January 13, 1901.
I of womanhood and of nineteen years, will now begin to set down as full and frank a Portrayal as I am able of myself, Mary MacLane, for whom the world contains not a parallel.
I am convinced of this, for I am odd.
I am distinctly original innately and in development.
I have in me a quite unusual intensity of life.
I can feel.
I have a marvellous capacity for misery and for happiness.
I am broad-minded.
I am a genius.
I am a philosopher for my own good peripatetic school.
I care neither for right nor wrong – my conscience is nil.
My brain is a conglomeration of aggressive versatility.
I have reached a truly wonderful state of miserable morbid unhappiness.
I know myself, oh, very well.
I have attained an egotism that is rare indeed.
I have gone into the deep shadows.
All this constitutes oddity. I find, therefore, that I am quite, quite odd.
Along some lines I have gotten to the edge of the world. A step more and I fall off. I do not take the step. I stand on the edge, and I suffer.
Nothing, oh, nothing, on the earth can suffer like a woman young and all alone!
It is the Byron of “Don Juan” in whom I find suggestions of myself. In this sublime outpouring there are few to admire the character of Don Juan, but all must admire Byron. He is truly admirable. He uncovered and exposed his soul of mingled good and bad – as the terms are – for the world to gaze upon. He knew the human race and he knew himself.
I am ready and waiting to give all that I have to the Devil in exchange for Happiness. I have been tortured so long with the dull, dull misery of Nothingness – all my nineteen years. I want to be happy – oh, I want to be happy!
The Devil has not yet come. But I know that he usually comes, and I wait him eagerly.
Mary Maclane’s journal, I Await the Devil’s Coming (1902), is at once hilarious in its naivety and grandiosity, and wonderful in its honesty and ironic self-knowledge. Here is a young women with a raging thirst to live out loud, to be and do and see and feel and experience LIFE. She is desperate to escape her humdrum existence, and what could be more humdrum than Butte, Montana, in 1901. She awaits the Devil’s coming, for surely he will liberate her from propriety and the sameness of everyday.
I’m enjoying reading Mary’s wild imaginings and feeling her raw need for MORE. I quite like Nothingness these days, but I remember that feeling of wanting MORE, of being young and yearning for my life to unfurl into splendid technicolour adventures. Oh, yes, I remember that. (Be careful what you wish for, Mary.)