“Existentialism means that no one else can take a bath for you.”
Delmore Schwartz 1913-1966
Born to Jewish parents in Brooklyn, NY, Schwartz attended Columbia and the University of Wisconsin before receiving a degree from New York University. He studied philosophy as a graduate student under the great Alfred North Whitehead at Harvard while he roomed with the poet Robert Lowell. His first book, In Dreams Responsibilities Begin, based on his parents failed marriage, gained him widespread notice. He went on to teach writing at a number of schools including Syracuse and Kenyon. Among his many students and protégés was Saul Bellow, whose Humboldt’s Gift is based on their relationship. Lou Reed of the Velvet Underground also studied with Schwartz, wrote at least two songs in his memory and named him the “first great man I ever met.” Schwartz died at 52, alone and isolated from the world, from complications of alcoholism and mental illness.