Carl VanDoren talk by author Robin Foster at Cornwall library 7 27 19



baby is now up and running yeah I'm Nora and I read the friends committee at the library normally we're so behind the scenes up too but when Jeremy Bricker wrote margretta spectrum about this wonderful author Robin foster who's written about Carl Van Doren how that awesome yes absolutely and since the vendor ins have been neighbors and friends of my family's ever ever relative I'm insane since 1940 before then this seemed like a great opportunity he should have known leave the website at the library the most looked for thing on our website has been dormant now before I introduce our speaker just a couple of little details at the under talk she's coming fight Jeremy and Susan Clara she is up to join are here Susan was a granddaughter and really does Connecticut law historians so then after questions and discussion Robin will be available to sign her book that's up here $17 a check or cash and so we're really glad to have you up here Robin is as she calls herself a public historian I asked her what it meant that was pretty fun but she said exactly she has a PhD in American Studies from Rutgers and an MA in Museum Studies from Seton Hall she's an instructor of history at George Mason University and she's also taught at Keene and at Seton Hall she served as a curator and director of museums and other public humanities organizations for nearly two decades she has the author of the book here that we're here today learning about Carl Van Doren a man of ideas the book is a finalist for the 2019 national in the excellence award so this is a great cool I would say before that she wrote a book on the South Street Seaport the age of sail in the Age of Aquarius with much longer time so let me turn over the stand to Robin [Applause] sorry chicken work from this day and so it's great to see such a great turnout as I said when I launched the book last fall and October I was really happy for Carl by the door like I'm really happy to get his story out there I was surprised when I started the research there had been no I didn't well-informed biography remember he did win a Pulitzer Prize for his Franklin but there weren't even any sort of short biographical sketches and I the more I happened to do work and originally it was going to be just a literary history three not academic god forbid but some sort of comprehensive literary history and the more I got into his papers at the University Library Archives and then when I met Susan even when people offer personal letters in the Attic to the manners you know the man's story this american life this modern American life and historian haven't told really in any form I'm so happy we never have this you know had this sort of year of launching the book and doing the book talks and getting Carl Andorran story out there because he really did live at work at a time that is you know some familiar I think drew our own time as any in history as a historian David Lobethal instead of past it's a foreign country and I think this era that probably door worked in is absolutely a country's this idea of a man of ideas man of letters man of ideas public intellectuals and there really was a part and parcel of the early 20th 20th century experiencing we don't really have that sort of niche for the public commercial the ban of idea to probably create a statement that idea all right a happy person person of ideas but it really he exemplifies you know I think the era in which she lived in a warren really just thrilled to get his story out there so yes it's a better so I started at the museum person I did my masters at Seton Hall University and in fact one of my instructors Steve Miller is here thank you for trekking up from Doylestown TJ and I worked in museums as a curator and as a director for a number of years and you know I've sort of been academically me academia that's what we talk about public history doing the history outside the laws of the university mounting exhibitions and documentary films and public speeches and that kind of thing so that was really my might sort of focus as I did my PhD at records and American Studies and it came up about to this project really goes back even farther than that my grandfather and Carl Van Doren share their grandmothers her sisters so they were second cousins so I grew up sort of knowing this lore of the Van Doren literary dynasty my grandfather had started a literary magazine in California back in the 30s and my great aunt and uncle start up a printing press and published biographies and printed the books themselves and had found them and so there was a sort of literary aspects to the foster line in this aberration for the van Doorn literary dynasty and so I always was sort of familiar with that story and then when I learned that quelle différence papers were housed at Princeton University just down the road I said that's you know perfect but he served element in his literary history of this you notice great merit letters and again my initial project was to do a straight very history but the moriah cover really through the personal correspondence is you know story of the sort of modern modern American man and then transition from Victorian era in which he was born and raised at Illinois through the modern era really was specific to his life that sort of represents the changing tides of American culture at that time so I started at Princeton University Library Archives reading through stacks of his correspondence with pretty much everybody who was anybody during the 1920s and 30s and 40s of endurance work as a literary editor and very Critic really put him in contact with you know Theodore Dreiser and Robert Frost and Seward Sherman and a whole host of of writers and at this era and then I met Susan thought I track I'm adding veteran and he put me in touch with his cousin Susan who said to me one day you might be interested I found this monk in the Attic of letters you know between her parents you know which is something you'd like to look at so I think if I got you know got in my car and headed north New Jersey you know that our because what what is a researchers dream other than you know finding letters that literally how proud find out that open in 100 years you know from 1910 when stationary was 8 by 10 fold it thrice this way and folded upon itself and tied in the twine put the red stamp and you know you opened them up and they sort of crackle and creak its you open them and if they're too brittle pieces fall off if you try to shove those back in you know going 3d through the handwriting of when handwriting was as unique as a thumbprint you know and I redid that Van Doren's handwriting actually was it possible you know to read you had to sort of learn to translate it and Karl's was a little bit better but the added dimension that added to my research because in the historical record really what's available out there is what tells you the story so if the evidence exists and has survived the hundred or whatever years then you have you know some little pieces to put together in your forensic evidence if the evidence is not there then there's a life and there really had been a blank on Karl and I read that Norman's relationship he hadn't written about it much after the divorce there was little in his correspondence with his friends or family it was you know a void there so coming across this trove of letter is absolutely filled in this blank that today we had better so that was and I think all these letters