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It is Croswell Bowen's half-belief that ""the bad things that happen to one are decreed by some evil force"" and this biography of Eugene O'Neill is the result of his ""obsession"" that a curse rested on the O'Neill family. Apart from this rather mystical beginning his book is an impressively documented (he was assisted by Shane O'Neill, Eugene O'Neill's second son), highly competent, comprehensive and fair piece of journalism. Eugene O'Neill's grandfather left Ireland with his family during the potato famine and settled in Buffalo. His oldest' son James had married Ella Quinlan, a convent school girl, and was an idol of the American stage when Eugene, his second son, was born in 1888, It was at his birth, a difficult one, that his mother became addicted to drugs. Eugene went to school in the East--to Princeton in 1906 where he made no impression and left after one year. In 1909 he married Kathleen Jenkins in New York. They had one son Eugene O'Neill, Jr., and were divorced in 1912. Soon after he began that life at sea which he was to recall in Bound East for Cardiff, The Hairy Ape, etc. He started writing in New London in 1914 encouraged by the critic, Clayton Hamilton, who advised him to take George Pierce Baker's course in drama at Harvard. In 1916 he joined the Provincetown Group and his first play to be produced -- Bound East for Cardiff -- was given there that summer. His biographer painstakingly traces O'Neill's subsequent marriages -- to Agnes Boulton Burton with whom he had two children, Oona and Shane, and to the beautiful Carlotta Monterey with whom he ended his days; his unfortunate estrangement from his children; the desperations of a haunted family which he translated to the stage; the incessant wanderings with Carlotta all over the world; the tragedies of young Eugene's suicide and Shane's drug addiction; finally the paralyzing illness which overcame the dramatist who was always ""a little in love with death"".

Pub Date: May 18th, 1959
Publisher: McGraw-Hill