Taylor Caldwell

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Janet Miriam Holland Taylor Caldwell (September 7, 1900 August 30, 1985) was an Anglo-American novelist and prolific author of popular fiction, also known by the pen names Marcus Holland and Max Reiner, and by her married name of J. Miriam Reback.

She used often in her works real historical events or persons. Taylor Caldwell's best-known works include Dynasty of Death (1938), an epic story about intrigues and alliances of two Pennsylvania families involved in the manufacture of armaments. Her last major novel, Answer as a Man, appeared in 1980, and told a story of a man who begins his rise to prestige and power in the midst of the Great Depression.

"You hard man," said Mr. Maggiotti.
"Learned it the hard way," Bernard would reply. "Men are bastards."
"God loves all men, Bernie."
"More fool he," said Bernie.
(from 'Answer as a Man')

Taylor Caldwell was born in Manchester, England, into a family of Scottish background. Her family descended from the Scottish Clan of MacGregor of which the Taylors are a subsidiary clan. In 1907 she emigrated to the United States with her family. At the age of eight she started to write stories. In 1919 she married William F. Combs and divorced in 1931. Between the years 1918 and 1919 she served in the United States Naval Reserve. From 1923 to 1924 she was a Court Reporter in New York State Department of Labor in Buffalo, New York and from 1924 to 1931 a member of the Board of Special Inquiry at the Department of Justice in Buffalo.

In 1931 she graduated from the University at Buffalo. In collaboration with her second husband, Marcus Reback, she wrote several bestsellers, the first of which was Dynasty of Death. Caldwell had started to write the story in 1934. It begins from the year 1837 and focuses on the entangled relationships of two families, who control a huge munitions trust. Joseph Barbour is a servant, who becomes a successful businessman and arms manufacturer. His son Martin is not interested in money, he is an idealist and altruist. Ernest, the elder son, is an egoist and believes that money is the greatest power in the world. Ernest loves Amy Drumhill, the niece of Gregory Sessions, owner of a steel factory. However, she marries Martin, who establishes a hospital, and dies in the American Civil War. Ernest's hardness ruins Joseph, and he is cursed by his mother. Dynasty of Death attracted wide attention when it was revealed, that behind the male pseudonym was a woman. The story was continued in The Eagles Gather (1940) and The Final Hour (1944).

As a writer Caldwell was praised for her intricately plotted and suspenseful stories, which depicted family tensions and the development of the US from an agrarian society into the leading industrial state of the world. Caldwell's heroes are self-made men of pronounced ethnic background, such as the German immigrants in The Strong City (1942) and The Balance Wheel (1951). Her themes are ethnic, religious and personal intolerance (The Wide House, 1945), the failure of parental discipline (Let Love Come Last, 1949) and the conflict between the desire for power and money and the human values of love and sense of family, presented in such works as Melissa (1948), A Prologue to Love (1962) and Bright Flows the River (1978).

In her later works Caldwell explored the American Dream and wrote stories 'from rag to riches' course of life, among them Answer of a Man (1981). Caldwell's historical novels include The Arm and the Darkness, a fictionalized account of Cardinal Richelieu, A Pillar of Iron (1965), fictional biography of Cicero, the Roman senator and and orator, The Earth is the Lord's (1941), a fictional biography of Ghengis Khan. Religious themes were prominent in several works. 'Answer as a Man' begins with the clamour of the bells of a little church and end with renewed faith.

"Jason raised his eyes and smiled. God is good. He moves mysteriously, as the priests say, but he has his ways, he has his ways! He is not the adversory of man. Man is, Jason thought. God is not to be understood by man. He is just to be trusted." (from 'Answer as a Man').