weren't burned you know George and Martha Washington having comprehensive correspondence at bonds – she doesn't burn our letters didn't even he said bring the letter so that's what she didn't that's what many public persons have done and then you know the information is lost forever so the fact that his letters remain really adds to any story you or I can ever recover about so be brief background on Carl Van Doren he was brought up in Illinois he described his people as Prairie people several generations had grown up on the Illinois Prairie having migrated over two generations of snow from the East Coast church-based you know as most of America was during the 1850s and 60s and 70s but he did write about in his autobiography that books were always a part of his family spirit song as a part of this gentleman there were books and books and books and always more most he was the oldest of five brothers and Carl was Mark Van Doren who we know Paul Van Doren who also has resided this area and then dying for anything and or others who remained in the Midwest so his also five boys and his generation really grew out of the Victorian age but he was born in 1885 leaf when I when I you know doing the research on Mandarin and learned about his life and I'm thinking as 1920s and 30s and the height of modernism and all that that exemplifies you don't think that back in 1880s 1890s you know this was a Victorian America and so we moving away from that he described that his was the first generation that lived more mobile more detached than his what's more American and then I wanted to go into let you know which of the direct relationship with Cornwall that's what you guys are here and I found these photographs of Carl and Arpita Carl and I imagine this is his eldest daughter and the picture in the middle looks like it's three three ways their first home that they register that person then you go do that church and this the second picture that can also be three ways but I found these old photos from circa in 1818 and how Carl and Irina found themselves in Cornwall it's still a little bit shrouded in mystery as to where exactly and impetus for coming to Cromwell came about but they did travel up the road from New York City have a little mixer here I'll worry about that across the 1920s Pandora made his living writing literary criticism and editing the nation of the century he'd become a rare and while he didn't exactly know everybody been during circle of friends and colleagues would have impressed anyone who cared about votes in New York Carl and I really lived on 114th Street near the Columbia campus with their three young daughters they spent their summers in West Cornwall get a picturesque New England Hamelin in the northwest corner of the state rumor has it that Karl and Mark headed north from the city one day in search of a summer retreat driving as far as they imagined anyone would possibly commute and then drove 50 miles further and you know they're not a luxury sedans with air-conditioning you know that we can take advantage of these days their mom arrived informal not quite 100 miles from the city van doren found a pool of green wilderness where most of the foreign language owned by families who could trace their cornwall lineages back 200 years in 1915 Karl and I read a settlement of three ways people personnage located at the intersection of three roads and across from the North Cornwall Congregational Church the house was a rustic dwelling with no heat say fourth fireplace and no climbing except for a common in the kitchen eight years later that they murmurs purchased a larger fine house up on the hill and Korean hello called Wickwire after its former owners which supposed several acres are fertile soil and a red cottage that Crawley used as a study the house was about a mile from the Green Hill Lane Lake where the couple enjoyed a daily swim and we're delighted by the chirping frogs the abundant dragonflies the agrarian land see the Cornwall reminded me Endora this youth on the farm and hope although the surplus of trees was new to the way from the Prairie and the athletic bill that has served Karl well my high school football team was equally suited to the physical demands of country living maintaining require which was built at 1800 provided a healthy balance to vendor ones more intellectual pursuits he built walls and fences planted and harvested the annual garden which has I think probably grow a larger and larger in the intervening years they may be slower pruning trees are cut them down for firewood dug ditches cultivated hedges and service the homes Mason carpenter plasterer and climber by 1920 and in a German can speak to us later a slew of literary critics and editors who follow that noise to Cornwall in terms of quiet movement on site into a literary tree in addition to Carl and Rita's home on Green Hill Mark and Dorothy of F Doran had a farm at Cornwall Hollow Louisiana and the New York Herald Tribune was just up the road from vendor on green hill Joseph's crutch of the nation was informal center and Henry asked him me of a Saturday review was nearby helping health can be declared that during these years Cornwall touched the literary taste of all America so the really crawling mark ii really did create a literary Enclave outside of York City during the 1920s and 30s so who was Carlberg he was a professor columbia he was a literary critic he was a historian who's a biographer was what we call a public intellectual nearly half public intellectuals these days anymore so you know we're so niche-specific academic learning has become very specific and compartmentalised this idea the man of letters knew the man of ideas an expansive bulk of knowledge has really coalesce into tiny little fragments so it's really specific to his nineteen twenties and thirties and forties he did have early operations as a poet which is brother market when the villager price for Van Doren hopes to be a poet in high school in college he wanted to sort of be among a group like the three musketeers a small unique sort of status of doers he was in fact elected class poet for his graduating class in 1907 at the University of Illinois but he realized quickly enough that you did you know quite have that poetic mustard that was going to be required by any sort of publisher or a literary agent or maybe even the public audience men became very good friends with Sinclair Lewis authors of Main Street and Babbitt and Sinclair Lewis was told him that a novelist and by such a poet he said had to have strong attraction or Tiffany and Tiffany at sight of people or he could not reverse them than with necessary force had to really care one way or the other figure to create these of these fictional characters and ruined or conceited you know whose nineteen twenty twenty-one and early old man he can see had too much Dutch and difference you know to succeed as a poet about this he didn't have that unit that fired the necessary degree and I did read an early fictional many scripts he was writing during his early years when he was at Columbia who's 21 22 23 and it is no angel of the writing that he would do later on as a biographer and historian a literary critic so maybe he was correct into the honestly assessing you know where his strengths played so the rules of literary criticism versus book review I mean this isn't something that we really have to grapple with these days because if you open up the New York sunday supplement or The New Yorker or Washington Post you'll