Vogue Magazine, December 1926 Photograph by Edward Steichen

THE history of Sherwood Anderson is the history of a man groping painfully for an understanding of his own ideas. They flash before him out of the void, and he contemplates them with a sort of wonder, seeking to penetrate their significance, and sometimes not succeeding. Here I do not simply speculate grandly; I say only what the man has said himself, and in plain terms. Mid-American Chants represents his effort to turn this puzzlement into ecstasy; in Many Marriages he takes refuge in metaphysics; in such acrid and revelatory short stories as Death in the Woods he contents himself with stating his problem, and letting the answer go. But the man grows.

He is still a wanderer in a wood, but he has begun to find paths and landmarks. In Dark Laughter, I believe, is a foreshadowing of the Anderson who is ahead—an Anderson still happily free from the ready formulae of the Bennetts and Wellses, and yet making contact with an ordered and plausible rationale of life. In Dark Laughter, the latest of his books, Anderson begins to be oriented. It is, I think, one of the most profound American novels of our time. It has all the cruel truthfulness of a snapshot, and it is at the same time a moving and beautiful poem.

Sherwood Anderson is one of the most original novelists ever heard of. He seems to derive from no one, and to have no relation to any contemporary. An aloof, moody, often incoherent, mainly impenetrable man, he has made his own road. There is, at the top of his achievement, an almost startling brilliance; there is in him, even at his worst, every sign of a sound artist—sometimes baffled by his materials, perhaps, but never disingenuous, never smug, never cheap. H.L. MENCKEN

They got that wrong. He died shortly afterward of peritonitis.


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