THOMAS DANIEL YOUNG
Allen Tate is assured of a place among the most significant writers of his generation. The author of twelve books of poetry, two biographies, eight books of essays, a novel, and a book of memoirs, and editor of more than a dozen other books, he excelled in each of these genres. Tate's primary concerns are those of his age: (1) the dissociation of sensibility, (2) the search for a sustaining and continuing tradition, (3) the opposition to materialistic positivism, and (4) the necessity of man's finding a meaningful relationship to a universe from which the gods have disappeared.
Born on 19 November 1899 to John Orley and Eleanor Varnell Tate, in Winchester, Kentucky, Allen Tate believed until he was thirty, because his mother told him he was, that he was a Virginian. In his childhood Tate's family moved two or three times a year, "moving away from something my mother didn't like." His earliest memories are of residential hotels, watering places, and resorts visited yearly by his mother. In one of these places, Tate recalled years later, his mother told him: "Son, put that book down and go play with Henry. You are straining your mind and you know your mind isn't very strong." ( Tate's head was abnormally large and he refers to it ironically in several poems as if he were a water head.)
Because his father early withdrew from social and economic activity, the responsibility of head of the family passed to Allen's older brother, Ben. Tate's early education was haphazard and irregular because his mother seldom stayed in one place long enough for him to complete a school year. In the twenty or so different schools he attended, for periods varying from a few weeks to a rare academic year, he was, he recalled later, always the "new boy. . . . I had to win