Ring Lardner

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Ring Lardner
Lardner in 1921
Lardner in 1921
BornRinggold Wilmer Lardner
(1885-03-06)March 6, 1885
Niles, Michigan, U.S.
DiedSeptember 25, 1933(1933-09-25) (aged 48)
East Hampton, New York, U.S.
OccupationWriter, journalist
SpouseEllis Abbot
ChildrenJohn, James, Ring Jr., and David

Ringgold Wilmer Lardner (March 6, 1885[1] – September 25, 1933) was an American sports columnist and short story writer best known for his satirical writings on sports, marriage, and the theatre. His contemporaries—Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, and F. Scott Fitzgerald—all professed strong admiration for his writing, and author John O'Hara directly attributed his understanding of dialogue to him.

Early life[edit]

Ring Lardner was born in Niles, Michigan, the son of wealthy parents, Henry and Lena Phillips Lardner. He was the youngest of nine children. Lardner's name came from a cousin of the same name. The cousin had been named by Lardner's uncle, Rear Admiral James L. Lardner, who had decided to name his son after a friend, Rear Admiral Cadwalader Ringgold, who was from a distinguished military family. Lardner never liked his given name and abbreviated it to Ring, although he named one of his sons Ringgold Jr.

In childhood he wore a brace for his deformed foot until he was eleven. He had a passion for baseball, stage, and music.[2] He later attended the Armour Institute in Chicago.[2]


Syndicated writing[edit]

Lardner started his writing career as a sports columnist, finding work with the newspaper South Bend Times in 1905. In 1907, he relocated to Chicago, where he got a job with the Inter-Ocean. Within a year, he quit to work for the Chicago Examiner, and then for the Tribune.[3] Two years later, Lardner was in St. Louis, writing the humorous baseball column Pullman Pastimes for Taylor Spink and the Sporting News. Some of this work was the basis for his book You Know Me Al. Within three months, he was an employee of the Boston American.

In 1913, Lardner returned to the Chicago Tribune, which became the home newspaper for his syndicated column In the Wake of the News (started by Hugh Keough, who had died in 1912). The column appeared in more than 100 newspapers, and is still published in the Tribune. Lardner's Tribune and syndicated writing was not exclusively sports-related: his dispatches from/near the World War One front were collected in the book My Four Weeks in France, and his immersive coverage of the 1920 Democratic Convention resulted in Lardner receiving 0.5 votes on the 23rd ballot.

Books and stories[edit]

In 1916, Lardner published his first successful book, You Know Me Al, an epistolary novel written in the form of letters by "Jack Keefe", a bush-league baseball player, to a friend back home. The letters made much use of the fictional author's idiosyncratic vernacular. It had initially been published as six separate but interrelated short stories in The Saturday Evening Post, causing some to classify the book as a collection of stories, others as a novel. Like most of Lardner's stories, You Know Me Al employs satire.

Journalist Andrew Ferguson wrote that "Ring Lardner thought of himself as primarily a sports columnist whose stuff wasn't destined to last, and he held to that absurd belief even after his first masterpiece, You Know Me Al, was published in 1916 and earned the awed appreciation of Virginia Woolf, among other very serious, unfunny people." Ferguson termed the book one of the top five pieces of American humor writing.[4]

Sarah Bembrey has written about a singular event in Lardner's sportswriting experience: "In 1919 something happened that changed his way of reporting about sports and changed his love for baseball. This was the Black Sox scandal when the Chicago White Sox sold out the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. Ring was exceptionally close to the White Sox and felt he was betrayed by the team. After the scandal, Ring always wrote about sports as if there were some kink to the outcome."[3] Lardner's last fictional baseball writing was collected in the book Lose with a Smile (1933).

Lardner later published such stories as "Haircut", "Some Like Them Cold", "The Golden Honeymoon", "Alibi Ike", and "A Day with Conrad Green". He also continued to write follow-up stories to You Know Me Al, with the protagonist of that book, the headstrong, egotistical but gullible Jack Keefe, experiencing various ups and downs in his major league career and in his personal life. Private Keefe's World War I training camp letters home to his friend Al were collected in the book Treat 'Em Rough: Letters From Jack the Kaiser Killer. The sequel, The Real Dope, followed Keefe overseas to the trenches in France. He then returned home to pitch for the 1919 Chicago White Sox, but the sequence of stories closed with Keefe being traded to the Philadelphia A's before the 1919 World Series -- Jack Keefe, whatever his flaws, would not be involved in the Black Sox scandal. Lardner returned to the character when he wrote the continuity for a daily You Know Me Al comic strip that ran from 1922 to 1925.

