Text: D. M. McKeithan, “Killis Campbell (1872-1937),” Poe and Our Times: Influences and Affinities, Baltimore: The Edgar Allan Poe Society, 1986, pp. 58-74 (This material is protected by copyright)


[page 58, unnumbered:]



Killis Campbell, son of Robert C. and Alice (Hawes) Campbell, was born on 11 June 1872, at Enfield, nineteen miles northeast of Richmond, in King William County, near the center of Tidewater Virginia. He attended the public schools of his native township until his sixteenth year. In the fall of 1888 he became a student at the College of William and Mary at Williamsburg and remained there for two sessions. Having secured a Peabody scholarship in 1890, he transferred to the University of Nashville in the fall of 1890 and studied there until June, 1892. He was awarded the Bachelor of Arts degree in 1891 and the Bachelor of Letters degree in 1892.(1) Neither the short autobiography at the end of his doctoral dissertation nor the brief biography in the Alumni Directory of Peabody College, 1875-1909 throws any light on his whereabouts or activities during the academic year of 1892-1893. Possibly he was earning money to continue his education.(2) In the fall of 1893 he enrolled a second time in the College of William and Mary and graduated with a second Bachelor of Arts degree in June, 1894.

For the next four years (1894-1898) he was a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University, where his mentor was James Wilson Bright, Professor of English. He took courses in English language and literature under Professor James Wilson Bright and Professor William Hand Browne, in German under Professor Wood and Dr. Learned, and in French under Drs. Menger, Marden, and Rambeau. During his first three years at Johns Hopkins he held a Hopkins scholarship, and during his fourth year he held a fellowship in English. He graduated with the Ph.D degree in 1898.

His doctoral dissertation, A Study of the Romance of The Seven Sages with Special Reference to the Middle English Versions, appeared in Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, 1899 (XIV, No. 1), but the printers, John Murphy & Company of Baltimore, had issued it separately in the summer of 1898 as a publication of the Modern Language Association of America, indicating on the back of the title page that it had been “Reprinted from the Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, Vol. XIV, No. 1.”

The main purpose of the dissertation was to “investigate thoroughly the relations of the Middle English versions” of the collection of popular stories known as The Seven Sages of Rome. A preliminary section, however, reviews the history of the romance, its origin in the Orient, its transmission to the Occident, and its popularity in France and Italy. In this first part, Campbell says, he depends mainly on the investigations of other scholars, especially Gaston Paris of France. [page 59:]

In the second and major portion of the study Campbell relies mainly on original study of the eight Middle English versions, in as many different manuscripts, all in verse, which he analyzes and collates in an attempt to establish relationships. He has much to say about authorship, dialects, and sources and adds an account of sixteenth-century and chap-book versions. To examine manuscripts and rare books he had spent the summer of 1897 in Britain reading in various libraries, including those at the British Museum, Balliol College and Cambridge University. It is an admirable scholarly study, written in an eminently readable style. It received favorable notice in Romania (Gaston Paris), in the Beiblatt zur Anglia, and in the Revue Critique.

After one year, 1898-1899, as English Master at Culver Military Academy in Indiana, he joined the staff of the “School of English” at the University of Texas. In 1899-1900 there were only four members of the staff:

Professor Liddell

Professor Callaway

Instructor Campbell

Tutor Heard

The catalogue for 1900-1901 lists six:

Morgan Callaway, Jr., Professor of

English Killis Campbell, Instructor in English

Pierce Butler, Instructor in English

Mary B. Heard, Tutor in English

Cora Waldo, Tutor in English

Edgar E. Townes, Fellow in English

In an announcement in October, 1899, concerning new members of the faculty the University of Texas Record (I, No. 3, p. 351) stated: “He [Killis Campbell] brings with him strong recommendations both in respect to character and scholarship, and an enthusiasm which will certainly bear rich fruit in his teaching.” The editor prophesied better than he knew, and every year for over a generation Killis Campbell was admired more and more for his character, his scholarship, and his enthusiasm for teaching. He remained at the University of Texas until he died in 1937. He began as instructor, became adjunct professor in 1906, associate professor in 1911, and professor in 1918. In 1912-1914 he served as chairman of his department, still known as the School of English.(3)

In 1902 Killis Campbell married Mary Hogg Aitken of Baltimore. To them were born five children-a girl, twin girls, and twin boys. Alice, [page 60:] Katherine and Mary, Hawes and Killis. All the children graduated from the University of Texas and all of them, together with their mother, survived him.

He delighted in literature and in teaching it but considered it his duty to teach students how to write. For twenty years after he arrived at the University, no one in his department gave more time than he to teaching composition. During the whole of that period he taught Freshman English every year, and in the years 1919-1921 he was in general charge of the course, as he had often been in earlier years. Thereafter he taught it from time to time until 1925.

