Horace Liveright Biography

Biography

The founders of one of several new American publishing firms willing to gamble on controversial writers, Horace Liveright and Albert Boni began working together in 1916. Their Modern Library series reprinted great literary works, drawing acclaim from such literary figures as H. L. Mencken, but scorn from the censors. The first Modern Library selection to be censored was Andreas Latzko’s pacifist novel Men in War (1918). Hutchins Hapgood’s The Story of a Lover was seized in 1920, and T. R. Smith’s translation of Petronius’s The Satyricon was attacked in 1922. The Clean Books League increased pressure on Liveright in 1923, but in 1925, he published several daring works: Anita Loos’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Sherwood Anderson’s Dark Laughter, Eugene O’Neill’s Desire Under the Elms, Maxwell Bodenheim’s Replenishing Jessica, and Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy. The latter two were tried as obscene, and Clarence Darrow defended Dreiser.

Major figures in censorship and publishing history, Dreiser and Liveright worked together from 1917 through the 1920’s. Although Dreiser’s Sister Carrie (1900), Jennie Gerhardt (1911), and The Genius (1915) had previously been censored, Liveright gambled on Dreiser’s popularity by reprinting Sister Carrie and by publishing his new works, including the play The Hand of the Potter (1918).