Kenneth Roberts on the Web: A Glimpse Into His Political Views

Today I came across a short bio on Kenneth Roberts on MyKennebunks.com.  This bio is similar to many found on the web; however, it contains an interesting tidbit about K.R. and his political views.  The quote below comes from this short article:

Edgar Allen Beem, in an Aug. 1997 issue of Downeast magazine about Roberts’ symbolic novel, Boon Island, calls Roberts “an enormously popular novelist…, an ultra-conservative Republican who inveighed in print against the New Deal and against America’s liberal immigration policy.” It is said that he so hated Franklin Roosevelt that he glued Roosevelt dimes to the clamshells he used as ashtrays, the better to grind ashes into FDR’s face! His friend and summer neighbor, Booth Tarkington apparently shared his political views.

Incidentally, as I searched for the Beem article mentioned in the quote above, I discovered that this quote is actually from a bio on K.R. located on Waterboro Public Library‘s site.

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Kenneth Roberts Group on Facebook

I created a fan group for Kenneth Roberts on Facebook. Join by clicking on this link to the group page: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=76921638924&ref=nf

Kenneth Roberts in The Saturday Evening Post

I’ve hit gold.  In what’s almost become a daily search for Kenneth Roberts info, I’ve come across today a bibliography of all (at least almost all) of Kenneth Roberts’ articles for The Saturday Evening Post (you will need to scroll down part ways to get to K.R.’s name).  Unfortunately, these links, which are provided by the website www.philsp.com, do not direct you to the actual articles (*sigh*).  Nonetheless, if you’re searching for past issues of The Post, you can refer to this list for the issues containing Roberts’ works.

Enjoy!

Anna M. Roberts in the Blogosphere: “A Kennebunkport Haunting”

Sharon Cummins from Old News from Southern Maine has provided us with more interesting tidbits about the life of Kenneth Roberts.  In the article “A Kennebunkport Haunting” (dated March 22, 2009), Ms. Cummins details an account of the appearances of ghosts at the Gideon Merrill house.  One eyewitness of these ghosts is Anna M. Roberts, Kenneth Roberts’ wife.  Here is what Ms. Cummins reports in her article:

Robert Currier, a gifted publicity instigator, recalled in a later interview that Mrs. Kenneth Roberts had been the first to bring the ghosts to his attention. She had seen the costumed apparitions in an attic window when nobody was home. Amused, he invited a psychic to the house who saw the same spirits the author’s wife had described.

Take a look at this article; definitely an interesting read for a small piece of Americana.

“Time” on Kenneth Roberts – 11/25/1940

Time 11/25/40 - courtesy of Time.com

Time 11/25/40 - courtesy of Time.com

As I continue to search for anything on Kenneth Roberts on the Web, I am beginning to find a little more out there than the run of the mill short bios.  This past Friday night I came across an archived article from Time.com dated 11/25/40.  The event that occasioned this article was the upcoming release of Kenneth Roberts’ Oliver Wiswell.  You can access this article by clicking this link, or by clicking the link provided in the right side-bar.

Several things stuck out to me in regards to Kenneth Roberts the person. 

First, K.R. was known during that time for his attention to historical detail.  The writer of the article compares him to James Fenimore Cooper for his historical detail (in the footnote, Roberts is quoted as saying that this comparison “… irritates me almost beyond endurance”).  In addition, Roberts was recognized for “his tirelessness in tracking down historical obscurities,” causing the article’s writer to comment that “he [Roberts] is probably the world’s No. 1 literary detective.”

Second, Kenneth Roberts was known as a controversial figure in his own right.  According to Time, K.R. published his historical findings, despite any potential of upsetting any hard-held beliefs regarding American history, for instance K.R.’s positive portrayal of Benedict Arnold in Arundel and Rabble in Arms.   With Oliver Wiswell, K.R. continued to go against the status-quo by providing a “sustained and uncompromising report of the American Revolution from the Tory viewpoint.” 

To take this view of K.R. even further, Roberts was no stranger to controversy even in his earlier writings.  Roberts’ Why Europe Leaves Home, published in 1922 as a result of his time in Europe, described the new-developing immigrating patterns of people in “war-dislocated Europe” (post-WWI).  Roberts then “warned vanishing Americans that unless they tightened restrictions on immigration, the U.S. would soon be a disposal plant for most of Europe’s human waste.”  Very bold words for that time, and how much more “politically incorrect” for today’s society!  The article’s writer goes on to claim that Roberts’ book helped to hasten along the passage of the Restrictive Immigration Law. 

Lastly, the writer of this article makes a claim that I believe is forgotten (or at the very least is one the way out) today amongst the general public – the claim is that Kenneth Roberts’ Oliver Wiswell is important history.  To quote:

Like all romances, Oliver Wiswell is also important history.  Novelist Roberts sees the American Revolution as a social revolution in which the colonial masses, stirred by rabble rousers like Sam Adams and John Hancock, brought the colonies to the brink from which they were later saved by the men who framed the Constitution.  This book explains why Americans became tories, why the tories, though [sic] they appear to have represented at least half of the population in the 13 colonies, were defeated, why the English were unable to quash the rabble in arms.

I believe that one can take this claim and extend to all, if not most, of Kenneth Roberts’ works.  I take it from what I’ve read so far of Kenneth Roberts that he did not write a novel for the sake of writing a novel; rather, Roberts wanted to write history – to educate America of her history – in a way that the reader is not bored with dry facts.  In doing so, Roberts mixed together the crafts of the historian and novelist in order to present American history according to the facts and date, not according to the lore developed through the passing of time which result in misconceptions of the actual events. (This is not to say that all history we learn in school is wrong; rather, that some things we may accept as true may in fact be otherwise.)

Roberts’ influence and impact upon American history was apparently widely recognized during his lifetime.  Unfortunately, the public’s knowledge of Roberts and his works has seemingly faded to almost non-existence.  Why is this so?  While I do not know the answer, I do hope that this site can help in bringing the knowledge of Kenneth Roberts and his works back to the general public.

“The Kenneth Roberts Reader” & Ben Ames Williams

In a recent post regarding The Kenneth Roberts Reader, I posed the question about why Ben Ames Williams was chosen to write the introduction, and not Booth Tarkington.  Now, I realize in the grand scheme of things, the answer to this question has absolutely no bearing on anything; rather, this question is really a result of curiosity. 

I posed the question in an e-mail to Jack Bales, author of Kenneth Roberts and Kenneth Roberts: The Man and His Works, and to John at townsendbooks.com (he has a large collection of Kenneth Roberts books), below are their answers:

Jack Bales: Kenneth Roberts and Ben Ames Williams were actually close friends and often socialized together.  In fact, along with Booth Tarkington, B.A. Williams was one of Kenneth Roberts’ closest friends.  Jack Bales covers this friendship in his second book titled Kenneth Roberts.

John: Though he was somewhat unsure of the exact link, John states that it could have been a reciprocated favor, as Kenneth Roberts wrote an introduction for one of Williams’ books The Happy End (1939).

So, there you go!

 

Kenneth Roberts in the Blogosphere: K.R. on Rugby (circa 1935)

I stumbled upon a short article (or blog post?) titled “Kenneth Roberts – On Rugby (circa 1935)” from Wes Clark‘s subsite Rugby Reader’s Review (article written and submitted by Russ Grimm).  In this post, Wes provides a snipet from K.R.’s The Kenneth Roberts Reader in which he provides his observations of a rugby game between Oxford and Cambridge.  Wes provides his own commentary at the end, highlighting K.R.’s other remarks against the English found throughout The Reader.

An interesting and fast read. Great job, Wes Russ, and thank you!

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