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The Journal of Arthur Stirling : the Valley of the Shadow   By: (1878-1968)

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[by Upton Sinclair]



The matter which is given to the public in this book will speak with a voice of its own; it is necessary, however, to say a few words in advance to inform the reader of its history.

The writer of the journal herein contained was not known, I believe, to more than a dozen people in this huge city in which he lived. I am quite certain that I and my wife were the only persons he ever called his friends. I met him shortly after his graduation from college, and for the past few years I knew, and I alone, of a life of artistic devotion of such passionate fervor as I expect never to meet with again.

Arthur Stirling was entirely a self educated man; he had worked at I know not how many impossible occupations, and labored in the night time like the heroes one reads about. He taught himself to read five languages, and at the time when I saw him last he knew more great poetry by heart than any man of letters that I have ever met. He was the author of one book, a tragedy in blank verse, called The Captive; that drama forms the chief theme of this journal. For the rest, it seems to me enough to quote this notice, which appeared in the New York Times for June 9, 1902.

STIRLING. By suicide in the Hudson River, poet and man of genius, in the 22d year of his age, only son of Richard T. and Grace Stirling, deceased, of Chicago. Chicago papers please copy.

Arthur Stirling was in appearance a tall, dark haired boy he was really only a boy with a singularly beautiful face, and a strange wistful expression of the eyes that I think will haunt me as long as I live. I made him, somewhat externally and feebly, I fear, one of the characters in a recently published novel. That he was a lonely spirit will be plain enough from his writings; he lived among the poverty haunted thousands of this city, without (so he once told me) ever speaking to a living soul for a week. Pecuniarily I could not help him for though he was poor, I was scarcely less so. At the time of his frightful death I had not seen him for nearly two months owing to circumstances which were in no way my fault, but for which I can nevertheless not forgive myself.

The writing of The Captive, as described in these papers, was begun in April, 1901. I was myself at that time in the midst of a struggle to have a book published. It was not really published until late in that year at which time The Captive was finished and already several times rejected. It was an understood thing between us that should my book succeed it would mean freedom for both of us, but that, unfortunately, was not to be.

Early in April of 1902 I had succeeded in laying by provisions enough to last me while I wrote another book, and I fled away to put up my tent in the wilderness. The last time that I ever saw Arthur Stirling was in his room the night before I left. He smiled very bravely and said that he would keep his courage up, that he was pretty sure he would come out all right.

I did not expect him to write often I knew that he was too poor for that; but after six weeks had passed and I had not heard from him at all, I wrote to a friend to go and see him. It developed that he had moved. The lodging house keeper could only say that he had left her his baggage, being unable to pay his rent; and that he "looked sick." Where he went she did not know, and all efforts of mine to find him were of no avail. The only person that I knew of to ask was a certain young girl, a typewriter, who had known him for years, and who had worshiped him with a strange and terrible passion who would have been his wife, or his slave, if he had not been as iron in such things, a man so lost in his vision that I suppose he always thought she was lost in it too. This girl had copied his manuscripts for years, with the plea that he might pay her when he "succeeded"; and she has all of his manuscripts now, except what I have, if she is alive... Continue reading book >>

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