Authors: Evelyn Scott

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American novelist

Author Works

Long Fiction:

The Narrow House, 1921

Narcissus, 1922 (pb. in England as Bewilderment)

The Golden Door, 1925

Ideals: A Book on Farce and Comedy, 1927

Migrations: An Arabesque in Histories, 1927

The Wave, 1929

Blue Rum, 1930 (as Ernest Souza)

A Calendar of Sin: American Melodramas, 1931 (2 volumes)

Eva Gay: A Romantic Novel, 1933

Breathe upon These Slain, 1934

Bread and a Sword, 1937

The Shadow of the Hawk, 1941

Poetry:

Precipitations, 1920

The Winter Alone, 1930

Drama:

Love: A Play in Three Acts, pr. 1921

Nonfiction:

Escapade, 1923

Background in Tennessee, 1937

Children’s/Young Adult Literature:

In the Endless Sands, 1925 (with Cyril Kay Scott)

Witch Perkins: A Story of the Kentucky Hills, 1929

Billy the Maverick, 1934

Biography

Evelyn Scott was born Elsie Dunn, in Clarksville, Tennessee, but her family moved frequently before settling in New Orleans, where she studied at Sophie Newcomb College. There she fell in love with Frederick Wellman, a dean at Tulane University, married and twenty years her senior. In 1914, the two eloped, adopted assumed names (the Scotts), and fled to Brazil, where they later had a son, Creighton. Because of some health problems, they returned to the United States in 1919 and settled in the bohemian Greenwich Village.{$I[A]Scott, Evelyn}{$S[A]Dunn, Elsie;Scott, Evelyn}{$S[A]Souza, Ernest;Scott, Evelyn}{$I[geo]WOMEN;Scott, Evelyn}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Scott, Evelyn}{$I[tim]1893;Scott, Evelyn}

Drawing on her Brazilian experiences, Scott published thirteen poems in Poetry, an influential journal. She became familiar with the work of William Carlos Williams and Waldo Frank, writers who also became her lovers. She wrote literary reviews for The Dial and contributed poems to The Nation and in 1920 published Precipitations, a modernist collection of her poems. An admirer of James Joyce, she published a positive review of his play Exiles (1918), which perhaps was responsible for getting her own play, Love, produced at the Provincetown Playhouse in Greenwich Village. Her poetry and drama, however, were overshadowed by her fiction: The Narrow House, with its psychological insights and innovative prose style, was a success, despite the criticism of some conservative reviewers.

Because of financial problems, the Scotts moved to Cape Cod, then to Bermuda, where she wrote Narcissus and The Golden Door, the second and third novels in her first trilogy. While in Bermuda, she also completed Escapade, her memoir about life in Brazil; before it was published she had to make several deletions for conservative censors, who disapproved of her illicit relationship with Scott and were queasy about the details of her pregnancy.

While in Bermuda, Scott began an affair with Owen Merton, a watercolorist from New Zealand who also became friends with Scott’s common-law husband. The trio, with Creighton, moved to southern France, where Scott began work on “The Grey Riddle,” a fictional account of her life with Merton. From France, the entourage moved to Algeria in the fall of 1923, when she learned that “The Grey Riddle” had been rejected by publishers. She turned to children’s literature and, with help from husband and lover, completed In the Endless Sands, which was published by Henry Holt. In 1924, they returned to France, but her personal affairs were disintegrating: When her husband told her he was leaving her for another woman, and Owen broke off their relationship, she unsuccessfully attempted suicide.

Scott then began a relationship with John Metcalf, a British writer, and the couple moved to England, then France, and then Portugal. In 1926, she learned that Migrations, the first volume of a trilogy about her family, and Ideals, a collection of five sketches, had been accepted for publication. Migrations, set in the antebellum South, received excellent notices as historical fiction. She and Metcalf moved to the United States, where The Wave, a Civil War novel and the second in her trilogy, was adopted by the Literary Guild and enjoyed critical and financial success. In 1929, she published Witch Perkins, another children’s book, and wrote an influential appreciation of William Faulkner’s early novels. After her divorce from her common-law husband, Scott married Metcalf and moved to Santa Fe, where she published The Winter Alone, a volume of poetry; Blue Rum; and A Calendar of Sin, the third volume in the trilogy.

In the 1930’s, Scott and Metcalf divided their time between England and the United States. Eva Gay, an autobiographical novel, appeared in 1933 and was followed by Breathe upon These Slain as well as Billy the Maverick, another children’s book. Background in Tennessee, a social and personal memoir, was published in 1937, as was Bread and a Sword. Her last novel, The Shadow of the Hawk, appeared in 1941, at which time she was regarded as one of the most outstanding American novelists. After the publication of her last novel, she and Metcalf were in financial straits and moved to England in 1944, returning to the United States in 1953. They lived in New York City until Scott’s death in 1963.

BibliographyCallard, D. A. “Pretty Good for a Woman”: The Enigmas of Evelyn Scott. New York: Norton, 1985. Short biography focusing on Scott and her contemporaries.MacKethan, Lucinda. “The Waste Women of The Wave.” In Southern Mothers: Fact and Fictions in Southern Women’s Writing, edited by Nagueyalti Warren and Sally Wolff. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1981. Close analysis of the novel.Scura, Dorothy M., and Paul C. Jones, eds. Evelyn Scott: Recovering a Lost Modernist. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2001. Collection of essays on Scott’s works with an introductory critical history, a chronology, and a critical bibliography.White, Mary Wheeling. Fighting the Current: The Life and Work of Evelyn Scott. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1998. The definitive biography with an extensive bibliography of Scott’s works.
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