Theatre and music[edit]

Lardner also had a lifelong fascination with the theatre, although his only Broadway three-act successes were the thrice-filmed Elmer, the Great, co-written with George M. Cohan, and June Moon, a comedy authored with Broadway veteran George S. Kaufman. Lardner also wrote skits for the Ziegfeld Follies and a series of brief nonsense plays that ridiculed the conventions of the theatre, using zany humor and outrageous, impossible stage directions, such as "The curtain is lowered for seven days to denote the lapse of a week."[citation needed]

He was a dedicated composer and lyricist: both his first (Zanzibar (1903)) and last (June Moon (1929)) published stage works included several Lardner tunes. He wrote at least one recorded song for Bert Williams, co-wrote one for Nora Bayes, and provided the lyrics for the song "That Old Quartet" (1913) by Nathaniel D. Mann. Other collaborators of note included Aubrey Stauffer, Jerome Kern on Very Good Eddie (1915), and Vincent Youmans—with whom he toiled on the Ziegfeld–Marilyn MillerAsstores musical, Smiles (1930).[citation needed][5]


Lardner's books were published by Maxwell Perkins, who also edited Lardner's most important contemporaries, including Fitzgerald who, unlike Hemingway,[6] also became Lardner's friend. Although Lardner held his own short stories in low regard—he did not save copies and had to get them from the magazines that had first published them to compile a book[7]—Lardner influenced several of his more famous peers:

  • In some respects, Lardner was the model for the tragic character Abe North in Fitzgerald's last completed novel, Tender Is the Night.[8]
  • Lardner also influenced Ernest Hemingway, who sometimes wrote articles for his high school newspaper using the pseudonym Ring Lardner, Jr.[9]
  • Lardner's gift for dialogue heavily influenced the writer John O'Hara, who said he learned from reading Lardner "that if you wrote down speech as it is spoken truly, you produce true characters, and the opposite is also true: if your characters don't talk like people they aren't good characters" and added, "[I]t's the attribute most lacking in American writers and almost totally lacking in the British."[10]

Cultural references[edit]

  • J. D. Salinger referred to Lardner in two of his works, The Catcher in the Rye and Franny and Zooey. In the former work, protagonist Holden Caulfield says: "My favorite author is my brother D.B. and my next favorite is Ring Lardner".
  • Wayne C. Booth mentioned Lardner's famous short story "Haircut" in his essay "Telling and Showing."[11]
  • In his movie Eight Men Out (1988) about the Black Sox scandal, writer-director John Sayles portrayed Lardner as one of the clear-eyed observers who was not taken in by the conspiracy. In one scene, Lardner strolls through the White Sox train, singing a parody of the song "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles," changed to "I'm Forever Throwing Ballgames."[12]
  • The Chicago Literary Hall of Fame inducted Lardner in 2016.[13]
  • Harry Turtledove describes his short story "Batboy" as a Ring Lardner pastiche.[14]
  • Neil Simon references Ring Lardner in his play Brighton Beach Memoirs.
  • In John DeChancie's novel Castle for Rent, Lord Incarnadine mentions having been friends with Ring Lardner.
  • In Sam Halpert's semi-autobiographical novel about a navigator in the 91st Bomb Group, A Real Good War (1997), the narrator mentions reading Lardner, and specifically refers to "Haircut".

Personal life[edit]

Lardner married Ellis Abbott of Goshen, Indiana, in 1911. They had four sons who each became writers. John Lardner, born in 1912, was a newspaperman, sports columnist, and magazine writer. Ring's second born, James Lardner, worked as a newspaperman before he was killed in the Spanish Civil War fighting with the International Brigades. In 1939, was remembered with the book Somebody Had to Do Something. A Memorial to James Phillips Lardner, a book that printed 500-copies. It was financed by the James Lardner Memorial Fund and featured contributions by Ernest Hemingway, Ring Lardner, Jr., Jay Allen, Don Jesus Hernandez, El Campesino, Dolores Ibarruri, Vincent Sheean and drawings by Castelao.[15][16][17][18][19] Ring Lardner's third son, Ring Lardner Jr., was an Academy Award-winning screenwriter who was blacklisted after the Second World War as one of the Hollywood Ten, screenwriters who were incarcerated for contempt of Congress after refusing to answer questions posed by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).[20] His book, The Lardners, My Family Remembered (ISBN 0-06-012517-9), is a source of information on his father. The youngest, David Lardner, worked for The New Yorker as a general reporter and war correspondent before he was killed by a landmine near Aachen, Germany on October 19, 1944, less than one month after his arrival in Europe.

