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Offering all of the extant letters exchanged by two of the twentieth century's most distinguished literary figures, Cleanth Brooks and Allen Tate: Collected Letters, 1933-1976 vividly depicts the remarkable relationship, both professional and personal, between Brooks and Tate over the course of their lifelong friendship.
An accomplished poet, critic, biographer, and teacher, Allen Tate had a powerful influence on the literary world of his era. Editor of the Fugitive and the ...
Offering all of the extant letters exchanged by two of the twentieth century's most distinguished literary figures, Cleanth Brooks and Allen Tate: Collected Letters, 1933-1976 vividly depicts the remarkable relationship, both professional and personal, between Brooks and Tate over the course of their lifelong friendship.
An accomplished poet, critic, biographer, and teacher, Allen Tate had a powerful influence on the literary world of his era. Editor of the Fugitive and the Sewanee Review, Tate greatly affected the lives and careers of his fellow literati, including Cleanth Brooks. Esteemed coeditor of An Approach to Literature and Understanding Poetry, Brooks was one of the principal creators of the New Criticism. His Modern Poetry and the Tradition and The Well Wrought Urn, as well as his two-volume study of Faulkner, remain among the classics read by any serious student of literature. The correspondence between these two gentlemen-scholars, which began in the 1930s, extended over five decades and covered a vast amount of twentieth-century literary history.
In the more than 250 letters collected here, the reader will encounter their shared concerns for and responses to the work of their numerous friends and many prominent writers, including T. S. Eliot, William Faulkner, and Robert Lowell. Their letters offer details about their own developing careers and also provide striking insight into the group dynamics of the Agrarians, the noteworthy community of southern writers who played so influential a role in the literature of modernism.
Brooks once said that Tate treated him like a younger brother, and despite great differences between their personalities and characters, these two figures each felt deep brotherly affection for the other. Whether they contain warm invitations for the one to visit the other, genteel or honest commentaries on their families and friends, or descriptions of the vast array of social, professional, and even political activities each experienced, the letters of Brooks and Tate clearly reveal the personalities of both men and the powerful ties of their strong camaraderie.
Invaluable to both students and teachers of literature, Cleanth Brooks and Allen Tate provides a substantial contribution to the study of twentieth-century American, and particularly southern, literary history.
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December 14, 1933
Collins is turning over to us his April number for poetry and essays on poetry, and it seems that I have been elected to edit it. Won't you write us something? We want to run two long reviews, one by Warren and the other by you. Red is doing recent books of poetry and will give some opinions of the present state of the art. We hope you will do the same thing for the criticism of the last two years or three — ``or set your own limits. Of course most of the criticism that you will examine will be in the metaphysical school; and that will be your point of view fortunately. In fact, this special number of The American Review is to be devoted to the metaphysical school; we hope to make its critical claims better known and to group the poets together for reference in one place. Our list of poets includes Yeats, Eliot, Putnam, Auden, MacLeish, Bishop, etc. All the criticism will be done by our group here except the essay which we hope you will write.
Should you consent to do it, will you need any books that are hard to get in Baton Rouge? Or magazines? If you will send me a list I will try to get them all to you early in January. We must have all the material in hand before the first of March.
Red has not finished your essay and thesis, but promises to bring it here when he comes to spend Christmas.
With best regards,
I shouldadd that your essay should be about 3300 to 3600 words. Payment at one cent a word.
Mar. 14, 1934
I've asked Red to send your essay to you in order to avoid delay. I wish there had been more delay, for I fear you may have begun your revision of the article. I want to ask you if we may use a chapter of your thesis. I have just read it, having got it from Red yesterday in Nashville. I won't go into it in detail—I think it is a fine piece of work.
I suggest that we use your Appendix B, on Axel's Castle—I think a better title would be simply "A Note on Symbolism and Conceit." May we do this?
I should like to see combined with it your remark elsewhere about the public being in the Ivory Tower. That could be condensed, and put into the text or in a brief footnote. It is one of those brilliant commentaries that show first-rate critical insight.
It might also be possible to use some stuff from the chapter "Modern Conceit," to point up the connections; I have in mind particularly your quotations there. This could be done if you used only a stanza or two from [Yeats's] "Sailing to Byzantium." (Macmillan would not let you quote the poem entire anyhow.)
