Ada Clare (whose given name was Jane McIlheny) was born in South Carolina. She received a small inheritance upon her parents' deaths, which she used to travel to Paris. In the city of lights, she spent time with pianist and composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk, who may have been the father of her son Aubrey. Clare arrived in New York in 1858 and scandalized the populace as an unwed mother preaching the doctrine of free love and introducing herself and Aubrey as "Miss Ada Clare and Son" (Lalor, "Whitman" 136). As Emily Hahn notes, "she refused to be ruined" and participated fully in the literary life of the city by frequenting Pfaff's where she organized literary contests, took it upon herself to remember members' birthdays, and collected funds for community celebrations (3). William Dean Howells remembers her as "a young girl of a sprightly gift in letters, whose name or pseudonym had made itself pretty well known at that day" ("First Impressions" 64). To Walt Whitman, Clare "represented the ideal of the modern woman: talented, intelligent, and emancipated" (Lalor 136). In Whitman's "Street Yarn" he describes her as "A lady -- slender and elegant -- in black from head to foot; pure white complexion, pale, striking chiseled features, perfect profile, abundant fair hair; abstracted look, and rather rapid, purposeful step...a perfect beauty; questionless, of decided talent;...a persevering and energetic votary of the mimetic art. Possessed of some wealth, great personal attractions, no inconsiderable share of intellect and cultivation,..." (qtd. in Lalor 136).
Clare was a central part of the Bohemian lifestyle in New York. A group of Bohemians, the West 42nd Street Coterie, often gathered at her home. Clare, the "queen" of the Bohemian circle at Pfaff's, provided a congenial atmosphere for the Pfaffians during her Sunday night receptions. She played a pivotal role in maintaining the Bohemian society during this time: "Ada Clare was magnetic in addition to her mental brightness and store of maternal treasures inherited from her family, and with her wealth and beauty she attracted the higher grades of men and women" (Rawson 103).
Her experiences in Paris and New York led her to the Bohemian lifestyle. She defined a Bohemian as a "cosmopolite, with a general sympathy for the fine arts, and for all things above and beyond convention" (Hahn 27). Clare used her own unconventional affair with Gottschalk, which ended badly, as material for many of her poetic and fictional works, like the novel Only a Woman's Heart, which appeared in 1866 to mixed, and even hostile, reviews.
In addition to acting in New York City, San Francisco, and parts of the Southern United States, Ada Clare also wrote a weekly column for Henry Clapp's Saturday Press. In "Thoughts and Things" she discussed a range of topics, from women's rights to the status of the American theater. Clare also employed the pseudonym "Alastor." In addition to the Press, she also published in Atlas and, during her time in San Francisco, she contributed to The Golden Era, a weekly edited by Bret Harte.
After the disappointing reviews of her novel, Clare joined a stock company of actors in Memphis, adopting the stage name "Agnes Stanfield" while touring in Tennessee. She married a member of the company, J.F. Noyes, with whom she had another son, but the child died in infancy. Clare also lost her first son, Aubrey, before he reached adulthood. Clare herself died in 1874 as the result of complications from the bite of a rabid dog, which she incurred while visiting Sanford and Weaver's dramatic agency in New York. Though her wounds seemed to heal, she became delirious a few months later during a performance and died that same night.
Fellow Pfaffian William Winter wrote Clare's obituary in the New York Tribune as well as a poem called "Ada" which was admired by Wilkie Collins (Parry, Garrets 36). The young poet Charles Stoddard, whom Ada traveled with in Hawaii and California, eulogized her by writing, "The queen is dead; but who shall cry 'Long live the Queen!' in her stead? Are there no more queens of Bohemia, I wonder, and is the Bohemia of that day a thing of the past, dead and gone forever?" (qtd. in Hahn 35). Howells stated that her fate "out-tragedies almost any other in the history of letters" ("First Impressions" 64). Whitman also expressed sorrow over her death, writing to a friend that he had been "inexpressibly shocked by the horrible and sudden close of her gay, easy, sunny, free, loose, but not ungood life" (Lalor, "Whitman" 137).
Ada Clare (born Jane McElheney) was the cousin of the "distinguished" Southern poet Paul Hamilton Hayne. She came to New York from South Carolina in 1855, at the age of 23. She was mostly known for her "wit, good look, and newspaper poems, in which she paraded her private life." Clare was unsuccessful at her attempts at acting. Allen mentions that Clare "supposedly" died of rabies in 1874 and was friends with Whitman, who defended her character after her death (229). Whitman also spoke of Clare and the "other girls" as his "sturdiest defenders, upholders" (263).
Allen writes that Clare's return from Paris gave a "powerful stimulus" to the "noteriety" of Pfaff's and the Saturday Press. Allen claims Clare's trip was for the purpose of giving birth to her illegitimate son. Upon her return, Clare began writing a weekly column for the Saturday Press and assumed the title of "Queen of Bohemia" (229). Allen also mentions that after the dissolution of the Saturday Press Clare, Clapp, and many others from the Bohemian group were writing regularly for the Leader in the fall of 1862 (273).
Ada Clare, Ned Wilkins, Henry Clapp, and others are mentioned by Allen as "[rendering] a service to the history of American literature by giving Whitman companionship and encouragement when he greatly needed them" (231). Allen mentions that Ada Clare and Adah Menken became "great friends," which may have "influenced" Menken's "hero-worship" of Whitman (262).[pages:229,231,262,263, 273,494]
Brown records her first appearance on the public stage in the role of Julia in an amateur production of The Hunchback, Aug.15,1855.
Brown claims Clare was professionally known as Agnes Stanfield. Her real name is listed as Jane McEthenney (another spelling).
Brown also discusses Clare's role as "Queen of the Bohemenians" and her early literary pursuits.
Brown provides details about her encounter with a dog (that bit so deeply into the cartilage of Clare's nose that it had to be removed with assistance)that led to her contracting rabies. Brown notes Clare's seeming recovery and her performance in Rochester where she took ill on stage and had to be removed to her hotel. He describes her death as one of agonizing pain in which she asked to be killed.
Brown lists the date of Clare's marriage to J. Frank Noyes as Sept. 9,1868, and her death as March 4, 1871.
