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Joseph Hergesheimer Biography

(1880–1954), The Lay Anthony, The Saturday Evening Post, Java Head, Linda Condon, Cytherea, The Presbyterian Child

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American novelist, born in Philadelphia, educated at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. He studied art in Italy before writing his first novel, The Lay Anthony (1914), and between 1915 and 1938 he was a regular contributor to The Saturday Evening Post. His early novels were historical romances, often with an exotic setting as, for example, in Java Head (1919), but later works explore the manners and milieu of America in the 1920s in a way that bears comparison with the novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Linda Condon (1919) and Cytherea (1922), the latter probably his best-known novel, survey the post-war world with a combination of ironic detachment and an extravagant, almost luxuriant, style. Alfred Kazin labelled Hergesheimer an ‘exquisite’, while Clifton Fadiman spoke of him as ‘the Sargent of the modern American novel’, thus capturing perfectly the attention to detail and colour in his prose. He was elected to the American Academy in 1921 but by the early 1930s was something of a figure of fun for an increasingly earnest, left-wing intelligentsia. He wrote two volumes of autobiography, notably The Presbyterian Child (1923), several works of non-fiction, and a screenplay, Flower of Night (1925). An interesting study is Hergesheimer (1921) by James Branch Cabell.

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