I think on the whole that we ought not to exceed twelve pages, and I think this length could be met, in spite of the additional matter from other chapters, if you cut your quotations from Wilson down to the bare minimum that will make your point.
One reason why I am urging this instead of the paper you wrote is that it is an independent study, not a review, and you show your real powers better. Moreover, this paper will parallel Ransom's beautifully; they will reinforce each other for being written independently. I assume that you have copies of all this; so I don't send it on. Please let me hear from you soon. I suppose Red told you that the issue had been postponed till May; so if you can get the thing done by April 1st, there will be plenty of time.
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA
April 19 
I hope that the article I submitted was satisfactory. I write now, however, not about that but about the series of articles which you have been running in The New Republic. I have found them most interesting and very good indeed. In particular, I liked the second one. But in your third I feel that you might have used I. A. Richards to support your position instead of considering him on the other side.
I agree with your position in the third article entirely; but I feel that Richards agrees with it too.
I speak here with a good deal of diffidence. I am not sure that I understand Richards. I certainly do not completely understand him. But I have made a very earnest attempt to understand him—I have read his Principles at least a dozen times in the last four years—and in so far as I do understand him I find him on your side. Understand that I feel that the compliment is to him, here. But I think that his support is worth something—and as regards most of the New York critics—is of some strategic importance. In the review I sent you I think that you will find my interpretation hinted, at least; and perhaps there is no need for me to try to amplify it here. I should like to make the following comments, however.
In the first place I think that Richards has reduced the subject matter of poetry to "non-science" rather than "non-sense." Poetry, I feel sure Richards would say, is not "a tissue of lies." Poetry uses fictions. And fictions "may be used ... to deceive. But this is not the characteristic use in poetry. The distinction which needs to be kept clear does not set up fictions in opposition to verifiable truths in the scientific sense ... we may either use words for the sake of the references they promote [scientific use], or we may use them for the sake of the attitudes and emotions which ensue. Many arrangements of words evoke attitudes without any reference being required en route ... But usually references are involved as conditions for, or stages in, the ensuing development of attitudes, yet it is still the attitudes not the references which are important (that is, I take it, though Dante's beliefs are indispensable to his poetry, it is not the beliefs as such which are primarily important in the poem). It matters not at all in such cases whether the references are true or false. Their sole function is to bring about and support the attitudes which further response." P. of C., pp. 267-8. Moreover, the statements which I quoted in the review: "The use of fictions, the imaginative use of them rather, is not a way of hoodwinking ourselves, it is not a process of pretending to ourselves that things are not as they are," seem to me to indicate that Richards—whatever we may think of his terminology—is really driving at what you have said: namely, that the statements of the genuine poet are neither true nor false.
Perhaps I do Richards more than justice, but I feel that his mysterious statement about the Waste Land and belief can only be interpreted (to put it in our words) as a compliment to Eliot that he has not done what Tennyson did—made poetry a sort of vehicle for inferior scientific generalizations about life. I think the statement is unfortunate because it implies that Eliot is the first poet to have avoided this error, whereas the greatest poets have always avoided it. But I think this is the only interpretation which agrees with Richards' general thesis as I interpret it. Richards, in general, I think is trying to steer a course between the Scylla of the Marxists—poetry is a sort of inferior science—and the Charybdis of the Ivory Tower.
I do not like Richards' utilitarianism but I must admit that he has made it rather broad. He gives poetry a "use," it is true, but all of us who regard poetry as valuable also give it a use. I believe that his use turns out to be a restatement of the value of poetry—not as a means to ends, as scientific description is a means, but as a value or use which would include contemplation. He attempts to show the importance of contemplation and to relate it up to our other activities. I do not think, however, that he reduces poetry to a tool.
What makes me think that Richards is to be interpreted thus is ultimately his own taste—the fact that he has seen the "use" in poets with whom the practical men have had nothing to do. His taste seems to me excellent. And his attack on critics who will not respect their terms seems to me thoroughly sound. I have had much difficulty with his terminology and I read him at first looking for flaws—I still do. The whole is beginning to make sense now, however. I think many of his points are obvious ones, the obviousness of which has been obscured by his terminology and qualification. I have sometimes become disgusted, but I think that his care and his attempt to be thoroughly consistent are probably the causes.
I apologize for so long a letter—and a letter which may seem rather silly. I am very much interested in your critical position: and I am very much interested in developing my own.
