Benjamin De Casseres

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Benjamin De Casseres
Born (1873-04-03)April 3, 1873
Philadelphia, PA, United States
Died December 6, 1945(1945-12-06) (aged 72)
593 Riverside Drive, New York City, NY, United States
Resting place Ferncliff Cemetery, Ardsley, NY
Occupation columnist, editorialist, critic, poet
Nationality American
Ethnicity Sephardi
Citizenship United States
Subject politics, philosophy, drama, movies
Literary movement fin de siècle, Dada
Notable works "Moth-Terror"
Spouse Adele Mary "Bio" Terrill De Casseres (1919-1945)
Relatives Baruch Spinoza (collateral descendant)

Signature "Benjamin DeCasseres"

Benjamin De Casseres (April 3, 1873 – December 7, 1945) (often DeCasseres) was an American journalist, critic, essayist and poet. He was born in Philadelphia and began working at the Philadelphia Press at an early age, but spent most of his professional career in New York City, where he wrote for various newspapers including The New York Times, The Sun and The New York Herald.[1] He was married to author Bio De Casseres, and corresponded with prominent literary figures of his time, including H. L. Mencken,[2] Edgar Lee Masters,[3] and Eugene O'Neill.[4] He was a distant relative of Baruch Spinoza[5] and was of Sephardic descent.[6]

Personal life[edit]

De Casseres met Adele Mary Jones (née Terrill) in 1902. They were both staying at the same boarding house and only saw each other a few times before Bio (as she preferred to be called) moved West with her husband Harry O. Jones in early 1903.[7] Over the next 16 years, De Casseres and Bio Jones corresponded frequently, developing a long-distance romantic relationship, until Jones divorced her husband in 1919 and married De Casseres the same year.[8] They remained married until De Casseres' death in 1945.

In 1931, De Casseres published a collection of letters the couple sent each other during their courtship, titled The Love Letters of a Living Poet, which highlights the unusual nature of their relationship. In one of the letters, De Casseres describes a dream in which "after thirty years together we were both cremated and our ashes mixed inextricably" and "cast into the depths of the sea" where eventually they are "returned to the ecstatic hermaphroditic union of a great biological-mystical fable."[9]

After De Casseres' death, Bio De Casseres published his final collection of essays, titled Finis, for which she wrote a brief preface. She also authored several works of her own.

Social influence[edit]

De Casseres held "an aggressively individualist form of anarchist politics derived primarily from a discomfiting reading of Nietzsche."[10] His views on the idea of the Superman were influential on contemporary writers such as Eugene O'Neill, who called De Casseres an "American Nietzsche" in the foreword to Anathema: Litanies of Negation,[11] and Jack London, who wrote that "no man in my own [philosophical] camp stirs me as does Nietzsche or as does De Casseres."[12] In The Mutiny of the Elsinore, London named a character with a nihilistic point of view "De Casseres" based on their mutual admiration for French philosopher Jules de Gaultier.[13]

According to Marie Saltus, writer and philosopher Edgar Saltus would read the newspaper immediately each morning only if it contained a book review or an article by De Casseres, although the two never met.[14]

Artistically, De Casseres has been described as adopting proto-Dada rhetoric as early as 1910.[15]


De Casseres wrote a variety of articles, essays and books on a wide-ranging topics including criticism, international relations and philosophy, as well as drama, fiction and poetry, often adopting a fin de siècle style.[16] De Casseres was "an outspoken foe of communism" and, like fellow journalist H. L. Mencken, he was particularly interested in the writings of Nietzsche, having written several articles and books about the philosopher's ideas, including a foreword to Germans, Jews and France,[17] a compilation of Nietzsche's correspondence.

The poem "Moth-Terror" is perhaps De Casseres' most famous work. It was originally collected in the Second Book of Modern Verse (edited by De Casseres' colleague Jessie Rittenhouse) and has been included in various other anthologies since then.[18]

In 1935, De Casseres self-published a three-volume collection of his work through Blackstone Publishers. Gordon Press reprinted the set in 1976.

