Calvin S. Brown, 1909-1989

Founder of the University of Georgia’s Comparative Literature Department


Researched and Written by Ronald Bogue


Calvin S. Brown, the guiding force in the formation of the University of Georgia’s Comparative Literature Department, was an early proponent of comparative literature in the United States, and an internationally influential pioneer in the interdisciplinary study of literature and music.  He was an avid student of languages, with a command of several European languages, and he maintained a lifelong interest in cryptography and biology, especially entomology and herpetology.


In this wide-ranging study of languages, literature and the sciences, Calvin was very much his father’s son.  Calvin’s father, Calvin Smith Brown, Jr. (our Calvin was actually born Calvin Smith Brown, III, though he always signed his published work simply as Calvin S. Brown), was born in 1866 near Glass, in Obion County, Tennessee (the northwest corner of the state, not far, notes Janet Ford in her biographical essay on Brown, from the Obion Mound Indian Preserve outside Paris, TN [Ford 1987: 64]).  Brown attended Vanderbilt University, receiving his BS in 1888, MS in 1891, and D.Sc in 1892, his Doctorate of Science formally in geology, though “Brown’s main area of interest was paleobotany—his dissertation was entitled The Coal Flora of Tracy City (Tennessee)” (Ford 1987: 64).  Ford observes that Brown’s breadth of interests and attention to detail were evident even in his undergraduate days.  Among the Brown memorabilia Ford reviews is a notebook, “titled in an elegant handwritten script, ‘Astronomical Surveying for Engineers.  Taken from the notes of Prof. O. H. Landreth, C. E., of Vanderbilt University by C. S. Brown, Jr., Dec., 1884,’” with an inscription “added below at an obviously later time [,] ‘Also various other matters’” (Ford 1987: 64).  What Ford finds particularly interesting is the notebook section devoted to “other matters.”  “It includes meticulous description (complete with scale diagrams) of a number of industrial processes, e.g., the manufacture of black powder as observed at the Sycamore Powder Mills in 1887; production of charcoal and its by-product, wood alcohol, at the Decatur Chemical Works; the printing process of ‘stereotyping’ at a publishing firm; sulphuric acid manufacture at the Nashville Fertilizer plant, and to show his true calling to archaeology, a detailed account of beer production as observed at the Nashville Brewing Company” (Ford 1987: 65).


After his graduation from Vanderbilt, Brown studied at the Universities of Paris and Leipzig (1894-1895) and then returned to pursue a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at the University of Colorado (Phillips 1973: xvii).  According to David M. Hays, Archivist at the University of Colorado, upon Brown’s graduation in 1899, “his major was listed as Comparative Literature and his minors were French Literature and German Literature,” and The Directory of Officers and Graduates, 1877-1921, University of Colorado Bulletin v. l XXI, No. 10, General Series No. 175, Boulder, Colorado, August 1921, p. 140, “lists Brown as Instructor in Comparative and English Literature 1898-1900” (personal communication).  Hays remarks that “real departments with chairs and several subordinate faculty do not appear to have developed at the University of Colorado until well after 1900, often after 1910.  Between 1880 and 1910, fields of study were covered by a professor and maybe one or two temporary instructors: not exactly on a departmental level.” Despite the absence of a formal department of comparative literature, however, it is worth noting that Brown and his major professor recognized the existence of such a discipline in the 1890s, and that the formal designation of Brown’s PhD was in “Comparative Literature.”  Brown’s interests were genuinely comparative, given his minors in French and German literature and his service as an Instructor in Comparative and English Literature, but his dissertation was not.  His dissertation, which Brown defended May 12, 1899, was titled “The Later English Drama.”  The previous year, Brown had published The Later English Drama, ed. with an introduction and notes by Calvin S. Brown (New York: S. S. Barnes and Company, 1898), xx, 571 pp., which, according to World Cat, note c. 3, was “also presented as the author’s thesis for the degree of Ph.D., 1899, Univ. of Colo., Boulder.”  The book’s contents include a preface, introduction, bibliography, and the texts of Oliver Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer [1773], Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s School for Scandal [1777], James Sheridan Knowles’s Virginius [1820; Knowles, we might observe, was the cousin of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and Virginius, written for Edmund Kean, was a notable success when premiered at Covent Garden], Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s The Lady of Lyons [1838] and Richelieu, or the Conspiracy [1839].  (Both of Bulwer-Lytton’s verse dramas, like Knowles’s Virginius, were quite popular in their day, and though now largely forgotten, their inclusion in an 1898 anthology of “Later English Drama” would have seemed reasonable at the time.)


