Maxwell Perkins was born in New York in 1884 and attended Harvard University. Following a brief stint at The New York Times, Perkins started his career with Charles Scribner’s Sons, a prestigious Nyc publishing house. He played a crucial part in developing Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby too, and was the editor of a number of other famous writers of his day.
Maxwell Perkins was born on September 20, 1884, in Nyc, at his family’s house on the corner of Second Avenue and 14th Street. Scribner’s was a conventional publishing house, having a serious if staid stable of writers (e.g., Henry James and Edith Wharton). When Perkins joined the editorial staff in 1914, little did he know he’d wind up revolutionizing the business and American literature.
Four years after going into editorial, Perkins started his up push when a manuscript called The Romantic Egoist reach his desk. It was the very first novel by a 22-year old Princeton grad, plus it came using a host of negative opinions from others who’d already perused its pages. But something about it grabbed Perkins’ attention, and he contacted the writer to create some edits. The writer was F. Scott Fitzgerald, and while claiming the merits of Fitzgerald’s novel, Perkins said, “If we aren’t going to release a gift like this, it’s a very serious matter . . . . Fitzgerald rewrote the work twice before Scribner’s consented to print it, underneath the name This Side of Paradise (1920). The novel proved to be a tremendous success, also it started Fitzgerald to international literary stardom.
Four years after, Fitzgerald pointed Perkins in the course of another up and coming American writer residing in Paris: Ernest Hemingway. Perkins made contact, and two years after Scribner’s, under Perkin’s guidance, released the 27-year old Hemingway’s first novel, The Sun Also Rises. As had This Side of Paradise, Hemingway’s first novel caused literary waves all over the world, as well as a fresh movement was under way, with Perkins at its heart. Perkins would work on following novels by both Fitzgerald and Hemingway, along with novels by writers including Ring Lardner, Sherwood Anderson and Martha Gellhorn (who’d become Hemingway’s third wife).
In what would indicate the start of a tumultuous and significant literary and private relationship, in 1928 Thomas Wolfe submitted to Scribner’s his first novel, titled O Lost, a sprawling 1,114-page coming of age novel that had already been rejected by a smattering of publishers. Perkins and Wolfe spent months editing and restructuring the work, beating it into what would become known as Look Homeward, Angel (1929), a novel that will continue to develop into a classic. Perkins and Wolfe worked together again, nevertheless they finally had a dramatic falling out over Perkins’ systems, and Wolfe left Scribner’s. Perkins, nevertheless, has come to signify how significant an editor can be for an author. An assortment of his correspondence to his writers among others, Editor to Writer, was released in 1950, three years after his passing at age 62.