Robert Herrick (novelist)
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Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, novelist Robert Herrick (1868-1938) was part of a new generation of American realists. His novels deal with the turbulence of industrialized society and the turmoil it can create in sensitive, isolated people. While a professor of literature at the University of Chicago (1893-1923) he wrote thirteen novels. Among those considered to be his finest was Web of Life (1900). Praised by William James for his frank and clear-eyed views, his work can also be compared to that of England's George Gissing. Both writers developed themes of social malcontent, the changing role of women, and the effects of social isolation. While seeing his world with a critical eye, Herrick escaped the shrill tone of muckraking writers like Upton Sinclair. His art was free of dogmatic "isms", and achieves its power from a melancholic fatalism. He dreaded the brutality and ignorance of a mob as much as he despised the avarice and jaded ennui of the upper class. Herrick was suspicious of political doctrines and utopian legislation, feeling that true progress for human happiness must always lie in individuals making moral choices.