John Peale Bishop Bishop, John Peale - Essay


(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

John Peale Bishop 1892-1944

American poet, short story writer, novelist, critic, essayist, and editor.

Bishop's literary reputation rests upon a small body of sparse and painstakingly crafted poems, as well as his short stories “Resurrection” (1922) and “Many Thousands Gone” (1931), and his novel Act of Darkness (1935). These works readily reveal Bishop's influences: Archibald MacLeish in his poetry and William Faulkner in his fiction. Despite the seemingly derived style of much of his body of work, Bishop is admired for his depictions of romantic and sexual love in his poetry, and his renderings of sexual and spiritual awakening in his fiction. A Princeton classmate of Edmund Wilson and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Bishop probably is remembered most as a friend of these men, as well as a longtime friend of writers Allen Tate and MacLeish.

Biographical Information

Bishop was born in what is now Charles Town, West Virgina, into an affluent and cultured family. His father was a doctor who taught his son how to paint, beginning Bishop's lifelong affinity with the visual arts. Bishop's literary talents were also encouraged. When his father died, Bishop was ten years old, and he believed this event and his mother's eventual remarriage to have precipitated a long bout of illness that caused him to miss two years of school. He attended Washington County High School in Hagerstown, Maryland, for four years, and attended Mercersburg Academy, a preparatory school, before enrolling at Princeton in 1913. Having already published his first poem in Harper's Weekly in 1912, Bishop immediately immersed himself in the school's literary milieu as a contributor to and later editor of the school's Nassau Literary Magazine. At Princeton, he met Edmund Wilson and F. Scott Fitzgerald, who fictionalized Bishop as Thomas Parke D'Invilliers, the poet character in his novels This Side of Paradise and The Great Gatsby. Bishop continued to publish his poetry, winning many undergraduate awards for his efforts. Many of these works appeared in his inaugural volume of verse, Green Fruit (1917). Graduating in 1917, Bishop enlisted as a lieutenant in the infantry during World War I. He traveled to France, but did not engage in battle. Instead he served as an escort for prisoners-of-war and, later, worked on the disinterment and reburial of American soldiers. This last experience served as inspiration for the graphic short story “Resurrection,” considered among his finest pieces of fiction. Following his military service, Bishop accepted a staff position at Vanity Fair, where he became managing editor. During this period, he collaborated on The Undertaker's Garland (1922) with Edmund Wilson, a collection of short stories and poems that presented sardonic accounts of death. Bishop married in 1922 and moved with his wife to Europe, where he met and became close friends with MacLeish. In 1924, the Bishops returned to New York. He worked at Paramount Pictures during this time and continued work on his unfinished and unpublished novel, The Huntsmen Are up in America, an endeavor that he eventually abandoned when his publisher lost interest. Bishop and his wife moved back to France, purchased a chateau outside Paris, and lived in near-seclusion. Later, Bishop and his wife moved back to the United States, lived for awhile in his father's native state of Connecticut, spent a year in New Orleans, then built a house, Sea Change, on Cape Cod. In 1940, Bishop became chief poetry editor for the Nation magazine. MacLeish arranged for U. S. government appointments for his friend, including Director of Publications of the Bureau of Cultural Relations of the Council of National Defense and Resident Fellow in Comparative Literature at the Library of Congress during World War II, but Bishop had to abandon both posts because of his failing health. He suffered a heart attack in 1944, and died two weeks later.

Major Works

Bishop wrote much of his most mature work while residing in France. The poems collected in Now with His Love (1933) are romantic and erotic odes to his wife that display the influence of MacLeish, Ezra Pound, and T. S. Eliot. Minute Particulars (1935), another collection of poems, contains such critically admired pieces as “Southern Pines,” “An Interlude,” and “A Frieze.” Before he died, Bishop published his Selected Poems (1941), which was expanded by Allen Tate for the posthumous The Collected Poems of John Peale Bishop (1948). Many Thousands Gone (1931), often considered Bishop's most successful fiction, is a cycle of stories set in a fictional Southern town that inspired critical comparisons to Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County. His autobiographical novel, Act of Darkness, contains many passages admired by critics, but many commentators considered the work's shifting narrative perspectives unstructured and undisciplined. Much of Bishop's nonfiction is contained the posthumous collection The Collected Essays of John Peale Bishop (1948), edited by Edmund White, and The Republic of Letters in America: The Correspondence of John Peale Bishop and Allen Tate (1981).

