David McDowell Papers

Identifier: MSS.0272

  • Staff Only

Scope and Content Note

The papers of David McDowell, editor, were acquired by Special Collections in 1983. The collection, consisting mostly of incoming correspondence, covers a period of 1939-1980.

While attending St. Andrew's in Sewanee, Vanderbilt, and Kenyon College, McDowell became acquainted with many of the laureates of Southern literature whose letters can be found in this collection. David McDowell strengthened these ties when he served as an editor for several of the writers at Random House and at his own publishing company, McDowell, Obolensky, Inc.

James Agee, Brainard Cheney, Caroline Gordon, Robert Lowell, and William Carlos Williams, all corresponded with McDowell. Members of the Fugitive group of poets, John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, and Robert Penn Warren and members of the Agrarians, Cleanth Brooks, Donald Davidson, and Andrew Lytle are also represented in the collection. A large portion of the correspondence and some miscellaneous papers concern McDowell's duties as executor for the James Agee Trust and the dedication of the Agee Library at St. Andrews, an event organized by McDowell. Most of these items are of a legal or perfunctory nature.

Noteworthy items in the David McDowell Papers include letters written by James Agee to his mother and Agee's transcriptions of his dreams for a Dr. Uhr. The poet, Ezra Pound, sent a letter, humorously addressed with the Random House logo and written in an extremely abstract script. Harold Courlander, for whom McDowell was an editor, sent letters, excerpts, and newspaper articles as he prepared a law suit, charging plagiarism, against Alex Haley, the author of Roots.


  • undated
  • 1939-1980

Language of Materials



2.1 Linear Feet

Physical Location

Special Collections & Archives

Finding Aid for the David McDowell Papers
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

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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