Anderson in 1933
September 13, 1876|
Camden, Ohio, United States
|Died||March 8, 1941
|Notable work(s)||Winesburg, Ohio|
|Spouse(s)||Cornelia Pratt Lane (1904–1916)
Tennessee Claflin Mitchell (1916–1924)
Elizabeth Prall (1924–1932)
Eleanor Copenhaver (1933–1941)
Sherwood Anderson (September 13, 1876 – March 8, 1941) was an American novelist and short story writer, known for subjective and self-revealing works. Self-educated, he rose to become a successful copywriter and business owner in Cleveland and Elyria, Ohio. In 1912 he abandoned his business, first wife and three children to become a writer.
At the time, he moved to Chicago and was eventually married three more times. His most enduring work is the short-story sequence Winesburg, Ohio, which launched his career. Throughout the 1920s, Anderson published several short story collections, novels, memoirs, books of essays, and a book of poetry. Though his books sold reasonably well, Dark Laughter (1925), a novel inspired by Anderson's time in New Orleans during the 1920s, was the only bestseller of his career.
He may be most influential for his effect on the next generation of young writers, as he inspired William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, and Thomas Wolfe. He helped gain publication for Faulkner and Hemingway.
Sherwood Berton Anderson was born on September 13, 1876 in Camden, Ohio, a farming town with a population of around 650 (according to the 1870 census). He was the third of seven children born to former Union soldier and harness-maker Irwin McLain and Emma Jane Anderson (nee Smith). Considered reasonably well-off financially -- Anderson's father was seen as an up-and-comer by his Camden contemporaries, the family left town just before Sherwood's first birthday. Reasons for the departure are uncertain; most biographers note rumors of debts incurred by either Irwin or his brother Benjamin. The Andersons headed north to Caledonia by way of a brief stay in a village of a few hundred called Independence (now Butler). Four or five years were spent in Caledonia, years which formed Anderson's earliest memories. This period later inspired his semi-autobiographical novel Tar: A Midwest Childhood (1926). In Caledonia Anderson's father began drinking excessively, which led to financial difficulties, eventually causing the family to leave the town.
With each move, Irwin Anderson's prospects dimmed; while in Camden he was the proprietor of a successful shop who had an assistant, yet when the Andersons finally settled down in Clyde, Ohio in 1884, a frontier town, Irwin could only get work as a hired man to harness manufacturers. That job was short-lived, and for the rest of Sherwood Anderson's childhood, his father barely supported the family as an occasional sign-painter and paperhanger, while his mother took in washing to make ends meet. Partly as a result of these misfortunes, young Sherwood became adept at finding various odd jobs to help his family, which earned him the nickname "Jobby".
Though he was a decent student, Anderson attended school less as he picked up work, and he finally left school for good at age 14 after about nine months of high school. From the time he began to cut school to the time he left town, Anderson worked as a "...newsboy, errand boy, waterboy, cow-driver, stable groom, and perhaps printer's devil, not to mention assistant to Irwin Anderson, Sign Painter..." in addition to assembling bicycles for the Elmore Manufacturing Company. Even in his teens, Anderson's talent for selling was evident (he would later draw on it in a successful career in advertising) . As a newsboy he was said to convince a tired farmer in a saloon to buy two copies of the same evening paper. With the exception of work, Anderson's childhood resembled that of other boys his age.
In addition to participating in local events and spending time with his friends, Anderson was a voracious reader. Though there were only a few books in the Anderson home (The Pilgrim's Progress and the Complete Poems of Alfred, Lord Tennyson among them), the youth read widely by borrowing from the school library (there was not a public library in Clyde until 1903), and the personal libraries of a school superintendent, and John Tichenor, a local artist, who responded to his interest.
By Anderson's 18th year in 1895, his family was on shaky ground. His father had started to disappear for weeks on end prior to that year, Karl (Sherwood's elder brother) had left Clyde for Chicago in 1893, and Sherwood boarded at the Harvey & Yetter's livery stable where he worked as a groom - an experience that would translate into several of his best-known stories. On May 10, 1895, his mother succumbed to tuberculosis. (Irwin Anderson died in 1919 after having been estranged from his son for two decades).
Anderson had signed up with the Ohio National Guard for a five-year term in March 1895, was going steady with an attractive girl (Bertha Baynes, possibly the inspiration for Helen White in Winesburg, Ohio), and working a secure job at the bicycle factory, but it was his mother's death that precipitated the young man's leaving Clyde. About a year later, he left the town. He settled in Chicago around late 1896 or spring/summer 1897, having worked a few small-town factory jobs along the way.
