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George Jean Nathan Biography

(1882–1958), Smart Set, Mr George Jean Nathan Presents, The Popular Theatre, Materia Critica, The Artist, Heliogabalus

American drama critic and essayist, born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, educated at Cornell University. After working as a journalist and drama critic, in 1908 he joined the staff of the Smart Set, which he co-edited with H. L. Mencken from 1914 to 1923. Collections of Nathan's essays and reviews from this period include Mr George Jean Nathan Presents (1917), The Popular Theatre (1918), and Materia Critica (1924). In collaboration with Mencken he wrote the plays The Artist (1912) and Heliogabalus (1920); his principal dramatic works of sole authorship are The Eternal Mystery (1913) and The Avon Flows (1937). In 1924 he founded the American Mercury with Mencken; disagreements led to his resignation as editor in 1925, although he continued to supply reviews. In association with Theodore Dreiser and others, he began the Spectator in 1932. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s Nathan was the most influential commentator on contemporary American drama, attracting hostility from controlling interests in the commercial theatre for his authoritatively iconoclastic denigrations of many productions. Among the playwrights whose reputations he fostered were Eugene O'Neill, William Saroyan, Arthur Miller, and Sean O'Casey. Numerous further books of his criticism include Art of the Night (1928), Passing Judgements (1934), The Entertainment of a Nation (1942), and The Theatre in the Fifties (1953). The Autobiography of an Attitude (1925) and The Intimate Notebooks of George Jean Nathan (1932) are witty collections of reminiscences.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Mr Polly to New France