A William March Omnibus

A William March Omnibus

A William March Omnibus

A William March Omnibus

Excerpt

William March Campbell, an organizer and later vice-president of the Waterman Steamship Corporation, was born in Mobile, Alabama, on the eighteenth of September, 1893. William March, the writer, was born sometime after that, not in fact until he was in his middle thirties, when a long attack of hysterical blindness left him at the mercy of what he discovered to be a wry and melancholy imagination. He recalled over and over again the men and the exploits of his own company of Marines in the First World War. When he regained his sight, he wrote Company K, and thereafter his preoccupation with human character, and what he could do with it on paper, gradually absorbed him, so that about ten years later he shed his active interest in the shipping business. It gave him, however, a comfortable income. No one knew quite how much until, after his death in May, 1954, his collection of paintings, including enough Soutines to furnish an asylum, was valued at a quarter of a million dollars.

The picture that these few sentences evoke may well be that of a successful tycoon with a dilettante itch for writing. Nothing could be less like the familiar image of this small, gray, bemused bachelor. The modeling of his big head, and a handsome aquiline nose, were the only remarkable things about his appearance. Met on a street or coming into a room, he could have passed anywhere as a small-business man resigned to frequent losses, a dry- goods salesman perhaps, not unlike the man on the train in "The Little Wife." He had the soft pale skin of a Southerner . . .

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