Untermeyer, Louis

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated


UNTERMEYER, LOUIS (1885–1977), U.S. poet, author, anthologist, editor, and translator. The son of a New York jewelry manufacturer, Untermeyer entered his father's firm as a designer and rose to be its vice president. Largely self-educated, he was chiefly interested in literature and in 1923 retired from business to devote himself to poetry. A prolific writer and skilled editor, Untermeyer published more than 70 volumes of prose and verse, short stories, travel books, parodies, essays, and critical anthologies. His earliest collection of lyrics, First Love (1911), was composed under the influence of *Heine and Laurence Housman; his second, Challenge (1914), showed greater maturity. His other collections were These Times (1917), The New Adam (1920), Roast Leviathan (1923), Burning Bush (1928), Food and Drink (1932), and Long Feud: Selected Poems (1962). His humorous verse includes Collected Parodies (1926).

Untermeyer's lifelong interest in Heine found expression in a volume of translations, The Poems of Heinrich Heine (1917), and in the two-volume biography, Heinrich Heine: Paradox and Poet (1937). He reproduced the spirit of the dying Heine with much pathos in the poem "Monolog From a Mattress." The Firebringer and Other Great Stories: Fifty-Five Legends That Live Forever, Newly Written by Louis Untermeyer appeared in 1968. His fictional works include the biblical novel Moses (1928). It was, however, with his interpretations and anthologies of English and American poetry that Untermeyer was most influential. Outstanding among these were his Lives of the Poets (1961) and the Britannica Library of Great American Writing (1960). Another of his anthologies was The World's Great Stories (1964). Two volumes of autobiography, From Another World (1939) and Bygones (1965), portrayed not only his own development but also the period in which he lived. The Letters of Robert Frost to Louis Untermeyer appeared in 1963.

jean starr untermeyer (1886–1970), also a poet, was Louis Untermeyer's wife from 1907 until 1923. Born in Zanesville, Ohio, she became a singer in Vienna and London, taught literature in various schools and colleges, and wrote several books of verse, including Growing Pains (1918), Steep Ascent (1927), Love and Need (1940), and Later Poems (1958). She published her autobiography, Private Collection, in 1965.


louis: E.L. Pound, ep to lu: Nine Letters Written to Louis Untermeyer by Ezra Pound (1963), incl. bibl.; S. Liptzin, The Jew in American Literature (1966), 141–9; Current Biography Yearbook 1967 (1968), 423–6. jean starr: L. Untermeyer, American Poetry since 1900 (1923), 227–33; Twentieth Century Authors, first suppl. (1955), s.v.

[Sol Liptzin]