Ada Clare may have been the name of a character in Brougham's dramatization of Bleak House or she may have been a member of the cast; Brown is unclear about his point.[pages:i.481,484-485]
She is mentioned as one of the Bohemians' "female companions" at Pfaff's. Brown refers to Clare as the "queen of Bohemia" and mentions that she wrote for the Saturday Press.
Browne describes her as "of Irish extraction; a large-hearted eccentric woman who had property in the South, but lost it in the War" (157).
Browne states that after the war Clare published her novel, "Only a Woman's Heart," which Browne claims "is said to have been a transcript of her own experiences." He also claims she began acting after the loss of her property. Browne claims that the last he heard of her, Ada Clare was playing a theatre in Galveston, Texas, and had married the theatre's manager (157).[pages:157]
Umos claims he will leave the problem of explaining women's dress to Clare and predicts how she will answer his questions. Umos also refers to her comments about Bloomers (2).[pages:2]
Umos writes in the section section of his "Waif" that the Ada Clares will have skipped the first section. Umos makes repeated marks about the wishes of the "Ada Clares" who read his column (2).[pages:2]
Derby writes that P.B. Shillaber recollected Charles F. Brown (Artemus Ward) dining at Pfaff's with Ada Clare (412).[pages:412]
Whitman claims to have been very friendly with her and describes her as "brilliant, bright, and handsome. She went on the stage, I think, and then melted out of sight" (208).[pages:208]
Mentioned in the 1861 chapter. Epstein claims she was rumored to be Whitman's mistress.
Epstein also claims that Clare's presence in the tavern was one of the reasons outsiders considered Pfaff's bohemian.[pages:54,55,310]
Describes Ada Clare as the "fairy-like, beautiful" queen of Bohemia (22).
"A veritable queen she was, receiving from her subjects their love and loyalty, which she won by her quiet sincerity and unpretentiousness, unconscious dignity, and drawing from each member of her court, by her gracious presence, all that was best in them of brilliancy, kindliness, courtesy, and wit" (22).[pages:19-22]
Mentioned as a writer Whitman met at Pfaff's.[pages:61]
Folsom and Price write that Whitman and Clare became "two of the most notorious figures at the beer hall, flouting convention and decorum."
Ford describes "Ada Clair" as an actress whom the other Bohemians "dubbed the 'Queen of Bohemia'" (1).[pages:1]
Clare is mentioned as one of "the best know writers who frequented that cozy corner [Pfaff's]," as well as a regular contributor to the Saturday Press.[pages:9]
Referred to as "Her Majesty the Queen of Bohemia," the resident of a "palace fronting 4442d street." Clare was widely considered the queen of the antebellum bohemians and her 42nd Street home in Manhattan was second only to Pfaff's as a bohemian haunt.
The article mentions that she, Ned Wilkins, "and the bucket of beer which Clapp used to carry into the office every afternoon" assisted Winter with the dramatic criticisms for the Saturday Press.[pages:479]
She is mentioned as part of "a group of journalists and magazine-writers of great repute in their own day, but as remote as Prester John to ours" with whom Aldrich was familiar during his days in the "Literary Bohemia" in New York (38).
Greenlset describes her as one who has gone the way of the "journalists of yester-year." Clare is described as "the beautiful and talented girl who was known as the 'Queen of Bohemian,' [who] after a prismatic flight in literary journalism, married an actor and soon after died tragically of hydrophobia contracted from the bite of a pet dog. Her vivid temperament may be studied by the curious in her novel 'Only a Woman's Heart'" (39).[pages:38,39]
Gunn describes William North's romantic relationship with Ada Clare: "He [North] was always 'in love' – hot, enthusiastic – idealistic – capulatory [sic] – devil knows what! Ada Clare was one of his latest flames, but, Clapp says, didn't like him. He always talked about himself and nothing else to the women on the second interview, and bored them. At first his eager, impulsive, lively talk attracted them. All the novelistic surroundings of his 'Columbia' in the 'Slave of the Lamp' are simply bosh, but he intended that heroine for a scraggy little girl who had written a book. She didn't care a jot for the fellow, but attitudinized, went into deep mourning and such rot on the strength of his suicide."[pages:148]
Gunn identifies Ada Clare as a main contributor to the Saturday Press: "Arnold sends gratis contributions, 'Ada Clare' 'Getty Gay' and other unfortunate literary females combine to fill its columns" (160).
Gunn describes Ada Clare's failed attempt to become a famous actress: "The first of these [Ada Clare] some years back made an attempt – several attempts – to become a tragic actress, but despite any amount of puffery on the part of fellows who knew her (or wanted to know her in a scriptural sense) failed. She had money and aspired for 'fame' only. She lived with a musician, subsequently went to Paris and returned with an illegitimate child, the result of a liason [sic] with a young Frenchman. Affecting the Bohemienne and Georges Sand business she acknowledges the maternity, and is the centre of a circle of the Clapp style of men. Possessing some intellect and ability as her writings attest, she is I suppose bedeviled to all intents and purposes – self outlawed from decent womanhood. The Briggs'es of the press and others praise her on the principle that its always safe to praise a woman. I have heard of an old editor who made this a rule through life – never to write a line against a woman – and said he found it pay" (160-161).
Ada Clare is described as being a part of the Saturday Press: "To return to the Saturday Press. Clapp generally does an impudent, flippant, Frenchy tainted editorial in paragraphs of one sentence each, the rest is Ada Clare, Getty Gay, Banks (and brays) Arnold &c &c (162).[pages:160-161, 162]
An argument between Clapp and Banks because Banks invited himself to Ada Clare's on New Years Eve is described: "Clapp and Banks have had a row about the latter's inviting himself to Ada Clare's on New Years Eve and making his appearance drunk. He had been there before in the course of the day, when he was tolerated by 'the Queen of Bohemia', but at night, her sworn admirer Clapp undertook to remonstrate with Banks and did so sans ceremony. This produced a rumpus at Pfaff's and now Banks does not sit at the sacred round table, but scowls at his adversary from a side one. Banks is one of the most offensive of conceivable creatures when drunk, he bawls at the top of his voice, talks incessantly, is disputatious, contradictory or blatantly jovial. He used to regret that Clapp was under petticoat government to Ada, 'for the sake of the paper'. Clapp's aspirations towards her are a joke among the fellows" (13-14).
