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Ransom Memorial Croquet Gala

This morning, as the final class and final project of my new course, The Little Magazine in America, we celebrated the first John Crowe Ransom Memorial Croquet Gala. That may seem odd, but back in the 40s and 50s, the Ransoms were famous for holding serious, long-lasting croquet matches on their front lawn. The intellectual elite of America, such as Robert Penn Warren, Kenneth Burke, and Robert Lowell, who came to visit the Ransoms, to read at Kenyon College, or to participate in the famous if briefly lived Kenyon School of English, would compete long into the night, with cars parked along the road, engines running and headlights illuminating the croquet pitch.

Ransom Memorial Croquet Gala

I’d be willing to wager that in those olden, golden days liquid refreshment extended well beyond the lemonade offered this morning. But we did have fun! I’d told the class that appropriate attire was expected, and several young men showed up in jackets, several women in white summer dresses. (One star even wore short white gloves.)

Ransom Memorial Croquet Gala

Here’s what’s remarkable: it’s been a long semester. Much as I’ve loved and learned from this class, the weather for much of the term was dreadful. Even though today is lovely, cool, sunny and bright, we are all exhausted. Yet an hour of croquet was a marvelous tonic. Certainly for me, and I think for the students too.

I should mention that the croquet tournament was staged on the front lawn of Neff Cottage, a beautiful gothic structure from the mid 19th century, long the home of Kenyon’s Deans of Students. Soon, however–perhaps by mid summer in fact–it will house the staff of The Kenyon Review. It will be glorious, and a wonderful signal of the college’s full embrace of KR. In five years or so we’ve gone from a dank basement corner, to our current offices, which are really quite nice, and now on to our new digs. Croquet, I am now prepared to announce with no little pride, will once again be a staple of the literary life in Gambier. The Neff Cottage lawn will be busy through summer and into the twilight of autumn.

Ransom Memorial Croquet Gala