Choose from the list of individuals below to view biographical information. Or, scroll down to browse all additional correspondents. These individuals are represented in Katherine Anne Porter's correspondence. Biographical information highlights their their relationship to Porter.
Cleanth Brooks (1906-1994) was, with Robert Penn Warren, one of the founders of New Criticism. He was a Rhodes Scholar, chair of rhetoric in the English department at Yale University, and authored many works of literary criticism, including his foundational 1938 Understanding Poetry, multiple books on William Faulkner, and a collection, Modern Rhetoric, co-edited with Robert Penn Warren.
Brooks co-founded The Southern Review literary journal with Robert Penn Warren, where Porter’s “The Circus” was published in the journal’s 1935 inaugural issue. Two of Porter’s short novels subsequently published in her Pale Horse, Pale Rider (1939) first appeared in the review, “Old Mortality” (1937) and “Pale Horse, Pale Rider” (1938). Brooks and his wife, Tinkum, met Porter in 1937 and remained intimate friends throughout their lives.
Porter’s high regard for Brooks is apparent in her February 15, 1960, letter: “Yes, it is high time somebody wrote some sense about our Mr. Faulkner, pride of American literature, and you are the man for it. That is a book I want to see.” Brooks’s reflective article about his relationship with Porter. “The Woman and Artist I Knew” appeared in Katherine Anne Porter and Texas: An Uneasy Relationship (1990).
Cleanth Brooks inscribed this portrait of himself to Porter, September 7, 1972. Katherine Anne Porter Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Maryland Libraries.
Gertrude Cahill Beitel (1881-1959), Lily Cahill (1885-1955), and Helen Greenwell (1893-1972) were sisters and second cousins of Katherine Anne. Their mother, Virginia Myers Cahill, was the daughter of Eliza Jane Skaggs Myers, a sister of Catherine Ann Skaggs Porter, Katherine Anne’s paternal grandmother. Although they were distant cousins, Katherine Anne felt a familial bond with the sisters, corresponding with and visiting them when she could. Katherine Anne’s letters to Gertrude reveal that they kept up a regular correspondence throughout the 1950s in which she discussed Gertrude’s writing, her own writing, and thoughts about literature, social events, and their family connections. The letters written in 1955 also offer sympathy for Lily’s death and document Katherine Anne’s grief about Gertrude’s loss.
Lily Cahill, a younger sister of Gertrude Beitel, had a successful career as an actress, both on Broadway and in films. While only a few letters to Lily remain, they document Katherine Anne’s sympathy for Lily’s health ailments and her confidence that Lily was a fellow artist. Katherine Anne’s letters to Gertrude following Lily’s death in 1955 also describe what Lily meant to her.
Helen Greenwell is another of Gertrude Beitel’s younger sisters. In the archived letters to Helen Greenwell from the 1950s, Katherine Anne describes the gathering momentum of her career, reflects on childhood memories, and discusses family matters, including the decline of Gertrude Beitel’s health and her death. The letters often include greetings for Helen’s husband, Sam Greenwell, as well.
Lily Cahill, cousin of Katherine Anne Porter, New York, New York, circa May 1946. Front inscription: “For my darling/Katherine Anne/Lily.” Katherine Anne Porter Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Maryland Libraries.
BARBARA THOMPSON MUEENUDDIN DAVIS
Barbara Davis (1933-2009) was a writer, journalist, two-time Puschart Prize winner, and advocate for the arts. Davis encountered Porter after covering Porter’s October 1956 reading at the Library of Congress for the Washington Post. Davis’s two pieces on Porter published in the Washington Post (November 25, 1956; October 5, 1958) led to Porter’s agreeing to extensive interviews with Davis. Porter and Davis became friends during the period that led to the publication of “Katherine Anne Porter: An Interview” in the Paris Review in 1963.
