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Edgar Evertson Saltus
(October 8, 1855 - July 31, 1921) U.S.A.

Edgar Evertson Saltus



Edgar Saltus, who was born in New York, was known for his highly refined prose style. His works paralleled those by European decadent authors such as Huysmans. The author of numerous histories and novels, Saltus had a penchant for unrestrained pessimism, radical style, and vicious wit, which earned him the friendship of contemporary writers such as Oscar Wilde.

Saltus's impressionistic histories of Rome, Russia and other subjects were creative nonfiction. He reveled in the dark side of history: the violence and eroticism of the past stirred back to life at the touch of Saltus's pen. He was one of the first brave scribes to write in English about important figures such as the Marquis de Sade and Gilles de Rais.

Saltus began his career with two bold philosophical books, The Philosophy of Disenchantment, a treatise on pessimism in the vein of Schopenhauer, and The Anatomy of Negation, a history of skepticism and atheism.

The Imperial OrgyFor his most famous book, Imperial Purple (1892), Saltus drew heavily from the histories of Suetonius and Tacitus to create a portrait of the bloody pageantry of Rome, from the majestic Julius Caesar to the freakish Heliogabalus. Saltus' fascination for gore and torture was unflagging, especially in Imperial Purple and The Imperial Orgy, his final book, about murder and debauchery in Imperial Russia.

Acclaimed by fellow writers in his day, Saltus fell into obscurity after his death, in New York, and his works have yet to have a revival. His short story The Paliser Case was adapted to film in 1920, and his novel Daughters of the Rich was filmed in 1923.

A biography by Marie Saltus, Edgar Saltus: The Man was published in 1925. Despite his unpopularity in the twentieth century, Saltus's works were reissued in 1970, perhaps in the aftermath of the lone critical work to ever be written on him, Claire Sprague's informative Edgar Saltus of 1968.


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