Page 58 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 14

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
48
doubt on this explanation of his failure to find a teaching job, one
cannot help but wonder whether his own obstreperousness was not
a contributing factor. Professor Trent had sufficient confidence in
his pupil to entrust to him the editing of Crevecoeur’s
Letters
from an American Farmer
, a classic of its kind, which task the
young scholar achieved almost to perfection.
Thwarted in his desire to teach English, Lewisohn turned to
German Literature, with which he had never lost contact. While
in New York he became friends with the elder Viereck, editor of
the
Staats Zeitung
, and especially with the young George Sylvester
Viereck, for whose “Gedichte” (poems) he wrote an introduction,
later printed in the
Sewanee Review.
During this period he worked
for
Warner s Library
, and subsequently for a year in the editorial
department of Doubleday Page & Company.
He finally returned home and tried to earn a livelihood.
The
New York Times
,
The Review of Reviews
and
The Smart Set
ac-
cepted his stories and articles from time to time, but rejections
came all too frequently. The struggle was hard and painful, and
his bitterness was exacerbated by his feeling that the cards were
stacked against him because he was Jewish. This fact was un-
deniable; it was as plain as the nose on his face. In the meanwhile,
he had begun to write his own life’s tale in
Upstream
, from which
most of our data are taken. This “apologia,” however, leaves out,
despite its candor, more than it tells or can relate. Like all
autobiographies, it is colored by the bias of the author. We cannot
blame Lewisohn for not seeing himself as others could. At the
same time, we cannot escape the conclusion that, despite his
tremendous ability and his great talent for expression, of which
he was not unaware, he was a neurotic and cantankerous person
who got along with very few people and quarreled with many,
including his successive wives. He carried a chip on his shoulder
and dared the literary world, the Gentile as well as Jewish, to
knock it off. His genius was recognized early enough and some of
his acquaintances put up with his idiosyncracies and, to them, the
impertinences of unconventionality. He was admired by many,
but loved by hardly anyone; even the women he married lost their
affection for him.
In his next phase, beginning 1907-1908, Lewisohn wrote short
romances and plays for
Town Topics
and stories for
The Smart Set
,
edited and made famous by Mencken, who had great respect for
Lewisohn’s ability and saw in him an original American writer.
Whatever the reader may think of
A Matter of Habit
,
White Rose
and others, their author had begun to preach his gospel, which he
was never weary of repeating (it was the lesson his own life had
taught him), that the spiritual was a prerequisite to physical