Letter from Hutch to Mabel Dodge


Dublin Core


Letter from Hutch to Mabel Dodge


Sex, Gender, Marriage, and the New Woman


The Unexplainable Individual

Hutchins Hapgood’s characterization in his letter to Mabel Dodge illustrates how Dodge’s radical dissociation from labels like “love” and “marriage” expanded how a relationship was defined during her time and the present. Dodge centered relationships around individuals rather than around more Victorian concepts of love and courtship. Hapgood’s acceptance of the indescribable nature of his relationship with Dodge is radical and conveys how Dodge constantly strove to further the discourse on any topic, but specifically love and marriage. Dodge promoted complicating a topic rather than providing answers to conflicting views about gender and marriage. Dodge dauntlessly explored various degrees of intimate relationships. Hapgood would come to appreciate his marriage to Boyce, and together they would form their own definition of marriage. Hapgood would write, “we don’t wish to abolish marriage… we wish to modify it,” conveying how Boyce and Hapgood worked to customize the institution of marriage (Eby 169). The couple formed their own definition of their marriage. Dodge’s ideology of focusing on the individuals in a relationship is illustrated in how Hapgood and Boyce navigate their Bohemian marriage, and therefore Dodge’s influence can be seen. Dodge openly corresponded with both Hapgood and Boyce on their martial struggles, and her advice also provides insight to how Dodge was committed to savoring the uniqueness of every separate relationship.

Hapgood is at least somewhat attracted to Dodge, confessing to her, “I have a deep unalterable feeling and affection for you. I do not know what it is” (Boyce 145). Because of how Dodge explores relationships, though, he does not feel compelled to characterize his affections with the word “love”. His acceptance of their complicated relationship conveys how Dodge promoted exploration of individuals and therefore promoted a distancing from the strict Victorian codes of courtship, love, and marriage. Hapgood’s choice to call their relationship an “Existence” rather than an affair or relationship also illustrates Dodge’s influence. Dodge is a strong promoter of modernist ideology, which gives importance to living in the moment and accepting the complicated nature of humanity. Dodge’s modernist ideology is apparent again as Hapgood compares their relationship to a work of art. He writes Dodge, saying, “It is like a work of art in that no other category of art of work of art will explain it. It belongs nowhere but is. It is no class or classification” (Boyce 145). By distancing their relationship from classification, Hapgood is again emulating Dodge’s beliefs that free love emphasizes how every relationship is unique and different.

Dodge and Hapgood’s relationship is important to analyze in the context of Hapgood’s marriage to Boyce. Hapgood and Boyce, despite quarrels, are able to negotiate a more bohemian definition of marriage. Dodge has some sort of affair with Hapgood, and yet she is still friends with Boyce and maintains correspondence with her as well. By staging discussion on marriage, Dodge plays a crucial role in the formation of Boyce and Hapgood’s unique relationship. Boyce felt tension in her marriage because of the double standards facing the women of bohemia, such as how Hapgood did not approve of her affairs on an equal level to his. Still, Boyce would push forward with her open marriage and describe her marriage to Dodge writing, “both Hutch and I feel we are free to love other people – but that nothing could break or even touch the vital passionate bond between us” (Eby 167). Through Boyce’s comment, it is clear that she shares the same belief as Hapgood that individuals’ relationships are each self-defined and separate.

Beyond Dodge’s contributions to further the discourse on femininity and marriage, Hapgood’s latter conveys Dodge’s dedication to discourse as a whole. Hapgood would later publish an article on Dodge in The Globe where he would describe her, writing, “she [Dodge] is the true citizen of the universe she belongs to no party; rather she belongs to all individuals.” Though a bit dramatic, calling Dodge a “citizen of the universe” is no understatement. The kind of intimacy and understanding Dodge fosters in all of her relationships speaks to her ability and skill in bringing people together and furthering discussion. Hapgood’s correspondence serves as a testament to Dodge’s skills at connecting to people and complex ideas.

Boyce, Neith. Intimate Warriors. Ed. Ellan Kay Trimberger. New York: The Feminist
Press, 1991. 145. Print.
Eby, Clare Virginia. Until Choice Do Us Part: Marriage Reform in the Progressive
Era. Chicago: University of Chicago, 2014. Print.

Hapgood, Hutchin. "A Promoter of the Spirit." The Globe [New York]: n. pag.


Hutch Hapgood


Intimate Warriors


The Feminist Press




Ellan Kay Trimberger
Carol DeBoer-Langworthy


Printed text





Text Item Type Metadata


Dear Mabel,

When I write to you I would like to be all temperament and flirtability, but I have little of either.

But my "reason" tells me-- truthfully, strange to say, that I have a deep unalterable feeling and affection for you. I do not know what it is, whether founded on similarity or different, or disease or health-- on our dislocation or our integrity-- but I know somehow we have managed to build something very real between us. I don't know what to call it, except an Existence. It is not characterizing to call it love or friendship or hatred or attraction or interest, though it includes some of these things-- but many other things not it also includes these things. So they do not help to characterize or explain or state it. It is merely this specific relationship, without analogy or prototype. It is like a work of art in that no other category of art of work of art will explain it. It belongs no where but is. It is no class or classification. In not planet or constellation, but it is, it simply is. That is all.. I have a great desire to write you a real letter, but I evidently don't know how to anymore. I do know however that something significant happened during these last five months in New York. I am too tired to know just what. Do you? But I know it was something real...

Yours as he has been to you, H

(MDLC, June 24, 1913)

Original Format

Written Letter