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Caroline Gordon Biography

(1895–1981), Penhally, Aleck Maury, Sportsman, None Shall Look Back, The Garden of Adonis, Green Centuries

American novelist, short-story writer, and literary critic, born in Todd County, Kentucky, educated at Bethany College, West Virginia. She married the poet and critic Allen Tate in 1924 and in 1928 went to Europe with Tate who was on a Guggenheim Fellowship; she herself was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in creative writing in 1929. In New York and in Paris she acted as Ford Madox Ford's secretary and with his encouragement, and that of her husband, her writing career began in earnest. Her first novel, Penhally (1931), immediately established her as one of the foremost writers of what latterly has come to be called ‘the Southern Renascence’. Penhally is a historical and dynastic novel following the declining fortunes of the Llewellyn family, the owners of the eponymous Kentucky estate. In 1934 her short story ‘Old Red’ won the O. Henry short story award, and her second novel Aleck Maury, Sportsman, was published. None Shall Look Back (1937) and The Garden of Adonis (1937) are novels about the Allard family, the first recording events during the American Civil War, the second bringing the family's history forward into the Depression years. Green Centuries (1941) concerns life on the Kentucky frontier during the American Revolution and is thought by many critics to be her finest. In 1947 Gordon converted to Catholicism and many of her later works arise from her growing preoccupation with religious and spiritual questions, notably The Strange Children (1951) and The Malefactors (1956). The Collected Stories of Caroline Gordon (1981) contains the best of her accomplished short stories. With Allen Tate she edited the widely used anthology The House of Fiction: An Anthology of the Short Story (1950; second edition, 1960) and her own theories of the art of fiction are eloquently expressed in How To Read a Novel (1957). Her familiarity with the writings of Ford Madox Ford resulted in The Good Soldier: A Key to the Novels of Ford Madox Ford (1963).

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Ellen Gilchrist Biography to Grain