Ludwig Lewisohn, novelist, literary and drama critic and prominent Zionist, was born in Berlin, Germany to Jacques and Minna Lewisohn. The year of his birth is uncertain, as he reported it as 1883, 1882 and 1881 on different official documents. The family arrived in the United States in 1890 and settled first in St. Matthews and then Charleston, South Carolina. Lewisohn received A.B. and M.A. degrees from the College of Charleston in 1902. He began a Doctoral program in English at Columbia University but left in the spring of 1904 when anti-Semitic attitudes prevented him from finding a teaching position. Lewisohn was eventually awarded an honorary Doctor of Literature degree from the College of Charleston in 1914.
In 1906, Lewisohn married Mary Crocker. His first novel, "The Broken Snare", was published in 1908. As with his other novels, it reflected his own evolving moral views and his turbulent romantic relationships and reviewers found his passionate style refreshing. In 1911, Lewisohn found a teaching poistion in the German department at Ohio State University but was asked to leave in 1917 because of his opposition to the war. While working as a drama critic for The Nation, from 1920 to 1924, Lewisohn’s relationship with his wife Mary deteriorated and divorce proceedings commenced in 1922. In the midst of this, Lewisohn published his first autobiography "Up Stream" in 1922 and his novel "Don Juan" in 1923.
In 1924, Lewisohn accepted a settlement for separation from Mary, instead of the divorce he had requested, and left for Europe with Thelma Spear, an aspiring singer. While they were in Europe, further legal action by Mary went all the way to the U.S. State Department. Consequently, Lewisohn and Thelma were unable to return to the United States until 1934. During the time in Europe, however, Lewisohn continued to write. His writings from this time include "The Case of Mr. Crump" (a fictionalized account of his disastrous relationship with Mary) in 1926, and "Expression in America", a history of American Literature, published in 1932. Lewisohn and Thelma also had a child, James, in 1933.
After his relationship with Thelma ended, he married Edna Manley in 1940, the same year he was hired as editor of the New Palestine. Lewisohn also devoted much time during this period to lecturing and writing in support of the Zionist cause. Lewisohn’s marriage to Edna ended in 1944, and he married Louise Wolk. In 1948Lewisohn became one of the founding professors of Brandeis University where he taught comparative literature until his death in 1955.
Despite the turbulence caused by romantic relationships, controversial moral and political views and financial hardships, Ludwig Lewisohn wrote continuously throughout his life. Although his novels and literary criticism are largely forgotten, Lewisohn remains an important figure in Jewish literature. He died from a heart attack December 31, 1955.