After completing his studies at the University of Colorado, Brown taught at Vanderbilt, served as an Instructor in the Department of Romance Languages, University of Missouri, and following a year of travel in Spain, Italy, and Greece in 1904-5 (Phillips 1973: xvii), assumed a post as Assistant Professor of Romance Languages at the University of Mississippi in 1905.  There he would remain for the rest of his academic life, teaching German, French and Italian, and eventually becoming the chair of the Department of Modern Languages.  (As an aside, Ford includes in her biographical sketch of Brown the fact that “because of campus politics, the Department of Spanish was at that time separate from the Department of Modern Languages” [Ford 1987: 65].)


While Brown’s professional duties were in modern languages, he continued to pursue his interests in the sciences, publishing a monograph on The Lignite of Mississippi in 1907, as well as essays on the “Botany of Tishomingo State Park,” on “Landscaping with Native Plants,” and on the petrified forest of Mississippi (Ford 1987: 65).  Apparently, he had also long maintained an interest in archaeology.  Mississippi had initiated a Geological Survey of the state in the early twentieth-century, and Dr. E. N. Lowe, State Geologist and Director of the Mississippi Geological Survey, asked his friend Brown to assume the title of “archaeologist” for the project.  Brown began photographing mound sites as early as 1912, and for the next fourteen years he amassed an impressive collection of photographs and artifacts, while documenting his work with multiple records.  “He kept separate notebooks of sites, collectors, and collections reported to him, noting when he visited or viewed them and cross-indexing any correspondence dealing with them.  In addition, he kept a detailed journal” (Ford 1987: 66; Ford provides a detailed description of Brown’s research practices and the contents of the archaeological collection that eventually formed the central core of the University of Mississippi’s archaeology laboratory.)  The end result of Brown’s labors was his book The Archaeology of Mississippi (1926), which is now recognized as one of the pioneering works of its kind.  Republished by AMS Press for the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology of Harvard University in 1973, the book was republished a second time by the University of Mississippi Press in 1992.


So much for the father of our primary subject.  Calvin Smith Brown, III, henceforth referred to simply as Calvin, was born 27 September, 1909, in Oxford, Mississippi.  As the son of a university professor, Calvin grew up on the campus of the University of Mississippi, which provided housing for its faculty and other employees.  Some sense of what life was like in the Oxford of Calvin’s youth may be discerned in the fascinating collection of essays William Faulkner of Oxford, ed. James W. Webb and A. Wigfall Green (Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University Press, 1965).  The volume gathers reminiscences of Faulkner by various citizens of Oxford, including Calvin’s mother, Maud Morrow Brown, whose aunt was a close friend of Faulkner’s mother; Calvin’s sister, Edith Brown Douds; and Calvin himself.  Calvin’s contribution, “Billy Faulkner, My Boyhood Friend” (pp. 40-48), focuses on a period during which he and three other boys played games Sunday afternoons with William Faulkner (then Billy Falkner), who was ten to twelve years their senior.  Calvin prefaces his account with the caveat that “I am going to write what I remember, not what I can dig up.  This is a reminiscence, not a work of scholarship.  I cannot give dates, for my early friendship with Billy falls during that time of childhood when everything flows together unless there is a death or a move or some other disaster to plot it by.  We had no disasters; hence the best I can do is to say that the period of our close-knit group and its Sunday afternoons with Billy was at some time in the very early twenties and lasted a couple of years or so” (p. 41).


The group consisted of Calvin, his brother Robert (two years older than Calvin), William (Rip) Van Santen (one year older than Calvin), and Dean Falkner (Billy youngest brother, the same age as Calvin and ten years younger than Billy).  Dean had become a member of the neighborhood group when Murry Falkner, the father of Billy and Dean, had moved to the campus as business manager of the University.  Sunday afternoons, the boys, along with Billy, would play a game they called hare and hounds.  After tearing newspapers into one-inch squares and stuffing them into a large bag, the boys would select two members to be the hares, the others being the hounds.  The hares would choose a starting point for the chase and a final goal.  The hares would then run into the woods, leaving a trail of newspaper scraps for the hounds to follow, dropping the empty bag at the end of the paper trail, at which point the hares would run to the final goal.  After waiting five minutes, the hounds would follow the trail to the end, pick up the bag, and then themselves proceed to the final goal (carrying the empty sack as proof that they had actually followed the trail).  The object of the game was for the hounds to overtake the hares before they got to the goal.


