William Vaughn Moody Criticism - Essay

William Morton Payne (essay date 1901)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Poetry of Mr. Moody,” in The Dial, Vol. XXX, No. 359, June 1, 1901, pp. 365-9.

[In the following favorable review, Payne discusses style, form, theme, and mood in The Masque of Judgmentand Poems.]

Every two or three years, from some quarter of the critical horizon, there issue trumpetings of praise which herald the advent of a new singer of songs. A bright star has swum into the ken of some watcher upon the battlements, and the discovery is proclaimed to the world with much pomp of rhetorical eulogy. The number of new poets who have thus been discovered during the past quarter-century is considerable, but most of them have shared the fate of the...

(The entire section is 3865 words.)

Francis Thompson (essay date 1902)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Promise,” in The Real Robert Louis Stevenson and Other Critical Essays by Francis Thompson, edited by Rev. Terence L. Connolly, University Publishers Incorporated, 1959, pp. 187-9.

[In the following essay, which was originally published in 1902, Thompson praises emotion and imagination in Poems.]

[Poems, by William Vaughn Moody], is an American book; but whether “Vaughn” be an American spelling of our English name, or a specimen of the American printer at his own sweet will, this reviewer saith not. We love not modern American verse, which is for the most part very respectable magazine-stuff, and no more. There are exceptions, of course; and the...

(The entire section is 753 words.)

John Corbin (essay date 1906)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Moody's ‘The Great Divide’,” in The American Theatre as Seen by Its Critics, 1752-1934, edited by Montrose J. Moses and John Mason Brown, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1934 pp. 176-8.

[In the following essay, which was originally published in The New York Sun in 1906, Corbin offers a favorable assessment of The Great Divide.]

Mr. William Vaughn Moody's new American drama, The Great Divide, which Henry Miller and Margaret Anglin presented last night at the Princess, is so bold and vital in theme, so subtly veracious and unaffectedly strong in the writing, that it is very hard in the few moments left by a tardy if excellent performance...

(The entire section is 1095 words.)

Nash O. Barr and Charles H. Caffin (essay date 1911)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “William Vaughn Moody: A Study,” in The Drama: A Quarterly Review of Dramatic Literature, No. 2, May, 1911, pp. 177-211.

[In the following essay, Barr and Caffin examine Moody's dramatic poems.]


William Vaughn Moody's journalistic eulogy has been intoned as a De Profundis from ocean to ocean, and echoes have reached the gulf, and doubtless the polar pack-ice affecting the barometric pressure and the boreal dawn. The product of our much derided Hoosierdom as to birth and early education, he received that academic baptism entitling him to serious poet-hood in New England's most sacred minster...

(The entire section is 9931 words.)

Harriet Monroe (essay date 1912)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Moody's Poems,” in Poetry, Vol. 1, No. 2, November, 1912, pp. 54-7.

[In the following essay, Monroe sketches Moody's development as a poet, finding he had reached maturity at the time of his death.]

The Poems and Plays of William Vaughn Moody will soon be published in two volumes by the Houghton-Mifflin Co. Our present interest is in the volume of poems, which are themselves an absorbing drama. Moody had a slowly maturing mind; the vague vastness of his young dreams yielded slowly to a man's more definite vision of the spiritual magnificence of life. When he died at two-score years, he was just beginning to think his problem through, to reconcile,...

(The entire section is 895 words.)

John M. Manly (essay date 1912)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction in The Poems and Plays of William Vaughn Moody, Volume I, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1912, pp. vii-xlvi.

[In the following essay, Manly offers a biographical and critical overview of Moody's career as a poet and dramatist.]

Not merely because William Vaughn Moody was my colleague and my friend do I wish to speak of him, but because I feel that the poetry he left us is of unique and permanent value to us all, and believe that it was growing in depth, in sweetness, and in strength when the darkness descended so tragically upon him. The beauty of poetry as little needs the aid of argument as does that of a rose, and Moody's poetry is here to...

(The entire section is 7877 words.)

Charlton M. Lewis (essay date 1913)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “William Vaughn Moody,” in The Yale Review, Vol. 2, No. 7, 1913, pp. 688-703.

[In the following essay, Lewis identifies Moody with the Symbolist movement.]

One of the great poets of our day died in 1910. He had created no public furor, but his power had been deeply felt by many; and to them his untimely death was a disaster. The recent publication of his collected works has reawakened their enthusiasm, for some of his best poetry is posthumous; and a wider appreciation of his genius is sure to come soon.

One's first impression of Moody is that he was a Symbolist—that his poetry marks the high-water level of the Symbolist movement. But...

(The entire section is 5095 words.)

Daniel Gregory Mason (essay date 1913)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction in Some Letters of William Vaughn Moody, edited by Daniel Gregory Mason, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1913, pp. v-xxviii.

[In the following essay, Mason discusses what Moody's letters reveal about his personality and development as an artist.]