Clapp's passion for Clare and Clare's contributions to the Saturday Press are described: "Indeed he [North] was much more likeable than O'Brien or Clapp. The latter's passion for 'Ada Clare' seems generally known and smiled at. She, 'Getty Gay' and other Unfortunate Literary Females go down to Pfaffs with the men, sitting at the sacred round table, in the cellar &c. 'Ada Clare' sticks out everywhere in the columns of the 'Saturday Press'; she writes articles and the others praise them. This week she talks about 'women's wombs being dragged out of shape by their dresses' &c!!!" (18-19).
Ada Clare is described as being engaged to Robert Pearsall: "Generous-souled fellow, O'Brien! he never bears malice, not he! he'll ask a man for money in the morning whom he has insulted overnight! Clapp has swindled the man Pearsall, – a weak, well- to-do Fifth-Avenoodle, they say, – to the amount of $4,000, though the "Saturday Press." This Pearsall is to marry Ada Clare, who,consequently, doesn't show so much among the Pfaff clique" (140).
Gunn learns, "that 'Ada Clare's' child was fathered by Gottschalk's brother; both the men had a liason with her. She is originally Southern; has money. Cahill has never got the money he was to have obtained from Ledger's agent, for his (Cahill's) detective doings. Can't get sight of the man" (156).[pages:13-14, 18-19, 140, 156]
Gunn adds a handwritten note ("Ada Clare") to the At Pfaff's printed song lyrics.[pages:83]
In a newspaper clipping, Ada Clare is one of the many mentioned that are scintillating weekly in the Saturday Press (99).
Ada Clare's actions at Edward Wilkins's funeral are described, "A good many of his intimates and acquaintances showed at his funeral today, as Seymour, Clapp, Stuart, George Arnold, "Ada Clare" and others. The last did melodrama over his coffin, throwing her arms up and embracing it. The men drank brandy and water afterwards" (160).[pages:99, 160]
Gunn mentions Ada Clare's admiration for Frank Bellew: "Once when he [Bellew] and Cahill had dropped in at Pfaff's, on their way to dinner at Bellew's, he remarked with a half-laugh that Mrs. B. didn't like his going thither, as she had heard that 'Ada Clare' had said he was the handsomest man she knew &c. It was a hint not to speak of the visit to Pfaff's, which of course Cahill adopted. It can hardly be a happy household that at 21st street."[pages:168]
Halpin is described as knowing Ada Clare: "Fanny Fern possessed a manuscript poem by Halpin, which we should have inserted but for its being too personal – and amorous. (It had been addressed to Fanny, herself.) Halpin knew 'Ada Clare' too, and Died July 1, 1864."[pages:54]
This text identifies the following pseudonyms: Ada Clare (104), J. F. Noyes(104).[pages:104]
Clapp feels that Clare could not have written the "Ellen Eyre" letter because she does not fit the profile of a woman seeking to remain anonymous and who was concerned with her reputation.
Ada Clare gave a "A Child's Reminscence" a positive review when it was published in The Saturday Press Her 42nd St. address is recorded twice in Whitman's notebooks. Clare met with Whitman's disapproval when she was not only unconventional but also when she was inconsiderate. Holloway indicates that she must have interacted with Whitman in several venues: her home, Pfaff's, and the New York Leader.
Stoddard followed her to Honolulu.[pages:84,109,115,165]
Holloway described her as appealing to Whitman both personally and as a model of a new woman.[pages:157]
An actress and a Pfaff's regular. Clare's address appears twice in Whitman's notebooks. Clare also wrote for the New York Leader. She hosted Bohemian gatherings in her home at which Whitman was a likely attendee.
Her birth name was Jane McElhinney; she was a cousin of Paul Hamilton Hayne and the grandniece of Senator Robert Hayne.
Clare was twenty-six when the "Ellen Eyre" letter was written. She is a possible but unlikely candidate for the author of this letter.[pages:8-10]
Howells doesn't refer to her by name, but it's clear from the context that he's talking about Clare.
Howells states that "It was said, so far west as Ohio, that the queen of the Bohemia sometimes came to Pfaff's: a young girl of sprightly gift in letters, whose name or pseudonym had made itself pretty well known at that day, and whose fate, pathetic at times, out-tragedies almost any other in the history of letters. She was seized with hydrophobia from the bite of her dog, on a railroad train; and made a long journey home in the paroxysms of that agonizing disease, which ended in her death after she reached New York. But this was after her reign had ended, and no such black shadow cast backward upon Pfaff's, whose name often figured in the epigrammatically paragraphed prose of the Saturday Press" (64).[pages:64]
The obituary describes her as "the lioness, the 'Reine de Boheme." Clare is also described as "erratic but gifted." Her death from hydrophobia, caused by "the bite of a favorite terrier," is mentioned.[pages:2]
Lalor describes her as one of the Bohemians that made an impression on Whitman. She is described as "A young writer and actress noted as much for her wistful beauty as for her social outrages -- she preached the doctrine of 'free love' and customarily introduced herself as 'Miss Ada Clare and son' -- she had been to Paris, had seen Henri Murger's Bohemians, and soon became the uncontested Queen of New York's Bohemia" (136).
Of Whitman's impressions of Clare, Lalor writes that "she represented the ideal of the modern woman: talented, intelligent, and emancipated."
Lalor quotes Whitman's description of Clare in his article "Street Yarn" (136).
Lalor notes that others have attemtped to link Whitman and Clare romantically, but mentions that the evidence to substantiate this claim is incomplete. He does contend, however, that "Ada Clare and Whitman were mutual admirers, and credit may be given her for assisting Whitman's career" (136). Clare was instrumental in garnering female support for Whitman through her writing in the Saturday Press and, Lalor writes, "In her role as Whitman's new woman personified, she may also have been instrumental in an overall new awareness and appreciation of the female sex, not evident in his work until the third edition of 1860" (136). Ada Clare, "Bohemian fellow traveler Adah Isaacs Menken," and
Ada Clare would later use the "ruse" of printing poems anonymously, first employed to publicize Whitman's work, "to endorse herself in print" (140). Lalor writes that eventually Clare's lifestyle would draw harsh public criticism in the press. She died in 1874, "a revolting death" after contracting hydrophobia from a dog bite. Lalor quotes Whitman's obituary summary about her death (137).[pages:136-37,140,141,143]
Ada Clare is mentioned as a southerner who was part of Henry Clapp's circle of bohemians (107).
