Biography and History

James Gould Cozzens (1903-1978), author of fourteen novels and numerous short stories, was born in Chicago, Illinois. He attended the Kent School, and after his graduation in 1922 he went on to Harvard University. While attending Harvard, he published his first novel, Confusion, in 1924. A few months later, he withdrew from Harvard for reasons of health and finances. He moved to New Brunswick, Canada, where he wrote his next novel, Michael Scarlett. Like Confusion, it was not well received. He relocated to Cuba, where he began to write short stories. His experiences there provided material for later stories and novels, but he resigned after only a brief period as he felt that his writing career was stagnating. Though he published two more novels, his career did not improve until 1927, when he married Sylvia Bernice Baumgarten, a literary agent who successfully guided his career for the rest of her life.

Cozzens published ten more novels and a volume of short stories entitled Children and Others. He was a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters and won many awards, including the O. Henry Award in 1931 for "A Farewell to Cuba" and again in 1936 for "Total Stranger," the Pulitzer Prize in 1949 for Guard of Honor, and the William Dean Howells medal in 1960 for By Love Possessed. However, none of his works achieved great success or popularity and Cozzens increasingly withdrew from society. As the years went on, he displayed a loss of appetite for living and an interest in suicide which pervaded his diaries. In 1978, he died in a hospital in Stuart, Florida, of cancer of the spine.

Source: From the finding aid for C0061


  • Novelists, American -- 20th century..