Porter was godmother to Davis’s younger son, Pakistani-American writer Daniyal Mueenuddin. The two women’s friendship was strong during Porter’s life, and Davis served as the trustee of Porter’s literary estate from 1993 to 2009, succeeding Isabel Bayley. In a letter to Davis, Porter offered advice for a woman writer: “Think for a moment of the lives of women writers worth mentioning . . . , and you will find that the conditions of being an artist for a woman are not so very different from that of a man. . . . Just work to be a good artist, and life will take care of itself.” (KAP to Barbara Thompson Mueenuddin Davis, October 11, 1958)<.
Barbara Thompson Mueenuddin Davis with her son Tamur, 1962. Katherine Anne Porter Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Maryland Libraries.
FORD MADOX FORD
Ford (1873-1939) was a British novelist, editor, critic, poet, and biographer, who founded the English Review and was an editor of the Transatlantic Review. Porter met Ford in Greenwich Village in 1927, when her friend Caroline Gordon was serving as Ford’s secretary. Porter reconnected with Ford when she came to Paris in early 1932; she briefly occupied the Paris apartment that he had shared had with his companion, Janice Biala, before they went to the south of France in April 1932. Ford and Biala witnessed Porter’s marriage to Eugene Pressly on March 11, 1933, and hosted the reception that evening in their apartment.
There was frequent contact between Ford and Biala and Porter and Pressly during the period in which Pressly typed the manuscript for Ford’s It Was the Nightingale (1933). Most of Porter’s 1932-1936 correspondence with Ford is jointly addressed to Biala and ranges over various subjects, both personal and professional. In a letter addressed solely to Ford, Porter wrote, “I don’t trouble at all about my place. Writing seems to me to be my private occupation, my way of living. I want to write and I shall keep on with it, and the reputation may fall where it shall fall. I have nothing to do with it” (KAP to Ford Madox Ford, December 3, 1935).
Ford Madox Ford, 1932, Basel, Switzerland. Photograph by Katherine Anne Porter. Katherine Anne Porter Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Maryland Libraries.
Caroline Gordon, 1937, Benfolly, Clarksville, TN. Katherine Anne Porter Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Maryland Libraries.
Caroline Gordon (1895-1981) was a writer of short stories, novels, and criticism, winning O. Henry and Guggenheim awards. She married fellow writer Allen Tate in 1925. She is associated with the Southern Agrarian writers because of her connection to Tate and her friend Robert Penn Warren, her roots in Kentucky, and her fiction set in the South.
Gordon and Porter most likely met in 1925 when both were living in New York City, as they shared the same circle of literary friends. They became more intimate friends in 1927 when both were living at 561 Hudson Street in Greenwich Village; at the time, Gordon was serving as secretary to Ford Madox Ford. Close proximity to Gordon and Tate fostered Porter’s turn toward her Texas upbringing as a subject for her fiction, as Robert Penn Warren and Andrew Lytle, also Southern expatriates, were guests of the Tates. Porter and Gordon remained friends and supportive colleagues for many decades.
The long letter Porter wrote Gordon documenting her August to September 1931 voyage from Vera Cruz, Mexico, to Bremen, Germany, provided the materials and inspiration for Porter's only full-length novel, Ship of Fools. Porter met her fifth and last husband, Albert Erskine, at Benfolly, the home of Gordon and Tate in Clarksville, Tennessee, in August 1937. Porter’s last letter to Gordon in Porter’s papers provides insight into their long friendship: “Oh my dear, my good friend from so many years back, why am I writing all this to you who know it in your blood stream, except for the joy of talking to you about things we know and love, and just now, when we are on the eve of a great change, to set down what we felt and thought about certain things in this time of our life.” (KAP to Caroline Gordon, November 5, 1964).
Josephine Herbst (1892-1969) was a novelist, essayist, and political activist. Porter and “Josie” shared a fascinating friendship. The two met in Greenwich Village shortly after Porter moved to Greenwich Village in late 1919. They eventually became intimate friends and confidantes and shared correspondence about their literary accomplishments and perspectives, politics, and loves. At the height of their friendship, Porter wrote to Herbst: “Josie darling, I suppose if my family and friends were celebrating my own funeral, and a letter of yours arrived in the middle, I’d rise up to read it and if possible answer it. . There’s no such thing as answering really such letters as yours, but still I love trying. . .” (KAP to Josephine Herbst, November 30, 1931). The two discussed Communist politics through the rise of the Nazis and fascism in continental Europe, as well as the bloom and then dissolution of their respective marriages.