In the story Jason Garrity pins his hopes on the building of a luxury hotel, but Caldwell deals also with politics and history ("Hell! though Jason. What can I, as a single individual, do to prevent calamity? Nothing. Taft is the safest man. He is not an imperialist, like Roosevelt. Nor a social fanatic like Wilson. I'll vote for Taft."). Dear and Glorious Physician (1959) was about Luke the Evangelist, and Dialogues with the Devil (1967) was a study of good and evil. Caldwell depicts in it a correspondence between Lucifer and Michael, mixing in the dialogue old tales, a lost continent, and theological speculations.

--'"Childish raptures! said Lucifer, with scorn, his eyes flashing like lightning. "Are we indeed whimpering and craven children, or slaves? Can we be content with toys and little deliciousnesses? Are we not mind, as well as emotion? And is not the mind, of both angel and man, the noblest of possessions, and worth exercising. It is in our minds that we approach the closest of Him, Who is all Mind. Mind is the creator of all philosophy, all order, all beauty, all satisfaction, but emotion is the lowliest of the virtues, if it is a virtue at all. Mind has in it the capacity to know all things, or, at least, the minds of angels."' (from 'Dialogues with the Devil')

During her career as a writer Caldwell's books sold over thirty million copies. She received several awards, among them the National League of American Pen Woman gold medal (1948), Buffalo Evening News Award (1949), and Grand Prix Chatvain (1950). Caldwell was married four times altogether - the third time to a Mr Stancell, and the fourth and final time to William Robert Prestie, who was a follower of Subud (he died in 1992). She was an outspoken conservative and for a time associated with the anti-Semitic Liberty Lobby. Her memoir, GROWING UP TOUGH, appeared in 1971. Caldwell continued writing until 1980, when a stroke left her deaf and unable to speak. She died in Greenwich, Connecticut on September 2, 1985.

For further reading: In Search of Taylor Caldwell by J. Stearn (1974); Twentieth-Century Romance & Historical Writers, ed. by Lesley Henderson (1990); World Authors 1900-1950, ed. by Martin Seymour-Smith and Andrew C. Kimmens (1996, vol. 1).


  • Dynasty of Death (1938)
  • This Very Earth (1940)
  • The Eagles Gather (1940)
  • The Earth is the Lord's: A Tale of the Rise of Genghis Khan (1940)
  • Time No Longer (1941)
  • The Strong City (1942)
  • The Arm and the Darkness (1943)
  • The Turnbulls (1943)
  • The Final Hour (1944)
  • The Wide House (1945)
  • This Side of Innocence (1946)
  • There Was A Time (1947)
  • Melissa (1948)
  • Let Love Come Last (1949)
  • The Beautiful Is Vanished (1951)
  • The Balance Wheel (1951)
  • The Devil's Advocate (1952) - speculative fiction about a near-future totalitarian America
  • Maggie - Her Marriage (1953)
  • Your Sins and Mine (1955)
  • Tender Victory (1956)
  • Never Victorious, Never Defeated (1957)
  • The Sound of Thunder (1957)
  • Dear and Glorious Physician (1958) - life of Luke the Evangelist
  • The Listener (1960)
  • A Prologue to Love (1961)
  • Man Who Listens (1961)
  • To See the Glory (1963)
  • The Late Clara Beame (1963)
  • Grandmother and the Priests (1963)
  • A Pillar of Iron (1965) - life of Marcus Tullius Cicero
  • Wicked Angel (1965)
  • No One Hears But Him (1966)
  • Dialogues with the Devil (1967)
  • Testimony of Two Men (1968)
  • Great Lion of God (1970) - life of Paul of Tarsus
  • Growing Up Tough (1971)
  • On Growing Up Tough (1971)
  • Captains and the Kings (1972)
  • To Look and Pass (1973)
  • Glory and the Lightning (1974) - life of Aspasia, mistress of Pericles
  • Romance of Atlantis (1975) (with Jess Stearn)
  • Ceremony of the Innocent (1976)
  • I, Judas (1977) - life of Judas Iscariot
  • Bright Flows the River (1978)
  • Answer As A Man (1980)
  • The Child From the Sea (1994)

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