Benjamin De Casseres: 1900 – 1909

In the first decade of the 20th century, Benjamin De Casseres began to build his reputation as a literary figure, to some success. De Casseres’ friend and fellow columnist Don Marquis wrote in 1919, “Walt [Whitman] was a Brooklynite; Ben De Casseres was born there,” meaning of course that his distinction began while living in that borough (since Ben was physically born in Philadelphia). Having moved to New York City in 1899, he was working as a proofreader for the The Sun for the first three years of the decade, then moved to The New York Herald, where he remained until 1916.

The first half of the decade is characterized by broad, highly philosophical and quasi-mystical essays and opinions on a variety of topics, though primarily on literature and drama. The first piece De Casseres published in the new century was about the female characters of Thomas Hardy, which was received well and likely spurred him to style other pieces like it. He followed it up with an opinion piece on “The Comic View” of art and two essays in separate publications commemorating the 100th anniversary of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s birth.

About the middle of the decade, De Casseres’ published work took a decidedly philosophical and surrealist turn. He wrote a series of pieces for Mind, a “New Thought” journal that produced works about various forms of spiritualism (not to be confused with the British peer-reviewed philosophical journal of the same name). These essays showed the breadth of De Casseres’ ability to write powerful, epigrammatic sentences that delivered highly speculative ideas in a concise and pleasing way. They also exhibit his status as someone who was dabbling in Dada-style literary imagery well before the Dada movement itself was established in New York. Later in the decade, De Casseres produced toned-down short pieces that retained some of this flavor for mainstream magazines like Cosmopolitan with titles like “Prayer” and “What is Dust?

However, even during his most metaphysical period, De Casseres never lost sight of his desire to be taken seriously as a true literary figure. He wrote pieces on drama for The Theatre, and in 1909 De Casseres started writing about visual media for the quarterly Camera Work. He also resumed having letters published in The New York Times Saturday Review of Books (including a reformulated version of his essay on Hardy’s women), and had several letters printed in The Sun‘s book review section as well.

Publications

Benjamin De Casseres: 1900 – 1909 Works
Title Periodical(s) Date Page(s)
Thomas Hardy’s Women The Bookman 131-133
The Bribery of Society Wilshire’s Magazine Dec. 1902 34-36
The Comic View The Critic 170-171
Emerson the Individualist The Bookman 300-302
Emerson: Sceptic and Pessimist The Critic 437-440
Absorption: A Universal Law Mind Aug. 1903 369-374
Arthur Symons: An Interpretation The Critic 353-356
Stevenson’s Confession of Faith The Critic 414-416
The Drama and the Critic Metropolitan Magazine 492-493
Hawthorne: Emperor of Shadows The Critic 37-44
Cosmic Marionettes The Critic 159-161
The Dramatic Devil’s Advocate and Cynicism Metropolitan Magazine 617-620
Silence: Beyond the Saturnalias Mind 517-522
Ralph Waldo Emerson The Philistine 1-10
The Great Wonder Mind 58-64
Gorky: Hamlet Awakened The Critic 318-320
The Great White Negation Mind 579-584
Skepticism Extolled by a Skeptic The Sun 8
The Unrepentant—An Affirmation Mind 939-946
The God in the Glass Mind 1034-1038
Encoritis: A Protest The Theatre Magazine 303, x
The Multiple Ibsen New York Times Saturday Review of Books 374
Caricature, and Max Beerbohm Metropolitan Magazine 197-201
Marcel Schwob New York Times Saturday Review of Books 803
Life and Character Cosmopolitan Magazine 357
The Borrowed Mirror Cosmopolitan Magazine 479
Ermete Novelli Coming to America Theatre Magazine 67-68, v
The Two Tolstoys Putnam’s Magazine 728-730
Novelli as the Moor of Venice Theatre Magazine 96, vi
What Is Dust? Cosmopolitan Magazine 233
Posterity: The New Superstition The Sun 8
Woman the Supreme Illusion The New York Times Saturday Review of Books 468
The Stage-Instinct The Theatre
The Papyrus

Jan. 1909
234-245
14-15
Prayer Cosmopolitan Magazine Oct. 1907 ??
William Blake The Sun Oct. 22, 1907 8
Enter Walt Whitman The Philistine Nov. 1907 161-172
Posterity: The New Superstition (Expanded) Liberty 5-6, 11-15
Verlaine The Papyrus Jan. 1908 16-17
Hawthorne and the Intangible Life The New York Times Saturday Review of Books Jan. 4, 1908 8
Is New York Civilized? The Philistine 161-166
Nietzsche in Valhalla The Papyrus June 1908 12-14
Lafcadio Hearn The Sun June 16, 1908 6
The Malady of Maupassant The Papyrus July–Aug. 1908 16-18
Tolstoy the Artist The New York Times Saturday Review of Books 405
True Fables The Papyrus Oct. 1908 29
Walt Whitman The Fra 93-94
Caricature and New York Camera Work April 1909 17-18
The Jew The Papyrus April 1909 11-12
Gabriele D’Annunzio The Papyrus June 1909 16-19
Pamela Colman Smith Camera Work July 1909 18-20
American Indifference Camera Work July 1909 24-25
[Henri Frédéric Amiel] The New York Times Saturday Review of Books July 31, 1909 469
Sucklings of Aphrodite and the Soul of the Middle Classes The Sun Aug. 14, 1909 4
The Art “Puffer” Camera Work Oct. 1909 31-32
The Dream of Socialism The Sun Oct. 27, 1909 6