May Agnes Fleming

May Agnes FlemingPhoto: Goodreads
May Agnes Fleming
Photo: Goodreads

May Agnes (Early) Fleming (teacher and novelist) was born in Saint John, New Brunswick, 14 November 1840 and died in Brooklyn, New York, 26 March 1880. She also wrote under the name Cousin May Carleton. She is the daughter of Irish immigrants Bernard and Mary (Doherty) Early. Her father Bernard was a carpenter who worked on ships during the winter seasons. The port city of Saint John was thus a perfect place for him and his wife to raise their children. May was the eldest of five siblings and one of only two children to survive. Her brother, James Patrick, was fourteen years younger. She was married to William John Fleming, a machinist, on 24 August 1865.

Fleming was educated in her early years at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Saint John, where she began writing at the early age of thirteen. Her pastor, John Dunphy, encouraged her to write and engage in other intellectual endeavours. She became the first teacher at the Roman Catholic School in Saint John at the age of seventeen (in 1856) until her writing became too demanding and she gave up teaching to become a full-time novelist. She resided in Saint John until she moved to Brooklyn in 1875 to be closer to her publisher.

Charles Dickens was her major literary influence. Like Dickens in his own milieu, Fleming was one of Canada’s first well-paid female authors and one of the first to write best-selling novels. One critic called her “a first class story-teller and master of popular fiction” (O’Brien). Her reception as a novelist was expansive, and her writing career provided her with an income of over fifteen thousand dollars a year and earned her a national reputation. She was compared to popular British female novelists such as Miss Braddon and Mrs. Southworth. Fleming was the first novelist to introduce heroines in Canadian crime fiction. She desired to provide readers with an escape from everyday domestic life, one that would be filled with adventure and romance. Showing a tendency toward gothic and romantic-sentimental fiction, her characters are women who do not fit into the typical stereotype of her time: “these women serve as a release for rebellious impulses, both in the author and in her ostensibly tame domestic audience” (McMullen 52).

Fleming is the author of forty-seven novels and numerous short stories which appeared in the Pilot (Boston), New York Weekly, Saturday Night (Philadelphia), The Mercury, The Metropolitan Record, Western Record, The Weekly Herald, New Story Paper, Home Journal, Carleton Advertiser, and London Journal. Many of her novels were republished. Two of her most popular works are A Mad Marriage (1875) and The Heir of Charlton (1878), both of which attracted a national readership.

Amanda Marie Lee, Winter 2008
St. Thomas University

Bibliography of Primary Sources (Selected)

Fleming, May Agnes. The Actress’ Daughter. New York: Carleton, 1886.

---. The Baronet’s Bride, or, A Woman’s Revenge. Adelph Library of Popular Works of Fiction 5. Chicago, IL: M.A. Donohue, 1868.

---. Brought to Reckoning: Sequel to “A Wife’s Tragedy.” New Eagle Series 1026. New York: Street & Smith, 1913–23(?).

---. Carried by Storm. New York: Carleton, 1880.

---. Caught in the Snare: Sequel to “Edith Percival.” New Eagle Series 1035. New York: Street & Smith, 1893.

---. A Changed Heart. New York: Carleton, 1881.

---. The Cost of a Lie, or, Helpless in Fate’s Grip. New Eagle Series 913. New York: Street & Smith, 1903.

---. The Dark Secret, or The Mystery of Fontelle Hall. New York: Hurst, 1875.

---. Edith Percival. New York: Dillingham, 1893.

---. Erminie, or The Gypsy’s Vow. A Tale of Love and Vengeance. New York: Brady, 1863.

---. Estella’s Husband, or, Thrice Lost, Thrice Won. Chicago, IL: M.A. Donohue, 1869.

---. Fated to Marry. Toronto, ON: W.G. Gibson, 1881.

---. A Fateful Abduction: A Novel. New York: G.W. Dillingham, 1897.

---. The Ghost of Riverdale Hall. Arm Chair Library 74. New York: F.M. Lupton, 1895.

---. Guy Earlscourt’s Wife: A Novel. New York: G.W. Carleton, 1873.

---. The Heir of Charlton: A Story of Shaddeck Light. New York: Dillingham, 1905.

---. The Heiress of Glen Gower, or, The Hidden Crime. Chicago, IL: M.A. Donohue, 1868.

---. The Heiress of Sunset Hall: A Sequel to “Sharing Her Crime.” New Eagle Series 999. New York: Street & Smith, 1882.

---. The Hermit of the Cliffs. New York: F.M. Lupton, 1895(?).

---. Hinton Hall. New York: F.M. Lupton, 1890(?). The Leisure Hour Library 226.

---. Kate Danton, or Captain Danton’s Daughters. New York: Carleton, 1876.

---. La Masque, or The Midnight Queen. New York: Brady, 1863.

