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"The Pace that Kills" Letters

A description of the item at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: MRC
Date: 31 Oct 2007

Biographical History

M. L. Sears and L.B.R. are unknown. The letter references Stephen Crane (1871-1900), the well-known American novelist, and Della Fox (1871-1913), a popular American actress and singer. Crane died very young of tuberculosis; Fox suffered from alcohol and drug abuse for much of her life.

The phrase "the pace that kills" occurs a number of times in early 20th century popular media. One may find examples in a January 23, 1898 editorial in the St Louis Post-Dispatch (pressures of high society); in an October 22, 1905 New York Times article (overwork); in a November 19, 1906 New York Times letter to the editor (excessive consumer indulgence); as the caption of a 1907 postcard (picture shows the automobile, but may be a metaphor); in a January 1913 article by the Socialist Party of Great Britain (automobiles); as the title of a 1928 movie (fast living, drugs, remade in 1935 as The Cocaine Fiends).

Scope and Contents of the Collection

"The Pace that Kills" Letters consists of carbon copies of four typed letters exchanged between M. L. Sears and "L.B.R." (identity unknown). The first and longest letter, from Sears, is "a sketch which I commend to your most careful consideration." The essay -- entitled "The Pace That Kills" and ending with the initials "W.B." -- concerns the perils of "fast living" (e.g. excessive partying, alchohol, drugs, sexual promiscuity).

"Once I went to a French ball. I was very very young, and very very unsophisticated; therefore my paper sent me to see what I thought of things...I pretended to be rather reluctant. I said I was afraid, and so I was, but I was really very much pleased to think how wicked I really was getting to be. The ball was a great success, so everybody said. I had all I could do to keep from crying with disappointment. The people were so dreadfully dull. When they wanted to laugh they drank something, and when they wanted to be witty they kicked someone's hat off or hit an inoffensive person in the face with a broken fan. Faugh....I've known them and seen them, many of these people who goes the pace that kills, and my heart aches for every one of them. For miserable, dissatisfied, disappointed, unhappy creatures the dizzy old earth can show them no equal."

The sketch cites Stephen Crane and Della Fox as cautionary examples. Following this is an exchange of three brief letters between Sears and L.B.R. about the piece, some of which are written as limericks.


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Subject Headings


Crane, Stephen, 1871-1900.
Fox, Della.
Sears, M. L.


United States -- Intellectual life.

Genres and Forms




Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

"Pace that Kills" Letters,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Transfer from Stephen Crane Collection. Gift in memory of Warren E. Day.

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