Moreover, I have had in mind for some time a contribution to the Communist poetry controversy which involved a use of Richards. Some of the Communist critics have been using him. Many of them have a holy reverence for science and most of all for psychology. I think that there might be some strategic value in using Richards to dynamite this position: unless my interpretation is badly off. I think that he could be used to show that it is the Marxists who are founding their view of poetry on bad psychology. As I pointed out in the review, I think that they are guilty, in his terminology, of "message-hunting." And it is just this message-hunting that is the essence of the Platonic view of poetry. I think that his statement that "it is never what a poem says that matters, but what it is" comes close to your statement that "the stanza is neither true nor false; it is an object that exists." And for the benefit of those who attach great importance to scientific statement, one could follow up by giving a broadside of exposition of the above statement in psychological terminology.
I think that I shall work up such an article and send it along to you for your comment. Do not let me impose on you, however, and don't hesitate to be quite candid in your criticism.
Later when you have time, and if you think it worth doing, I should like to submit my MS to a publisher. I should appreciate any suggestion on that point which you could give. Some rather important revisions will have to be made, I know, but I do want to begin prospecting at least.
Give my regards to Red and to John Ransom if you see them. I hope to get up to Nashville this summer. In the meantime I wish that I could persuade some of you to come down to Louisiana again. Your last stay was so short that it was hardly a visit.
Please remember me to Mrs. Tate.
May 9 1934
I am sending you your check for the essay in the American Review. We could pay only $2.40 a page. I hope your copies reach you soon and that you like the issue.
I suppose I didn't tell you that I liked the essay a great deal, and that the others did too.
I have been trying to answer your fine letter as it deserves. Maybe you didn't hear about our automobile wreck, which lost us nearly a month. We weren't seriously injured although Caroline had a badly twisted shoulder. We are just getting organized again.
I agree with you about Richards to some extent. But I do think that we must take into consideration the method of arriving at a conclusion no less than the apparent validity of the conclusion itself. For this reason I think Richards has chiefly a negative value such as you find in him for the refutation of Marxian criticism. But I must go into this at length to make it clear, and that I can't do this morning. I wish you would come up here this summer, so that we could talk. It is hard for me to write letters.
With best regards,
Remember me to C.W.P.
August 7, 1934
I'm a mighty poor correspondent, and now I write about a special matter. The Va. Quarterly is getting up a tenth anniversary number for next March, and they asked me for suggestions. I pointed out that in the ten years of their magazine the South has led in two arts, fiction and verse, and that they ought to have special essays on them. I urged you for the poetry as the only writer who knew enough to do it and who is not identified with any special group. They will almost certainly ask you (I got Stark Young to support my suggestion), and I hope you will consent. Otherwise the article will be written by somebody whose high standard is Masefield. I'm trying to get them to let Red write on fiction.
We've heard repeatedly that you are coming up here this summer. Your friends eagerly await your arrival. At this moment I am in Nashville staying with John [Crowe Ransom], and expect to be here another week; but here or at home I will expect to see you.
We're distressed that Red is leaving us but rejoice at his good fortune. It sounds like a fine job. You people are lucky to get him.
2374 Forrest Avenue
December 12, 1934
I have read your essay very carefully and I think it is a fine piece of work. I expect to be able to talk to you about it during the holidays though it is still a little uncertain whether we shall be able to come down.
I write this to ask permission to send the article on to The New Republic. I doubt if Cowley takes it, but if he doesn't I feel sure that Collins will. Won't you wire me yes or no?
I agree with everything you say as far as you take it. But there remains one great objection to Richards. If poetry is merely a balancing of emotion (I don't do it justice that way), if it's the fusion of heterogeneous matter into a unity, what is the metaphysical status of the section of reality represented by the poem? Richards avoids this, but by implication he would say that in the long run the poem cannot be "true" because of those embarrassing pseudo-statements, and that the poem has "value"—a strictly pragmatic value—because it orders our minds, or something like that. Now I think we must go farther, and we must discard Richards. It is simply that the great poem is a section of reality, and, being that, represents reality as a whole: that is, through it we are initiated into a qualitative whole which of course extends indefinitely. And of course, this is "useless." That is the point at which my three essays ["Three Types of Poetry"] stopped, but they would not have stopped there had Cowley wanted to give me a chance to ward off the attacks that followed. He didn't want to give me this chance.
We'll talk it all over. Meanwhile, best regards.
