Fugitive and Agrarian Collection

Identifier: MSS.0160

  • Staff Only

Scope and Contents

This collection contains materials on the Fugitive Poets and the Nashville Agrarians. Most of the materials have to do with the years in the 1920s when the Fugitive poet group was formed and the resulting poems, manuscripts, and correspondence. In addition there are a few items, mostly articles, that concern the Agrarian group. The Collection contains many items of unique interest including poems that were read at the Fugitive meetings and correspondence that records the national and international interest in the Fugitive Magazine as it was published in the years 1922 - 1925.

The Fugitives

  1. Walter Clyde Curry
  2. Donald Davidson
  3. William Yandell Elliott
  4. James Marshall Frank
  5. William Coleman Frierson
  6. Sidney Mttron Hirsch
  7. Stanley Johnson
  8. Merrill Moore
  9. John Crowe Ransom
  10. Laura Riding
  11. Alfred Starr
  12. Alec Brock Stevenson
  13. Allen Tate
  14. Robert Penn Warren
  15. Jesse Ely Wills
  16. William Ridley Wills

The Twelve Agrarians

  1. Donald Davidson
  2. John Gould Fletcher
  3. Henry Blue Kline
  4. Lyle Hicks Lanier
  5. Andrew Nelson Lytle
  6. Herman Clarence Nixon
  7. Frank Lawrence Owsley
  8. John Crowe Ransom
  9. John Orly Allen Tate
  10. John Donald Wade
  11. Robert Penn Warren
  12. Stark Young

Some Fugitive and Agrarian Associates represented in this collection:

  1. Melvin Bradford
  2. Cleanth Brooks
  3. Brainard and Frances Cheney
  4. Randall Jarrell
  5. William Jay Smith
  6. Radcliffe Squires
  7. Randall Stewart
  8. Walter Sullivan
  9. Richard Weaver
  10. Thomas Daniel Young


  • 1922 - 1979


Biographical / Historical

Walter Clyde Curry Walter Clyde Curry received his B.A. from Wofford College in 1909 and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1913 and 1915, respectively. Upon his graduation from Stanford, he accepted a faculty position at Vanderbilt University in 1915 and remained until 1955, when he retired from active teaching. During the last thirteen years of his stay at Vanderbilt, he served as chairman of the English department. While at Vanderbilt, Curry was a member of the Fugitive literary group. A noted Chaucer, Shakespeare and Milton scholar, his undergraduate courses on Shakespeare were always in demand both by English majors as well as students in premedical, prelaw and engineering programs. He was awarded an honorary Litt.D. degree by Wofford College in 1952. He died in Nashville, Tennessee on October 2, 1967.

Donald Davidson Donald Davidson was a member of both the Fugitive and Agrarian groups at Vanderbilt University. He received his B.A. and M.A. degrees from Vanderbilt University and remained at the University his entire professional career (1920 - 1968) teaching English. In addition to being a teacher, Davidson enjoyed an international reputation as a poet, essayist, novelist, and critic. His first book of poems, The Outland Piper , was published in 1924. From 1931-1967 he spent his summers teaching at Bread Loaf School of English in Ripton, Vermont. He served in the military during World War I May 1917- June 1919. In June of 1918 he married Theresa Sherrer, a legal scholar and artist. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, American Folklore Society, American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, South Atlantic Modern Language Association, and the Tennessee Federation for Constitutional Government.

William Yandell Elliott William Yandell Elliott received his B.A. and M.A. from Vanderbilt University in 1917 and 1920, respectively. He served on the faculty of Vanderbilt in 1920 before leaving as a Rhodes scholar for England, where he received his Ph.D. at Oxford University. While at Vanderbilt, he was an active member of the Fugitive literary group, an editor for The Observer, and was a member of Sigma Chi, Phi Beta Kappa, and Tau Kappa Alpha. He taught political science for several years at University of California at Berkeley before joining the Department of Government at Harvard University in 1925. He taught at Harvard for 38 years before retiring as professor of history and political science emeritus. He died on January 9, 1979 in Haywood, Virginia.

John Gould Fletcher Born in Little Rock, Arkansas to a prominent family, John Gould Fletcher entered Harvard University in 1903 to study law. Following the death of his father in 1906, Fletcher withdrew from Harvard to pursue a career as a poet. Supported by the money left to him by his father, he left for Europe and settled in London where he self-published five volumes of poetry in 1913. Influenced first by Ezra Pound and then by Amy Lowell, he became well-known as an Imagist poet with the publication of five additional volumes of poetry and was featured prominently in the annual Some Imagist Poets anthologies. Fletcher married Florence Emily “Daisy” Arbuthnot in 1916. Influenced by the poetry of William Blake and by Oriental art and religion, Fletcher’s poetry took on religious undertones for his next three volumes of poetry. He also acquired a reputation as a literary journalist and befriended T. S. Eliot. Fletcher visited Nashville, Tennessee in 1927 as a lecturer and met John Crowe Ransom. He was invited to contribute an essay to the Agrarian manifesto I’ll Take My Stand and became a strong supporter of the Agrarian movement. He returned to Little Rock in 1933. After his divorce from Florence Arbuthnot, he married Charlie May Simon. A life-long sufferer from depression, Fletcher drowned himself in 1950.

