Sherwood Anderson

Sherwood Anderson

Sherwood Anderson (1876–1941) was born in Camden, Ohio. He left school at the age of fourteen, forced to work odd jobs to support his family. He attended night school and worked various jobs including farm laborer, factory hand, and newsboy. He was a successful ad copywriter and served in the Spanish American War (1898–9).

Early on he was writing his own poetry and short stories, influenced by such notable authors as Carl Sandburg and Gertrude Stein. Possibly because of his early transient life and often straightened circumstances he became known for his stories that gave a voice to small town American characters and their plight with finding the American Dream. In Ohio, Sherwood met and married Cornelia Lane in 1904 with whom he had three children, Robert, John and Marion. A few years later he founded the Anderson Manufacturing Company, a successful firm carrying a popular product called ’Roof-Fix’. He enjoyed the fruits of the bourgeois lifestyle of family and a stable income but it was not long before he suffered a nervous breakdown and divorced Lane.

He married Elizabeth Prall in 1923, and in 1925 the Andersons settled in Grayson County near Troutdale, Virginia, where he purchased property and built a house he called ’Ripshin’ after the adjacent creek. In Dark Laughter (1925) was followed by Tar: A Midwestern Childhood (1926) and Sherwood Anderson’s Notebook (1926). A year later he purchased the Marion Publishing Company of Marion, Virginia. Hello Towns! (1929) contains some of his editorials and sketches. It was followed by Beyond Desire (1932) and Death in the Woods (1933). The same year he married Eleanor Copenhaver, with whom he traveled extensively in North America and beyond. In 1937 he published Plays, Winesburg and Others. His last work is an extensive essay entitled Home Town (1940).

He published many novels and short story collections before his death in 1941 while on a cruise in South America. Poor White (1920), published by New Directions, has long been regarded as Anderson’s finest novel, a marvelous testament to what one New Republic writer called his ’sombre metaphysical preoccupation and his smouldering sensuousness.’

Poor White

Completed one year after his classic Winesburg, Ohio and long regarded as his finest novel, Sherwood Anderson’s Poor White captures the spirit of small-town America during the Machine Age. Hugh McVey is a protagonist Robert Lovett once called “a symbol of the country itself in its industrial progress and spiritual impotence.” A lonely and passionate inventor of farm machinery, he struggles to gain love and intimacy in a community where “life had surrendered to the machine.…
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