Donald Davidson (1893 – 1968) received his B.A. and M.A. degrees from Vanderbilt University in 1917 and in 1922. He taught English at Vanderbilt from 1920 - 1964 his entire professional career. In addition to being a teacher Davidson was also a poet, novelist, and critic, and he published many books of poetry and criticism and one folk opera Singin’ Billy. He was a member of the Fugitive poets group that published their magazine The Fugitive from 1922 – 1925, and he was also one of the Agrarians who published I’ll Take My Stand in 1930 and Who Owns America? in 1936. He maintained lifelong friendships and correspondence with Robert Penn Warren, Allen Tate, John Crowe Ransom, and other literary colleagues.
Will Ella Tatom Johnson Smith is the donor for this collection. She was born December 11, 1890 in Union City, Tennessee, the daughter of Kate Kirkmon Tatom and Colonel William Clinton Tatom, co-owner and publisher of the Ohioan Democrat. She was a contemporary of Donald Davidson, and was married to Stanley Johnson, one of the Fugitive poets, and these may be the reasons these poems came to be in her possession.
This small collection of 11 typescript poems with some holograph notes by Donald Davidson dating from 1916 was given to Vanderbilt University Special Collections by James Summerville, who was given the poems by Will Ella Tatom Johnson Smith ( Mrs. James Mapheus Smith), who was given the poems by Donald Davidson.
Mrs. Smith was first married to Stanley Johnson, one of the Fugitive poets, and she herself wrote poetry.
These poems were never published in the Fugitive or in any other collection. They were written just as Davidson was joining members of what was to be the Nashville Fugitive poet group in discussions of poetry, philosophy, literature, and political ideas, and so are an important addition to an understanding of his early work. File 13 of this collection contains the photocopies of these poems.
Also included with these papers is a photocopy of the holograph poem “To Rupert Brook” by Ridley Wills, another of the Fugitive poets, with 2 accompanying letters with background information dated October 19, 1971 and September 9, 1978.