The Autobiography of Upton Sinclair

Excerpts from the Autobiography; the full text is available here:

The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Autobiography of Upton Sinclair.

Lincoln Steffens figures prominently in Sinclair’s historical novels, but also in his autobiography. His writings will feature in 2024 posts.

Steffens and I became friends at that time. He remained always one of my closest and dearest friends, and we met whenever we were in the same neighborhood. In 1914, I remember, he came out to Croton, near New York, where we had rented a little house, and spent several weekends with us.  Once I took him for a tramp in the snow before he had his coffee.

By the time that Norman and Genevieve Astley moved to Carmel Woods, Lincoln Steffens lived nearby, and Sinclair wrote enthusiastically about an extended visit to the area:

On to Carmel, a town that boasts more scenery to the square mile than any other place I know, a broad beach, bordered by deep pine woods and flanked by rocky headlands; at one side a valley, with farms, a river running through it and mountains beyond.

Tramping the hills and forests and beaches of Carmel, riding horseback over the Seventeen Mile Drive, there began to haunt my brain a vision of a blank-verse tragedy; the story of a child of the coal mines who is adopted by rich people and educated, and finally becomes a leader of social revolution.

That poem never materialized. Later in the 1920s Sinclair and his second wife Mary Craig Kimbrough Sinclair acquired a beachfront cottage in southern California where she became immersed in psychical research later reported in Mental Radio:

We had made too many friends and incurred too many obligations in Pasadena, so we found a cottage down on the oceanfront near Alamitos Bay, Long Beach, and moved there.  During both of my trips to Boston, Craig stayed alone in the little beach cottage and never minded it. Somehow she felt safe, and the waves on the other side of the boardwalk lulled her to sleep.  She had become fascinated with the problem of her own mind, and studied it with the help of scores of books that I had got for her.  I still have more than a hundred volumes on psychology and philosophy and psychic research that she had read and marked—Bergson, William James, William McDougall.

Bergson and William James are the first two of only three writers recommended in The Quest of the Spirit in 1913 which marks an important congruence of Mrs. Sinclair’s studies with those of the Astleys.

Those who serve God truly in this age serve the ideal of brotherhood, of helping our fellow-beings, instead of exploiting their labor, and beating them down and degrading them in order to exploit them more easily.  The religion I am talking about is not yet “established.” It rarely dwells in temples built with hands, nor is it financed with bond issues underwritten by holders of front pews.  It does not have an ordained priesthood, nor enjoy the benefit of apostolic succession. It is not dressed in gold and purple robes ,nor are its altar cloths embroidered with jewels.  It does not honor the rich  and powerful, nor sanctify interest and dividends, nor lend support to political machines, nor sprinkle holy water upon flags and cannon, nor send young men out to slaughter and be slaughtered in the name of the Prince of Peace.

This is an eloquent summary of Sinclair’s spiritual values at age 85.