Chicago and war
Finding a place to stay in Chicago was not as difficult for Anderson as it was for many others arriving in Chicago around the same time. In fact, the former mayor of Clyde and his family ran a boardinghouse in the city where Anderson's brother Karl (then studying at the Art Institute) already lived. Anderson moved in with his brother and quickly found a job at a cold-storage plant. In late 1897, Anderson's brother Karl moved away, and Anderson relocated to a two-room flat with his sister and two younger brothers newly come from Clyde. Money was tight (Anderson earned "two dollars for a day of ten hours"), but with occasional support from Karl, they got by. Following the example of his Clyde confederate and lifelong friend Cliff Paden (later to become John Emerson) and Karl, Anderson took up the idea of furthering his education by enrolling in night school at the Lewis Institute. He attended several classes regularly including "New Business Arithmetic" earning marks that placed him second in the class. It was also there that Anderson heard lectures on Robert Browning, Alfred Tennyson, and was possibly first introduced to the poetry of Walt Whitman. Soon, however, Anderson's first stint in Chicago would come to an end as the United States prepared to enter the Spanish-American War.
Though poor in Chicago, Anderson bought a new suit on the way back to Clyde to join his Company. Once back home, the Company was fêted by the ladies of Clyde before officially enlisting (sans six men who returned to Clyde) into the new federal army at Camp Bushnell, Ohio on May 12, 1898. Several months of training followed at various southern encampments until early in 1899 when the Company finally made its way to Cuba four months after fighting had stopped. Another four months later, on April 21, 1899, they left Cuba having seen no combat. According to Irving Howe, "Sherwood was popular among his army comrades, who remembered him as a fellow given to prolonged reading, mostly in dime westerns and historical romances, and talented at finding a girl when he wanted one. For the first of these traits he was frequently teased, but the second brought him the respect it usually does in armies."
After the war, Anderson spent a few months back in Clyde doing agricultural work before deciding that in order to advance in life he would need to go back to school. So in September of 1899 Anderson joined his siblings Karl and Stella in Springfield, Ohio where, at the age of twenty-three, he enrolled in what amounted to a senior year of high school at the Wittenberg Academy, a preparatory school located on the campus of the Wittenberg University. In his three terms there during the years 1899-1900, Anderson did quite well earning mostly A's in a variety of subjects and participating in several extracurricular activities including a debate club, called the Athenian Literary Society. In the spring of 1900 Anderson graduated from the Academy, offering a discourse on "Zionism" as one of the eight students chosen to give a commencement speech.
Business, marriage and family
During his time in Springfield, Anderson stayed (and worked as a "chore boy") in a boardinghouse called The Oaks among a group of businessmen, educators, and other creatives types many of whom became friendly with the young Anderson. In particular, a high school teacher named Trillena White and a businessman Harry Simmons played a role in the author's life. The former who was ten years Anderson's senior would walk - raising eyebrows among the other boarders - with the young man in the evenings. More importantly, according to Anderson, she "...first introduced me to fine literature" and would later serve as inspiration for a number of his characters including the teacher Kate Swift in Winesburg, Ohio. The latter, who worked as the advertising manager for Mast, Crowell, and Kirkpatrick (later Crowell-Collier Publishing Company, publishers of the Woman's Home Companion) and occasionally took meals at The Oaks, was so impressed by Anderson's commencement speech that he offered him a job on the spot as an advertising solicitor at his company's Chicago office. Thus, in the summer of 1900, Anderson returned to Chicago where the bulk of his siblings were now living, intent on achieving success in his new white-collar occupation.
In 1904, he married Cornelia Pratt Lane (1877–1967), the daughter of Robert Lane, a wealthy Ohio businessman. The couple had three children — Robert Lane (1907–1951), John Sherwood (1908–1995), and Marion (aka Mimi, 1911–1996). They lived in Cleveland, and later Elyria. In the latter town, Anderson managed a mail-order business and paint manufacturing firms.
In November 1912 Anderson suffered a mental breakdown and disappeared for four days. He was found in a drugstore in Cleveland, having walked almost thirty miles from Elyria. Soon after, he left his position as president of the Anderson Manufacturing Co. in Elyria. He abandoned his wife and three small children to pursue writing. Anderson described the episode as "escaping from his materialistic existence," and was admired for his action by many young male writers, who chose to be inspired by him. Herbert Gold wrote, "He fled in order to find himself, then prayed to flee that disease of self, to become 'beautiful and clear.'"
