About the author
Jane McIlvaine McClary was born in Pittsburgh, and moved when she was seven to Middleburg, Virginia. There she went to a one-room school. To get there, she rode her pony, but as the pony usually galloped off home during the day, she had to walk home. Jane worked as an exercise jockey for a racing stable, and became well known in Virginia for her hunting prowess. Hunting provided the background for several of her books, particularly her adult novel, A Portion for Foxes. This portrait of life in an American hunt club is described variously as very funny, very controversial, and by Jane’s editor, Michael Korda as “a kind of Gone With the Wind” of fox hunting.” I have to say, after reading it, I agree with none of these opinions. I found the characters spectacularly unpleasant, and found nothing in the book to make me want to finish it.
McClary also wrote several horse books for children. Those best known in the UK are the Cammie books (although only the first two made it into print here). Unlike British pony authors, Jane McIlvaine introduced romance into her books.
Michael Korda, in his book Four Legs and Flies, about his adult infatuation with the Horse, wrote about visiting Jane. The visit is described here by Penelope Green, who reviewed the book for the New York Times.
… deep in the 1960s, Korda makes a pilgrimage to Middleburg, Va, ”perhaps the horsiest place in America.” He’s there to deliver a sidesaddle to one of his authors, a horsewoman named Jane McIlvaine McClary, whose novel A Portion for Foxes became a sensation as ”a kind of Gone With the Wind of fox hunting,” as he describes it. Laboring under the misunderstanding that Korda is some sort of Pancho Villa in the saddle, his hostess leads him on a whiskey-fueled steeplechase through the rain, as well as into the Middleburg hunt itself, an haut-WASP ritual with more proscriptions and rites than a cardinal’s mitering. It is at this final event that Korda disgraces himself, not only by charging past the master of the hunt on a horse he is unable to control but also by pretending not to see the fox — the ultimate transgression.
Jane worked on the Times Herald and Fortune magazine as a writer. She married Robinson McIlvaine, and they moved to Downingtown, where they bought the Archive newspaper. She and her husband did pretty much everything on the paper, and she chronicled their time there in It Happens Every Thursday, which was later turned into a film, starring Loretta Young as Jane.
Finding the books
Cammie’s Challenge and A Portion for Foxes books are easy to find in the UK. With the exception of Cammie’s Choice and Cammie’s Cousin, all of the other books are easy to find either here or in America.
Links and sources
Dustjacket of Cintra’s Challenge
New York Times: Michael Korda on Jane McIlvaine McClary
It Happens Every Thursday on IMDB
Terri A. Wear: Horse Stories, an Annotated Bibilography, Scarecrow Press, 1987
Many thanks to Susan Bourgeau for providing virtually all the photographs in this section.
The Cammie Series
Bibliography (horse books only)
Macrae Smith, Philadelphia, 1951, illus Paul Brown
Republished as Blue Ribbon RomanceBerkley Highland Books, pb, 1951, 1959
Copper likes the big black horse when he arrives at Mr Wainwright’s stable. This is just as well, as Copper is the only one who can ride him.
MacRae Smith Co, 1955Willow Books, 1970, pb
Cintra helps her family run Shelbourne Hall. Guests Gary Townsend and Sheila Baker arrive, and Cintra finds she likes Gary just as much as Sheila does.
Bobbs-Merill, Indianapolis, 1961, illus Wesley Dennis
Collins, London, 1963
Collins, London, Seagull edition
Cammie has a rather disastrous time on the Courtneys’ Shetland pony Jason, but is then introduced to Missy Devereux and the Pony Club, where Cammie learns to ride hunters, and starts hunting.
Bobbs-Merrill, Indianapolis, 1962, illus Wesley Dennis
Collins, London, 1964, not illustrated
Collins Seagull, 1968
Cammie is given a horse, Sabrina but as well as dealing with her horse, also has to deal with growing up.
Bobbs-Merill, Indianapolis, 1963, illus Edward Shenton
Cammie visits Ireland with the Courtneys, and is asked at the last minute to show a pony at the Dublin Horse Show.
A Portion for Foxes
Simon & Schuster, 1972
Popular Library paperback, 1972
New England Library, London, 1974
Front Page for Jennifer
MacCrae Smith, Philadelphia, 1950
It Happens Every Thursday
MacCrae Smith, Philadelphia, 1951
The Sea Sprite
MacCrae Smith, Philadelphia, 1952
Stardust for Jennifer
MacCrae Smith, Philadelphia, 1956
To Win the Hunt: A Virginia Foxhunter in Ireland
Barre, Massachusetts, 1966
The Will to Win: the True Story of Tommy Smith and Jay Trump
Doubleday, New York, 1966
Maggie Royal (a novel)
Simon & Schuster, 1981