He established English 3, English composition for sophomores, and taught it every year from 1899 to 1920. In 1909 he set up a course in composition for juniors and seniors. English 25, and taught it every year until 1925, at which time he turned it over to Miss Erma Gill and Mrs. Annie Irvine. Thereafter he continued to give much attention to composition in his courses in literature. Even in his graduate seminars he assigned a ten-page essay to be handed in at the end of the first two weeks, and his graduate students soon learned that he expected them to be writers as well as scholars.

When Professor Campbell came to Texas, the sophomore survey of English literature was called English 2: Outline History of English Literature, and the catalogue lists him as a teacher of the course every year from 1902 to 1919. Thereafter he taught it occasionally until 1926.

One of his favorite courses for a decade was the poetry of Milton, which he began teaching in 1904-1905. In 1914-1915 he turned the course over to Evert Mordecai Clark but taught it one more time in 1917-1918. The catalogue for 1906-1907 announced that Killis Campbell would teach English 7: Outline History of the English Novel. It came down to and included Meredith. It also included one American, Nathaniel Hawthorne. In 1912-1913, when he served as chairman of the School of English, he gave the course to James Blanton Wharey but began teaching it again next year although he was still chairman. In 1916 he relinquished the course to Professor Wharey, who taught it thereafter until he retired.

Although trained as a specialist in Anglo-Saxon and Middle English language and literature, Killis Campbell began moving into American literature at the very beginning of his teaching at the University of Texas. The catalogue for 1899-1900 lists as one of his courses English 11: The Literature of the South. The next year the number was changed to English 8. In 1903-1904 he began teaching English 11: American Poetry. Both courses were for juniors and seniors. The course in the literature of the South was discontinued after 1906, probably because hewas especially interested in poetry and [page 61:] because Poe and Lanier were included in the poetry course. The numbers of these and other courses were changed from time to time. Eventually the American poets were given in two one-semester courses, English 337 and 338, and Professor Campbell continued teaching them with enthusiasm and pleasure until his final illness began, in the fall of 1936. In 1915 a course in American prose was set up with his assistance and taught for the next twenty years by Leonidas Warren Payne, Jr. After Professor Campbell’s death the poetry and prose courses were combined.

Killis Campbell became a professor in 1918, and in 1918-1919 for the first time began giving a graduate seminar, English 138: Studies in American Literature. The number of the seminar remained 138 until 1924, it was238 For the next two years, and after that his seminars were 388 and 389. The topic was Lowell from 1918 to 1925 by which time he had decided that Lowell was not substantial enough for a graduate seminar. Other writers, including Emerson, became the topic from time to time until he settled down to three and gave them in turn — Hawthorne, Poe (short stories), and Whitman.

In the same year, 1918-1919, his assignment included English 20, which by this time had become a course for students writing a thesis for the Master of Arts degree.(4) In those days only professors were permitted to direct M. A. theses; and there were only three professors in the department — Callaway, Campbell, and Royster(5) — although Griffith, Law, and Payne became professors the following year.

In the years 1919-1936 master’s theses were completed under the direction of Killis Campbell on Willa Cather, Dickens, Emily Dickinson, Emerson [5], Rufus Wilmot Griswold, Bret Harte, O. Henry [2], Hawthorne [3], Lafcadio Hearn, Irving, Charles Kingsley, Lanier, Vachel Lindsay, Longfellow, Amy Lowell [2], William Vaughn Moody, Frances Sargent Osgood, Poe [5], Maurice Thompson, Mark Twain [3], Edith Wharton, Whitman [6], and Whittier.

He also directed master’s theseson the following topics: The Beginnings of the Short Story in America, Birds in American Poetry, Birds in American Prose, Blank Verse in American Literature Before 1850, Farm Life in Early American Fiction, The Gothic Element in American Literature, The Indian in American Poetry of the Nineteenth Century, Industrialism in American Poetry, Literary Fads and Fashions in America in the 1830s, Literary Fads and Fashions in America in the 1840s, Orientalism in American Poetry up to 1900, The Origin of Transcendental Thought in America, The Sea in American Poetry, Sectionalism in American Poetry, Society Verse in American Literature, The Sonnet in American Literature, Symbolism in American Literature, and Tradition in American Literature. Eight of these theses were [page 62:] completed in 1936, in Professor Campbell’s last year of teaching (1935-1936). In 1927 Floyd Stovall received the first degree of Doctor of Philosophy in English ever conferred by the University of Texas. He wrote his dissertation on Shelley with Reginald Harvey Griffith, but he had been a student of Killis Campbell, specialized thereafter in Poe and Whitman, dedicated his edition of the poems of Poe to Killis Campbell, and ended his career as Poe Professor at the University of Virginia.

