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Bate, Walter Jackson (23 May 1918–26 July 1999), biographer and literary critic, was born in Mankato, Minnesota, the son of William G. Bate, a high school principal, and his wife, Isabel Melick Bate. The second of five children, he experienced two major crises while growing up in Mankato: at the age of four he was hit by a car and suffered permanent damage to his nervous system; and with the advent of the Great Depression seven years later his father's salary was cut in half, creating financial hardship for the family. To make matters worse, the elder Bate, a staunch Republican, was fired from his job altogether following the Democratic sweep in the elections of 1932. Despite the family's limited means, Walter's father urged his sons to get the best education possible, which to him meant attending an Ivy League college. Walter chose Harvard because of its proximity to Boston, where he could find work, and he enrolled there in the fall of 1935 with the intention of studying English literature....

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Bodenheim, Maxwell (26 May 1892–07 February 1954), poet, critic, and novelist, was born in Hermanville, Mississippi, the son of Solomon Bodenheimer and Caroline Herman. An emigrant from Alsace, Solomon Bodenheimer never found financial or professional security; his career included stints as a traveling whiskey salesman and unsuccessful forays into clothing stores and men’s haberdashery. The daughter of a distinguished and wealthy surgeon, Caroline Bodenheimer came from a milieu that was vastly different from that of her husband. Indeed, the town of Hermanville itself obtained its name from Caroline Bodenheimer’s uncle, M. B. Herman, who had founded the town and established a small mercantile empire there. Caroline’s tales of lost prosperity provided a bitter contrast to the impoverished world in which Maxwell Bodenheim was reared....

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Braithwaite, William Stanley Beaumont (06 December 1878–08 June 1962), poet, critic, and anthologist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of William Smith Braithwaite and Emma DeWolfe. Of his two preoccupations—American poetry and the status of the American Negro—the second clearly had its origins in an unusual cultural heritage. The Braithwaite family, of mixed black and white descent, was wealthy and held prominent positions in British Guiana. Braithwaite’s father studied medicine in London but quit because of apparent mental strain and moved to Boston, where he married DeWolfe, whose family had been in slavery. His father remained aloof from neighbors, educating his children at home. Braithwaite’s autobiography mentions no employment held by his father, whose death, when his son was eight years old, left the family destitute....

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Cournos, John (06 March 1881–27 August 1966), writer and critic, was born Johann Gregorievitch Korshoon in Zhitomir, Russia, the son of Gregory Korshoon and Euphrosyne Khatavner. His parents divorced, and when he was three his mother married Bernard Cournos, a Hasidic Jew who had first been introduced into the family as a tutor. They moved to Boyarka, a village ten miles from Kiev, where Cournos was educated by tutors and governesses, learning German and Hebrew. Financial difficulty and obligatory army service for Cournos precipitated the family’s move to the United States. His stepfather refused to leave Russia; nevertheless, Cournos’s mother moved the children to Philadelphia because she read that it was “famed for its philanthropic and educational institutions.”...

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Cowley, Malcolm (24 August 1898–28 March 1989), literary critic and editor, was born in a farmhouse near Belsano, Pennsylvania, the son of William Cowley, a homeopathic physician, and Josephine Hutmacher. After attending Pittsburgh public schools, in which he began a lifelong friendship with the critic ...

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Dahlberg, Edward (22 July 1900–23 February 1977), writer, was born in a charity ward in Boston, Massachusetts, the illegitimate son of Saul Gottdank, a barber, and Lizzie Dahlberg, a factory worker. The family went to Dallas, Texas, where Gottdank taught Lizzie barbering and then absconded with the family money. He came back twice more to do the same before leaving for good. Dahlberg hardly remembered the man himself, but the image of a father rejecting his son haunted his writing from first to last....

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Eckman, Frederick (27 October 1924–28 October 1996), poet, editor, scholar, and teacher, was born Frederick Willis Eckman in Continental, Ohio, the son of Hector B. Eckman, a mechanic, and Helen E. Osborn Eckman. Fred Eckman grew up in the environs of small-town, rural Ohio and attended public schools. His affinity for language and the dramatic emerged early. He read voraciously, and schoolmates recall impromptu dramatic productions in barns and garages. During World War II, he served as a surgical technician in the U.S. Army and enrolled in premedical courses at the University of Florida. Following his discharge in 1946, Eckman enrolled at Ohio State University, majoring in English. He married Mary Louise Drummer Campbell in March of 1947; a son, Thomas Frederick Eckman, was born the following October....

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Edel, Leon (09 September 1907–05 September 1997), biographer, theorist of biographical literature, and literary historian, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Simon Edel and Fannie Malamud Edel. His family moved to Saskatchewan, Canada when he was about two years old and he remained in Canada for his college education, receiving his B.A. in 1927 from McGill University in Montreal, and continued there for the start of his graduate studies, obtaining an M.A. in 1928 with honors, having written a thesis on the writer ...

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Eliot, T. S. (26 September 1888–04 January 1965), poet, critic, and editor, was born Thomas Stearns Eliot in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Henry Ware Eliot, president of the Hydraulic-Press Brick Company, and Charlotte Champe Stearns, a former teacher, an energetic social work volunteer at the Humanity Club of St. Louis, and an amateur poet with a taste for ...

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Fadiman, Clifton (15 May 1904–20 June 1999), literary critic, anthologist, and radio personality, was born Clifton Paul Fadiman in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants Isidore Michael Fadiman, a pharmacist, and Grace Elizabeth Fadiman (maiden name unknown), a nurse. Fadiman, who was known to friends and family as “Kip,” began his lifelong passion for reading at age four, when he reportedly read his first book. By the time he was a teenager, he had read most or all of Sophocles, Dante, and Milton, among others. Fadiman later remembered that “by the end of high school I was not of course an educated man, but I knew how to try to become one” (quoted in Cross)....