In 1916, after having moved back to Chicago, Anderson formally divorced Cornelia. Three days later, he married his mistress, the sculptor Tennessee Claflin Mitchell (1874—1929). Mitchell got a divorce in 1924 in Reno, Nevada, and Anderson married his third wife that year. He was already involved with her.
Anderson's first novel, Windy McPherson's Son was published in 1916 as part of a three-book deal with John Lane. This book, along with his second novel, Marching Men (1917) are usually considered his "apprentice novels" because they came before Anderson found fame with Winesburg, Ohio (1919) and are generally considered inferior in quality to works that followed.
Anderson's most notable work is his collection of interrelated short stories, Winesburg, Ohio (1919). In his memoir, he wrote that "Hands", the opening story, was the first "real" story he ever wrote.
"Instead of emphasizing plot and action, Anderson used a simple, precise, unsentimental style to reveal the frustration, loneliness, and longing in the lives of his characters. These characters are stunted by the narrowness of Midwestern small-town life and by their own limitations."
Although his short stories were very successful, Anderson wanted to write novels, which he felt allowed a larger scale. In 1920, he published Poor White, which was rather successful. In 1923, Anderson published Many Marriages; in it he explored the new sexual freedom, a theme which he continued in Dark Laughter and later writing. The novel had its detractors, but the reviews were, on the whole, positive. F. Scott Fitzgerald considered Many Marriages to be Anderson's finest novel.
Beginning in 1924, Anderson and Mitchell moved to New Orleans, where they lived in the historic Pontalba Apartments (540-B St. Peter Street) adjoining Jackson Square in the heart of the French Quarter. They separated that year and divorced. For a time, he and his wife entertained William Faulkner, Carl Sandburg, Edmund Wilson and other writers, for whom Anderson was a major influence. Critics trying to define Anderson's significance have said he was more influential through this younger generation who he influenced than by his own works.
Anderson referred to meeting Faulkner in his ambiguous and moving short story, "A Meeting South." His novel Dark Laughter (1925) drew from his New Orleans experiences and continued to explore the new sexual freedom of the 1920s. Although the book is now out of print (and was satirized by Ernest Hemingway in his novel The Torrents of Spring), it was a bestseller at the time, the only book of Anderson's to reach that status during his lifetime.
Two more marriages
Tennessee Mitchell Anderson obtained a divorce in Reno, Nevada in 1924.
That year Anderson married Elizabeth Norman Prall (1884–1976), a fashion designer. After several years that marriage also failed. In 1928 Anderson became involved with Eleanor Gladys Copenhaver (1896–1985).
Anderson frequently contributed articles to newspapers. In 1935, he was commissioned to go to Franklin County, Virginia to cover a major federal trial of bootleggers and gangsters, in what was called "The Great Moonshine Conspiracy". More than 30 men had been indicted for trial. In his article, he said Franklin was the "wettest county in the world," a phrase used as a title for a 21st-century novel by Matt Bondurant.
In the 1930s, Anderson published Death in the Woods (short stories), Puzzled America (essays), and Kit Brandon: A Portrait (novel). In 1932, Anderson dedicated his novel Beyond Desire to Copenhaver. Although by this time he was considered to be less influential overall in American literature, some of what have become his most quoted passages were published in these later works. The books were otherwise considered below the level of quality of his earlier ones.
Beyond Desire built on his interest in the trade union movement and was set during the 1929 Loray Mill Strike in Gastonia, North Carolina. Hemingway referred to it satirically in his novel, To Have and Have Not (1937), where he included as a minor character an author working on a novel of Gastonia.
In his later years, Anderson and Copenhaver lived on his Ripshin Farm in Troutdale, Virginia, which he purchased in 1927 for use during summers. While living there, he contributed to a country newspaper, columns that were later collected and published posthumously.
Anderson died on March 8, 1941, at the age of 64, taken ill during a cruise to South America. He had been feeling abdominal discomfort for a few days, which was later diagnosed as peritonitis. Anderson and his wife disembarked from the cruise liner Santa Lucia and went to the hospital in Colón, Panama, where he died on March 8. An autopsy revealed he had accidentally swallowed a toothpick, which had damaged his internal organs and promoted infection. He was thought to have swallowed it in the course of eating the olive of a martini or hors d'oeuvres.