The first dissertation directed by Killis Campbell was on Whitman’s debt to Emerson. Arlin Turner, known for his writings on Hawthorne and Cable, as well as his years as Editor of American Literature, wrote his dissertation on Hawthorne under the direction of Killis Campbell. Characteristically, Turner’s “Acknowledgements” to Nathaniel Hawthorne; A Biography (1980), completed long years after his original training, reveal gratitude to his former teacher: “First, I would name Professor Killis Campbell, who guided my first study of Hawthorne and who, by precept and his own example, made responsible literary research and effective writing seem to be goals worth pursuing” (p. ix). Arlin Turner’s first publications and his last professional address — to the Poe Studies Association: 28 December 1979, in San Francisco — centered upon Poe. These, and his entire career, demonstrated that Killis Campbell’s precepts were well heeded. Campbell also directed Mrs. Alice Cooke’s dissertation on Whitman’s background in the life and thought of his time. Subsequently Mrs. Cooke taught Whitman at the University of Texas until she retired. He directed other dissertations on Whitman, began several on Poe that were completed after his death, and many articles written in his Poe, Hawthorne, and Whitman seminars were later published.

The teaching of a variety of courses and reading of countless student papers did not prevent his serving on committees at all levels or working in other ways for the good of the U niversi ty. A former colleague, Professor A. L. Bennett, told me recently that he took a course in Anglo-Saxon taught by Professor Killis Campbell one summer in the late 1920s. It was very characteristic of him to volunteer to teach the course when no regular teacher of the course was available. “Al” said that he and the other students thought their teacher knew the subject thoroughly.

From 1902 until 1908 he was a member of the Catalogue Committee of the General Faculty and had a share in the editing and proofreading of numerous University catalogues. Almost every year from 1903 until his death he was a member of the Committee on University Publications. At times there was no separate committee on catalogues, so his work on them might have continued for a long time, as indicated in the next paragraph. [page 63:]

His assignment as a member of the Committee on University Publications varied. In March, 1904, he was listed as editor of the “Official Series” of University of Texas publications, which was explained thus: “A fourth series [of bulletins] is the Official, which is to contain such Bulletins as the catalogues, the Reports of the Board of Regents, the catalogues of the Summer Schools, etc., etc. “(6) He was editor of the Official Series at least until June, 1906.(7) He was a member of the Committee on Official Publications from time to time as long as he lived.

He became editor of the University of Texas Record with Volume VI, No. 3, February 1906. This bulletin was a quarterly containing detailed information about nearly all affairs of the University — growth and develop ment, new construction, enrollment, additions to the faculty, resignations, deaths, publications of the faculty, directories of faculty and students, commencements, alumni news, the Library, meetings on the campus, public addresses (sometimes printed in full), actions of the Regents, annual reports of the president and faculty, student life, athletics, literary societies, student publications, student organizations, and other matters. Killis Campbell edited No. 3 and No. 4 of Volume VI and all numbers in Volume VII and Volume VIII. Each of the volumes contained well over 300 pages.

Inside the front cover of the Record, Volume X, No. 4,22 April 1911, he is listed as “Editor-in-Chief of Publications of The University of Texas.” University publications were issued four times a month, arranged in series: Record, Mineral Survey, General, Humanistic, Medical, Scientific, Reprint, University Extension, Official and Press. If there were giants in the earth in those days, Killis Campbell must surely have been one of them. When his health finally broke down in September, 1936, his colleagues Griffith and Law were sure that the cause was his overworking for the good of the University. Fortunately, he did not remain editor-in-chief very long, for he had a conscience which required him to do his work with thoroughness and care, and his health might have broken down sooner than it did.

In several numbers of the Record issued in 1909-1911, I found reports on the Fortnightly Club signed R. A. L. (Robert Adger Law). One report named Killis Campbell as treasurer of the club and two gave the titles of two papers he had read at club meetings, “The Widow of Ephesus” and “Poe and Plagiarism Once More.”

Killis Campbell founded the University of Texas Studies in English, as a bulletin of the University of Texas, in 1911 and edited it until the fall of 1936. At first it followed no time schedule. The first three numbers were monographs by single authors: No. 1(8 April 1911), English Elements in Jonson’s Early Comedy (328 pages), by Charles Read Baskervill; No. 2 (15 November [page 64:] 1914), A Study in Shirley’s Comedies of London Life (68 pages), by Hanson T. Parlin; No. 3 (15 July 1915), Joseph Dennie and His Circle: A Study in American Literature from 1792 to 1812 (285 pages), by Milton Ellis. The last sentence in Parlin’s Preface reads: “In the work of getting it through the press, it would be hard for me to express what I owe to my friends Professor Killis Campbell and Mr. R. W. Fowler of the University of Texas.” Baskervill, Parlin, and Ellis were members of the School of English at Texas. Baskervill moved to the University of Chicago, Ellis moved to the University of Maine, Parlin remained at the University of Texas and became Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

No. 4 of Studies in English was dated 15 March 1924. It was a volume of scholarly articles by Frank F. Covington, Jr., Robert Adger Law, James Blanton Wharey, Reginald Harvey Griffith, Fannie E. Ratchford, Evert Mordecai Clark, and Killis Campbell. Similar volumes appeared annually thereafter.

