No matter how old we were, we always called him “Mr. Lytle.” Those who were fortunate enough to know Andrew Nelson Lytle, Southern novelist, critic, historian, storyteller, and farmer, could not imagine calling him by any other name.
In the 1920s Mr. Lytle helped form the Southern Agrarians, an extraordinary fellowship of brilliant traditionalist Southern intellectuals. Chief among them were John Crowe Ransom, Donald Davidson, Allen Tate, Frank Owstey, Caroline Gordon, Robert Penn Warren, Cleanth Brooks, and Mr. Lytle. The group’s first manifesto, I’ll Take My Stand, is a major document that C. Vann Woodward declared was “essential to the understanding of a significant literary movement, a period of Southern history, and a phase of American intellectual life.”
It pained Mr. Lytle that as “the Christian vision dimmed, estates became classes. That is, man was defined by his economic status.” As he pointed out, “[In] the Middle Ages and as late as the sixteenth century every man was a special kind of artist. He made things, not for profit, but for utility and for the greater glory of God. And there was no distinction between the fine and the servile arts.” This uncompromising artistic vision was anchored in Mr. Lytle’s sense that “the older belief in the city of God as the end of the drama has persisted, if defensively, in the South.”
Lytle’s books include Bedford Forrest and His Critter Company (1931), The Velvet Horn (1957), The Long Night (1936), At the Moon’s Inn (1941), A Name for Evil (1947), From Eden to Babylon (1990), Kristin (1992).
Friends and acquaintances remember Mr. Lytle as a marvelous storyteller and excellent companion. His personal demeanor was warm, courteous, and Southern. Mr. Lytle hid his immense, cosmopolitan learning beneath his earthy, humorous, “plain-folk” ways. His ancestral home called “The Log Cabin” was a place of hospitality and good talk. Mr. Lytle was the last survivor of the Agrarian movement. We will miss him greatly.