The game was very strenuous, and Billy was able to keep up with the boys, which was “no mean feat for a man in his twenties who makes no fetish of training and fitness” (p. 45).  Calvin recalls that “Billy once talked his contemporary and early literary mentor Phil Stone into coming on a paper-chase, and it nearly killed him” (p. 43).  Calvin’s reminiscence of these Sunday afternoons concludes in an eloquent tribute to the manner in which Faulkner joined in the boys’ games.


            It is hard to give any real notion of Billy’s relationship to us boys.  Like everything that he ever said, did, or wrote, it was built on a foundation of genuineness.  I have never known a man less capable of sham.  Billy never pretended to be “one of us”—the difference in ages was too great to be overlooked.  He accepted the leadership and authority that naturally fell to him, but he exercised them with a wisdom which was deeper than mere tact.  If he never condescended or talked down to us, neither did he boss or dominate us.  He did not have to restrain himself from doing these things.  They were simply foreign to his nature.  He accepted the difference in ages for exactly what it was worth (which was intrinsically not much), not playing it either up or down.  This balance was all the easier for him because he was never effusive or demonstrative; he was always somewhat aloof, even with close friends of his own age.  Billy’s attitude toward us boys was simply that of a close friend who keeps his distance because of a basic respect for the individual; and this attitude was almost the direct opposite of the regimented, supervised-play, group-leader sort of thing that Billy’s play with us superficially resembles.  I am sure that he never thought of us as a “group”; we were simply four quite different persons that met with him to do things that all five of us enjoyed.  I am equally sure—and it is to Billy’s eternal credit—that he did not set out to work with youth, to lead us in the way that we should go, to do us good.  And I am convinced that because of this he did us a great deal of good, largely in ways beyond all demonstration or explanation.  I suppose the most tangible thing was to teach us by example some of his own independence and respect for the independence of others. (pp. 46-7)


Calvin graduated from Oxford High School in 1925, and at age 18, he completed his BA in German at the University of Mississippi as Valedictorian of the class of 1928.  He began his graduate education in the fall of 1928 at the University of Cincinnati, where he earned an MA in English in one year, writing a thesis on “Swinburne and Christianity.”  He entered the PhD program in Comparative Literature at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, fall 1929.  His principal mentor at Wisconsin was Philo Buck, one of the pioneers in the discipline.  Before completing his PhD, Calvin went to Oxford in 1930 as a Rhodes Scholar.  Cleanth Brooks, a fellow Rhodes Scholar, opens his obituary for Calvin with the following remarks:


                        The death of Calvin S. Brown has removed from the scene one of the most accomplished Rhodes Scholars of my day.  He was of the class of 1930, I of 1929; but we did not meet at Oxford.  I regret that my meeting with Calvin did not occur until some years later.

                        Calvin’s Merton and Oxford career was most successful.  He won a first in English, not an easy thing to do, for one had to be very good in the language papers as well as those in literature and, moreover, had to be able to write—so strong rumor had it—in the “Oxford style.”  Calvin was no pale, detached aesthete.  He was president of the Bodley Club, but he was also a member of the jiu-jitsju team and so could manage well that skillful and elegant rough-and-tumble sport. (Brooks 111)


(Weisstein notes that besides participating in jiu-jitsu, Calvin also was a member of the gymnastics team at the University of Mississippi and the chess team at the University of Cincinnati [Weisstein 2000: 81].)


After earning his First Class Honours Degree in English with a Special Paper in French at Oxford in 1932, he spent a year doing library research in Heidelberg.  He returned to Wisconsin in 1933 and completed his PhD in 1934, with a dissertation on the topic “The Musical Opus in Poetry.”  Upon graduation, he taught English and German at Phillips Exeter Academy (1934-35), and then English as an Associate Professor at Memphis State (1935-38).  In 1938 he began his career at the University of Georgia as an Assistant Professor, earning promotion to the rank of Associate Professor in 1940 and Professor in 1946.  In 1957 he was named Foundation Professor of English and Comparative Literature, a title he held until his retirement in 1977, at which time he was named Alumni Foundation Professor of Comparative Literature Emeritus.


