Davenport, Basil, 1905-1966Alternative names
Reared in Louisville, Kentucky, Basil Davenport was the eldest of two sons born to Ira William and Emily Andrews (Davison) Davenport. A slim and personable aesthete, he never married. At the Taft School he suffered from homesickness, but won distinction as an editor of the school's literary magazine, debater and thespian. At Yale he continued these pursuits and took up boxing before graduating in 1926. Then he studied classics for two years at Oxford and taught Greek tor a year at Rutgers after returning to this country.
From childhood Davenport cultivated a facility for storytelling, especially the genre of tale associated with campfires. This proclivity delighted both his peers and his elders, and subsequently it led to his numerous anthologies, especially: Ghostly tales to be told; a collection of stories from the great masters, arranged for reading and telling aloud (1950) and Tales to be told in the dark; a selection of stories from the great authors, arranged for reading and telling aloud (1953). Other notable anthologies were: The Portable Roman Reader (1951) and The Selected Works of Stephen Vincent Benét (1942). His translations of Rostand's L'Aiglon (issued by the Yale Press in 1927) and Aeschylus The Oresteia were performed at Yale during his Freshman and Senior years respectively. Two original works were: An Inquiry Into Science Fiction (1955) and An Introduction to Islandia (1942).
After his year at Rutgers he settled in New York, contributing book reviews and feature articles to The Saturday Review of Literature and performing similar services for the Book-of-the-Month Club News . From 1936 until his death, he was associated with the latter organization, first as Editorial Assistant and from 1956-1966 as one of the five judges, at whose monthly meetings the final selections were voted.
His virtually inexhaustible store of classical and literary lore served him well on various quiz programs, notably "Down You Go." Unfortunately it was scratched soon after he joined it, due to scandals precipitated when other programs were exposed as "fixed."
From the guide to the Basil Davenport papers, 1899-1964, (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)
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