blacktitle.jpg (12329 bytes)

Edgar Lee Masters as Trial Lawyer and Reader

Ronald Primeau

Masters' classical education and training in forensics keyed his sensitivity to analytical rigor and taught him to enjoy looking for and dissecting the influences on his own thinking. His background in philosophy as well as his practical experience in the courtroom made him introspective, even self-conscious, about his own theories as he worked them out. Although only a few of his books show the direct effects of trial experiences, nearly everything he wrote displays a lawyer's appetite for theoretical exchange. His comments about authors from the past and his own career often took on the cast of a legal debate. At times, he presented discussions of his wide reading like a series of courtroom exhibits offered as evidence to help his readers reach a verdict.

For Masters, reading was an energizer which provided new ideas and literary models against which he measured his own goals, accomplishments, and failures. He learned through imitation, identification, and transformation. He often revised sources even as he acknowledged a debt to them. He was never reluctant to rewrite history, to reclaim overlooked accomplishment, or to disclaim ill-conceived repute.

from Ronald Primeau, Beyond Spoon River, p. 13.

Return to Edgar Lee Masters