Powell, E. Alexander (1879-1957) by Latham, Sean

E. Alexander Powell E. Alexander Powell was an adventurous reporter and prolific author whose romantic image as a world-traveler contributed as much to his reputation as did his actual writing. Born in August 1879 in Syracuse New York, he worked first for the local city paper and then for (itself an important journal for the American Arts and Crafts Movement) before taking up what proved to be his true calling as a foreign correspondent. In 1905 he delivered reports from the Near East for American and British newspapers, including the and the . A year later, he became an American consular agent working at embassies in Syria and Egypt. His first book, was published by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1912. It drew on an emergent sense of American imperialism, mixing political and social commentary with travel and adventure writing. Borrowing heavily from the pages of imperial romance fiction, it relates (108). Powell would return to this basic narrative consistently throughout his career in books about warfare and travel that wedded narratives of heroic yet overmatched men to a breathless fascination with exotic otherness. The scene shifts from Africa, to the American West, to the Far East, but this same structure prevails. Craftman Magazine New York World London Daily Mail The Last Frontier: The White Man’s War for Civilization in Africa the story of how a handful of white men jerked a nation out of the desert and the depths of despair, as though by its collar, set it on its feet, and taught it to play the game Powell’s importance as a writer, however, lies primarily in his often striking reportage delivered from the front lines throughout the First World War. A credentialed correspondent for as well as for American and British papers, he produced stories about the initial German march Belgium and France. These captured both the emergence of total warfare and the importance of the new machines with which it was being waged. The most striking of these articles appeared under the title of “The Taking of Antwerp” in the January 1915 issue of and was later described by the editors as “one of the best war articles the Magazine has ever published.” Like much of the war reportage during this period, its appeal derives, in part, from the hyper-masculine heroism of the correspondent himself who describes his daring efforts to cover the story. Artillery duels, machine gun fire, and trench warfare are all filtered through the lens of a romantic narrative that inevitably highlights acts of individual heroism and male camaraderie. This prose style, however, often stands in stark contrast to the rich array of photographs that accompany Powell’s writing. These images often share more general fascination with machines and technology, but they also offer chilling images of shattered cites, ruined landscapes, and horrifying explosions. Scribner’s Magazine Scribner’s Scribner’s Powell’s articles in were themselves typically excerpts from longer books published by Charles Scribner’s Sons. These appeared with surprising speed throughout the war and included titles such as (1914), (1915), and (1917). These books too are lavishly illustrated and make little attempt to hide Powell’s support for the allied war effort, even in the years before the United States entered the conflict. After the war, Powell continued to write travel books and even composed a volume on the world’s move toward a second global conflagration, but his narrative style and tone increasingly seemed antiquated and hyperbolic. Neither his “strenuous” prose style nor his hyper-masculine stereotypes could capture the horrors of total modern warfare. Although his daughter eventually married into the lower ranks of the British aristocracy, he quickly disappeared from literary history. He eventually died in Connecticut in 1957. Scribner’s Fighting in Flanders Vive la France! Italy at War and the Allies in the West —Sean Latham Selected Work by E. Alexander Powell . NY: Houghton Mifflin, 1917 Brothers in Arms . NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1914. The End of the Trail: The Far West from New Mexico to British Columbia . NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1914. Fighting in Flanders . NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1914. Gentlemen Rovers . NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1917. Italy at War and the Allies in the West . NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1912. The Last Frontier: The White Man’s War for Civilization in Africa . NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1915. Vive la France!

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