Monday, October 30, 2017

Birth Dates of Notable Kentuckians: October 30, 1881 – Elizabeth Madox Roberts


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From The Kentucky Encyclopedia –
Born on October 30, 1881, in Perryville, Kentucky, Elizabeth Madox Roberts, novelist and poet, was the second of eight children of Mary Elizabeth (Brent) and Simpson R. Roberts, both school teachers and descendants of Kentucky pioneers. In 1884 the family moved to Springfield in Washington County, where Simpson Roberts opened a grocery store and worked as a surveyor and engineer. From her father Roberts learned Greek and Roman mythology and heard reminiscences of the Civil War (he served with the Confederate Army).

As Springfield had no public schools, Roberts studied at the private Covington Institute; in 1896 she went to Covington to live with relatives of her mother while attending high school there. In 1900 she entered the University of Kentucky , but ill health and lack of funds forced her to leave. For the next ten years she taught at the family home in Springfield and in new public schools in the area, becoming familiar with the rural inhabitants, their vernacular, and their customs. Troubled by respiratory ailments, she spent long periods at a brother's home in Colorado, where she published In The Great Steep's Garden (1915), a collection of poems illustrated with photos of flowers by Kenneth Hartley.

In 1917 Roberts entered the University of Chicago, where she studied with Robert Morss Lovett and Edith Rickert; belonged to the University Poetry Club; and became a friend of Glenway Wescott, Yvor Winters, Vincent Sheean, Janet L. Lewis, and other writers, and an acquaintance of Harriet Monroe, editor of Poetry. Roberts's poems appeared in Poetry, Atlantic Monthly, and other journals during her Chicago years. After graduating with honors in English in 1921, she returned to the family home in Springfield, where, never married, she spent most of her remaining life except for periodic stays with her sister in California and New York. Under The Tree, a collection of poems based on childhood memories, appeared in 1922; thereafter Roberts focused on writing fiction.

Roberts's first and finest novel, the time of man, was published in 1926 to international acclaim; it made Roberts, says William H. Slavick in introducing the reprint of 1982, "the first major novelist of the Southern renascence." Its psychological insights presage the work of Thomas Wolfe, William Faulkner, Katherine Anne Porter, and Eudora Welty. Roberts viewed the "wandering tenant farmer" as a symbol of the human odyssey; her central character is Ellen Chesser, daughter of one such man and wife of another. Ellen toils and suffers until she realizes herself, "flowering out of stone." Comparable in quality to this first work is The Great Meadow (1930), which portrays life on the Kentucky frontier during the years of the American Revolution.

Roberts's other works include My Heart And My Flesh (1927); Jingling In The Wind (1928); A Buried Treasure (1931); The Haunted Mirror (1932), a collection of short stories; he sent forth a raven (1935); black is my true love's hair (1938); and Not By Strange Gods (1941), short stories. Song In The Meadow (1940) is a collection of her later poetry.

In the 1930s Roberts lost her readership and fell into relative obscurity, although she was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1940. Diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease in 1936, she suffered declining health and died in Orlando, Florida, on March 13, 1941, leaving an unfinished novel about the Louisville flood of 1937 and an unfinished epic poem about Daniel Boone . She was buried in Cemetery Hill in Springfield.

DAVID F. BURG, Entry Author

Selected Sources from UK Libraries:

Rovit, Earl H. Herald to Chaos. Lexington: U of Kentucky, 1960. Print.
PS3535.O172 Z8, Young Library - 5th Floor

Roberts, Elizabeth Madox, Clare Leighton, Robert Penn Warren, and William H. Slavick. The Time of Man : A Novel. Lexington, Ky.: U of Kentucky, 1982. Print.
PS3535.O172 T560 1926, Young Library - 5th Floor

Roberts, Elizabeth Madox. Black Is My Truelove's Hair. New York: Viking, 1938. Print. SOLINET/ASERL Cooperative Microfilming Project (NEH PA-23510-00) ; SOL MN09129.05 KUK.
PS3535.O172 B650 1938, Young Library - 5th Floor

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