find book reviews for sure but the idea of literary criticism in the public realm has sort of given a way I think mostly to to book reviews CARLMAN journalists said the difference between a book review and literary criticism is the book review is written for someone who hasn't here at the book you open up the supplement you read the book review by wandering with this I'm interested in as grabbing is it not whereas every criticism is very much written for folks who've already read the book it's written by somebody who is seen we have to admire through their you know their their scholarly knowledge their their insights erudition and so we're learning looking to see what context is this writers really put you know the book right in so it's a very assignment to sell books it's really meant as a sort of a sort of academic exercise for those who've already I read the book so his career it follows from that is literary critic area under biographer he was awarded that ultimate achievement brain writer he earned a Pulitzer Prize in 1939 for his biography of Benjamin Franklin his brother Mark etiher in the culture the next year of a poetry there are the only sibling pair that has ever won surprised that reason alone I was surprised to find there have been no comprehensive you know sort of the back of your study of there's been much worried about Mark Van Doren he lived much longer and sort of bomb and talked alum be averse entire career for 1950 but obviously notice I think it's not insignificant that they're the only sibling pair to ever won the Pulitzer Prize he wanted them to 39 but still his poet's heart was always there he made a comment once that biographer looks into his heart somehow it does and I think that's significant as he moved away from literary criticism and editing to become a full-fledged biographer and historian and he wrote biographies after Ben Franklin on Revolutionary War era instances the ninety of the biographer listens whereas heart as a poet does write there's an artistic poetic aesthetic in like the bedroom would say a good vigor fur would have to otherwise would just be you know just be dull all this idea that we can gauge you know good or bad right I think these days there's so many more you know attitudes towards you know what one writer doesn't write about and you know something might look from this perspective or that this idea in the 1920s and 30s and 40s if there's a quantifiable aspect of writing and where you know what something is good or bad and what does it take to be on the side of good writing or bad writing and he was very much a sure of that sensibility and that idea that a biographer listen to his heart as a poet that was probably enduring you know news who would never make it to poet but he really harbored that pokes its ability even though many times across many letters he wrote personal correspondence giving his idea to get too much stoic Dutch and difference you know to survive was a fictional writer a poet he really did over the course of his life have have several passions whether it is you know related to books he was working on or friendships he had I think he maybe cut himself a little bit short and thought he was a little bit too you know more stoic then his life actually actually played out he still had that poetic sensibility about him and I think it is that play sensibility that characterizes the work across his literary career is his writing was very scrupulous and elegant and filled with academic background knowledge but for the you know but for the public readership these are not text books that he was writing for for undergraduates or burning of graduate students these were you know he hosted radio shows that were played every Sunday night on the CBS radio he wrote articles in Good Housekeeping I don't know the last time Steven Pinker you know my favorite public collection today love something you know for Good Housekeeping you know maybe New York Times sure but there's a wide range of Rolling Stone write is a wide range of of outlets in which crawl bend or would have been what had been known Elizabeth Mary who we'll get to a little bit it's talking the man who everybody she really didn't know everybody in the literary world across the 20s and 30s because in as well as a literary editor he was reading all the recent works of every often over work in at times the air-dry Sir Robert Frost a scott Fitzgerald HL Mencken you know all of the big names that will pop up in a search in 1920s and 30s off various problems were losing professional correspondents maybe spouse James Thurber who also I think was up in this area Sinclair Lewis I read the letters between Sinclair Lewis and color join it's almost a bromance with my calling Sinclair Lewis is like Karl when you coming to visit the farm like we missed please come soon and stay for a day or a week or a month but please come please come you know of Carl things are going Louis was a known hit a drinking father known alcoholic and Carl ran to other friends that sorry I have in touch with the past few days I was nursing a favor of a stop offender who's totally depressed with nothing in his next book started I was literally within Howard our you know getting him up off the bathroom floor so they had quite a a close a close relationship mutual admiration society I would say have the two and in fact when my husband and I were in Susan's house last summer doing some research in the alignment of the letters in the Attic were perusing through the bookcases and not to give away any and yeah any secrets of what's on Susan's shells we were finally Sinclair Lewis books autographed and described your family members and just you know hysteria these like you know like they're the crown jewels you know he was sick there was a was a strong presence and and a very very tight friendship they became friends Carly barow wrote an essay 1921 called the revolt from the village he was writing about current you know writers in current books that had just come out in this idea of turning away from sort of typical traditional American village life and questioning that and maybe commenting on the dullness of it dullness in 1920 was probably the worst thing one could be accused of you know I mean everywhere you go a look you know letters their toys and 30 times on this you know a god forbid you would write letters you know I have to be brief I'm probably double right now I hope I wasn't dull it was really the worst thing one could be Karl wrote this essay in 1921 talking about this shift in literature our ways from sort of the traditional quintessential American village life and expanding to new modern horizons Sinclair Lewis wasn't especially thrilled with what Carl Ben joy wrote about him in that first literary video I'm going to read a passage here signal enough Sinclair Lewis's novel Main Street right came out of 1920 of Main Street bend or rate this event this event Norman's words mr. Lueck so mr. Lewis like mr. masters clearly has revenge's to take upon the narrow community in which he grew up nourished no doubt on the complacency made it to such neighborhoods and get increasingly resentful no other American small town has been drawn with such exactness of detail in any other American novel various elements of scandal crop up here and there but the principal accusation which mr. Lewis brings against his village and indecent in small villages is that of being dull in the desert Lewis hated such dullness that village virus as the same seats in India is with a