Principal Works

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

Green Fruit (poetry) 1917

The Undertaker's Garland [with Edmund Wilson] (poetry and short stories) 1922

Many Thousands Gone (short stories) 1931

Now with His Love (poetry) 1933

Act of Darkness (novel) 1935

Minute Particulars (poetry) 1935

Selected Poems (poetry) 1941

The Collected Essays of John Peale Bishop (essays) 1948

The Collected Poems of John Peale Bishop (poetry) 1948

Selected Poems of John Peale Bishop (poetry) 1960

The Republic of Letters in America: The Correspondence of John Peale Bishop and Allen Tate (letters) 1981

Robert Wooster Stallman (essay date 1953)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Poetry of John Peale Bishop,” in Southern Renascence, edited by Louis D. Rubin and Robert D. Jacobs, The Johns Hopkins Press, 1953, pp. 368-91.

[In the following essay, Stallman examines the contemporary influences of Ezra Pound, Archibald MacLeish, T. S. Eliot, and others on Bishop's poetry.]

He who would do good to another
Must do it in minute particulars

Minute Particulars


Paul Valéry, remarking on Poe's far reaching influence (from Baudelaire to Valéry himself), contends that the surest criterion of the value of poetic genius is a long descent of prolific influence, not the production of masterpieces. As late as 1936, T. S. Eliot was rejecting Milton on the grounds that “Milton's poetry could only be an influence for the worse, upon any poet whatever.” Reversing this stand in his recent British Academy lecture, Eliot no longer impugns Milton on grounds of influence: “The only relation in which the question of influence good and bad is significant, is the relation to the immediate future.” As T. Sturge Moore first pointed out (in the Criterion, 1926), Valéry's notion of influence is a scientific or historical standard but not an aesthetic one. The question we should ask of any poet is: what are the masterpieces he has produced? Not influence, but achievement in terms of achieved poems should be the basis of critical assessment.

The problem of influence in terms of what the poet has borrowed from other poets is raised by Bishop's poetry more than by any other poetry of our time. Bishop's poetry is the collective catch-all of the chief fashions which his age made current. His derivations and echoes, as other critics have pointed out,1 constitute a catalogue of contemporary poets:—Pound, Eliot, Yeats, Tate, MacLeish, Cummings, W. C. Williams, Wallace Stevens, Paul Valéry; even perhaps Edith Sitwell and Hart Crane.2 Pound and Eliot predominate in Now With His Love (1933), Yeats and Tate more especially in Minute Particulars (1935). While the influence of Eliot and Pound diminishes in the later poems, that of Yeats persists beyond Selected Poems (1941). (For instance: “Ghoul's Wharf,” which is Yeats-like in form and seems likely to have had Yeats' “What Then?” as model.) What Oscar Wilde says of Mrs. Cheveley in An Ideal Husband applies to many of Bishop's poems: “A work of art, on the whole, but showing the influence of too many schools.”

In tracing a poet's sources we chronicle his poetic development, but the critical question is whether the derived convention, idiom or tone, has been transformed so that what has been borrowed is now integrated anew. It is not without symbolic significance that the name he gave to his place on a stretch of salt-marsh at Cape Cod was “Sea Change.” (Cf. “Full Fathom Five” in The Tempest.) Bishop succeeded again and again in transforming his borrowings, transforming them not necessarily into “something rich and strange,” but into something that survives as his own. The paradox of his “originality” is illustrated, for one example, by “Young Men Dead:”

Bernard Peyton is dead
It is thirteen years:
Son of a decayed house
He might have made his roof
Less contumelious
Had there been time enough
Before they buried his bed;
Now it is thirteen years
At seventeen years old.
And Mooch of the bull-red
Hair who had so many dears
Enjoyed to the core
And Newlin who hadn't one
To answer his shy desire
Are blanketed in the mould
Dead in the long war.
And I who have most reason
Remember them only when the sun
Is at his dullest season.