Legacy and honors
- In 1971, Anderson's final home in Troutdale, Virginia, known as Ripshin Farm, was designated as a National Historic Landmark. It may be toured by appointment.
- Windy McPherson's Son (1916)
- Marching Men (1917)
- Poor White (1920)
- Many Marriages (1923)
- Dark Laughter (1925)
- Tar: A Midwest Childhood (1926, semi-autobiographical novel)
- Alice and The Lost Novel (1929)
- Beyond Desire (1932)
- Kit Brandon: A Portrait (1936)
Short Story collections
- Winesburg, Ohio (1919)
- The Triumph of the Egg: A Book of Impressions From American Life in Tales and Poems (1921)
- Horses and Men (1923)
- Death in the Woods and Other Stories (1933)
- Mid-American Chants (1918)
- A New Testament (1927)
- Plays, Winesburg and Others (1937)
- A Story Teller's Story (1924, memoir)
- The Modern Writer (1925, essays)
- Sherwood Anderson's Notebook (1926, memoir)
- Hello Towns! (1929, collected newspaper articles)
- Nearer the Grass Roots (1929, essays)
- The American County Fair (1930, essays)
- Perhaps Women (1931, essays)
- No Swank (1934, essays)
- Puzzled America (1935, essays)
- A Writer's Conception of Realism (1939, essays)
- Home Town (1940, photographs and commentary)
- Sherwood Anderson's Memoirs (1942)
- The Sherwood Anderson Reader, edited by Paul Rosenfeld (1947)
- The Portable Sherwood Anderson, edited by Horace Gregory (1949)
- Letters of Sherwood Anderson, edited by Howard Mumford Jones and Walter B. Rideout (1953)
- Sherwood Anderson: Short Stories, edited by Maxwell Geismar (1962)
- Return to Winesburg: Selections from Four Years of Writing for a Country Newspaper, edited by Ray Lewis White (1967)
- The Buck Fever Papers, edited by Welford Dunaway Taylor (1971, collected newspaper articles)
- Sherwood Anderson and Gertrude Stein: Correspondence and Personal Essays, edited by Ray Lewis White (1972)
- The "Writer's Book," edited by Martha Mulroy Curry (1975, unpublished works)
- France and Sherwood Anderson: Paris Notebook, 1921, edited by Michael Fanning (1976)
- Sherwood Anderson: The Writer at His Craft, edited by Jack Salzman, David D. Anderson, and Kichinosuke Ohashi (1979)
- A Teller's Tales, selected and introduced by Frank Gado (1983)
- Sherwood Anderson: Selected Letters: 1916–1933, edited by Charles E. Modlin (1984)
- Letters to Bab: Sherwood Anderson to Marietta D. Finely, 1916–1933, edited by William A. Sutton (1985)
- The Sherwood Anderson Diaries, 1936–1941, edited by Hilbert H. Campbell (1987)
- Sherwood Anderson: Early Writings, edited by Ray Lewis White (1989)
- Sherwood Anderson's Love Letters to Eleanor Copenhaver Anderson, edited by Charles E. Modlin (1989)
- Sherwood Anderson's Secret Love Letters, edited by Ray Lewis White (1991)
- Certain Things Last: The Selected Stories of Sherwood Anderson, edited by Charles E. Modlin (1992)
- Southern Odyssey: Selected Writings by Sherwood Anderson, edited by Welford Dunaway Taylor and Charles E. Modlin (1997)
- The Egg and Other Stories, edited with an introduction by Charles E. Modlin (1998)
- Collected Stories, edited by Charles Baxter (2012)
- Anderson, Sherwood (1876–1941) | St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture Summary
- Daniel Mark Fogel,"Sherwood Anderson", The American Novel, PBS, 2007, accessed 2 June 2013
- Pear, "Sherwood Anderson bio", University of Richmond
- Rideout (2006), p. 16
- Schevill (1951), p. 8
- Howe (1951), 12
- Townsend (1987), p. 3
- Rideout (2006), 18
- Rideout (2006), 20. For connection between Tar and Caledonia, also see Anderson (1942), pp. 14-16
- Townsend (1987), 4
- Howe (1951), 13-14
- Rideout (2006), 34
- Townsend (1987), 14. The chapter about Anderson's early life is called "Jobby".
- Howe (1951), 16
- Rideout (2006), 39
- Townsend (1987), 25-26
- Rideout (2006), 37-38. See Anderson (1924), 155-56 for list of authors enjoyed by young Anderson
- Townsend (1987), 11
- Spanierman Gallery, LLC. KARL ANDERSON (1874 - 1956). Accessed 26 May 2013.