Feb. 20, 1935
Baton Rouge, La.
Malcolm Cowley sent me back the other day the MS. of the article on "Propaganda Art and the Ivory Tower," evidently the copy which you sent him some months ago. He was quite polite and the comments which he made on the article, taken together with his "Note on Marxian Criticism" which appeared in the N.R. for January 30, make me think that he has not yet seen the way to a direct and satisfactory answer. He has asked me for a review of Richards' new book On Imagination (which by the way is most interesting).
In my reply to his letter I pointed out that I thought that an answer to my article would have to (1) either show that I had misused Richards or (2) show that Richards on the matter of belief is essentially wrong. His comments do not touch on these points. I wonder if you have sent the MS. on to Collins. If so, I want to write to Collins about it, for I think that it is worthwhile to make the attack soon.
Lambert Davis has taken my article for the Va. Quarterly and is running it as it stands. I hope that you will like it and will be in substantial agreement with what I say, though I am far from satisfied with it. Fortunately, the topic did not come up in conversation with Fletcher while he was here last week. If it had, I am not sure that the conversations would have been so pleasant as they were. I have not yet seen his article on the same subject in the Westminster Magazine.
Red sends best regards,
2374 Forrest Avenue
February 23, 1935
I meant to write you about your article. I had, until a week or so ago, expected to see Collins at a conference in Cincinnati. But that was postponed till late in March. I will therefore send the article to him today. I agree with you that it should be published right way, and I feel sure Collins will do it.
Cowley is simply incompetent in these matters. He is vague and journalistic. I must get Richards On the Imagination right away. Red said too that Fletcher was mild. He came down on Memphis like a wolf on the fold, and gave us a good deal of trouble. I very much fear that he used his article to pay off secret grudges. He has no critical standards; it is all personal; that is, he asks whether another man's poetry, if it is different from his, is good enough to threaten the reception of his own with the public. That's as far as it goes. I have never asked my friends to admire my work; some of them, Ransom for example, don't admire it; but in Fletcher's case, I get extreme private admiration and public attack. I'd rather it were consistent.
I am very anxious to see your article. I had decided not to write mine, but at the last minute, three weeks late, I did something very quickly (one day) and sent it to Davis. It may have got there too late. It is about the profession of letters in the South. A profession that doesn't exist. Best regards,
March 17, 1935
I have had the Va. Quart. by me for two days and I've been reading and pondering your essay. To tell you the truth, I can find nothing wrong with it. Naturally I don't know whether some of this feeling is due to the high seriousness with which you discuss us, and to the extreme accuracy of your commentary upon my own intentions. Whether the group in general and I for my part are as good as you think, I do not know. I hope we are. But I am sure you have laid bare the workings of our minds in poetry. The function of the imagery in my Alice I could not have described nearly so well myself. Of course I should like to hope that your essay will be the basis of any future discussion that our work may receive from other hands. I think it will.
There is an extraneous matter that gives me extreme satisfaction. Davis is kind enough to tell me that every suggestion I made to him last summer bore fruit in this issue. Of the people I suggested you were the youngest and, to him, the least familiar. I am enormously pleased that your paper should have turned out to be so brilliant a performance.
I suppose you have heard the echoes of Fletcher's recent outrageous behavior about this issue of the Va. Quart. Ostensibly because they refused Davidson's article he demanded that we withdraw at the last minute. His pretext was that Don's article contained the agrarian doctrine, and that the Va. Quart. enticed us in to get our literary papers; using us, in short, but not doing anything for us. Fletcher's heroic position was expressed in the usual terms of unspeakable abuse, in which some degree of naïveté indicated the presence of less heroic elements in his attitude. It occurred to me that he had not been invited to contribute. I fear he made some impression on Don. John and I told him to go to hell. He demanded of John a signed statement that he would never again have any commerce with the Va. Quart. He has behaved badly before, and although his latest message indicates a softening spirit, he has done his work too well, better than he evidently supposed.
[Handwritten] Have you heard from Collins? He has had your essay for some time.
January 13, 1936
I've been nearly batty the last few days, and I didn't get a chance to tell you that both Agar and I liked your essay very much and that it has been sent on to Houghton-Mifflin. We did take the liberty of changing a word or a phrase here and there, but if you prefer your original version at these places you can easily restore it in the proof.
