HONORIA E. WOLFE (1871–1951)
Honoria Euphrasia Wolfe, known as Honor, was born on April 3, 1871, in Streator, Illinois. She was the daughter of Richard Downey Wolfe, a farmer and Irish Catholic immigrant, and his second wife, Margaret Shine Lyons, also an Irish immigrant. She had seven full siblings: Johanna (b. 1867), Daniel Maurice (b. 1869), Maurice Patrick (b. 1873), Margaret Theresa (b. 1875), Richard (b. 1878), Marie Louise (b. 1881), and Aileen Gregory (b. 1884). She also had a half sibling, Katherine Collins (b. 1863), whose mother was Richard Wolfe’s first wife, Margaret O’Kane Wolfe.
Honor Wolfe’s father farmed first in LaSalle County, Illinois, and then, beginning early in the 1870s, in Missouri. The son of a breeder, he loved horses and died from a kick in the head in 1885. Several years later his widow moved the family to Texas, eventually settling in Waco. There Daniel Wolfe opened Woulfe & Co., a bookstore and gift shop at 618 Austin Avenue. At some point his sisters took over its management until 1909, when they sold the business. This seems to have coincided with the tragic death of another brother, Maurice Wolfe, and his entire family in a hurricane west of Galveston. On December 1, 1913, Honor Wolfe and her sisters reopened the bookstore, which featured a tearoom and shared space with the Waco Talking Machine Co.
A notice in the Waco Morning News, ahead of the opening, described the store: “The interior and fixtures are done in which enamel. A reproduction of [Bertel] Thorwaldsen’s frieze, the Triumphal Entrance of Alexander into Babylon, a masterpiece of modern sculpture seldom seen outside of museums, covers the walls, which are done in green.”
It’s unclear what education Wolfe received, but in 1897 she was advertised as an elocutionist and she traveled in literary circles. On March 24, 1912, the New York Times noted that a meeting of the American Playgoers would meet at Wolfe’s home at 867 Riverside Drive, in New York. The next year she copyrighted a one-act play titled “What Is Love?” In 1907, while traveling in Ireland and Europe, she first met the Irish writer George Moore, who in 1899 helped W. B. Yeats establish what became the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. The two maintained a lifelong friendship that Wolfe described in an unpublished essay after the writer’s death in 1933. She wrote of long walks through Saint Stephen’s Green, talking literature, and even helping him write drafts of plays.
“Our chats or talks ranged over a variety of subjects in those early Dublin days,” she wrote. “Coming from Texas he took it for granted that I should be an authority on the art and artifice of cow-punching, cattle branding, and the amazing intricacies of the lariat as exhibited by Will Rogers. In this, of course, he found me uninformed and vastly ignorant.”
Wolfe noted that she preserved a number of his letters, which have been preserved at the University of Texas. One, dated June 2, 1917, suggests that their relationship had been intimate. “The letter before me is the letter of a woman to a man whom she knows to be a man,” Moore wrote to Wolfe, “and this letter is the letter of a man to a woman whom he knew to be a woman. A sexual memory is a wonderful memory, it transcends all other memories, and I am sorry for those who have not tasted the poetry of sex.”
Rumors of a relationship between the two dated at least to the publication, in 1914, of Moore’s short story, “Euphorion in Texas.” (It was later republished in 1921 as part of his Memoirs of My Dead Life.) In it, a Texas woman named Honor calls on Moore at his home in Dublin, showering him with compliments and, after the conversation takes a flirtatious turn, suggesting that she was in the market for a man who might father a child.
“I have never thought of anybody definitely, only that I would like to give Texas a literature; and when I read your books—“
“You thought of me?”
She had paid me the compliment of thinking of me as a possible father for her son, as a man who was likely to beget a son who would give a literature to Teas; and my curiosity [was] now enkindled as it had never been before, and as it will never be again …
In her own memoir of Moore, Wolfe explained that the story was about other people and “embroidered to fit into the Texas environment.” She wrote that she “was not greatly impressed” by the story but that over the years it became a source of ribbing from her friends and annoyance for Moore, who continually and in vain asked her to help him expand upon it.
In 1915, Wolfe was serving as president of the Waco Business Woman’s League and delivered a speech titled “The Users of Natural Gas.” In the mid-1920s she owned and operated the Main Hotel in Corsicana, Texas, an oil-boom town north of Waco. During the next decade she appears to have worked as a writer in Hollywood. She later went to live with her sister Marie in Chicago, where she died on November 7, 1951. She was buried in Graceland Cemetery there.