Harvard University (Ivy League), 2 Kirkland St, Cambridge, MA 02138
51 Pinckney St, Boston, MA 02114
75 Hancock St, Boston, MA 02114
Standing Rock Cemetery Kent, Portage County, Ohio, USA
Junius Lucien Price (January 6, 1883 – March 30, 1964), who also published under the name Seymour Deming, was the author of more than a dozen books and a writer for publications such as The Boston Evening Transcript and The Atlantic Monthly. At the time of his death at age 81 he was still writing for the Boston Globe.
Junius Lucien Price had a Yankee grandfather, Abel Burt, who left Brimfield, Massachusetts in the United States and settled in Brimfield, Ohio in the Connecticut Western Reserve . "We were New England transplantees," Price wrote of his family, "and we had two choices: either to rot or to grow." Price's father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were Ohio country doctors. Price was born January 6, 1883 in Kent, Ohio, the son of Emmett Willin Price (1844–1910) and Lucia Deming Price Upson (1848–1921). A journalist there later reported that Price "immortalized fond memories of hometown" there. In his writing Price created "Woolwick," a pseudonym for Kent, and described the place as "built on the banks of a steep rivergorge ... half railroad-junction and half agrarian market-town". Price attended Western Reserve Academy in Hudson, Ohio. He kept in close contact with his prep school for the rest of his life and was regularly invited back for events. Prince had "lengthy and lively correspondence with Headmaster Joel B. Hayden" and, near the end of his life, made arrangements to transfer approximately 3,000 volumes of his personal library to Western Reserve Academy. There was for several years a "Lucien Price Room" suitable as classroom space and used to house some special items of the "Lucien Price Book Collection", but the room was phased out with the start of the new John D. Ong Library in the spring of 2000. Moreover the nude painting, Prometheus by Arthur Prince Spear, which Price donated to the University, is nowhere to be found. After his 1901 graduation from Western Reserve Academy, Price left Ohio and attended Harvard University and graduated with Phi Beta Kappa honors in 1907. While there, although not 'out' he was fairly open about his homosexuality and several of his early books relate the love affair he had there with a fellow Harvard student. Several chapters of Douglass Shand-Tucci's book "The Crimson Letter: Harvard, Homosexuality, and the Shaping of American Culture" are devoted to Price.
Price came east to Exeter, entering Harvard College in 1903. Chiefly he studied philosophy. Yet another product of the Yard in its “Great Age” (Price’s own words), a student particularly of William James and George Santayana, he was also active in the glee club and was elected both to the Signet Society, the leading undergraduate literary club, and the more raucous and theatrical Hasty Pudding Club. Among his classmates was the young Boston Brahmin Samuel Eliot Morison, later an eminent historian (they remained lifelong friends), and Price’s best friend at Harvard, Fred Middleton, who was the scion of a prominent Back Bay mercantile family. Academically, Price was an even greater success and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, for instance. Graduating magna cum laude in 1907, he resisted the lure of teaching at Harvard, and rather than becoming a don—no more apt candidate could have been imagined—Price took a job as a newspaper reporter at the prestigious Boston Transcript, evidence of a certain independence of mind. The spartan lifestyle he adopted whilst he was a cub reporter, living at a seaman’s hostel near the East Boston docks, suggests, too, that Price kept his feet firmly on the ground while embracing fully the new opportunities presented to him by Harvard and the whole Boston scene. In seven years he rose through the ranks to become an assistant music and drama critic and, finally, an editorial writer; all the while he continued to live very frugally so as to pay his father back the cost of his Harvard tuition.
The man in Price’s life—his great love—was Fred Middleton, who, after graduating from Boston Latin School, entered Harvard in Price’s class. Whether on walking tours through New England, Nova Scotia, and across Central Europe, or sailing along the coast of Maine, Lucien and Fred, who gave up State Street finance for farming (surely one of the few Harvard graduates besides Thoreau, perhaps, to become an orchardist), formed the deepest of relationships—soul mates forever—though what Price saw in Middleton, a man of hardly comparable worldly endowment, it is hard to say. Raymond McClure says little, but that little is telling: “The David-Jonathan friendship was interrupted” by Fred’s marriage to Evelyn Stowe. The wording is key. Though Price, in classic fashion, was best man, McClure suggests a fundamental difficulty in his résumé of the storyline of a novel by Price, a novel known to be based on him and Fred: the Price and Middleton characters, McClure notes, “were finally reunited … in the autumn of their years. In real life this was not to be [emphasis added].” Yet Lucien never ceased to love Fred, whatever happened on the other side. So much so that he told McClure he could not bring himself to attend Fred’s funeral. Price himself, moreover, was dead within three months of Fred’s death.