Between No. 3 and No. 4 of Studies in English there was a gap of nine years, but Editor Campbell was not idle. During the period of 1915-1922 he edited the first ten numbers of The English Bulletin, “an organ for the expression of opinion by teachers of English in Texas concerning pedagogical and other problems that arise in their work.” The ten numbers were dated December 1915, March 1916, November 1916, December 1917, November 1918, November 1919, December 1919, September 1920, November 1921, and December 1922.

Many numbers of this publication, a bulletin of the University of Texas, contained four articles totaling about thirty-five pages. No. 1 contained articles by Morgan Callaway, Jr., Robert Adger Law, Killis Campbell, and Gates Thomas. Articles for No. 2 were written by Thomas Ewing Ferguson, Mary Johnson, Alexander Corbin Judson, and Earl Lockridge Bradsher. Authors who appeared in No. 3 were James Finch Royster, Pauline Belle Warner, Leonidas Warren Payne, Jr., and Robert Adger Law. In his writing for this bulletin Killis Campbell insisted that English teachers in the Texas public schools should be well qualified, that they should not be overburdened with other assignments, and that stress should be placed on student writing.

From 1909 to 1916 he was chairman of the Committee on Admission and Condition Examinations. From 1913 until his final illness he was chairman of the Committee on Attendance at Professional Meetings. From 1914 to 1916 he was a member of the Faculty Council. But it would be pointless to continue the catalogue. All the committees mentioned above were committees of the General Faculty, and Killis Campbell was always willing to do a

[page 65:] fair share of the work on committees of the Department of English, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Graduate School.

After he reached the rank of professor in 1918, he was a member of the Budget Council of the English Department, the largest department in the University and constantly growing. Many of its problems were the business of the Budget Council, including recruitment, promotions, and salaries, and the number of hours required to do its work was often incredible.

Over the years Killis Campbell was a faithful member of the Modern Language Association of America and often attended its annual meetings and participated in the discussions. He presided as chairman at the first meeting of the American Literature Group, which he had helped to establish, at the annual meeting of the MLA, at Johns Hopkins in 1921. The secretary was elected for another term, but according to the minutes, “Professor Campbell asked to be excused from continuing as Chairman on account of ill health.” He was not especially robust, but he remained active and continued working as hard as ever for the next fifteen years. He was a member of the Executive Council of the MLA for the years 1924, 1925, and 1926 and served the association as Vice President in 1934.

It often happens that the best teachers and committee workers are also the best scholars, though it is a mystery how they find the time for all these activities. Killis Campbell did. Moreover, he was devoted to his wife and children and gave them more time than most men give their families.

Mary and Hawes Campbell compiled A Bibliography of the Writings of Killis Campbell from their father’s notes soon after his death. It covers five magazine pages.(8) The items are arranged chronologically from 1898 through 1936, and the only intervening years not appearing in the list are 1900, 1906, and 1932. In 1899-1900 he was getting settled in Austin with new courses to teach, in 1906 he was seeing a book through the press, and in 1932 he was preparing research lectures for publication.

The bibliography begins with an article and a book published in 1898: “The Sources of Davenant’s The Siege of Rhodes”(9) and his doctoral dissertation, previously mentioned. At the end appear these items under 1936, his last year of work:

“A Word of Explanation,” American Literature, 8:469-464 (January)

“Recent Additions to American Literary History: A Collective Estimate,” Studies in Philology, 99:594-549 (July)

“A New Life of Irving” (a review of S. T. Williams’ The Life of Washington Irving), Sewanee Review, 44:972-977 (July)

“Poe’s Treatment of the Negro and of the Negro Dialect,” The University of Texas Studies in English, 16:106-114 (July) [page 66:]

Review of David K. Jackson’s Poe and the Southern Literary Messenger, Modern Language Notes, 51:487-488 (November)

A Facsimile of the 1831 Edition of Poe’s Poems, Facsimile Text Society, pp. viii, 124

Nearly half of the notes and articles listed are on Poe [23], and another discusses Poe, Longfellow, and Lowell. His edition of the poems of Poe (1917) was the most scholarly edition of the work of any American poet. He wrote the chapter and compiled the bibliography on Poe for the Cambridge History of American Literature (1918). Seventeen of the book reviews were on Poe, and half a dozen others were on Poe and other writers.

The notes, articles, and reviews appeared in the Dial [19], Modern Language Notes [17], the Nation [10], the Sewanee Review [7], Texas Studies in English [7], American Literature [7], Publications of the Modern Language Association of America [5], Studies in Philology [4], the Dallas News [4], the Journal of English and Germanic Philology (3), The English Bulletin [2], The New York Evening Post Literary Review [2], the Alcalde [2], and one each in the University of Texas Bulletin (No. 156), the Weekly Review, Modern Language Review, the Texas Outlook, the William and Mary Quarterly Historical Magazine, and the Dictionary of American Biography. Although Killis Campbell’s major scholarship dealt with Middle English romances and the life and writings of Poe, his notes, articles, and reviews indicate wide reading in English and American literature.