- Townsend (1987), 28
- Rideout (2006), 59-61
- Townsend (1987), 30
- Rideout (2006), 50
- Rideout (2006), 47
- Townsend (1987), 31
- Howe (1951), 27
- Rideout (2006), 69-71
- Townsend (1987), 33
- Townsend (1987), 34
- Anderson (1942), 112
- Rideout (2006), 73-74
- Townsend (1987), 36
- Townsend (1987), 38
- Rideout (2006), 78
- Townsend (1987), 39-41
- Howe (1951), 29
- Townsend (1987), 41
- Rideout (2006), 88-90
- Howe (1951), 31-32
- Anderson (1984), 227-228
- Townsend (1987), 42-43
- Rideout (2006), 226
- Rideout (2006), 92-93
- "Sherwood Anderson", Fantastic Fiction
- Nona Balakian, "A Life of Dark Laughter" (review of Kim Townsend's biography, Sherwood Anderson, 1987), accessed 31 May 2013
- Bassett (2005), p. 21
- Howe (1951), 91
- Anderson, Sherwood. Sherwood Anderson's Memoirs. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1942.
- Howe, Irving. Sherwood Anderson. New York: William Sloane Associates, 1951. (pg. 254)
- Anderson (1991), pp. 8–9
- Documenting the American South: Oral Histories of the American South, University of North Carolina
- Fisher, Ann H. (7/1/2008). "The Wettest Country in the World [Review]". Library Journal 133 (12): 58.
- "Ripshin Farm". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-04-16.
- Return to Winesburg: Selections from Four Years of Writing for a Country Newspaper, edited by Ray Lewis White (1967)
- "Anderson is Dead; Noted Author; 64". New York Times, 9 March 1941, p. 41.
- Rideout (2006), 400–401
- Howe (1951), 241
- "Sherwood Anderson". findagrave.com. Accessed April 22, 2012.
- Anderson, Sherwood (1924). A Story Teller's Story. New York: B.W. Huebsch.
- Anderson, Sherwood (1942). Sherwood Anderson's Memoirs. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company.
- Anderson, Sherwood (1984). Sherwood Anderson: Selected Letters. Edited by Charles Modlin. Knoxville, TN: Tennessee UP. ISBN 9780870494048
- Anderson, Sherwood (1991). Sherwood Anderson's Secret Love Letters. Edited by Ray Lewis White. Baton Rouge, LA: LSU Press. ISBN 9780807125021
- Bassett, John Earl (2005). Sherwood Anderson: An American Career. Plainsboro, NJ: Susquehanna UP. ISBN 1-57591-102-7
- Cox, Leland H., Jr. (1980), "Sherwood Anderson", American Writers in Paris, 1920–1939, Dictionary of Literary Biography 4, Detroit, Mich.: Gale Research Co.
- Howe, Irving (1951). Sherwood Anderson. New York: William Sloane Associates.
- Rideout, Walter B. (2006). Sherwood Anderson: A Writer in America, Volume 1. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 978-0-299-21530-9
- Schevill, James (1951). Sherwood Anderson: His Life and Work. Denver, CO: University of Denver Press.
- Sutton, William A. (1967). Exit to Elsinore. Muncie, IN: Ball State UP.
- Townsend, Kim (1987). Sherwood Anderson: A Biography. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-36533-3
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Sherwood Anderson|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Sherwood Anderson|
|Wikisource has original works written by or about:
- Works by Sherwood Anderson at Project Gutenberg
- Works by Sherwood Anderson at Project Gutenberg Australia
- Sherwood Anderson Biography
- Sherwood Anderson Biography 2
- Sherwood Anderson in the Dial
- Sherwood Anderson Links
- Winesburg, Ohio hypertext from American Studies at the University of Virginia.
- The Triumph of the Egg hypertext from American Studies at the University of Virginia.
- Oral History Interview with Eleanor Copenhaver Anderson from Oral Histories of the American South
- Sherwood Anderson Papers at The Newberry Library
- Sherwood Anderson Archive at the Smyth-Bland Regional Library
- Ten Stories by Sherwood Anderson read aloud by contemporary writers including Charles Baxter, Deborah Eisenberg, Robert Boswell,Patricia Hampl, Siri Hustvedt, Ben Marcus, Rick Moody, Antonya Nelson and Benjamin Taylor