 Calvin’s academic career was put on hiatus during World War II, when, from 1942 to 1946, he served as a Research Analyst (cryptanalytic), U. S. Military Intelligence, in Arlington, Virginia.  Weisstein cites the following passage from an essay of Calvin’s on the poetic “cult of intelligibility” as evidence of the bearing Calvin’s interest in cryptography had on his understanding of literary scholarship:


           The competent mind responds to the challenge of a good puzzle, and the cryptanalytic faculty can contribute to aesthetic enjoyment, though it does not always do so.  A good example of its limitation is supplied by such puzzles as the “literary crypts” and the “double crostics” of our newspapers […] These are good examples of the puzzle-solving faculty applied to making out the meaning of a literary passage, but having no aesthetic value or significance because the process of solution, though necessary for arriving at the final text, does not affect it.  When the text is found, the puzzle is gone.  Yet it is widely recognized that the joy of puzzle-solving can be part of the appeal of poetry. (Cited in Weisstein 2000: 80).


As an undergraduate and graduate student, Calvin had studied German and French language and literature, and throughout his life he continued to expand the reach of his linguistic competence.  In his American Oxonian obituary, Cleanth Brooks writes that “Calvin was never merely the brilliant specialist.  He loved languages and brought to his study of English the wealth of his knowledge of the great literatures of Western culture.  He was reputed to read in fourteen languages” (Brooks 1990: 111-12).  Somewhat more modestly, Calvin said of himself in a 1983 essay, “As regards reading, I can qualify as an expert reader, reading four or five languages effortlessly and a number of others with varying degrees of difficulty” (cited in Weisstein 2000: 78).  (Calvin told me that, as a proud atheist, he enjoyed meeting the occasional team of visiting Gideon bible distributors on campus, and when asked if he wanted a bible, responding, “No thanks, I already have bibles in sixteen languages at home.”)  Besides exercising his linguistic abilities in his wide-ranging critical studies, which included essays on Beowulf, ancient Greek lyric poetry, Gabriele d’Annunzio, Zola, Mallarmé, Mann, and Rilke, he also published translations of poems by Josef Weinheber, Stefan George, Sappho, Horace, and Petrarch and a translation of Molière’s Tartuffe.


Most of Calvin’s translations were prepared for the anthology of Western world literature he co-edited in 1947.  Although not the first of its kind, Masterworks of World Literature, ed. Edward M. Everett, Calvin S. Brown, and John D. Wade (New York: Dryden Press, 1947), 2 vols., was a pioneering anthology that helped promote comparative literature by making great European literary works accessible to American students in an affordable textbook format.  (A remarkable antecedent of the Everett, Brown, Wade anthology is Adventures in World Literature, ed. Rewey Belle Inglis and William K. Stewart [New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1938], a 1,200 page anthology with selections from modern French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, Scandinavian and Russian literature; classical Greek and Roman literature; and, in a section titled “Oriental Literature,” works of Egyptian, Babylonian-Assyrian, Hebrew, Persian, Arabic, Indian, Chinese and Japanese literature.)  Although Calvin is listed as the second of three editors, I have no doubt that he was the driving force behind the anthology.  Everett, who had assumed the headship of the English Department in 1947, had published exclusively on English literature before 1947, his primary publication being The Party of Humanity; the Fortnightly Review and its Contributors, 1865-1874 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1939).  (As far as I can determine, his only other publications were handbooks and workbooks for Freshman composition instruction.)  John D. Wade, though a more distinguished scholar than Everett, also had concentrated only on literature written in English, especially 19th- and 20th-century American literature before the inception of the anthology project.  Wade had taught at Vanderbilt University from 1928 to 1934, during which time he participated actively in the Agrarian Movement centered at that university.  He came to the University of Georgia in 1934, and served as Head of the English Department from 1939 to 1946.  In 1947, he founded The Georgia Review and served as its editor until his retirement in 1950.  (For more information on Wade, see Davidson 1966.)  My conclusion is that Calvin supplied the expertise for the anthology, and the senior scholars Everett and Wade (his department heads during the period of preparation for publication) provided the prestige necessary to market the project.


