The Financier: The Critical Edition

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First published in 1912, Theodore Dreiser's third novel, The Financier, captures the ruthlessness and sparkle of the Gilded Age alongside the charismatic amorality of the power brokers and bankers of the mid-nineteenth century. This volume is the first modern edition of The Financier to draw on the uncorrected page proofs of the original 1912 version, which established Dreiser as a master of the American business novel. The novel was the first volume of Dreiser’s Trilogy of Desire, also known as the Cowperwood Trilogy, which includes The Titan (1914) and The Stoic (1947).

Dreiser laboriously researched the business practices and personal exploits of real-life robber baron Charles Yerkes to narrate Frank Algernon Cowperwood's early career in The Financier, which explores the unscrupulous world of finance from the Civil War through the panic incited by the 1871 Chicago fire. In 1927, the monumental novel reappeared in a radically revised version for which Dreiser, notorious for lengthy novels, agreed to cut more than two hundred and seventy pages. This revised version became the most familiar, reprinted by publishers and studied by scholars for decades.

For this new edition, Roark Mulligan meticulously reviewed earlier versions of the novel and its publication history, including the last-minute removal of paragraphs, pages, and even whole chapters from the 1912 edition, cuts based mainly on the advice of H. L. Mencken. The restored text better matches Dreiser's original vision for the work. More than three hundred additional pages not available to modern readers—including those cut from the 1927 edition and more than seventy hastily removed from the manuscript just days before publication in 1912—more effectively establish characterization and motivation. Restored passages dedicated to the internal thoughts of major and minor characters bring a softer dimension to a novel primarily celebrated for its realistic attention to the cold external world of finance.

Mulligan's historical commentary reveals new insights into Dreiser's creative practices and how his business knowledge shaped The Financier. This supplemental material considers the novel's place within the tradition of American business novels and its reflections on the scandalous business practices of the robber baron era.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Roark Mulligan has edited this monumental novel with sensitivity and care. This edition will become the standard edition that readers and scholars will want to consult.”—Clare Virginia Eby, editor of the Dreiser Edition of The Genius and coeditor of The Cambridge Companion to Theodore Dreiser

"A richer, considerably more complex version of The Financier by Theodore Dreiser, whose critique of American business practices led reviewers to laud him as the equal of the great European realists. Roark Mulligan's commentary offers a cogent, thorough, and eminently readable exploration of late-nineteenth-century American business practices."—Keith Newlin, editor of A Theodore Dreiser Encyclopedia

"The Financier, in this comprehensive new form, reminds one of the important cultural work literature does to enable readers to peer out at a new century through a haze of economic uncertainty."—Studies in American Naturalism

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780252035043
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press
  • Publication date: 5/10/2010
  • Series: The Dreiser Edition
  • Edition description: 1st Edition
  • Pages: 652
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Theodore Dreiser (1871-1945) was a major American novelist of powerful and unstinting realism. His career peaked with a sequence of masterpieces, including Sister Carrie, Jennie Gerhardt, The Financier, and An American Tragedy.

Roark Mulligan is an associate professor of English at Christopher Newport University. His research on Theodore Dreiser has been published in American Literary Realism, English Language Notes, Dreiser Studies, and Studies in American Naturalism.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations



The Financier 1

Historical Commentary 557

Historical and Economic Background 557

The Financier and the Tradition of American Business Novels 568

Composition of The Financier 574

Historical Notes 595

Textual Commentary 621

Editorial Principles 621

Textual Notes 629

Textual Apparatus 633

Selected Emendations 633

Block Cuts 642

Pedigree of Editions 646

Index 647

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First Chapter

The Financier


University of Illinois Press

Copyright © 2010 Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-252-03504-3

Chapter One

"I came into the world feet first and was born with teeth. The nurse did prophesy that I should snarl and bite." —Richard III.

