Donald Davidson was born, Donald Grady Davidson, on 8 August 1893, in Campbellsville, Giles County, Tennessee. His parents were teachers and school administrators. He received a classical education at Lynnville Academy, where his father was co-principal, and at Branham and Hughes preparatory school in Spring Hill, TN. He then attended Vanderbilt University and earned both B.A. (1917) and M.A. (1922) degrees from Vanderbilt. Later, he received several honorary doctorates as well. During World War I, 1917-1918, Davidson served in the U. S. Army's American Expeditionary Force in France, 1918-1919.
At Vanderbilt, after World War I, Davidson became associated with a literary group known as the Fugitives. The Fugitives formed a close-knit group of like-minded writers, poets, and scholars, who met to read and criticize each other's works. Later they established a literary journal,
The Fugitive, in which they published their work and those of other associated writers.
The Fugitive did much to spread the influence of the group. In addition to Davidson, the Fugitives included such noted poets and writers as Robert Penn Warren (#1169-014), John Crowe Ransom (#1169-010), Allen Tate (#1169-012), Laura Riding, and Merrill Moore (#1169-007).
While still in graduate school at Vanderbilt, Davidson obtained a teaching assistantship in the English Department. He remained on the faculty for the next 44 years. He rose quickly through the academic ranks and was a full professor from 1938-1964, when he retired. Meanwhile, Davidson also began reviewing books and editing the
Nashville Tennessean book page. He reviewed 370 books between 1923 and 1930. In 1930, after
The Fugitive ceased publishing, Davidson became associated with the Southern Agrarians, a literary group that included many of the same members as the Fugitives. Davidson was largely responsible for editing the Southern Agrarians' manifesto,
I'll Take My Stand (1930). Davidson, like the majority of the Agrarians, disliked industrial capitalism and felt that it had a negative impact on the rural economy and regional cultures. Davidson first gained national fame when
Lee in the Mountains (1934), his dramatic monologue poem about Robert E. Lee in the years after the Civil War, was re-published in
Understanding Poetry (1938), by his former students, Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren, which became an influential college literature textbook.
In 1931, Davidson also began teaching, during the summers, at Middlebury College's Breadloaf School of English, in Middlebury, Vermont. He bought a house nearby and did much of his writing there. He taught at Breadloaf every summer until his death. In 1939, Davidson published a textbook entitled
American Composition and Rhetoric, which was used in many college English courses.
After World War II, Davidson wrote
The Tennessee (1946 & 1948) a two-volume history of the Tennessee River, which appeared in the
Rivers of America Series. It may be his best known work today. After the 1940s, Davidson's influence waned. Since the 1930s, he had supported segregation of the races in the South and in the 1950s chaired a pro-segregation group called the Tennessee Federation for Constitutional Government.
Davidson retired from teaching in 1964. Following his retirement, Thomas Daniel Young and M. Thomas Inge, published
Donald Davidson: An Essay and a Bibliography (1965), which inventoried Davidson's works; later Inge suggested to Stuart Wright that they publish an edition of Davidson's correspondence (1986). In addition, comprehensive edition of Davidson's poetry,
Poems: 1922-61, was published (1966). In 1981, Davidson published
An Epinician Ode in Honor of John Crowe Ransom as Palaemon Broadside No.23, published by Stuart Wright. An epinician ode is a lyric ode honoring a victor in the ancient Greek games.
After graduating from Vanderbilt, in 1917, Davidson moved to Pulaski, TN to teach school. There he met Theresa Sherrer, a legal scholar and artist. They married, in June 1918, while Davidson was in the Army but before he left for France. They had one daughter, Mary Theresa Davidson, who was born in 1919. Davidson died on 25 April 1968, in Nashville, TN.
"Donald Davidson". [Biographical Sketch]
"Donald Davidson". [Biographical Sketch] (2009, 2010)
"The Sacrament of Remembrance: Southern Agrarian Poet: Donald Davidson and His Past," by Paul V. Murphy, Volume 2, Number 1
Southern Cultures (Fall 1995) pp. 83-102.
"Epinician Ode [Definition]". [Historical Sketch]
Encyclopedia Britannica (2017).
"Donald Grady Davidson Papers (1906-1968)" 65 boxes.
The Donald Grady Davidson Papers. Special Collections Department, Jean and Alexander Heard Library, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN.
Author: Jonathan Dembo, with the assistance of Dale Wetterhahn, 7/20/2015, 4/19/2016, 3/24/2017.