The point of view and the argument were just right. We should have wanted the essay alone, but it happens that it offsets beautifully Belloc's Catholic statement and protects us from a suspicion of popery.
March 27, 1936
Your letter appeared in the Tribune the morning of March 25 on the editorial page. I am getting a copy and sending it to you right away. Red and I have been terribly busy for the last week, and I am dashing off this note in haste, realizing that it should have been sent two days ago. I am almost sorry that the matter turned out this way, but the paper, though it is incredibly stupid, did give the letter a prominent place.
By the way, your article has been set up, and we think it is excellent. I quite agree with Andrew in that it is probably the best single thing you have written. I say this with a sharpened sense of what you have written in the past, for I have just been going over your Reactionary Essays for the last day or two. They are altogether excellent, and I had not realized how very fine some of them were. Many thanks to you for the book.
Best regards from Red and myself to you and Caroline.
The Log Cabin
October 25, 1936
I've read your fine essay twice, and if I were not in a hurry to get it back to you, a third reading I am sure would make it seem even better. It is beyond any question the finest interpretation of the poem yet written; I don't see what else any other critic can do. I question only one or two minor points, on the margins.
You have covered every difficult question. I believe you have left one large question open; but that could be an essay in itself. I mean the significance of the eclectic symbolism drawn from the widest sources of our tradition. Of course Milton did the same thing, but the focus was quite different.
Such a discussion would include commentary on the last lines of the poem, which I still find unsatisfactory. The Sanskrit words may very well, as you say, convey the most ancient truths of Aryan culture, but they are remote from our immediate experience: wouldn't Milton have gone straight to the Christian tradition instead of circumventing it? Of course, Eliot's reasons for going round the long way could be pretty easily divined, and I think you are the man to do the job.
Why should you worry about a place to publish the essay? Perhaps you have heard of a magazine called The Southern Review.
By the way, Montgomery Belgion wants to see the magazine. Why not send him copies of two or three of your best issues? He would help the magazine in England. Address 27, Lawn-road Flats, London, N.W.3.
Remember us to Tinkum, and regards to everybody.
We decided that if we tarried long in Louisiana, we would spend what little money we hope to have before we ever got to Mexico. But we'll be coming through for a few days.
April 5, 1937
This letter is wholly confidential, and I hope you will reply to the question that I am raising with equal frankness.
I heard from Red recently that Howe had been in Baton Rouge, and that the poetry textbook had been discussed. Naturally Howe wants it as soon as he can get it, and he has already been as patient as Job.
I don't see how we can all get together long enough to complete the work. You and I could, but Red will never be permitted again to spend that much time in Tennessee if I am in the neighborhood. And I cannot finance a trip and a long stay in Baton Rouge. It would take us two months, and I think it is futile to try a real collaboration apart. The pieces would never fit together.
Last summer when I told Red I thought you ought to join us, my real purpose then, as now, was to turn over to you my part of the work and to resign from it. I fear otherwise the book will never be done.
I am explaining this to you confidentially before I take any steps about it with Red or with Howe. Your consent to the plan is naturally quite necessary before it can be carried out.
Howe advanced me three hundred dollars, and I should undertake to transfer, with your consent, my debt to you, and to pay it before next January 1st, or to make a similar arrangement to pay it to Howe directly. I imagine the former plan would appeal to him more than the latter because it would allow him to recover the money through royalties in the ordinary way.
I do feel that something must be done soon. Red and I could have worked at the book the last two summers, but he had to go off to the West Coast every time. His summer teaching wouldn't have interfered, it was the family visit.
The pressure of my money obligation to Howe is prompting me to this suggestion. It can't run on indefinitely. I do dislike losing my part in the book because I am convinced it will be a gold mine. But whether you accept this arrangement or not, I shall lose it; Red and I can never get together.
The new Southern Review is very fine, almost your best number. Isn't Wade's destruction of Brooks perfect and beautiful? Wade is getting better all the time. I read the piece five times with mounting envy.
We are going to Benfolly on the 25th, and we hope you and Tinkum will come up this summer for a good visit. You all are among the very few of our very good friends who have not been there. We enjoyed hugely the Christmas reunion; we look forward to a better, calmer one in the very rear future.
Of course Red will tell you that I have responded enthusiastically to his own enthusiastic plan of getting together this summer. We have exchanged, at this time of year, exactly the same kind of letters for two years,—no, three years, '35, '36, '37. He doesn't know even now that he won't be allowed to come up here. Strange—we know these things better than he does.