Clare was born "Jane McElhenney" to a wealthy southern family, but her parents died by the time she was twelve (54). Her first few jobs in new york were writing for papers like Atlas and Spirit of the Times (55).
Clare was described as "an attractive blond" who impressed her companions with "good looks, Southern accent, and genuine charm" (55). In the group at Pfaff's she found acceptance, bypassing the social sanctions against respectable women spending time in a saloon (55). She was also known as a woman who did not pander to male sensibilities—she had strong opinions and was not afraid of speaking out. It was all of these qualities that later earned her the title of Queen of Bohemia (55). "More importantly, Ada Clare's quiet defiance of social standards helped create a safe place for unconventional women of all sorts" (56). She even wrote "stridently and fearlessly on the cultural contradictions facing women" (91).
Clare's house was often open to the crowd at Pffaf's, and her establishment became "'the rendezvous of wits and artistes'" (56).
Ada wrote a column for the Saturday Press called "Thoughts and Things" (77).
Early in 1864 Clare left for San Francisco and wrote for the Golden Era and San Francisco Bulletin. Late in the year she returned to New York (114).[pages:53, 64, 93, 107, 111, 117-118, 56, 91, 54-55, 86, 55-56, 77, 95, 97, 102, I, 63, 84, 60, 113, 114]
Ada Clare was an essayist, novelist, and actress who frequented Pfaff's and was perhaps "best known for her notorious love affair with the pianist and Byronic sex symbol Louis Gottschalk" (21).
Levin notes that Ada Clare had her own definition of a Bohemian: "I thought the Bohemian was by nature, if not by habit, a Cosmopolite, with a general sympathy for the fine arts, and for all things above and beyond convention" (38).
Ada Clare was an essayist, novelist, and actress who frequented Pfaff's and was perhaps "best known for her notorious love affair with the pianist and Byronic sex symbol Louis Gottschalk" (21).[pages:21, 38-39, 42, 43, 44, 68, 69]
Often refered to as the "Queen of Bohemia" (6). Clare was a an essayist, novelist, and actress. Levin claims that she was probably best know for her affair with Louis Gottschalk (whom Levin describes as a "Byronic sex symbol"). Levin notes that the affiar resulted in an "illegitimate son whom Clare then brandished in the face of conventional mores" (22). Levin cites Clare's remarks on Bohemianism in the Saturday Press on p. 47.
Clare was one of several Pfaffians to relocate to San Francisco and work for the Golden Era. Levin notes that the paper was "especially jubilant" about Clare's arrival and quotes the March 20, 1864 issue:
"Ada Clare has justly acquired an intellectual renown far surpassing any heretofore awarded to a lady journalist, either at home or abroad, and it thoroughly entitled to a royalty in the American press. As regards to what is popularly and eccentrically known as the 'Bohemia' of newspaperdom, she is unquestionably a Queen in every essential of literary and social superiority that supports a legitimate claim to such eminence" (162).[pages:6,22,47-49,54,55-57,61,90,162]
Loving gives her real name as Jane McElheney, which is slightly different from more common spellings of this name.
Clare died at age 38 as the result of anaccident at 166 Bleecker Street that caused her to contract rabies. After this accident, Clare returned to the stage before succumbing to rabies.
In her weekly column in The Saturday Press she stated that Whitman "keep [s] his boots and cheese in the same drawer."
Loving mentions that Whitman and Clapp discussed her she appearance on the Memphis stage and her upcoming shows in Albany when they met in at Pfaff's in 1867. Loving also notes that the men discussed her novel.
Loving mentions that Clare is a possible writer of the "Ellen Eyre" letter.[pages:208-209 (ill.) 236,237,244,260-261,275,304,318-319]
She is mentioned as the "queen" of the "real literary Bohemians of the later fifties" who would gather at Pfaff's "at the noon-meal hour and through the evening until late into the night."[pages:396]
Identified as a possible author of the "Ellen Eyre" letter. Miller notes that Clare appeared onstage as Jane Eyre in 1856.[pages:66]
One of several women who frequented Pfaff's (16).
Clare's real name was Jane McElheney (27). She was treated like the "Queen" of the bohemians (27).
Clare gave birth to a son, Aubrey, in the mid-1850s while she was unmarried. "Louis Gottschalk, the composer and pianist, was thought to be the father, although neither party would confirm or deny his parentage" (27).
She wrote a column in the Saturday Press, which "sparkled with comments on the latest play, poem, novel, or bit of gossip. She helped to create the aura of mystique around the Bohemians with statements such as: 'The Bohemian is not, like the creature of society, a victim of rules and customs; he steps over them all with an easy, graceful, joyous unconsciousness, guided by the principles of good taste and feeling'" (28).
Clare felt that the stage was a place of freedom. "Where in literature and the other arts the woman has to bow before the calm judgment, the superior education, and the strong physical health of the man, on the stage she can rely on her instinct--'the one sublime gift that nature gives us to cope with men'" (28).
She married J. F. Noyes in 1868 (40).
Clare contracted rabies from a dog bite and eventually died on March 4, 1874 (40). About Clare, Walt Whitman wrote: "Poor, poor Ada Clare--I have been inexpressibly shocked by the horrible and sudden close of her gay, easy, sunny, free, loose, but not ungood life" (40). Personne [E. G. P. Wilkins] described Clare as "the Queen" of Bohemia, "the only free community on the face of the earth" (69).
Clare negatively compared William Winter's poem, "Song of the Ruined Man," to Whitman's "Child's Reminiscence," a poem she loved (75-76). William Winter stayed with Clare in 1861 while his wife was in Toronto (78).[pages:16, 27-28, 31, 34, 38, 39, 40, 69, 70, 75, 76, 78]
A writer for The Saturday Press.[pages:39]
The "Obituary" states that Clare was "everywhere known as the 'Queen of Bohemia'" during the days of Pfaff's. The "Obituary" also mentions that "after an eventful life, in which she made some fair attempts as an actress, she married a Texan theatrical manager, and died in this City recently from hydrophobia communicated by a pet dog."[pages:7]
Odell notes that she acted at Wallacks with Laura Keene's company.
