Biography and History

Saxe Commins was born in Rochester, New York, around 1892. He attended the University of Pennsylvania and received his bachelor's degree in 1913, after which he married Dorothy Berliner, a concert pianist. He began his editing career at Horace Liveright, but soon joined Random House in 1933. He quickly ascended the ranks to become editor-in-chief and, then, senior editor. Commins also acted as the director of the Modern Library series, a division of Random House.

Many of the twentieth-century's greatest authors received help from Saxe Commins on their works. The editor accepted novels and plays by William Faulkner, W. H. Auden, Eugene O'Neill, Sinclair Lewis, Gertrude Stein, and James A. Michener, to name a few. He helped some on their way to the Pulitzer Prize, including O'Neill, Faulkner, and Lewis.

Commins also compiled several collections of others' works. He presented The Major Campaign Speeches of Adlai E. Stevenson in 1933, The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1938, The Selected Writings of Washington Irving in 1945, The Selected Writings of Robert Louis Stevenson in 1947, a four-volume series entitled The World's Greatest Thinkers with Robert N. Linscott in 1947, and The Basic Writings of George Washington in 1948.

Commins believed that "the role of the editor is to be invisible," but his editing was an indisputable element of many authors' reputations. He died in his Princeton home in 1958 after a long struggle with heart ailments.

Source: From the finding aid for C0718

  • Saxe Commins Papers. 1930-1973 (inclusive), 1945-1960 (bulk).

    Call Number: C0718

    Consists of the papers of Saxe Commins, concentrating primarily while he was chief editor at Random House (1933-1958). Commins worked with many major writers of the literary world, such as Eugene O'Neill and William Faulkner, as well as Irwin Shaw and Budd Schulberg. Commins also compiled several collections of others' works, such as "The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt" and "Major Speeches of Adlai E. Stevenson."