Van Wyck Brooks, 1886 - 1963

portrait of Van Wyck Brooks
Time cover, 2 October 1944

Born: 16 February 1886, Plainfield, New Jersey
Died: 2 May 1963, Bridgewater, Connecticut

Van Wyck was the second son of Charles Brooks, a brokerage clerk who had failed in business, and Sara Ames Brooks, whose family had arrived in New Amsterdam in 1659 and done very well for themselves. When Charles' mentor died, his own efforts were flops, he returned home after selling a copper mine in Arizona that would later be hugely productive in order to buy a nickel mine in Utah that was too far from any railroad to be worth anything at all. Thus a home in tension between a socialite wife who drew on her family's money and a father that didn't fit. Many of Brooks' books addressed problems he saw in the society from which his mother came. His real contribution was literary criticism, he was largely responsible for making the American authors of the 19th century prominent, including such names as Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Stephen Crane, Bret Harte, and Mark Twain. His "Finders and Makers" series included five volumes, the first of which earned him the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1937. He graduated from Harvard in 1908, sold his first book the same year. He was granted Doctor of Letters degrees by ten Universities.

Biography from Wikipedia and the New Netherlands Institute

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