In his dissertation on the Middle English versions of “The Seven Sages of Rome” he had expressed his hope of bringing out an edition of the poem. To study the manuscripts he had spent the summer of 1897 at the British Museum, Oxford, and Cambridge. To continue his research he returned to Britain in the summers of 1902 and 1904 and worked mainly in the British Museum, the Bodleian Library at Oxford, and the Library of the University of Edinburgh.

His edition of The Seven Sages of Rome, published by Ginn & Company (Boston, New York, Chicago, London) in 1907, was fourth in the Albion Series of Anglo-Saxon and Middle English Poetry. The series was intended to comprise the most important Anglo-Saxon and Middle English poems, each volume to contain a single poem, critically edited, and provided with an introduction, notes, and a “full” glossary. The first three in the series were The Christ of Cynewulf, edited by Albert S. Cook of Yale, The Squyr of Lowe Degre, edited by William E. Mead of Wesleyan University, and Andreas and the Fates of the Apostles, edited by George Philip Krapp of Columbia. The general editors of the series were J. W. Bright of Johns Hopkins and G. L. Kittredge of Harvard. In his Preface Campbell says he has been “generously [page 67:] aided by others” and acknowledges his debt to Professors Bright, Kittredge, and Callaway, all of whom had read the book in manuscript or in proof and had offered valuable suggestions.

In his exhaustive Introduction he discusses the Oriental versions of The Seven Sages and the transmission of the story to Western Europe, classifies the redactions made in France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Holland, Scandinavia, and Russia, and considers in detail the English versions, especially the two manuscripts (Cotton, and Rawlinson) represented in the text. After the Introduction he gives a long list of variants and analogues of the stories contained in The Seven Sages. The text of the poem covers pages 1-145. The notes cover 38 pages, the glossary covers 17, and the index covers 11. The index is detailed, the glossary is full, and the notes are generous. That it is a work of thorough scholarship was recognized by Professors Bright and Kittredge, who accepted it for publication in the Albion Series, by Professor Callaway, who read it before publication and reviewed it in the University of Texas Record [8 (1908), 49-50], and by reviewers in the Athenaeum (London: 4 May 1907) and the Nation [New York: 16 May 1907].

In an article entitled “Vacation Activities of the Faculty,” in the University of Texas Record [8 July 1911] appears this item: “Dr. Campbell delved into libraries at Baltimore, Richmond, Washington, Philadelphia, New York, and other Eastern cities, for a similar purpose [i. e., “for research work”J.”(10) What may be a related item appears in the Record for May 1912 (p. 313): “In the April Sewanee Review Professor Killis Campbell publishes some notable documents relating to the early life of Edgar Allan Poe, which have escaped the eyes of all Poe’s biographers.” He spent many summers in libraries in these and other cities, including Boston, doing spade work for future biographers” and gathering material for his edition of Poe’s poems.

The Poems of Edgar Allan Poe, edited by Killis Campbell, was published by Ginn & Co. of Boston in 1917. I quote from the Preface:

This edition of Poe’s poems includes all the poems collected either by the poet himself or by his literary executor, Rufus W. Griswold. l have endeavored to give also a complete and accurate record of the multifarious revisions made by the poet in republishing his verses. . .; and I have departed from former editors in presenting these at the foot of the page along with the text to which they refer, where alone they may be easily consulted. In the Notes — and here, again, I have departed from former editors — I have given a full and detailed commentary on each of the poems. From the vast body of material, biographical, historical, critical, and interpretative, that has been written about Poe, I have endeavored to garner whatever will contribute to a truer understanding of his poems or to a juster appreciation of them. And where comment from others was [page 68:] wanting or seemed inadequate, I have attempted to supply the deficiency by researches of my own.

The Introduction (pp. xi-lxiv) contains six sections: The Main Facts in the Life of Poe, The Canon of Poe’s Poems, The Text of Poe’s Poems, Poe’s Passion for Revising His Text, Poe s Indebtedness to Other Poets, and The Clash of the Critics with respect to Poe’s Poems. The text of the poems, covering pages 1through 135, is followed by four uncollected poems and other poems attributed to Poe. The voluminous notes cover 158 pages, 14 of which deal with “The Raven.” Campbell tells us where the poem was first published and lists all places of republication up to 1850. He discusses the date and place of composition, the text, the origin and circumstances of composition, and critical estimates. Finally there are four pages of comments on particular lines, words, and phrases. The Appendix contains a collation of the editions published by Poe (1827, 1829, 1831, 1845), prefaces and prefatory notices, and “The Philosophy of Composition.” There is an index of first lines and an index of titles, the latter referring both to the text and to the notes.

