Robert Myers

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Robert Manson Myers CHARLOTTE - Robert Manson Myers, Ph.D., a distinguished Professor of English literature and an acclaimed author, died of natural causes on January 3, 2014, at his home in Charlotte, North Carolina, at age 92. The fourth son of Methodist minister Rev. Dr. Horwood Prettyman Myers and Matilda Manson Wynn Myers, he was born on May 29, 1921 in a Methodist parsonage of Charlottesville, Virginia. His father was a prominent Methodist clergyman in the Virginia Methodist Conference. He and his family lived in important appointments throughout the state of Virginia, as well as Nashville, Tennessee. Myers attended Vanderbilt University at age sixteen, graduating four years later summa cum laude, reportedly with the highest academic record ever achieved there. Then on to Harvard for a master's degree in English literature and, the following year, another one at Columbia University en route to a doctorate in that field which Columbia conferred on him in 1945. His doctoral thesis, published in 1947 to widespread praise, was Handel's Messiah: A Touchstone of Taste. He then began his teaching career in English literature, first at Yale, then William & Mary, then Tulane, and finally for most of his teaching life at the University of Maryland at College Park, the university from which he retired in 1986. His students praised him for his inspiring revelations about English literature, including The Bible as literature, and about Life. For many years, Myers split his time between the national capitol, Washington, D.C., and a beloved townhouse in London, England. He enjoyed hosting friends and family at formal dinner parties, where he engaged them in lively intellectual discussion. He moved from Washington, D.C. to Charlotte, where he had relatives, in 1999. Throughout his teaching life he authored several books. In one, he surveyed in a matchless spoof the wolf motif in From Beowulf to Woolf (1952). It stayed in print for over 21 years. He revised and republished it in 1984. In 1972 he completed a twenty-year project with the publication by the Yale University Press of The Children of Pride, A True Story of Georgia and the Civil War, as told in his selection and editing of some twelve hundred letters of a cultivated Georgia plantation family during the years 1854 to 1868. The New York Times gave it an unprecedented front-page glowing review by Madison Jones who wrote that the book tells the story of the Old South and its destruction "as it has not been told before, in the fullness of its poignance and tragedy." Later, The New York Times, again in a front-page article, cited The Children of Pride as "one of the five significant books of 1972" and as one of the important, lasting books of the twentieth century. Professor Myers later created five epistolary plays from these and some earlier letters and published them in 1991 as Quintet by the University of Illinois Press. These plays have been produced by the BBC in London, by the Smithsonian in Washington, and by a theater company in Savannah. The Children of Pride won the coveted Carey-Thomas award in 1972 and the National Book Award in History in 1973, the citation stating that the book "is family reconstruction on a grand scale. It demonstrates how the editing of sources can become, in the hands of an imaginative scholar, the work of creative history." Since his retirement from teaching Professor Myers has published several more plays. In 2004 he wrote Sixes and Sevens, Scenes from a Marriage, a comic trilogy of three plays drawn from three novels of the late 19th and early 20th century English novelist Ada Leverson, a great caring friend of Oscar Wilde. In 2005 he created two plays from the novels of Henry James-The Bostonians and The Spoils of Poynton Park - which he entitled The Bostonians and Poynton Park, respectively. His last work, privately published in a limited edition in 2009, was Ars Amatoria, the title taken from Ovid. It is a cluster of some one hundred and fifty poems he wrote that tell of the joy and the pain of love, of folly and frivolity in its pursuit, and of what matters for mankind, all artfully and richly expressed in a variety of poetic form and with every word of each poem beginning with the latter "a". At the time of his death Professor Myers had completed his first novel and was in search of a publisher. He is survived by nieces and nephews. He will be memorialized at a family plot in Manassas, Virginia and asked that his ashes be taken to and spread in England. Condolences may be offered at

Published in Charlotte Observer on Feb. 2, 2014
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