James Marshall Frank A member of the Fugitive literary group and a brother-in-law of Sidney Mttron Hirsch, James Marshall Frank was a successful manufacturer with an interest in literature and education. Born in Marshall County, Tennessee, Frank spent most of his life in Nashville. A graduate of George Peabody College, he taught for several years. Financial responsibilities caused him to change careers, and he accepted employment with Frank and Company, a local shirt manufacturer, where he worked for the next 50 years. He married Rose Hirsch, the sister of Sidney Hirsch, in 1902. A member of the Fugitive literary group, he volunteered the use of his home on Whitland Avenue for many of the groups meetings. He died in Nashville on November 21, 1944.

William Coleman Frierson William Frierson received his B.A. from Vanderbilt University in 1920 and a B.A. from Oxford University in 1922, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar. While at Vanderbilt he was a member of the Fugitive literary group, but his association with the group ended after 1923. He taught at the University of Mississippi.

Sidney Mttron Hirsch A graduate of Nashville’s Webb Preparatory, Sidney Mttron Hirsch attended a variety of different colleges but failed to graduate. He served in the navy for a few years and toured the Far East before returning to Nashville. He left Nashville to spend a brief time in Paris, where he picked up extra money by modeling. From Paris he went to New York, where he continued his modeling career by posing for sculptures for Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. While in New York, he turned to writing plays without achieving much success. Upon his return to Nashville in 1913, he was successful in getting his play The Fire Regained performed for the May Festival, sponsored by the Nashville Art Association and the Board of Trade, and which made use of the full scale replica of the Parthenon built for the Tennessee Centennial in 1898. The performance brought Hirsch the renown he was looking for, but he was unable to build upon his success. Hirsch soon came in contact with Stanley Johnson, a friend of Hirsch’s half-brother Nat, and with Donald Davidson, a friend of his half-sister Goldie. Johnson and Davidson soon introduced their English professor, John Crowe Ransom, to the reclusive Hirsch, and soon the four were meeting regularly to talk about poetry. The talks continued after Hirsch moved in with his brother-in-law James Frank, who volunteered the use of his house as a meeting place for the group of talented authors. It was Sidney Hirsch who first suggested publishing the growing body of poetry being produced by the group, and the title The Fugitive was selected as an embodiment of the archetypal fugitive character - an outcast with mysterious knowledge - so prevalent in poetry. Hirsch’s influence with the group faded as it began to fall apart in the late 1920s with the departure of a number of the group from Nashville, while others moved away from writing poetry to other forms of literature. Hirsch died in Nashville in 1962.

Stanley Phillips Johnson Stanley Johnson received his B.S. in 1917 and his M.A. in 1921 from Vanderbilt University. He taught at Vanderbilt as Professor of English from 1921 to 1925. While at Vanderbilt, he was a member of the Fugitive literary group and published a number of poems in their magazine, The Fugitive. He accepted a position as professor of journalism at the University of Tennessee in 1929 and remained there until 1942. He died in Tennessee on December 1, 1946.

Henry Blue Kline Henry Blue Kline received his M.A. from Vanderbilt University in 1929. A student of John Crowe Ransom and Donald Davidson, Kline contributed an essay to the Agrarian literary group’s book I’ll Take My Stand . Kline taught at the University of Tennessee from 1930 to 1933 and then held a succession of government posts with the Civil Works Administration and the Tennessee Valley Authority. In 1944 Kline became a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper where he wrote editorials on a variety of topics including fair trade laws, education, tariffs, and railroad problems. After leaving the newspaper in 1949, he accepted a position with the Atomic Energy Commission. He died in 1951.

Lyle Lanier Lyle Hicks Lanier received his B.A. from Vanderbilt University in 1923. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from George Peabody College in 1924 and 1926, respectively. He taught psychology at Vanderbilt from 1929 to 1938. While at Vanderbilt, he joined the Agrarians group and contributed an essay to their manifesto I’ll Take My Stand . He served as executive vice-president and provost at the University of Illinois. After his retirement from the University of Illinois in 1971, Lanier served as director of administrative affairs and educational statistics on the American Council of Education in Washington, D.C. He died on December 31, 1988.