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Howells, William Dean (01 March 1837–11 May 1920), author, was born in Martin’s Ferry, Ohio, the son of William Cooper Howells, a “country printer,” and Mary Dean. He was named for his uncle William Dean, a noted Ohio River steamboat pilot. All his life he felt ethnically different: “American,” not “Anglo-Saxon.” The Howellses were Welsh immigrants with Quakerish and radical leanings. In proslavery southern Ohio the father’s radical notions (Swedenborgian, utopian, egalitarian, antislavery) cost him his newspaper in Hamilton, scene of ...

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James, Henry (15 April 1843–28 February 1916), writer, was born in New York City, the son of Henry James, a religious philosopher, and Mary Robertson Walsh. His brother was philosopher William James. His grandfather William James, an Irish immigrant, landed in America in 1789; a bold, shrewd, and far-sighted entrepreneur who benefited from intelligent involvement in New York politics, he prospered in Albany and Syracuse in shipping, extensive real estate speculation, and the very lucrative development of salt refining and died one of the wealthiest men in the country, leaving his heirs “leisured for life,” as his son Henry put it. James’s knowledge of Europe began early and was regularly refreshed by his father’s constant transatlantic journeys in the belief that European experience was essential. By the time James was eighteen, he had spent about one-third of his life abroad. He attended a variety of schools and studied with tutors in both Europe and the United States. James was a precocious “devourer of libraries,” but in the spirit of ...

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Locke, Alain Leroy (13 September 1885–09 June 1954), philosopher and literary critic, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Pliny Ishmael Locke, a lawyer, and Mary Hawkins, a teacher and member of the Felix Adler Ethical Society. Locke graduated from Central High School and the Philadelphia School of Pedagogy in Philadelphia in 1904. That same year he published his first editorial, “Moral Training in Elementary Schools,” in ...

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Lowell, James Russell (22 February 1819–12 August 1891), author and diplomat, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the son of Charles Lowell, a liberal Congregational minister, and Harriet Brackett Spence. Among New Englanders who were apt to take ancestry seriously, the Lowell family was already firmly established in the region’s ecclesiastical and legal annals. During the nineteenth century the Lowell name became synonymous with manufacturing wealth and State Street trusts, but Charles Lowell’s descendants benefited little from this tradition. Their area of prominence was in literature; both James Russell Lowell’s sister Mary Lowell Putnam and brother ...

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McCarthy, Mary (21 June 1912–25 October 1989), writer and critic, was born in Seattle, Washington, the daughter of Roy McCarthy, a lawyer, and Therese Preston. McCarthy was the oldest of four children and the only girl. Her parents died of the flu during the epidemic of 1918. In ...

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Mencken, H. L. (12 September 1880–29 January 1956), author, editor, and journalist, was born Henry Louis Mencken in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of August Mencken, a cigar manufacturer, and Anna Abhau. Having emigrated from Germany during the mid-nineteenth century, the Menckens and Abhaus had quickly adapted to life in the United States, and they provided a home more Victorian than German-American for their four children. Henry Mencken, the eldest, did attend a private German school for his earliest education, but he completed his formal education at Baltimore Polytechnic, a high school primarily responsible for producing engineers and technicians....

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Elaine Oswald and Robert L. Gale

Moore, Marianne (15 November 1887–05 February 1972), poet, critic, and translator, was born Marianne Craig Moore in Kirkland, Missouri, the daughter of John Milton Moore, a construction engineer and inventor, and Mary Warner. Moore had an older brother, John Warner Moore. She never met her father; before her birth his invention of a smokeless furnace failed, and he had a nervous and mental breakdown and was hospitalized in Massachusetts. Moore’s mother became a housekeeper for John Riddle Warner, her father, an affectionate, well-read Presbyterian pastor in Kirkwood, until his death in 1894. Moore’s mother, always overly protective, moved with her children briefly to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and then to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where Moore attended the Metzger Institute (now part of Dickinson College) through high school. In 1905 she entered Bryn Mawr College, in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania; published nine poems, including “A Jelly-Fish,” in its literary magazines ...

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Morley, Christopher Darlington (05 May 1890–28 March 1957), man of letters and editor, was born in Haverford, Pennsylvania, the son of Frank Morley, a mathematics professor at Haverford College, and Lilian Janet Bird, a musician and poet. She taught him to read, and he soon became a voracious reader. The family moved in 1900 to Baltimore, Maryland, where Morley’s father taught at Johns Hopkins University and Morley attended school and frequented the Enoch Pratt Library. He enrolled at Haverford College in 1906, published in the school’s ...

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Noguchi, Yone (08 December 1875–13 July 1947), poet and critic, was born in Tsushima, Aichi, Japan, the son of Dempei Noguchi, a landowner, and Kuki Ukai. Withdrawing from a middle school in Nagoya, Noguchi went to Tokyo, where at fifteen he began to read Victorian writers such as Thomas Macauley, the kind of reading many literary hopefuls were doing in the United States. In 1891 he entered Keio, one of the oldest colleges in Japan, and studied Herbert Spencer and Thomas Carlyle. He also read works such as ...

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Poe, Edgar Allan (19 January 1809–07 October 1849), fiction writer, poet, and critic, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the second son of David Poe, Jr., and Elizabeth Arnold, actors. During an engagement in New York, David Poe deserted his family. Within two years, Eliza gave birth to a daughter—by another man, it was rumored—and fell seriously ill, perhaps from an infectious fever. Likely with her children present, she died in Richmond, Virginia, on 8 December 1811, at the age of twenty-four....