Lardner died on September 25, 1933, at the age of 48 in East Hampton, New York, of a heart attack due to complications from tuberculosis.[21]

Lardner's grand-nephew is George Lardner Jr., a journalist at The Washington Post from 1963 and a 1993 Pulitzer Prize winner.[22]




Essays and other contributions[edit]

  • Lardner, Ring (April 18, 1925). "The constant Jay". The New Yorker. Vol. 1, no. 9. p. 20.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Search results". www.google.com. [better source needed]
  2. ^ a b Lardner, Ring. Ring Lardner Reader. Scribners.p. xiv
  3. ^ a b Bembrey, Sarah, ed. (Fall 1999). "Ring Lardner, Sr". The Lardner Dynasty. Interactive Media Lab, University of Florida. Archived from the original on 2018-04-21. Retrieved 2008-03-22.
  4. ^ Ferguson, Andrew (2 December 2006). "Five Best: Laughter that Lasts". The Wall Street Journal. p. P8. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 3 December 2006.
  5. ^ "Smiles (Broadway Production)". IBDB Internet Broadway Database. May 24, 2023. Retrieved May 24, 2023.
  6. ^ Bruccoli, Matthew J., ed. (1996). The Only Thing That Counts: The Ernest Hemingway - Maxwell Perkins Correspondence. Scribner.
  7. ^ Berg, A. Scott (1978). Max Perkins, Editor of Genius. New American Library. p. 77. ISBN 978-0-399-58483-1.
  8. ^ Gelfant, Blanche H. (and Lawrence Graver) (2004) The Columbia Companion to the Twentieth-century American Short Story, Columbia University Press. (See Ring Lardner, p.322)
  9. ^ "Lardner Connections: Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Leyner, McMillan, Newman". tridget.com. 18 March 2006.
  10. ^ O'Hara, 1952, foreword to Appointment in Samarra, The Modern Library, 1994.
  11. ^ Booth, Wayne C. (1983). The Rhetoric of Fiction, 2nd ed. University of Chicago Press. pp. 3–20. ISBN 0-226-06556-1.
  12. ^ Eight Men Out Movie Review, DVD Release Archived 2008-03-10 at the Wayback Machine, Filmcritic.com
  13. ^ "Ring Lardner". Chicago Literary Hall of Fame. 2016. Retrieved 2017-10-08.
  14. ^ Turtledove, Harry. (1993). Departures (1st ed.). New York: Ballantine Books. pp. 146. ISBN 0345380118. OCLC 28124415.
  15. ^ The James Lardner memorial fund (1939). "Somebody had to do something: a memorial to James Phillips Lardner". searchworks.stanford.edu. Retrieved 25 January 2023.
  16. ^ Ernest Hemingway, Ring Lardner, jr., Jay Allen, Don Jesus Hernandez, El Campesino, Dolores Ibarruri, Vincent Sheean, and drawings by Castelao. "Somebody had to do something; a memorial to James Phillips Lardner". SIDBRINT. Los Angeles: ub.edu. Retrieved 25 January 2023. The James Lardner memorial fund{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  17. ^ Ring Lardner (Jr.), Jay Allen, Jesús Hernández, Valentín R. González, Plantin Press, Vincent Sheean, Dolores Ibárruri Castelao (1939). Somebody Had to Do Something: A Memorial to James Phillips Lardner. Los Angeles: James Lardner Memorial Fund. p. 41.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  18. ^ "HEMINGWAY, ERNEST, et al. Somebody Had to Do Something A Memorial to James Phillips Lardner. Los Angeles The James Lardner Memorial Fund, 1939". Bonhams. Retrieved 25 January 2023.
  19. ^ "HEMINGWAY, ERNEST and others. Somebody Had to Do Something. A Memorial to James Phillips Lardner. Los Angeles: The James Lardner Memorial Fund, 1939. Illustrated with reproductions of drawings by Castelao. 8vo, original printed light brown wrappers; very minor discoloration on endpapers. FIRST EDITION, one of 500 copies printed by the Plantin Press. Hanneman B32". christies.com. Retrieved 25 January 2023.
  20. ^ Roth, Katherine (February 11, 2000). "Ring Lardner Jr., blacklisted Oscar winner, dies at age 85". The Literature Network. Chicago Sun-Times.
  21. ^ "Ring Lardner Dies; Noted as Writer".
  22. ^ "For Feature Writing, by George Lardner Jr. for his unflinching examination of his daughter's murder by a violent man who had slipped through the criminal justice system". General Information: History of The Post.
  23. ^ Library of Congress Copyright Office (1913). Catalog of Copyright Entries. U.S. Government Printing Office.
  24. ^ "Aubrey Stauffer". tcmdb. tcm.com. Retrieved 25 January 2023.
  25. ^ File:Oh, You September Morn.pdf
  26. ^ "Aubrey Stauffer". Myers Genealogy. 14 May 2007.
  27. ^ "Aubrey Stauffer". Levy Music Collection. jhu.edu. Retrieved 25 January 2023.
  28. ^ Lardner, Ring W.; Heeman, Edward G. (March 6, 1914). "The Home Coming of Chas. Comiskey, John J. McGraw, and James J. Callahan". biblio. Chicago: Edward G. Heeman. Retrieved 25 January 2023.
  29. ^ The Young Immigrunts. Bobbs-Merrill Company. 1920. (Internet Archive)
  30. ^ The Young Immigrunts. Bobbs-Merrill Company. 1920. (Internet Archive)


External links[edit]

Online editions[edit]