Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, January 17, 2023


 "A Heart Divided" by "Louisa Carter Lee" (Will F. Jenkins, a.k.a. "Murray Leinster"), Love Story Magazine, June 12, 1926

Will F, Jenkins (1896-1975) had a long career as a writer of genre fiction, beginning in 1915 when he began publishing poems, short stories, and miscellania in H. L. Mencken's magazine The Smart Set.  It was Mencken who suggested that Jenkins begin to use a pseudonymn for items publ;ished in other magazines.  Jenkins began placing stories in Saucy Stories and Sanppy Stories under the name "Jean Farquar," and first used the name "Murray Leinster" for a story in the August 1917 issue of The Smart Set, an issue n which he had already placed a story under his real name.  By the beginning of 1918 stories by Murray Leinstert began appearing in The Argosy and All-Story Weekly, two of the most popular pulps then running.  As the pulps became more and more popular, genre-specific titles began to appear and Jenkins began appearing in those -- he wrote westerns for the western pulps, as well as detective stories, jungles stories, science fiction stories, and horror stories for the magazines specifically catering to those tales.  In 1921 he began publishing romance stories in Love Story Magazine under the name "Louisa Carter Lee."  In all, he published 37 stories in that magazine between 1921 and 1928 -- including one serial and one full-length novel which was later published by Chelsea House (which would go on to publish two other romance novels under the "Louisa Carter Lee" pseudonym).

"A Heart Divided" introduces us to Phyllis Dean, a 20-year-old typist from humble beginnings who is employed by prominent politician Francis Tremb.  Many people of wealth and influence visit the Tremb estate but Phyllis, knowing her place in society, does not interact with them.. one person who tries to interact with Phyllis, thought, is Bertram Grey, a handsome and flirtatious man of breeding.   Phyllis, because of her social standing, has a low opinion of herself and assumes that Grey is paying attention to he because he pities her; she is quietly pleased by his attentions but, because she is a girl of great common sense, does not place much weight on them.  For his part, Grey flirts because that's what he does; he has no real feelings for Phyllis at all.

One evening, when Mrs. Tremb is holding a fancy ball, Phyllis was working late in the office.  When she was finished, she snuck apeek at what was happening.  Grey spotted her and followed her into a study.  Grey had spent the entire evening bored with the company and had imbibed perhaps a bit too much.  He began flirting with Phyllis once more but his boredom and the liquor overcame him and he proposed marriage to her.  PhylLis was astounded and, in he4r innocence, felt that his offer was real.  As she demurred, he became more insistent.  She liked Grey but did not love him but truly took him at his word that he loved her.  Her concern in not rteplying was not due to any feelings she might have had, but to a concern whether such a marriage would be fair to Grey, given their social differences.  Grey tried to draw her into an embrace, but she eased out of it, telling him that she would have to think about his proposal and that she would let him know her answer the next morning.

The next day she sent him a letter accepting his proposal.  Grey was then  called out of town and she never saw him again.

Two days later, Grey's brother Essex appeared, telling Phyllis that the marriage could never take place   He offered her a thousand dollars to release Grey from his pledge -- basically accusing Phyliis of being an adventuress.  Phyllis became angry and order Essex out of the house, saying that she never wanted to see him again.  There was something in Phyllis' anger that made Essex realize the he had been wrong about the girl.  In fact, Phyllis' reaction was so strong that Essex began to realize that he was falling for this determined girl.  (Yeah, love can sneak up on a person like that in the romance pulps.)

Over the next eight months, Phyliis continued on with her work.  Bertram grey never appeared at the Tremb house again but Essex did appear a few times to conduct business with Francis Tremb; each time Phyliss managed to avoid him.  But one day Essex laid in wait for her in the study.  He tried to apologize but Phyllis would have none of that.  Finally Essex admitted that he was in love with her and wanted to marry her.   Phyllis erupted and told him no uncertain terms that she enver wanted to hear from him again.  Because Essex would occassionaly have business with her employer, she made the hard decision to leave her job.  She went to live with an aunt who lived in straightened conditions.  After four months of unemployment -- she refused to give the Trembs as refrence for fear that she might end employed by someone who knew Essex or Bertram Grey -- she finally managed to secure a post with the household of Mr. Ulverston, a man who spent almost all his time travelling on business.

Will Phyllis ever find love, or even happiness?  Will Essex ever fin Phyllis and win her heart?  We all know the answer:  "He opened his arms and she went into them with something of the sweet simplicity and confidence of a child."

Ah, happy endings.  They can bring a tear to my eye.

Trite and formulaic?  Yes, but their is something of the Jenkins/Leinster magic here.  Phyllis is a full-blown character and she may act a bit like a turnip-brained fathead at times, the author makes us spympahize with her; indeed, even respect her.  As for the brothers Grey, they appear to be nothing more than plot devices -- which is as they should be.

The "Louisa Carter Lee" stories are a very minor part of Will F. Jenkins output but they proved him capable of writing in almost every genre.  He went to published over 80 books over his long creer, as well as more than 1500 short stories and articles, 14 movie scripts, and hundreds radio and television plays.  Somewhere along the line, he also found time to be a successful inventor.  As a writer, he was always readable, always enjoyable -- a claim that many others cannot make.

The June 12, 1926 issue of Love Story Magazine is available online at Internet Archive, as are several issues of that magazine with "Louisa Carter Lee" stories.

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