“He liberates the imagination with his prose,” wrote one of Moody's friends when the project of collecting some of the letters was being discussed, “as effectively as he does with his poetry. And then besides there is the luminous personality which emerges from every folded sheet, looking out with large veiled eyes.” The comment happily describes the double interest of these letters [in Some...

(The entire section is 6046 words.)

Joyce Kilmer (essay date 1916)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “William Vaughn Moody (1869-1910),” in The Circus and Other Essays and Fugitive Pieces, edited by Robert Cortes Holliday, George H. Doran Company, 1921, pp. 302-11.

[In the following essay, which was originally published in 1916, Kilmer discusses technical strengths and weaknesses of Moody's poetry, key events in his life, and major influences on his development.]

William Vaughn Moody was throughout his life regarded as the most promising of the younger American poets. And when he died in 1910 most critics mourned for the unwritten lyrics and poetic dramas of which American literature had thus been robbed; they mentioned the author as a gifted youth, whom...

(The entire section is 2040 words.)

Martha Hale Shackford (essay date 1918)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Moody's ‘The Fire Bringer’ For To-Day,” in The Sewanee Review, Vol. 26, October, 1918, pp. 407-16.

[In the following essay, Shackford considers the spiritual relevance of The Fire Bringer to audiences coping with the trauma of World War I.]

In the midst of the catastrophe of the war we look to our poets for help in interpreting the mystery of human experience. We seek the guidance of their ideals, the inspiration to be won from the vision of those who see a meaning beyond the chaos and suffering and brutality of the present. But when we look about for an American poet able to divine our special needs we look almost in vain. Few of our poets have...

(The entire section is 3553 words.)

F. O. Matthiessen (essay date 1931)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Selected Poems of William Vaughn Moody, in The New England Quarterly, Vol. 4, October, 1931, pp. 797-801.

[In the following essay, Matthiessen discusses the scope of Moody's ideas and the manner of their presentation in Selected Poems of William Vaughn Moody.]

William Vaughn Moody has been unusually fortunate in the tributes paid him by his friends. John M. Manly was the editor of his collected works; Daniel Gregory Mason brought out his letters; and now, after twenty years have elapsed since the poet's death, Robert Morss Lovett, a contemporary of Moody's both at Harvard and later on the teaching staff at Chicago, has added his long essay of...

(The entire section is 1762 words.)

Robert Morss Lovett (essay date 1931)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction in Selected Poems of William Vaughn Moody, edited by Robert Morss Lovett, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1931, pp. ix-xcii.

[In the following essay, Lovett ranges over such biographical subjects as Moody's family background, education, teaching career, and travel, and offers a critical overview of his poetry.]


William Vaughn Moody was born at Spencer, Indiana, July 8, 1869. His father, Francis Burdette Moody, with two brothers, Norman and Gideon, had moved from Central New York about 1852. Norman, a lawyer, settled in Illinois. Gideon, also trained for the law, went to South Dakota, whence he was sent to the United States...

(The entire section is 15133 words.)

David D. Henry (essay date 1934)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Poetic Drama,” in William Vaughn Moody: A Study, Bruce Humphries, Inc., Publishers, 1934, pp. 111-40.

[In the following essay, Henry discusses unifying subjects, themes, and techniques in Moody's trilogy of poetic dramas.]

Uriel, you that in the ageless sun
Sit in the awful silences of light,
Singing of vision hid from human sight,—
Prometheus, beautiful rebellious one!
And you, Deucalion,
For whose blind seed was brought the illuming spark,
Are you not gathered, now his day is done,
Beside the brink of that relentless dark—
The dark where your dear singer's ghost is gone?(1)

A purely objective estimate of Moody's trilogy of poetic...

(The entire section is 9743 words.)

Mark Van Doren (essay date 1935)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “A Dedicated Man,” in The Private Reader: Selected Articles & Reviews, Kraus Reprint Co., 1968, pp. 225-28.

[In the following essay, which was originally published in 1935, Van Doren discusses the relation of Moody's letters to his poetry, judging the letters superior.]

As editor of these letters [Letters to Harriet] Mr. MacKaye makes them tell a story which they were not written to tell, and which, in so far as they do tell it, is a less interesting story than Mr. MacKaye believes. It is the story of several persons who during the first decade of the present century set out self-consciously to produce an American poetic drama: to arrive at...

(The entire section is 1002 words.)

George Arms (essay date 1980)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Poet as Theme Reader: William Vaughn Moody, a Student, and Louisa May Alcott,” in Toward a New American Literary History: Essays in Honor of Arlin Turner, edited by Louis J. Budd, Edwin H. Cady, and Carl H. Anderson, Duke University Press, 1980, pp. 140-53.

[In the following essay, Arms examines Moody's comments on student papers he corrected while teaching English at Harvard.]

For English 22 at Radcliffe, William Vaughn Moody wrote this comment on a first fortnightly theme, a reminiscence by a student who had read Little Women and later met its author:

A charming theme, both in spirit and treatment. It has...

(The entire section is 5575 words.)