About Agnes O'Neill (Boulton)
Agnes Boulton was a successful "pulp fiction" writer in the 1910s, later the wife of Eugene O'Neill. Prior to their marriage, she wrote for such magazines as Breezy Stories, Snappy Stories, and Young's Magazine. Boulton was born in 1892 in England, the daughter of Cecil and Edward W. Boulton (a painter), but grew up in Philadelphia and later in West Point Pleasant, New Jersey.
Boulton met O'Neill in the fall of 1917 in the Golden Swan Saloon, better known as The Hell Hole, in Greenwich Village. They married some six months later in Provincetown, Massachusetts. O'Neill, at the time, was considered a very promising author of one-act plays. During the first year of their marriage, he wrote Beyond the Horizon, his first full-length, Broadway play, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1920. During the early years of the marriage, Boulton modified her writing and had two stories published by The Smart Set, an important magazine co-edited by H. L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan.
She gave birth to Shane O'Neill in 1919 and Oona O'Neill in 1925. The marriage came to an end when O'Neill left Boulton for the actress Carlotta Monterey in 1928. The Boulton/O'Neill marriage has been studied by William Davies King in "Another Part of a Long Story: Literary Traces of Eugene O'Neill and Agnes Boulton" (Michigan 2010).
Her daughter, Oona O'Neill, married Charlie Chaplin in 1943 at the age of 18 (he was 54), and moved to Switzerland with him nine years later, renouncing her American citizenship.
Boulton published a novel, The Road Is Before Us, in 1944, and a memoir of the first two years of her marriage to O'Neill in 1958. Entitled Part of a Long Story, the memoir gives a fascinating portrayal of an odd literary marriage at its inception. A new and annotated version of that book is now available on eOneill.com and will soon be published by McFarland.
Contrary to the terms of the 1929 divorce settlement, Boulton had saved most of her letters to and from O'Neill, as well as some O'Neill manuscripts and other documents. The correspondence was published in 2000 by Fairleigh Dickinson University Press in a volume called A Wind Is Rising.
Boulton died in November 1968.