Theodore Dreiser (1871–1945)
From Americans in Paris: A Literary Anthology
Theodore Dreiser was born 148 years ago today, on August 27, 1871.
Literary scholar Thomas P. Riggio reminds us that, although Dreiser “is remembered primarily for his novels, he wrote in many genres. In fact, of his twenty-seven published books only eight are novels—and two of these, The Bulwark and The Stoic, were published posthumously.” For most of his career, he worked as a journalist, either full-time or freelance, variously as a theater critic, investigative reporter, and feature writer, or as a city correspondent in Chicago, New York, St. Louis, and Pittsburgh. Among his other books are a volume of poetry, two story collections, three travel books, two memoirs, a pair of plays, biographical sketches, political essays, social criticism, and a lengthy introduction to a volume of excerpts and quotations by Thoreau.
For much of his career—until the success of “An American Tragedy” in 1925—Dreiser struggled financially. So the winter of 1911–12 proved to be an unexpectedly luxurious season for him when, with the help of a British friend, he finagled from two American publishers the princely sum of $3,500 to underwrite a trip to Europe—a voyage he memorialized in A Traveler at Forty. We explain how he managed to get all that money in our introduction to a “Paris!”, the chapter describing his hedonistic first night in the City of Light.