William Slater Brown
William Slater Brown was an American novelist, biographer and translator of French literature. Most notably, he was a friend of the poet
A poet is a person who writes poetry. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary...

 E. E. Cummings
E. E. Cummings
Edward Estlin Cummings , popularly known as E. E. Cummings, with the abbreviated form of his name often written by others in lowercase letters as e.e. cummings , was an American poet, painter, essayist, author, and playwright...

 and is best known as the character "B." in Cumming's 1922 memoir/novel The Enormous Room
The Enormous Room
The Enormous Room is a 1922 autobiographical novel by the poet and novelist E. E. Cummings about his temporary imprisonment in France during World War I....


His books, published under the name Slater Brown, include the novel The Burning Wheel (1943); Ethan Allen
Ethan Allen
Ethan Allen was a farmer, businessman, land speculator, philosopher, writer, and American Revolutionary War patriot, hero, and politician. He is best known as one of the founders of the U.S...

 and the Green Mountain Boys
Green Mountain Boys
The Green Mountain Boys were a militia organization first established in the 1760s in the territory between the British provinces of New York and New Hampshire, known as the New Hampshire Grants...

(1956), a biography for children; and The Heyday of Spiritualism (1970), a study of the 19th-century interest in parapsychology
The term parapsychology was coined in or around 1889 by philosopher Max Dessoir, and originates from para meaning "alongside", and psychology. The term was adopted by J.B. Rhine in the 1930s as a replacement for the term psychical research...

 and the occult
The word occult comes from the Latin word occultus , referring to "knowledge of the hidden". In the medical sense it is used to refer to a structure or process that is hidden, e.g...


Early life

William Slater Brown was born to the physician Frederick Augustus Brown and Katharine Hodges in the town of Webster, Massachusetts
Webster, Massachusetts
-Media:* Worcester Telegram & Gazette * Webster Times, published every Friday* The Patriot, published every Wednesday* WGFP-AM 940, a country music station* Boston Globe* Boston Herald-Library:...

. His great-great grandfather, businessman Samuel Slater
Samuel Slater
Samuel Slater was an early English-American industrialist known as the "Father of the American Industrial Revolution", or the "Father of the American Factory System" because he brought British textile technology to America. He learned textile machinery as an apprentice to a pioneer in the British...

, was the chief founder of Webster and is credited with beginning the industrial revolution in the United States with the opening of a textile mill in Pawtucket, Rhode Island
Pawtucket, Rhode Island
Pawtucket is a city in Providence County, Rhode Island, United States. The population was 71,148 at the 2010 census. It is the fourth largest city in the state.-History:...

 in 1790. Early family wealth disappeared through a series of misfortunes, and Brown and his younger siblings, Fritz, Joyce and Kitty, grew up in relative poverty. From the age of 16, while living with cousins in Boston, the rebellious Brown adopted a life and world philosophy at odds to that of his parents, and he undertook a process of self-discovery that led him to a failed enrollment at Columbia School of Journalism.

World War I

Brown volunteered to serve in the Norton-Harjes Ambulance Corps in early 1917. En route to France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 aboard the he met E.E. Cummings. Due to an organizational mix-up, the two spent five weeks together in Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 before assigned to an ambulance
An ambulance is a vehicle for transportation of sick or injured people to, from or between places of treatment for an illness or injury, and in some instances will also provide out of hospital medical care to the patient...

 unit, during which time they became close friends.

In September 1917 Brown and Cummings were arrested on suspicion of espionage, and were imprisoned at the La Ferté-Macé
La Ferté-Macé
La Ferté-Macé is a commune in the Orne department in north-western France.-History:During the First World War the village housed a military detention camp, the Dépôt de Triage. Among others, the American poet E. E...

 detention camp, Orne
Orne is a department in the northwest of France, named after the river Orne.- History :Orne is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution, on March 4, 1790. It was created from parts of the former provinces of Normandy and Perche.- Geography :Orne is in the region of...

, Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

. Cummings was released in December 1917 after intervention from his father; however, Brown was not released at the same time, and in fact was transferred at that time to a prison in Précigné
Précigné is a commune in the Sarthe département in the region of Pays-de-la-Loire in north-western France.-References:*...

. Brown was not able to secure his release for three additional months, after which he sailed for New York, where he reunited with Cummings.

Later life

Brown later became part of the bohemian circle
Bohemianism is the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people, with few permanent ties, involving musical, artistic or literary pursuits...

 of artists and writers in Greenwich Village
Greenwich Village
Greenwich Village, , , , .in New York often simply called "the Village", is a largely residential neighborhood on the west side of Lower Manhattan in New York City. A large majority of the district is home to upper middle class families...

, New York, contributing articles and reviews to magazines and journals such as The New Masses
The New Masses
The "New Masses" was a prominent American Marxist publication edited by Walt Carmon, briefly by Whittaker Chambers, and primarily by Michael Gold, Granville Hicks, and Joseph Freeman....

and The Dial
The Dial
The Dial was an American magazine published intermittently from 1840 to 1929. In its first form, from 1840 to 1844, it served as the chief publication of the Transcendentalists. In the 1880s it was revived as a political magazine...

. These years were marked by his struggle with alcoholism which he finally overcame in 1947.

During this time he married Susan Jenkins, who was part of the Provincetown Players
Provincetown Players
The Provincetown Players was an amateur group of writers and artists who, at the early part of the 20th Century, wanted to see a change in American theatre and created a company committed to producing new plays by exclusively American playwrights...

 group, and they had one son, Gwilym Slater Brown (1928–1974). His daughter, Rachel Brown, was born to Esther Rosenberg in 1936. In 1957 he married Mary James (died 1987), the granddaughter of Robertson James and grandniece of Henry James
Henry James
Henry James, OM was an American-born writer, regarded as one of the key figures of 19th-century literary realism. He was the son of Henry James, Sr., a clergyman, and the brother of philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James....

. They resided in Rockport, Massachusetts
Rockport, Massachusetts
Rockport is a town in Essex County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 6,952 at the 2010 census. Rockport is located approximately 25 miles northeast of Boston at the tip of the Cape Ann peninsula...

. William Slater Brown died at age 100 in 1997.

External links

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