Tag Archives: Helen Dreiser

“Dreiser, Daughter in Crash”

Binder1

Dreiser in New Jersey car accident – NY Herald Tribune 7-10-1932

Clara Jaeger obit – The Independent (London) 11-21-2005

“Dreiser, Daughter in Crash”

The Daily Press, White Plains, NY

August 18, 1932

pg. 1

This news story (first PDF file, above) is full of inaccuracies which were fed to a reporter by Dreiser.

“Miss Dreiser,” the author’s “daughter,” was Dreiser’s mistress — later to become his second wife — Helen Richardson (1894-1955).

The driver, Clara L. Clark (1909- 2005), who was born in Philadelphia to a Quaker family, was a graduate of Wheaton College. After reading two Dreiser works, she contacted Dreiser by letter, and became his secretary and mistress. She later married William Jaeger , a campaigner for the Moral Rearmament Association, and, under her married name, published Philadelphia Rebel: The Education of a Bourgeoise, in which her seduction by and relationship with Dreiser are discussed.

Dreiser was a bad driver. He usually had his mistress Helen drive. An earlier automobile accident of Dreiser’s (mentioned in the Daily Press article) was reported on in the New York Herald Tribune. A second PDF (posted above) contains that news item.

— posted by Roger W. Smith

  March 2022

an exchange of emails about Dreiser, “Vanity, Vanity, Saith the Preacher,” and Joseph G. Robin

 

biographical sketch of Joseph G. Robin

Helen Dreiser re Joseph G. Robin

Joseph G. Robin obit – NY Times 4-10-1929

Theodore Dreiser, Introducton to Odin Gregory, ‘Caius Gracchus’

‘Bank Owner Began on a Shoe-String’ – NY Times 12-28-1910

‘Cheney Shuts Northern Bank’ – NY Times 12-28-1910

‘Robin Hiding Here in Jerome’s Custody’ – NY Times 12-29-1910

‘Robin Indicted; Looted Bank Shut’ – NY Times 12-30-1910

‘Robin Place to be Sold’ – NY Times 2-21-1911

‘Robin Trial Begins; Insanity Plea Vain’ – NY Times 2-28-1911

‘Robin Is Writing Book on Bank Deals’ – NY Times 4-5-1911

 

I received the following email last week:

Been enjoying your Dreiser site. Have to confess I didn’t even know the name of Chester Gillette before reading it on your site. I would very much like to see the Von Sternberg movie (An American Tragedy, 1931] after your review. I never made it all the way through A Place in the Sun.

Do you know if there are any extant recordings of Dreiser’s voice? I read that he did some radio interviews but I have not any luck finding them.

I’d also be interested in finding some more material on Joseph G. Robin aka Rabinowitz aka Odin Gregory, the subject of “Vanity, Vanity Sayeth the Preacher” and for whom Dreiser provided the introduction to the play Caius Gracchus.

 

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The following is my reply.

In the Theodore Dreiser papers at the University of Pennsylvania, there is a 33-1/3 LP recording of a 1939 interview with Dreiser. There must be recordings somewhere of radio broadcasts which Dreiser made, such as those he made over the Mutual Broadcasting System and the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) in 1940. I have never heard a recording of Dreiser’s voice.

Regarding the financier called X____ in Dreiser’s sketch ”Vanity, Vanity,” Saith the Preacher” (in Dreiser’s Twelve Men), his name, as you note, was Joseph G. Robin. Dreiser met Robin, a banker and financier, in 1908 when the former was an editor at Butterick Publishing Company.

Information about Robin is provided by Robert Coltrane in his essay “The Crafting of Dreiser’s Twelve Men” (Papers on Language & Literature, Spring 1991), in the textual notes to the edition of Twelve Men edited by Coltrane (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998), and in Coltrane’s entry ”Vanity, Vanity,” Saith the Preacher” in A Theodore Dreiser Encyclopedia.