sort of new Puritanism that he and his contemporaries weighed against the dull wore something like with certain other elders watched once waged against the batter mr. Lewis must be thought of as sitting in the seat of the scornful with a satirist rather than with the poets must be seen to have understood the earlier that starred onyx boom River better than the later last year before ministry mr. blue must have belonged to the smarter set among American novelists writing much bright colloquial amusing chatter to be read by those who travel through books at the brisk pace of vaudeville if it seems a noble achievement for a temper like mr. masters to have drawn such a character it was a serious wake it seems more notable to have drawn out of Sao Miguel for something like a decade before this book had the comfortable standing on this tweeter set okay this thing is when you write about the work of living writers they tend to write back to you you publish this in the nation and syphilis is going to write back and see if there was agree with approximately none of indoors immediately after mentors si appeared the nation Louis responded to mr. Carl Van Dorn in a lengthy defense the fiery writer called read by his friends was indignant or not indignant per se the profoundly concern that vendor ins sa should it be later published in the forum had rather misses the mark Lewis wrote to conduct to correct vendor ins misinterpretation of Main Street indeed his misinterpretation of the entire body of Lewis's work to date before now say made its way into a larger publication Louis began his letter by stating that he had no in no way man influenced by stone remember his earlier book he began finding means to in 1905 when he was a sophomore at Yale years before Somerville was released what's more he told van George he hadn't even read the rarer Louis question whether vendor to fairly play in the zoning killer short Andersen or any of the other modern drives have been influenced by the statement by masters he insisted a more accurate explanation for any commonalities because an author's works was the fact that masters Gail and her said Louis himself as well as a hundred other writers had all been influenced in various ways by the same spirit of the times something he argued that was commonplace of literary history so Lewis writes this letter to Bangor and from the hotel he even vlogs Adelaide this is another really interesting thing I learned about the literary crowd in 1920s and 30s and 40s everyone is struggling to get paid I tend to think that this era is like the golden era of literary output like I love to read any writers from the 20s and fodeez their writing is crisp I don't think they're trying to be clever they're not trying to sort of press any of it was that they know I just love sort of the concise and sort of precise way of can use of language at that time and I assume it was a glorious time to be a writer however the more and more I read into letters you know struggling for a paycheck struggling to get published even an author who had already published numerous books can't get the publisher that pick up his next book you know can't pay the mortgage Bob the old farmhouse a kazoo mortgage oh wait there's interest on top of that to the unwanted like what do I do when Eleanor Wiley was you know in death for her mortgage on her farmhouse and she one of her books was picked up for a Book of the Month Club she didn't use the money to pay off the mortgage she bought like a trove of letters from a poet you know in England so the other the harvester breakers workers are having a different realm but Sinclair Lewis stilts always struggling with money Louis but he's off in Italy you know recently recent Ireland earth at hills above Austria somehow the world travel was much more in the tier was much more economically feasable even during the 1930s and 40s that we might think of it today and whatever was contained and then the response to that first letter that Lewis wrote down most certainly he was polite and gracious in his reply because I was always the tone of Van Doren's correspondence they mainly became you know best buddies and in fact Lewis wrote to crawl Van Doren that he his next project which would become a novel Babbitt Oh mr. Carlin ruined himself the two had had a correspondence back and forth six-hour Louis what's your next work you know Carl Van Horn what are you interested in reading about you know you're an esteemed critic much said I write about it he said that it was actually much to crawl to hurt himself Lewis described the next novel bought brought on by veterans own interest as of the same general sort of Main Street he wants to write about the average businessman the tired businessman coming to grips with the commercial oligarchy he wanted to make that man live and so the to really even across the rest of crawled into Ron's life kept out this very close very personal exit romance relationship they really clearly were had high regard for each other Eleanor Wiley Eleanor Wiley was another one of Khurana endurance really close highly esteemed highly regarded literary friends he once wrote about her as upon the white clean in the white country he was just the dazzled by her or poetic elegance so across the loop again I originally my intent was to cover so the literary works of crawl Mandarin and I got very much into his personal life as well because that's what comes out in letters Krell bender once wrote in his autobiography of Elmer rightly the poet he said there are many on our Wiley's i only claim to know one and as I was going through the correspondence the letters in the files of Carl meandering again and the sighting is true of all of us there are many you know crawler Joran's there are many you know Robert Foster we each have a relationship with certain individuals and I think people see each other in different way days and going through the letters in the book of his correspondence really rounded out who this person was he was this scrupulous precise he was always looking in his written work to stay in the most elegant way with the fewest words possible he did not he once of it most histories that you use most histories are too long he wasn't interested in as 300 400 500 word in a historical text he'd like he wanted Xena to get to the point but say this beautifully you know aesthetically possible going through his correspondence at Princeton I really got to see this other side of him which is the you know the main a modern American man growing up across the 1920s and 30s and 40s and now with Julian Boyd for example who was a librarian at Princeton the professional balancing I would you read this where do we turn those photostats did you see that article I wrote you do go to Jimmy's burgers party this back and forth sort of shop top you might you know have a penny but then everyone is with his brother mark for example who I think Carla Markman Doran roots others of greatest fans if either Karl or mark mark was a bit younger than Karl's maybe a step behind him and moving up through his career if either what brother was working on a manuscript or a poem or a novel sending that you know whether from New York City to Urbana Illinois back would you read this would you comment on this each other's greatest fans and reading those letters in understating that aspect of called enduring the older brother the American Republican Alexis I have crawled on during his his week his Sunday radio shows American scriptures and talking about