Dramatist in America: Letters of Maxwell Anderson, 1912-1958

By Laurence G. Avery; Maxwell Anderson | Go to book overview
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jungle. After all, we evolved from the jungle. Nothing will ever evolve from the ant-hill.

But I think it was the tone of your criticism that disturbed me more than the content. You know that my opinions are not purchaseable, but it seemed to me there was a touch of New Deal acrimony in your voice, especially in the reference to the Manufacturers' Association--as if to imply that any opinion which opposed the obviously high functions of the Roosevelt administration could hardly be honest. 2 Perhaps you'll say I expect too much of a critic, and I do expect a lot of you, for you have always seemed to try to give an unbiased opinion in matters pertaining to the theatre. But politics is another jungle, and we'll just have to hope that the best man sometimes wins.


Atkinson (b. 1894), influential drama critic for the New York Times ( 1925-60) whose other work at the time included Henry Thoreau: Cosmic Yankee ( 1927), had written an antagonistic review of The Essence of Tragedy and Other Footnotes and Papers ( "Ruminations of a Poet," New York Times, June 4, 1939, sec. 9, p. 1, cols. 1-3). The review focused on one essay in the book, "The Politics of Knickerbocker Holiday," and criticized Anderson for his Thoreauvian attack on Roosevelt's extension of governmental power over the lives of individual citizens. In an unlocated letter Anderson challenged the review, and in reply ( June 14, 1939; T) Atkinson admitted that the review had been written from a point of view favorable to the New Deal but maintained that poets in particular should support the New Deal because of its humanitarian intentions.
In his review Atkinson had said: "Probably Mr. Anderson does not aspire to be the poet laureate of the National Manufacturers Association, but there is nothing in [his] political sentiments to disqualify him."


Hotel Dorset
New York City
[ September/October, 1939]

Dear Polly--

I didn't quite realize till I heard it read today how wise and witty Madam, Will You Walk is. Now that I've passed my mid-century mark and spend a good deal of time looking ahead into darkness I appreciate what few fixed stars of belief men have been able to hang


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Dramatist in America: Letters of Maxwell Anderson, 1912-1958
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