In the conclusion to Vanity, Vanity,” the narrator of the sketch (Dreiser) says that he saw Robin passing on the street in New York in 1918 and that “I have never seen or heard from since.” But. as Coltrane points out, Dreiser “had kept up with Robin’s fortunes” in subsequent years (“J.G. Robin is still around–a failure.” Dreiser to H. L. Mencken, April 8, 1919) and entries in Dreiser’s diary “indicate a continuing relationship [between Dreiser and Robin] at least through 1925.”

Coltrane notes that “Dreiser had to some extent ‘novelized’ Robin in The Financier . … [Dreiser] had already used Robin’s personality some years earlier [prior to writing the sketch for Twelve Men] to create Frank Cowperwood.” Indeed, Robin was very much a Cowperwood-like figure, with his taste for finery and art, among other things.

In My Life with Dreiser, Dreiser’s second wife Helen Dreiser discussed the Robin-Dreiser relationship. See attached PDF.

Dreiser’s introduction to Robin’s play Caius Gracchus: A Tragedy  (Boni & Liveright, 1930), written under the pseudonym Odin Gregory, is posted here.

I have also posted here several New York Times articles about Robin.

 

— Roger W. Smith

   October 25, 2021

“As we boarded the bus … I noticed a man who seemed familiar.” (William Everson, an encounter with Theodore Dreiser)

 

William Everson

An Encounter with Theodore Dreiser

Brick: A Literary Journal

Number 93

summer 2014

pp. 36-37

 

It was on my first furlough, the furlough of 1943. [Jim] Harmon and I got leave to go down to San Francisco. We took the coast stage south to Marshfield where we had to lay over in order to pick up the Portland bus southbound for San Francisco the next morning.

As we boarded the bus in Marshfield [Oregon] I noticed a man who seemed familiar. I said to myself, “That man looks like Theodore Dreiser.” Harmon said it couldn’t be, but [Robinson] Jeffers had spoken of Dreiser as a “tough old mastodon,” and that’s just the way this character looked. Hulking shoulders. Slack jaws. Strangely inattentive eyes that missed nothing. Even in his photographs his configuration was unmistakable.

During the war the bus travel was simply awful. In order to save rubber the law held their schedule down to thirty-five miles an hour, but the drivers went like hell between stops and waited at the next depot for time to catch up. So we had plenty of opportunity to look each other over.

At Gold Beach, Oregon, we pulled in for lunch. By this time I was sure it was Dreiser. As Harmon and I got ready to sit down, Harmon forgot about lunch and followed the man into the lavatory. He came right out as if he’d really found gold on that beach. “It’s him!” he exclaimed excitedly. “It’s Dreiser, all right. Come on!”

Even as I got up I had my misgivings, but curiosity got the better of judgment, Dreiser was standing at the urinal relieving himself, and not knowing what else to do I began to talk. I had never read any of his books, so I began with us. It was a fatal mistake.

“Mr. Dreiser,” I began, “we’re two poets on furlough from a camp in Waldport [Oregon]. We are going down to San Francisco. We hope to meet some of the other writers there and renew our acquaintance with the literary scene …. ”

Dreiser looked at me, and I suddenly discovered I had nothing more to say. He slowly buttoned his fly, and as he turned to wash his hands, he said two words with extreme irony: “So what!”
Then he started in. Ripping a paper towel from the rack, he crumpled it in those fearsome hands and proceeded with contempt. “There are thousands of you. You crawl about the country from conference to literary conference. You claim to be writers, but what do you ever produce? Not one of you will amount to a goddamn. You have only the itch to write, nothing more … the insatiable itch to express yourself. Everywhere I go I run into you, and I’m sick of you. The world is being torn apart in agony, crying out for truth, the terrible truth. And you … “He paused and his voice seemed to suddenly grow weary. “You have nothing to say.”

I turned to go. Harmon was already gone. Opening the door into the restaurant, I looked back to let him know how sorry I was that I had accosted him, but I couldn’t open my mouth. Then Dreiser stepped past me, as if I had opened the door only for him. For a moment the contempt seemed to fade in his face and a kind of geniality gleamed there. “Well,” he said, “take it easy. It lasts longer that way.” Then he was gone.