The Philadelphia into which Frank Algernon Cowperwood was born was at his very birth already a city of two hundred and fifty thousand and more. It was set with handsome parks, notable buildings, and crowded with historic memories. Many of the things that we and he knew later were not then in existence—the telegraph, telephone, express company, ocean steamer, or city delivery of mails. There were no postage-stamps or registered letters. The street-car had not arrived, and in its place were hosts of omnibuses, and for longer travel the slowly developing railroad system still largely connected with canals. Young Cowperwood's father was a bank clerk at his birth, and ten years later, when young Cowperwood was turning a very sensible, vigorous eye on the world, his father was still a clerk, although he was a much more trusted and desired one, and was so near a tellership that there was not the least doubt in the world that he would get it. The next year, because the president died and the vice-president became president, the cashier was made vice-president, and Mr. Henry Worthington Cowperwood was moved into the place vacated by the promoted teller. He was a happy man. It meant the munificent sum of thirty-five hundred dollars a year, and he decided, as he told his wife joyously the night he heard it, that he, or they, rather, would now move from Number 21 Buttonwood Street to Number 124 New Market, where there was a nice brick house of three stories in height, as opposed to the one of two stories which they now occupied. Buttonwood Street, at the point which they were now located, was rapidly being surrounded by business conditions which were unbearable; and New Market at the point he had picked on was removed, at least a score of blocks, from the region which was once so nice but was now becoming so sorrowfully defiled. There was the probability that some day they would come into something even much better than this, but for the present this was sufficient. He was exceedingly grateful.

Mr. Henry Worthington Cowperwood was at this time a significant figure—tall, lean, inquisitorial, clerkly, the pink of perfection in the niceties of commercial conduct, absolutely practical—a man who believed only what he saw, was not at all disturbed about those silly fancies which might trouble the less rational brains of this world, and content to be what he was—a banker, or prospective one. He looked upon life as a business situation or deal, with everybody born as more or less capable machines to take a part in it. It was surprising to him to see how many incapable or unsatisfactory machines there were; but, thank heaven, now that he was getting along fairly well, this was no affair of his. At first, when he was much younger—he was now thirty-six—life had seemed just a little unsatisfactorily organized. But now—well now it didn't look so bad. He had nice, smooth, closely cropped side-whiskers coming to almost the lower lobe of his ears, and his upper lip was smooth and curiously long. He had a straight nose of a somewhat longish length and a chin that tended to be pointed. His manner might have been called severe, though really it was more of a cultivated manner than anything else. His eyebrows were bushy, emphasizing vague grayish-green eyes, and his hair was short and smooth and nicely parted. He wore a frock-coat always—it was quite the financial thing in these days—and a high hat. And he kept his hands and nails immaculately clean. Being ambitious to get somewhere socially and financially without falling, he was very careful of whom or with whom he talked; and he was as much afraid of expressing a rabid or unpopular political or social opinion as he was of being seen with an evil character, though he had no opinion of great political significance to express. He was neither anti nor pro slavery, though the air was stormy with abolition sentiment and its opposition. He believed sincerely that vast fortunes were to be made out of railroads if one only had the capital and that curious thing, a magnetic personality—the ability to win the confidence of others. He was sure that Andrew Jackson was all wrong in his opposition to Nicholas Biddle and the United States Bank, one of the great issues of the day; and he was worried, as he might well be, by the perfect storm of wildcat money which was floating about and which was constantly coming to his bank—discounted, of course—and handed out again to anxious borrowers at a profit, you may be sure. His bank was the Third National of Philadelphia, located in that center of all Philadelphia, and indeed almost, at that time, of all national finance, Third Street; and its owners did a brokerage business on the side. As a broker's clerk, Mr. Cowperwood had to know all sorts of banks here and elsewhere, for immense quantities of uncurrent banknotes were to be handled, distributed, and mailed each day. There was a perfect plague of State banks, great and little, in those days, issuing notes practically without regulation upon insecure and unknown assets and failing and suspending with unheard-of rapidity; and these Mr. Cowperwood had to know about. he was convinced after a short experience that life was a ticklish business, and he had become the soul of caution. Unfortunately for him, he lacked in a great measure the two things that are necessary for distinction in any field—magnetism and vision. He was not destined to be a great financier, though he was marked out to be a moderately successful one.

Mr. Cowperwood's home was in Buttonwood Street for the time being, and a pleasant little home it was, to be sure. Mrs. Cowperwood was of a Christian, saving disposition—Episcopalians, they were. She was a small woman, very attractive in her day, with light-brown hair and clear brown eyes. Later in life she became rather prim and matter-of-fact, and when Frank Cowperwood was ten she was the watchful mother of three boys and one girl. The former, captained by the eldest, Frank, were a source of considerable annoyance to her, for they were forever making expeditions to different parts of the city, getting in with bad boys probably, and seeing and hearing things they should neither see nor hear. Mr. Henry Cowperwood, with his future opportunities shining clear before him, hit upon the private school and tutor method as a happy solution, and so these boys for some years afterward were carefully watched. Nevertheless, boys would be boys, and these were no exceptions.

