could Dreiser ever truly love anyone?

 

 

The answer is NO.

 

 

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Roger W. Smith, email to Thomas P. Riggio, November 4, 2016

 

Dreiser (who was not a good husband and never became a parent) was incapable of really, truly loving another person in his adulthood and never did. (See Harry Stack Sullivan’s oft quoted definition of absolute love.) A corollary was that he could never freely accept love or kindness nor trust anyone’s good intentions towards him.

As Sullivan wrote: “When the satisfaction or the security of another person becomes as significant to one as one’s own satisfaction or security, then the state of love exists. Under no other circumstances is a state of love present, regardless of the popular usage of the term.” — Harry Stack Sullivan, Conceptions of Modern Psychiatry (1940)

Dreiser NEVER attained this.

 

 

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Thomas P. Riggio, email to Roger W. Smith, November 4, 2016

 

The issue I thought we were discussing was Dreiser’s relationship with women. As to his ability to love another person, that’s another matter — one too complicated, for me at least, to make any judgments about.

It’s tough enough dealing with that topic in regard to people we know well in our own lives, never mind someone long dead whom we’ve never met. And then there are so many different criteria that people use to determine what it means to love. For instance, you mention only two, not being a husband and not having children, but that could be applied to Christ as well! Philandering husbands might still love their wives: Bill Clinton seems to “love” Hillary, for instance. As I said, it’s too complex for my simple mind to understand, so you may well be correct.

 

*****************************************************

 

The issue is not too complex! Biographers and psychobiographers make such judgments all the time.

Dreiser scholars don’t want to go to deeply into his psyche because of what they might find.

The Dreiser archives are massive. He saved practically every letter, telegram, and scrap of paper that ever came into his hands. His love affairs and romantic entanglements have been well documented.

There is much, also, in Dreiser’s own autobiographical writings that reveals how he habitually dealt with other people, his family, relatives, and his spouses. What is notable is that he was constantly worried that someone would be unfaithful to him — or, in the case of non-intimate acquaintances, such as people he had business dealings with — that someone would cheat him. He had many acquaintances, but hardly any in the category of what you would call a best friend. He just plain could not trust or give himself to anyone. In the case of intimate relationships with women, he demanded that they pledge and observe absolute fidelity to him, but would not pledge it to them. See my essay

“Theodore Dreiser, Ervin Nyiregyházi, Helen Richardson, and Marie Pergain”

on this site at

https://dreiseronlinecom.wordpress.com/?s=pergain

for just one example — a very telling one –of how this played out in real life.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   September 2017

“Dreiser Today” (1941)

 

 

David Lord, ‘Dreiser Today’ – Prairie Schooner 1941

 

 

Posted above as a downloadable PDF file is an important article on Dreiser that provides a comprehensive assessment of his critical reception in which his strengths and weaknesses as a writer are assessed from various standpoints and with reference to prominent critics with varying views:

David Lord, “Dreiser Today,” Prairie Schooner 15.4 (winter 1941): 230-239.

It is a well written and thoughtful assessment, in my opinion.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   September 2017

 

Preface and Introduction, Theodore Dreiser, “Selected Poems (from Moods)”

 

 

Preface & Introduction, ‘Selected Poems from Moods,’ ed. Saalbach

 

 

Posted here (above) as a downloadable PDF document are the Preface and Introduction by Robert Palmer Saalbach to his edition of Theodore Dreiser’s poetry: Selected Poems (from Moods), with an introduction and notes by Robert Palmer Saalbach (New York: Exposition Press, 1969), pp. 5-23.

 

 

cover - 'Selected Poems from Moods'.jpg

 

Edgar Lee Masters, “Theodore The Poet”

 

 

“Theodore The Poet”

 

As a boy, Theodore, you sat for long hours
On the shore of the turbid Spoon
With deep-set eye staring at the door of the crawfish’s burrow,
Waiting for him to appear, pushing ahead,
First his waving antennae, like straws or hay,
And soon his body, colored like soap-stone,
Gemmed with eyes of jet.
And you wondered in a trance of thought
What he knew, what he desired, and why he lived at all.
But later your vision watched for men and women
Hiding in burrows of fate amid great cities,
Looking for the souls of them to come out,
So that you could see
How they lived, and for what,
And why they kept crawling so busily
Along the sandy way where winter fails
As the summer wanes.

 

— Edgar Les Masters, Spoon River Anthology

editorial re Theodore Dreiser

 

 

‘Theodore Dreiser’ (editorial) – Wash Post 12-31-1945

 
attached (above) as downloadable PDF file

“Theodore Dreiser,” Washington Post, December 31, 1945, pg. 8

Theodore Dreiser died on December 28, 1945.

The editorial provides a thoughtful appraisal of Dreiser’s career and of his strengths and weaknesses as a writer.
 

new article published regarding the real “My Gal Sal”

 

 

An important article, viewed from the perspective of Dreiser studies, has just been published. It provides new information about the possible, if not likely, identity of a lover of Theodore Dreiser’s older brother Paul Dresser, the songwriter.

 

“112-year-old mystery solved? Indiana madam may have inspired famous song”

by Domenica Bongiovanni

The Indianapolis Star

August 3, 2017

http://www.indystar.com/story/entertainment/music/2017/08/03/112-year-old-mystery-solved-indiana-madam-may-have-inspired-famous-song/497691001/

 

 

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Paul Dresser wrote a popular song, “My Gal Sal,” in 1905, which, with the exception of another one of his songs, “On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away,” is Paul’s best known song and which was a hit in its day. The song is about Paul’s lover, who was said to be the madam of a house of prostitution in Evansville, Indiana.

The article refers to ongoing research that has been pursued doggedly by New York Times Magazine writer John Jeremiah Sullivan and his research assistant Joel Finsel.

In his autobiogaphical work Dawn, Theodore Dreiser identified Sal, Paul’s lover, as Annie Brace, a madam whose working name was Sallie Walker.

Through painstaking sleuthing, Sullivan believes he has discovered the identity of the real Sal.

My thanks to Tamie Dehler for informing me about this article.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   August 3, 2017

important new publications on Dreiser: his relationship with women; recollections of his contemporaries

 

 

Dreiser scholar Donald Pizer has published an important new article: “Dreiser’s Relationships with Women,” American Literary Realism 50:1 (Fall 2017), pp. 63-75.

Professor Pizer has published Theodore Dreiser Recalled, available Clemson University  Press. The book brings together for the first time published and unpublished memoirs about Dreiser. The recollections of Dreiser’s contemporaries focus on Dreiser’s politics, personal life, and literary reception.

Professor Pizer is one of the world’s leading scholars of Dreiser and of literary naturalism.