The Life and Works of Upton Sinclair

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The Life and Works of Upton Sinclair

Upton Beall Sinclair, Jr. was born in a boardinghouse in Baltimore, Maryland on September 20, 1878, to Upton Beall and Priscilla Harden Sinclair. Sinclair's childhood was complicated and the future of his family was always economically uncertain. His family was still recovering from the devastation dealt to the Southern aristocracy by Federal Reconstruction, and his father, an unsuccessful liquor salesman, was an alcoholic who often squandered the family's income. When he was ten, Sinclair's family moved to New York City, where they lived in numerous boardinghouses. Sinclair explains, " night I would be sleeping on a vermin-ridden sofa in a lodging house, and the next night under silken coverlets in a fashionable home. It all depended on whether my father had the money for that week's board" (qtd. in Liukkonen).

Priscilla was unlike Upton Sr. in many ways. Where he came from a long line of naval officers, Priscilla's father was the secretary-treasurer of the Western Maryland Railroad and a Methodist deacon. Priscilla had a strong "Protestant distaste for liquor," while her husband was a habitual alcoholic. Sinclair was greatly influenced by his mother. She is credited with nurturing Sinclair's focus on literature, and he also acquired her distaste for liquor (Parini 279).

Sinclair entered public schools in 1888, when his family moved to New York City. As a testament to his superior intellect, he took two years to pass the eight elementary grades (Yoder 20). Sinclair's formal education began when he was fourteen years old; he enrolled in the City College of New York to study philosophy and literature. During his time at City College, ...

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...loodworth, William A. "Upton Sinclair." Concise Dictionary of American Literary Biography: The Age of Maturity, 1929-1941. Ed. C. E. Frazer Clark, Jr. Detroit: Gale Research Inc. 1989. 270-79.

Evory, Ann, ed. Contemporary Authors New Revision Series. Vol. 7. Detroit: Gale Research Company. 1982. 451-57.

Liukkonen, Petri. Upton Beall Sinclair. Pegasos. March 6, 2003 <>.

Parini, Jay ed. American Writers, Supplement V. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons - The Gale Group. 2000. 275-93.

Upton Sinclair. Spartacus Educational. March 6, 2003 <>.

Upton Sinclair - Biography and Works. The Literature Network. March 6, 2003 <>.

Yoder, Jon A. Upton Sinclair. New York: Frederick Ungar. 1975.

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