Allen Tate and Mark Van Doren Correspondence

Identifier: MSS.0433

  • Staff Only

Scope and Content Note

This small collection (.21linear feet) includes personal correspondence between Allen Tate and Mark Van Doren and his wife Mrs. Dorothy Van Doren and other correspondence that concerns Mark Van Doren. There are also poems by Tate, Christmas cards, photographs, and various other items that relate to their friendship over many years. Other correspondence can be found in Mark Van Doren’s papers at Columbia University.


  • 1940 - 1977

Language of Materials


Biographical Notes

John Orley Allen Tate was born near Winchester, Kentucky November 19, 1899. He graduated from Vanderbilt University Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa in 1922. During this time at Vanderbilt he became one of the Fugitive poets who published their magazine The Fugitive during the years 1922-1925. Later he contributed an essay to the Agrarian manifesto I’ll Take My Stand (1930) and in 1936 he was co-editor with Herbert Agar of Who Owns America? He published poetry throughout his long career and was a master of several literary genres writing one novel The Fathers (1938), criticism, and biographies. Tate was also the editor at The Sewanee Review from 1944-46. He received many awards for his poetry including the Bollingen Prize in 1956 and held the Chair of Poetry at the Library of Congress in 1943-44.

Allen Tate was also a teacher with appointments at among others the Women’s College of the University of North Carolina, Princeton, New York University, and the University of Minnesota where he taught from 1951 until his retirement in 1968.

He was married twice to the writer Caroline Gordon from 1924 to 1959. They had a daughter Nancy born in September 1924. After his divorce from Caroline Gordon in 1959 he married poet Isabella Gardner. And after his divorce from Gardner in 1966 he married his former student at Minnesota Helen Heinz. They had three sons, one of whom Michael Paul, died in an accident in infancy before his first birthday..His brothers are John Allen Tate (b.August 30, 1967) and Benjamin Bogan Tate born in December 18, 1969.

Tate lived in many places including England and France (on a Guggenheim Fellowship), New York, Minnesota, Sewanee, and at his farm Benfolly near Clarksville, Tennessee.

He had longtime friendships with writers Robert Penn Warren, Donald Davidson, Andrew Lytle, and John Peale Bishop. His friendship with poet and writer Mark Van Doren is recorded here in this archive of their correspondence. Other correspondence between these two is in Van Doren’s papers at Columbia University.

Allen Tate converted to Roman Catholicism in 1950.

He died in Nashville, Tennessee in February 1979. His papers are at the Firestone Library at Princeton University

Mark Van Doren was an American poet, critic, and teacher . Born on June 13,1894 in Hope, Vermilion county, Illinois he graduated from the University of Illinois in 1914 and received a Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1920. He taught English at Columbia from 1920-1959. He was a renowned and dedicated teacher and a legendary classroom presence who inspired generations of Columbia students some of whom went on to have careers as writers and critics including poet Allen Ginsberg and writer, activist, and Trappist monk Thomas Merton.

Among his writings are Collected Poems which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1939, and American and British Literature Since 1890 which he wrote with his brother Carl Van Doren.

He was married to novelist Dorothy Graffe Van Doren in 1922.

Mark Van Doren died in Torrington, Connecticut December 10, 1972. Today the students at Columbia College honor great teachers with the Mark Van Doren Award.

This Collection chronicles the literary and professional friendship of Allen Tate and Mark Van Doren.


.21 Linear Feet

Physical Location

Special Collections & Archives

Finding Aid for the Allen tate and Mark Van Doren Correspondence
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Vanderbilt University Special Collections Repository

Special Collections Library
1101 19th Ave. S.
Nashville TN 37212 United States


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