April 7, 1937
901 America St.
Your letter came in this morning, and I hasten to write you about some of the points involved. I obviously would regret very, very much your pulling out of the book for two reasons: the fact that the book will be terribly weakened if you are out of it; and second, the fact that in such a case I would definitely feel that I was reaping where another had sown. I hope that some arrangement will occur to us by which we keep from doing this, even though I realize the difficulties of trying to do the book while we are separated and though I realize fully the difficulty of our all three getting together.
As to the plans that you suggest—providing that we can't work out some solution which will keep you in—I think that the first, that of transferring the debt to me, is by all means the best, but in that case I wouldn't hear of your paying the money back to me. The three hundred could be taken out of my share of the royalties. You have certainly done far more than that much work on the book already. I wouldn't consider coming on the deal on any other basis. Such an arrangement at least wouldn't penalize you any further than losing the possibly large royalties which the book might pay, and if it should be a gold-mine, I would be amply paid any way. I say this before going any further because I want this point clear if you should decide to get out. Meantime, I want to urge again that we try to work out some other solution. For one thing, Tinkum and I now have an apartment with an extra bedroom. I don't need to tell you how much we would love having you and Caroline visit us for as long as you would stay. That might solve the problem of a long stay in Baton Rouge. C[inina] could hardly carry Red off from Baton Rouge—at least in term time.
(Excuse the change to handwriting—but I can't get at the typewriter just now.)
Incidentally, whatever happens with regard to the book, do come and stay with us whenever you can.
There is also, Allen, the possibility of working at the book by twos—even if all three could not get together for any length of time. I believe that we could get a pretty close collaboration in that way. I know that such a play would be more awkward than our working it out together on a basis of all three, but I believe that we are close enough together on most points to get relatively fine coordination even at that. I think that it would be disastrous for the book, for you not to continue with it; and I am sure that, under the circumstances, I should feel pretty much like a rat if the book should actually make money. My own feeling would be that you ought to stay with it in whatever capacity you may choose. If you did no more than go over the material worked out by Red and me, making alterations, cuts, and additions, the book would be far the better for it—we should be asking your advice on all sorts of things, anyway, even if you retired from the book formally—and I see no reason why you should not have your share in the profits—if any—too. To sum up, I believe that we could work out some sort of plan for a division of labors and for collaboration by pairs, if not all together; and in the second place, even if such a plan were not feasible, I believe that you ought to remain in to go over our work, to suggest revisions, alterations and ,extensions, and to give the work a final check and revision.
I am not sure that I haven't stated this very awkwardly. But you know me well enough to know what I think of you and what I think of your work, and to know that I sincerely hope that you won't retire from the project. On any basis, you deserve your part of whatever profits may accrue. And I am very sure that the book done by Red and myself would not be the book that it would be with you in it.
Obviously, I have not (and shall not) say anything to Red about this; but I do urge you not to retire from the plan, and I am hoping that you will reconsider. But in any case, drop the idea at once of paying back the money advanced to you; that would be thoroughly unfair to yourself, and I couldn't consider carrying on under such terms.
There is very little news to write. We see very little of Cinina these days though our relations with her are quite cordial. Tinkum has had her work hours lengthened and I am hoping that we can arrange for her to stop it. Work with me—on articles or books—would be far more pleasant. Incidentally, I believe that Tinkum has a very interesting book in her experience in relief work through the last six years. I don't think she will write it, but if she did, there would be at least one book of that sort with an agrarian point of view. She has a mass of splendid material—not only for its "human" interest, but powerful evidence for the agrarian idea. (She has been working principally with negroes and whites pulled off the farms of the old Feliciana parishes above here by the Standard Oil Co., and now stranded.)
Tinkum wrote Caroline a brief note just after we had started to read None Shall Look Back. It is a powerful and beautiful book. I hope that we will get a chance to talk with her about it later. For the moment, a brief word [will] have to suffice. It's splendid. (By the way, I see from The Publishers Weekly that it's selling well.)
Red and I are working slowly at the new text-book, hoping to finish it up, and I, meantime, am at work on Yeats' Vision. I sent my commentary on The Waste Land to Eliot, and got back, somewhat to my surprise, a prompt reply. He says, after stating his usual position to the effect that the author cannot help much, "it seems to me on the whole excellent, and very much better than H. R. Williamson's which went to rather fantastic lengths." He goes on to say that he thinks such an essay valuable if it does not set up to represent the author's method of composition—a matter I had already taken care of.