(In Now With His Love, 1933)

“Only the best of Yeats” (to quote Tate) is better than this.

The worst that can be said of derivative writing is that it is an admission of failure in self-discovery. “My imitation of other poets,” Bishop admits, “is in part a desire not to be myself.” Mr. Ransom once remarked to me, though not in reference to Bishop's poetry, that a poet ought not permit himself more than two or three voices, three at most. Bishop expresses himself by over a half-dozen; and his style, even when it is not a borrowed idiom, is impersonal and neutral, as neutral as the style of Robert Bridges. His poetry lacks the signature of a personal idiom, an identifying voice or tone.

The Gregory-Zaturenska History of American Poetry scorches Bishop with the easy verdict that his Selected Poems “could be used as a textbook illustrating changes in poetic taste from 1916 to 1940—and no single poem, no matter how polished it may have seemed at first reading, has the distinction of an individually formed taste and imagination.” But this criticism is rather unjust and requires some qualification. Bishop readapted current techniques, but he readapted them from their originals, employing the same attitudes (to paraphrase Warren) from which these techniques were developed. What Bishop wrote of Edna St. Vincent Millay applies equally to his own poetry: “Many of her images seem to come to her from other poets; actually she has taken them out of the public domain and by long familiarity made them her own” (Collected Essays, 1948, page 325).

Edmund Wilson's prejudiced notion that Bishop's poetry evidences “the finest poetic instrument that we have had in the United States since Pound and Eliot” (in We Moderns) can scarcely be taken literally. For a “poetic instrument” means, for one thing, an original idiom or style. The individuality that Bishop attained he attained only at rare intervals. Frost is often dull, but there is no mistaking his speech for another's. In MacLeish of the Conquistadors the identifying idiom is a mechanical mannerism of syntax and voice; in Cummings, a forced eccentricity of typography and prosody; the signature of Ransom is unmistakable—his witty, ironic tone. Originality, as Frost defines it, “consists in wagging the mind in one's art differently.” Of course a style of unmistakable identity produces as many bad poems as it does good poems—in Cummings, for example. The critical determinant is not solely originality.

Bishop's concessions to modernity spoil no small number of his poems, yet there remain two groups of about a dozen poems each: (1) the poems in which these influences have been successfully transformed, reintegrated into structural wholes; and (2) the poems which show no traces of influence and are entirely Bishop's own. A third group consists of his translations; notably his renderings from the French of two Rimbaud sonnets and his superb translations from the Greek anthology—To A Swallow and Epitaph, which have been rated the best translations of these poems ever written.

Bishop studied and absorbed into his poetry practically the whole range of Western literature and art: Greek and Latin, French, British and American. Music he knew intimately, and painting he knew from first-hand practice. The influence of painting upon his poetry and critical writings is seen in such poems as “Riviera” and in “Still Life: Carrots.” “Ballet” imitates Giorgio de Chirico, and “Fiametta” the Fiametta of Boccaccio. “Perspectives Are Precipices” is the poem as a Dali painting. His concern with painting in relationship to literature is found in such critical pieces as “The Passion of Pablo Picasso,” “The Infanta's Ribbon,” and “Poetry and Painting.” This last is especially interesting in relation to his poem “Paolo Uccello's Battle Horses.” As for his literary echoes, they extend beyond his contemporaries to Chaucer and Wyatt; Shakespeare and Elizabethan dramatists; Jonson, Donne, and Dryden; Blake, Shelley, Emily Dickinson, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Swinburne, and Ernest Dowson. Emily Dickinson is deliberately echoed in “A Subject of Sea Change:” “Death greets us without civilities.” Rossetti and Keats appear in “And When the Net Was Unwound Venus Was Found Ravelled With Mars,” a poem that imitates chiefly the manner of Pound: “In black silk her bosom seemed / Taking flight for heaven in heaviest breath.” Frost himself might have written:

You'd think that he would cause a shock
The scorpion with his double cock,
Both sides erect, but not at all.
The scorpion is a liberal.
One thrusts to right, one sticks to left
As he advances toward the cleft
And then presents in copulation
The New Republic of the Nation.

