Royalty! Murder! Trials! Weddings! Imaginary Kingdoms!
These were the words used to describe the film adaptation of the novel "Graustark: The Story of a Love Behind a Throne, written by George Barr McCutcheon. While writing romantic, melodramatic bestsellers, the real life of George Barr McCutcheon was quite
different than that of his imagined literary characters. However, his life did parallel his art and interests in some ways, and millions in the early 20th century appreciated this art.George Barr McCutcheon was born to two well-read, contemporary young pa
rents named John Barr and Clara Glick McCutcheon on July 26, 1866. George was the first-born of the family, and the birth event took place at the rural McCutcheon homestead located near Lafayette, Indiana. Clara and Barr were destined to raise George in a
n intellectually stimulating home environment, based on the contribution of formal schooling on Clara's side and wide readership and interest in the theatre from John Barr. George passed a happy childhood along with younger brothers John, Ben, and baby s
ister Jessie. As a child George enjoyed writing his own plays and stories as well as taking parts in these plays, produced with his brothers and sister. George's first work, Panther Jim, was completed in 1874. His subsequent works from the beginning he
often dedicated "To Mother", a person with whom he had a close relationship throughout his life. George developed a love for reading dime novels (forbidden reading by his parents) at this time, which would remain an admitted enjoyable activity throughout
his life. George's learning experiences at the Lafayette Ford Elementary School were supplemented by his parent's collection of books at home, including Shakespeare, Plutarch, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Robert Louis Stevenson, Homer's epics and The Bible. Th
e early exposure to good works of literature encouraged George to pursue reading. One of his favorite authors later became Thackeray, whose life patterns he would imitate through work and choices in marriage.
George learned a lot about theatre and drama by attending productions, one or two each week, at the Opera House in active downtown Lafayette. The Opera House was within convenient walking distance to George's new home when the family moved to Lafayette u
pon George's father's acceptance of a job as Lafayette sheriff. The Opera House offered a variety of entertainments, including opera, vaudeville, lectures and film. As George neared college age he began taking parts in plays with the Lafayette Dramatic
Club and later the Purdue Dramatic Society. Additionally, as a young man he proudly performed in the Opera House production of the musical drama Queen Esther on November 21, 1890.
George Barr McCutcheon was a largely self-taught scholar even though he had exposure to good primary schools and attended Purdue University as a freshman 2 years younger than his respective classmates. George accepted a job at Purdue's Lafayette Journal
writing reviews of local productions. He was critical of works he did not feel were well done or substantive but was very generous in praising quality theatre regardless of popular opinion or producer's promotion. However, GBMc, as George was later calle
d by critics and admirers alike, flunked out of college as a sophomore was because he put most of his effort into writing activities outside of class. Soon after leaving Purdue he would accept a newspaper job with the Lafayette Courier, a career which wou
ld progress over time into a position as City Editor in March of 1893. He had a 10 hour a day, six day a week work schedule at the Courier office, and usually used his time after returning home to work on his own personal writing. His first novel, entitl
ed Graustark: The Story of a Love Behind a Throne, was begun behind his desk at the Lafayette Courier, and was completed in 287 days. Graustark proved to make the McCutcheon name known to the readers of romantic novels, launched his professional writing c
areer, and provided him with enough stability to enable him to decide to resign from his job on June 1, 1902, move to Chicago and pursue writing full time. It was at this point that a career began which would end with a total output of over 40 published w
orks. The romance novels of GBMc's "Graustark Series" would be especially widely published. However, his many serious plays and intended parodies, the first of which was Judith Verne (1885), would be continuously rejected by publisher's in fact of the
great quality which is evident in it. These would be rejections which seemed to distress GBMc in a way which he subtly showed in some of the statements he made about his best-sellers. In spite of the fact that Graustark and its subsequent sequels, includ
ing Beverley of Greystark (1904) and The Inn of the Hawk and Raven (1927) were so carefully crafted to be set in believable, yet fictitious, European countries created by the author, GBMc in fact made only one trip to Europe in his lifetime, and this tri
p was taken after many of his novels were written. Graustark: The Story of a Love Behind a Throne had a setting which was so scrupulously created, down to the very last detail as was GBMc's habit, that his readers would often assume that it was in fact a
real place and contact him for travel assistance.
GBMc finally married in 1904. His bride, Marie Van Antwerp Fay, was a former widow with a young son, William. Another son was born to G.B. Mc. and Marie on December 1, 1909, but the infant died within hours of his birth. The process was also physically di
fficult for Marie because of her age, and she nearly did not recover. Although George and Marie's marriage endured until his death in 1928, he was in fact most in love with the writing life. He kept a strict schedule, writing 1,000 or more words per day.
McCutcheon's literary ledger, which is housed at the Beinecke Library, is the most complete record of all aspects of his career. The ledger includes start and finish dates of novels, royalties paid, details of serialization, adaptation to the stage and
screen, in fact, essentially all of the details of his professional career, and all in GBMc's neat handwriting.
When he was not writing, GBMc and Marie enjoyed sharing time and conversation with contemporaries who were members of the Dutch Treat Club, a literary group that routinely met in New York City. Some famous friends of GBMc and Marie from this club and othe
r literary groups were George Ade and Booth Tarkingtion. G.B. Mc. held several professional posts and was known in literature as a member of the Hoosier school of writers. GBMc was also a bibliomaniac, collecting a very complete collection of first editio
n Victorian novels, including works by Dickens, Thackeray, Hardy and Kipling. He also proved to have an interest in American and Dutch art.
George Barr McCutcheon's life was cut short at the age of 60 when he died suddenly while at a luncheon of the Dutch Treat Club in New York's Hotel Martinique. The cause of death was heart failure and it happened suddenly and unexpectedly. His body was r
eturned to Lafayette to his stepson, William Fay, where it was cremated and the ashes were interred. The Lafayette Journal and Courier covered the news of his death in detail the following day. It was noted honorably in the following way: George Barr McCu
tcheon's death marks the passing of one of the last of the great romanticists among American authors.
"Dead Novelist" p.1 The Lafayette Journal & Courier, Evening Edition. Wednesday, October 24,1928.
Lazarus, Arnold Leslie. BEYOND GRAUSTARK: GEORGE BARR MCCUTCHEON, PLAYWRIGHT DISCOVERED. Point Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat Press, 1981.
Malone, Duman. Ed. DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY, V.12. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1933. pp.12-13.
McCutcheon, George Barr. BOOKS ONCE WERE MEN: AN ESSAY FOR BOOKLOVERS . New York: Dodd, Mead & Co. 1931
McCutcheon, George Barr. A CHOICE LITTLE COLLECTION: PAINTINGS BY THE AMERICAN MASTERS AND A NUMBER OF EXAMPLES OF THE BARBIZON AND DUTCH SCHOOLS. New York: American Art Association, 1929.
McCutcheon, George Barr. THE RENOWNED COLLECTION OF FIRST EDITIONS OF CHARLES DICKENS AND WILLIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY. New York: American Art Association, 1926.
Moriarty, John H. "Hoosiers Sell Best". Indiana Quarterly for Bookmen. V.3.#1 January 1947.
"The McCutcheon Sale of Hardy, Kipling and Stevenson Collections." Publisher's Weelky. March 23, 1925. pp.1773-1775.
West, James L. W., III. "George Barr McCutcheon's Literary Ledger". Yale Univeristy Library Gazette. 1985 V.59 (3-4): 155-161