Andrew Lytle A member of the Agrarian group, Andrew Nelson Lytle was an author, educator, editor, and critic. He received his bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University in 1925. After a foray into playwriting and acting, he moved into the field of biography and fiction. He contributed an essay to the ground-breaking volume I’ll Take My Stand , and was the only member of the Agrarian group to actually support himself by farming while he wrote his novels. He served as professor of history at the University of the South and also worked as editor of the Sewanee Review for twelve years.

Merrill Moore Austin Merrill Moore grew up with a strong interest in language, leading him to acquire fluency in French, Latin, Spanish, German and Greek and picking up basic skills in Hebrew, Yiddish, Maori, and Mandarin Chinese. He received his B.A. from Vanderbilt University in 1924. A poet since high school, he began to write prolifically during his time at Vanderbilt. He joined the Fugitive literary group as an undergraduate and was published frequently in their magazine, The Fugitive. He spent the summer of 1923 in Germany, returning to receive his bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt in 1924. The following year, he enrolled in Vanderbilt’s Medical School and graduated with an M.D. in 1928. After a year’s internship in Nashville, he accepted a position at the Boston City Hospital in Massachusetts. He served in the military during World War II and later became an expert psychiatrist. In addition to poetry, he began publishing articles on alcoholism and suicide and became a noted authority on these topics. He continued to produce poetry throughout his life, completing more than 50,000 poems.

Herman Clarence Nixon Herman Clarence Nixon completed his academic work at Alabama Polytechnic Institute and the University of Chicago. He taught history at Vanderbilt University from 1925 to 1928. He left Vanderbilt for Tulane University where he taught from 1928 to 1938. He taught for a few years at the University of Missouri before returning to Vanderbilt as Lecturer in Political Science. While at Vanderbilt in the late 1920s, Nixon was asked by the Agrarian literary group to contribute an essay to the Agrarian manifesto I’ll Take My Stand . Of all the Agrarians, Nixon was the most proactive in pursuing practical means for alleviating poverty in the South, serving on both the Social Science Research Council’s Southern Regional Committee and the Southern Conference for Human Welfare.

Frank Lawrence Owsley Frank Lawrence Owsley obtained his bachelor of science degree in 1912 from the Alabama Polytechnic Institute in Auburn, Alabama, graduating first in his class. He received his master of arts degree in history from University of Chicago in 1917. He served briefly in the armed forces during World War I, before returning to graduate work at the University of Chicago, receiving his Ph.D. in history in 1919. He joined the staff of Vanderbilt University in 1920. He was a member of the Agrarian literary group at Vanderbilt and wrote the essay entitled “The Irrepressible Conflict” for I’ll Take My Stand: the South and the Agrarian Tradition published by Harper Brothers of New York and London in 1930. A strong supporter of Agrarian principles, he wrote and lectured on Southern history and culture for most of his life. He resigned from Vanderbilt to accept a position at the University of Alabama in 1949. He suffered a fatal heart attack while at Cambridge University on a Fulbright Fellowship in 1956.

John Crowe Ransom 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 literary 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).

Laura Riding Born Laura Reichenthal in New York City, she changed her surname to Riding in 1927. She attended Cornell University on a scholarship, where she wrote for the college newspaper and developed a serious interest in writing. She left Cornell before graduation and studied briefly at the University of Illinois. Laura Riding married Louis Gottschalk, a professor at the University of Illinois, and settled down to write poetry. She won the Fugitive poetry prize in 1925 and Yale University’s Bollingen prize for 1989-1990. She divorced Gottschalk and later married Schuyler Jackson in 1941. Riding enjoyed an international reputation as a poet, critic, and short story writer. W. H. Auden, Robert Graves, and Norman Cameron have all cited Riding as a major influence on their development as poets. She died on September 21, 1991 in Wabasso, Florida.

Alfred Starr Alfred Starr attended Vanderbilt University in the 1920s but did not graduate. While at Vanderbilt, he was a member of the Fugitive literary group. He received his B.A. from Harvard University in 1926. He served as president of the Bijou theater chain and the Theater Owners of America. He helped found the Nashville Symphony Association and the Nashville Arts Council. He died in October 1956.

Alec Brock Stevenson Alec Brock Stevenson received his B.A. in 1916 from Vanderbilt University. As an undergraduate, he served as editor of The Observer and The Commodore. He later worked as a reporter for the Philadelphia North American, the Nashville Banner, and the Nashville Tennessean newspapers. After graduating from the Rutgers Graduate School of Banking in Brunswick, New Jersey, he returned to Nashville and joined the investment firm of Vance, Sanders and Company. While in Nashville, he joined the Fugitive literary group and published poetry in addition to producing books and articles on investments. He established the Alec Brock and Elise Maney Stevenson Foundation to support a scholarship in the Vanderbilt Divinity School in honor of his parents, for his father, James Henry Stevenson, taught for many years in Vanderbilt’s School of Religion. Stevenson was a member of the Vanderbilt Board of Trust and a trustee of the Joint University Libraries. He died in Nashville on May 27, 1969.