Killis Campbell’s edition of Poe’s poems is a superb work of editing and of scholarship. Moreover, in all his evaluations of Poe as man or writer he was fair and just. He fully recognized Poe’s genius and his many gifts and virtues. On the other hand, nobody knew better than he all his weaknesses and shortcomings, and he made no effort to conceal them. The reviewer in the Boston Transcript was enthusiastic about it as the most important scholarship on Poe in years, used the descriptive words “admirable” and “excellently presented,” and conjectured that its sobriety and sanity might be its greatest merit.

Poe’s Short Stories, edited by Killis Campbell, was published in the American Authors Series by Harcourt, Brace & Company in 1927. In a prefatory notice the general editor, S. T. W. (Stanley T. Williams), states that in the series “the emphasis will be upon the text of a book rather than upon annotation or critical apparatus. Aside from footnotes essential to an understanding of the text, and a brief selected bibliography, editorial comment, for reasons of space, will be limited to a comprehensive introduction.” With such limitations, Killis Campbell was prevented from doing as much for the stories as he had done for the poems. Nevertheless, he manages to get into the volume an impressive amount of information that only a first-rate scholar could have provided. The Introduction of seventeen pages, written in clear and graceful but compact style, contains criticism and analysis of a high order and a biographical sketch. The selected reading list gives the collected editions of Poe’s works, the chief biographies, and books and articles relating [page 69:] to Poe’s stories. A “Note on the Text” signed K. C. states that “the text adopted for each of the stories is that of the latest known publication or revision which received the author’s supervision and sanction.” The “Bibliography of Poe’s Stories and Sketches” (p. xxxiii) “includes the date and place of first publication of each of Poe’s stories and sketches, and of each subsequent publication authorized by Poe, so far as is now known.”

The catalogue of the University of Texas Graduate School for 1930-1931 states: “The University Research Professor for the session of 1930-1931 is Killis Campbell, Ph.D., Professor of English.” He was elected by his col leagues on the faculty of the Graduate School. According to custom, he was relieved of all teaching during the year to do research, and he delivered a series of public lectures in the spring. I attended the lectures, remembered many of Professor Cambell’s ideas and some of the phaseology as well as the hall where the lectures were delivered. I did not recall, however, how many lectures there were or when they were delivered, so I decided to check with the student newspaper, the Daily Texan. I found a file in the Barker History Center. April, I thought, would have been the best time for the lectures, so I began my search with the issue of 1 April 1931.

Almost immediately I began to feel entirely at home back in the early thirties, for I was reading about friends and neighbors of long ago. Edmund Quereau, Tutor in English, who had been my office mate for a time, had just won a scholarship to study at the University of Bordeaux. I haven’t seen him since he left for the University of Bordeaux, but heard of him from time to time — teaching French at Westmoorland College in his home town, San Antonio, United States Consul at Dakar, married to a countess and living in the South of France. There were references to Professor Starnes, my colleague and neighbor on Park Place, and to judge Stayton, Professor of Law, who lived across the street from us on Grandview. There was a column of University history by President Benedict and announcements of available scholarships by Dean Parlin. Dr. Floyd Stovall, who had been scheduled to read a paper on Whitman at the Fortnightly Club, had to be out of town, so Professor Robert Adger Law traded dates with him and read a paper on Shakespeare. Professor Slover, another friend in the English Department, had just been awarded a Guggenheim fellowship to study abroad.

I shook my head, scrambled back to the present age, went on with the search, and soon found, in the issue of Sunday, 5 April 1931, an announcement concerning Professor Campbell’s lectures. The “daily” Texan did not appear on Monday, but another preliminary announcement of the lectures occupied a spot on page one on Tuesday, the day on which they were to begin. There were four lectures, all delivered in Garrison Hall Auditorium, [page 70:] where meetings of the General Faculty were often held. Here is the schedule:

Tuesday, 7 April; 8 P.M. “Poe Myths and Their Makers”

Wednesday, 8 April; 5 P.M. “The Mind of Poe”

Thursday, 9 April; 5 P.M. “The Background of Poe”

Friday, 10 April; 10 A.M. “The Origins of Poe”

The lectures were well attended by faculty and students. Each lecture was reported next day on Page One of the Daily Texan.

Killis Campbell’s The Mind of Poe and Other Studies was published by the Harvard University Press in 1933. In the Preface he does not mention his research professorship or public lectures. The volume contains seven studies: “The Mind of Poe,” “Contemporary Opinion of Poe,” “The Poe-Griswold Controversy,” “The Backgrounds of Poe,” “Self-Revelation in Poe’s Poems and Tales,” “The Origins of Poe,” and “The Poe Canon.” In his Preface and footnotes Professor Campbell states that the second, third, and seventh were reprinted with revisions and additions from Publications of the Modern Language Association of America and that the fourth had appeared in part in Studies in Philology under the title “Poe in Relation to His Times.”

As in the case of each of his earlier books, the critics were much impressed by the thoroughness of Professor Campbell’s scholarship. The reviewer in the Boston Transcript thought “Professor Campbell’s estimates and comparisons are founded upon the rock of such careful and comprehensive research that it would seem no dispute of its criticisms could overturn it.” Percy H. Boynton of the University of Chicago wrote in Modern Philology (31:101) that “in his seven studies he has included a sounder body of fact than I know where to look for in any other single work on Poe.”