(This poem, untitled except by its first line, was first published in the Collected Poems, 1948.) Though Bishop did not care much for Frost's poetry, the influence of Frost is noticeable in Bishop's landscape poems such as “Moving Landscape With Rain.” “The Dream,” posthumously published in 1945, is done somewhat in the manner of Mark Van Doren. And “A Spare Quilt,” having perhaps its model in the poems of Mark Van Doren, can be read as in effect a criticism by Bishop of his New England fellow craftsman.


Bishop's poetic output (approximately one hundred and twenty-five poems, the same in volume as Yvor Winters's) is slight by comparison with the fecundity of Frost or Mark Van Doren. It would be absurd to label a poet “minor” on that account. A “major” poet is not a major poet by virtue of his bulky output. Frost and Van Doren are certainly bulky, but not at their best. The labels “minor” and “major” defy definition (Eliot's attempts notwithstanding), but if the perfections of poets were weighed one against another the critic would have a more accurate measurement of poetic stature than now prevails. It takes no pair of scales to decide that Bishop is a minor poet, yet his achieved poems surprise in number. Very few poets, however bulky their output, produce more than a dozen first-rate poems. There is a distinction to be made, of course, between poems that are perfectly contrived wholes and poems that are triumphs. Triumphs occur only now and then.

Bishop's elected best are “The Return” and “Perspectives are Precipices.” From Now With His Love (1933) I would also single out “Speaking of Poetry,” “Young Men Dead,” “Fiametta,” “Behavior of the Sun,” and “This Dim and Ptolemaic Man.” From Minute Particulars (1935) I would single out as best “Southern Pines,” “An Interlude,” “A Recollection,” “Your Chase Had a Beast in View,” “A Frieze,” and possibly “Apparition.” From Selected Poems: “The Yankee Trader,” perhaps also “John Donne's Statue” and “The Statue of Shadow,” but superior to all these is “Colloquy With A King-Crab.” The less said about Bishop's first volume, Green Fruit (1917) the better. And the same holds true for most of his uncollected and unpublished early poems reproduced in Collected Poems (1948). The best of his uncollected later poems seem to me “The Submarine Bed,” “The Paralle,” “The Spare Quilt,” and “The Dream;” of the unpublished later poems reproduced in Collected Poems the only one worth singling out is “This Critic.” A formidable list indeed; not many poets do much better!

His poetry belongs to that classification which Hopkins designated as Parnassian, a derivative poetry or a poetry representing one stage in the evolution of a poetic style. In Bishop it is the style of the Symbolists, almost exclusively. The Metaphysicals influenced him scarcely at all; the one exception is “The Submarine Bed,” a late poem.

It is Eliot rather than Donne that Bishop leans upon in “John Donne's Statue:”

Proud Donne was one did not believe
In heirs presumptive to a bone …

In style Bishop inclines more to Jonson or Dryden than to Donne. Dryden, whom Eliot taught us to admire, models at least one passage from this same poem:

Proud Donne was one did not believe
In heirs presumptive to a bone
Or boys' pursuit of love, their leave
To sensual oblivion.
Come dying then! Too fine a joy
And too intrinsic for a boy:
Sustain that ecstasy in stone!

“The Submarine Bed” is metaphysical and symbolic. His other poems dealing with lovers or with women are, however, simply imagistic—not witty in tone, not ironical but purely sensual. The sensual characterizes Bishop's poetry almost as much as Keats' or Marlowe's: musically patterned, visually plastic, concrete and richly connotative.

