Babbitt: Biography: Sinclair Lewis

Average Overall Rating: 5
Total Votes: 132

American novelist (Harry) Sinclair Lewis was born in Sauk Centre, Minnesota in 1885. He attended Yale University from 1903 to 1906 and wrote and edited for the Yale Literary Magazine. After being employed in temporary jobs, including working as a janitor at Upton Sinclair’s Helicon Hall, he returned to Yale in 1907 and graduated in 1908.

Between 1914 and 1919, Lewis wrote prolifically but found little mainstream success with his novels. His first, Hike and the Aeroplane (1912), was published under the pseudonym Tom Graham. His next novels, Our Mr Wrenn (1914), The Trail of the Hawk (1916), The Job (1917), The Innocents (1917) and Free Air (1919) are all described by Lewis in his autobiographical piece for the Nobel Foundation as not rousing ‘the slightest whispers’. His first major success as a novelist came with the publication of Main Street(1920). This was followed by further critical acclaim for Babbitt (1922) and Arrowsmith (1925). The success of Babbitt is marked by the use of the eponymous hero’s name for pointing out middle-class blandness and lack of culture. In 1926, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Arrowsmith, but he refused it. Main Streetand Babbitt had previously been nominated for this prize, but did not win it. Elmer Gantry (1927) and Dodsworth (1929) are further examples of his successful writing career in the 1920s.

His status as an internationally-acclaimed author was confirmed in 1930 when he became the first American to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. He continued to write extensively, but his work was increasingly less well-received. Ann Vickers (1933) and It Can’t Happen Here (1935) are just two of these later works. In his later years he travelled in Europe and was by now twice divorced. He died in Rome in 1951 and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Sauk Centre.

Quotes: Search by Author

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z