Original Written Fiction : Finally Published

Contract for "The Old Gray Homestead," September 16, 1918

The official contract of Keyes's novel, "The Old Gray Homestead", with Houghton Mifflin.

Although Frances Parkinson Keyes wrote mostly because of her desire to spread her knowledge and her thirst for writing, she also received fantastic payment for her works. One of the companies that published her first work was the Houghton Mifflin Company. The company mailed Keyes a contract for her novel “The Old Gray Homestead” which stated that the company was the official publisher of the book, pricing, payments Keyes would receive (10% of profit would be given to Keyes), and more. In the contract it states “Agreement made by the sixteenth day of September 1918 between Frances Parkinson Keyes of North Haverhill, New Hampshire and Houghton Mifflin Company, of the City of Boston, Publishers,”  (Pg. 1).[1]

 This is just the first line of the complex nine point contract that was established between the company and Keyes which binded the company and her together to be able to publish her first work and the possibilty of many more. Keyes’s writing was for the people, but she also need to make a living off of it too. In 1919, the Houghton Mifflin Company published Frances’s first novel, “The Old Gray Homestead”. This was a major achievement for her to be published by a Bostonian company in her career.


RN Linscott to FPK, October 5, 1918

A letter from RN Linscott to Francis Parkinson Keyes on October 5, 1918 concerning her novel "The Old Gray Homestead".

But even before being published, the company challenged her writing of the story. In a letter from RN Linscott on October 5th, 1918, it addressed Keyes’s conclusion to her novel, saying that the whole ending chapter of the book needed to be removed from the story to be published. In this letter, RN Linscott states “ I have at last found an opportunity to re-read ‘The Old Gray Homestead’, and have discovered exactly three revisions that I should like to suggest,” (Pg. 1).[2]

As an author of trying to get her first work published, she faced the tough decision whether to listen to the editor or keep the story as is. Another statement that made Keyes struggle with the revisions was the "third suggestion, and the one that you will probably come furthest from agreeing with, is that the entire last chapter be omitted,” (Pg. 2).[3] Keyes wasn’t quite fond of the idea that her writing wasn’t good enough to be published the way it originally was, but eventually she revised the book as told so that the Houghton Mifflin Company publish her first book. 

[1] From the actual contract that is signed by FPK and RN Linscott

[2] Quote from the letter to FPK from RN Linscott (October 5,1918)

[3] Quote from the letter to FPK from RN Linscott (October 5,1918)