Columbia Library columns (v.15(1965Nov-1966May))

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  v.15,no.3(1966:May): Page 10  

New Light on Dreiser
in the 1890's


great deal is known about Theodore Dreiser (wit¬
ness the recent massive Swanberg biography), but
relatively little about the man wdio wrote Sister
Carrie. A Dreiser manuscript, "Some American Women Painters,"
and two of his unpublished letters in the Special Collections De¬
partment of the Columbia Libraries illustrate this apparent para¬

Thanks to the two volumes of Dreiser's never-completed
autobiography, we have a good understanding of his extra¬
ordinary midwestern boyhood and first career as a newspaper¬
man, up to the time he .settled in New York in 1895. We may
know all too much about his career after the publication of
Sister Carrie in 1900: pioneer of urban naturalism, battler with
the censors, iconoclast and radical, in the 1910's, 1920's, 1930's
and 1940's. But the lialf decade intervening between the private
and the public Dreiser remains blurred. It may be the most im¬
portant period of Dreiser's long life, for it w;is between 1895
and 1900 that he became the man who wrote his miraculous
first novel, in a great rush through the fall, winter and spring
of 1899-1900.

The "lost" Dreiser can be found in, of all places, the first
(1899) volume of Who's Who in America:

Dreiser, Theodore, journahst-aiirhor . . . connected w-ith daily pa¬
pers, Chicago, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, 1H91-5; editor Every Month,
musical magazine, 1H95-7; then in sp'l work for Cosmopolitan maga¬
zine; contributes prose and verse to various periodicals. Author:
Studies of Contemporarv Celebrities; Poems. Residence: 6 W. lozd
St., New York.
  v.15,no.3(1966:May): Page 10