H. L. Mencken on Dreiser

 

 

The following comment on Theodore Dreiser first appeared in the journal Menckeniana (Summer 1971) among selections from previously unpublished Mencken material.

Dreiser, like Goethe, was more interesting than any of his books. He was typical, in more ways than one, of a whole generation of Americans–a generation writhing in an era of advancing chaos. There must have been some good blood hidden in him, but on the surface he was simply an immigrant peasant bewildered by the lack of neat moral syllogisms in civilized existence. He renounced his ancestral religion at the end of his teens, but never managed to get rid of it. Throughout his life it welled up in him in the form of various fantastic superstitions–spiritualism, Fortism, medical quackery, and so on–and in his last days it engulfed him in the form of Communism, a sort of reductio ad absurdum of the will to believe. If he had lived another’ ten years, maybe even another five years, he would have gone back to Holy Church–the path followed before him by many other such poor fish, for example, Heywood Broun. His last book was a full-length portrait of a true believer, and extremely sympathetic. Solon Barnes, like Dreiser himself, was flabbergasted by the apparent lack of common sense and common decency in the cosmos, but in the end he yielded himself gratefully to the God who had so sorely afflicted him.

 

— H. L. Mencken

Michael Lydon, “Theodore Dreiser and George Eliot: Contrast & Coincidence”

 

 

Michael Lydon, ‘Theodore Dreiser & George Eliot; Contrast and Coicidence’

 

 

 

Posted here (above) as a downloadable PDF file document is an original essay by Dreiser scholar Michael Lydon:

 

“Theodore Dreiser and George Eliot: Contrast & Coincidence”

 

 

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See also:

 

Michael Lydon publishes “On Reading Theodore Dreiser’s The Bulwark” and “Theodore Dreiser, Anna Tatum, & The Bulwark: The Making of a Masterpiece”

https://dreiseronlinecom.wordpress.com/2018/06/30/michael-lydon-publishes-on-reading-theodore-dreisers-the-bulwark-and-theodore-dreiser-anna-tatum-the-bulwark-the-making-of-a-masterpiece/

 

Michael Lydon, “Justice to Theodore Dreiser”

https://dreiseronlinecom.wordpress.com/2016/04/27/michael-lydon-justice-to-theodore-dreiser/

Michael Lydon publishes “On Reading Theodore Dreiser’s The Bulwark” and “Theodore Dreiser, Anna Tatum, & The Bulwark: The Making of a Masterpiece”

 

 

 

Dreiser enthusiast and scholar Michael Lydon is the author of two new books on Dreiser that have not had wide distribution, but which are well worth reading:

 

On Reading Theodore Dreiser’s The Bulwark

Patrick Press, 2011

 

 

Theodore Dreiser, Anna Tatum, & The Bulwark: The Making of a Masterpiece

Franklin Street Press, 2017

 

 

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On Reading Theodore Dreiser’s The Bulwark is essentially an appréciation of Dreiser’s final novel.

 

Theodore Dreiser, Anna Tatum, and The Bulwark: The Making of a Masterpiece explores new aspects behind the composition of Dreiser’s final novel, which Dreiser worked on for years before it was finally published posthumously. Key findings of Lydon include material on Anna Tatum and her family, providing for a deeper understanding of the Quaker sources underlying the novel.

Anna Tatum was a brilliant young woman from a Quaker family in New Jersey who was one of Dreiser’s many mistresses. She told Dreiser stories about growing up in a Quaker home and community, and these inspired him to write The Bulwark. Lydon’s book length essay combines a sensitive analysis of the novel’s literary excellence and a narrative of the tangled story of Dreiser’s and Tatum’s on again, off again affair. Using newly discovered source material, it delves into how Tatum’s Quaker roots influenced the creation of The Bulwark.

 

 

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The books are available for purchase by going to the publisher’s website

 

franklinstpress.com

 

and scrolling down through the “bookstore” link (at bottom of page) and, then, scrolling through the “bookstore” (hit “next page” to the desired books on Dreiser). Use “Add to Cart” button to purchase.

Payment is by PayPal. Buyers not using PayPal can click on the “contact” button at the top of the page and purchase the book by phone or mail, enclosing a check.

