New York: 1926. proof. Long galley proofs of the 1st edition (6 1/2” X 24”), printed on thin proofing paper (rectos only) dated “Dec. 27” . The first setting in type (book was 1927) of an immortal scrap of Western literature, the transit stage linking manuscript to 1st edition. Manufactured in a handful of copies to correct misprints and mis–settings before page proofs. Split across leaves 1 (see photo) and 123 rejoined with tape, some edge tears taped, last 3 leaves missing, but the missing text is supplied with 1st edition pages, connected to vaguely correspond, else good condition. Spartan cloth case. Despite being worn and imperfect, it’s such a rarity that there is some chance it will turn out to be the finest (only?) known set, and with more than 100,000 1st editions printed (20,000 in the 1st binding), it’s the only form of Elmer Gantry that will ever be rare. good. Item #12
Upon publication the book was greeted with outrage by the exposed peddlers of empty promises, who called Lewis, an instrument of the Devil. But those who joined the whining failed to notice that Elmer Gantry rightly captured the temperament and distillate of a specific type of Midwestern revivalism callously engaged in bleeding those who didn’t know the difference between being born again, and being born yesterday. It remains a tartly satiric, and dependence jangling, reminder that the cardinal doctrine of a fanatic’s creed is that his enemies are the enemies of God. But God, by all testimonies, is not in danger (has no viable enemies) and, at worst, is only disappointed in those who wimp out and refuse to meet their human responsibility, that is, to live their lives testing the limits of their highest possibilities, and then to die with composure, like a hero going home. Lewis declined a 1926 Pulitzer Prize for Arrowsmith, 1925, because the prize was not awarded for literary merit but, “for the American novel published during the year which shall best present the wholesome atmosphere of American life, and the highest standard of American manners and manhood,” both major targets of Lewis’ satire (the romantic equivalent of sex in a Waffle House parking lot) and the reason why so many sleepy books have won it. In 1930 he became the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, calming a national impatience that had become like an ingrown toenail. He accepted it, and the fat check that came with it, breaching the Swedish citadel for his fellow Americans, Eugene O’Neill, Pearl Buck, T. S. Eliot, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Saul Bellow (an American born in Canada), and a handful of more recent honorees, whose lasting worthiness will ultimately be decided in the reflections of history.