In the catalogues and announcements of courses for 1936-1937 Professor Campbell was scheduled to teach his usual courses: 337f (American Poets), 388f (Studies in American Literature), 338s (American Poets), 389s (Studies in American Literature), 98 (thesis), 99 (dissertation). In September 1936, however, he suffered a stroke from which he never fully recovered and teaching and research came to an end. He died early on the morning of Sunday, 8 August 1937, at the age of 65. He was buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Austin. In 1947 his wife Mary was buried at his side.

His oldest friend in the English Department, Professor Morgan Callaway, Jr., had died during the preceding year. I once heard him say of Professor Campbell, “I love him like a brother.” Professor Reginald Harvey Griffith and Professor Robert Adger Law had joined the staff of the English Department in 1902 and 1906, respectively, and through the years they had been true and tried friends of Killis Campbell. They also loved him like a brother. [page 71:]

The University of Texas Studies in English, 17 (1937), was dedicated to Killis Campbell:



Killis Campbell

June 11, 1872 - August 8, 1937

Professor of English in The University of Texas

Founder and Editor of Studies in English

Teacher, Scholar, Gentleman

For the volume Professor Robert Adger Law wrote a sketch and a tribute, “Killis Campbell, 1872-1937,” from which I quote these passages:

Campbell was above all else a teacher and a scholar. Moved by a conscience worthy of his Scottish ancestry, he never shirked a teaching duty or allowed it to become burdensome. With ceaseless patience he would explain difficulties to the humblest of his students, or would assist through correspondence any distant scholar begging help in the solution of a baffling bibliographical problem. . . .

Few teachers in this institution have been more beloved of their disciples; none have, by sheer nobility of character, better deserved to be. . . .

But the list [of his publications] does not touch upon hours of labor spent in committee rooms to compile reports on military training, on faculty attendance at professional meetings, on the teaching of English composition in school and college, or more delightful hours indulged in fishing, in gardening, and, best of all, in companionship with his children and grandchildren. . . .

Genuine vacations, which he so much enjoyed, because fewer and briefer as the years went on, and were too frequently interrupted by the encroachments of students, who besought his aid, and the meticulous reading of proof for this periodical. Finally, Nature asserted her rights to a rest long denied, and in September, 1936, all work really ceased.

At a meeting of the General Faculty of the University of Texas on 9 November 1937, a resolution on the death of Killis Campbell was read by Reginald Harvey Griffith and adopted unanimously by the faculty. From it the following passages are quoted:

As a teacher he was successful in an unusual measure, winning both the respect and the very deep affection of his students, and inciting them to an eagerness to learn. . . .

When Professor Campbell began teaching American literature here, about thirty years ago,(12) the subject was. not in much repute among [page 72:] colleges anywhere; he himself felt apologetic about it then. But his enthusiasm grew. Other colleges began offering similar courses. And he lived to see the subject spread out like a banyan tree. It came to be deemed a field worthy of ‘investigation,’ and therein Doctor Campbell was a leader. . . .

As a colleague, neighbor, friend, Campbell possessed generous and endearing qualities. Wide, rich, tender in his sympathies, he was a support in endeavor, a counsellor in perplexity, a comforter in trials and sorrows. Never raucous, never a seeker after the applause of the mob, he was quiet, modest, dependable — a good companion. His sense of duty was stern, to his own cost in the end, for, driving himself in his labors for the University, he overtaxed his strength and shortened his life.

A gentleman, a scholar, and a Christian: — the fragrance of his memory will linger in the minds of those who knew him long after his voice is stilled in his last sleep.

D. B. Casteel

C. C. Glasrock

R. A. Law

L. W. Payne, Jr.

J. B. Wharey

R. H. Griffith, Chairman

“In Memoriam Killis Campbell,1872-1937,” by Floyd Stovall and Tremaine McDowell, appeared in American Literature in March 1938. I quote these passages from it:

With the death of Killis Campbell, American literature lost one of its most distinguished scholars, and the Modern Language Association one of its most faithful members. . . .

He was on the first Advisory Board of American Literature and served on the Editorial Board from January, 1933, until May, 1935. . . . His four books and his frequent contributions to the leading journals of the country bear witness to his great wealth of ideas and his tireless ability in research. As editor and critic of the writings of Edgar Allan Pee, in particular, his work is recognized as pre-eminent. . . .

Distinguished though he was as a scholar, those who knew him personally valued him most as a teacher and as a man. For thirty-eight years, he was a member of the Department of English at the University of Texas, where he was loved and respected until his death. . . .

In his dealings with colleagues and students, he was unfailingly courteous and fair. . . .

