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.
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