“A Recollection,” one of Bishop's perfections, epitomizes the primary defining quality of Bishop's poetry as a whole—its tactile quality. Here is the craftsmanship of a master:

Famously she descended, her red hair
Unbound and bronzed by sea-reflections, caught
Crinkled with sea-pearls. The fine slender taut
Knees that let down her feet upon the air,
Young breasts, slim flanks and golden quarries were
Odder than when the young distraught
Unknown Venetian, painting her portrait, thought
He'd not imagined what he painted there,
And I too commerced with that golden cloud:
Lipped her delicious hands and had my ease
Faring fantastically, perversely proud.
All loveliness demands our courtesies.
Since she was dead I praised her as I could
Silently, among the Barberini bees.

The woman is remembered as she was in life, that is, before “the young distraught / Unknown Venetian” painted her portrait. The opening stanzas of the sonnet depict her also as she is in the painting, transposed here on the fresco with the intensity and impact of life itself. Perhaps no such woman existed and the painter but “thought / He'd not imagined what he'd painted there.” Where does beauty exist—in fact or in imagination? It was perhaps that very question that caused the painter to be “distraught.” Has the painter reproduced the beauty he knew in the flesh or solely the beauty he imagined? Like the painter, the poet too has “commerced with that golden cloud:”—that perfection of beauty which all men seek.

His poem is a painting, but like the fresco the poem is far more than merely a faithful rendering of the original. Art, far from being no more than an imitation of reality, is an imaginative recreation possessing a life all its own. Neither the poet nor the painter has been merely copyistic. The poem implies questions about the relationship of life to art. Its fluid syntax functions to impart an ambiguity of time past and present, the one melting into the other, and simultaneously an ambiguity between fact and fiction. The ambiguity is thematic.

“Commerced” prepares for the final phrase—“the Barberini bees,” by which the recollection of the poet returns him from the realms of “golden cloud” to the noisy world of fact:

Since she was dead I praised her as I could
Silently, among the Barberini bees.

“Since she was dead” transfers to the poet's vision, which is extinguished as his poem glides back to the noisy world of actuality signalized by “the Barberini bees.” This vision dies away, but yet the world to which he is returned by “Barberini bees” is not without its beauty too, for the very phrase is beautiful in itself. The painter fulfilled his vision in the painting, and the poet in his poem. He is furthermore compensated by an enrichment of manner, thought, and speech—his life and ours are thus enriched. It is permissable to make one further inference: the poet, like the painter, was “distraught” during the process of composition.

In technique Bishop belongs to his own age, but in his endorsement of passionate flesh he harks back to Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, Marlowe's “Hero and Leander,” the Elizabethan love-lyric, and Wyatt's “They Flee From Me:”

I was the first to nakedness. Suddenly she
Left her dress and her feet were on the floor.

This is from “And When the Net Was Unwound Venus Was Found Ravelled With Mars,” a poem about a soldier's momentary “Farewell to Arms” in time of war. (Another piece suggesting Hemingway is “In the Dordogne:” “the leaves fell / And were blown away; the young men rotted / Under the shadow of the tower.”) Whereas the lovers in “The Submarine Bed” are troubled by a sense of guilt arising from their union, in “Metamorphosis” the lovers are unashamed:

There was no shame in that
Consuming nakedness
For we were one; and a disparate
Skin is love's own dress.
But our division of air
Was burned between ecstasies.

In “The Spare Quilt,” obversely, the lovers—frigid New Englanders—lack all passion. Poems “realistically” depicting the sex-act are rather scarce. In modern poetry among the best in this kind are Yeats' “Leda and the Swan” and W. R. Rodgers's “The Net” (in Botteghe Oscure, VIII); but both of these poems are symbolic as well as realistic, and Yeats' “Leda and the Swan” is also mythical. The love lyrics of E. E. Cummings, like the lewd poems of Rochester, are witty; they differ from Bishop's poems also in their lack of realistic delineation of object or act. In Bishop's “Les Balcons Qui Rêvent,” for instance:

The lovers sleep, their dreams increased
By shudders from the night before.
His breath upon his parted lips,
Sleeping he flows into her sleep.
Her belly slumbers, but the tips
of both dusk breasts are bright awake.

