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  • In Memoriam: Charles R. Anderson
  • Richard Macksey

With the death in Charleston at ninety-seven of Charles R. Anderson on November 5, this journal lost the last of its editors from the pre-war era. He served M L N for twenty years as an associate editor and frequent contributor.

Charles Roberts Anderson was born in Macon, Georgia, in 1902, a first-cousin-once-removed of Sidney Lanier, who had preceded him at Hopkins in its early years. Graduating from the University of Georgia with the Class of 1924, Anderson returned to teach at his alma mater during 1927–30, where he took his master’s degree in 1928. He completed his doctorate at Columbia in 1936 with a dissertation on Herman Melville’s naval career, Journal of a Cruise to the Pacific Ocean, 1842–1844, in the Frigate United States (published in 1937 by the Duke University Press). With assistance from an early two-year Rosenwald Fellowship, he extended this line of investigation in his Melville in the South Seas (1939). In 1930 he had moved to Duke, where he was a member of the English faculty until 1941, when he was called to the Johns Hopkins, and to an affiliation that continued until his official retirement in 1962. He served as departmental chairman (1950–56) and, from 1956 held the Caroline Donovan Chair. During his Hopkins years he also spent two decades on the editorial board of M L N, having earlier served briefly as the managing editor of American Literature.

Charles Anderson had come to Hopkins as the general editor of the “Centennial Edition” of the works of Sidney Lanier, a publication of the JHU Press obviously planned for 1942, which was delayed by the war and the scope of the project, until its appearance in ten volumes in 1946. This is arguably the first collected works of an American author edited to the standards of modern literary scholarship; in the decades that followed it opened the way for a major academic industry supplying critical editions of canonical nineteenth-century authors.

Those alert to the arithmetic of academic careers will note that Anderson retired early from his post at Hopkins. This “retirement” deserves quotation marks, since it was not from any want of energy or engagement with critical [End Page 1119] projects that he stepped down. It rather reflected his desire to extend his audience through publication and the emerging international lecture circuit. An inveterate “multi-cultural” traveler, he had already found time to lecture widely across the country and abroad, having already been a high-profile visitor at Heidelberg (1949), the Huntington Library (1950 Huntington Library (1952), the University of Rome (1952–53), the Nagano Seminars in Japan (1954), and the University of Turin (1960). During the 1960s and 1970s he was enlisted by the U.S. Department of State for a broad gamut of lectures in Japan, Southeast Asia, the Balkans, and elsewhere. He also proved one of the most sought-after lecturers in the history of the U.S. Information Agency. His travels were further supported by Guggenheim and Fulbright grants.

Another distinction of Anderson’s very active retirement is that most of the critical publications for which he is now best known appeared during these years. Shortly before his formal retirement he published Emily Dickinson’s Poetry: Stairway of Surprise, a pioneer work in the revaluation of the poet’s achievement, which received the Christian Gauss Book Award from Phi Beta Kappa in 1962. In 1965 he edited an influential two-volume anthology, American Literary Masters. His study of Thoreau, The Magic Circle of Walden, appeared in 1968—followed by editions of selections from the Journal, Thoreau’s World, in 1971, and an edition of the major essays, Thoreau’s Vision, in 1973. In 1969 he returned to Lanier to edit a popular one-volume edition of this poet’s poetry and prose. At the age of seventy-five, after a long apprenticeship to the Master, he published what is perhaps his best known work of literary criticism, Person, Place, and Thing in Henry James’s Novels, which won him the unusual distinction of a second Christian Gauss Award. The novelist’s other...