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The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll: The Search for Dare Wright

Jean Nathan (2004)


"You have to be careful not to get too fascinated by obscure bits of information." — Dare Wright (193)

With her look and persona in place, Edith was ready for her debut. "I started her sitting for the camera," Dare later told an interviewer, shades of her own mother starting Dare sitting for portraits. But unlike Dare in her early years, Edith would not be left to languish alone. Dare held a cocktail party to introduce her long-lost companion to her friends. No one present quite understood just what this doll meant to Dare or could have predicted that, in Edith, their hostess would find a springboard for a new career, not to mention a guiding purpose. (133)

[Tony, a suitor,] once showed up at 58th Street to find Dare playing with the doll. "You didn't say hello to Edith," Dare chided, as though Tony had rudely neglected to acknowledge a human presence. "It scared the hell out of me," he recalled. Wanting to please Dare, however, he did comply. "Oh, hello, Edith," he said in a singsong voice. Dare was without irony in her relation to her doll and would always remain so. (140)

Tony's enchantment had run its course. His parting advice to Dare was that she make something of her doll obsession. "Since you think Edith's real," he told her, "why don't you write about her? Make a story. Make a book." (140)

As the Ile de France staff worked frantically to bring Andrea Doria passengers aboard, the group listened to first-hand reports and shuttled to their cabins to get dry clothes for the rescued. "This is history," Donald told Dare, urging her to get her camera. Dare refused. "I couldn't take pictures," she said. "It's just too tragic." Donald persisted, until she pronounced, dramatically, "I don't photograph suffering!" (164)

To a United Press reporter, [Dare's mother] Edie crowed at having bought Edith all those years before for $12.50. "A fantastic price at the time," she said, "but it's pretty obvious we've gotten our money back several times over. We're now having her insured by Lloyd's of London. (180)

As it turned out, Random House was not offering carte blanche either, but Dare liked their ideas, especially [Bennett] Cerf's idea for photographic travelogs for children, to begin with The Young Traveler's London. (192)

As Dare readied herself for what would be a monthlong trip, she felt some anxiety over leaving Edie, but also over leaving Edith and the Bears. On the day before her departure, she rented a safety deposit box at her bank big enough to accommodate them. (193)

Journalists also continued to pursue Dare, attempting to make sense of this unusual and press-shy children's book author. As always, Dare frustrated their attempts to unravel her mysteries. Desperate for some hook to latch onto, they all picked up on the story that she kept her stars in a bank vault unless they were being photographed for a book or for publicity. "The loneliest doll in the world is probably one belonging to Dare Wright, creator of the "Lonely Doll" children's stories. Her doll, Edith, lives in a safety deposit box in a New York City bank. Miss Wright explained the unusual home for Edith. `It's very simple,' she said. `Other people keep their valuables in a bank, why shouldn't I? Anyway, I travel a lot and I'm afraid of her being stolen.'" (206)

Dare, conscious that age was ravaging Edith too, decided to make a perfect copy, a completely new doll, one who would not have to live in the bank vault and could be used as a stand-in to spare wear and tear on the original Edith. She named the copy Replica, which she pronounced with the emphasis on the second syllable, so it sounded vaguely French. In a photograph that she took of Edith and Replica standing beside a pile of books with their arms around each other, it is impossible to distinguish the original from the copy. (225)

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