Odell also discusses Clare as part of a mostly amateur performance at the Metropolitan Theater in 1855 that was assisted by the Wallack amateurs. Odell also notes that Clare would act during this season on the regular (professional) stage.[pages:365,446,454,455, 493]
(This entry also includes Odell's references to Miss or Mlle. Clare/Clara, as they could likely refer to Ada Clare.)
Odell only makes references to her stage credits. It is very likely that Ada Clare appeared onstage with Menken, Brougham, and others.[pages:111,353,356,357,389,401,468,498]
Ada Clare is described as the "quaintest and most remarkable figure at the round-table" in Pfaff's cellar, where she had "hundreds of beers quaffed in her honor." The other Bohemians looked upon her as a "'good fellow,' and yet as a sort of divinity or 'child of the regiment'" (5).[pages:5]
"Ada Clare . . . is a Southern girl with a small fortune; tried the stage--fizzled; writes on the Saturday Press and displays real genius; was terrifically in love with Gottschalk, the pianist--the musical Lothario, who ruined several nice young women; got a little pledge of affection; and is now recognised Queen of the Bohemians (literary) in this city."
Ada Clare was born Jane McElheney in Charleston, South Carolina in 1836. She was orphaned as a child and moved North with her grandfather. Her cousin was Paul Hamilton Hayne, "who grew up to be one of the glorious poets of the South." Her grand-uncle was Robert Hayne, who orated against Daniel Webster. Clare left her grandfather's home at an early age and gained literary notice at the age of nineteen. Her first poem was published in January, 1855, in the Atlas a New York weekly (16). The editors liked her work, and her second poem was publsihed under her full pen name of Ada Clare; she was publicly invited by the editors to publish frequently in their paper. Parry suggests that it is unlikely that Clare was a "find" for the paper and that she had most likely met the editors in one of New York's literary salons and had carefully planned her literary debut and successful reception. This early notice made her something of a celebrity and prompted other magazines to request her work for publication. She began to write, in addition to poetry short stories and sketches, typically about "love and its pangs" (17-18). "She drank in her new fame excitedly, and contemplated her future immortality. She wrote: 'Who knows whether I may go down to posterity as the Love-Philosopher?'" (18). According to Parry, "Soon she began to appear at first nights in the New York theaters, and, though her manner of dress was found by the connoisseurs to be a bit too showy and even loud, her beauty was admired. Men about town lauded her physical charms as much as her intellect, and the reputation of a ravisher was hers till her death" (18).
Parry writes that Clare's "past was acquired in the middle 'Fifties" and feels that her Paris trip may have been a factor in gaining her a reputation. Parry suggests that Clare visited Paris either on a secret honeymoon or to find a place that would be suitable for giving birth to her son Aubrey. Parry notes that Aubrey's birth and death dates are uncertain, but it is known that he accompanied her on trips to California and Hawaii in the 1860s, and that he died in the East in childhood (18). Parry writes that "When outsiders pressed too insistently with their queries, the Pfaffians answered that Ada's son was the result of an immaculate conception. They also said that their Queen was entirely virtuous; but the outsiders sneered that it was virtue in the French fashion: no more than one lover at a time!" (18-19). Parry makes it clear, however, that Clare and Clapp were most likely not romantically involved. Parry also notes that noted pianist and composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk was "more or less generally known" to be Aubrey's father. According to Parry, Gottschalk was a much-sought after paramour who boasted about his ability to seduce women. Clare was "madly in love with him and invited her public to share her joys and sorrows" (19). She wrote frequently about their tempestuous relationship (19-20). Parry mentions that Gottschalk only acknowledged his paternity through tickets and toys when all parties were in the same town (20). According to Parry, the public's hostility towards her grew as her private affairs and romantic entanglements became more public. She also introduced herself and Aubrey as "Miss Ada Clare and Son." Whitman and the "respectable literati" criticized her lifestyle and work based on the accounts of her private life. She retaliated in the press; "She also appealed to her Pfaffian subjects for help, and when that was slow in coming she helped herself by praising Ada Clare in articles signed 'Alastor' and with other psuedonyms. Did she learn the trick from Walt Whitman, or was Walt indebted to her for it?" (27). It seems that her "noteriety" spread nationally and had reached Howells in Ohio by 1860 (28).
According to Parry, Clare's writing "did not bring her any money to speak of -- it was not the custom of the day to pay authors living wages" but she was able to support herself well enough and also had property in South Carolina. Parry writes that "Early in 1857, the New Yorkers were astonished to read in their press sparkling and worldly letters written from Paris by a girl of twenty-one, who proudly boasted of her 'youth without guidance'" (20). During this period she also made the acquaintance of the Paris Bohemians, and "When Ada came back to New York she found the Pfaff's circle eagerly waiting for her. The Bohemians had to have their women. Perhaps most of them did not expect these women to be equal to them in brilliance, but once they realized the full range of Ada's interests and intellect they hailed her enthusiastically and proclaimed her their queen" (21). According to Parry, "she promptly and gladly ascended the throne" and became a contributor to the Saturday Press, "enlivening" the paper with her "sad confessions." Parry also writes that Clare "supervised the common-purse suppers staged in the famous basement in honor of this or that member of the cenacle, and years later the New York Herald said in all seriousness that the famous American institution of teh surprise party was originated at Pfaff's" (26). She also took part in the discussions, poetry-writing contests, laid down rules for the proper conduct of the group, and "protested against the sneers of 'our Saturday papers,'" which labeled the Bohemian and poor, dirty, and slovenly. Parry writes that "Her mission at Pfaff's she understood as that of the purifier and guardian of a better Bohemia" (26-27).
Parry writes of the literary movements in New York before the era of Greenwich Village: "Henry Clapp, Fitz-James O'Brien, Ada Clare, and their group were the first organizers writers to insist on transferring contemporary life and literature from the prison of salons to the freer air of saloons. They upheld the memory of Poe, they helped enthrone Whitman, and they prepared the path for much of the unorthodox that was to follow in American letters" (xiii). Parry writes that in Clare's attempt to "emulate Poe's distrust of mankind and his despair of the world," she "attempted mild melancholy" (9).
