Abbie Huston Evans letters to Odell Shepard

Biographical and Historical Notes

Abbie Huston Evans

American poet Abbie Huston Evans was born in New England on December 20, 1881 but lived most of her adult life in the Philadelphia area.

In 1909 Evans enrolled at Radcliffe College where she earned a B.A. in 1913 and an M.A. in 1918. After graduation, Evans taught English and volunteered for the Red Cross during World War I.

Following the war Evans was employed first as a social worker before she resumed teaching as a member of the staff of the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She taught at the school from 1923 to 1953 and at the College Settlement Farm-Camp in Horsham, Pennsylvania, from 1953 to 1957.

Harper published Evans's first book of poetry, Outcrop, in 1928. Outcrop included a forward written by Evans's friend Edna St. Vincent Millay. Evans's other published collections of poetry are Bright North (Macmillan, 1938), Fact of Crystal (Harcourt, 1961), and Collected Poems (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1970).

Evans's poetry is represented in several anthologies, such as A Little Treasury of Modern Poetry (1946) and Poems and Poetry (1964), as well as in periodicals such as Nation and New Yorker. In 1964 the Library of Congress recorded Evans reading her poetry for its Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature series.

Abbie Huston Evans has been honored for her poetry with several awards, including the Guarantor's Prize from Poetry in 1931 and the Loines Memorial Award from the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1960. In 1961 Evans was granted an honorary Litt.D. degree from Bowdoin College.

In October 1983, Abbie Huston Evans died at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia.

Sources

Contemporary Authors Online. The Gale Group, 2001. Retrieved April 25, 2002 from http://www.galenet.com/servlet/BioRC.

Evory, Ann (ed.) Contemporary Authors. New Revision Series, Volume 3. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1981. Pp. 496-497.

Odell Shepard

Writer and English Professor Odell Shepard was a mentor to Abbie Huston Evans during his brief term as an instructor of English at Harvard University and Radcliffe College in 1916-1917. His more extensive faculty tenure was as Goodwin Professor of English at Trinity College, Harford, Connecticut, from 1917-1946, and was later as a guest lecturer there from 1946-1966. He was also the Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut from 1940-1943.

Shepard's writing ranged from the academic, such as his Pulitzer Prize winning biography of Bronson Alcott, Pedlar's Progress: The Life of Bronson Alcott (Little, Brown, 1937) to his Book-of-the-Month selected novel, Jenkins' Ear (Macmillan, 1951). Shepard also wrote collections of poetry, textbooks, essays, a fishing guide, and several histories. One of his histories, The Lore of the Unicorn, is a topic in one of Evans's letters.

Odell Shepard died on July 19, 1967, in New London, Connecticut.

Sources

Fadool, Cynthia R. (ed.) Contemporary Authors. Volume 57- 60. Detroit: Gale Research Company, Inc., 1976. P. 196.

Scope and Contents

The Abbie Huston Evans Letters to Odell Shepard include eighteen letters or cards addressed by poet Evans to Pulitzer Prize winner Odell Shepard. Written between 1928 and 1966, the series of letters has several significant gaps, with the bulk of the letters written in 1928-1929, 1939, and 1960-1966. Additionally the collection has three poems written by Evans and a letter to Shepard from Jean Schiesser.

As Evans's teacher and mentor at Radcliffe, Shepard encouraged her poetry writing. He continued that encouragement with favorable reviews of her published poetry, as well as through correspondence and an occasional visit.

Evans's letters reflect a variety of topics, such as personal life and travels, though the main concerns were poetry and writing, both hers and his. In her letters Evans expressed gratitude for Shepard's mentoring. She commented on his positive reviews of her work and responded to some of the negative reviews from critics, including having her poetry labeled as "pagan." Evans also reflected on the difficulties of finding time to write and remarked at length on several of Shepard's books that she had read. She was particularly impressed with his Pedlar's Progress: The Life of Bronson Alcott.

Three of Evans's poems are included in the collection. The first is a typescript of "Fact of Crystal," the title poem for her third collection of poetry. Evans has inscribed this typescript poem to Shepard. The second poem is a clipping of "The Fundament Is Shifted" as published in the New Yorker (1960). The final poem is "Under Sun-beat," which Evans has handwritten on a postcard that she sent to Shepard in October 1963.

Another item in the collection is an eight-page letter written in 1963 by New Jersey resident Jean Schiesser to Shepard. The content of the letter suggests that Shepard was a friend. There is nothing in the letter to suggest a relationship to Abbie Huston Evans.