Sterling on Jeffers

ROBINSON JEFFERS: The Man and the Artist. By George Sterling. (Boni & Liveright.)

ONE of the most lovable traits of the late George Sterling, who committed suicide last November, was his capacity for enthusiasm in appraising the work of fellow poets. He was himself a great poet, though he seemed scarcely aware of it, and there have been cases in which he read into the work of others the power that was really himself. Sterling was decidedly not a critic: but he was an exquisite artist.

It was evidently in an outburst of enthusiasm that Sterling wrote the present appraisal of Jeffers, who was his only possible rival in California. Happily, in passing judgment upon Jeffers it seems more than likely that he was essentially correct. His success in judging Jeffers was probably due to the fact that his and Jeffers’ genius were fundamentally similar. And it may be that he was unconsciously praising his own peculiar vision of beauty set forth with a virility that he himself had not.

In a letter received from Sterling a week before his death he expressed the belief that some reviewers would probably ridicule him for the whole-hearted enthusiasm displayed in this study of his friend. Not this one! The study, though not to be rated as criticism, seems amply justified by certain splendid things that Jeffers has done; and as an example of an artists’ unselfish love for art, even though it be that of a powerful rival, the book deserves to be cherished.