Parry says that she was the "Queen of Bohemia" and very much "at the center of the entire picture" at Pfaff's and in the Bohemian circle (14). According to Parry, Whitman admired her as "a New Woman born too soon," who was among his "sturdiest defenders and upholders" (14). Parry also notes that she opened the doors of Pfaff's to other women, but that these women "lingered but a short time, whereas Ada remained to rule. Her title originated in the very beginning of her career and persisted through the years, long after her followers were dispersed and she had become a prosaic and devoted wife. In 1874, after her tragic end, the newspapers saw good copy, not only in the tragedy itself, but also in her old exalted title...Not as a dutiful wife, but as Queen of Bohemia was Ada destined to go down in the history of American letters" (14-15). According to Parry, Clare had national fame, however, the historical records make little or brief mentions of her; "a vauge memory or a sentimental verse in one book or another" (15). He also notes that her biography was largely dismissed as unimportant to those who wrote about her life, including the authors of her obituaries: "She was a brilliant women to them, but with a past not exactly savory. Detailed biographies were due only to the upright dead" (15). Parry notes that even Winter, who wrote detailed biographies of other Pfaffians and was on the coroner's jury that investigated her death only makes a passing mention of Clare's life in a short obituary and a poem (16). According to Parry, "She departed from life at the unfortunate time of the Temperance Crusades. The press of America was busy paying reverence to the good ladies warring against the saloon. Could it print detailed and repectful memories of one who once was the queen of a saloon? The country in general could only gasp at the unusual spectacle of a cultured and genteel female visiting a beer-house, not to pray and exhort, but to drink and smoke...She was more than the queen of the American Bohemians; she was the first woman among them. While the first men of American Bohemia were met by the public with reserved awe, she was treated with unreserved suspicion" (16).
According to Parry, Clare was a "sad disappointment" on stage. She made her amateur debut at the Academy of Music on November 27, 1855 in the role of Ophelia in Hamlet. Her professional debut was in 1858, at the Lyceum, as Julia in the Hunchback; "The performance turned out a dismal mess. The critics found her arms too thin and her voice too shrill" (28). As a result, Clare did not act again until the mid-1860s; she sailed for California February 3, 1864, to join Adah Isaacs Menken "and to learn the secret of stage triumphs." Her son, who was most likely seven or eight at the time, traveled with her and shocked other passengers when he referred to her as "Ada Clare" (28). Her arrival seems to have been celebrated and she contributed to the Golden Era weekly (29-30). During this time, she made friends with Menken, as "Both of them came from the South, there was only one year of difference in their ages, and they were equal in their love of adventure and unconventional life" (30). Parry notes, however, that Menken did not help forward Clare's stage career and instead sailed for England in April, 1864. After California, Clare traveled to Hawaii and appeared to have become romantically involved with some men in both California and Hawaii. She returned to the stage in San Francisco and appears to have done poorly there (30-31). She left for New York January 11, 1865, and returned to New York "at a time when the city was trying to recapture its pre-war leisure and gay pace" (31-32). As a result of the war, she lost her Southern property and attempted to "recoup her losses from the New York papers," sometimes contributing verses to papers but then charging the editors prices for her work that she called "unconscionable" (32-33).
During her post-war stay on Long Island, Clare decided to make her attempt that the yet-unwritten "Great American Novel." In 1866, Mr. Doolady published in New York Only a Woman's Heart, a slightly altered version of her own romantic past. The "hero" of the book, Victor Doria, was a character written as a composite of Gottschalk and Edwin Booth. The heroine, Laura Milsand, was basically Ada Clare, except that she was described as a brunette. "There were many emotions in the book, at the end of which the two lovers, reconciled, perished together in a shipwreck" (33). The reviews of the book were overwhelmingly negative; Parry writes that they carried "with them a tornado of sneers and jeers that nearly wrecked poor Ada." He also writes that "The kindest of the critics remarked that though the novel bore the impress of true talent, it was a failure nevertheless; that is was a collection of clever bits unskilfully put together; that though by no means deficient in passages of excellent merit, it showed an evident want of art" (33). Most of the reviews were much harsher and rumors were spread that her good friend, Bret Harte, wrote a negative review that appeared in the Californian, which she refused to believe. According to Parry, Clare's visit to California is what "strengthened his [Harte's] resolve to be a Murgertie, gay and witty" (212).
At this point, she decided to leave the literary profession and focus on acting, this time "in a more modest and practicable mood," signing an eight-month contract with a company in Tennessee. She declared the end of Ada Clare, and began using the new stage name Agnes Stanfield (33-34).
In Memphis, Clare played the roles of boys and young men, and while she disliked this, she also said that she had little hope of ever moving beyond these parts. She also declared that she preferred the acting "profession better and better the more she saw of its hardships, which she found to be preferable by far to 'the anxiety, vexation of spirit, constant detraction and too frequent mental anguish which the literary profession entails.'" She also mentioned often that she would never return to Pfaff's. Parry quotes Clare: "How sick I am of the petty noteriety which is not fame, how tired I am of exicting curiosity which is not interest!" (34). She was quite successful acting in small roles in the 1867-1868 season. She married J.F. Noyes September 9, 1868. Gottschalk died in December, 1869; "It was rumored that he died as he had lived, a philanderer falling under the mortal blow of an irate Brazilian husband." Parry also mentions that it is about this time or soon after that Clare's son Aubrey died. Parry writes that Clare "moved on the Southern stage a really tragic figure" (34).