Not really gone. His seat was ahead of ours, and we had already noticed that he was travelling with a young woman. After Gold Beach [Oregon] aware of our presence behind him, he kept stiffly aloof, conversing with her circumspectly. But far down the coast, at the end of the long hot afternoon, when everyone was collapsed with fatigue, she could stand it no longer. Reaching out her hand she stroked with tender fondness the balding head. Dazed with exhaustion, he accepted it gratefully until he remembered us. Suddenly thrashing his head like a mastodon caught red-handed in a pterodactyl’s nest, he flung the hand from him. She never tried it again.

 

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William “Bill” Everson (1912-1994), also known as Brother Antoninus, was an American poet of the San Francisco Renaissance and was also a literary critic, teacher and small press printer. Everson registered as an anarchist and a pacifist with his draft board, in compliance with the 1940 draft bill. In 1943, he was sent to a Civilian Public Service (CPS) work camp for conscientious objectors: Camp Angel at Waldport, Oregon, with other poets, artists and actors.

At Camp Angel, Everson founded a fine-arts program in which the CPS men staged plays and poetry readings and learned the craft of fine printing. During his time as a conscientious objector, Everson completed The Residual Years, a volume of poems that launched him to national fame. (Wikipedia)

Dreiser was undoubtedly traveling with his mistress Helen Richardson (née Patges), a native of Oregon. In June 1944, Dreiser and Helen were married in the state of Washington.

— posted by Roger W. Smith

  January 2021

a telegram from Helen

 

 

telegramfromhelen10-18-1920

 

Theodore Dreiser met Helen (Patges) Richardson in Greenwich Village in September 1919. They became lovers and moved to Los Angeles shortly after beginning their romance.

The following telegram from Helen to Dreiser was dated October 18, 1920.

Can you imagine getting such a telegram? I cannot recall reading any form of correspondence with such a desperate, anguished plea. In fifteen words.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   January 2019

photograph of Helen

 

Helen Richardson.jpg

 

This undated photo of Helen (Patges) Richardson is in the Theodore Dreiser Papers collection in the Rare Books & Manuscript Library at the University of Pennsylvania. It is by far the best photo of Helen I have ever seen.

Helen Esther (Patges) (Richardson) Dreiser (1894-1955) was Theodore Dreiser’s second wife.

 

— Roger W. Smith

   January 2019

excerpts from the autobiography of Harold James Dies

 

the-life-story-of-harold-james-dies-excerpts

 

Posted here as a downloadable PDF document are excerpts from the autobiography of Harold James Dies (1914-2012). Mr. Dies was related, on his mother’s side, to Theodore Dreiser’s second wife, Helen (Patges) (Richardson) Dreiser. He was Trustee of the Dreiser Trust.

The full title of the autobiography is “The Kingdom of God and the World’s Final Generation: The Life Story of Harold James Dies” (2010).

Included in the autobiography is anecdotal material related to Theodore Dreiser and his second wife Helen, as well as some information about Dreiser’s niece Gertrude Amelia Hopkins (1894-1963) that is not available elsewhere. Topics of interest discussed in the autobiography, and included in the excerpts posted below, include:

Mr. Dies’s relationship with Dreiser’s second wife Helen, whom he knew from his early years, and biographical information about her

his meeting Dreiser and some anecdotal material about Dreiser

mention of his cousin congressman Martin Dies, chairman of the House un-American Activities Committee

his relationship with Gertrude Amelia Hopkins, Dreiser’s favorite niece and the daughter of Dreiser’s sister Emma (“Sister Carrie”)

negotiations over the production of Tobias Picker’s opera “An American Tragedy”

I wish to thank Joann Crouch, Mr. Dies’s niece, who told me about this unique book and made it available to me for photocopying.