Porter and Herbst’s relationship is a compelling study of women’s literary friendship across the twentieth century, as their letters include Porter’s plans to place reviews of Herbst’s works, strategically keeping in mind when other friends like Caroline Gordon, for example, would be publishing their own reviews. In her August 3, 1934, letter to Herbst, Porter describes her process of making use of actual experience and individuals in her fiction: “I never used anybody I ever knew or any story about anyone, complete. My device is to begin more or less with an episode from life, or with a certain character; but immediately the episode changes and the original character disappears. I cannot help it. I find it utterly impossible to make a report, as such. I like taking a certain kind of person, and inventing for him or her a set of experiences, which I feel to be characteristic, which might well have happened to that person. But they never did happen, except in the story. Or if I take one episode as a starting point, it always leads to consequences which did not occur really. I believe this is what fiction-writing really means.”
Josephine Herbst and John Herrmann, February 1929, Erwinna, PA. Katherine Anne Porter Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Maryland Libraries.
MARY ALICE "BABY" PORTER HILLENDAHL
Mary Alice Porter Hillendahl (1892-1973), most frequently called “Baby” by her family members, was Katherine Anne’s younger sister. She married Herbert Lee Townsend in 1913, but he died a year later, prior to the birth of their son, Breckenridge. She married Julius Arnold “Jules” Hillendahl in 1916.
In her letters to Baby, Katherine Anne often describes the details of her own life and discusses their immediate family members. The tone of the archived letters is generally friendly and affectionate, but Katherine Anne’s criticisms of Baby are well documented in her other family letters, especially those written to their sister Gay Porter Hollaway. The complaints Katherine Anne had long made against Baby are documented in the last remaining letter she wrote to her younger sister in 1969.
Mary Alice Hillandahl, younger sister of Katherine Anne Porter, Mission, Texas, Spring 1928. Katherine Anne Porter Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Maryland Libraries.
Katherine Anne Porter and Flannery O’Connor, April 1958, Milledgeville, GA. Katherine Anne Porter Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Maryland Libraries.
Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964) was a renowned American writer, known for her Southern Gothic fiction, notably her short stories, including the infamous “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” Porter and O’Connor met initially at O’Connor’s Georgia home in April 1958, where Porter encountered O’Connor’s peacocks. Both also participated in a panel on recent Southern fiction at Wesleyan College, Macon, Georgia, in October 1960.
Porter recalled her impressions of O’Connor in a letter to Caroline Gordon: “Flannery I saw on exactly three days, rather spaced if I remember, and the impression she made upon me is all I can tell about. I have really no idea what she thought or felt about me, and except it was courteous and gentle, as she was in everything she did that I saw: and I believe and always have believed that she was a genius if I ever saw one, and the profundity of her vision of the world and its relation to eternity is mysterious and almost appalling. . . .” (KAP to Caroline Gordon, November 5, 1964).
O'Connor and Porter expressed appreciation for each other’s literary gifts directly via their correspondence. In her August 12, 1963, letter to O’Connor, Porter recounted the reply of a French bookseller to her question about the sale of O’ Connor’s books, “And he said, ‘Very nicely, nothing sensational, it is just that she has her readers!’ And Flannery, I glowed with pleasure, for what honest artist could ask for more? And I know, because from my first book I had my readers, and I still have them, and my unchanging affection for them and delight in them; I never expected or wanted more. . . .”
Harrison Boone Porter, father of Katherine Anne Porter, seated in a wicker chair dressed in shirt and tie, Texas, circa June-July 1937. Katherine Anne Porter Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Maryland Libraries.
