A Province of the Republicnby J.O. Taten”Literature is an avenue to glory ever open for those ingenious men who arendeprived of honors or of wealth.”n— Isaac D’IsraelinThe Lytle-Tate Letters: ThenCorrespondence of Andrew Lytlenand Allen Tatenedited by Thomas Daniel Young andnElizabeth SarconenJackson: University Press ofnMississippi; 374 pp., $39.50nThe Years of Our Friendship:nRobert Lowell and Allen Tatenby William DoreskinJackson: University Press ofnMississippi; 251 pp., $30.00nThese volumes — one of letters, thenother heavily dependent on correspondence—ndocument and analyze,nrespectively, episodes of American literarynhistory that feature three brilliantnpersonalities. These volumes will surelynattract readers on that basis, for there isnan element of celebrity, of controversynJ.O. Tate is a professor of English atnDowling College on Long Island.nand gossip, attaching to the names ofnAllen Tate and Robert Lowell, andneven to Andrew Lytle’s name. Beyondnthat level, however, there is substance tonbe gleaned, and lessons learned. Thesenvolumes are in their different waysninstructive, entertaining, and chastening.nI find them above all both upliftingnand deflating; for when I am notnbuoyed by their contents, I am castndown by comparisons with the literarynscene of today.nThe letters between Andrew Lytlenand Allen Tate are in effect the body ofnover forty years (1927-1968) of literarynand cultural comradeship. Their associationnas Agrarians, famously expressednin I’ll Take My Stand (1930), is herendocumented expansively as a sharednpoint of view rather than the particularnpolitical position that would be presentlynconstrued. That viewpoint distinguishednAllen Tate (1899-1979) fromnmost of his contemporaries, and it stillndistinguishes Andrew Lytle — perhapsnthe most remarkable of living Ameri­nnncan writers — today. Tate the poetnmoved from a tense historical awarenessnand satirical tone to a Dantesquenmode before the muse deserted him.nLytle the storyteller is still spinningnyarns and narrating myths and histories.nBoth of them have left some of thenbest criticism there is, work fortified byna perspective they shared and thatnexempted them from the dogmas ofnmodern secular liberalism.nThis point of view was not a provincialnbut rather a regional one of historicalndepth and sophistication. The levelnat which Lyde and Tate thought, thenterms of their discourse, must todayngive us pause. Far from being partisannor from embodying the grotesque clichesnformulated by New York andnHollywood, the communings of theirnletters show a standard of apprehensionnwe are hard-pressed to find the like ofntoday. An example is Lytle’s responsento Tate’s imposing novel. The Fathersn(1938), a work notable in the history ofnAmerican literature and a great worknJANUARY 1991/33n