 

 

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See also:

 

Michael Lydon, “Justice to Theodore Dreiser”

https://dreiseronlinecom.wordpress.com/2016/04/27/michael-lydon-justice-to-theodore-dreiser/

“foul tactics”

 

 

‘Dreiser Defends Norris on Power’ – NY Times 1-2-1931

 

‘Dreiser Attacks Power Trust,’Chicago Daily Tribune 7-2-1931

 

‘Foul Tactics’ – NY Times 7-3-1931

 

 

Posted here (above) as downloadable PDF files are two news stories and an editorial focusing on controversy that Theodore Dreiser was involved in in 1931. As is well known, Dreiser did less writing after the publication of his only bestseller, An American Tragedy, and became an outspoken critic of the capitalist system. The articles posted above focus on a controversy which occurred in July 1931 when Dreiser attacked monopolistic practices of utility companies.

 

 

DREISER DEFENDS NORRIS ON POWER

The New York Times

July 2, 1931

 

 

DREISER ATTACKS “POWER TRUST” AND TELLS WHY

Chicago Daily Tribune

July 2, 1931

 

 

FOUL TACTICS (editorial)

The New York Times

July 3, 1931

 

 

The New York Times editorial in whimsical fashion segues from a discussion of Dreiser’s attack on utilities to a billboard advertising the forthcoming film An American Tragedy and Dreiser’s dissatisfaction with the film, which he tried to prevent from being shown.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

    June 2018

Roger W. Smith, letter to editor; August 1, 1990

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I am posting this letter of mine to the Editor of “News at 10,” the alumni newsletter of the New York University Department of Journalism because it speaks, from the perspective of journalism, about Dreiser as I perceived him and his works at an early stage of my acquaintance with him.

 

— Roger W. Smith

    June 2018

 

 

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See also my post:

 

“mistaken attribution (Dreiser credited with early news story he didn’t write)”

 

https://dreiseronlinecom.wordpress.com/2016/02/23/mistaken-attribution-by-t-d-nostwich-dreiser-credited-with-early-news-story-he-didnt-write/

 

Note that I now doubt that Dreiser wrote the January 12-13, 1894 St. Louis Republic stories about the hanging of Sam Welsor.

a Theodore Dreiser chronology, by Roger W. Smith

 

 

Dreiser chronology

 

 

See downloadable Word document, above.

 

 

 

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The purpose of this timeline of Theodore Dreiser’s life, career, and publication history is to highlight key dates and events, including milestones in his life and also including turning points and incidents that shed light on Dreiser’s development — professionally and as a writer — and the development of his views.

Seemingly less important accounts or reports (some of which proved to be inaccurate), the occasional passing mention or fleeting glimpse gleaned from a newspaper account have been included to give verisimilitude to this chronology, and to show the expectations held by the public at a given time about Dreiser’s output and productions of his works, as well as false starts Dreiser made.

A key emphasis has been placed in this chronology on the publication history of Dreiser’s works, both in the U.S. and other counties, to show how far and wide Dreiser’s influence and reputation have spread.

Also included in this chronology are works of scholarship that represent key junctures in Dreiser studies.

It is hoped that the chronology posted here, besides listing facts, will give a feeling for the zigs and zags of Dreiser’s life; its ups and downs; and how events shaped the once callow reporter into a literary lion given more and more at the end of his life to pronouncements and less to actual literary output.

 

Note: An excellent, more concise chronology, compiled by Thomas P. Riggio, which fills in many gaps in this one, can be found in The Library of American edition of Dreiser’s An American Tragedy.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   May 2019

Edward H. Smith, “Dreiser — After Twenty Years”

 

 

‘Dreiser after Twenty Years’- The Bookman, March 1921

 

 

Posted here (above) as a PDF file is an interesting article about Theodore Dreiser by Edward H. Smith:

 

“Dreiser — After Twenty Years”

The Bookman; a Review of Books and Life 53.1 (March 1921)

 

Smith knew Dreiser personally and includes many details derived from his acquaintance with Dreiser as well as his assessments of the man and author.

 

–Roger W. Smith

  May 2018