Today, in 1899, man of letters John Orley Allen Tate was born near Winchester, Kentucky. At Vanderbilt he was a member of the Fugitives, and he also contributed to the 1930 Agrarian manifesto I’ll Take My Stand. In 1939 he became the first Resident Fellow in Creative Writing at Princeton University, and later, as the editor of The Sewanee Review, he published poets such as Wallace Stevens, John Berryman, Robert Lowell, and the philosopher Jacques Maritain.
Although in his early years Tate identified as an atheist, he struggled with faith throughout his life, and in 1950 he was formally received into the Church. Calling him “the most brilliant if the most neglected literary critic of our century,” the indefatigable Louise Cowan briefly traces his troubled philosophical and religious development in her introduction to the ISI reissue of Tate’s criticism, Essays of Four Decades.