During all these years that Frank was growing up he was a natural-born leader. At the day school, and later at the Central high School, where he was finally educated, he was looked upon as one whose common sense could unquestionably be trusted in all cases, and he never disappointed this belief. He was a sturdy youth, courageous and defiant. After he was ten years old his mother learned to know that Joseph and Edward, the two younger brothers, were perfectly safe in his care, and if they asked to go anywhere it was customary for her to ask if Frank were going. If so, well and good. If not, not. If they wanted to do anything when he was with them and he objected, he was most emphatic in a quiet way.

"Can't we go down to the old market and jump on the cars?" Joseph used to ask. They were a great sight in those days—the railroad yards. The tracks came into Market Street, and many of the cars being locally switched about were hauled by horses. The boys were fond of riding, stealing as much as they could in this way; and Joseph and Edward were no exceptions.

"Why not?" Edward might ask.

"Because it isn't good for you, that's why. You keep off those things."

"Aw, the Collinses go down there."

"Well, we're not the Collinses. Don't you ever go down there alone."

Having the parental confidence and backing as well as his own natural force, Frank's word was law; and yet he was a liberal interpreter of the law. he liked to play "one old cat," the new baseball game coming into vogue at that time, and he was fond of football as played by his Central high School team. He liked visiting the museums in Chestnut Street—there were several—a menagerie, a museum of anatomy, and another of curious fish and birds; and he liked the theater, and would gladly take his brothers to a minstrel show or a pirate melodrama, paying the expense himself when he had the money. From the very first he was a good leader, but also a splendid second to those older than himself whom he sincerely admired. There was a certain "Red" Gilligan, a tall, shambling, and yet rather brilliant and pyrotechnic rowdy, who took a great fancy to young Cowperwood for a time. He used to see him at first, when he was a ten-year-old boy, passing the corner of Arch and Second, where Gilligan with the members of what was known as the "River gang" used to "hangout." Gilligan had another young protégé, "Spat" McGlathery, who received a terrible drubbing one afternoon from young Cowperwood a year or two later for spitting on his shoes. It came about in this way. He was passing innocently by, carrying his books, when McGlathery, wishing to evince his contempt for all the refinements of this world—particularly those that were manifested by boys of his own age—spat sneeringly and contemptuously at Frank's feet and landed a nice spatter of tobacco-juice on his toes. This enraged Cowperwood greatly. Like a flash, though naturally calm, he dropped his books and went for his opponent. He wore a silver ring on his right hand which his mother had given him, and curiously it flashed into his mind in a lightning calculation to take it off, but he did not. Instead, he planted his right fist swift and straight on young McGlathery's jaw, then his left in the same place, then his right on the latter's mouth, then his left square between the latter's mouth and nose.

It was a terrific onslaught, quick and ugly, to which his opponent returned with enthusiasm, but he was no match for his new adversary. Cowperwood forced McGlathery back steadily, and as he retreated Frank followed him. There was a crowd in a moment, for Spat was considered a star fighter of the gang; but Cowperwood drove him by sheer force and swiftness all about the sidewalk. He was not thinking of the crowd. He was thinking how thoroughly he could "lick" this bully and in how short a time. Red Gilligan, who was standing amazedly by, was delighted. He did not know that this nice-looking "mama's boy," as they called all the refined youths of the neighborhood, could do anything of the sort. To see Spat McGlathery, whom Red greatly admired as a "scrapper," being drubbed in this way, and to realize yet as he did that Spat would scorn assistance, even though licked, and that therefore this was one of those admirable contests which one could judge on its merits, was inspiring. He followed them around, pushing the other "hickeys," as the bad boys of the gang were called, aside, and seeing that what he called fair play was had. He had on a red shirt, a brown coat, much too short for him, a baggy pair of trousers, fastened about his waist by a belt; and his pugnacious but quizzical and intelligent face was surmounted by a small, close-fitting cloth cap with a vizor pulled over his eyes. He was so interested that he was closely over the fighters all the time.

"Police!" yelled the neighbors from stores and windows. "Let 'em alone," he yelled to his compatriots, fearing interruption. "Hands off! I'll smack your jaw!" (This to some youth interfering.) "If he can lick him, let him lick him."

The gang stood by.