 

— Roger W. Smith

   February 2017

“Revealing Dreiser’s 10-Year Love Secret!”: “Mrs.” (read mistress) Helen Dreiser, Marie Pergain, etc.

 

‘Revealing Dreiser’s 10-Year Love Secret’ – Detroit Free Press 4-4-1937

 

Laura Lou Brookman

“Revealing Dreiser’s 10-Year Love Secret!”

Detroit Free Press

Sunday, April 4, 1937

 

See typescript (prepared by Roger W. Smith) below. The article is full of inaccuracies.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

 

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Revealing Dreiser’s 10-Year Love Secret

First Details of the Mysterious Second Marriage of the Eminent Novelist

By Laura Lou Brookman

 

So Theodore Dreiser has been happily married all these years and virtually nobody guessed it?

It took Dreiser, America’s frankest and, many say, foremost, novelist, to prove that a celebrity can have a private life. He did it by marrying a movie actress!

Fantastic? Well, that’s the way it happened. And not until Mrs. Theodore Dreiser, the former Helen Richardson of the movies, began singing with Enoch Light’s orchestra in a New York restaurant, was anyone aware that there WAS a Mrs. Dreiser, other than the novelist’s first wife, from whom he separated years ago.

The novelist and the movie actress were married in California “between 10 and 15 years ago.”

“We kept our marriage quiet for certain reasons,” says the pretty, brown haired, slightly buxom Mrs. Dreiser. “There was a Mexican divorce in Mr. Dreiser’s first marriage.”

Not so successful has Dreiser been in the public eye on other occasions. There were the times, for instance, when he:

(1) Faced court charges that his first novel was “lewd” and “profane.”

(2) Went to Russian, wrote a book about it, and was accused of plagiarism by Dorothy Thompson, wife of Sinclair Lewis.

(3) Had a fight with Nobel-Prize-winning Novelist Sinclair Lewis at a dinner party.

(4) Went with a committee of New York liberals to investigate labor conditions in the Kentucky coal fields, and was put on the spot by local authorities, who accused him of doing his investigating in a hotel room with a pretty member of the committee.

(5) Appealed to courts to prevent the release of the film version of his novel “American Tragedy.”

These are just a few of the highlights in the stormy career of the dynamic novelist and playwright who now is 66 years old. His home is a rustic retreat at Mount Kisco, N. Y.

Dreiser’s complete reticence about his present marriage is all the more remarkable because of the detailed frankness with which he has described personal affairs heretofore.

Particularly outspoken was his response to charges made against him and ___ [illegible] Marie Pergain when they, with a party of others, made that trip to the Harlan County, Kentucky, coal fields in 1931.

A grand jury indicted them on grounds of misconduct and won the praise of fellow townspeople resentful of the “interference” of the easterners in local labor affairs.

Said Dreiser: “If I were in a silk-hung boudoir with the most beautiful woman in the world and the door was locked, noting would follow but esthetic conversation.”

Witnesses who appeared before the grand jury testified that they had seen Miss Pergain enter Dreiser’s hotel room at 11 p.m. They were sure she had not emerged by 3. a.m. because they had placed toothpicks against the door and the toothpicks were still standing at that time.

To this the novelist replied: “I want to assure all persons of both sexes of my inescapable private morality.

“What is this toothpick game? I’d like to know. If the toothpicks are up you’re guilty. If they’re down you’re all right. Evidently mine were up.”

Warrants of arrest were never served, because both Dreiser and Miss Pergain were outside Kentucky by that time.

Dreiser’s first marriage – to Sarah Osborne White of St. Louis – took place in 1898. He was then a reporter and he met Miss White, a school teacher, when his newspaper sent her and other winners of a popularity victory contest to the Columbia Exposition in Chicago. Dreiser went along to report their adventures.

He described his schoolteacher sweetheart thus:

“There was something of the wood or water nymph about her, a seeking in her eyes, a breath of wild winds in her hair, a scarlet glory to her mouth … If only this love affair could have gone on to a swift fruition it would have been perfect, blinding. … But love, as it is in most places, was a slow process. … There must be many visits before I could place on arm on her. .. Well, I reached the place where I could hold her hand, put my arms about her, kiss her, but never could I induce her to sit on my lap.”

