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Fawcett, Edgar (1847-1904)

Essayist, Novelist, Poet

Edgar Fawcett was born in New York in 1847 to prosperous merchant Frederick Fawcett and Sarah Lawrence Fawcett. After obtaining a public school education in New York, he entered Columbia College, where he became known as a man of letters despite his faulty academic record (Harrison). He was a member of the Alpha Zeta chapter of the fraternity Chi Psi, for which he served as Poet and Chairman in 1867 (Sloan 64). Monetarily supported by his family, Fawcett indulged in the "elegant leisue" of literature in various forms, including poetry, essay, and drama. Fawcett wrote novels most prominently, and his approximately thirty-five fiction works repeatedly attacked the high society of his home city (Harrison). Purple and Fine Linen was regarded as the best of Fawcett's works (Burt 247). His work is characterized by social satire, and he aligned himself philosophically with science and skepticism to religion (Harrison).

In the 1880s, Fawcett is mentioned in an article from the Brooklyn Eagle as the author of a poem about Pfaff's "wherein he is supposed to lament the worldly success that separates him from his old friends." The poem includes the following stanza: "Before I was famous I used to sit In a dull old underground room I know, And sip cheap beer, and be glad for it, With a wild Bohemian friend or two" (G. J. M. 9). The stanza is also quoted in an obituary of Barry Gray, in which Fawcett is said to have "sung the sweetness of that murky cellar" ("Old 'Barry Gray' Dead" 5).

Despite Fawcett's claims to fame, he was panned by critics for his monotonous subjects and stilted characters across multiple forms of his writing. Perhaps due to this critical contempt, Fawcett left America for England at the age of fifty-one and died in bachelor quarters of Chelsea in London (Harrison)