Dorothy Rothschild was born in 1893 in West End, New Jersey; any hopes of a humble, traditional upbringing were shattered at the age of four, with the death of her mother. Educated until she was 13 at a typical catholic school, she could often be found earning money playing piano music at a local dancing school. In 1914, Dorothy only 21 years of age, she was hired as an editorial assistant for another Condé Nast magazine, Vogue after selling a poem to them for publication. Three years later, she married veteran, alcoholic, and morphine addict Edwin Parker II—a mere two years later the couple divorced.
Her employment at Vogue was short lived; she could be found writing for Vanity Fair between 1917 and 1920. Her editor “later recalled that she had ‘the quickest tongue imaginable, and I need not to say the keenest sense of mockery.’” While working at the magazine she met writers Robert Benchley and Robert Sherwood and the three soon began lunching together. This was the humble beginning of the famous Algonquin Round Table, it would be later joined by fellow American wits Franklin Adams, Alexander Woollcott, and Harpo Marx. One could consider The Algonquin Round Table to be the American wits’ equivalent to The Inklings, a society frequented by C.S Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien (among others) during their years as professors. The collaborators of the Round Table greatly helped publicize the works of Dorothy, who was almost unheard of at the time.
It worked: in 1926, Parker published Enough Rope, her first collection of poems. It soon became a best-seller, and its content is often referenced in today’s media and literature. Only a year after Enough Rope’s release, Dorothy landed a job writing book reviews for The New Yorker, a position which she held until 1933. Even after her departure from the publication, Dorothy occasionally submitted articles up until her death. In 1928 she released a second volume of poetry, which would be followed by many others.
Much left unsaid, Dorothy Parker’s life may seem to be and American ideal of sorts: a humble, self-dependent upbringing to the life of a minor celebrity. However, her reputation during the 1920s was dubious:
“...Parker had extra-marital affairs, she drank heavily and attempted suicide three times, but maintained the highs quality of her texts. Her brief affair with F. Scott Fitzgerald while he was married to the unstable Zelda was motivated, according to the gossip columnist Sheilah Graham, by compassion on her part and despair on his.” (CUNY)
Dorothy married Allan Campbell in 1917, whom she divorced (and proceeded to marry a second time) in 1950. She remained with Campbell for the remainder of her life, during which she continued to write poetry, stories, plays as well as screenplays. She died in 1967 at age 74 of a heart attack, discovered by her maid, although even in death her sense of humor proved to be quite lively:
Susan Shapiro argues that she may have written her own eulogy, which may have included quotes from her poem "The Braggart," stating, "You will be frail and musty/with peering, furtive head/, While I am Young and Lusty/ Among the roaring dead." (CUNY)
A most notable characteristic of Dorothy is her individuality and progressive nature, one could consider her to be on of the earliest of beatniks: she thought for herself and “illustrated the real effects of poverty, economic and spiritual ideas upon women who had lacked education as a result of social class and sex.” (CUNY)
A self-proclaimed Communist in an era succeeding the Nazi regime in Germany and preceding the Cold War, to call Dorothy Parker “ahead of her time” is hardly description enough.
Celebrities are often forgotten through the decades, and Dorothy Parker is not exempt from this generalization: I find that many of my educated peers at school have not heard of her. Perhaps this is because leisure reading is a fading trend in an age of electronics—Dorothy’s works are usually too ‘taboo’ to be assigned school reading. Her life filled was riddled with tragedy, drama, wit and ideology- Parker’s talents were of a manifold variety: she was a wit, playwright, reporter, communist, romantic, and truly a philosopher of modern times, and it would be a great tragedy if her works were to become forgotten by younger generations.
"Dorothy Rothschild Parker 1893-1967." College of Staten Island Library. 25 Oct. 2006 .
"Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)." 25 Oct. 2006 .
"Dorothy Parker." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 23 Oct 2006, 05:38 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 25 Oct 2006 .