Booth Tarkington Biography

Booth Tarkington Biography

Booth Tarkington’s career was more than magnificent. Though he is best remembered for his 1918 book The Magnificent Ambersons, he produced over twenty novels and was one of the most popular authors of the early twentieth century. The Magnificent Ambersons was actually the second book of a trilogy. Dubbed “The Growth Trilogy,” these three novels (The Turmoil, The Magnificent Ambersons, and The Midlander) took on the daunting task of portraying the changing social landscape of America between the Civil War and World War I. The aristocrats who inhabited his novels were not foreign to Tarkington, whose well-heeled upbringing no doubt inspired his works and the trilogy in particular. For its rich depiction of changing times and changing classes, The Magnificent Ambersons continues to appear on lists of the best novels of the twentieth century.

Facts and Trivia

  • Tarkington studied at well-regarded universities such as Purdue and Princeton, but the majority of his degrees (including his master’s and doctorate) were honorary.
  • Tarkington has the distinction of having won two Pulitzer Prizes nearly back to back for The Magnificent Ambersons and Alice Adams. Only Edith Wharton’s win for The Age of Innocence separates them.
  • Tarkington’s novel Monsieur Beaucaire has been adapted into a play, an operetta, and two films.
  • The third novel of Tarkington’s “Growth” trilogy, The Midlander, was later retitled National Avenue.
  • The Magnificent Ambersons was made into a film by Orson Welles as his follow-up to Citizen Kane. Unhappy with it, the studio cut a significant amount of footage, which was later destroyed. An original cut, reportedly sent to Welles, has never been found.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111207119-Tarkington.jpg Booth Tarkington Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Newton Booth Tarkington was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, on July 29, 1869. He attended Phillips Exeter Academy and Purdue University and graduated from Princeton University. Primarily interested in art, he had hoped to make drawing his career, but financial necessity turned him to writing. He was a prolific writer, with successful ventures in the short story and the drama, but it is chiefly as a novelist that he is remembered. After an inauspicious beginning he gradually achieved popularity among readers and considerable acclaim from critics. His first popular success in fiction was Monsieur Beaucaire, a romantic novella that helped call attention to his first novel, The Gentleman from Indiana, which had appeared a year before, in 1899. Today Tarkington is perhaps most widely known for his stories of youth and teenagers: Penrod, Penrod and Sam, Penrod Jashber, and Seventeen. These are “American boy” stories, comic but human and appealing. The Penrod books, extremely popular and financially rewarding for Tarkington, were among the first contemporary novels to be adapted to film. His most critically acclaimed novel, Alice Adams, appeared in 1921 and won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction in 1922. The Magnificent Ambersons had earlier won the same prize. In 1933 Tarkington was awarded the Gold Medal of the National Institute of Arts and Letters. Tarkington was twice married, to Laurel Louisa Fletcher in 1902 and to Susannah Robinson in 1912.

Tarkington suffered difficulties with his eyesight for years and became totally blind in 1930, but his sight was partially restored by a series of operations. For the last thirty-five years of his life he divided his time between his family home in Indianapolis and the summer resort in Kennebunkport, Maine, that he called “the house that Penrod built.”


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Newton Booth Tarkington was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, on July 29, 1869, lived most of his life there, and passed away in his hometown on May 19, 1946. He took for his material the characters and concerns of his home city and home state, using the region to highlight the eternal concerns of humanity. He was raised in an upper-middle-class family and received a superior education, particularly at Phillips Exeter Academy. A year spent at Purdue in 1890-1891 brought him into contact with another Hoosier writer, George Ade, and with the illustrator John T. McCutcheon. Tarkington spent the years of 1891-1893 at Princeton University, although he did not take a degree. Although his education did not follow the usual pattern, it did energize him and afford him the opportunity to explore his literary talents.

After leaving Princeton, Tarkington played the part of the struggling writer for five years; however, with the publication of The Gentleman from Indiana in 1899, Tarkington was recognized as a major new writer. The novel became a best seller, and Tarkington, a prolific writer throughout his career, followed it with short stories, novels, and plays. Established as a major young writer, Tarkington married Louisa Fletcher in 1902. That same year, he was elected to the Indiana House of Representatives. He served in that capacity for only two sessions before resigning due to ill health—he had contracted typhoid in a southern Indiana resort. His bout...

(The entire section is 418 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Newton Booth Tarkington was bom in Indianapolis, Indiana, on July 29, 1869. He attended college at Purdue and Princeton before publishing his...

(The entire section is 251 words.)