Flexner, Hortense (1885 - 1973)

Genre: Drama/Theatre/Film, Poetry

Poet and playwright Hortense Flexner, called the "la grand poetess du Maine" by her friend Marguerite Yourcenar, was a thirty-plus-year summer visitor to Sutton Island, the third largest of the Cranberry Isles, off the coast of Mount Desert. Although she made only brief visits to the island after her husband's death in 1961, her emotional attachment to Sutton was so strong that both she and her husband, noted cartoonist Wyncie King (1884-1961), are buried in the Sutton Island cemetery.

Hortense Flexner was born to a prominent Louisville, Kentucky family. Flexner attended Bryn Mawr College for one year, then transferred to the University of Michigan from which she earned a B.A. (1907) and a M.A. (1910). The University of Louisville (KY) awarded her an honorary doctorate in 1971. For a brief time after college she was employed by the Louisville Herald. After marrying Wyncie King, she and King moved to Philadelphia where he was a cartoonist for the Saturday Evening Post and she was an editor. From 1926 to 1940 she taught at Bryn Mawr and later taught at Sarah Lawrence College from which she retired in 1950.

Throughout her teaching career her poetry was published in magazines such as Harper's, The Atlantic, The Masses, The New Republic, The New Yorker, and Poetry.

Selected Bibliography


  • Clouds and Cobblestones 1920. (Poetry)
  • The Stubborn Root and Other Poems (1930)
  • North Window and Other Poems (1943)
  • Poems (1961)
  • Selected Poems (1963), with an introduction by English poet Laurie Lee
  • Presentation Critique d'Hortense Flexner Suivie d'un Choix de Poems (1969), edited by Marguerite Yourcenar, contains poems in English and French.
  • The Selected Poems of Hortense Flexner (1975)
  • Half a Star: Poems by Hortense Flexner - Poems for Sutton Island, 13 lyric poems, most of she wrote while staying on the island. The book is one of the significant Maine books listed in The Mirror Of Maine: One Hundred Books that Reveal the History of the State and the Life of the People (2001).

Children's Books Illustrated by King

  • Chipper (1941)
  • The Wishing Window (1942)
  • Puzzle Pond (1948)


  • Voices (1916)
  • Mahogany (1921)
  • The Faun (1921)
  • The Broken God
  • The Road
  • The Little Miracle
  • Three Wise Men of Gotham

Selected Resources

  • Papers University of Louisville's special collections site