A second edition of the anthology was issued in 1955, and a third in 1970.  The second edition bears the same editorial names as the first, but the editors of the third are listed as Calvin S. Brown, Edward M. Everett and Robert L. Harrison.  Of this project Bob Harrison says that “My first task [upon joining the English Department in 1965] was editing, along with Calvin, a third edition of Masterworks of World Literature.  By the time I arrived in Athens Robert Wade was dead and Ed Everett was in retirement and incommunicado.  (I don’t recall ever having seen him.)  Calvin and I did all the work, and left Everett’s name on the book as a courtesy.  (He also received, as I recall, 40% of the royalties.)”  Perhaps Calvin’s generosity toward Everett in regard to the anthology’s third edition sheds some light on Everett’s and Wade’s roles in the first and second editions.


In addition to co-editing the Masterworks anthology, Calvin served as General Editor of The Reader’s Companion to World Literature (1956; 2nd edition, rev. 1973), a dictionary of literary terms, movements and authors that remains in print today.  He was also the co-founder and editor for several years of the annual “Bibliography on the Relations of Literature and the Other Arts” (since 1952), which now is included as one section of the Yearbook in Comparative and General Literature.


Calvin was also active in the early days of the American Comparative Literature Association.  Besides editing the YCGL annual “Bibliography on the Relations of Literature and the Other Arts,” Calvin served on several ACLA committees, including the Executive Committee (1967-1968) and the Committee on the Constitution (1974-1975).


Perhaps the area in which Calvin’s scholarship had the most profound impact was in the interdisciplinary study of literature and music.  His Music and Literature:  A Comparison of the Arts (Athens:  University of Georgia Press, 1948; republished 1987) was a seminal work in the development of this field.  As Jean-Louis Cupers and Ulrich Weisstein comment in the Preface to Word and Music:  Musico-Poetics in Perspective.  Calvin Brown in Memoriam, “Professor Brown was a man whose scholarly achievements, stretching over a period of, roughly, half a century, culminated, early on, in the publication of the first systematic, though not fully comprehensive, booklength survey of that branch of interart(s) studies that has come to be known as Melopoetics.  On the basis of his truly pioneering work in this interdisciplinary realm, he must be regarded as the spiritus rector of our burgeoning subdiscipline” (Cupers and Weisstein 2000: ix).  Calvin’s position as a leader in the field was further enhanced with the publication of his second contribution to the subject in 1953, Tones into Words:  Musical Compositions as Subjects of Poetry (Athens: University of Georgia Press).  Calvin conceived of this work as part of his scholarship as a comparatist, as is evident in his 1959 definition of the comparative literature, which, according to Weisstein, “was one of the first to include the Mutual Illumination of the Arts” (Weisstein 2000: 77):


Comparative Literature accepts the fact that all the fine arts are similar activities, despite their differing media and techniques, and that there are not only parallels between them induced by the general spirit, the Zeitgeist, of differing eras, but that there are frequently direct influences of one art on another.  Not all of these relationships fall in the field of the comparatist.  The parallels between baroque architecture and baroque music, for example, are off his beat.  But the relationships of literature with the other arts are a part of his domain and are, by general consent, usually considered as part of comparative literature even when only one country is involved.  (cited in Weisstein 2000: 77)


In addition to his interests in the broad tradition of Western literature and in the relationship between literature and music, Calvin maintained a lifelong enthusiasm for the works of William Faulkner.  His intimate knowledge of Faulkner’s Mississippi—its climate, topography, dialectal patterns, cultural idiosyncrasies, mores and historical specifics—his thorough familiarity with Faulkner’s writings, his meticulous attention to detail, and his insistence on precision in matters of fact made him the ideal individual to undertake A Glossary of Faulkner’s South, which he published with Yale University Press in 1976.  As Calvin pointed out in the book’s Introduction, “Faulkner is not the property of the South, or of American literature.   He has definitely become a part of world literature” (Brown 1976: 2).  And as a result, there was a pressing need for a glossary of this sort.  “It seems obvious that a ‘yellin calf’ is yelling, and a person who has never been closer to a calf than an East Side delicatessen will not be puzzled by the fact that calves do not yell.  Few readers will realize, unaided, that it is a yearling calf” (Brown 1976: 2).  The following entries should give some sense of the nature of the glossary and the scale of Calvin’s achievement in creating this invaluable resource:


Beaten biscuit (Sart. 26; S&F 358; CS:MV 760): a sort of BISCUIT made with slightly  different ingredients from the ordinary kind.  The distinctive thing about it is that the dough must be beaten vigorously for about half an hour.  A rolling-pin may be used, but careful cooks like Dilsey use a special mallet (S&F, 358).  Beaten biscuits are not really very good, but they are always appreciated because of the labor that goes into making them.


