Mary Ellen Chase Collection

Mary Ellen Chase (1887-1973) was born in Blue Hill, Maine. She received a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Minnesota and taught at Smith College from 1926 to 1955. Chase wrote more than 30 books, many using her cherished Maine heritage as the setting. Her most famous of these works include Mary Peters, Silas Crockett, Windswept, and Edge of Darkness. She is regarded as one of the most important regional literary figures of the early twentieth century.

See “Mary Ellen Chase; Teacher, Writer, Lecturer” (Colby Library Quarterly, March 1962) for details on Chase’s career.

Our collection contains letters, manuscripts, notebooks, journals, photographs, and published works.


Mary Ellen Chase -1958

Mary Ellen Chase giving the 1958 Commencement Address at Colby.

The relationship between Mary Ellen Chase and Colby College began formally when she received the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters at Commencement in 1937. Subsequently, she gave addresses at the college including the 1958 Commencement Address.

Curator Carl Weber developed a professional relationship with Chase in the 1950s as he built a rare book and manuscript repository that complemented the cornerstone collections of Thomas Hardy and Edwin Arlington Robinson. Their shared interest in Hardy facilitated this relationship, which was continued by Curator Richard Cary. Correspondence with Cary in the 1960s reveals a personal and professional friendship based on mutual academic respect and a shared interest in Maine literature, especially that of Sarah Orne Jewett. Cary indicates that Chase is well-represented in the Rare Book Room by 1960, through her gifts of books and manuscripts. She continued to give published and unpublished materials for the collection through the 1960s.

Cary’s proposal to devote the March 1962 issue of the Colby Library Quarterly to Chase’s life and work, commemorating her Diamond Jubilee (75th anniversary), was gratefully accepted. Chase contributed a reflection on her Maine-based writings. Cary completed a bibliography of Chase’s published writings for the issue with her assistance, although she confesses she has not kept accurate records. He consulted the Smith College archives to complete the lists. The correspondence leading up to the March 1962 issue is a mix of bibliographic corrections and discussion of additional gifts of unpublished materials and memorabilia for the collection. Chase returned Cary’s interest in her work by reviewing his volume on letters of Sarah Orne Jewett, published by the Colby College Press. In 1968, Cary expressed interest in editing a volume of Chase’s letters and was given permission.

Additional works consulted:

The Colby Echo. Waterville, ME: Colby University/Colby College. Web. 19 March 2015.

Mary Ellen Chase donor file. Colby College Special Collections.


In addition to primary donor Mary Ellen Chase:

Julius Seelye Bixler

Richard Cary

Colby Library Associates

Robert Edward Lee Strider II