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Brooks, Van Wyck (16 February 1886–02 May 1963), literary critic and cultural historian, was born in Plainfield, New Jersey, the son of Charles Edward Brooks, a stockbroker, and Sarah Bailey Ames. From the beginning, Van Wyck Brooks was precocious. He did well in the Plainfield public schools, profited intellectually from a whirlwind year mostly with his mother and brother in England, France, Germany, and Italy (1898), and in due time entered Harvard (1904). While there, he associated with many fellow students, notably ...

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Redding, J. Saunders (13 October 1906–02 March 1988), African-American educator, historian, and literary critic, was born in Wilmington, Delaware, the son of Lewis Alfred Redding, a schoolteacher, and Mary Ann Holmes. As graduates of Howard University, Redding’s parents maintained a modest middle-class environment for their children; his father was secretary of the local Wilmington branch of the NAACP. Redding graduated from high school in 1923 and entered Lincoln University in Pennsylvania that year, with no discernible career ambitions. In 1924 he transferred to Brown University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in 1928....

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Smith, Henry Nash (29 September 1906–06 June 1986), literary critic and historian, was born in Dallas, Texas, the son of Loyd Bond Smith, an accountant, and Elizabeth Nash. He took to reading at an early age and gained broad exposure to the classics through a Harvard-educated uncle’s library. British and American writers appealed to him the most, and he entered Southern Methodist University at age sixteen to study literature. After graduation in 1926 he moved on to Harvard for a year of graduate study....

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Trent, William Peterfield (10 November 1862–06 December 1939), educator, historian, and literary critic, was born in Richmond, Virginia, the son of Peterfield Trent, a physician ruined financially by the Civil War, and Lucy Carter Burwell. After attending a preparatory school in Richmond, Trent entered the University of Virginia, where he took classes in history, languages, mathematics, philosophy, and science; edited the ...