Louis Bromfield Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Louis Brucker Bromfield (BRAHM-feeld) received his public school education in Ohio, and he enrolled at Cornell University in 1912 to study agriculture. At Cornell, remembering his early experiences around newspapers, Bromfield decided to write and travel. He did not completely forget his agricultural interests, however, and eventually returned to Ohio to buy and turn his Malabar Farm into a great showplace and the subject of several books. He served in many parts of Europe during World War I and came back to the United States an established newspaperman. From newspaper work he moved to magazine work, to the theater, and to writing.

In 1924, his first published novel appeared. It was The Green Bay Tree, which immediately established him as one of the most popular writers of his day. The book introduced his most memorable character, Lily Shane, and told the story of life in a midwestern city in which industry was crowding out an old estate. This novel was followed in rapid succession by Possession, Early Autumn—which won the Pulitzer Prize for the year—and A Good Woman. The first three titles, separate but interrelated novels, are the ones that support Bromfield’s critical reputation and are considered to represent him at his fictional best.

Traveling widely, Bromfield began in 1928 to extend and vary his fictional scene with The Strange Case of Miss Annie Spragg, his own favorite among his novels; The Farm, a novel drawn from family history; The Rains Came, in which the scene is India (and from which a highly successful motion picture was made); Mrs. Parkington; The Wild Country; and a series of books, partly autobiographical and partly general commentary, dealing with his Malabar Farm in Ohio: Pleasant Valley, Malabar Farm, Out of the Earth, and From My Experience.

A prolific writer with vast energies and wide interests, Louis Bromfield spent much of his time in promoting soil conservation and the scientific approach to agriculture generally. He died suddenly at Columbus, Ohio, on March 18, 1956.

Louis Bromfield Bibliography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Anderson, David D. Louis Bromfield. New York: Twayne, 1964. A standard biography.

Anderson, David D. “The Midwestern Writers and the Myth of the Search.” The Georgia Review 34 (1980). Anderson continues his study of Bromfield and compares him to Sherwood Anderson and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Bratton, David. “Edith Wharton and Louis Bromfield: A Jeffersonian and a Victorian.” Edith Wharton Review 10, no. 2 (Fall, 1993). A biographical comparison.

Bresnahen, Roger J. “The Village Grown Up: Sherwood Anderson and Louis Bromfield.” Midamerica: The Yearbook of the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature 12 (1985). Links Bromfield to Anderson.

Brown, Morrison. Louis Bromfield and His Books: An Evaluation. London: Cassell, 1956. Includes a bibliography.

Grover, Dorys Crow. “Four Midwestern Novelists’ Response to French Inquiries on Populism.” Midamerica: The Yearbook of the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature 18 (1991). Bromfield’s French connection is explored; Bromfield is compared to James T. Farrell, Sinclair Lewis, and Upton Sincair.

Llona, Victor. “Literary Gardeners: Louis Bromfield and Jean de Boschere.” Laurels 59, no. 2 (Fall, 1988). Discusses the novelist’s ecological views.

Meyers, Roy Willard. The Middle Western Farm Novel in the Twentieth Century. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1965. Includes an analysis of Bromfield’s The Farm as a lament for the passing of Jeffersonian agrarianism in an industrialized nation.