Margaret Winship Eytinge was born in New York City, where she attended Rutgers Female College (Wilbor 208). In her early days as a writer, she went by the pen name “Allie Vernon.” She became connected to the Pfaff's group in the 1850s, when she started writing verse for the comic newspapers the New York Picayune (under the pen name “Bell Thorne”) and Diogene hys Lanterne. Essayist Mortimer Thompson, illustrator Frank Bellew, and journalist and illustrator Thomas Butler Gunn also worked for these papers (Gunn 5.67). Picayune editor J.C. Haney supposedly introduced her to the illustrator Sol Eytinge, and the two married in 1858 (Winter 318). According to Thomas Butler Gunn, their relationship proved controversial among some of their friends, as Margaret already had two children of her own, both from previous relationships (Gunn 16.142). Her daughter, Pearl Eytinge, would become an actress and writer.
Eytinge wrote poems and short stories for a wide variety of publications, including the Saturday Press, Harper’s Magazine, Ballou’s Monthly Magazine, the Christian Advocate, the New York Evangelist, and the Detroit Free Press. She gained particular notoriety for her children’s stories, and she was a regular contributor to St. Nicolas, An Illustrated Magazine for Young Folks and Our Young Folks: An Illustrated Magazine for Boys and Girls. In 1883, she published a collection of her writing for children, entitled, The Ball of the Vegetables and Other Stories in Prose and Verse. Some of her children’s stories were published under the pen name “Madge Elliot.”
Thomas Butler Gunn wrote frequently of Margaret Eytinge in his diaries, mostly to comment disparagingly about her personal life and relationship with Sol Eytinge. Despite Gunn’s obvious bias against Margaret, his diary entries reveal the many connections she had with the Pfaff’s group. Gunn noted that, “in instincts she was thoroughly Bohemian” (Gunn 18.175). He claimed that Margaret had met editor Henry Clapp Jr., at a "'Free Love’ haunt” before her marriage to Sol Eytinge (Gunn 16.143). He also asserted that Margaret’s sister, Josey, had had a relationship with the poet Thomas Bailey Aldrich. (Gunn 21.70). Finally, Gunn detailed the falling out that Sol Eytinge had with illustrator Thomas Nast over his wife’s refusal to accept an invitation from Margaret (Gunn 18.184-5).
In his memoir Old Friends, literary critic William Winter wrote that Eytinge had “long ago made a name in letters, by reason of her exceptional humor and her expert invention, particularly as a writer for the young.” He added, “To think of her is to recall many a convivial occasion that her generous hospitality provided and that her kindness and genial wit enriched” (319).
Gunn mentions seeing "Allie Vernon" at the offices of the Picayune and the Lantern several times during October, November, and December of 1852 (p. 67, 91-92, 99, 103, 108). In the first entry he describes her as "a pretty girl who sends verses to the Picayune (p. 67)." On another occasion, he described her interactions with another young woman, saying, "[w]hat pretty, pettish spoiled-child sort of ways some New York girls have. There was another girl with her, & there they were taking off bonnet & sleeking their hair &c, talking, chatting all round (p.91-92)." In March of 1853 he describes talking to the engraver Watson who informed him that "Allie Vernon was working for him 'Valentine' making (p.148)."[pages:67, 91-92, 99, 103, 108, 148]
This text identifies the following pseudonym: Madge Elliot (59).[pages:59]
Wilbor provides a brief biography of Margaret Eytinge. One of Eytinge's poems, "Indignant Polly Wog" is also included in the book.[pages:208]
William Winter recalls that Sol Eytinge married Margaret in Brooklyn in June of 1858 with Henry Ward Beecher performing the service and Doestick (Mortimer Thomson) acting as groomsman (p. 318). Winter also mentions that "[h]is widow, who survives, in serene age, long ago made a name In letters, by reason of her exceptional humor and her expert invention, particularly as a writer for the young, and to think of her is to recall many a convivial occasion that her generous hospitality provided and that her kindness and her genial wit enriched (p. 319)."[pages:318-319]
The Vault at Pfaff's
27 Memorial Drive West, Bethlehem, PA 18015