Clare died in the Spring of 1874. Parry writes that while the critics had agreed that Clare's career as an actress had not been particularly successful, she had pursued her new profession "with commendable and unwearied industry" (35). Clare and Noyes were visiting New York, looking for work on Janguar 30, 1874, when they visited Sanford and Weaver's dramatic agency on Amity Street. The pet dog of the house, a black and tan terrier, recognized her and jumped into her lap while she was conversing with Mrs. Sanford. She was petting the dog when it suddenly snarled and attacked her, biting through the cartilage of her nose. The dog was dead the next day, which was when everyone learned that it had been ill and irritated for several days before it bit Ada Clare. Her wounds were cauterized and she was declared well enough to act in Newark, New Jersey. Clare received bad reviews for her "disfigurement" which also called for her retirement. She responded with a letter to the paper St. Louis Republican (where the review from a New York correspondent had been printed) on February 20. Parry claims Clare stated this was not out of vanity "but witha view to future loaves and fishes. She was full of misgivings, however, as to her recovery. Even as the days went by, and the wound healed, the foreboding of death was growing in her. To her friends she said she was convinced the dog was mad; 'she spoke of her probable fate with a kind of weary acceptance, as if she did not care much about it.' When the end came, Mr. Sanford vigorously protested that the dog was not mad, and that Ada died of sheer nervousness" (35). Clare died Wednesday, March 4, 1974, after going on tour with Lucille Western's company that Sunday. In Rochester, during a performance of East Lynne, she started experiencing pain, which caused the performance to be stopped so that she could be removed from the stage, "raving." She was taken by train to New York, where she was convinced the other passengers wanted to kill her. She was attended to by three doctors at her boarding house in New York, where she asked them to bleed her to death and where she also "asked her husband to shoot her, and placed a handkerchief over her face so that she would not see the pistol." She was given opiates and died at 9:30 in the evening. She was buried in Hammonton, NJ, next to her son Aubrey. According to Parry, "The obituaries were short and full of errors in the names and dates. The most accurate was published by the Tribune, evidently written by William Winter. He said: 'It is a grave that will be hallowed to some hearts by gentle thoughts and tender memories. The friends that Ada Clare made, she "grappled to her soul with hooks of steel." Many harsh words have been said of this poor woman. She was really known to few persons.'" Parry also reprints Winter's poem "Ada":
She strove, through trouble's lasting blight,
For pathways smooth,
And many hands she found to smite,
And few to soothe.
And wandering through the Winter night,
For beggar's dole,
Is not more piteous in its plight
Than was her soul (35-36).
Parry claims, however, that Whitman paid Clare the best tribute:
"Poor, poor Ada Clare -- I have been inexpressibly shocked by the horrible and sudden close of her gay, easy, sunny, free, loose, but not ungood life" (37).
According to Parry, her name was the first of many mentioned by Pfaff and Whitman when they toasted the deceased Bohemians in 1881 (37).[pages:xiii,9,14-21,26-37,15(ill.),43,45,69,78,82,92,110,212,213,214,216]
Personne refers to Clare, "a blonde of blondes," in his discussion of women's preferences for men with dark-colored hair. Personne also mentions that he hopes that Cortesi's constitution holds up in Havanna for Clare's sake (3).[pages:3]
Personne mentions Clare in his discussion of Romance of a Poor Young Man. He is discussing non-political plays when he declares, "Let the Ada Clares flourish and reign supreme forever and ever" (3).[pages:3]
Personne claims that Ida Vernon's name "beats" Ada Clare's (3).[pages:3]
Personne leaves the Bohemians "to the Queen of that Land" (3).[pages:3]
Quelqu'un mentions her when he discusses that he went to "see Cortesi" and writes in parentheses "not, oh, Ada Clare! with a view to 'die' afterwards" (3).[pages:3]
Quelqu'un declares that "all the Adas are lovely, showing that there is something, anyhow in a name" (3).[pages:3]
Referred to Clare as the "queen" of the Bohemian circle at Pfaff's, Rawson describes the coterie that Clare gathered at her home in Forty-Second Street. In contrast to Henry Clapp's "evil influences of pipe, beer, cynic jokes," Clare provided a congenial atmosphere for the Pfaffians during her Sunday night receptions. Rawson ascribes to Clare a pivotal in maintaining the Bohemian society during this time: "Ada Clare was magnetic in addition to her mental brightness and store of maternal treasures inherited from her family, and with her wealth and beauty she attracted the higher grades of men and women."(103)[pages:101-103]
Reynolds says that during the Pfaff's period Whitman "appeared to have had a brief affair with a woman, possibly Ada Clare" (15).[pages:15]
The article specifically mentions a "letter referring to Ada Clare and her friends" as a case "in which a scandalous story was trumped up in respect to an accomplished correspondent of this paper..."
"Clare (born Jane McElheny) had acquired the title 'Queen of Bohemia' (noted editor and occasional escort Henry Clapp was Bohemia's acknowledged 'king') or, as mutual friend Walt Whitman dubbed her, the 'New Woman.' Clare encouraged Menken's writing and excelled at it herself. She was a popular, well-published cultural observer and journalist for The Saturday Press. Hindered by a weak voice, she was much less successful as an actress, although she persisted in periodically taking stabs at the stage. Whitman would recall Clare's 'gay, easy, sunny, free, loose but not ungood life'" (75).
"The notoriety of [Adah Menken and Ada Clare], who are usually mentioned in connection with each other, combined with Clare's scandalous lack of shame in bearing a child out of wedlock, their membership in the country's best-known literary circles, and the supposed proclivities of subcultural bohemia of the time, generated many questions about their sexual desires" (76).[pages:75-76]
A regular in the bohemian circle. Clare was one of two women who were fully accepted into the male bohemian circle. Ada Clare formed a frienship with Adah Menken around 1860.[pages:142-43]
She is listed as one of the Pfaffian writers that "have fallen into obscurity." Stansell wonders how much influence these writers weilded on Whitman's literary career (108).
Stansell cites Clare as the "exception" to the muting of "libertinism and sexual adventurism" at Pfaff's. Clare was one of the few female regulars and had a child out of wedlock "in a widely publicized scandal" (110-111). Stansell describes Clare as "a George Sand-like confessional essayist and a militantly unrepentant unmarried mother" and claims that she "was enough of an urban curiousity in her own right to prompt Whitman to include her as a 'sight' in his own urban guidebook, New York Dissected" (111).
She is also mentioned as one of "the handful of women artists [who] figure in the accounts of New York Bohemia" (111). Stansell writes, "Whitman, reminiscing about Ada Clare, placed her in the context of other 'girls,' women of borderline respectability: 'It is very curious that the girls have been my sturdiest defenders, upholders. Some would say they were girls little to my credit, but I disagree with them there.' Perhaps he met some of these 'girls' at Pfaff's along with Ada Clare" (111).
