Sinclair Lewis Declined Pulitzer

A Guy's Moleskine Notebook

I mentioned Sinclair Lewis declined the Pulitzer Prize. In 1926, on discovering that his novel, Arrowsmith, had been awarded what was then called the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel, author Sinclair Lewis wrote the following letter to the Pulitzer Prize Committee and declined the honor. He remains the only person to have done so. I enclose his letter in full:

For Release Thursday, May 26th, 1926

To the Pulitzer Prize Committee,
Courtesy of Mr. Frank D. Fackenthal, Secretary,
Columbia University
New York City

Sirs:—

I wish to acknowledge your choice of my novel “Arrowsmith” for the Pulitzer Prize. That prize I must refuse, and my refusal would be meaningless unless I explained the reasons.

All prizes, like all titles, are dangerous. The seekers for prizes tend to labor not for inherent excellence but for alien rewards: they tend to write this, or timorously to avoid writing that…

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