Andrew Nelson Lytle (1902—1995) was a Southern novelist, critic, and essayist of outstanding merit. Born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, he studied drama at Yale University and in his 20s wrote plays and appeared on the Broadway stage. Later he managed the family farm and became associated with the Southern Agrarians at Vanderbilt University, contributing an essay on the values of rural life to I’ll Take My Stand. Lytle never departed from the Agrarian philosophy. All of his works were written as a Christian and in what M.E. Bradford called the spirit of “hard pastoral” — rural life without sentimentality. From 1961 to 1973 Lytle was professor of English at the University of the South and editor of The Sewanee Review, which he made into one of the best literary journals of the world. He encouraged many younger writers who later became prominent and excelled as a critic of European as well as American literature. (His last book, Kristin: A Reading, 1992, was an appreciation of the Swedish writer Sigrid Undset.)
Lytle viewed the South and America in a centuries-wide perspective, as the transfer of European civilization from the earliest Spanish explorers to contemporary times — a transfer that created a problematic fall from the substance of Christendom. The wilderness had a darker aspect as well as a creative one, creativity sometimes amounting to destruction.
“Mr. Lytle,” as he was always called, spent a long retirement at a log cabin in Monteagle, Tennessee, which was a place of pilgrimage for many writers, teachers, and scholars. He was famous as a raconteur as well as a writer. Nearly all of Lytle’s books have been republished one or more times. The works we have recommended are Bedford Forrest and His Critter Company (07.03.02), From Eden to Babylon (10.06.07), Stories: Alchemy and Others (11.00.04), At the Moon’s Inn (11.01.05), and The Long Night (11.04.10).