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John Wheelwright Portrait

Born to a Boston Brahmin family, John Wheelright's father was an architect who designed a number of the city's well-known buildings. After his father's suicide in 1912, Wheelwright underwent a religious conversion, abandoning his family's historic Unitarianism and becoming an Anglican. At Harvard from 1916-20, however, he became uneasy with his new commitment and joined the circle of Aesthetes, among them E.E. Cummings and Malcolm Cowley. Attracted to socialism, he remained at once emotionally connected to Christian myth and reluctant to embrace the uneducated masses. Many of his early poems register these conflicting impulses, though with the advent of the Great Depression he became increasingly committed to Marxism, aligning himself with its Trotskyite wing. Wheelwright died prematurely when he was struck down by a car in Boston in September 1920.