After Dreiser left St. Louis for New York to work on newspapers and magazines, Miss White came east and they were married. It was a union that proved far from smooth. Dreiser’s fortunes ebbed and rose and ebbed again.

When he became editor-in-chief of Butterick Publications, including five fashion magazines, he seemed to be getting up in the world. From this post he was discharged abruptly, following an incident said to have involved a pretty secretary. Dreiser has denied this, saying he left of his own accord.

Mr. and Mrs. Dreiser separated permanently in 1909. A friend who knew them well said:

“One night I went to see them up on Morningside Drive. There they were in the dining room. She was sprinkling clothes on the same table where he was correcting proof. I felt a lack of understanding in that. He, on the other hand, was subject to fits of terrible depression.”

By that time Dreiser had already made his mark among discriminating critics as an author of realistic novels of great power, but had not achieved public popularity.

However, he had enough money to make a trip to Europe in 1912, and there he met Ellen Adams Wrynn, the painter, who is credited with considerable influence on his later writing and success. She is one of the women included in his frank and revealing book, “A Gallery of Women.”

Of her he said:

She was one of those women where I lost out. She didn’t want me, that is, not until year later, and then I wouldn’t have her. She was just the same, but it is a rule with me not to moon over anyone.”

Between 1914 and 1919 Dreiser published eight books and made a bare living. After that he went to California, wrote another book, “A American Tragedy,” and — almost without knowing how it happened – found himself affluent, his books on best seller lists, and offers for screen and stage rights mounting to fabulous sums.

He took a handsome Manhattan apartment on 57th street and there, for five years, on Thursday nights New York’s ultra-sophisticated set used to gather – novelists, poets, singers, dancers, editors, critics – to talk and hear Dreiser talk.

Not all of them knew the story of that apartment – the story of the Face Across the Street.

It was a woman’s face, and it was always there at the same window. When Theodore Dreiser went in or out of the building, when he welcomed guests, and when he saw them depart, the woman’s face was always there.

There was no particular expression on the face. It was just watching.

It was the face of Sarah Osborne White Dreiser, the novelist’s first wife.

She had taken the apartment across the street so that never, for one moment, could her former husband forget her.

It was about the time that the film version of “An American Tragedy” was produced. Dreiser saw it. declared it misrepresented the meaning of his novel, and brought suit to prevent the picture’s release. The attempt was unsuccessful.

Finally, in 1931, after a trip to Russia, Dreiser gave up the 57th street apartment for an estate at Mt. Kisco.

“I’m going to leave New York,” he said. “I used to love to walk these streets, but now they are too miserable. They are meaningless. I can’t bear the brick or the cement or the color or lack of color that goes to make up the city. New York is a handsome woman with a cruel mouth.”

Could it have been the Face at the Window across the street of which he was thinking?

Women seem to have been involved, almost invariably, in Theodore Dreiser’s long series of difficulties.

The fray in which the eminent novelist smacked the equally eminent Sinclair Lewis was a sequel to charges of Lewis’ wife, Miss Thompson, that Dreiser had plagiarized material from her writings in his volume on Russia.

Miss Thompson never actually brought suit, but the affair made headlines. A little later Lewis and Dreiser met at a dinner party for a group of literati. Lewis, asked to make a speech, refused, saying, “There are three men here who are antagonistic to me and whom I don’t like.”

“Who are the other two?” Dreiser demanded.

Lewis answered – and was slapped twice. Said Dreiser afterward, “The two slaps I gave Lewis were the only possible answer to a vile insult. I consider the incident closed.”

Said Lewis, “it’s a shame two gentlemen can’t have a private squabble without letting the world in on it.”

It was during his stay in California from 1919 to 1922 which produced “An American Tragedy” that he met Helen Richardson, his present wife. She was 18 years old (about half his age), young and beautiful.

