[Upton Sinclair to Julia Ward Howe.]. Upton Sinclair.

[Upton Sinclair to Julia Ward Howe.]

Edge Moor, Delaware, 6 July 1910. 8vo (11” x 8”). 1 p. TLS, with one ms. insertion, on letterhead reading “Upton Sinclair, Edge Moor Del.”.

A letter from Sinclair to the prominent social activist and writer Julia Ward Howe, reflecting financial difficulties endured by writers.

Replying to Howe, Sinclair here nudges her again to make a statement to the effect that writing “has not paid you enough to live upon”—for the purposes of “propaganda” Sinclair is “carrying on.” Howe’s statement, Sinclair writes, would be published in the Independent later that month (on 28 July), along with other letters on this subject. Sinclair explains that what he is “trying to do is to make people realize that there are kinds of creative writing of great importance and service to the community which do not provide their writers with a living, or anything approximating it.” He affirms that Howe’s work has offered such a service to America. The meager income one earns as a writer, he notes, is a fact that the public only learns after a writer dies. Sinclair pronounces: “It seems to me that the time has come when the public can be forced to do something for writers while they are still alive.” In the end, Howe did not submit the requested statement, and would pass away later in the year at the age of 91. Sinclair’s article, “The Endowment of Young Writers” was published in the Independent and featured statements by Jack London, William James (who also writes on the behalf of his ill brother Henry), John Bigelow, and H. G. Wells.

With the income from his best seller The Jungle (1906)—a novel Jack London praised as “the Uncle Tom’s Cabin of wage slavery”—Sinclair founded the utopian Helicon Home Colony in Englewood, New Jersey—a commune inspired by a model developed by the feminist writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The colony burned down in 1907 under suspicious circumstances within a year of its founding, and was abandoned. At the time he wrote this letter, Sinclair was living in Delaware in the Single Tax colony known as Arden. In May 1910, a newspaper article records him as living in a tent at Arden; his dwellings at this colony came to be called the “Jungalow.”

Sinclair married his first wife Meta Fuller in 1900. Fuller and her family attempted to get Sinclair to give up writing and get "a job that would support his family," but to no avail. Around 1911 Fuller left Sinclair for the poet Harry Kemp. Delaware made national news in 1911 when Sinclair and ten fellow Arden residents were arrested for playing baseball and selling ice cream on Sunday—it being illegal to work or play sports on a Sunday in the state at the time. In 1913 and 1914, Sinclair ventured to Colorado’s coal fields several times, which led him to write King Coal as well as The Coal War.

Howe is known to have helped sharpen Sinclair's thinking on socialism. She authored the Civil War anthem Battle Hymn of the Republic; co-founded the American Woman Suffrage Association (in addition to a range of other women’s rights organizations); and edited the abolitionist newspaper The Commonwealth. In 1908, Howe became the first woman elected to the American Academy of Arts & Letters.

REFERENCES: Albright, Matthew. Delaware's wild history of 'blue laws' has modern-day lessons at delawareonline.com; Coodley, Lauren. Upton Sinclair at britannica.com; Harris, Leon. Upton Sinclair: American Rebel (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1975); Sinclair, Upton, “The Endowment of Young Writers,” The Independent, Vol. 69 (1910), pp. 170-176; “Upton Sinclair at Arden,” The News Journal (Wilmington, Delaware, 31 May 1910), p. 6.

CONDITION: Good, light chipping at margins, separations along center horizontal fold, no losses to the text.

Item #6022

Price: $750.00

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