Arlo Bates and George L. Vose papers

Biographical and Historical Notes

Arlo Bates

A novelist, poet, and teacher, Arlo Bates was born in East Machias, Maine, on December 16, 1850 to Dr. Niran Bates and Susan Thaxter Bates. He studied at Bowdoin College where he earned a Bachelor's degree in 1876 and a Master's degree in 1879. He received an honorary Litt.D in 1894.

Bates began writing while still a student at Bowdoin, and for a year after graduation, he painted china, tutored, and even worked as a clerk in a metal foundary. Eventually, he was offered the position of editor of the Boston Sunday Courier where he remained until 1893.

In 1882, he married Harriet Lenora Vose who was herself a published writer under the pseudonym, Eleanor Putnum. They collaborated on a novel, Prince Vance, published in 1886. Later that year, Harriet passed away, and every volume Bates published thereafter is dedicated to her. The couple had one son, Oric.

In 1893, Bates accepted a position as professor of English at Massachusettes Institute of Technology, where he stayed until his retirement in 1915. During this time, Bates lectured extensively and wrote several textbooks, including Talks on Writing English (1896); Talks on the Studies of Literature (1906); and Talks on Teaching Literature (1906).

Bates is the author of fourteen novels, including Patty's Perversities (1881); A Lad's Love (1887); In the Bundle of Time (1893); The Diary of a Saint (1902); and The Intoxicated Ghost (1908). In addition, Bates published seven volumes of poetry, including The Berries of the Briar (1886); Under the Beech Tree (1899); and Sonnet in Shadow (1887), a dirge in memory of his wife.

Bates passed away on August 24, 1918.


Kunitz, Stanley and Howard Haycraft, eds. American Authors, 1600-1900. New York: H.W. Wilson Co., 1938.

George L. Vose

A note in the collection indicates that George Leonard Vose was the father of Bates' wife, Harriet Lenora Vose. Bates and Harriet were married in 1882 and had one son, Oric. Harriet passed away in 1886. As indicated by the collection., Bates and his father-in-law remained close; in letters to his sister-in-law Persis N. Andrews, Vose frequently wrote about Bates and his success in the literary marketplace. In a 1901 letter to Andrews, Vose expressed his pride in his grandson Oric, then a freshman at Harvard University.

Vose himself was an academic; he was a highly respected professor of civil engineering at Bowdoin College where he authored a handbook for engineers, A Manual for Railroad Engineers and Engineering Students.


Biographical information derived from the collection.

Scope and Contents

The Arlo Bates and George L. Vose Papers comprise .3 linear feet (153 items) of letters, photographs, and an unidentified manuscript fragment. The collection spans the years 1879 to 1916 and includes correspondence from many well known novelists, poets, biographers, scholars, editors, publishers, composers, and statesmen.

Among those writers whose letters are included in this collection are Thomas Bailey Aldrich, Alice Brown, George Washington Cable, Margaret Deland, Mary Mapes Dodge, Louise Imogen Guiney, William Vaughn Moody, and Kate Douglas Wiggin. Bates also corresponded with editors and publishers, including Mary Louise Booth, Louise Chandler Moulton, and H.E. Scudder. In addition, the collection contains letters written by C. F. Adams, railroad magnate and grandson of former President John Quincy Adams; Henry Cabot Lodge, U.S. Senator and orator; Charles W. Eliot, former President of Harvard University; and Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a New England abolitionist who commanded the first African American regiment raised in the South (the First South Carolina Volunteers) during the Civil War.

Taken together, Bates's letters offer an interesting critique of the literary marketplace of the time. For example, Alice Brown loved Margaret Deland's The Awakening of Helena Ritchie, whereas Bates did not like Robert Grant's novel, Face to Face. Grant enjoyed Bates' A Lad's Love, however, and called it "finished" and "graceful." The letters are peppered with praise and criticism for both established and up-and-coming writers.

Many letters reflect the difficulties of women writers struggling to break into a male dominated market. Many such writers ask for advice or thank Bates for his kind words and encouragement. Wrote aspiring novelist Julia von Stosch Schayer, "Your [criticism] has always done me good because I know you are competent in every way, and while unsparing, you are animated by no mean motive towards me. You would rather see me succeed than fail, I know" (F4). Indeed, it seems that Bates was an avid supporter of all arts and artists, and they supported him in return. The collection includes several touching letters written by friends and fellow writers following the death of Bates' wife, Harriet.

In sharp contrast to Bates' letters are those written by his father-in-law, George L. Vose, to Persis N. Andrews. Spanning the years 1900 through 1909, these letters were written after Vose's retirement from Bowdoin College where he was a professor of Civil Engineering. As indicated by the collection, Andrews was Vose's sister-in-law. During much of their nine-year correspondence, she lived in Paris while he remained at home on the coast of Maine. His letters to her are filled with local news of weddings and births and the sad passing of old friends. He vividly captures the landscape and eccentric characters of the small seaside community of Costine, Maine.