HARRISON BOONE PORTER
Harrison Boone Porter (1857-1942), the father of Katherine Anne, married Mary Alice Jones Porter in 1883. In addition to Katherine Anne (1890-1980), Harrison and Mary Alice had four other children: Gay (1885-1969), Paul (1887-1955), Johnnie (1889-1890), and Mary Alice “Baby” (1892-1973). When his wife Mary Alice died in 1892, Harrison moved his family from Indian Creek, TX, to the home of his mother, Catherine Ann Skaggs Porter, in Kyle, TX, and relied upon her help to care for the children. Harrison read widely and worked as a teacher for a period of time. He also worked for a railroad, as a salesman, and as a farmer.
Katherine Anne’s archived letters to her father are often long, warm and affectionate in tone, and give detailed accounts of her recent experiences. At times Katherine Anne was anxious for his approval, and at other times she could be exacting in her criticisms of his shortcomings, especially in her letters to Gay.
[HARRISON] PAUL PORTER, SR.
Born Harry Ray Porter before changing his name, Harrison Paul Porter, Sr. (1887-1955), was Katherine Anne’s older brother. He and his wife Connie had four children: Dorothy Rae Porter Parrish (1918-1997), Constance Elita “Patsy/Pat” Porter McClughan (1925-1996), Charles Boone Porter (1933-), and Katherine Anne’s beloved nephew, Paul Porter, Jr.
In the only surviving letter to her brother, written in 1932, Katherine Anne describes her life in Paris and her marriage to Eugene Pressly.
Paul Porter, Sr., brother of Katherine Anne Porter, and his wife Constance Eve Ingalls Porter, at the time of the marriage of their daughter Constance Elita, who was known as Pat, Houston, Texas, July 1942. Back inscription: “When Patricia was married.” Katherine Anne Porter Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Maryland Libraries.
Allen Tate, circa 1937, Benfolly, Clarksville, TN. Katherine Anne Porter Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Maryland Libraries.
Allen Tate (1899-1979), a significant literary man of letters in the first half of the twentieth century, was a poet, critic, biographer, novelist, editor, and teacher. One of the “Fugitives” at Vanderbilt University as an undergraduate, Tate, a native of Kentucky, is often associated with the Southern Agrarians but also with New Criticism. During his lifetime, he received many awards and fellowships. He was Poetry Consultant at the Library of Congress from 1943 to 1944. The longest tenure among his teaching positions was at the University of Minnesota, where he served from 1951 to 1968. Tate had a troubled relationship with Caroline Gordon, as the two married, divorced, remarried and divorced again.
It is likely that Porter met Tate in Greenwich Village in 1925, as they were members of the same literary circle. As Caroline Gordon became one of Porter’s intimate friends, Tate and Porter also developed an enduring relationship. Tate and Gordon arranged for Porter’s first invitation to the Olivet College Writers Conference in Summer 1937, after which Porter joined the couple at Benfolly, their home in Clarksville, TN. During that visit, Porter met Albert Erskine, who was to become her fifth husband.
It was also through Tate’s intervention that Porter was appointed to fill the position of Fellow of Regional American Literature at the Library of Congress in 1944. During his tenure as editor of Sewanee Review, Tate published the first excerpt from the novel that became Ship of Fools. Porter and Tate were also members of the American delegation to the International Congress for Cultural Freedom held in Paris in 1952. In their correspondence, Porter and Tate exchanged literary gossip, commented on each other’s work, and discussed their personal lives. In the aftermath of the publication of Ship of Fools, Porter wrote: “My novel is a mystery to me, too; I don’t quite know how I did it, I only know what I was aiming for, meant to do. It is astounding the long gamut from extreme admiration, belief, to extreme hatred and even personal insult the critics and reviewers have run, waving laurel wreaths and flourishing butcher’s cleavers as they go.” (KAP to Allen Tate, November 21, 1962).
Eudora Welty (1909-2001) was an American writer whose oeuvre includes short stories, novels, essays, a best-selling autobiography, and photographs. Born in Jackson, MS, where she lived most of her life, Welty set her fiction primarily in the South. During her lifetime, Welty garnered numerous honorary degrees, fellowships, and awards. Porter and Welty met in Baton Rouge in 1939, when Porter was married to Albert Erskine.