---. The Last of the Mountjoys. Leisure Hour Library 350. New York: F.M. Lupton, 1901.

---. Lost for a Woman. New York: Carleton, 1880.

---. Love’s Dazzling Glitter: A Sequel to “Carried by Storm.” New Eagle Series 951. New York: Street & Smith, 1906.

---. A Mad Marriage. New York: Carleton, 1875.

---. Magdalen's Vow. New York: G. Munro’s Sons, 1871.

---. Married for Money, and Other Stories. New York: Ogilvie, 1891.

---. Maude Percy’s Secret: A Novel. New York: G.W. Carleton, 1884.

---. The Mystery of Bracken Hollow: A Sequel to A Wonderful Woman. New York: Street & Smith, 1915.

---. Norine’s Revenge, and Sir Noel’s Heir. New York: G.W. Carleton & Co.; London, UK: S. Low, Son & Co., 1875.

---. One Night's Mystery. New York: G.W. Carleton, 1876.

---. A Pretty Governess. New York: J.S. Oglivie, 1891.

---. Pride and Passion: A Novel. New York: G.W. Carleton; London, UK: S. Low, 1882.

---. Proud as a Queen, or, Kate Danton, the Beautiful: Sequel to “Kate Danton” New Eagle Series 931. New York: Street & Smith, 1904.

---. The Queen of the Isle: A Novel. New York: G.W. Dillingham; London: S. Low, 1886.

---. The Rival Brothers. New York: Federal Book Co., 1875.

---. The Secret Sorrow. New York: Ogilvie, 1883.

---. Sharing Her Crime: A Novel. New York: G.W. Dillingham, 1882.

---. She Might Have Done Better: A Novel. Toronto, ON: Rose, 1880(?).

---. Silent and True, or, A Little Queen: A Novel. New York: G.W. Carleton, 1877.

---. Sir Noel’s Heir: A Novel. The Leisure Hour Library vol. 2, no. 147. New York: F.M. Lupton, 1887.

---. The Sisters of Torwood. London, UK: J. Henderson, 1890.

---. A Terrible Secret. New York: Carleton, 1874.

---. The Three Cousins. Toronto, ON: W.G. Gibson, 1873–7(?).

---. A Treasure Lost: Or, What Envy Will Do. New Eagle Series 921. New York: Street & Smith, 1904.

---. Twin Sisters, or, The Wronged Wife’s Hate. New York: Beadle and Adams, 1864.

---. Uncle Fred’s Visit and How it Ended. London, UK: A.R. Mowbray & Co., 1888(?).

---. The Unseen Bridegroom, or, Wedded for a Week. Chicago, IL: M.A. Donohue, 1869.

---. Victoria, or, The Heiress of Castle Cliffe. New York: Frederic A. Brady, 1862.

---. The Virginia Heiress. The Select Series 15. New York: Street & Smith, 1888.

---. Wedded for Pique: A Novel. New York: G.W. Dillingham, 1888.

---. When To-morrow Came, or The Cost of Jealousy: A Sequel to A Terrible Secret. New Eagle Series 897. New York: Street & Smith, 1914.

---. While Love Stood Waiting: Or, Bound by Love’s Fetters. New Eagle Series 941. New York: Street & Smith, 1905.

---. Who Wins?, or The Secret of Monkswood Waste. New York: Munro, 1895.

---. A Wife’s Tragedy. New York: Carleton, 1881.

---. The Woman Without Mercy, or, A Heart of Stone: A Sequel to “A Mad Marriage.” New Eagle Series 905. New York: Street & Smith, 1902.

---. A Wonderful Woman. New York: Dillingham, 1888.

---. A Wronged Wife. New York: Dillingham, 1883.

Fleming, May Agnes, and Marie Corelli. Lady Evelyn, or, The Lord of Royal Rest. Chicago: M.A. Donohue & Co., 1869.

Bibliography of Secondary Sources

Hall-Hovey, Joan. “New Brunswick’s May Agnes Fleming: Canada’s First Best-Selling Novelist Introduced Heroines to Her ‘Sensational’ Stories.” The New Brunswick Reader 16 Mar. 1996: 7-10.

McMullen, Lorraine. “May Agnes Fleming: ‘I Did Nothing but Write.’” Silenced Sextet: Six Nineteenth Century Canadian Women Novelists. Ed. Carrie MacMillan and Elizabeth Waterston. Kingston, ON: McGill-Queen’s UP, 1992. 52-81.

Mountford, Peter. “Ross, Dan (William Edward Daniel).” Encyclopaedia of Literature in Canada. Ed. William H. New. Toronto, ON: Toronto UP, 2002. 376-77.

New, W.H. “May Agnes Fleming.” Dictionary of Literary Biography: Canadian Writers Before 1890. Vol. 99. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Inc., 1990. 104-05.

O’Brien, Frank. “Catholic Heritage.” The New Freeman 8 July 1989.