Critic John Peale Bishop (May 21, 1892-April 4, 1944) was born in Charles Town and attended high school in Hagerstown, Maryland. He showed an early interest in art which was encouraged by his family. However, during an unexplainable but temporary spell of blindness at age 17, he decided to become a writer. His poem, ‘‘To a Woodland Pool,’’ was published in 1912 in Harpers Weekly.
In 1913, Bishop entered Princeton, where he was a classmate of F. Scott Fitzgerald. His first book of poetry, Green Fruit, was published in 1917, the year he graduated. Commissioned an officer in the army, Bishop was stationed in Europe until 1919, when he was hired at Vanity Fair magazine, eventually becoming its managing editor (1920–22). Traveling abroad with his wife following their marriage in 1922, he remained for lengthy periods of time in France, returning to live in the United States in 1933. During their European period, Bishop established lifelong friendships with critic Allen Tate and poet Archibald MacLeish.
Bishop is credited with writing his finest criticism, essays, and reviews of poetry between 1933 and 1940. These works include ‘‘The South and Tradition,’’ ‘‘Homage to Hemingway,’’ and ‘‘The Sorrows of Thomas Wolfe,’’ and reviews of works by W. H. Auden, Ezra Pound, and others.
His 1931 book, Many Thousands Gone, a collection of interrelated stories, is set in a fictionalized 19th-century Charles Town. The title story won the prestigious Scribner’s Prize. Following extended periods of illness, Bishop died in Hyannis, Massachusetts.
Written by Debra K. Sullivan