No war involving Americans has been more written about than the Civil War of 1861—65. And no one—not even Douglas Southall Freeman, Bruce Catton, or Shelby Foote, three of the war’s outstanding 20th-century chroniclers—has written so tellingly or lastingly about what Southerners chose to call the War between the States as the general most responsible for crushing the Confederacy—Ulysses S. Grant. Perhaps Mark Twain—who had much to do with their publication—exaggerated when he hailed Grant’s Memoirs as the greatest writing by a military man since Caesar wrote about Gaul. But Twain was right when he said Grant’s account of America’s bloodiest conflict, “will still bring to American ears, as long as America shall last, the role of his vanished drums and the tread of his marching hosts.”
In his appraisal of the Memoirs, Henry M.W. Russell notes that British critic Matthew Arnold felt Grant was comparable to the Duke of Wellington rather than to Napoleon. If Lee was apotheosized as King Arthur, Russell notes, “Grant sought to create the image of himself as a Western Hero: laconic; careless of style, formality, and show; a supremely dangerous warrior yet bound by a code of honor that challenges the moral grounds not only of the South but of the Eastern city.”
A professor of American literature at Wake Forest University, Mr. Russell has also taught at Louisiana State University. He is the associate editor of a new journal of metrical poetry, The Formalist, and a poet himself, a selection of whose poems recently appeared in The Southern Review.
Like Mr. Russell, Henry Taylor is a poet, one of the country’s most prominent, and the subject of his essay is a fellow poet and novelist, David R. Slavitt. A native of Loudoun County, where he now resides, Mr. Taylor is a professor of literature at American University in Washington. He received his B.A. degree in English from the University of Virginia in 1965 and an M.A. in Creative Writing from Hollins the following year. His many books of poetry include The Horse Show at Midnight, Breakings, An Afternoon of Pocket Billiards, and The Flying Change, for which he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 1986. This discussion of David Slavitt’s poetry ends with The Wall of Thebes (1987). Since then, he has published another collection, Equinox (1989) and a more inclusive translation of Ovid’s Poetry of Exile (also 1989). Mr. Slavitt’s latest novel, The Lives of the Saints, was published last winter by Atheneum.
One of Mr. Taylor’s mentors during his undergraduate years at the University of Virginia was George Garrett. Novelist, short-story writer, and poet, Mr. Garrett has published six novels, a collection of short novels, five collections of stories, seven books of poems, and a respectable body of critical work, including a biography of James Jones and a critique of the novels of Mary Lee Settle. He is possibly America’s leading authority on social life in Elizabethan England, and he won international acclaim for his two novels dealing with the Elizabethans, namely, Death of the Fox and The Succession. A third novel, involving the life and career of Christopher Marlow, is due out later this year from Doubleday. His VQR short story, “Captain Barfoot Tells His Tale,” is an excerpt from that novel, which is entitled Entered From the Sun. In recognition of his achievements, Mr. Garrett received the T.S. Eliot Award from the Ingersoll Foundation last fall for his “contribution to the values of Western civilization.”
Jeffrey Meyers’ biography of D.H. Lawrence, the first major one-volume account of Lawrence’s life in two decades, is being published by Knopf this spring. In it the author of the highly acclaimed Hemingway reveals for the first time the true circumstances of Lawrence’s mother’s death, the reasons for the suppression of The Rainbow, and other fresh insights into the life and career of one of the giants of 20th-century literature. In his VQR essay, Mr. Meyers describes how he went about uncovering new information about a poet and novelist whose life has now passed into the realm of legend. A prolific author and critic, Mr. Meyers has also written biographies of Wyndham Lewis and Katherine Mansfield prompting one English reviewer to call him “the Mother Teresa of biographies, constantly attempting to resurrect literary lepers.”
Stephen Dobyns is both a poet and a novelist, his most recent novel being A Boat Off the Coast. His VQR poems are from his newest collection Body Traffic, to be published by Viking this year. Mr. Dobyns directs the Fine Arts Program at Syracuse University.
Mark Halliday, who has published with VQR in the past, teaches English at the University of Pennsylvania.
Jane Kenyon is the author of The Boat of Quiet Hours, and her recent work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and The Nation. Her next collection, Let Evening Come, will be published by Graywolf this spring.
The prolific Alan Broughton is the author of four novels, four books of poetry, two limited editions of poetry, and one limited edition of short stories. His novels include Hob’s Daughter, The Horsemaster, and A Family Gathering. Among his books of poetry are Preparing to be Happy, Dreams before Sleep, and Far From Home. Mr. Broughton is also a recipient of VQR’s Emily Clark Balch Award (1974) and the Sonora Review first prize for fiction (1987). He is a professor of English at the University of Vermont and director of the Writers’ Workshop Program there.
Henry Hart teaches English at the College of William and Mary and edits Verse. His collection, Poetry of Geoffrey Hill, appeared in 1986. He recently completed a book of poems entitled, The Ghost Ship, as well as a book on the poet Seamus Heaney.
Among the more prolific of contemporary poets is Donald Hall. His most recent collection, The One Day, received the National Book Critics’ Circle Award in 1988. His VQR poem is taken from his new collection, Poems Old and New, to be published by Ticknor & Fields this spring. Mr. Hall lives in New Hampshire.
Helen Norris is a lifelong resident of Alabama and now lives in Montgomery. She is the author of four novels, the latest of which being Walk With the Sickle Moon published last fall. She has also brought out two collections of short fiction, one of which, A Christmas Wife, was nominated for the 1986 PEN/Faulkner Award. Her novels and short stories have won three O’Henry and two Andrew Lytle Awards.
Like Ms. Norris, Howell Raines is a native Alabamian, having been born in Birmingham Feb. 5, 1943. After graduating from Birmingham Southern College, he began a distinguished journalist career in 1964 with the Birmingham Post Herald, He later served as political editor of the Atlanta Constitution, and political editor of the St. Petersburg (Florida) Times, before joining the New York Times in 1978 as a national correspondent in Atlanta. Transferring to the Washington bureau in January 1981, he became the White House correspondent, later served as The Times bureau chief in London, and is now editor of the Washington bureau of The Times.
Sharon Lerch recently completed her third novel, and a collection of her short stories was one of the five finalists in the Iowa School of Letters Short Fiction Award. She is a recipient of the National Arts Club Scholarship in Fiction to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.
After a year teaching at the Community College of Baltimore (1976—77), Sally Woelfel moved to California, where she has resided ever since. She has taught at the University of San Francisco, the University of California at Santa Cruz, and most recently at Stanford for seven years.
A native of Wales who now lives in London, Richard Jones is a veteran observer of British politics. He is a former journalist, BBC correspondent, and author of several novels.
Michael H. Ebner taught his very first class in American History 23 years ago as a graduate instructor at the University of Virginia while completing a Ph. D. degree. He is now a professor of history at Lake Forest College and is visiting professor of history at the University of Chicago this semester.
Richard King is a professor of American Studies at the University of Nottingham, England and a native of Tennessee who holds an undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina and a Ph. D. degree in history from the University of Virginia.
A longtime student of American and British literature, Doris L. Eder writes, edits, and raises funds for one of Hunter College’s professional schools.
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