In 1909 in Boston, he met Frederick A. Demmler, a student at the Boston Museum School. They probably had a relationship. Price called Demmler "Fritz" and Demmler nickname was "hand" (he had beautiful, big hands), instead Price was "thumb" (due to his diminutive figure). To their friends they were Hand and Thumb. After ending school, Demmler went back to Pittsburgh, where he was born. Lucien Price describes a scene in his room at 51 Pinckney, Boston, on January 31, 1914. He has just settled in by the hearth for an evening of reading when Fred Demmler turns up along with his former roommate Ralph Heard (Janet Hart's grandfather), another artist. At the time Demmler, having graduated from the Museum School, has returned to Pittsburgh and opened a studio: "In my wing chair, beside a ruddy hearth, a reading lamp on the table just aft my left elbow . . . I was ploughing into a Socialist book, rain whipping window panes and purling over the sills, with now and then a drop to fall from the chimney’s throat hissing onto the fire. Wind roared across the flue; the stream of rain made confused noises outside in the court where the wind drew whistling, too, through the boughs of the ash. A rap sounded on my door panel. “Come!” said I. It was repeated. “Come!” I said again. The door opened and framed in the blackness of its opening stood Fritz Demmler. Ralph was grinning behind him. Gasps and ejaculations. He should have been far off in Pittsburgh. It was a very Fritz, in the flesh and an overcoat dripping with rain. They got into slippers and dressing gowns and camped beside the fire, lighting cigarettes at the lamp. Fritz had stepped off a train at Back Bay station two hours earlier, plunged through the rain to 94 Charles and frozen Ralph with surprise. There was some question of Fritz having deceased and this being his watery apparition, but the ghost was solid. It appeared, at the end of the evening’s chat, (with Fritz’s inseparable modesty), that he was bound for Exeter to paint the portrait of one of the schoolmasters there, a neighbor of the Gouards whose mother he had painted a year ago. Also that he had just completed a portrait of a bank president in Pittsburgh before leaving. The evening sped with discussions of Christianity, conversion, marriage, sex, socialism, and miscellaneous ribaldry for enlivenment."
In May, 1917, Demmler went to Boston from Pittsburgh. Lucien Price was in Parkersburg, West Virginia. He went there. Conscription impended. For three days, tramping about the scrubby countryside, rambling along the banks of the Ohio, rowing up the swift, muddy current of the Kanawah, the dilemma of a man born to create and commandeered to destroy was threshed out. Never before had he spoken so freely. The economic causes of the trouble he understood fairly well, but it was startling with what a seeing eye he pierced the illusions which beset that time. By that faculty of divination peculiar to the artist's mind he reached, at one leap, conclusions which the thinker only arrives at after laborious effort. And he was a young man without an illusion left, steadfastly looking the ugliest facts of our social order in the face. On the last evening of his stay Demmler and Price were standing on the steel spider web of a suspension bridge which spans the Ohio, watching a sunset unfurl its banners of blood and fire. All day there had been thunder and rain, and eastward behind the towers and spires of the city skyline still hung the retreating clouds, sullen and dark. Fritz pointed to where, against that gloomy cloud bank, high above the city and gilded red from the setting sun, rose two symbols: one on the tip of a spire, the other on the staff atop a tower: cross and flag. "Church," said he grimly, "and State." The next day he returned to Pittsburgh to register for the draft. He was not called until the following April, 1918. Twice that winter he went to Boston. Number 94 Charles Street had been dismantled. But the third-floor-back on Pinckney Street, Lucien Price's house, received him with an extra cot for bivouac.
On November 2, 1918, nine days before armistice, Fred Demmler died of shrapnel wounds to the left side in Evacuation Hospital No. 5, Staden, Belgium. Demmler, a former pacifist, was the leader of a machine gun squadron in Company C, 136th Machine Gun Battalion. In 1919 Lucien Price wrote "Immortal Youth, A Study in the Will to Create". Fred never came home; he was killed in action in Belgium—of which Price says neither too much nor too little, working and grieving his way through something more than love as most of us know it, accepting not the blame but the responsibility, as the older man must, making the loss of both Freds into something more than good. Not only would there be Immortal Youth, and a later opus, All Souls, but forty years of editorials published each year on the second of November, from 1918 to the 1950s. Beacon Press eventually brought them out in book form under the title Litany for All Souls.
