Frank Algernon Cowperwood, The Financier of Theodore Dreiser’s novel of that name, made and lost and remade a fortune in Philadelphia. After a term in the penitentiary there, he left for Chicago with his capital intact and his mistress eager for marriage as soon as he should have divorced his wife. The Titan continues the story in Chicago.
“I satisfy myself” was always Cowperwood’s approach to life. Not a cruel man, he had some understanding of the needs of others. Nevertheless, he coolly played for every advantage and knew that his gifts entitled him to do so.
Often now, in these preliminary days, he looked at the large companies of men with their horses gathered in and about the several carbarns of the company, and wondered at their state. So many of them were so dull. They were rather like animals, patient, inartistic, hopeless. He thought of their shabby homes, their long hours, their poor pay, and then concluded if anything at all could be done for them it would be to pay them decent living wages, which he proposed to do — nothing more. They could not be expected to understand his dreams or his visions, or to share in the magnificence and social dominance which he craved.
Cowerperwood dreams big, but all his dreams are of Cowperwood. Art he admires — the skill, the mastery — and he becomes a collector. His dreams of women are the dreams also of a collector.
He was by now so familiar with types and kinds of women that an exceptional type — quite like an exceptional horse to a judge of horse flesh — stood out in his mind with singular vividness. Quite as in some great racing stable an ambitious horseman might imagine that he detected in some likely filly the signs and lineaments of the future winner of a Derby, so in Berenice Fleming… Cowperwood previsioned the central figure of a Newport lawn fete or a London drawing room.
Interesting as Cowperwood’s amorous adventures are, they are less alive than Dreiser’s accounts of his financial manipulations. The stories of how the great match trust went bust and how the utility commission bill wiggled its way through the Illinois State legislature are told with a true reporter’s relish for double dealing of all sorts, when the game is dealt by experts.