April 4, 1944: Critic John Bishop Dies at 51

Apr 4, 2018

Credit Carl Van Vechten / Princeton University Library

Critic John Peale Bishop died in Massachusetts on April 4, 1944, at age 51. He was born at Charles Town in Jefferson County in 1892 and attended high school in Hagerstown, Maryland.

When he was 17, he experienced a temporary and unexplainable bout of blindness. That’s when he decided to become a writer. In 1912, his poem, ‘‘To a Woodland Pool,’’ was published in Harpers Weekly.

The next year, Bishop entered Princeton University, where he was a classmate of F. Scott Fitzgerald. His first book of poetry, Green Fruit, was published in 1917. He went to work for Vanity Fair and served as the magazine’s managing editor for two years. He and his wife traveled extensively, and he lived in France for lengthy periods during the 1920s and early ‘30s. During this time, Bishop established lifelong friendships with critic Allen Tate and poet Archibald MacLeish.

John Peale Bishop wrote his finest criticism, essays, and poetry reviews between 1933 and 1940. His 1931 book, Many Thousands Gone, features interrelated stories set in a fictionalized 19th-century Charles Town. The title story won the prestigious Scribner’s Prize.