Edgar Lee Masters

Neither Edgar Lee Masters nor Melville Weston Fuller, whose bio-
graphical sketch follows that of Masters, was an active participant in
the affairs of the Club. Neither served as an officer of the Club, and,
between the two of them, they presented only a handful of papers. They
were included in our anniversary program primarily because of the
renown they achieved in their respective fields.

Edgar Lee Masters was born in Garnett, Kansas, on August
23, 1869. He moved to Illinois as an infant and during his child-
hood years lived in small towns of the Sangamon valley. He
studied German, Greek and law for one year at Knox College, and
in 1892, when he was admitted to the Illinois bar, moved to
Chicago. There he spent approximately twenty-five years as a suc-
cessful attorney, eight of them in partnership with Clarence Dar-

During his years as a lawyer. Masters wrote and published two
collections of verse and seven unproduced plays. Spoon River An-
the book for which he is best known, was published in
1915. As a result of the success of this book, he gave up his law
practice in 1923 and moved to New York City, where he spent
most of the rest of his life.

Spoon River consists of 244 first-person dramatic monologues
by a variety of residents of a typical small Midwestern town, who
speak from their graves in the mythical Spoon River cemetery.
The book was an instant success and went through nearly seventy
editions during Masters's lifetime alone. Selections from the book
are included in virtually every anthology of American poetry,
and many of them have been adapted for stage and television
presentation. Together with Carl Sandburg and Vachel Lindsay,
Masters was responsible for the "poetic renaissance" that arose in
 the Middle West during the second decade of the twentieth cen-

Masters died in a convalescence home in Melrose Park, Penn-
sylvania, on March 5, 1950. He was a member of the Literary
Club from 1911 to 1916. He presented two papers. Of all our
members, past and present, he is perhaps alone in being remem-
bered for his literary achievements.

Read  before the Club:  March 22, 1999