Wednesday December 17, 1997
On Dec. 13, 1997, MARY FANNING WICKHAM age 99 of Chestnut Hill, wife of the late James Bond and Shippen Lewis; step-mother of Polly Eiseman. Memorial Service, Fri. Dec. 19, 3 P.M. at St. Martin in the Fields Church, St. Martin’s Lane and W. Willow Grove Ave. Chestnut Ave., In lieu of Flowers, memorials may be made to The All Saints Fund, St. Martin in the Fields Church, Chestnut Hill. Community Association or the charity of your choice. JACOB F. RUTH
Mary Fanning Bond, 99;
Writer, artist and socialite
By Andy Wallace
Mary Fanning Wickham Bond, 99, best-selling author, artist and a socialite who learned to play craps on the marble steps of the Bellevue Stratford and became the wife of the legendary James Bond’s namesake, died of congestive hear failure Saturday at her home in Chestnut Hill.
Mrs. Bond was indeed the wife of James Bond whose name Ian Fleming made famous as Agent 007, but her James Bond was not the international spy. He was an ornithologist , and author of the book Birds of the West Indies.
It was that book that later caused problems for Bond and his wife, because Fleming considered the author’s name “the dullest name in the world,” and appropriated it for his secret agent, who was supposed to be “an uninteresting man to whom things happened.”
While the name was just right for the spy, it was not just right for Mrs. Bond, to whom the wrong things happened. She didn’t mind when people pestered her husband during the day, she once wrote, but she did object when “soft female voices called up at 2 or 3 in the morning, asking, “Is James there?....I finally put an end to such conversations by answering sharply: ‘Yes, James is here, but this is Pussy Galore, and he’s busy now.’”
Mrs. Bond learned how Fleming stole her husband’s name in a magazine article in 1964, and she wrote him a sarcastic letter to which he sent an equally sarcastic reply, offering to let Bond us his name, “for any purpose he might think fit.”
She later arranged a meeting between her husband and Fleming, and they became friendly, meeting from time to time in the Caribbean. She then wrote a book about the whole affair, “How 007 Got His Name.
In her own way, Mary Wickham Bond was as formidable a character as Fleminjg’s agent. “She was just not a maternal kind of person,” said her step granddaughter, Cary Page. “She was extraordinarily smart and talented.”
She did needlepoint, painted and was interested in politics and, until two weeks ago, played the piano. At one time, she could play for four hours by memory, Page said.
“Her first job was selling at Wanamakers – to her father’s horror,” Page said. “She was like that. She did what she wanted to do. She was outrageous and a lot of fun. Until I sw her about five minutes after her death, I never saw her still.”
A trim, athletic women with red gold hair and bright blue eyes, she was born in to a privileged world of private schools (Miss Landstreet’s in Chestnut Hill), horseback riding, and debutante balls. She was accepted into Bryn Mawr College, but decided not to attend because she wanted to explore “what lay outside in the real world.”
At the time, the real world was at war, and for a time she was an emergency aid, one of the women who volunteered as nurses, truck drivers, air raid wardens, bandage makers and the like.
It was during that time, she related in an article about the Bellevue Stratford published in 1977, that some of her old friends, returning from training camp, taught her to shoot craps on the same circular staircase at the Bellevue where she and other debutantes made their entrances not long before.
As a girl, she studied piano was looking forward to a musical career, but after having a sonnet published in a newspaper and selling a poem to a magazine for $7, she changed her mind. She became a writer.
In the 1920s, she began writing novels – seven in all with such titles as The Titled Cup, Cerique, and Gloom Creek. They were never published.
“They were just awful,” she told reporter Barbara Barnes of the Bulletin in 1950. “They’re stones under the building now.”
But Mrs. Bond, who had won the Philadelphia Browning Society’s gold medal for a sonnet in 1926, continued writing poetry, short stories, girls’ out-West adventure stories, and magazine articles on sports and nature.
When she got back to wring novels in the late 1940s, she wanted to write books people would read, so she made a mental list of things people were interested in: “violence, and power, babies, dogs and nature.”
She then went to the library where, in a book, Unusual and Eccentric Wills, she found a potential plot, a story about a rich Viennese gentleman who left each of his nine relatives $25,000 – only if they would stay away from his funeral – but with the stipulation that anyone who did show up would get his entire estate.
In Devise & Desire, A Novel of Bad Manners, she transferred the story to contemporary Philadelphia and the result was a local best-seller that a reviewer called “a good humored satire on social pretensions.”
She had one other popular book, To James Bond With Love, published in 1980 when she was 82. It was about life with the real James Bond, the ornithologist whom she married in 1954 and whom she accompanied on birding expeditions unti they were in their 60s. He died nine years ago.
It was her second marriage. Her first, in 1930, was to Shippen Lewis, a prominent Philadelphia lawyer who was a widowed with three children. He died in 1952.
Her last book, Ninety Years at Home in Philadelphia, a reflection on Philadelphia society from the early years of the century up to the present, was published just before her 90th birthday, June 8, 1988.
She is survived by a stepdaughter, Mary “Polly” Eiseman: six step children; and 14 great-stepgrandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Friday at the Church of St. Marin-in-the-Fileds, St. Martin’s Lane and Willow Grove Avenue.