Stuart Wright collected and compiled the Donald Davidson Papers. He was born, Stuart Thurman Wright, on 30 March 1948, in Roxboro, North Carolina. He was the son of Frances Critcher Wright (1919-2010) and Wallace Lyndon Wright (1921-1965). An avid reader as a boy, Wright developed a strong interest in the American Civil War and with his father toured many of the war's battlefields searching for artifacts and studying the history of the era. At the age of 12, he won a statewide "Johnny Reb" essay contest and by the age of 15 had visited every major battlefield of the Civil War. Wright attended Roxboro High School, from which he graduated in 1966. It was during these years that he developed an interest in collecting historical books and manuscripts and began relationships with a number of local collectors and dealers.
In the fall of 1966, Wright enrolled at Wake Forest University as a pre-med, history, German and music student. Wright earned a B.A. in German and music in 1970. As a graduate student at Wake Forest University, Wright focused his studies on Southern history and literature, his ambition being to build an authoritative Southern Studies collection for the university. He received a master's degree in Southern Studies in 1973 and a second master's degree in U.S. History in 1980. Additionally Wright holds a professional degree from England in a medically related field. It was while studying there that he became interested in Thomas Wolfe, the noted North Carolina native and novelist.
Following his graduation from Wake Forest, Wright began to develop his collections more systematically, acquiring many first editions of Southern writers. In 1976 he began teaching at Reynolda House, a Wake Forest University affiliate dedicated to the arts and arts education. Wright taught classes in American music as well as human anatomy for art students. In 1978 Wright became Lecturer in Education at Wake Forest University. During his 10 years teaching at Wake Forest University, Wright authored numerous works of Civil War and North Carolina history, and dozens of articles, bibliographies, essays and reviews on Southern literature and the writers whose papers he collected. In addition, he developed a strong interest in the writings of the English poet Donald Davie and the Minnesota-born poet Richard Eberhart, whose works he also collected.
At the same time, Wright also began a career as a publisher by starting Palaemon Press in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. By 1984, Palaemon Press had produced 316 titles, consisting mainly of broadsides and limited editions, of the poetry and essays of such Southern writers as A. R. Ammons, Fred Chappell, James Dickey, William Goyen, George Garrett, and Eudora Welty. He also built comprehensive collections and compiled book-length descriptive bibliographies of A.R. Ammons, Andrew Lytle, Reynolds Price, James Dickey, William Goyen, Walker Percy, Randall Jarrell, Peter Taylor, George Garrett, Richard Eberhart, and Donald Davie. As well as serving as editor of the contemporary literature section of the
Bulletin of Bibliography throughout the 1980s, Wright also contributed pioneering checklists of the writings of Southern poets Henry Taylor, Charles Wright, and Robert Morgan. For Meckler Publishing he served as series editor for a number of book-length bibliographies and checklists. In recognition of these accomplishments, when he was just 32, Wright was elected to membership in New York's prestigious Grolier Club.
All of these works are represented in the Stuart Wright Collection. In his dealings with these various authors Wright made consistent efforts to acquire personal papers, letters and documents, photographs, manuscripts, drafts, proofs, and published materials to supplement his continuing activities as a purchaser of their works. In this way, Wright acquired perhaps a majority of his overall collection. Over the years a number of biographers used Wright's collection to aid their research. For example, James A. Grimshaw, Jr. used the collection extensively for his
Robert Penn Warren: A Descriptive Bibliography, 1922-1979 published by the University Press of Virginia, in 1981 and Craig S. Abbott did so as well for
John Crowe Ransom: A Descriptive Bibliography, published by Whitston Publishing Company, Inc. in 1999. Joseph Blotner also used the Wright collection in researching
Robert Penn Warren: A Biography, published by Random House in 1997.
Nevertheless, from the mid- to late 1980s, Wright began to look for a permanent home for his collection, which he felt had grown too large and yet had been too little used. Unable to find a repository willing to accept the entire collection under suitable conditions, he sold a number of individual author collections to Vanderbilt University, Duke University, the University of Texas at Austin, and Emory University. It was not until 2010 that he reached agreement to house the remaining, and largest part of his collection at East Carolina University. The Stuart Wright Collection in the East Carolina Manuscript Collection of J.Y. Joyner Library includes 106 sub-collections of the papers of Southern American writers, illustrators, composers, and publishers. The related Stuart Wright Book Collection holds several thousand volumes by or about many of the same writers. Many of these volumes contain annotations, inscriptions, and insertions that reveal much about the authors in the collection and their relationships with one another. In 1998 Wright moved to England, and since 2001 he has resided in the medieval market town of Ludlow, in Shropshire.
Author: Jonathan Dembo, 11/2/2016