Here the lovers are discovered at dawn; in “Speaking of Poetry” the lovers—Desdemona and the Moor—“meet, naked, at dead of night,” while “the torches deaden at the bedroom door.” “October Tragedy”—another “bitter tale of love / And violations on a summer night”—vulgarly describes “The unwilling struggle and the willing fall.” Bishop's realism descends to vulgarity again in “Metamorphosis of M” (Margaret, his wife), in “And When the Net Was Unwound,” and in “Venus Anadyomene.” In “To Helen,” a poem which echoes Pound, the motto used is from Tourneur's Atheist Tragedie: “I salute you in the spirit of copulation.” That motto applies equally to almost a dozen Bishop poems. Tupping is their subject, the disrobing of the mistress, the caressed body. Bishop's love poems share with a painter the predilection for naked flesh. Their unabashed sensuality seems almost unprecedented in American poetry. Bishop, unlike Auden and Whitman, does not exploit love as a doctine. What he celebrates is the experience of love; not a doctrine of love, but an act of love in the sensual moment now. In his affirmation of passion one is reminded of Blake. It is from Blake that Bishop took the title of Minute Particulars:

He who would do good to another
Must do it in minute particulars.

And from Chaucer he took the title of Now With His Love:

What is this world? What asketh man to have?
Now with his love, now in his colde grave
Allone, with-outen any companye.

The love-and-war poems of Now With His Love, as Joseph Frank observes, remind us irresistibly “of the early Hemingway, also obsessed with death, also seeking for a source of positive value in naked sensuous experience.”


“The aim of all the arts,” Bishop states in his essay “The Discipline of Poetry,” “is to present the conflict of man with time. … And the famous release which the arts afford is essentially a release from time.” Triumphs over time! But how shall the artist achieve them? How fix the flux of temporal experience, which is without form, into formed structures of meaning? Didacticism is not the answer. “The poem comes inevitably to its end, but the poet does not reach a logical conclusion.” Almost without exception, the poems attempting to reach “a logical conclusion” fail—viz., “Hunger and Thirst,” “Counsel of Grief,” “Trinity of Crime,” “The Tree,” and “The Saint.” (My opinion here runs counter to that of M. D. Zabel, who listed these last three poems, in 1941, as among Bishop's best.) These poems substitute statement for symbol, and I think they fail by their didactic resolution of theme.

Bishop is at his best in the poems that discover their own theme, their own form, rather than in the poems that directly state their theme. He is a technician of the...

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Cecil D. Elby, Jr. (essay date 1962)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Fiction of John Peale Bishop,” in Twentieth Century Literature, Vol. 7, No. 1, April, 1962, pp. 3-9.

[In the following essay, Elby traces the influence of American Southern culture in Bishop's Act of Darkness and the short story collection Many Thousands Gone.]

For a time it seemed that John Peale Bishop (1892-1944) would be remembered largely as a secondary character in the history of American expatriation during the 1920's, as an obscure figure pushed occasionally into the foreground by his friends Hemingway and Fitzgerald. Admirers of his poetry felt that he deserved more than a footnote linking him with Fitzgerald's Thomas Parke D'Invilliers...

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Joseph Frank (essay date 1963)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Achievement of John Peale Bishop,” in The Widening Gyre: Crisis and Mastery in Modern Literature, Rutgers University Press, 1963, pp. 203-28.

[In the following essay, originally published in the Spring 1962 issue of The Minnesota Review, Frank places Bishop among the best poets and fiction writers of the “Lost Generation.”]

John Peale Bishop, who died in 1944, was one of the most gifted and sensitive talents among the American writers who came to maturity after the First World War. A classmate of Edmund Wilson and F. Scott Fitzgerald at Princeton, Bishop was the third member of a triumvirate destined to take a prominent place in modern...

