The Southern Mandarins:Letters of Caroline Gordon to Sally Wood 1924- 1937Home
“ I haven’t written because – well, a dozen or so things, two attacks of grippe a couple of jobs and the usual struggle for existence....Allen’s poems are with the same people now, but they are rather snooty about them. I took them with the recommendation of Ford Madox Ford for whom I’ve been working as secretary, and now he’s trying to get them published in England. He thinks an English publisher will be more likely to take them, that they’re more like English poems than American. Sometimes I think no American publisher will ever take them” (210)
(stressed woman)

This except has an air of defeat. Allen’s poems aren’t being accepted and they being forced to broaden the scope of where they are presenting his work. These letters are filled with references to different writer. Caroline takes and work she can get. She writes short stories, “pot boilers”, and even does proofreading for the extra work. Caroline’s husband Allen writes poems, short stories, and even does odd jobs like writing biographies. There are also numerous occasions when Sally’s writing pieces are brought up.
“I am pretty low just now. Mother took Nancy back to Kentucky with her several weeks ago. I was feeling feeble and couldn’t combat the various forces that were operating against me. It struck everybody as the “sensible” thing to do. I know, and knew at the time, that it was a very mad thing to do, aside from my personal feelings. I think Mother had been planning it ever since before Nancy was born. At the last moment I weakened and was going to refuse to let her go, but I saw mother would have collapsed. She had borne everything amicably – wild people like Dorothy Day, Peggy Cowley, etc. Dropping in – just so she could get Nancy, and I don’t know what she’d have done if it had fallen through at the last. I never saw anybody as mad over a child. She could hardly put her down a moment. All our modern ideas of not handling them were swept aside – Mother always had a perfectly good reason for picking her up this particular time."(17)
This excerpt describes how Caroline’s daughter, Nancy, came into being under the care of her mother. Caroline and her husband Allan were not capable of taking care of an infant and decided to allow Caroline’s mother to take her until they were able make arrangements. They wanted a stable environment with a permanent home and steady income. Later, after they are ready for the child, Caroline makes several references to her mother’s unwillingness to give up the child. Caroline seems completely depressed without her child. She says that she has felt “paralyzed” ever since Nancy went to live with her mother. Caroline was given very few days with her new daughter.
“ I was so glad to get your letter. I‘m glad the work is progressing whether in long, short or staccato sentences. It doesn’t matter what kind of sentences they are, I’m sure, as long as one follows after the other. You’re quite right about showing things to people. Whatever they say it takes wind out of your sails, K.A., for inst. Telling me my manuscript sounded like somebody trying to write like me – why didn’t she say it was just plain rotten?”(131)

This except conveys a lot of the frustration that Caroline is feeling. She is forced to deal with so much in writing. Not only is she trying to write a decent literary piece of work, but she is also trying to do it in a sufficient amount of time. She has to worry about money and what others will think. She is also being plagued with sickness. The grippe keeps coming back and is making her get further and further behind in her work.

(Caroline Gordon)

Allen Tate
Sewanee writers' colony
The fugitives

Caroline Gordon was born in Todd County, Kentucky and attended her father’s Clarksville Classical School for Boys. She graduated form Bethany College in West Virginia and worked as a writer for the Chattanooga Reporter newspaper. After marrying Allen Tate, a poet, essayist, and commentator, they moved to Tate’s house in Clarksville. She received two literary awards, The Guggenheim Fellowship in 1932 and the O. Henry Award in 1934. Gordon died after a stroke at age 85. (Caroline Gordon)
Caroline Gordon's letters to Sally Wood convinced me that despite the passage of eighty years women still face the problems of loneliness, stress, and inadequacy that shaped the lives of their grandmothers. Balancing a literary career with raising a family and keeping a busy artistic community running were extraordinary challenges, which are difficult to reconcile with phenomenal output of Ms. Gordon. A genteel woman of leisure she certainly was not and her attitudes about race and society were foreign to today's ideas of what is politically correct, but she was a strong willed character who stood up for her convictions in a society that was still largely patriarchal.

Some of her famous works are as follows:
Penhally, Aleck Maury, Sportsman, None Shall Look Back, The Garden of Adonis, Green Centuries, The Women on the Porch, The Forest of the South, The House of Fiction: An Anthology of the Short Story (with Allen Tate), The Strange Children, The Malefactors, A Good Soldier: A Key to the Novels of Ford Madox Ford, How to Read a Novel, Old Red and Other Stories, The Glory of Hera, The Collected Stories of Caroline Gordon


"Ann Waldron" 6 Nov 2008 images/annwaldron-140-Caro...

"Caroline Gordon" 6 Nov 2008

Chorzempa, Tim. . “Civil War Letters.” 8 October 2007. <

Kampera, Kathy. . "Drought." 12 October 2007.

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"mother and newborn.". 3 Dec 2007.<>

Ruether, Peter R. photograph. "African American Man." 3 Dec 2007.

"Stressed woman.". 3 Dec 2008.

Wood, Sally.
The Southern Mandarins: Letters of Caroline Gordon to Sally Wood, 1924-1937//. LSU Press: London. 1984.