all the "new" forms of writing in the early 20th century, pushing the boundaries of every literary genre. She died in early December 1951, in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Her personal revisionist history of the U.S. was privately published as The Story of an American Family: Letters and Commentary on the Hapgood Family, 1648-1917 in 1953. In 1991 the Feminist Press brought out an edition of her and Hutch’s letters and writings dealing with marriage, Intimate Warriors: Portraits of a Modern Marriage, 1899-1944, as edited by E. Kay Trimberger. In 1992 the Richmond, New Hampshire Archives brought out her history of this area, where she lived on a farm occasionally: The Town in the Forest: Life Story of Richmond, New Hampshire. The new book, The Modern World of Neith Boyce: Autobiography and Diaries, continues this revival.

Mary Smith Boyce named her first daughter for the ancient chthonic goddess Neith. Image from Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Bibliography of Works by Neith Boyce


Books
The Bond. New York: Duffield and Company, 1908.
The Eternal Spring. New York: Fox, Duffield and Company, 1906.
The Folly of Others. New York: Fox, Duffield and Company, 1904. Reprint, Plainview, New York: Books for Libraries, Inc., 1974.
The Forerunner. New York: Fox, Duffield and Company, 1903.
Harry: A Portrait. New York: Thomas Selzer, 1923.
Proud Lady. New York: Thomas Selzer, 1923.
Songs. Boston: Arena Publishing Company, 1892.
Stories from the Chap-Book. Chicago: Herbert S. Stone and Company, 1896.
The Town in the Forest: Life Story of Richmond, New Hampshire. Richmond: Richmond, New Hampshire Archives, 1992.
Story of an American Family: Letters and Commentary on the Hapgood Family, 1648-1917. Chicopee, Mass.: Brown-Murphy, 1953 [1951].

Plays
"The Two Sons." In The Provincetown Plays, 4 Series, edited by Frank Shay, 147-169. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1916.
"Winter’s Night." In Fifty More Contemporary One-Act Plays, edited by Frank Shay, 39–46. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1928 and in A Century of Plays by American Women, edited by Rachel France, 79–85. New York: Richard Rosen Press,1979.
——— and Hutchins Hapgood. "Enemies." In The Provincetown Plays, edited by George Cram Cook and Frank Shay. Cincinnati: Stewart Kidd Company, 1921.

Poems
"After the Storm." LOTOS 9:3 (September 1895), 177.
"After Sunset." LOTOS 8:10 (April 1895), 709.
"Flower of Rajisthan." The New Cycle 8:8 (February 1895).
"Last Week in Autumn." Overland 52:201 (December, 1892), 609.
"Noel." LOTOS 9: 6-7 (December-January 1895/​1896), front cover.
"Triolet." LOTOS 9:5 (November 1895), 338.
"Winter’s Night." Overland 52:17 (September 1891), 610.

Short Stories
"Awakening." Harper’s Weekly 57 (27 September, 1913): 21–2.
"Blue Hood." Harper’s Weekly 58 (2 May, 1914): 9–11.
"Blue Pearl." McClure’s 35 (May 1910): 26–35.
"Books and Men." Harper’s Weekly 60 (6 February, 1915): 131, 187–8.
"A British Matron." Harper’s Weekly 61 (15 January, 1916): 591–2.
"Brothers." McClure’s 38 (December 1911): 138–145.
"Burton’s Burglar." Harper’s Weekly 58 (24 January, 1914): 12–14.
"The Elder Generation." American Magazine 71 (April 1911) 748–757.
"Faithful Wife." Harper’s Weekly 60 (2 January, 1915): 14–15.
"The Golden Wedding." Harper’s Weekly 59 (26 December, 1914): 615–616.
"In a Garden." Stories from the Chap-Book, 29–43. Chicago: Herbert S. Stone & Company, 1896.
"Inlaid Chest." Harper’s Weekly 60 (16 January, 1915): 65–67.
"Labouchere." Harper’s Weekly 58 (28 March, 1914): 14–15.
"The Legacy." American Magazine 64 (October 1907): 615–23.
"A Livelier Plumage." American Magazine, 70 (August 1910): 506–515.
"Luxury." American Magazine 71 (November 1910): 112–119.
"Love!" Harper’s Weekly 60 (9 January, 1915): 42–44.
"Maddalena Speaks." Forum 51 (January 1914): 103–107.
"The Most Beautiful Girl in the World." LOTOS 9:8 (February 1896): 584–86.
"Mrs. Peyton Interferes." McClure’s 37 (August 1911): 4–8.
"My Dear Niece." Good Housekeeping 53(July 1911): 33-41.
"Progressive at Large." Harper’s Weekly 58 (7 February, 1914): 10–11.
"A Provident Woman." Lippincott’s Magazine 73 (March 1904): 259–317.
"Retreat." Harper’s Monthly Magazine 146 (December 1922): 46–66.
"The Return." Harper’s Weekly 60 (20 February, 1915): 187–188.
"Silence Is Gold." American Magazine 70 (July 1910): 304–311.
"Thirty Years." Harper’s Weekly 60 (22 May, 1915): 485.
"Tschekhov’s Plays." Harper’s Weekly 57 (27 December, 1913): 22–23.
"The Undertow." Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine 560 (August 1914): 129–176.
"The Vestals." New York Commercial Advertiser, n.d.
"When Chesterton Is Angry." Harper’s Weekly 59 (11 July, 1914): 31.
"The Wife of a Genius." Harper’s Weekly 59 (12 December, 1914): 556–568.

Creative Nonfiction, Articles and Essays
"The Bachelor Girl" "papers" in Vogue for 5 May 1898: 294; 19 May 1898: 320, 322; 16 June 1898: viii; 7 July 1898: 6,10; 4 August 1898: 75-6, 78; 1 September 1898: 138-39; 8 September 1898: 156; 22 September 1898: 190; 3 November 1898:284.
"The Baths of Lucca," Scribner’s Magazine 39 (May 1906): 614–620.
"Books and Men," Harper’s Weekly, 60 (February 20, 1915): 187–188.
"Book Notes and News" monthly columns in New Cycle 8:12 (June 1895) and subsequent issues of LOTOS through September 1896.
"Coming Comedy of American Manners." Bookman 15 (March 1902): 57–58.
"‘Prigs’ and ‘Cads’ in Fiction," Bookman 23 (July 1906): 490–491.

Reviews of Boyce's works

Book Review
Lifewriting Annual: Biographical & Autobiographical StudiesVol. 2 (2008): 257-266
from Documentary Editing
Early literary career of Neith Boyce

Neith Boyce began publishing stories and poems in Los Angeles newspapers as a child in the 1880s, according to her "Autobiography" [1940?]. She then published short stories in California "little magazines" as a teenager. Most of these are unrecoverable, but if you know of any, please send email me.

Neith's best known plays

  • "The Two Sons." In The Provincetown Plays, 4 Series, edited by Frank Shay, 147-169. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1916.


  • "Winter’s Night." In Fifty More Contemporary One-Act Plays, edited by Frank Shay, 39–46. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1928 and in A Century of Plays by American Women, edited by Rachel France, 79–85. New York: Richard Rosen Press,1979.


  • ——— and Hutchins Hapgood. "Enemies." In The Provincetown Plays, edited by George Cram Cook and Frank Shay. Cincinnati: Stewart Kidd Company, 1921.