Stansell also writes, "Ada Clare was a well-known confessional essayist and novelist, defiant veteran of a notorious love affair with the pianist Louis Gottschalk" (112).
As one of the "Pfaffian regulars" who did "serious writing along with journalism", Clare wrote criticism (114).[pages:108,110-111,112,114]
Starr claims that one of the attractions of Pfaff's for newspaper reporters and artists for the weeklies was the opportunity to "pay homage to the 'Queen of Bohemia,' Ada Clare (5). Whitman called Clare "the new Woman," and had recently returned from a trip to Paris "aboard a steamer which bore the entry on its passenger list: Miss Ada Clare, and son." Starr quotes Clare's response: "'A Bohemian is not, like the creature of society, a victim of rules and customs,' she explained with candescent charm, 'he steps over them all with an easy, graceful, joyous unconsciousness'" (5).[pages:5]
The writer briefly and indirectly refers to Ada Clare, using her epithet, "Queen of Bohemia." After mentioning the "king", the reviewer states, "they had, too, their queen, chosen after a like fashion" (469).[pages:469]
The author mentions "the charming piquancies of the spirituelle Ada Clare" as one of the features of the Saturday Press that "make up a paper of rare excellence."
Whitman records in his journal on August 16 that he met with Charles Pfaff for an excellent breakfast at his restaurant on 24th Street. "Our host himself, an old friend of mine, quickly appear'd on the scene to welcome me and bring up the news, and, first opening a big fat bottle of the best wine in the cellar, talk about ante-bellum times, '59 and '60, and the jovial suppers at his then Broadway place, near Bleecker street. Ah, the friends and names and frequenters, those times, that place. Most are dead—Ada Clare, Wilkins, Daisy Sheppard, O'Brien, Henry Clapp, Stnaley, Mullin, Wood, Brougham, Arnold—all gone. And there Pfaff and I, sitting opposite each other at the little table, gave rememberance to them in a style they would have themselves fully confirm'd, namely, big, brimming, fill'd-up champagne-glasses, drain'd in abstracted silence, very leisurely, to the last drop."[pages:5:21]
Whitman tells O'Connor that Ada Clare is an actress who has lately been playing in Memphis, and is beginning to play at Albany.[pages:339]
Whitman writes "86 West 42d st. Ada Clare" on an early page in the notebook where he lists the names and addresses of other people he knew at the time.[pages:994]
Whitman describes Clare as "A lady -- slender and elegant -- in black from head to foot; pure white complexion, pale, striking chiseled features, perfect profile, abundant fair hair; abstracted look, and rather rapid, purposeful step...a perfect beauty; questionless, of decided talent;...a persevering and energetic votary of the mimetic art. Possessed of some wealth, great personal attractions, no inconsiderable share of intellect and cultivation" (131).[pages:131]
Describes Ada Clare as "a Southern girl of birth and breeding, a cousin of the poet Paul Hayne, and had been carefully educated; but with the taste that seemed born in her for an unconventional life, she drifted to New York, where she became an occasional writer and actress, and the boon companion of the hale fellows who gathered about Pfaff's round table. She was a great beauty 'and the embodiment of female Bohemianism. Seated at the table, with her mass of yellow hair shining abover her head and her face flushed with excitement, she parried thrusts of wit as deftly as a swordsman would a foil, and her laugh rang the clearest when an unfortunate one was unhorsed in the shock of intellect.' Ada Clare's last years were sorrowful ones. She outlived her beauty and most of her old companions to die of hydrophobia, the result of a bite of a pet dog" (2:142-43).[pages:142-43]
The life of Ada Clare . . . was, for the most part, a life of trouble and sorrow. . . . . Her real name was Jane McElhenney. She came of a reputable family, and was the cousin of the poet Paul Hayne. Her parents died when she was a child, and she was left to the guardianship of her grandfather, with whom she first came into the North. At an early age she left her home, adopted the name of Ada Clare, and, after some vicissitudes, determined to follow the profession of the stage. Her advent was made at Wallack's old theater, where she represented Knowles's Julia. Her efforts failed; and thereafter, for a considerable time, she devoted herself to literature—writing stories, sketches, and miscellaneous articles for "The Atlas," "The Saturday Press," "The Leader," and other journals. In 1860 she wrote a novel entitled "Asphodel"; but this, though it got into print, was never published, owing to the suspension of a Boston firm that had undertaken to bring it out. Her only published novel appeared in 1865, and is entitled "Only a Woman's Heart." This venture likewise failed to attract the public attention, and she then formed anew the resolution of succeeding upon the stage. This purpose she pursued with sense, discretion, and quiet energy, and this time her efforts were rewarded—for she found congenial employment and earned a worthy place in her profession. The name under which she acted was Agnes Stanfield. In September, 1868, she was married to Mr. Frank E. Noyes, an actor, and in his society the latter years of her life were passed in honorable industry and quiet happiness. Her remains are buried at Hamerton, New Jersey. The friends that Ada Clare made she "grappled to her soul with hooks of steel." Many false and harsh words have been said of her, but it is right that this record of her cruel death should be made with remembrance of her virtues. She was truly known only to a few persons; but by them, in the solemn, grief-stricken words of an old poet, she will be "mourned till Pity's self is dead."[pages:48-49]
Clare is mentioned in a letter dated September 3, 1881, from Wilkie Collins in London. Collins writes Winter: "I write with your new editions,--so kindly sent to me,--in the nearest book-case. In the Poems I rejoice to see my special favorites included in the new publication--'The Ideal,' 'Rosemary' and the exquisitely tender verses which enshrine the memory of 'Ada Clare'" (218-219).
Ada Clare is listed as one of the "friendly contributors" to the "Saturday Press," who "were glad to furnish articles for nothing, being friendly toward the establishment of an absolutely independent critical paper, a thing practically unknown in those days" (294-295).[pages:218-219,294-295]
Called the "Queen" of the Bohemians. Whitman was "very friendly" with her and she was described as "brillant, bright, and handsome."[pages:65, 92, 126-130, 186, 193, 206]
The Vault at Pfaff's
27 Memorial Drive West, Bethlehem, PA 18015