Elisabeth Marbury

p. 204 ("Miss Marbury... was the lesbian lover of Elsie De Wolfe...")] [cite book
last = Von Drehle
first = Dave
authorlink =
coauthors =
year = 2003
title = Triangle: The Fire That Changed America
publisher = Atlantic Monthly Press
location =
id = ISBN 0-87113-874-3
] Marbury died in 1933. Her funeral at St. Patrick's Cathedral was attended by an impressive array of the most important American leaders and dignitaries of the day. De Wolfe was noticeably absent from the funeral, despite the fact that she was the prime beneficiary of Marbury's will.

Professional Life

Bessy Marbury's clients ranged from the French Academy of Letters, to playwrights Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw, to the dance team of Vernon and Irene Castle, as well as being an early promoter of African American writers of the Harlem Renaissance. She also played an instrumental role in developing the modern "Book Musical" that audiences came to know as defining "Broadway" in the twentieth century, notably of Cole Porter's first musical, "See America First" ["See America First," Internet Broadway Database [http://www.ibdb.com/production.asp?ID=8376] ] ,and Jerome Kern ("Nobody Home" (1915), "Very Good, Eddie" (1915), and "Love o' Mike" (1916)).

Her friend and contemporary, the historian/jounalist/critic, Henry Adams, a descendant of two United States presidents, would refer to Marbury and her companion Elsie de Wolfe as personifying the American tradition of self-reinvention that gained new vigor at the open of the twentieth century.(Need Citation Here) Marbury and de Wolfe discovered their careers and each other amidst the amateur theatrical performances in high society in late Victorian New York. Both would end up defying this worlds rules and expectations for women by making this interest in theater professional,and in no small way helped pave the way for many other "respectable ladies" that followed, both in the previously frowned upon world of the professional theater as well as independent careers and financial autonomy for women in general. Thus it was at a 1885 successful benefit theatrical performance that she had organized, that Marbury was inspired to try her hand at theater management. In 1888 she persuaded Frances Hodgson Burnett, who had written a dramatic version of her best-selling "Little Lord Fauntleroy", to hire her as business manager and agent. The association quickly proved highly profitable to both women.

In 1891 Marbury traveled to France, and for 15 years she was the representative in the English-speaking market for playwright Victorien Sardou and the other members of the Société des Gens de Lettres, including Georges Feydeau, Edmond Rostand, Ludovic Halévy, and Jean Richepin. Her work on their behalf included securing suitable translations, sound productions with leading actors, and full royalties. She also represented George Bernard Shaw, James M. Barrie (whom she prevailed upon to rewrite "The Little Minister" for Maude Adams), Hall Caine, and Jerome K. Jerome, among British authors, and Rachel Crothers and Clyde Fitch among Americans. Her office thus became a centre of the New York theatrical business, and for many years Marbury worked closely with Charles Frohman and his Theatrical Syndicate in bringing order to a rapidly expanding field of enterprise. She later worked with the rival Shubert Brothers' organization. In both cases this drew criticism from those who fought the de-facto monopoly held by these "Theater Trusts", particularly from the noted American actress, Minnie Madern Fisk, who unsuccessfully struggled in the 1890s to form an actors union to fight the numerous fees and censorship imposed on actors and theater professionals by the Theater Trust.(need-reference-link)

In 1914 Marbury joined several other agents in forming the American Play Company, and she then turned to producing and helped stage "Nobody Home" (1915), "Very Good, Eddie" (1915), and "Love o' Mike" (1916), all with music by Jerome Kern, and "See America First" (1916) with music by Cole Porter. These works contributed significantly to the development of the characteristically American form of musical comedy. Marbury's other successes include bringing Vernon and Irene Castle, whom she had seen on one of her innumerable trips to Paris, to New York in 1913 and setting them up in a fashionable dancing school that was the springboard for their brief but spectacularly popular career.

Social Life

On the domestic front, Marbury was instrumental in assisting her companion Elsie de Wolfe in creating a career in interior decoration and in 1903 restoring Villa Trianon in Versailles, France, where she and de Wolfe and Anne Tracy Morgan (youngest child of the powerful financier, J.P. Morgan) held court and became noted hostesses, affectionately referred to as "The Versailles Triumverate". Also in 1903, along with Morgan and Anne Vanderbilt, Marbury helped organize the Colony Club, the first women's social club in New York. This also served as de Wolfe's professional debut as interior decorator. This same coterie would go on to create the exclusive neighborhood of Sutton Place, along Manhattan's East River, which prompted gossip papers of the 1920s to loudly whisper of an "Amazon Enclave".

During World War I Marbury devoted much time to relief work for French and later American soldiers and spent several months in France working in military hospitals and giving talks to the troops. She translated Maurice Barrès's "The Faith of France" (1918) and was decorated by the French and Belgian governments, although she was notably disappointed to not be awarded by the French Legion Of Honor whereas her companion Elsie de Wolfe was awarded by the French Legion Of Honor for her work in the pioneering Ambrine Mission for Burn Victims.

After at least thirty years of living together, Marbury and de Wolfe had separated by the early 1920s. In 1926, without any forewarning, de Wolfe shocked Marbury and the world at large with the surprise newspaper announcement of her wedding to Sir Charles Mendl, a British diplomat. According to biographies of de Wolfe, the Mendl-de Wolfe marriage was platonic, with the couple keeping separate apartments in Paris and usually only appeared together at social functions.



* cite book
last = Marbury
first = Elisabeth
authorlink =
coauthors =
year = 1923
title = My Crystal Ball:Reminiscences
publisher = Boni and Liveright
location =
id =

* cite book
last = Marbury
first = Elisabeth
authorlink =
coauthors =
year = 1888
title = Manners;: A handbook of social customs
publisher = Cassell & company, limited
location =
id =

Productions under aegis of Elisabeth Marbury

*"Electra" [Revival, Play, Tragedy] . Produced in association with Elisabeth Marbury Dec 26, 1930 - Jan 1931
*Say When [Original, Musical, Comedy] . Produced by Elisabeth Marbury Jun 26, 1928 - Jul 1928
*Revue Russe [Original, Musical, Revue, Vaudeville] . Produced by Elisabeth Marbury Oct 5, 1922 - Oct 22, 1922
*Girl o' Mine [Original, Musical, Comedy] . Produced by Elisabeth Marbury Jan 28, 1918 - Mar 9, 1918
*Love o' Mike [Original, Musical, Comedy] . Produced by Elisabeth Marbury Jan 15, 1917 - Sep 29, 1917
*See America First [Original, Musical, Comedy, Opera] . Produced by Elisabeth Marbury Mar 28, 1916 - Apr 8, 1916
*Very Good Eddie [Original, Musical] . Produced by Marbury-Comstock Co. Dec 23, 1915 - Oct 14, 1916
*Our Children [Original, Play] . Produced in association with Elisabeth Marbury Sep 10, 1915 - Sep 1915
*Nobody Home [Original, Play, Play with music] . Produced by Elisabeth Marbury Apr 20, 1915 - Aug 7, 1915
*Merry Gotham [Original, Play] . Written by Elisabeth Marbury Mar 14, 1892 - Apr 1892


External References

*Marbury, Elisabeth. Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 2 Feb. 2007 [http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9125848]
*Sparke, Penny. "Elsie de Wolfe: The Birth of Modern Interior Decoration". NY: Acanthus Press, 2005 ISBN 0926494279
* Lewis, Alfred Allan. "Ladies and Not-So-Gentle Women: Elisabeth Marbury, Anne Morgan, Elsie de Wolfe, Anne Vanderbilt, and Their Times." Penguin, 2001. ISBN 0140241736

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