Porter was a mentor to Welty early in her career, and the two became close friends when they were assigned the same lodging at Yaddo in Summer 1941. Porter wrote the introduction to Welty’s first collection of short stories, A Curtain of Green (1941). Although Porter often expressed regret that she and Welty did not see each other more often, Porter did enjoy a stay in Jackson with Welty and her mother in March 1952. Welty also participated in the short-lived Katherine Anne Porter Foundation (1967-1973), established to support creative writers. It is also telling that Porter was chosen to present Welty the Gold Medal for Fiction of the National Institute of Arts and Letters in May 1972.
In 1990, Welty wrote about her relationship with Porter and how their time at Yaddo began their friendship: “a long life of correspondence started between us, easygoing and as the spirit moved us—about reading, recipes, anxieties and aspirations, garden seeds and gossip” (Georgia Review, vol. 44, no. 25, Spring/Summer 1990). The two women maintained a lifelong friendship, buoyed by their wide-ranging correspondence, though the two often shared their thoughts about regionalism, the literary marketplace for women, and the challenge of writing about the work of friends: “Maybe we are wrong to be uneasy about writing about the friends whose work we like. I love to praise what I love, and I don’t for a minute believe that love is blind—indeed, it gives clearness without sharpness, and surely that is the best light in which to look at anything.” (KAP to Eudora Welty, April 15, 1952).
Eudora Welty, 1941, Jackson, MS. Katherine Anne Porter Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Maryland Libraries.
Barbara Harrison Wescott and Monroe Wheeler, Spring 1934, Davos, Switzerland. Katherine Anne Porter Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Maryland Libraries.
BARBARA HARRISON WESCOTT
Barbara Harrison Wescott (1904-1977) was a publisher and philanthropist. Her father, Francis Burton Harrison, served as a U. S. Congressman and was subsequently appointed Governor-General of the Philippines during the administration of Woodrow Wilson. Her mother, Mary Crocker, a railroad and banking heiress, died in an automobile accident when Barbara Harrison was a young child. By 1928, when Glenway Wescott and Monroe Wheeler met her, the inheritance from her mother had enabled her to purchase and furnish an apartment in Paris and a country place outside of Paris. She and Monroe Wheeler founded the fine press Harrison of Paris in 1930. Shortly after the press ceased publishing in 1934, Barbara Harrison met Glenway Wescott’s younger brother, Lloyd, and they married in April 1935. Barbara and Lloyd Wescott purchased a farm estate in western New Jersey, where pioneering work in the artificial insemination of dairy cows was conducted. Both Barbara and Lloyd Wescott were philanthropists of various civic, cultural, and scholarly causes throughout their married life.
Porter’s friendship with Barbara Harrison grew from their work on Katherine Anne Porter’s French Song-book (1933). Porter often socialized with her and Glenway Wescott, Monroe Wheeler, and George Platt Lynes in Paris from late 1932, when she returned from Basel, until 1934-1935, when the others relocated to the United States. The warm friendship between the two women was forged when Barbara Harrison financed Porter’s month’s stay at Park Sanitorium in Davosplatz, Switzerland, with herself and Monroe Wheeler in Spring 1934. Porter also enjoyed Harrison’s generosity on a trip to Salzburg and Munich in summer 1934. Barbara Harrison Wescott continued to provide emotional and financial support to Porter until the publication of Ship of Fools in 1962. Porter expressed her gratitude for her friendship and support with the dedication to the novel: “For Barbara Wescott/ 1932: Paris, Rambouillet, Davosplatz, Salzburg, Munich, New York, Mulhocaway, Rosemont: 1962.”
Porter’s letters to Barbara Wescott cover a wide variety of topics including music, books, health, common friends, and Porter’s struggles to complete Ship of Fools. Porter and Barbara Wescott remained dear friends until the latter’s death in 1977. Reflecting on their friendship, Porter wrote, “You have been a source of good luck and good fortune and strength to every one who ever came near you, I do believe, and I hope in your perfect goodness you will not mind my praising you to your face, as a kind of anniversary remembrance, and something surely to be said at least once in a life time between friends.” (KAP to Barbara Harrison Wescott, March 9, 1941).