 Flat city pistol (Fable 192): an automatic, as opposed to the revolvers favored in rural areas.


Gutting (Mosq. 253). I have found no clue as to what this may mean.  Presumably somebody’s and anybody’s are possessives rather than contractions, and in that case gutting must be a n. or gerund; but that does not give much help.


High school graduating classes … caps and gowns (Town 123).  This is an anachronism since the time is right after World War I, but the high-school aping of baccalaureate regalia did not come until well after my graduation from Oxford High School in 1925.  Faulkner was probably thinking of the University High School commencement of 1951, at which he made the address.


Hoops (CS: MGM 695): the hoops supporting a hoop-skirt.  This absurd garment has a tricky way of tilting up at the back to produce an indecorous exposure of its wearer.  Hence “spreading her hoops back” was not merely the spreading of the skirt that frequently accompanied a curtsy, but a precautionary measure as well.


Pin oak (Unv. 13; Ham. 225; RfaN 101): not the pin oak (Quercus palustris) of most tree handbooks, which does not grow as far south as Faulkner’s country, but the willow oak (Q. phellos), which is also called pin oak.  Its leaves are shaped like those of a willow, and average about ¾” wide and 4” long.  The tree grows best in river bottoms, where it reaches a height of well over 100’ and a diameter of more than 4’.  It is also often grown ornamentally along streets.  Most of the large oaks on North and South Lamar in Oxford and along the road between the bridge and the Confederate monument on the University of Mississippi campus are willow oaks.


You can haul out the family sock on it (Mosq. 258).  Since a sock is a traditional place for hiding the family’s savings, this seems to be a fancy variant of “You can bank on it.”


In  1977, Calvin retired as an Alumni Foundation Professor of Comparative Literature Emeritus.  He and his wife, Irene, moved to Sanibel Island, where “he became, in the words of his spouse, a ‘staunch conservationist’ who, jointly with her, ‘worked to preserve the island’s character’” (Weisstein 2000: 81).  There he passed away 10 June 1989.


Perhaps the best way to conclude this sketch is to reproduce the Sewanee Review editor’s obituary notice and accompanying tribute to Calvin written by Jim Kilgo.


Calvin Brown, Alumni foundation distinguished professor of comparative literature, emeritus, at the University of Georgia, contributed to the Sewanee Review for fifty years.  In that time he wrote articles and reviews for this magazine concerning Greek culture and mythology, Beowulf, Wagner and opera, the picaresque novel, Kafka, Mann, T. S. Eliot, Conrad Aiken, and comparative literature.  Over the past decade he regularly reviewed books for the SR written by and about Rilke and Faulkner; his last piece on Faulkner appears in this issue.  Professor Brown also wrote books on music and literature, Zola, and Faulkner’s language.  During World War II he served as a cryptanalyst for the War Department; the remainder of his mature life he was a scholar devoted to English and comparative literature (late in his life he learned to read Russian with facility) and an amateur naturalist and conservationist.  It is no wonder that he was affectionately known to his colleagues as Capability Brown. –Ed.


The first time I saw Calvin Brown I hardly noticed him.  We were in a New York hotel room where I was being interviewed by Robert West for an instructorship at the University of Georgia.  Professor West was so commanding in his patrician formality that I paid little attention to the man sitting cross-legged on the bed behind him.  In contrast to West’s conservative attire, his plaid shirt was open at the neck.  I decided that he was some humble assistant to the head of the English department.

            As I was to learn, Calvin Brown’s manner and appearance belied his achievements as a Rhodes scholar, army cryptanalyst, reader of fourteen languages, distinguished professor, and author of numerous scholarly books and articles; but his conversation gave him away.  Sitting Indian-style on a sofa in the faculty lounge, he demonstrated daily a command of logic and wit that delighted his friends and dismayed those whose sacred cattle he was leading to the slaughterhouse.  Without pretentiousness himself, he was quick to expose hypocrisy and sham, especially in their academic forms.

            Because Calvin was incapable of giving empty praise and false encouragement, many people were surprised to discover that he was in fact a kind and generous man.  When he learned that I shared his interest in wildlife, he invited me—at that time the lowliest of faculty members—to go tramping with him in the woods.  And that was just the first of many such excursions—watching birds, collecting snakes, hunting arrowheads.  Not only was I the beneficiary of his remarkable knowledge of birds, reptiles, insects, and wildflowers, but I was privileged to witness his unguarded delight in the natural world.

