Monday, March 10, 2014

RIP: Clare Booth Luce - March 10, 1905 - Oct 4 1989

When visiting a brother in South Carolina a few years back we went to Mepkin Abbey, a Trappist monastery, and a tourist attraction, northwest of Charleston. We had a picnic sort of lunch as we sat on a bench from which there was a fetching view of Cooper River. It was warm and sunny, a perfect day to eat outside and then walk around some of the 3000-plus acres of the abbey, land which in earlier days had been a plantation.
The famous publisher Henry R. Luce and his wife, Clare Boothe Luce, bought the property in 1936.
I remember reading her name in the news when I was young; she was a member of Congress, but, before that, she was also a famous playwright -- her most successful play, The Women, from 1936, had an all-female cast numbering nearly forty. She was also an admired fiction writer and journalist. She was beautiful and seductive ... her mother trained her in seductiveness, urging her to frequent places where she might find a rich husband ... and Clare succeeded twice in that endeavor.
Credited to Luce are many witty phrases, including: 'No good deed goes unpunished' and 'Widowhood is a fringe benefit of marriage' as well as smart observations such as 'Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say "She doesn't have what it takes." They will say, "Women don't have what it takes."'
Her stint as a foreign correspondent in Europe in the early forties did not impress another wit of the day, Dorothy Parker, who said that Luce's book about the early years of the war should have been called All Clare on the Western Front.

In her early years as a Republican Congresswoman, she had some wonderfully progressive ideas, but then, coming to despise Presidents Roosevelt and Truman, she moved further and further to the right. (Today she'd probably be a star of the Tea Party.) When Eisenhower assumed the Presidency he appointed Mrs. Luce as the Ambassador to Italy; she was the first woman to hold an important diplomatic post. Late in his Presidency, Eisenhower appointed her as Ambassador to Brazil. Four days after the appoiintment -- before she'd left for Brazil -- she remarked that Bolivia, where people were rioting, should be divided among its neighbors. This undiplomatic should-have-kept-your-mouth-shut resulted in a hasty resignation.
Though I wouldn't have known the word in my younger days, it seemed to me that the name Clare Boothe Luce was onomaipoeiac for snooty or uppity. This is not to say she was; I have no idea. She was probably, except in the political views of Democrats, charming as all get out. 
Luce Family Cemetery, Moncks Corner, South Carolina
Clare Boothe Luce had only one child, Ann, sired by her first husband. Ann was killed in a car crash at the age of twenty in 1944. Seeking consolation, Clare Boothe Luce found it in conversations with a Catholic priest, and she converted to that faith. One result of this was the donation of most of the Luce's South Carolina grounds to the Trappists in 1949.

Stone marking the graves of Henry and Claire Boothe Luce

Gravestone of Clare Boothe Luce's daughter, Ann Clark Brokaw.
The epitaph is Psalm 45:
Hearken O daughter
and consider \
and incline thine ear
forget also thine own people
and thy father's house
So shall the King
greatly desire thy beauty
for He is they Lord
worship thou him.

Gravestone of Nancy Bryan Luce, daughter-in-law
of Henry R. Luce

On another part of the grounds is the private graveyard
of the Laurens family; the plantation was owned by
the family for several generations.

Our Lady of Mepkin

Also on the Abbey grounds, a memorial to nine Charleston firemen
who perished while fighting a sofa store fire in 2007.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Mr G..thanks so much for posting these photos...old wrought iron and graves get me all the time...the rust and the age..and the graves' age...the round and roundness of the iron...a reminder for me...of the circle of it all...and Our Lady of to me...the flower! a bit of research and I found it was formerly the Mepkin plantation...a quiet time now for the firemen...a circle...ah..mothers and training!