Sinclair Lewis (February 7, 1885 - January 10, 1951), novelist, playwright
|USPS Honors Sinclair Lewis 3/21/85
|Cachet by ArtCraft for Postal Commemorative Society
Born Harry Sinclair Lewis in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, February 7, 1885.
He began reading books at a young age and kept a diary. A dreamer, at age 13 he unsuccessfully ran away from home, wanting
to become a drummer boy in the Spanish-American War.Late in 1902 Lewis left home for school at Oberlin Academy (the
then-preparatory department of Oberlin College) to qualify for acceptance to Yale University. While at Oberlin, he developed
a religious enthusiasm that waned for much of his remaining teenage years. He entered Yale in 1903 but did not receive his
bachelor's degree until 1908, having taken time off to work at Helicon Home Colony, Upton Sinclair's cooperative-living
colony in Englewood, New Jersey, and to travel to Panama. In 1914 Lewis married Grace Livingston Hegger, an editor at Vogue
magazine. They had one son, Wells Lewis (1917–1944), named after British author H. G. Wells. Wells Lewis was killed
while serving in the military in World War II. Lewis divorced Grace in 1925. On May 14, 1928, he married Dorothy Thompson,
a political newspaper columnist. Later in 1928, he and Dorothy purchased a second home in rural Vermont. They had a son, Michael
Lewis, in 1930. Their marriage had virtually ended by 1937, and they divorced in 1942. Michael Lewis became an actor and died
in 1975 at age 44. He moved to Washington, D.C.,where Lewis devoted himself to writing. After an alcoholic binge in 1937,
Lewis checked into the Austen Riggs Center, a psychiatric hospital in Stockbridge, Massachusetts for treatment. His doctors
gave Lewis a blunt assessment that he needed to decide "whether he was going to live without alcohol or die by it, one
or the other.
As early as 1916, he began taking notes for a realistic novel about
small-town life. Work on that novel continued through mid-1920, when he completed Main Street, which was published on October
23, 1920.The first works he produced were romantic poetry, then romantic stories about knights and fair ladies. By 1921 he
had six novels published . His works are known for their insightful and critical views of American society and capitalist
values, as well as for their strong characterizations of modern working women.1926 Mr.Lewis was awarded the Pulitzer Prize
for his novel Arrowsmith but he declined it.. In 1930, Lewis won the Nobel Prize in Literature, the first writer from the
United States to receive the award. The Swedish Academy's presentation speech, special attention was paid to Babbitt.
In his Nobel Lecture, Lewis praised Theodore Dreiser, Willa Cather, Ernest Hemingway, and other contemporaries, but also lamented
that "in America most of us — not readers alone, but even writers — are still afraid of any literature which
is not a glorification of everything American, a glorification of our faults as well as our virtues," and that America
is "the most contradictory, the most depressing, the most stirring, of any land in the world today." He also offered
a profound criticism of the American literary establishment: "Our American professors are like their literature clear
and cold and pure and very dead."After winning the Nobel Prize, Lewis wrote eleven more novels, ten of which appeared
in his lifetime. The best remembered is It Can't Happen Here, a novel about the election of a fascist to the American
Lewis died in Rome on January 10, 1951, aged 65, from advanced alcoholism.
His cremated remains were buried in Sauk Centre. A final novel, World So Wide (1951), was published posthumously.