“George Ade Absolves Dreiser”




On September 7, 1926, the New York Herald Tribune printed a story concerning alleged plagiarism by Dreiser, including plagiarism in writing Sister Carrie whereby Dreiser lifted a story by George Ade.

Ade’s reply to these charges, the text of which follows below, was printed in the Herald Tribune of September 9, 1926: “George Ade Absolves Dreiser Of Lifting His ‘Swift Worker’ ”


— Roger W. Smith






You have asked if Theodore Dreiser in his novel ‘Sister Carrie’ incorporated in one of his early chapters part of a story which I had written for ‘The Chicago Record.’ Before I reply to your inquiry let it be understood that I am simply complying with your request. To get back. I am not stirring up any charge against Mr. Dreiser, not after all these years. Along about 1898 I wrote for ‘The Record’ a story in fable form called The Two Mandolin Players and the Willing Performer.

In that story I had a character shown as cousin Gus from St. Paul. He was of the type then known as a swift worker. Probably we would call him a sheik today, seeing that we have made such a tremendous advance in recent years. In my little story I detailed the tactics which would be employed by Gus if he spotted a good looker on the train between St. Paul and Chicago.

When the very large and important novel called Sister Carrie came out I read it, and I was much amused to discover that Theodore Dreiser had incorporated in a description of one of his important characters the word picture of Cousin Gus which I had outlined in my newspaper story and which later appeared in a volume called ‘Fables in Slang.’ It is true that for a few paragraphs Mr. Dreiser’s copy for the book tallied very closely with my copy for the little story. When I discovered the resemblance I was not horrified or indignant. I was simply flattered. It warmed me to discover that Mr. Dreiser has found my description suitable for the clothing of one of his characters. Many people came to me and called my attention to the fact that a portion of my little fable had been found imbedded in the very large novel of Mr. Dreiser.

I figured that he had read my fable was about like his character in the novel and that he absorbed the description and used it without any intent of taking something which belonged to someone else. Most certainly I do not accuse Mr. Dreiser of plagiarism even by implication or in a spirit of pleasantry. I have a genuine admiration for him. To me he is a very large and commanding figure in American letters. While some of us have been building chicken coops, or, possibly, bungalows, Mr. Dreiser has been erecting skyscrapers. He makes the three-decker novel look like a pamphlet. He is the only writer on our list who has the courage and the patience and the painstaking qualities of observation to get all of the one _____ [illegible word] into the story.

Theodore Dreiser was born in Indiana and the Hoosiers are very proud of him. I knew rather intimately his brother, Paul, who wrote many popular songs and one highly esteemed here at home, ‘The Banks of the Wabash.’ I was active in planning a memorial to Paul to be placed on the banks of the Wabash down near his old home. While we were planning the memorial I had some correspondence with Theodore Dreiser. I am rather sorry that some one has reminded the Herald Tribune, of which I an constant reader and regular subscriber, that Mr. Dreiser got into his novel something which I read like something written by one before his novel came out.

It all happened so many years ago. It seems to raise the absolutely preposterous suggestion that Mr. Dreiser needs help. Anybody who writes novels containing approximately one million words each doesn’t need any help from any one. As I said before, while most of our guild are at work on tiny structures which stay close to the ground, Mr. Dreiser is putting up skyscrapers. If, in building one of his massive structures he used a brick from my pile, goodness knows he was welcome to it and no questions were asked or will be asked. These are the facts in the case. Mr. Dreiser hasn’t hurt my feelings at any time. I don’t want to hurt his feelings now.








See also:

“did Dreiser plagiarize in writing his first novel?”

posted on this site at


2 thoughts on ““George Ade Absolves Dreiser”

  1. Michael Lydon

    Hello to Dreiser online. I am a big Theodore Dreiser fan, have read all the novels, autobiography, books of letters, travelogues, etc, and the biographies. I’ve also written extensively on Dreiser. May I send you something for possible use on this site? I’d like to know more about the site, who is behind it, its history–is it brand new? So, please, send me some work so I can get to know the site better and see what possibilities it has for me. Thank you, Michael Lydon


    1. Roger's Gleanings Post author


      This site is new as of yesterday (February 23, 2016).

      It was developed by me and will be maintained by me.

      It is a successor site to dreiseronline.com, a site which I developed in August 2008 and which is still online.

      I am an independent scholar based in Queens, New York with an interest in literature and writing. I have a broad knowledge of literature which is not confined to Dreiser.

      I have read pretty much all of Dreiser (fiction and nonfiction)and a great deal about him. I have a very extensive private Dreiser library, including many rare books (including foreign books); have most of the biographical material and criticism that has been written about him. Plus, I have many articles (thousands) either photocopied by me or downloaded by me from various electronic databases.

      I have done a fair amount of archival research in the Dreiser archives at the University of Pennsylvania.

      I am working hard on this site and there will be many updates forthcoming. This includes new material on Dreiser which I think will be of interest to scholars. It includes several articles by me that are in progress and other materials that I will be posting. The site, as it now stands, is very much “under development.”

      Over the years, I have had contact with many Dreiser scholars and have developed good relationships with some. I was an initial member of the International Theodore Dreiser Society, which was founded in 1991, and the in mid 2000’s was the bibliographer for the journal Dreiser Studies.

      I have written some articles and book reviews on Dreiser, notably as a contributor to The Theodore Dreiser Encyclopedia.

      If you would like to share material for use on this site, I would definitely be interested. I hope this site will promote collaboration among scholars, and will aid them in their work.

      Just to give one example of how this site might aid scholars: the Chronology which is posted here. It is much more extensive than those previously published, and includes bibliographical information as well. The Chronology is under development and will be expanded and updated.

      A side comment which I can’t resist: I think Dreiser’s autobiographies deserve much more attention than they have received in later years (i.e., after the initial interest that was or may have been there when they were published). They seem to have been forgotten. I am thinking primarily of Newspaper Days, which I regard as a much better book than Dawn.



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