the need for patriotism too dirty or to his his advertisements for providing treasure in war bonds decide to have a public American spirit across within four years Crowley nerd was deeply involved in and this is you know this rabble aside during the end of World War two when the determining is really the IDI the realities of what the atomic age would possibly bring to the world and Carl Van Doren worked with a number of organizations committed to federal world government which I've never even heard of this motion is moved for federated world government in the 1940s and early 50s there's quite a conglomeration of intellectuals scientists public thinkers clinical policymakers looking to the human have gone far enough in the healing is just sort of an ice and ice but actually seeking federated world government which I think my our sailors today seems insane you know states can let alone all the nations of the world and actively working with high-level members of the United States government to possibly seek a federated world government that this was the only response to the Atomic Age this idea that man could float himself to fetes and so he really had a multi-faceted aspect so that sort of gets to the public intellectual size he's working in many realms beyond that at this historian but it was really biographer that crawled in Jordan saw himself as of all different hats he wore an all the difference or the bass pecks of intellectual life biographer was where he most identified with stuff and again night that Court earlier on where he said a buyer for listen to his heart as a poet does he really did carry that throughout his work I mean one more passage to guys and then I think we'll start with a couple questions so in September of 1945 been during surrender through my birthday party to are 260 years Georgia the publisher George Macy put together a little heart out a book called now that Carla's 60th birthday book filled with poems on Aging and the wisdom of passing years from a variety of writers including Thomas Moore and 12th France and Ralph Waldo Emerson and into the celebratory tone mentors latest book crawled in during the Viking portable library had recently come out too long Tory reviews in his introductory chapter what is American literature the literary critic was that the essay is an intellectual history of American literature it's a series of biographies of those of authors whom Van Doren found most essential to the literary canon with writing on this both elegant and erudite meandering covered authors from the colonial period to his own time Pulitzer prize-winning offer any Diller was one of my favorite writers she once wrote about a well-known writer who was corralled by a student after class asking if she thought the student could become a writer this writers response was well do you like sentences as much as Ben Jordan admitted to his closest friends which she did often that he never found writing to be easy which is hard to believe but he really over and over again said he struggled with every word he struggled with every piece to stay as elegant as possible and his few words as possible what he wanted to say as emergency admitted to his friends that he never found it's easy he was clearly a man who reveled in good singers I like that that's even a thing that you can be a person who like sentences right do you like sentences yes mm-hmm join my group at ah Spain Ben Horne wrote within a year he had made himself as much an American as he needed to be of Washington Irving's prose Van Dorn's raised in a soil accustomed to facts Irving planted fiction while at James Fenimore Cooper he wrote in a boredom I love us in a boredom of which he was possibly not aware he became a novelist and or knows but favorite Cooper you probably didn't have any knows that you know and while Mark Twain and Henry James were contemporaries meandering astilbe described that completely different worlds in which they lived he said the two men belong to barely overlapping America's through the essay originally printed as a little book in 1933 and 3545 Ben Jordan set up to answer the question of what exactly is American literature my gosh we should all read read this I think in this day and age right we have that the literary canon has changed and continues to change so much especially not going to make circles across the decades but the vendor I determined that American literature is the only important literature in which in the world which is younger than the art of printing which tells us two things firstly that American literature is the only important literature not bigger than a world tradition it came after the printing press and secondly this I found even more provocative Ben Jordan statement reveals his certainty and that with his generation of every generation before now again this is a this is a foreign country does but his certainty that is an objective standard by which literature can and should be weighed he is due to which are very sure but there is a standard and this is good literature and this is bad this is American literature and this is not American literature fundamentally and on this point even or is quite clear his ascertain the difference is a necessary task the task a blurry critic and what which can in fact be determined beginning with the colonial period Bendery characterized the whole of American literature as being primarily concerned with bringing news from America from the new world to the old even when the news from America is not especially good or fair or their death to one expectations the early writers even the pessimist wrote with the admission that even if America not utopia was not the Golden City on the hill that it ought to be right this is really his fundament understanding that writers felt even the more pessimistic or sarcastic or ironic ones that America ought to be the Golden City on the hill because America and Americans were different you as I give American exceptionalism that again seems to belong to another time entirely he was certain of it the revolutionary theory of creative writers like Thomas Paine was not born an American but arriving here became as much an American as he needed to be who wrote it in a world full of tyrants America must be asylum for the rights of man right I thought burning that banner on my head every day around certain people especially penny who was later derived for attacking the church with the same ferocity with which he attacked computer role rule was a critical voice in following the course of a new nation because his words rallied undecided his compelling prose assured forth a mass impetus to act against a tyrannical crown as a moral obligation American literature was hopeful was enthusiastic heroic was mythic it was epic James Fenimore Cooper created the character leather stocking as a true hero for the American grown age Walt Whitman was America's poet Mark Twain that's comedic which American philosophy materialized in the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson his mind was a hive and from the writings of Sir Alan Hawthorne the American hundred letters from the 19th century and again this is against men of letters rights not women of letters or even persons of letters it's a totally different cultural context there were written writers to be sure but the bulk of the was you know mermail they express themselves in words and they express express themselves in action they were men of action they were man thinking then join North Emerson saying