NEARLY all our distinguished American women novelists of the twentieth century were either graduates of universities or, like Edith Wharton and Anne Sedgwick, educated in Europe; Dorothy Canfield belonged to both classes. But Edna Ferber from the age of seventeen has been on her own. Born in Kalamazoo, she entered newspaper work on graduating from high school, and after writing a number of magazine stories and popular novels, she turned from the production of tales written for the market to the creation of literature. She has interpreted various sections of the United States. So Big, which I like best of all her novels, although she does not, deals with people and localities in and near Chicago. Show Boat is, I suppose, the best novel ever written of the moving theatres of our great southern rivers. Cimarron is an interpretation of the opening and settling of Oklahoma; American Beauty, of the invasion of Connecticut; Come and Get It deals with the lumber magnates and lumberjacks of Wisconsin. She is an accomplished and successful playwright.
The first time I persuaded her to lecture at Yale she came with Mrs. George Kaufman. After the lecture they took dinner at our house, and I, as is my custom, said grace. There was a moment's pause, and to cover what might have been a slight embarrassment, my wife said to me, 'I didn't hear a word you said,' to which I replied, 'I wasn't speaking to you.' This amused Miss Ferber so much that she told it to Alexander Woollcott, who not only