Julia (Storrow) Cruger (1848-1920)

Mrs "Julie" Julia Grinnell (Storrow) Cruger; Socialite & Author aka "Julien Gordon"

She was born and grew up in Paris - not speaking a word of English until she was nine - where she enjoyed a "liberal" education. She was a grandniece of the acclaimed author Washington Irving who gave her mother a diamond when she was married at Sunnyside. Julia was named for her mother's first cousin, Julia (Irving) Grinnell, whose husband, Moses Hicks Grinnell, was a U.S. Congressman and President of the New York Chamber of Commerce. Having won "remarkable success" in her lifetime as an author, an obituary described Julie as, "one of a few society women of New York who gained a conspicuous and important place in the world of literature. Thirty years ago her name was on the tongue of everyone interested in literary matters. She is referred to by those of the present day who remember her writings as the Edith Wharton of her time."

Writing under her pen-name 'Julien Gordon,' the first of her sixteen books was A Diplomat's Diary (J.B. Lippincott & Co., Philadelphia, 1890) when the critics "without exception" supposed 'Julien Gordon' to be a man. Its popularity reached fever pitch when it was discovered that she was in fact the author. All her novels were set within society life in Gilded Age New York and Washington D.C. and as a prominent socialite who moved in the highest social circles in both those cities she was uniquely positioned to give an unparalleled view into that exclusive and otherwise inaccessible world. Adding further spice, like Edith Wharton, the characters she created were often easily recognizable as the real-life characters on whom they were based. In Mrs Cruger's entry in Woman of the Century (1893) it told how, "she unites a distinctly literary talent that has enabled her to cast her stories in artistic form, while preserving in them a most intense humanity".

An article that appeared in Current Literature (1890) read in part: "Personally Mrs Cruger is charming - tall, fair, brown-haired, blessed with that certain something women call style and which, doubtless, consists in having reduced the illusive art of dress to a science. She has, moreover, a manner full of grace and dignity, is a delightful hostess, and cherishes a regal idea of hospitality. Her new country house (noted for its 200-foot frontage), which is being built on the Bayville grounds, where the Crugers pass their summers, is to contain seven suites of chambers, each provided with a bath for the luxurious accommodation of guests. Five o'clock tea at Bayville has long been a feature of the fashionable Long Island season. Mrs C. is the adventurous social spirit who organized an amicable warfare against the McAllister regime last winter, and succeeded in making the "Sherry dances" more popular than the "Delmonico balls". Besides the novel just published, A Diplomat's Diary, Mrs C. is the author of a story in the September number of the Cosmopolitan and of more than one witty speech which has found publication in Life, Puck and other weeklies devoted to the interests and amusement of society."

Mrs Cruger did most of her literary work at her home on Long Island. On the morning of December 14th, 1893, it was completely destroyed by fire and she had to borrow clothes from her servants. Aside from losing jewellery, works of art, and furniture, she also lost most of her manuscripts, notably the manuscript of an Italian novel that she was translating and had nearly finished. However, fortunately, only the day before the fire, she sent her publisher the completed manuscript of Poppaea which she had just finished.

At Trinity Church, 1868, she was married to Civil War veteran Colonel Stephen Van Rensselaer Cruger who was named for his maternal grandfather, "The Old Patroon" Stephen Van Rensselaer, Lieutenant-Governor of New York and recognized as one of the ten richest men in U.S. history. They lived between their homes in New York (112 East 35th Street) and on Long Island ("Idlesse" on 62.5-acres at Bayville) where it was said that her entertainments were as close to the salons in Paris as could be imagined in America. After the Colonel died in 1898 she inherited his fortune and closed up her home in New York, moving first to Italy before coming to Washington D.C. and leasing, "a commodious old-fashioned house near the Potomac, quite a mile away from the outposts of society". She lived there for most of the year but continued to spend long periods abroad.

In 1908, she astonished her friends when she married Wade Chance, an aspiring writer ten years her junior who was described as of Clinton (Ohio), New York, Newport, Pasadena and London, and was said to be a friend of Lord Kitchener. They lived in London at 9 Queen Street in Mayfair but separated after just 13-months and divorced in 1916. He sued her for desertion, incompatibility and jealousy, and she did not oppose. After her divorce she resumed the use of the name "Cruger" and returned to Paris where she lived at 5 Rue du General Lambert in the 7th Arrondissement, only coming back to New York in the year before her death in 1920. She had two daughters by her first husband (married April 21, 1868) but they died young and her heir was her nephew, W.C. Bacon.

Using the pseudonym "Julien Gordon" Mrs Cruger authored among others: A Diplomat's Diary (1890); Vampires: Mademoiselle Réséda (1891); A Successful Man (1891); A Puritan Pagan (1891); Marionettes (1892); His Letters (1892); Poppaea (1895); A Wedding and Other Stories (1896); Eat Not Thy Heart (1897); Mrs. Clyde: The Story of a Social Career (1901); The Wage of Character: A Social Study (1901); World's People (1902); and, Poems (1905). Several of her later novels were published in magazines in serial form, such as Healthy Heroines, Slovenly Americans and The Modern Extinction of Genius. Her most successful books were considered to be A Diplomats Diary, Vampires, and Mrs Clyde.
Contributed by Mark Meredith on 16/12/2023 and last updated on 11/04/2024.