that man was the center of the universe was seemed to be saying that Americans were the center of the universe of which the manifest substance was American there were heroes all here's an action heroes of the mind what they were doing aren't even during what solidified this Canon of American literature was that essential function of all the literature they were making heroes and those heroes made America there are myth makers but the mystic creted were not spun with offensively yarn no news writers had their finger on the pulse of the times each skilled at perceiving reflecting and distilling the essence of the epoch there are prophets they were seers who transformed into words what essence they could get out of the east deferment of the times which is exactly what vendorlator wrote about his friend Sinclair Lewis about Mary hunter Austen that Eleanor Wiley each spoke with the tongue of faith in a way that reflected America's changing attitudes towards the ever changing world I love that lease vendor wrote probably most of all of his is writing assistance piece what it's American literature for its own sake it also in comparison to what writers would write today about what is the candidate literature even have a can of American literature who's included was not included and it's such a different tone and that you know the difference in that I'll raise you one last thing and then we'll move along but one big turn in my research I called range or despite you know I was looking for I didn't ask for it at Princeton I was waiting for some papers to come to me and the person who goes and gets the papers whose library said we have this box here it's called the Elizabeth Marion correspondence and I said well I'll take that box while you go get the seven really want and let me see what's in these letters and what was in these letters were three years of letters between Carl Van Doren and Elizabeth Marion who was a young writer in Washington State who have written three novels in the late 30s she had met him at a Writers Conference in Portland Oregon and that she became the sort of pen pal mentor-mentee buddies and developed a really profound and tender friendship the tone in which I do attempting find in any event Dorn's other correspondence again when he said there are many Eleanor Wiley's I only know one of them you read the correspondence between a person and different individuals you really see different facets of that person's personality and all of Carl Abrams letters to Elizabeth Mary and specially only at the one time at this Writers Conference but they wrote two three four times a week back and forth across the country for three years really brought out of sight for all the Andorran that I hadn't seen in Annie and the other of this correspondence this is one letter dated in 1948 he wrote dear Elizabeth if you'll excuse my calendar memory you won't perhaps mine by remembering that I met you two years ago today and a very nice day it was a very pleasant anniversary I found this to be what a lot of letters have gotten with a bridge since then today I feel somehow stodgy and somewhat stomach for no reason I now must not remit this on the eighth I go to West Virginia to speak and not to Washington for the next day this may seem useless but it is a part of the therapy every time I get myself up to doing what I dread in advance it helps to make the drug less the next time so it increases my self-reliance not to mention self-respect he started having nerves and feelings of anxiousness flavor and his like this to tell the speaking in current aspect it may have been a heart condition that dog who said at that time just classify his nervous but he really was having trouble in the last couple of years of his life with public engagements he went to her the idea of my having nursed it makes me furious to experience it for the first time I realize now and so embarrassed and yet as you see I'll admit to you how did you get me this way without asking full confidences out of me like corks out of a fizzing bottle so now no more anyway at the present his assistant is back from Oregon and came in this past week with a lot of letters from Ben Franklin's sister Jane to him all transferring from photostats of the originals I know dad told you that I edited the correspondence of these two many of the letters not published for the first time they're pretty fascinating over a period of sixty-three years there was many gaps and so full of the carnival's of Jane's very small and from Boston and his very big life in Paris only of course he wrote her mostly about domestic matters and she did the same was however lost of curiosity about his great doings I think you'll enjoy this volume it is the kind of life so often hidden in the biographies of famous persons a special job for me to run down and identify when possible the obscure friends and relatives and Jaden comes neighbours Franklin lived in the great light and the rest of them in the shadows just outside the spotlight but the job interests me far more than many subjects that are supposed to be more suitably than more suitable to history with all its add an additional indignity when janey tells of how the neighbors here that she has got a letter from her brother and how they all throw it to her house and ask for insight stories about public affairs when she explains to him how she makes the green clown soap for which the Boston Franklin's right now and when she tells him that she misled one of his letters under a pushing then I get a light of this joy out of it and I can go snooping forever for explanatory details and her poor son Peter who his feeble-minded and whom she could not get taken into an almshouse and her son-in-law Peter call us who went on again and again on privateering vessels and was forever being captured by the British so that Franklin had to arrange for his fellows exchange Ben Franklin almost always succeeded his relatives almost always just missed some moral here affectionately Carl I mean I read these letters that crawled in Durham would write about letters he was reading he wrote an article for Good Housekeeping once called the biographer Latrell and that's one of the chapter titles in my book this sort of forensic process of the biographer on the trail tried and recover this person's life and I'm sitting here in Princeton University library or in Susan's you know upstairs bedroom reading through letters 100 years old 50 60 years old that vendor means process of reading through letters trying to piece together his biography I could really you know again if I claim the crown jewels for you know the geeky Georgia the story biographer who loves nothing more than reading through these old letters and putting together this person's story he would talk about funding gaps in the letters probably the letters were burned you know something horrible happened in his life there's no letter it's like three months at a time you know after our divorce after some good sadness so the Astro burger was quiet because you know you write a letter B not similar to please burn is I don't want to save for some five or 60 years from now you're digging into the darkest days of my life but then Jory was doing the same thing knows he's doing his biographies he working on his own Trail and I really felt Justin you know some sort dorky goofy way the circle of you know biographers working to uncovering and recover him tell you know another story again go back again and again to this quote of his a biographer lipstick