Allen Tate Allen Tate graduated from Vanderbilt University with his B.A. in 1922. While at Vanderbilt, Tate was invited by Donald Davidson to join the Fugitive literary group. Returning to Vanderbilt after a forced medical leave of absence, Tate roomed with Robert Penn Warren and Ridley Wills during his last semester of academic work. In 1924, Tate moved to New York City where he continued to write poetry as well as produce freelance articles for The Nation and New Republic and worked as an editor. During his literary career, he became acquainted with a host of other literary figures including Hart Crane, John Peale Bishop, T. S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, and Ford Madox Ford. Tate taught at a variety of colleges and universities, including Vanderbilt, while producing volumes of poetry and criticism. He died in Nashville, Tennessee on February 9, 1979.

John Donald Wade John Donald Wade received his B.A. from the University of Georgia in 1914 and his M.A. from Harvard University in 1915. He completed his Ph.D. at Columbia University in 1924 after an interruption in his studies to serve in World War I. He taught at the University of Georgia from 1919 until 1927, when he left over a dispute with the university president over intercollegiate football and academics. He helped compile the Dictionary of American Biography in Washington, D.C. in 1927-1928 before accepting a teaching position at Vanderbilt University in 1928. While at Vanderbilt he joined the Agrarian literary group and contributed an essay to their book I’ll Take My Stand . He returned to the University of Georgia in 1934 and served as the founding editor of The Georgia Review when it debuted in 1947. He remained at the University of Georgia for the rest of his academic career, retiring in 1950 to return to his family home in Marshallville. He died in Marshallville, Georgia on October 9, 1963.

Robert Penn Warren Robert Penn Warren received his B.A. at Vanderbilt University in 1925 before continuing his graduate studies at the University of California at Berkeley, Yale University, and New College, Oxford University, where he received a B. Litt. degree. While at Vanderbilt, “Red” Warren was invited to join the Fugitive literary group and contributed poetry to The Fugitive magazine. He was the recipient of several honorary degrees and was the author of over fifty books. His novel, All the King’s Men, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1947. He was also awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1957 and 1979. He was named Poet Laureate of the United States in 1986, the first to be nominated. Warren taught at a number of universities over the course of his life, including Vanderbilt University, Southwestern, Louisiana State University, the University of Minnesota, and Yale University. He died in Stratton, Vermont on September 15, 1989.

Jesse Ely Wills Jesse Ely Wills received his B.A. from Vanderbilt University in 1922. While at Vanderbilt, he was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society, Phi Delta Theta fraternity, the Blue Pencil Club, and the Calumet Literary Club. In 1922, he was invited to join the Fugitive literary group. After leaving Vanderbilt, he became an officer and executive of the National Life and Accident Insurance Company and was active in Vanderbilt University affairs as a member of the Board of Trust and chairman of the Board of the Joint University Libraries. He helped establish the Fugitive Room as a depository for Fugitive papers and manuscripts as part of the H. Fort Flowers wing of the Joint University Libraries building. He died in Nashville, Tennessee on March 4, 1977.

William Ridley Wills William Ridley Wills was a graduate of Vanderbilt University and a member of the Fugitive literary group. He worked for the Memphis Press, Memphis Evening Appeal, and the Nashville Banner newspapers before leaving for New York to work for the New York World. He served in the army during World War I and saw action in France and Germany. He was well known as a novelist, poet, and journalist. He spent the last four years of his life as a patient at the Bay Pines Veterans Hospital in Florida where he also served as the editor of the hospital newspaper. He died on September 8, 1957.

Stark Young Stark Young graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1901 with a B.A. in Latin and Greek. He received his M.A. from Columbia University in 1902, majoring in English but also taking courses in theater and drama. He taught at both University of Mississippi and the University of Texas, and later joined the faculty at Amherst College. In 1921, he resigned from Amherst and moved to New York to become a free-lance writer. He joined the editorial staff of the New Republic and remained there for the rest of his career, also doing work for the New York Times and the Theatre Arts Magazine. He became well known as a drama critic and also began to write plays and fiction. He wrote the final essay in the Agrarian group’s manifesto, I’ll Take My Stand . By the late 1930s, Stark gave up writing fiction and confined his writing to editing and translation. He also enjoyed some success as a painter in the 1940s. He died in New York on January 6, 1963.


1.68 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



This collection contains 1.67 linear feet of materials on the Fugitive Poets and the Nashville Agrarians. Most of the materials have to do with the years in the 1920’s when the Fugitive poet group was formed and the resulting poems, manuscripts, and correspondence. In addition there are a few items, mostly articles, that concern the Agrarian group.

Physical Location

Special Collections & Archives

Finding Aid for the Fugitive and Agrarian Collection
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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