“To the readers of my stories who . . . have recognized beneath the magic glamour of romance and adventure the clear flame of my belief that the beautiful things of life are as real as the ugly things of life, that gay courage may turn threatened defeat into victory, that hitching one’s wagon to the star of achievement will lift one high above the quicksands of discouragement.”
This dedication introduced Emilie Loring’s ninth book, Lighted Windows, in 1930, but it might have been written at any stage of her life. Some are surprised to learn that this author of optimistic, up-to-date novels was actually a Victorian lady, born in 1866, who did not begin to write for publication until her two sons had left for prep school, and she was nearly fifty years old.
Emilie Loring’s male leads range from a wealthy playboy in the Maine woods, to an up-and-coming Boston attorney, to a bridge-building engineer in the wilds of Alaska, but always their eyes are “clean, clear and compelling” below hair which usually has a rebellious kink above the brow and is touched lightly at the temples with silver. The young ladies have eyes “like velvety pansies,” dimples at the corners of their smiles, and play or sing beautifully, but they have been to college and are spirited enough to pilot planes, manage their own farms, and run for political office.
Emilie learned early about entertaining writing. Her father, George Melville Baker, was a publisher with Lee & Shepard and a renowned playwright who staged amateur comedies for charity. The Baker parlor was often emptied of its furnishings to present plays on a make-shift stage with a painted, canvas backdrop. Performers of the Boston stage and lecture circuits acted alongside the family, as did popular authors from Lee & Shepard. With this upbringing, it was no wonder that Emilie’s sister Rachel and her brother Robert both became playwrights, but although Emilie’s career would eventually eclipse them all, she waited a long time to try.
Instead, she married attorney Victor Loring and raised two sons in a three-story home in Wellesley Hills, complete with servants, stables, gardens, and an orchard. As her readers know, Emilie devotedly loved both gardens and afternoon teas, and a great dream of her life became reality when she hosted a tea party in her orchard with a young girl playing the flute under a big, apple tree. She also adored dogs, collected silver boxes and colored paperweights, and loved reading, particularly Dickens.
Her first attempt at writing would have discouraged a less determined author. Emilie’s first story was rejected forty-four times before it was finally published. The Loring family teased her about a dream she had that was particularly symbolic of her. In the dream, Emilie overheard the comment of those who came to pay their respects after her death, “She died, but she did it!”
Emilie Loring’s first books were For the Comfort of the Family: A Vacation Experiment (1914) and The Mother in the Home (1917), both published under the pseudonym Josephine Story. It may seem an odd beginning for a romance novelist to first write a homemaking book and a collection of essays on motherhood, but her Baker sense of humor was already in full swing. Her recipe for popovers concludes,
“This recipe makes a dozen muffins. If they are a success there will be none too many; if they are not, you will have just twelve more than you need.”
As her confidence increased, and she began to write fiction, she used her own name, Emilie Baker Loring, and later, simply Emilie Loring. She filled her novels with beautiful settings, mostly in and around her beloved Boston and along the coast of Maine. As she explained,
“I devote from nine to ten months to a novel and during the major part of each day I exist in the world I am creating. Why spend all that time in a sordid environment? I like charming surroundings.”
Opening the cover of an Emilie Loring novel brings forth the tangy scent of balsams and pines, skies blue as turquoise and sapphires, garden lilies nodding their heads, and wild blueberries ripening in the salt sea air above a craggy coastline ruffled with coves and studded with lobster buoys.
With her acceptance into the Boston Author’s Club and the success of several novels, the Lorings moved to a home on Beacon Hill. While in Boston, Emilie wrote at the Athenaeum in the company of Clara Endicott Sears, Sara Ware Bassett, John P. Marquand, and Alice Brown. Summers were spent at Stone House, a cottage in Blue Hill, Maine, which Emilie took great pride in refurbishing.
After Victor’s death in 1947, Emilie lived with her son Robert in Wellesley Hills, but she continued to travel to Maine during the summertime and wrote at distinguished hotels along the Maine coast. She won the putting championship at her hotel at least once, and her granddaughter Eve remembered that, even during her last illness, Emilie wore fancy dresses and enjoyed a cup of tea every day.
“Old age is merely life into which you put no enthusiasm, for enthusiasm is the fountain of youth.” (Emilie Loring)
Until her death at age eighty-four, Emilie Loring continued to write the youthful, romantic stories for which she is so well known. By her standard, she never reached old age.
More than five thousand pages of original research have gone into Happy Landings: The Life Behind Emilie Loring’s Stories. There is so much more to tell. What would you like to know about Emilie Loring? Please share your thoughts!