Justice

By B. Virginia Lee

Has George Sterling been subjected to that thing he dreaded, misrepresentation? Often he said of others gone before him, "It is not the first time a man of genius has been made ridiculous to gratify the commercial-mad newspapers of the world." There is much the world will never know behind the curtain of that life; much will never be told which happened behind the doors of his room at the Bohemian Club the day of the tragedy. Regardless of newspaper headlines, regardless of police records; regardless of all circumstantial evidence there is among those of his near friends a conviction that George Sterling did not take his own life. There is indignation that the headlines of the papers of San Francisco, his San Francisco would have allowed his name to be spotted with the mud of modernism…sensationalism. There is a loyalty which condemns the report even though it were the truth and founded upon fundamental facts. Would it not have been more sane to have recorded it as it was in its beauty…for after all his life was like a tune-swept fiddle string, that hears the Master Melody—and snaps, his golden voice fading off into a twilight which greatly resembles the coming dawn. George Sterling is not dead, he will live forever. Like a certain flower, like a certain wine, like a certain book he grew rich and interesting with the passing of time.  His name will go down as one of the great men of literature…men who live ever in the annals of the day and the pages of history. We who have leaned to him for song, when song was needed; we who have turned to him for that tribute which ever bore the true grace of the West, that fineness of poetic production which did not become tinted with the ultra-modernist's twisted expression, the impressionists unbeautiful Jargon will always hear that voice which sang so high and sweet, always above the army of poets which drove madly into the turmoil of modernism—and oblivion. When weary of confused voices, we may return to his clear note of sincerity, and we will sense the rhythm of his poetry as one senses the peace and quiet of the summit of a mountain after a clouded valley. His song was of the West and he sang as no one else has sung. He loved the haunts of San Francisco old and new; he talked of the studios, restaurants and the people who were of them with a boyish enthusiasm. He had friends spread over the world, poets, painters, captains of finance, beggars, actors, students and never was he too busy with his own affairs not to give them a moment of his own for their troubles. The morning of the tragedy he called the Overland office and asked to see proof of articles which he had been instrumental in obtaining for the December issue; namely an article on Los Angeles written by Carey McWilliams; an article on Clark Ashton Smith by D.A. Wandrei whom Sterling asked as one of his last directions on Overland copy to be mentioned as Donald A. Wanderei. He further gave the address in Minnesota to send the extra copies to the author. George, fulfilling a mission.  He asked of his own page and of the poetry and was promised a proof that afternoon. The papers announced later in the day his death. Friday, NOV. 12, he called on the telephone to remind the office of his request for two pages in January issue of the Overland, for which he was preparing an article on Ambrose Bierce, as an answer to an article appearing in the last issue of the American Parade. Mr. Sterling was highly indignant at what he said was misrepresentation. He mentioned DeCastro's reference to Mr. Bierce's desire for a certain railroad commission which he did not receive and which embittered him to certain officials and marked a definite change in his life, as absolutely untrue. He mentioned that the account of his death was untrue and added, "If it is the last thing I do, I'm going to deny that article and I'll see that you don't get into a libel suit over it. It is vicious." On Thursday he said he had the article and would bring it in the first of the week. We mention this because whether or not it gets into Overland hands, it was George Sterling's last wish, to deny the article in its entirety which appeared in the American Parade. We feel by this mention we are but in a small way fulfilling his wish. If the article is found…regardless if complications, Overland will be glad to publish it as a last tribute to a man of genius, a man one cannot forget, a man who loved life so much that he found it impossible to dwell in solitude and silence, but to the last lived for the service he could do to others.

Overland Monthly and Out West Magazine (1868-1935); Mar 1927; Volume LXXXV, Number 3; pg 74.