Price joined the staff of the Boston Evening Transcript as an editorial writer and arts reviewer from 1907 to 1914. He went on to create "an illustrious career as a writer and journalist" in Greater Boston and wrote for the Boston Globe for the rest of his life. Among Price's published work is a book based on recorded conversations with English mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, Dialogues of Alfred North Whitehead. He also published books on education as well as memoirs of his early life in Ohio. Three of his books were published under the pseudonym "Seymour Deming".
The most vital influence on Price was indeed to be found at Harvard, the British philosopher and mathematician Alfred North Whitehead. A celebrated figure, whose students at Cambridge included Bertrand Russell and John Maynard Keynes, when he took up his chair at Harvard in 1924, in his early sixties and at the start of a decade of considerable achievement, Whitehead found Price—by then a member of Harvard’s senior governing board, the Overseers—to be his Boswell.
Price had an immediate and practical effect on Dance world too, as attested by the American dance pioneer Ted Shawn: “Without [Price’s] constant help for seven years the most important chapter of my own career would never have happened,” Shawn wrote. “The prodigious athleticism of dancers like Vaslav Nijinsky notwithstanding, dance remained associated in the public’s mind with ‘feminine’ grace and sensitivity … . [Dancers were looked upon] as ‘pansies.’” And the earliest attempt to attack this stereotype head-on was the All-Male Dancers Group, established by Shawn in the U.S. in 1933. Shawn and his wife, Ruth St. Denis, founded the Denishawn schools, today credited with establishing modern dance as an important American art form.
Before his life wound down he would become prominently associated with Gore Vidal, the author of the first explicitly homosexual American novel published in the U.S., The City and the Pillar. Price, nearly seventy-one, and Vidal, only twenty-nine, met in 1954, when the older man was at his height (it was the very year, in fact, of his big book on Whitehead) and the younger man at perhaps the lowest point in his career, dark days for the now-celebrated essayist, playwright, novelist, and historian, then hoping for some success for his novel of that year, Messiah. Price spied the book’s genius at once and—the dream of every author—dedicated himself to seeing that the reviews in at least one major American city would be laudatory. Not only that: in 1955 Price made Vidal’s book the subject of a lead Globe editorial, a fascinating example of the way he seemed, even in the ’50s, quite unrepressed at the Globe. Since the publication of his blatantly homosexual novel only six years previously, The City and the Pillar (1948), Vidal had been blackballed by the literary powers that be in more than one way. Vidal’s biographer, Fred Kaplan, describes Price as becoming Vidal’s “old mentoring friend and admirer,” a friend, moreover, Kaplan notes, who was “supportive when Gore’s literary career in the 1950’s had looked grim.” Vidal himself wrote of Price in the mid-1960s: “In the dark days [he] was a most bright companion.” The relationship endured. Six years later Price’s letters confirm his continued interest in Vidal: “While Gore is here (another week), I am spending available time with him,” Price wrote a friend in 1960, “and at the performances [of the Boston tryout of Vidal’s play, The Best Man].” Vidal was often in Boston in those years, drawn to friends from Exeter who were then at Harvard, and later his publishers were in Boston; indeed, he thought through The Best Man during three weeks in Provincetown in 1959, doubtless sometimes in company with Price, who, Vidal later disclosed, had an influence on Julian, “at least half of [which he read in manuscript],” Vidal wrote. Later, Julian (1964), Vidal’s bestselling “comeback book” after years of persecution, was dedicated to Lucien Price. Years later Vidal himself allowed that the great comeback book of his career “would not have been written without [Lucien [Lucien Price’s] bright example and sly maneuverings.” A bit mysterious, that, but many a bright evening’s companionship is surely to be imagined between Price and Vidal in the older man’s modest Beacon Hill lodgings: two rooms, third floor back, a small bedroom and a larger study/sitting room—in the larger room a wall of books, a big writing table piled with manuscripts and journals, a lowboy, a sink in the corner for washing up (bathroom down the hall), an upholstered wing chair facing the wood-burning fireplace, a sofa, and above the sofa the glory of the room—the vivid oil of the chained Prometheus, at once creative force and masculine beauty: the work of Arthur Spear, the model one of Price’s young men, Neil Stewart.
In 1965, a year after the author's death, Mrs. F.H. Middleton of Hudson, Massachusetts gave Price's personal papers and correspondence to Harvard where they are now housed in the Houghton Library of Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts and take up six boxes, each three feet in length. A separate collection of his papers from 1951 to 1958 are kept at Columbia University in New York City. This group of material includes notes, manuscripts, typescripts, and galley proofs for Hellas Regained, October Rhapsody, and The Sacred Legion — three novels in Price's "All Souls" series.
My published books:/p>
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