Nathan, George Jean

Nathan, George Jean, 1882–1958, American editor and drama critic, b. Fort Wayne, Ind. He left the New York Herald to join H. L. Mencken in editing Smart Set (1914–23), which they made into a guide for the young American intellectual. In 1924 they founded the American Mercury, a magazine that fostered the most rebellious and lively literature and drama; for a decade the magazine was the arbiter of American literary taste. Nathan was himself primarily a drama critic, famous for the erudition and cynicism of his reviews; he was an early champion of Eugene O'Neill. He was a founder and an editor (1932–35) of the American Spectator, and after 1943 he wrote a syndicated column for the New York Journal-American. His criticism appeared in many volumes: Mr. George Jean Nathan Presents (1917); The Critic and the Drama (1922); The Testament of a Critic (1931); Since Ibsen (1933); The World of George Jean Nathan, ed. by Charles Angoff (1952); and The Magic Mirror, edited by T. G. Curtiss (1960). He also set forth his philosophy of criticism in Autobiography of an Attitude (1925).

See study by C. Frick (1943, repr. 1971).

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