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Edgar Lee Masters

poetry, american and uneven

MASTERS, EDGAR LEE (1869 ), American poet and novelist, was born at Garnett, Kan., on Aug. 23, 1869. He en tered Knox college in Galesburg, Ill., and was admitted to the bar in 1891. A small book of verses appeared in 1898; followed by Maximilian, a drama in blank verse (1902) ; The New Star Chamber and Other Essays (1904) ; Blood of the Prophets (1905) ; Althea, a play (1907); and The Trifler, a play (1908).

It was William Marion Reedy, of St. Louis, who, in advised Masters to deal with the people of his own day, with human nature as he had seen it revealed in the court-room and the attorney's office. Masters produced a series of post-mortems spoken by the erstwhile inhabitants of a Middle-Western village from beyond the grave. He entitled his work The Spoon River Anthology. It remains Masters's greatest effort.

Two of Masters's best short poems are to be found in Songs and Satires (1916) ; other volumes of his poetry are : The Great Valley (1916) ; Toward the Gulf (1918); Starved Rock (1919) ; Domesday Book (192o) ; and The New Spoon River (1924).

But the content of these books is most uneven in quality. Masters has also essayed the novel. His novels of boyhood, as Mitch Miller (192o), are his best. His novels of maturity, such as The Nuptial Flight (1923), Mirage (1924), are uneven in workmanship, though they contain some striking ideas. Lee (1926) is a long dramatic poem; Jack Kelso (1928), in which the central figure is a poet, a wanderer and a friend of Lincoln, is a poem having the pro portions of an epic. Masters has been the opponent of hypocrisy and is often an ironist of great power.

See "Edgar Lee Masters: Critic of Life" in Llewellyn Jones's First Impressions (1925) ; "Robert Herrick and Edgar Lee Masters. Interpreters of our Modern World," in Harry Hansen's Portraits (1923) ; Amy Lowell on Masters in Tendencies in Modern American Poetry (1917) and Louis Untermeyer's comments in American Poetry since rgoo (1923). (W. R. BE.)