Two George Sterlings

By Inez Haynes Irwin

It has always seemed to me that there were two George Sterlings— the one I saw in the pictures and the one I saw in the flesh. The George Sterling of the pictures—the beautiful, long-featured mediaeval face, a combination of Hamlet and forest faun—expressed himself in his verse. The George Sterling of the flesh—quiet, simple, normal—mirrored himself in his talk. When I read his poetry, I seemed to look into a tortured soul, torn by fiery apathies and frozen doubts.  When I talked with him, I saw only the out-of-doors creature with his passion for every kind of human pleasure…athletic expression…picnics on the sand…abalone…gatherings of simple folk for laughter and talk…I liked it that he was a poet who did not care to seem like a poet. I liked it that he could slip so nimbly from one character to the other. Were there two of him, I wonder? And did the grind and tear of transmogrification shatter his soul to shards? Or was it that he built up the George Sterling of the flesh to protect the George Sterling who was compact of tragic sensitiveness? I shall never know.


From Overland Monthly and Out West Magazine (1868-1935); Dec 1927; Vol LXXXV, NUMBER 12; PG 364.