words heart as a poet does and though been born again said it again and again he had too much Philip Dutch indifference to maybe sixty as a great wherever fiction there was a novelist or poet there really was a lot more passion and an emotion an and deep-seated I was a passion into his work that he was doing way beyond with heard the scope of how he saw himself I don't think he was so at Dutch you know Midwestern conservative boy from the Prairie yes and maybe making this up actually has a lot of tenderness and more than poetic sensibility that I you know so discovered as I try to tell his life story so I hope you all over you the full story I hope you enjoy and I'm just thrilled that get caught up in doors you know spirit back out there again and tell a story and hope that you know others get to join as well so thank you all for coming out this is really been great experiences tell the story here in the town that he loves so much I would like to ask the students in law and Jeremy Mecca or not might come up and help you no questions from the audience Suzanne is pearls granddaughter Jeremy is storing it of all things for a mall and so any questions the first you know chrome ignorance transition from literary critic and editor in toboggan refer first began when he was his biographical sketch of Sinclair Lewis and that was the early 1930s and then he did a biographical sketch of Jonathan Swift and I think he uncovered a trove of papers on Ben afrien claim and that brought him to the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia starting to restore the Franklin and that morphed into his you know it's fine you've always the writers sort of how you get from one slide to the next the new observer Club in revolutionary-era American history and was led to West Point it was uncovering the Benedict Arnold's story and he found a trail of letters in Michigan and was uncovering it you know the story so it's this sort of interesting pathway that um that Roger I think he initially uncovered a trove of letters and wrote something for the American Philosophical Society a small piece on the new friend Glenn that's piqued his interest in grooving to the larger work that he won the field report video well done here about the other brother since Karl and Mark one doesn't hear but right we'll call her Karl and Mark certainly had the most public profiles Paul Van Doren moved in somebody another coincidence Paul Van Doren moved worked in the financial sort of thinking industry I believe in lived in Glen Ridge New Jersey Ryland for 20 years when I learned that Paul Van Doren's family in the 30s and 40s lived in Glen Ridge New Jersey I went and checked out the house and drove by it and took pictures you know and they moved on to Princeton the other two brothers guy and frankly and with a stayed in in Illinois and Michigan Carl and Mark Van Doren both went back to Illinois frequently to visit their parents and their siblings and made the treks but even you know trade travel at that time it was you know something you might do a couple times in your lifetime it was expensive and lengthy yet the Midwest brothers came out sporadically but it wasn't that they they do have some explosiveness that's three the only the only things that I know about car window are not things that have to do with the town of Cornwall Carl and I Ria's life here and the first thing I will say is that confirmed well when I was growing up in Cornwall it was said it's been quite another writer in Cornwall it would see and from research that was done by Jamie tenpony at the Historical Society that in fact Carl really is the beginning of formal as a literary community which it of course continues to be to this day and then well enormous number of writers came either through Carl were then after Carl brought mark mark and a money the examples of that was the fact that what's a yelping health community which is about to celebrate the center's anniversary in a couple of years actually goddess start when Henry cycle can be who is the editor of Saturday Review became Saturday review of literature and the editor and the founding editor of The Book of the Month Club what's visiting with his wife who would y'all be going with known as lady and me I believe that she had another name as well but that was how she was had boys and was always referred to and had a psychic and me and lady and me came and visited Carl and Irina van Doorn and their house on the hill and and one lovely afternoon vision that that's very much like this Irina Karl and lady and me went for a walk across the meadows now quartz thick woods that ramble to town Street and then up to the Elbe no farm not the fake original form Bethesda assigns a yellow farm on incision we'll fight today but the lp hello Parliament of which the bar yelping hello barn this there today was the barn and there was a house right next to it which was occupied by woodchuck Scholl and which go quite elderly and in poor health and lady candy was introduced to him and it was somehow conveyed that maybe this farm would be something that would become available and she brought her husband the next day and they immediately said maybe this is where we should start our colony that we've all been thinking about doing with us that our family members and my friends and that any can be put down the money and that's where I'll be talking so and the last thing I want to say about this which may be the last thing I know is that I read of Endora was a completely extraordinary person and an important literary figure but some of who we say you can't be an editor and a writer at the same time and so she's not well known first of all of course because she was a woman but also because she was not a writer she was an editor she was as the literary editor for the Nation magazine which is an important part of this whole literary world and then for Herald Tribune and I said to Robin that this is somebody who truly deserves a biography and you better get going on your fast because I now sentence that was going to get her papers are held at the National Archives in Washington DC very close to where everything so that is not possible because I only stopped talking about her writers in a processor but I don't have the next nothing's yeah just straight to you right the muse has to come to you and you have to sort of follow up with this idea to subject and delve into the life and get working on that and I haven't found the second I haven't found my next project and yet so that's not an impossible you mentioned any of the writers friendly with any visual artists and designers he was he was friendly with Gypsy Rose Lee pink bats and she was you know she was self learned woman she was a reader he was attracted to an intellectual mind he was trying you know he didn't say she did a striptease unlike any other she really strict so much from everything I've read about her she was his more of a tease right she kind of left bored the imagination find the other strippers got a problem with her because she wasn't even stripping and she was getting away on a variety but he was the best man I wanted her at her wedding which is in The New Yorker which the musical was made from she's a great range if seen Frank Zappa yeah she had quite quite a story herself yes he was very friendly with Carl Van Vechten was a wonderful photographer yes that's right yeah I mean the more I tell you this research talk about you know six series of separation everybody was seen to at one point have worked with