It was a swift and rapid fight for all of four minutes, all over the red-brick sidewalk and into the gutter. Young Spat, recovering from his surprise and realizing that he had a terrible adversary, clinched. Frank maneuvered the former's head under his arm by sheer, hard force and punched him vigorously.

"Huh! Huh! Huh!" he grunted, as he struck him.

Mr. McGlathery was bleeding profusely.

"Aw! call him off," Spat's friends yelled.

"Let him alone," yelled Gilligan. "Spat 'll say when he's had enough."

Cowperwood forced him to the pavement, punching him and sitting astride of him. After a time he pushed his head against the bricks and punched some more.

"I quit," yelled McGlathery, after a time. He was bleeding and almost crying, in spite of himself, and he could not get up nor loosen Cowperwood's hold.

Young Cowperwood got up. He began brushing his clothes and looking about for some friendly face.

"Say, kid," called Gilligan, grabbing his arm, "say, you're a wonder! What's your name?"

"Cowperwood," replied Frank, kneading the dirt off his coat and trousers and feeling for his handkerchief.

"Kick the stuffing out of him," some other youth called, approaching and chafing to avenge McGlathery.

"Yah do, and I'll kick your head off, you flannel mouth. Git back!" It was Red Gilligan talking.

Cowperwood realized he had a friend.

"Where's my books?" he asked.

"Where's his books?" called Gilligan, authoritatively.

An obsequious underling sought and found them.

"Say, kid," said his new protector, "I'm Red Gilligan. You're all right. You can fight. Don't you worry. They're not goin' to jump on you."

Cowperwood was looking apprehensively about.

Gilligan walked down the street with him the while a part of the gang stayed to console Spat McGlathery, while another part followed to witness the triumph of the victor. They could scarcely believe their senses—one of their bravest members licked! A policeman, attracted by the cries of shopkeepers and women, shortly hove into view and scattered the crowd. Red Gilligan, drawn by the charm of Cowperwood's personality, put his arm over Frank's shoulder—Red was at least nine inches taller, spare and bony—and leered down joyfully in his new discovery's face. "Say, I'll be d—d!" he said. "You're all right! You're fine. Cowperwood, eh? Well, you know me from now on. You can have anything I got. I like you."

"I didn't want to fight him," said Cowperwood, conservatively. He was not sure whether he welcomed the attentions of this new friend or not. Still he did not mind them so much. They were pleasant.

"I know you didn't. Don't you be afraid. You didn't do any more than you ought to. He spit on your shoes. That's all right; you ought to lick him. You did just what you ought to do. That gang's goin' to do all right by you. They're goin' to be fair. Don't you let any of 'em give you any lip. If they do, soak 'em. I'll see that you git fair play. You can come around where I am any time you want to. Just come and tell me." he patted Frank's shoulder.

Frank realized he was talking to a leader. Gilligan looked it. He was so raw, so uncouth, so strange; still he was fine and strong and brave, and Frank liked him.

"I don't want to have any trouble," he suggested, quietly. "I didn't start it. I really didn't mean to hit him as hard as I did at first."

"Don't you worry. He can take care of himself. You're in with me. I'm your friend. You and I are pards. I live over here in Vine Street."

Cowperwood smiled gladly. "All right," he said. "I'm afraid they'll jump on me if you don't head 'em off."

"No, they won't. If any one of 'em says a word you let me know. They won't do it again."

He accompanied Frank to his door. Gilligan shook hands with him.

"Say, Cowperwood," he said, "you're fine. Come around some Saturday. I'm always over there about one or two o'clock."

Frank smiled. "All right!" he said.

He went in, and Mr. Gilligan strolled away.

"Say," he chuckled to himself, as he strolled, "that was a real fight, that was. Gee, he's got a punch! That's right. Spat got all that was comin' to him—say!"

Meanwhile Mr. Spat McGlathery had returned to his home in Topper's Alley, a region that swarmed with low-caste laboring life, and there meditated on the fortunes of those who encounter unexpected and untoward forces. It was a sad afternoon for him. Still he did not despair. He had simply found some one at last who could thoroughly "lick" him.


Excerpted from The Financier by THEODORE DREISER Copyright © 2010 by Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois . Excerpted by permission of University of Illinois Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2012

    Don't bother

    Good book, but impossible to read because of so many typos: oftentimes unable to understand. Iguess "free" isn't always so wonderful. Better go to the library and check this one out if you want free.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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