Andrew Lytle died on his couch at his log cabin home on December 12, 1995. Such a passing was and will be known as it can only be known by family and friends who shared with him a wealth of love. The intimacies of privacy were qualified as they must be by the ritual of funeral rites and burial, and by the announcement to the world that a man of note was gone into history—and mystery. But for the public there was and is still much to be remarked.

Andrew Nelson Lytle died in Monteagle, Tennessee, two weeks short of his 93rd birthday. He left much behind him—in his influence and in his books, a tremendous presence. But now too we must sense the force of his absence. No longer will he stand before his blazing hearth as the very image of the generous host—the most festive, the most supercharged of ritualists. The fire that he loved to stoke was an image of his internal energy and spirited personality, of his love of life and zest for conviviality.

Mr. Lytle consumed his days with gusto and ignited them with laughter. Anyone who had ever been privileged to be warmed by that fire or to be lifted by the bourbon he dispensed from silver cups must have sensed that to be in that hall before that hearth, in the presence of that complex glow, was simply the best place in the world to be. Mr. Lytle’s generosity was not, I think, a mere social amenity, however gracious, but was rather a statement, even a metaphysical one, of principle. To him the joy of life was the truth of natural abundance, just as to him everything physical was animated by spirit. His storytelling was as sacramental as his tomatoes and his apples. Sharing their was a reflection of creation itself—the feast of life. He pointedly declined to participate in the heresy—”the present confusion,” as he called it—which sanctions the image of existence rather than the substance of being. As long as he could, he kept up his garden and always lived in the shadow of Eden. Surely he was, as he liked to say, “an Old Christian.”

Mr. Lytle had long since made his mark, his contribution—he had seen to it that some part of his overflowing spirit was transmitted or transmuted. He did so in various ways. I suppose that the most social ways in which he did so were by his teaching at the University of Iowa, at the University of Florida, at the University of the South at Sewanee, and elsewhere. He did so above all as a specialist in “creative writing,” a term he deplored. He was a writing coach and consultant who took intense and unstinting interest in the personal development of generations of students, some of whom became themselves accomplished writers. Flannery O’Connor and Madison Jones he regarded as the most gifted young writers he had known—and there were many others.

He also made a contribution as editor of the Sewanee Review, which he made particularly receptive to excellent fiction, a tradition that continues today. But surely his finest contribution, or at least his most visible one. was his own writing. The sheer brilliance of Andrew Lytle’s literary criticism (gathered today in Southerners and Europeans], much of which reflected his work in the classroom, has tended to obscure his even more brilliant fiction, which is the cream of his work. His first novel, The Long Night (1936), was developed from a family legend and derives great strength from the oral tradition, as private obsession is overtaken by the enveloping violence of the Civil War. His second, At the Moon’s Inn (1941), tells the epic and Faustian story of De Soto’s march from Florida to the Mississippi, and is a fable solidly grounded in history. A Name for Evil (1947) can be seen as a daring revision of Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw—and also seen as surpassing its model. The Velvet Horn (1957) is usually thought to be Lytle’s masterpiece.

Fiction did not altogether satisfy Lytle’s need to tell stories. A Wake for the Living (1975) takes his ancestors and family through the cycle of American history, and the stories are true. Neither did old age silence him nor dim his response to literature. Kristin (1992), on Sigrid Undset’s remarkable saga, is written as though Lytic had himself written Kristin Lavransdatter.

Andrew Lytle’s first creative impulses were dramatic, but his first notable writing was historical and polemical. His biography of General Nathan Bedford Forrest (1931) still finds new readers. His contribution to the symposium I’ll Take My Stand (1930) identified him as the most literal of the Agrarians, and his longevity made him the last.

Mr. Lytle’s life and work were all of a piece. His family was an image of history; his environment was concrete and ultimately biblical; his consciousness was mythical; his imagination was embodied in the words he shaped. He was uniquely aware that our monstrous materialism shrouds a profound emptiness, but also that the fullness of the Creation is an endless abundance. His politics were the polities of limits but also of love. He declared that the opposite of love was not hate, but lust for power, the results of which we live with.

Now we will have to live without him, though not without what he left behind in accomplishment and in human connections. Andrew Lytle’s departure has diminished the world of everyone who knew him. The answer to such a loss is to be found in the example of courtly manners, playful humor, and ironic consciousness exemplified by Andrew Lytle.