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Sinclair Lewis
Birth: Feb. 7, 1885
Sauk Centre
Stearns County
Minnesota, USA
Death: Jan. 10, 1951
Rome
Provincia di Roma
Lazio, Italy

Writer. Born Harry Sinclair Lewis to Edwin J. and Emma Kermott Lewis on February 7, 1885 in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, a farming village approximately 100 miles northwest of Minneapolis/St. Paul with a total population of slightly more than 1,000 at the time of his birth, his mother died when he was six years old and his father, a country physician, remarried a year later. According to his obituary in The New York Times, he was "described as a gangling, pink-skinned, freckled, red-haired young man whom everybody called ‘Red.'" He started at Yale University in 1903, but interrupted his studies to work as a janitor in Upton Sinclair's Helicon Hall, a utopian community along the Hudson River. He graduated with an A.B. degree from Yale in 1908. Sinclair stated himself that he was fired by The Associated Press, The San Francisco Bulletin and other newspapers for incompetence. He worked for the hefty salary of $60 a week for a book review syndicate based in New York and he sold short story plots to Jack London, according to The New York Times. He also worked in various positions in the publishing industry including as an editor and manuscript-reader. Lewis also had stories published in the famed Saturday Evening Post. Lewis's first five novels did not garner him any attention. All of them, according to his 1930 Nobel Prize acceptance speech "…were all dead before the ink was dry": "Our Mr. Wrenn" (1914), "The Trail of the Hawk" (1915), "The Job" (1917), "The Innocents" (1917), and "Free Air" (1919). His very first book was a children's book published in 1912 titled "Hank and the Aeroplane" that he rarely mentioned and downplayed throughout his life. Lewis's first successful novel was 1920's "Main Street," followed two years later by "Babbitt," which solidified his reputation as a force in literature. "Babbitt" introduced a new word into the American lexicon: Babbittry. The word came to signify a wishy-washy, middle-of-the-road, intellectually vapid state, Lewis characterizing the mid-Western U.S. as such. Lewis was prolific in the late-1920's, publishing novels every year: "Arrowsmith" (1925), "Mantrap" (1926), "Elmer Gantry" (1927), "The Man Who Knew Coolidge" (1928), and "Dodsworth" (1929). This is a considerable feat in light of Lewis's reputation for being a dedicated researcher, gathering many facts and much information before writing. His father's occupation would surface, in part, in "Arrowsmith," which a Dr. Paul de Kraif served as medical consultant. Lewis was both the first person to refuse the Pulitzer Prize (awarded in 1926 for "Arrowsmith") and the first American to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1930. In his refusal letter to the Pulitzer Prize Committee, he refused the award on the basis of the criteria, which stated, in part, the American novel should "…best present the wholesome atmosphere of American life…" (Joseph Pulitzer is the acknowledged father of yellow journalism). Lewis stated that such criteria will not reward novels based on their literary merit, "…but in obedience to whatever code of Good Form may chance to be popular at the moment." He accepted the Nobel Prize four years later because the award was not based on those restrictions. In his acceptance speech of the Nobel Prize, Lewis stated that Dr. Gustaf Sondelius, of Arrowsmith, was his "favorite among all my characters." His career began to taper off in the 1930's, but his novels remained widely-read. He wrote "Ann Vickers" (1933), "Work of Art" (1934), "It Can't Happen Here" (1935), "The Prodigal Parents" (1938), "Bethel Merriday" (1940), "Gideon Planish" (1943), "Cass Timberlane" (1945), "Kingsblood Royal" (1947), "The God-Seeker" (1949), and "World So Wide" (1951), published posthumously. He also published "Selected Short Stories" and wrote the play "Jayhawker" in 1935. He was married twice: First to Grace Livingston Hegger on April 15, 1914 in New York City and a son, Wells Lewis (named for author H.G. Wells) was born to them. The couple eventually divorced and Wells was killed in World War II. Lewis married a second time to Dorothy Thompson on May 14, 1928 in England and they had a son, Michael Lewis. Lewis had been suffering from heart and lung problems for a long time, according to The New York Times, and his condition worsened. He died at a private nursing home in the suburbs of Rome, Italy. (bio by: Donna Di Giacomo) 
 
Family links: 
 Spouse:
  Dorothy Celene Thompson Kopf (1893 - 1961)*
 
 Children:
  Wells Lewis (1917 - 1944)*
 
*Calculated relationship

Cause of death: Paralysis of the heart (heart failure)
 
Burial:
Greenwood Cemetery
Sauk Centre
Stearns County
Minnesota, USA
 
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Record added: Jan 01, 2001
Find A Grave Memorial# 624
Sinclair Lewis
Added by: Bobb Edwards
 
Sinclair Lewis
Added by: Mary and Dan Stroeing
 
Sinclair Lewis
Added by: Stew Thornley
 
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- nevermore
 Added: Feb. 7, 2014

- Donna Lee Wall
 Added: Feb. 7, 2014

- Tom A. Hawk
 Added: Feb. 7, 2014
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