somebody I've dated somebody married somebody or divorced somebody went to cut went to Yale you know what somebody lived upstairs from somebody I mean it was a really the literary world today I think is pretty small and you said if anyone writers with decorum on the same people sort of center around you know some locations but either not day everybody really did seem to have maybe two degrees of separation from anybody our artistic world is r-really even a tiger circle I think that you would find today really fascinating again sort of an anachronism for today's world because through all of our you know the thing about Carl Ben Horne's life and work that I found so extraordinary is you have like three radio channels to choose from alright this is a before television you had maybe two Sunday newspapers in the city you lived in everybody was tuning into CBS's Philharmonic hour on Sunday night at six o'clock and you listen to the Philharmonic play and then you heard Carl bender in reading something from American Scriptures his radio show and then Houston the feller I want to clean you in Tibet and Monday morning everybody talked about this when I said you now be all this into our own podcasts we have our own playlist we have our own cable channels we have our own news or fake news networks we watch right I mean it's also individuated you choose on Pandora and you know where Spotify what you want to listen to it you download your podcast you could probably talk about the book you read or something you heard a podcast with a friend and maybe that person has experienced it's you're right more than likely that person has their own podcast they just listening to so this whole sense of a shared sort of cultural community is very fragmented today we just don't have have that experience where everybody's opening up Life magazine you know the start of the week and everyone sees the cover and once it's a very much more individualized sort of manner in which we get our or our news or information or culture everybody makin crawl of infected was everybody knew who column anymore unless everybody who had minimal certain laws right these were these were cultural icons of the larger scene that you know whether you're American culture was more you unify in those days certainly there were plenty of folks did not feel a little bit they were part of that users who have unified American culture maybe was more of a a show than what people actually felt but in their personal daily lives but there was a more collective sort of cultural experience I think that people could commentate on could talk about together and share that information at the Monday morning water cooler you know that we just don't have today one of the things I found really touching in Robins book was that I was telling her g'day she had lunch with us and that I never knew Karl he died in 1950 I was 1 years old so I knew Mike I knew I read on my grandmother really well we shared the house we spent our summers together we came up here every summer as did my mother and grandma was here and she'd work in the city and to come up on the train but what was what was touching to me was to find out from her book that he they my grandma's got divorced eventually Karl remarry or some of the disastrous marriage though he eventually got divorced from change after committed suicide around about 47 Carl started spending all of his summers again at our house on cream Hill he had a room downstairs grandma was upstairs and according to Robyn's description which I didn't No so he came back to this process of spending his whole summer at our house in cream milk and he would do the gardening and he took care of all the grandchildren who were growing like Jon's siblings were the old as then he would probably taken care of Braddock candy and and eventually my older sister I know he was taking care of all of these siblings and doing the gardening and during what he had done and he saved the summer time for sort of light writing which didn't involve a lot of research but I was sort of touched by that because he's sort of he's been away for a bit have been a very heavy you know I don't know much about it I don't really you know when your kid you don't actually ask your parents that much about their life you said I don't ask about the lives of your grandparents you know they knew my grandmother Mark was like Mike's substitute grandfather conceal it well until I was you know of age but I thought that was very touching that he came back and you know that he was he had a sense of place Oh totally yeah he loved Cornwall and again so and he never you divorce and they remained friendly and I'm very good terms his second marriage as do says was it was a very troubled shortish marriage and they divorced me she killed herself and after that point he was able to sort of start up again his summers in Cornwall and his daughters were now adults and grown and who's able who established relationship with them on a more you know adult level and help raise the grandchildren and Skype out the back of the EADS and do the vegetable gardens and yeah he always did love Cornwall and there was that point where he was away for a minute and then and in fact he died he'd come up for it was marks birthday and they had driven up with Mark and Dorothy in June of 1950 and again he had had heart trouble the last couple years of his life he thought it was nerves every you know whatever the medical testing one SPECT that it seemed fine it was just nerves and sort of stage fright but I think it must have been something annoying with me or something and he had a heart attack shortly after coming up for that summer of 1950 and when went over to the hospital in Torrington and that's where he was when he passed away there's now about a month but this was the last yeah it was interesting what you said in the book was that the the response to a heart attack in 1950 was total bed rest for a month he wasn't even allowed to he had to lie flat you know laughter right mark had to write his letters to this woman I wasn't married but it's sort of an interesting idea that how you can all credit tech well in retrospect reading the letters in reading the years leading up to that and you know he has nerves and he's anxious and he's sweating his heart's beating I'm thinking he's got a heart condition you know forty seven and goes oh it's nervous anxiety he's been a public speaker his whole life that doesn't make any sense II know but you know ya teach medical knowledge to this area I like to something in the book all he said his autobiography about the Devorah think he wrote his autobiography maybe five years after the divorce his only fifty years old so kind of the only running out of ography but all he said in that was that in this you know for being here a private house she didn't reasons wounded me is it private passions and his wound didn't be I needed to separate and be by myself it's all he says they maintained a very cool relationship he wrote I read a lovely notes you know that the rest of her lifetime which are delighted with Congress and their paper Timmy nation they really maintained a nice relationship but he did he never said for sure again they're a big chunks of time where the letters of silent and there's no letters to be found in the collection so obviously things are burned the monthly at some point but no one's after they did had a nice relationship though afterwards Robin thank you [Applause]

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