Dreiser and the profession of authorship

James L.W. West

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In October 1910 Theodore Dreiser decided, for the third time in his life, to make a try at professional authorship. He had already attempted full-time writing twice, once as a newspaper reporter from 1892 to 1895 and a second time as a freelance magazine writer from 1897 to 1900. Both times Dreiser had found it necessary to abandon authorship and move into magazine editing in order to support himself. Now, in the fall of 1910, he meant to try authorship again - this time as a writer of fiction. Dreiser had no immediate reason to change occupations. He was well established as the editor of several large-circulation magazines issued by Butterick Publications and was married, rather conventionally, to a pleasant and affectionate woman. He had recently turned thirty-nine, had money in the bank, and was living in a comfortable flat in New York City. It is true that he had become entangled in an office romance with a woman too young for him, but he could probably have smoothed over that matter and continued to work at Butterick if he had wished to. He could also have left Butterick and sought editorial work elsewhere in the city. Instead he chose to resign from his post and begin writing fiction for a living. From a practical point of view his decision is hard to explain; sitting on his side of the desk, the editor’s side, he must have been reminded frequently of how precarious the lot of the professional author could be. Many of the scribblers with whom he dealt at Butterick were undoubtedly living from hand to mouth, angling for the next writing assignment or book advance, occasionally enjoying fat periods when money arrived but more often subsisting on short funds. Why should Dreiser choose such a life?.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to Theodore Dreiser
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781139001014
ISBN (Print)052181555x, 9780521815550
StatePublished - Jan 1 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


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