“The Right Princess,” Chapter XXIX: “Whither thou goest”
In an interview given to the Portland [Maine] Evening Express and Advertiser in 1912, American author Clara Louise Burnham described her purpose for writing, saying that she “desired to further Christian Science and its teachings.” Such was her determination to carry out this “missionary work with the aid of her pen” that in 1902, when Mary Baker Eddy expressed reservations about the clarity of the ending of Burnham’s novel The Right Princess, Burnham decided to write an additional six page chapter, “Whither thou goest.”
The story begins when Houghton, Mifflin and Co., Burnham’s publisher, inadvertently went against her wishes and forwarded the advance sheets of The Right Princess to The Christian Science Publishing Society and to Eddy. Eddy quickly wrote to Burnham regarding the publisher’s request that the Publishing Society advertise the book: “Our Publishing Society could give a big boom to your book but conscience not money must govern its action ….”1 She also had concerns about the ending of the novel:
Here is the point I ask: Please make your meaning plain at the close of your book. As it now is its secrecy is enchanting. But my dear friend, you can make your Princess the heroine to refuse marriage and retain the love of her lover in the purity of spirit in your admirable style and that would turn passion into sentiment….2
Burnham, upset that the proofs had been sent without her permission, wanted to make clear to Eddy that, “so far have I been from desiring to make capital of your approval that I felt it to be a blow when Houghton & Mifflin wrote me they had sent you the advance sheets ….” However, Burnham and her publisher were well aware that Eddy’s endorsement of The Right Princess would “transform the sale of the book.”3
And Burnham was concerned about Eddy’s criticisms, commenting: “Gladly would I alter the ending of the story, but it is too late. By the end of the week it will be spread broadest over the country.”4 At Eddy’s behest Archibald McLellan, Editor of the Christian Science periodicals, also contacted Burnham to discuss the possibility of changing the ending of The Right Princess. 5
In her response to McLellan, Burnham noted that “had her [Eddy’s] words come in time I should have followed her suggestion as to the ending of my book.”6 The Right Princess had already been printed and distributed, so Burnham was unable to make changes. She felt that the book was written in good faith, and she had shared the manuscript with other Christian Scientists, so instead of altering the ending she preferred her audience to “read between the lines.”
But quickly Burnham had a change of heart. On September 16, 1902 she wrote McLellan:
My desire to fulfil in any possible way what Mrs. Eddy might desire of me makes it impossible for me to put aside this matter of the ending of my book. I am under contract with my publishers [Houghton, Mifflin and Co.] and can not prevent the issuing of the edition all ready, but as the book ends now it is susceptible of different interpretations….7
Burnham offered two solutions: she could write an article in The Christian Science Journal to clarify the ending, or (if Houghton, Mifflin and Co. consented) she could write an additional chapter to be published in subsequent editions of The Right Princess. The publisher agreed to the proposal, and Burnham wrote the additional chapter, “Whither thou goest.” The chapter picks up from the original ending and begins with the heroine, Frances, shrinking from her lover Burling’s embrace. The two characters then embark on a discussion about their friendship, future, and Christian Science faith:
They resolve to remain close friends, with Frances expressing her desire to dedicate her life to healing.The “Whither thou goest” manuscript was sent to Mary Baker Eddy and Archibald McLellan, for Burnham wanted to publish the chapter with the approval of Eddy.8 Eddy approved of the content, but did not feel it should be added to the novel: “Your additional chapter is parexcellence. But under the circumstances you had better not paralyze your readers with a shock caused by the change, before God has done it, from sense to Soul.”9 So “Whither thou goest” never made it to press, and the ending of the novel remained as Burnham had originally intended.
Eddy’s endorsement of The Right Princess appeared in the Christian Science Sentinel of October 2, 1902:
To the general query, What do you think of Mrs. Burnham’s novel, “The Right Princess”? I reply, One can scarcely consider the book a novel, since so much of its idealism is realism. The author dissects character with the skill of a metaphysical surgeon: she uses the knife and leaves the patient healed. She has portrayed a Christian Scientist with simplicity and candor: her pen is the pencil of an artist. The general trend of the novel is above the common plane, and its wit is well flavored with wisdom. But The Christian Science Publishing Society does not advertise novels.10
- Mary Baker Eddy to Clara Louise Burnham, 10 September 1902, L08337.
- Burnham to Eddy, 12 September 1902, IC 48.
- Archibald McLellan to Burnham, 11 September 1902, IC 5a.
- Burnham to McLellan, 15 September 1902, IC 48.
- Burnham to McLellan, 16 September 1902, IC 48.
- Burnham to Eddy, 25 September 1902, IC 48.
- Eddy to Burnham, 2 October 1902, L08339.
- Mary Baker G. Eddy, “Question Answered,” Christian Science Sentinel, October 2, 1902, http://sentinel.christianscience.com/shared/view/1z9p0hfo33i?s=t.