Free Spirit of Literature

Sam Pickering (born 1941) recently retired from professing English—mostly, it would appear, creative writing.  Oh!  “Beware!  Beware! . . . Weave a circle round him thrice / . . . / For he on honey-dew hath fed / and drunk the milk of paradise.”  If Coleridge had not crafted his magical lines for a figure who seems to be the visionary poet himself, he might have believed them suited to any fortunate professor who has spent most of his life working with shining youth and the beauties of the English language.  Ah, but not all such men are so worthy of awe as may be supposed.  Pickering, a native of Tennessee and a graduate of the University of the South (as well as St. Catharine’s College, Cambridge, and Prince­ton), carried on his pedagogical and research activities at various seats of learning, chiefly Dartmouth College and the University of Connecticut (Storrs), but also in Australia, at a so-called university in Syria, and elsewhere.  He is a member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers.  He has not taught at colleges in the South, to my knowledge, except in the Sewanee School of Letters in the summertime.  He has adopted certain attitudes characteristic of the Northeast intelligentsia.

He began his teaching career, however, at the Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, which he had attended as a youth.  In his teaching role there, he became known for his...

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