The correspondence of John Peale Bishop and Allen Tate, extending from 1929 to the time of Bishop's death in 1944, embraces the period of the Great Depression and the coming of World War II. In that richly eventful period in the development of American literature, these two men of letters were continually exchanging news and comment about the activities, opinions, successes, and misadventures of poets, novelists, critics, publishers, and editors; about expatriate Americans in Europe and the quickening intellectual life of New York; and about the Agrarian movement and what was later to be called the Southern Renascence. Archibald MacLeish, Ernest Hemingway, Robert Penn Warren, John Crowe Ransom, Katherine Anne Porter, Maxwell Perkins, Hart Crane, Malcolm Cowley, Scott Fitzgerald—all are subjects of comment, both personal and artistic. The respect and affection of both writers for Edmund Wilson survived their vehement political differences with him, and their exchange of literary criticism, advice, and encouragement with Wilson continued unabated.
The letters record a warm and steady friendship, as well as a literary relationship in which Tate—though the younger man—is clearly the mentor. The freedom with which Tate and Bishop discuss their work in progress, and the care and candor with which they comment on one another's poems and stories, offer the reader of this carefully edited correspondence revealing glimpses of the creative process and the reality of the American "republic of letters" in their time.