Dawn Powell and Edmund Wilson enjoyed a long and comfortable friendship from the early 1930s until Powell’s death in 1965. It remains unclear how and when they met —perhaps at the Brooklyn Heights home of Powell’s patron, Margaret De Silver and her anarchist lover, Carlo Tresca; perhaps at what Wilson later referred to as one of Powell’s own “knock down and drag out” parties.

Powell and Wilson shared many qualities —staunch independence, voracious curiosity, catholic and wide-ranging interest in the arts, political skepticism (Wilson’s curious regard for the Soviet Union notwithstanding), and a taste for good food and liquor. Wilson was one of three people to whom Powell wrote her most specifically “literary” letters; the other two recipients were John Dos Passos and her cousin John F. (Jack) Sherman, a businessman and educator in Shelby, Ohio, who became the guardian of her son...


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