            Once after seeing and identifying a grasshopper sparrow—an undistinguished little bird rarely seen in our part of the country—I shared with him the exciting news.  To which he replied: “I have little interest in sparrows.  They are too damned pedantic.”  There was nothing pedantic about Calvin S. Brown, nothing trivial or petty.  Those of us fortunate enough to have known him as colleague, teacher, or friend have been enriched by his rare wit and kind heart.  –James Kilgo




The following obituary appeared Friday, 16 June, in the Athens Banner-Herald


SANIBEL, Fla – Dr. Calvin S. Brown, 79, of Athens died Saturday, June 10.

            Dr. Brown, a native of Oxford, Miss., was valedictorian when he received his B.A. in German from the University of Mississippi at the age of 18.  He was on the university gymnastics team.  He received his M.A. in English from the University of Cincinnati where he was on the chess team.

            He interrupted work on his doctorate in comparative literature at the University of Wisconsin to study at Oxford University-Merton College as a Rhodes Scholar.  He received a First Class Honour’s Degree in English with a Special Paper in French also.  He was president of the Bodley Club and was on the Oxford jiu-jitsu team.

            During his last year at Oxford, he continued his research in comparative literature studies throughout Europe.  He could red 14 languages.  He received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin in 1934.  After teaching German at Phillips-Exeter Academy and English at Memphis State University, he was a professor in the University of Georgia English Department.  He served as a codebreaker in W.W. II and was cited by the War Department for excellence.  He made several liaison trips to Canada.

            After the war, he returned to the University of Georgia English Department to head the Comparative Literature Department.  He was awarded the title of Alumni Foundation Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature.  He was a guest lecturer and published about 200 scholar articles.  He wrote a weekly column on literary matters for the Athens Banner-Herald.  He retired to Sanibel, Fla. In 1978.

            Survivors include his wife, Irene Brown; one son, Dr. C. Hugh Brown; and one sister, Dr. Edith B. Douds.


Works Cited


Works About Calvin Smith Brown, Jr. (1866-1945)

Brown, Calvin S. 1926. The Archaeology of Mississippi. Oxford: University of Mississippi.  Reprinting, “with a New Introduction by Philip Phillips, Curator of Southeastern American Archaeology, Peabody Museum.” New York:  AMS Press, 1973.  Reprinting, “With a New Introduction by Janet Ford.” Oxford: University of Mississippi Press, 1992.

Ford, Janet 1987.  “Calvin Brown and the Archaeology of Mississippi.” Mississippi Archaeology 22:2, 63-70.

Phillips, Philip 1973. “Introduction.” Calvin S. Brown, Archaeology of Mississippi. New York: AMS Press, xvii-xix.

Works About Calvin Smith Brown, III (1919-1989)

Brooks, Cleanth 1990.  “Obituaries.  Calvin S. Brown. 1909-1989.” The American Oxonian 77:1, 111-113.

Brown, Calvin S. 1948. Literature and Music:  A Comparison of the Arts.  Athens:  University of Georgia Press.

Brown, Calvin S. 1952.  Repetition in Zola’s Novels.  Athens:  University of Georgia Press.

Brown, Calvin S. 1953. Tone into Words:  Musical Compositions as Subjects of Poetry.  Athens:  University of Georgia Press.

Brown, Calvin S 1976.  A Glossary of Faulkner’s South.  New Haven CT:  Yale University Press.

Brown, Calvin S., Edward M. Everett, and Robert L. Harrison, eds. 1970.  Masterworks of World Literature. 3rd ed.  2 vols.  New York:  Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

 Cupers, Jean-Louis and Ulrich Weisstein, eds. 2000.  Word and Music Studies: Musico-Poetics in Perspective.  Calvin S. Brown in Memoriam.  Amsterdam:   Rodopi.

Davidson, Donald 1960.  “Introduction.”  Selected Essays and Other Writings of John Donald Wade, ed. and with an introduction by Donald Davidson.  Athens:  University of Georgia Press,  pp. 1-20.

Everett, Edward M., Calvin S. Brown, and John D. Wade, eds. 1947.  Masterworks of World Literature. 2 vols.  New York:  Dryden Press.

Everett, Edward M., Calvin S. Brown, and John D. Wade, eds. 1955.  Masterworks of World Literature. 2nd edition.  2 vols.  New York:  Dryden Press.

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