I'm afraid that I can't use the statement publicly. (I had promised to consider private whatever he cared to say.) But if I publish the essay, at least I won't have to fear his sawing off the limb behind me.
I appreciate the invitation to visit you all. Tinkum and I hope to take it up this summer. In the meantime, do come down if you can. Best regards from both of us to Caroline. The Christmas meeting remains a very bright spot in our memories.
By the way, if you have occasion to write further confidentially about the book, you might address me at 901 America St. I got to the mail before Red did when your last letter came in and so the question was not raised. But otherwise, there would be natural inquiries about what the news from you was.
The Log Cabin
April 19, 1937
I have been pondering your letter. You will know how I appreciate what you say of my value to the book, and how thoroughly aware I am of the exact nature of your scruples about accepting my proposal. But you see what my position is: if we can't get together for real collaboration, you and Red will be doing all the real work, and I should not be entitled to an equal share of the profits if I merely looked over the work after it was done. Perhaps after all we had better wait until this summer and see what Red is going to be able to do. I am sure he will be able to do nothing, but then at least the situation will be developed and I can make him face it.
It would be fine if we could come to Baton Rouge and stay with you and Tinkum, but nice as it would be for us it would be hard on you all. We have Nancy, you see, and then too even though staying with the Warrens would be impossible, Miss Emma would make a scene of it if we stayed with you all, and Red would be terribly on the spot. And as I say we haven't the money to finance a trip and a visit.
The other day I received a nice note from Howe. He seems contented with the delay; so there is no outside pressure upon us. I do think, though, that we ought to get busy very soon.
I am delighted that Eliot liked your exegesis. I was sure he would. You are much better on the Waste Land than anybody else, Matthiessen included. You haven't had anything of your own in the SR for a long time. Can't you go ahead and print it?
The little quarterly Purpose, in London, has just reprinted, with acknowledgment to the SR, my reply to Kenneth Burke. I've told the editor, Desmond Hawkins (who does the fiction each quarter for The Criterion), that he ought to make an arrangement with you all to exchange Contributions for simultaneous appearance. There's a very nice essay by George Barker. Purpose is a little tinged with Social Credit, but on the whole it is steering a course not unlike that of the SR ... I sent him the MLA poetry program from the A[merican] R[eview]. Maybe he will reprint it.
Aff. regards to you and Tinkum from us both,
June 24, 1937
I enclose a carbon of a letter to Howe. I hope you can persuade him. The text is a fine piece of work. What shall I do with the portion of the ms. that I have? I'm not quite clear about it—shall it be sent to Howe or returned to you? If to Howe, maybe you'd better wire me.
We hope devoutly that you and Tinkum will come up to see us. We'll be away from July 15th to August 4th; but any time before or after that period we'll be right here waiting for you all.
Red and Miss Emma came through Middle Tennessee like a bewildered Kansas tornado. It is increasingly impossible to talk to Red. He is doing so many things he can't put his mind on any of them. Ford wanted to write an article, maybe two, for the SR, but Red just stared at him vaguely, and at last suggested that he read and review 49 novels for the fall issue. Ford replied mildly that he reviewed only books that he admires. After all Ford is one of the great men of letters in the world today, and I do think that Red oughtn't to have suggested such a routine job to him. I'm really upset by it. Couldn't something be done? Red didn't mean anything unpleasant; he just didn't know what he was saying. At that moment he was surveying mankind from China to Peru, sub specie Californiae, and doubtless had one eye on the question: Will Miss Emma take me off to the bedroom before or after lunch? She by the way was like a sucking dove, and played a piece of high politics. She knew what we'd think of the California trip; so she disarmed me by saying that if she hadn't got Red away from Baton Rouge, where so many people made demands on his time, he would never finish his novel. It just occurred to me that one might get away from Baton Rouge a little this side of San Francisco.
The trek to the coast certainly authorizes me to set up as at least an assistant to Tiresias.
Our love to you both,
By the way, if you want to change anything in my review, do so. It's bad. The difficulties I labored under I've reported to Albert.
|The Passionate Partisans: An Introduction by Louis D. Rubin, Jr||1|
|Appendix. The Maelstrom, by Cleanth Brooks||265|