Jane McIlvaine McClary was born in Pittsburgh, and moved when she was 7 to Middleburg,
Virginia. There she went to a one-room school: to get there, she rode her pony,
but as the pony usually galloped off home during the day, she had to walk home. Jane
worked as an exercise jockey for a racing stable, and became well known in Virginia
for her hunting prowess. Hunting provided the background for several of her books,
particularly her adult novel, A Portion for Foxes. This portrait of life in an American
hunt club is described variously as very funny, very controversial, and by Jane’s
editor, Michael Korda as “a kind of Gone With the Wind” of fox hunting.”
Michael Korda, in his book Four Legs and Flies, about his adult infatuation with
The Horse, wrote about visiting Jane. Here it is described by Penelope Green, who
reviewed the book for the New York Times.
“... deep in the 1960's, Korda makes a pilgrimage to Middleburg, Va., ''perhaps the
horsiest place in America.'' He's there to deliver a sidesaddle to one of his authors,
a horsewoman named Jane McIlvaine McClary, whose novel ''A Portion for Foxes'' became
a sensation as ''a kind of 'Gone With the Wind' of fox hunting,'' as he describes
it. Laboring under the misunderstanding that Korda is some sort of Pancho Villa in
the saddle, his hostess leads him on a whiskey-fueled steeplechase through the rain,
as well as into the Middleburg hunt itself, an haut-WASP ritual with more proscriptions
and rites than a cardinal's mitering. It is at this final event that Korda disgraces
himself, not only by charging past the master of the hunt on a horse he is unable
to control but also by pretending not to see the fox -- the ultimate transgression.”
She worked on the Times Herald and Fortune magazine as a writer. She married Robinson
McIlvaine, and they moved to Downingtown, where they bought the Archive newspaper.
She and her husband did pretty much everything on the paper, and she chronicled
their time there in It Happens Every Thursday, which was later turned into a film,
starring Loretta Young as Jane.
The horse books for children best known in the UK are the Cammie books (although
only the first two made it into print here). Unlike British pony authors, Jane McIlvaine
introduced romance into her books!
If you want to read her books, Cammie’s Challenge and A Portion for Foxes books are
easy to find in the UK. With two exceptions, all of the other books are easy to
find either here or in America, with the exception of Cammie’s Choice and Cammie’s