With all the virtues of the traditional Southern gentleman, Professor Campbell was nevertheless the most democratic and the most beautifully simple of men. He loved animals and growing things, and was an enthusiastic gardener. More than ordinary men he cherished his friends, his family, and his home. His influence in America has been wide and deep, and it will not soon not willingly be lost. [page 73:]

When I first arrived in Austin in June 1928, I had a greeting for Professor Campbell from Professor Lancelot Harris of the College of Charleston, who had been his classmate in the seminars of Professor James Wilson Bright at Johns Hopkins, where they graduated together as learned doctors in 1898. I also knew pretty well his edition of Poe’s poems, though in the years that I knew him as teacher and colleague, neither he nor I ever mentioned that volume. After a conversation of half all hour, his welcome to Texas was so cordial thin I fell, and never afterward had occasion to doubt, that he had taken the into his circle of friends.

I was a full-time instructor but took one graduate course each semester. During my first two long sessions in Texas I was studying Anglo-Saxon and Middle English with Professor Callaway, but the following semester I began taking Professor Campbell’s seminars in Hawthorne, Poe, and Whitman, which were the only courses I ever had in American literature. He was on my doctoral committee and on the final oral examination — which in those days included everything from Gothic and Anglo-Saxon down to John Masefield and Robert Frost — he quizzed me at length on American literature but asked nothing about Hawthorne, Poe, or Whitman. He explained later, “I knew you had heard of those writers. I wanted to find out what you knew about others.”

In his seminars he stated his opinions freely and clearly, but never dogmatically, and encouraged students to express opposing points of view, which he always considered with great courtesy, even when he found it necessary to point out how illogical and indefensible they were. He never employed ridicule or sarcasm in his relations with students or colleagues. His standards were high, and his will was like steel in defense of principles, but he never failed in kindness, courtesy, or generosity. Despite his superb gifts and achievements, he never had the slightest touch of arrogance, which he considered pitiful and inexcusable in a dean, a professor, or a bishop, though he might find it amusing in an instructor or a traffic cop.

I was never in a position to observe his relations with undergraduates, but his graduate students admired him fervently and eagerly sought to win his approval through study and hard work. He never seemed concerned about getting anything far himself but unselfishly sought to be of service to others. This was obvious in his relations with colleagues and students and at home with his wife, children, and grandchildren, all of whom adored him. In a long career most energetic and vigorous people have occasion to feel that they have at least one or two enemies, but Killis Campbell might very well have been an exception. At any rate, l never heard anyone speak of him except with great respect or admiration. He was an unselfish, generous, and lovable man.


[page 74:]


*  For permission to publish this sketch of Killis Campbell, gratitude to the Jay B. Hubbell Center for American Literary Historiography, Duke University, for which it was originally prepared, is acknowledged.

1.  Catalogues of the University of Nashville, Peabody Normal College, for the years 1890-1891 and 1892-1893 list graduates. Peabody Normal College operated under the charter of the University of Nashville from 1889 until 1909. George Peabody College for Teachers was incorporated under its own charter on 5 October 1909. On I July 1979, Peabody College was merged with Vanderbilt University as The George Peabody College for Teachers of Vanderbilt University. In a letter dated 1 August 1979, Evelyn Stephenson, Secretary, Archives Office, George Peabody College for Teachers, sent me this information about Peabody College and Killis Campbell’s degrees, together with xerox copies of relevant pages in catalogues and the Alumni Directory of Peabody College, 1875-1909.

2.  This conjecture was correct. Mary and Hawes Campbell informed me on a visit in our home (19 January 1980) that their father spent the year as a salesman traveling with a friend who later practiced medicine in Texas. They were selling stereoscopic views, going as far west as Colorado, where they did a thriving business in mining camps. Hawes and Mary have a pedlar’s permit for which Killis Campbell paid three dollars to do business in a town in Alabama.

3.  It remained “School” through the year 1919-1920 and became “Department’‘ in the year 1920-1921.

4.  The course number was changed to 80 in 1926, to 98 in 1933.

5.  James Finch Royster.

6.  The University of Texas Record, V, No. 3, March 1904, p. 277.

7.  See the Record, VI (February, 1905 - June, 1906).

8.  The University of Texas Studies in English, 17 (1937), 10-14.

9.  MLN, 13 (June), 353-363.

10.  Vol. XI, No. l, p. 68.

11.  In the Preface to his Israfel: The Life and Times of Edgar Allan Poe (1926) Hervey Allen expresses his appreciation to George E. Woodberry, James A. Harrison, Killis Campbell, and Thomas Ollive Mabbott “for the benefit of their labors in the Poe field, without which no competent comment on Poe would now be possible.” In the Preface to his one-volume edition of Israfel (1934) Allen writes: “In particular I wish to thank Professor Killis Campbell, Thomas Ollive Mabbott, and S. Foster Damon for their emendations.”

12.  In the session of 1899-1900.





[S:0 - PAOT, 1986] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Lectures - Poe and Our Times - Killis Campbell (1872-1937) (D. M. McKeithan, 1986)