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Eugene Haun (essay date 1964)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “John Peale Bishop: A Celebration,” in Reality and Myth: Essays in American Literature in Memory of Richmond Croom Beatty, edited by William E. Walker and Robert L. Welker, Vanderbilt University Press, 1964, pp. 80-97.

[In the following excerpt, Haun asserts that Bishop is a lesser-known writer than such contemporaries as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway because he wrote about a wider variety of subject matter in different genres.]

During the nineteen-twenties, when I was a small boy, one of the last full-scale Confederate reunions took place in our town. The town put the big pot into the little one because the reunion had not been held there for...

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Leslie A. Fielder (essay date 1967)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “John Peale Bishop and the Other Thirties,” in Commentary, April, 1967, pp. 74-82.

[In the following essay, Fielder claims that Bishop was the best Southern novelist of the 1930s despite the fact that he published only one novel.]

The revival of the literature of the 30's through which we have recently been living—the republication of novels long out of print, the redemption of reputations long lapsed, the compilation of anthologies long overdue—has been oddly one-sided, a revival of one half only of the literary record of that dark decade: the urban, Marxist, predominantly Jewish half, whose leading journal was the New Masses and whose...

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Simone Vauthier (essay date 1975)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Meaning of Structure: Toward a New Reading of John Peale Bishop's Act of Darkness,” in The Southern Literary Journal, Vol. VII, No. 2, Spring, 1975, pp. 50-76.

[In the following excerpt, Vauthier defends Bishop's use of shifting points of view in his novel Act of Darkness.]

The critics of John Peale Bishop's Act of Darkness seem to have been compelled strangely to qualify their praise of the story by cavilling at its technique. Relying on the old dichotomy between form and content, Leslie Fiedler, for instance, confidently asserts: “Any teacher of composition could tick off its flaws; yet the tale it tells survives its technical...

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Thomas Daniel Young and John J. Hingle (essay date 1981)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

Source: An introduction to The Republic of Letters in America: The Correspondence of John Peale Bishop and Allen Tate, edited by Thomas Daniel Young and John J. Hindle, The University Press of Kentucky, 1981, pp. 1-10.

[In the following excerpt from the introduction to The Republic of Letters: The Correspondence of John Peale Bishop & Allen Tate, Young and Hingle discuss the friendship of Tate and Bishop, and their critical contributions to each other's writings.]

Few writers of the twentieth century have been so profoundly dedicated to the vocation of letters as was Allen Tate. A young English poet publishing his first poem in an obscure little magazine...

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Lewis P. Simpson (essay date 1982)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Sorrows of John Peale Bishop,” in The Sewanee Review, Vol. XC, No. 3, Summer, 1982, pp. 480-84.

[In the following excerpted review of The Republic of Letters in America, Simpson finds that Bishop's fiction displays more of an affinity to the writings of Thomas Wolfe than to the writing of Allen Tate.]

The Donald Davidson-Allen Tate letters (edited by John Tyree Fain and Thomas Daniel Young, University of Georgia Press, 1974) and the John Peale Bishop-Tate letters [The Republic of Letters in America: The Correspondence of John Peale Bishop & Allen Tate, edited by Thomas Daniel Young and John J. Hindle. University Press of Kentucky,...

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Further Reading

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)


Hyman, Stanley Edgar. The Promised End. Cleveland and New York: The World Publishing Company, 1963, 380 pp.

Includes a lengthy 1949 review of Bishop's Collected Poems.

Tate, Allen, ed. The Collected Poems of John Peale Bishop. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 1948, 277 pp.

Includes a preface and personal memoir of Bishop by Tate.

White, Robert L. “Some Unpublished Poems of John Peale Bishop.” Sewanee Review 71, No. 4 (October-December 1963): 527-37.

Includes two of Bishop's poems of which Allen Tate had no knowledge, as well as an introduction by White...

(The entire section is 137 words.)