Short works[edit]


  • The Shadow-Eater (1915) - poetry
  • Chameleon: Being a Book of My Selves (1922)
  • Forty Immortals (1925)
  • James Gibbons Huneker (1925)
  • Mirrors of New York (1925)
  • The Shadow-Eater (New edition, 1927)
  • Anathema! Litanies of Negation (1928)
  • The Superman in America (1929)
  • Mencken and Shaw (1930)
  • The Love Letters of a Living Poet (1931)
  • Spinoza, Liberator of God and Man (1932)
  • When Huck Finn Went Highbrow (1934)
  • The Muse of Lies (1936)
  • The Works of Benjamin DeCasseres (3 Volumes, Blackstone Publishers, 1939)
  • The Works of Benjamin DeCasseres (3 volumes, Gordon Press, 1976)
  • Anathema! Litanies of Negation (New edition, 2013)
  • IMP: The Poetry of Benjamin DeCasseres (2013)


  • Sex in Inhibitia (?, ?)
  • Clark Ashton Smith (?, 2 pages)
  • I am Private Enterprise (?, ?)
  • What Is a Doodle-Goof? (1926, 4 pages)
  • Robinson Jeffers, Tragic Terror (1928, Privately printed by John S. Mayfield)
  • The Holy Wesleyan Empire (4 pages, 1928)
  • The Hit and Run Thinker (1931, seven 10″x5″ strips of paper, staple at the top)
  • Prelude to DeCasseres’ Magazine (?, 1932)
  • From Olympus to Independence Hall (1935, 4 pages)
  • The Individual against Moloch (1936, 48 pages, Blackstone Publishers)
  • The Communist-Parasite State (1936, 10 pages)
  • Germans, Jews and France by Nietzsche (1935, 31 pages, Rose Publishers)
  • To Hell with DeCasseres! (play, 1937, 16 pages)
  • Don Marquis (1938)
  • Finis (1945, 20 pages)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "De Casseres Dies; Author, Poet", New York Times, 7 December 1945, retrieved 4 May 2014 
  2. ^ Stratton, Matthew (2014). The Politics of Irony in American Modernism. Fordham University Press. 
  3. ^ BENJAMIN DE CESSARES. Papers. (PDF) (Rare Books and Manuscripts Division Accession Sheet), Accessioned by Robert Sink, New York Public Library, March 1982, 47 M 52; 63 M 41A; 73 M 47, retrieved 4 May 2014 
  4. ^ Halmann, Ulrich, ed. (1987), Eugene O'Neill: Comments on the Drama and the Theater, Gunter Narr Verlag Tübingen, pp. 71–2, 181–2, 187 
  5. ^ Stratton, Matthew (2014). The Politics of Irony in American Modernism. Fordham University Press. 
  6. ^ Rottenberg, Dan (1996), "Caceres", Finding Our Fathers: A Guidebook to Jewish Genealogy, Genealogical Publishing Co., p. 187 
  7. ^ The Daily Courier (Connellsville, Pennsylvania), 17 April 1931, p. 6  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^ Slaughter, Kevin I. (15 January 2014), Short biography of DeC’s love 'Bio', retrieved 4 May 2014 
  9. ^ Skinner, Doug (9 July 2012), "Ben Loves Bio", The Ullage Group, retrieved 4 May 2014 
  10. ^ Stratton, Matthew (2014). The Politics of Irony in American Modernism. Fordham University Press. 
  11. ^ Törnqvist, Egil, "Nietzsche and O'Neill: A Study in Affinity", Orbis Litterarum 23 (2): 99 
  12. ^ Harpham, Geoffrey (1975), "Jack London and the Tradition of Superman Socialism", American Studies: 24 
  13. ^ "Jack London’s Dialectical Philosophy between Nietzsche’s Radical Nihilism and Jules de Gaultier’s Bovarysme" (PDF), Partial Answers: Journal of Literature and the History of Ideas 9 (1), 2011: 73, doi:10.1353/pan.2011.0009 
  14. ^ Saltus, Marie (1925), Edgar Saltus: The Man, P. Covici, p. 302 
  15. ^ Moffitt, John F., Alchemist of the Avant-Garde: The Case of Marcel Duchamp, Albany: SUNY Press, pp. 179–80 
  16. ^ Hart, James (1995). De Casseres, Benjamin. The Oxford Companion to American Literature (6th ed.) (Oxford University Press). p. 165. 
  17. ^ "Benjamin De Casseres, Editorial Writer, Dies", Milwaukee Sentinel, 7 December 1945, retrieved 4 May 2014 
  18. ^ "Impromptu Fantasias: Inside the world of Benjamin De Casseres", Tablet, 26 August 2009, retrieved 4 May 2014 

External links[edit]