Charles R. Anderson, 97, Hopkins literature professor


Charles Robert Anderson, a former professor of American literature at the Johns Hopkins University and a noted literary critic, author and scholar, died Nov. 5 of pneumonia at Roper Hospital in Charleston, S.C. He was 97.

Mr. Anderson, who lived in Ruxton while teaching at the Homewood campus from 1941 until retiring in 1969, was the first professor hired to teach American literature at the university.

"By the time Charles got out of graduate school, it was becoming clear that there was enough quality American literature to make it a separate field of study, and he was the first person to teach at Hopkins whose specialty was American literature," said John T. Irwin, a member of the English department at Hopkins who teaches in the university's writing seminar.

"He was a trailblazer in establishing American literature as an independent subject that had its own world-class writers," he said.

In addition to being an engaging teacher and a charming man, Mr. Anderson, was a prolific author, producing critically acclaimed works on Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, Henry David Thoreau and Henry James, as well as books in a lighter vein on gardening in England, where he maintained a second home at Linton, Cambridgeshire, and a memoir of life in Charleston.

"He had white hair and was extremely courtly and prepossessing," said Mr. Irwin, who also described him as an Anglophile.

Friends and relatives said he was an excellent storyteller.

"He loved being the center of attention, and one time while lecturing students in Macon, he jumped on a library table and began to dance," said federal Judge Robert Lanier Anderson III, a nephew who lives in Macon, Ga.

"He also loved to entertain and talk and often would greet his guests dressed in a kimono," said the nephew.

Mr. Anderson was related to Southern poet Sidney Lanier, his father's first cousin who lectured in English literature at Hopkins from 1879 until his death in 1881.

In 1945, Mr. Anderson published and edited the 10-volume centennial edition of the works of Lanier, who is buried in Baltimore's Greenmount Cemetery.

While working on his doctorate at Columbia University, Mr. Anderson was studying Melville's Pacific journals and discovered that Melville had been a professional seaman.

"He had been a crewman on a vessel in the South Pacific and actually had witnessed a mutiny," said Nancy Anderson, who is married to Mr. Anderson's nephew.

His dissertation, "Melville in the South Seas," broke ground in literary criticism when it was published in 1939.

He won many awards, including two prestigious Christian Gauss Phi Beta Kappa awards.

Mr. Anderson also led the successful effort in 1976 to have author Henry James' name inscribed on the floor of Poets' Corner in London's Westminster Abbey.

Born and reared in Macon, he was a graduate of Lanier High School and earned his bachelor's degree in 1924 and his master's degree in 1928 from the University of Georgia in Athens. After abandoning the study of law, he earned his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1939.

He taught at Duke University before joining the Hopkins faculty in 1941. Throughout his career, Mr. Anderson lectured at colleges and universities all over the world.

Despite leaving Baltimore more than 30 years ago, Mr. Anderson visited the city each year en route to Charleston and England, where he lived six months of the year.

He was married in 1935 to Eugenia Frances Blount, who died in 1962. In 1963, he married Mary Pringle Fenhagen, who died in 1993.

A memorial service will be held Nov. 27 at St. Stephens Episcopal Church in Charleston.

In addition to Judge Anderson, he is survived by two stepsons, J. Pierce Fenhagen of Warwick, R.I., and F. Weston Fenhagen of Chapel Hill, N.C.; a stepdaughter, Christina Fenhagen Anderson of Phoenix, Ariz.; and a niece, Helen Anderson Balsbaugh of Duxbury, Mass.

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