For Dreiser, Miss Richardson gave up her plans for a career. Today she says, “I always wanted to sing, but I felt I couldn’t leave Mr. Dreiser. Now when he talks about committing suicide I know he’ll change his mind as soon as he’s had his breakfast coffee. He’s a wonderful man – after breakfast.”

Her husband has no objections to her present work, since he has always believed that when anyone has an urge to express himself he should do so.

Mrs. Dreiser has written one manuscript, but hasn’t any intention of trying to make a name for herself as a writer. “Mr. Dreiser,” she says, “is enough writer for 10 families.”

She is amused when mistaken for the novelist’s daughter – as she has been frequently. She describes herself as “a tragic person,” given either to a great deal of gaiety or deep depression. She is domestic, likes to cook and care for a home, but is well pleased to be setting out on a new career.

 

Roger W. Smith, “Theodore Dreiser, Ervin Nyiregyházi, Helen Richardson, and Marie Pergain”

 

 

‘Dreiser, Nyiregyhazi, Helen Richardson, and Marie Pergain

See downloadable Word document, which contains the complete text of this post, above.

 

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Abstract:

Hungarian pianist Ervin Nyiregyházi, a child prodigy, emigrated to the United States in 1920.

In 1927, Theodore Dreiser and his mistress Helen Richardson were invited to a Nyiregyházi concert in Manhattan. The pianist became friends with the couple. Nyiregyházi and Helen began an affair which lasted for about two months. Dreiser found out about it, causing a rupture of his friendship with Nyiregyházi.  Dreiser insisted that Helen break completely with the pianist. He demanded absolute liberty for himself to have affairs, but would not grant this to Helen.

Nyiregyházi tried to maintain the relationship with Dreiser. Dreiser rebuffed him. But in 1930, Nyiregyházi gave his girlfriend Marie Pergain a letter of introduction to Dreiser. Dreiser and Pergain commenced an affair.

Both Dreiser and Nyiregyházi were sex addicts and compulsive womanizers.

The relationship between Dreiser and Marie Pergain was a stormy one. Dreiser abused her.

Dreiser and Pergain traveled together to Harlan County, Kentucky in 1931 when Dreiser was heading up a committee investigating conditions of striking miners there. Dreiser had until that time kept his relationship with Pergain secret; he explained that she was one of his literary secretaries.

Dreiser and Pergain were indicted for adultery by Kentucky authorities, but they were never arrested and the charges were eventually dropped.

Dreiser and Pergain broke up shortly thereafter. Pergain moved to Hungary and lived with her former lover Nyiregyházi before breaking up with him.

Nyiregyházi and Pergain both returned to the United States. Near the end of Dreiser’s life, the pianist visited Dreiser and Helen in Los Angeles without renewal of the friendship with Dreiser or intimacy with Helen.

Marie Pergain has long been a “mystery woman.” She was an accomplished pianist and an actress with minor roles in several silent films during the 1920’s.

The affair between Dreiser’s mistress Helen and Ervin Nyiregyházi was not revealed until very recently, in a biography of Nyiregyházi that was published in 2007. The article by Roger W. Smith contained in the above attachment reveals hitherto unknown details about the affair and about Marie Pergain. The focus is on the incidents in this complicated story that involved Theodore Dreiser, directly or indirectly.

 

— Roger W. Smith

   March 2016

death notice, Helen Dreiser, Los Angeles Times

 

death notice, Helen Dreiser, Los Angeles Times, September 27, 1955

The entry for Helen Esther Dreiser, Theodore Dreiser’s second wife, is at the bottom of the left hand column.

 

Helen Dreiser death notice LA Times 9-27-1955 FINAL.jpg

 

Los Angeles Times, Tuesday, September 27, 1955, pg. 32

Herman [Theodore] Dreiser – Helen E. Richardson marriage certificate, June 13, 1944

 

Theodore Dreiser - Helen Richardson marriage license

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith