Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Guy Davenport:

An Inventory of His Papers at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Davenport, Guy, 1927-2005
Title: Guy Davenport Papers
Dates: 1777-2004 (bulk 1945-2004)
Extent: 226 document boxes, 95 bound volumes (nb), 1 oversize box, 7 serials boxes, 3 notecard boxes (107.52 linear feet), 3 oversize folders (osf), 3 galley files (gf)
Abstract: The Guy Davenport Papers consist of artwork, certificates, clippings, coins, correspondence, currency, diplomas, galleys, index cards, journals, manuscripts, microfilm, notebooks, objects, page proofs, photographs, printed works, scrapbooks, sheet music, sound recordings, and stamp albums. The archive offers an extremely full and detailed view of Davenport's personal life and professional career from his childhood until his death.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-4979
Language: Predominantly English with small amounts of material in Ancient Greek, Armenian, Danish, French, German, Spanish
Access: Open for research. Some materials restricted due to condition and conservation status.



Acquisition: Purchases and Gift, 2005, 2007 (G12464, R15346, R16514)
Processed by: Richard Workman and Jullianne Ballou, 2016
Repository:

The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Center


Guy Mattison Davenport, Jr., was born in Anderson, South Carolina, on 23 November 1927, the second child of Guy M. Davenport, Sr., and Marie Fant Davenport. His father worked as an agent for the Southern Railway.
Davenport graduated from Anderson Boys' High School in 1945. One of his slightly younger classmates was Clarence Brown, who was later known for translating Osip Mandelstam into English and for many years taught comparative literature at Princeton University. Davenport and Brown had in common a talent for art, and they remained friends and frequent correspondents until Davenport's death.
After high school, Davenport attended Duke University, receiving an A.B. in English and Classics in 1948. At Duke he was encouraged in his literary aspirations by William Blackburn, a much-admired teacher of many successful writers. He also received encouragement for his artistic talent from the English artist Claire Leighton, from whom he took lessons.
He spent the next two years at Merton College, Oxford, on a Rhodes Scholarship. There he studied with J. R. R. Tolkien, among others. He received the degree of B.Litt., writing the first thesis on the work of James Joyce to be accepted by Oxford. He made two more lifelong friends at Oxford: the poet Christopher Middleton and the anthropologist Rodney Needham.
In 1950, Davenport returned to the U.S. and was drafted into the army. He spent two years as a clerk typist with the Army Airborne Corps at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, leaving active service with the rank of Corporal.
After his discharge, Davenport accepted a position as instructor at Washington University in St. Louis. While there he met Martha Emily Farrow, a student from New Orleans. They were married on 18 August 1956; the marriage lasted about two years and ended in divorce.
In 1955, Davenport left St. Louis and enrolled in the PhD program at Harvard, where he studied with Harry Levin and worked as a teaching assistant for Archibald MacLeish. He wrote his dissertation on "A Reading of I-XXX of the Cantos of Ezra Pound"; it was published in 1983 by UMI Research Press as Cities on Hills. At Harvard he was introduced to visiting lecturer Hugh Kenner, who took an instant liking to the younger man and offered help with his career. Kenner and Davenport remained friends until Kenner's death in 2003, frequently corresponding and occasionally collaborating.
After receiving his doctorate in 1961, Davenport's next teaching position was at Haverford College in Pennsylvania, at that time an all-male institution affiliated with nearby Bryn Mawr. Davenport was liked by both faculty and students, but not so much by the administration, which refused to offer him a permanent appointment after three years.
As a result, Davenport accepted a position at the University of Kentucky, where he taught for the rest of his working life, from 1963 until 1992.
Not long after moving to Lexington he made the acquaintance of Bonnie Jean Cox, who worked for the local newspaper at the time. Davenport and Cox entered a romantic relationship that lasted the rest of his life, although they never married and did not live together.
Davenport had written fiction and poetry since his childhood. By the time he moved to Kentucky, he had published a number of well-regarded translations from ancient Greek, a book on the scientist Louis Agassiz, and a book-length poem, Flowers and Leaves. In the 1960s he began writing fiction for the first time since he abandoned his youthful unpublished novel Effie Garner. His first published story, "The Aeroplanes at Brescia," appeared in The Hudson Review in 1970. Tatlin!, the first collection of his stories, was published in 1974 by Charles Scribner's Sons. He continued to write fiction, often publishing first in little magazines or in limited editions produced by small presses and then collecting the stories into volumes produced by his two main publishers, North Point Press and New Directions. He also continued to publish translations, poetry, art criticism, book reviews, and essays until near the end of his life.
In 1990, Davenport received a MacArthur Foundation Grant, which enabled him to retire from teaching. He continued to write and paint at his home at 621 Sayre Avenue in Lexington, Kentucky, keeping up a huge correspondence until his death from lung cancer on 4 January 2005.

Most of the information in this biographical sketch has been drawn from material in the Davenport papers. Also helpful has been:
"Guy (Mattison, Jr.) Davenport." Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2005. Literature Resource Center. Web. 13 Jan. 2016.

The Guy Davenport Papers consist of artwork, certificates, clippings, coins, correspondence, currency, diplomas, galleys, index cards, journals, manuscripts, microfilm, notebooks, objects, page proofs, photographs, printed works, scrapbooks, sheet music, sound recordings, and stamp albums. The archive offers an extremely full and detailed view of Davenport's personal life and professional career from his childhood until his death. The papers are arranged in six series: I. Works, 1939-2004, undated; II. Journals, Notebooks, and Commonplace Book, 1942-2004, undated; III. Research Material, 1777-2004 (bulk 1949-1999), undated; IV. Correspondence, 1945-2004, undated; V. Personal and Career-related, 1855-2004 (bulk 1945-2004), undated; and VI. Works by Others, 1960-2002, undated.
The Works series contains materials related to Davenport's creative efforts in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, translation, reviewing, and contributions to works by others. Because Davenport's papers were so disorganized, material in this series was arranged by genre and then alphabetically by the titles of individual pieces or by book titles, as appropriate. Where Davenport filed correspondence and other non-manuscript material with his manuscripts, this arrangement is preserved. All correspondence is indexed in the Index of Correspondents at the end of this guide.
The Research series contains an assortment of materials that Davenport kept for its relevance to his research interests (for example, material on Joyce and Pound) or for its general interest (for example, illustrated postcards). This material was largely unorganized and is arranged mostly by format, except for a few subject files that are left as Davenport arranged them.
Correspondence makes up the largest series in Davenport's archive and is divided into two subseries: A. Incoming, 1945-2004, undated, and B. Outgoing, 1950-2004, undated. Because Davenport did not use a computer or have an email account, his correspondence was carried out completely through the mail. Davenport wrote letters almost every day of his life, often turning out a dozen or more in one day. Over 2,300 correspondents are represented in the archive and are listed in the Index of Correspondents at the end of this guide. Since Davenport did not routinely keep copies of his outgoing correspondence, the vast majority of this series consists of incoming letters.
The Personal and Career-related series contains material that sheds light on Davenport's early years, family background, and financial affairs as well as his achievements as writer and teacher. This series also contains an extensive collection of photographs and Davenport's large stamp collection.
The series Works by Others contains material by other writers that was not published at the time Davenport received it. This material is identical to enclosures that can be found throughout his correspondence; however, no letters accompanied these manuscripts, and so they were placed in this series and arranged alphabetically by author.

For additional materials related to Guy Davenport at the Ransom Center, see manuscript holdings for: Hugh Kenner, Louis Zukofsky, Ezra Pound, Marcella Booth Spann Collection of Ezra Pound, Parker Tyler, and Charles Tomlinson.
Other repositories with holdings of Davenport's papers include the Perkins Library at Duke University, the Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia, and the South Caroliniana Collection at the University of South Carolina.

Davenport's personal library of eight thousand volumes as well as other books found among his papers and a number of commercial audio recordings were transferred to the Ransom Center Library.
Unpublished audio recordings were transferred to the Center's Sound Recordings Collection.
One DVD containing a video interview was transferred to the Center's Moving Image Collection.
One computer disk was transferred to the Center's Electronic Records Collection.
A large number of miscellaneous objects (e.g., ancient coins, toys, rocks) were transferred to the Center's Personal Effects Collection.
Fifty-six photographs, mostly by Ralph Eugene Meatyard, were transferred to the Center's Photography Collection.
Three hundred ninety-four paintings and other works of art by Davenport were transferred to the Center's Art Collection.

People

Brakhage, Stan.
Brodkey, Harold.
Brown, Clarence, 1929- .
Davidson, Avram.
Finlay, Ian Hamilton.
Gajdusek, D. Carleton (Daniel Carleton), 1923-2008.
Johnson, Ronald, 1935-1998.
Kenner, Hugh.
Laughlin, James, 1914-1997.
Meatyard, Ralph Eugene, 1925-1972.
Middleton, Christopher, 1926- .
Needham, Rodney.
Odlin, Reno.
Pound, Ezra, 1885-1972.
Quartermain, Peter.
Williams, Jonathan, 1929-2008.
Zukofsky, Louis, 1904-1978.

Organizations

New Directions.
North Point Press.
University of Kentucky.

Subjects

Artists, American--20th century.
Authors, American--20th century.
Fiction--20th century.
Poets, American--20th century.
Short stories.

Places

Anderson (S.C.).
Lexington (Ky.).

Document Types

Correspondence.
Diaries.
Essays.
Fiction.
Manuscripts.
Photographs.
Postcards.