TO THE readers of Two Lives Leonard has dedicated his autobiography, The Locomotive God, which reveals a robust though hyper-sensitive personality deeply wounded by a series of terrific nervous shocks in childhood, youth and maturity. However much the rationalization in this tragic self-analysis, it illuminates profoundly all that he has written, the grandeur and the glaring imperfections. Without doubt The Locomotive God is one of the most honest and exciting autobiographies in existence.
Leonard was born in Plainfield, New Jersey, grew up there and in Bolton, Massachusetts, under the watchful eyes of two remarkably intelligent parents and in spite of severe economic handicaps, studied at Boston University, Bonn, Göttingen, and Columbia where he received his PH.D. in English, in 1905. At Columbia he became the lifelong friend of Ludwig Lewisohn, who paints him vividly under the name of "Ellard" in Up Stream. Lewisohn goes so far as to say that Leonard's poetry is inferior to none that has been written on this continent. "At its best it is at least equal to the noblest passages of Emerson and it is far less fragmentary, far more sustained upon an extraordinary level of intellectual incisiveness, moral freedom and traditional beauty."
In 1906 Leonard began his long teaching career at the University of Wisconsin, in Madison, renting an attic room from an aged scholar. The following year his landlord's daughter returned. They soon fell in love, were married after an engagement of eighteen months and shortly before their second anniversary she committed suicide. This is the story of Two Lives, with some telescoping of time, even to the detail that in those last weeks she was typing