Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Mysteries of Paris: The Quest for Morton Fullerton by Marion Mainwaring

For the Paris in July month, hosted by Tamara at Thyme for Tea, I read The Age of Desire by Jennie Field (my review here). It is a historical fiction about Edith Wharton during some years of her life. It was known that she had an unknown ‘love of her life’, but it was presumed to be Walter Berry, to whom she was engaged in her youth, and who became a life long friend. In later years it has been discovered that it was not him at all, but a man she had a love affair with during her early years in Paris, William Morton Fullerton.

Of course, this tickled my sense of real life mystery and I had to look him up on the net. Maybe there was something to read about him, especially since he seemed to me a very illusive character in the book. Marion Mainwaring, has lived in Paris and London for many years and also completed Edith Wharton’s novel The Buccaneers, as well as writing a couple of novels on her own. When she learned that Fullerton was the love of Wharton’s life, she set out on a quest to find out more about him.


It is in many ways a fascinating book. Fullerton seemed illusive in the historical fiction book (which was also well researched) and I am not sure that he becomes less illusive when you have finished this book. A man of many talents, he seemed to go through life without leaving any imprints. This in spite of the fact that he was a journalist and worked for The Times for many years and then for Le Figaro. He had a contact net, very impressive, including royals, presidents, politicians, writers and other famous people at the time, and still…illusive, hiding something?

“Talented, intelligent, sophisticated, and ambitious, Fullerton also proved to be egotistical and unscrupulous, a cad and a con man, but his overwhelming personal charm attracted friends and lovers of both sexes. Mysteries of Paris uncovers, one by one, the details of his career as a writer and a spy, his love affairs with Wharton and other women, his close friendship with James, and his relations with Oscar Wilde, George Santayana, Paul Verlaine, Theodore Roosevelt and many others.”

The book is structured from Marion Mainwaring’s search point of view. It is a very thorough research through archives and interviews with people who had known him or the people he was connected with. He died in 1952, so there are still people around who had met him or are related to the people he used to see. Mainwaring goes from Paris, to London, to Spain, to Portugal and to the United States, into the country sides to find clues of his life. It is real detective work and very impressive.

If I should say something about the structure of the book, it is that it is sometimes a little bit unclear. Mainwaring mix in quotes or sentences or references of her own and it was not always very clear to me who was the source. That on top of the fact that there are so many people involved that it is sometimes difficult to know who is who. Maybe it would have won out to have a separate chapter on her search and detective work and put the story of Fullerton’s life separately. Or maybe not…it is difficult to say. All in all, I loved the book. I am fascinated by people’s life, also not famous people, how they lived and worked. This must be one of the most exciting stories, due to the varied life that Fullerton lead.

Photos which seems to be 'a pair'.
The woman is supposedly Edith Wharton.
Picture from The University of Texas at Austin. 

I am not sure though, that I can say that Fullerton is less illusive after having read the book. It is something there that he does not want to give away! I think it is best to let him.

2 comments:

  1. I love a good mystery but I'm not sure if this real mystery would be my cup of tea. I'm not familiar with either of the two people in the book. I wish living in France would mean that you could write a good book. Not true in my case.

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    Replies
    1. It is of course not everyones cup of tea. Are you writing a book?
      I love you blog. 'Paris in July' is such a nice concept since you are also discovering a lot of new blogs. But as Ingrid Bergman said in 'Casablanca': 'we'll always have Paris', just as we have for the rest of the year.
      Sounds lovely to liven and Paris and Provence. The best of two worlds?

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