Tarkington & Roberts, Literary Pals

A Notes from the Archives post by Nancy Noble, MHS Archivist/Cataloger

Novelists Kenneth Roberts and Booth Tarkington were not only neighbors in Kennebunkport, Maine, but fellow literary artists. Tarkington edited most of Roberts’ historical novels. MHS Coll. 2612, recently processed, is evidence of this working relationship. The collection includes two of Roberts’ best known historical novels: Arundel, and Northwest Passage. Both are inscribed by the author to Tarkington. The inscription in Arundel reads:

For Booth Tarkington to whose generous assistance, guidance, encouragement and forbearance, not to say endurance, this book owes whatever merit is possesses, with the deep gratitude of Kenneth Roberts, Kennebunk Beach, Maine, July 4th, 1930.

The inscription in “Northwest Passage” is for both Tarkington and his wife Susie: “For Susie and Booth Tarkington with more gratitude than I can express – Kenneth Roberts, Kennebunk Beach, June 1, 1937.”

Another book in the collection is Antiquamania edited by Kenneth L. Roberts, which is subtitled

the collected papers of Professor Milton Kilgallen [pseud.], F.R.S., of Ugsworth college, elucidating the difficulties in the path of the antique dealer and collector, and presenting various methods of meeting and overcoming them. With further illustrations, elucidations and wood-cuts done on feather-edged boards, by Booth Tarkington.

In case you can’t tell, this book spoofs the antique trade. This book is also inscribed by the author to Booth Tarkington: “For Booth Tarkington, with gratitude, appreciation, admiration, esteem, affection, and a trace of suspicion at his unfailing superiority at Mah Jong – Kenneth Roberts, Kennebunk Beach, Maine, October 26th, 1928.”

Along with the books is an engraving plate for one of Booth Tarkington’s bookplates, as well as bookplate for Tarkington of a different image. A framed engraving of Benedict Arnold rounds out the collection. Published by Thomas Hart of London, 1776, it has an inscription to Booth Tarkington from Kenneth Roberts on the lower right corner mat. The inscription reads:

For Booth Tarkington, ever-patient guide, encourager and friend during the resurrection of Colonel Arnold in Arundel, as well as through the storm-wracked driftings of The Lively Lady, with the deepest appreciation and gratitude of Kenneth Roberts, May 15th, 1931.

Robert’s book, Arundel, is a novel about Benedict Arnold’s march to Quebec during the American Revolution. On the cover of this boxed 2 v. set is an engraving of Arnold, similar to the one in the matted frame.

This delightful collection demonstrates a friendship and professional relationship between two of Maine’s best-known novelists of the early 20th century.

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