Sadakichi Hartmann

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Introduction

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

Sadakichi Hartmann 1867-1944

(Full name Carl Sadakichi Hartmann) American poet, playwright, essayist, short story writer, novelist, and lecturer.

An American man of letters, Hartmann's work spans a complex field of subjects. He was a poet associated both with Walt Whitman and the French Symbolists, a leading critic of the nascent art of photography, a prominent member of the bohemian society of Greenwich Village at the turn of the century, and later a somewhat more peripheral figure in Hollywood society. A world traveler and lecturer, he launched innovative productions of his own plays and more classic material on stages across the United States, appeared in the film The Thief of Baghdad with Lionel Barrymore, and generated many volumes of art criticism.

Biographical Information

According to Hartmann, he was born on November 8, 1867, on the isle of Desima in Nagasaki Harbor, Japan. His mother, who was Japanese, either died in childbirth or shortly thereafter. Carl Herman Oskar Hartmann, his German father, sent Sadakichi, which means "fortunate if constant," and his older brother Taru to stay with their wealthy uncle in Hamburg, where they were educated. Some time later, the elder Carl Hartmann returned to Germany and married a widow with two daughters from a previous marriage, at which time Sadakichi was sent to the Naval Academy at Kiel. He ran away almost immediately to Paris and was disinherited by his family. Having no other resources, and being only fifteen years old, Hartmann made his way to America, to search out his other, less socially prominent uncle in Philadelphia. While working odd jobs of all sorts, Hartmann pursued an education in art as best he could, studying briefly at the Spring Garden Institute and the Mercantile Library. When he discovered that Walt Whitman was living in nearby Camden, he made his way there and introduced himself sometime around his seventeenth birthday. Whitman and Hartmann became friends, seeing each other often over the following eight years, up until a year before Whitman's death in 1892. Hartmann published Conversations with Walt Whitman three years later, and his poetry of this period strongly shows Whitman's influence. After Whitman, the next great influence on Hartmann's art was French Symbolism. Hartmann visited Europe on no less than five occasions between 1885 and 1892, primarily to train as an actor, and it was during this time that he was first galvanized by innovations in French poetry, particularly in the work of Arthur Rimbaud and Stéphane Mallarmé. Returning to the United States, he championed Symbolism to his friends among the New York literati. At the same time, Hartmann pursued his desire to act and to write for the stage. He traveled to Boston from his home in New York to involve himself with the thriving theatre scene there—it was in Boston that his controversial play Christ was first performed. In 1891 Hartmann married Elizabeth Blanche Walsh, with whom he had five children. During their marriage he also pursued a romantic affair with Anne Throop, a New England poet, with whom he had a son, and, in 1911, he took a young artist named Lillian Bonham as his common-law wife. They lived together at Elbert Hubbard's artist colony in Roycroft, New York, until 1916, producing seven more children. By this time, Hartmann's artistic energies were flagging. After 1916, he took up residence in San Francisco and attached himself to the theater community there. He returned to New York in 1919. Then, in 1923, he relocated again, this time to Los Angeles, where he met John Barrymore and appeared, through Barrymore's influence, as a magician in the classic fantasy film The Thief of Baghdad with Douglas Fairbanks. In 1924, Hartmann moved to Beaumont, California, hoping that the desert air would alleviate the symptoms of his asthma. This would be the pattern of Hartmann's later life: moving back and forth across the United States, seeking out friends, and writing less and less. He finally set...

(The entire section is 1,315 words.)