Selected Letters of Robert Penn Warren
Toward Sunset, at a Great Height, 1980–1989
In the last decade of his life, Robert Penn Warren remained a vibrant force in American literature, producing new works of poetry and nonfiction while also dealing courageously with the gradual decline of his health and the diminishment of his poetic powers. Toward Sunset, at a Great Height, 1980–1989, the sixth and final volume of the author’s selected letters, provides crucial documentation of this period, containing Warren’s correspondence with friends, family, fellow writers, editors, critics, and the scholars studying his works.
Warren published several volumes of poetry, including Being Here (1980), Rumor Verified (1981), and Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce (1983), and returned to nonfiction prose with Jefferson Davis Gets His Citizenship Back (1980) and the memoir Portrait of a Father (1988). His letters reveal that he tried to begin writing a novel but was unable to make substantial progress on it, and that from 1985 on he became increasingly dissatisfied with his new poems. Until his death at age eighty-four, however, Warren maintained an active correspondence filled with news about his writings and travels, accounts of the lives of his wife and children, and a stoic attitude about his own physical decline as well as a solicitousness regarding the health of others, such as his brother, Thomas, and sister, Mary. He communicated with rising young scholars and encouraged younger poets he admired.
Toward Sunset, at a Great Height offers rich insights into the closing chapter of Robert Penn Warren’s professional and personal life, making it an essential resource for understanding the full scope of the author’s contribution to American letters.
Robert Penn Warren (1905-1989) was born in Guthrie, Kentucky, and attended Vanderbilt University, where he became a member of the Fugitive movement. An acclaimed novelist, poet, critic, and teacher, the author of dozens of books, he was a man of letters in the truest sense. He was the only writer ever to receive Pulitzer Prizes in both fiction and poetry.
Randy Hendricks is a professor of English and dean of the College of Arts and Humanities at the University of West Georgia. He is the author of Lonelier than God: Robert Penn Warren and the Southern Exile and a collection of short stories, The Twelfth Year and Other Times.
James A. Perkins, professor emeritus of English and public relations at Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania, is the editor of The Cass Mastern Material: The Core of Robert Penn Warren’s “All the King’s Men.” Together, Hendricks and Perkins have edited For the Record: A Robert Drake Reader; David Madden: A Writer for All Genres; and with William Bedford Clark, volumes three through five of the Selected Letters of Robert Penn Warren.
William Bedford Clark is a professor of English at Texas A&M University, the author of The American Vision of Robert Penn Warren, and the editor of volumes one and two of the Selected Letters of Robert Penn Warren. He is also the general editor of volumes three through five.
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