Maxwell Perkins: Editor And Friend Essay

1062 words - 4 pages

William Maxwell Evarts Perkins, considered the greatest American editor of fiction, was born on September 20, 1884. He grew up in Plainfield, New Jersey but later would graduate from Harvard with an economics major. At Harvard he studied under Charles Townsend Copeland, a legendary literature teacher, who gave Perkins the literature background necessary for his successful career in editing.Though Perkins will always be connected with the three great authors for whom he edited (Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Thomas Wolfe), he achieved enough through his career to stand alone as a great American Literature figure. Near the beginning of his career at Scribner's Sons (A respectable publishing house) Perkins told his colleagues that, "My feeling is that a publisher's first allegiance is to talent." At the time he was specifically referring to Fitzgerald's novel This Side of Paradise. After convincing the firm to publish the book, which went on to achieve surprise success, Perkins established himself as an editor with the rare ability to discover new literary talent.Before his work at Scribner's Sons, Max Perkins was a reporter for The New York Times until 1910. The same year that he took his new position at Scribner's he also got married to Louise Saunders. His wife grew up in Plainfield, Perkin's childhood home. His wife would come to bear him five daughters. When Perkins arrived at Scribner's the firm was known for publishing veteran authors, such as John Galsworthy, Henry James and Edith Wharton. Perkins certainly respected these older writers, but truly believed Scribner's would only continue to succeed if they brought in young talent. Scribner so believed in the necessity to bring in new authors, he actively sought them out, which is very unusual for an editor. It paid off for Perkins, though, for he found F. Scott Fitzgerald. As the author and his editor's relationship grew they became good friends despite Fitzgerald's alcoholism. Maintaining a friendship with Fitzgerald was difficult for Perkins, as Fitzgerald's problems with alcohol and profligacy continued to only get worse. Perkin's continued to be there for Fitzgerald though, advancing him money, making personal loans, and providing a constant flow of encouragement. By the end of Fitzgerald's short life, Perkins still remained a steadfast friend.During their friendship, Fitzgerald introduced Perkins to Ernest Hemingway, who had already published a volume of short stories in America. Perkins believed so strongly in Ernest that he contracted his upcoming novel without even reading it. As it turns out, The Sun Also Rises went on to achieve extreme success, despite negative feedback from most of Scribner's Sons. The novel did have a high amount of profanity and lewd behavior in it for its time. Perkins worked as a great compromiser, convincing a touchy Hemingway to trim back some of the mature content and at the same time convincing Scribner's and Sons to publish the book with much...

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