John Crowe Ransom Papers
John Crowe Ransom, noted poet, critic, educator and editor, was born April 30, 1888 in Pulaski, Tennessee. He graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1909, was a Rhodes
Scholar at Christ Church, Oxford, 1910-1913, and joined the faculty of Vanderbilt in 1914, where he taught English until 1937. While at Vanderbilt, Ransom was a major
figure in the Fugitive and Agrarian Groups and their publications, The Fugitive (1922-1925) and I'll Take My Stand (1930). In 1937, Ransom accepted a position at Kenyon
College in Gambier, Ohio as professor of poetry and later founded and edited an important literary quarterly, The Kenyon Review (1939-1959). Ransom retired in 1959, but
remained active in literary pursuits until his death in 1974 at the age of eighty-six. His works of poetry include Poems About God (1919), Chills and Fever (1924), and
Selected Poems (1945, 1963, 1969).
The acquisition of the John Crowe Ransom portion of the Stuart Wright Collection during 1988 brought to Vanderbilt University what is probably the largest single collection of Ransom material in one repository. Ransom's biographer, Thomas Daniel Young (Gentleman In A Dustcoat), noted that Ransom saved few letters from his wide range of correspondents and "even fewer of the manuscripts of his poems and essays, and almost none of the material relating to his literary career" (Young, xvi). Though this collection is fragmentary, it is somewhat surprising that even this much material has survived, given Ransom's habits concerning his papers. Fortunately, he did not get around to disposing of these materials, most of which Wright obtained from the Ransom family.
The collection consists primarily of correspondence and manuscripts produced during Ransom's retirement (1959-1974), although important earlier materials are included, such
as Ransom's letters to his wife, Robb Reavill Ransom, dated 1920-1938. Also included are class rolls, clippings, family records, financial records, Kenyon College items,
lecture notes, memorabilia, photographs, programs, publications, recommendations, and school catalogs. There are also a few scattered older pieces of incoming correspondence,
such as a 1917 letter from Macmillan rejecting the manuscript which was eventually published as Poems About God. Transcripts of telegrams from various notable
persons honoring Ransom on the occasion of his departure from Vanderbilt in 1937 are also preserved here.
This collection will obviously be of most interest to researchers working on Ransom and offers new insight into Ransom's personal life and relationships, his criticism
and poetry, his working method, and his activities, especially in the latter years of his life. Students of the Fugitives and Agrarians, literary criticism, Southern
literature, the American literary scene in the mid-twentieth century, and the study and teaching of literature will also benefit from these papers. To a lesser extent, these
papers will also be useful to those studying educational institutions, including Vanderbilt University and Kenyon College, as well as special schools such as the Kenyon
School of English (and its successor, The School of Letters at Indiana University) and the Bread Loaf School of English. There are also a few items relating to the
Kenyon Review itself.
[For details of Ransom's life and writings, the following are recommended:
- Young, Thomas Daniel. Gentleman In A Dustcoat. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1976.
- Young, Thomas Daniel. John Crowe Ransom: An Annotated Bibliography. New York: Garland Publishing, 1982.]
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