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By Michele K. Gillespie, Randal L. Hall

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19 At his church he hosted prominent figures, ranging from noted reform ministers to radical activists. He also secured a place on the stage at seemingly every public reform meeting held in the city, from which he championed and impugned public figures and causes without restraint. Aligning himself with the urban reform movement, he launched the Civil Union, an organization for public-spirited young men. He endorsed reform politicians, especially Theodore Roosevelt, who was a paragon of the active, engaged, strenuous life that Dixon admired.

American Proteus 4 26. , Resigns,” New York Times, March , 895, p. 8. See also “Rev. , December 6, 897, p. , February 8, 899, p. 7; and Cook, Fire from the Flint, 95–97. , The Life Worth Living: A Personal Experience (New York: Doubleday, Page, 905), especially chapters 2 and 0, and in Southern Horizons, 244–57. 27. Dixon describes his decision to leave the ministry in Southern Horizons, 258–62. ’” 28. “Mr Dixon’s Literary Group,” New York Times, December 3, 894, p. 9. Dixon’s compulsion to preach the truth led him, for instance, to reject Emile Zola’s literary naturalism, because its principles were, he believed, fundamentally false.

Victorian propriety coexisted with bursts of desire and excitement. Moralism and idealism retained a prominent place in this culture, but were now joined to heroic action. The pursuit of robust experience, of life in the fullest, and the cultivation of the strenuous self, these were the cultural aspirations that Dixon appealed to, first as a minister, then as a popular lecturer, and, above all, as a novelist and playwright. 45 That Dixon adopted the melodrama as his preferred literary, stage, and film form was well nigh inevitable.

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