H. L. Davis

Last updated
Harold Lenoir Davis
H. L. Davis Oregon author.gif
BornOctober 18, 1894
Douglas County, Oregon, U.S.
DiedOctober 31, 1960(1960-10-31) (aged 66)
San Antonio, Texas, U.S.
Notable works Honey in the Horn
Notable awards Pulitzer Prize
Guggenheim Fellowship

Harold Lenoir Davis (October 18, 1894October 31, 1960), also known as H. L. Davis, was an American novelist and poet. A native of Oregon, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel Honey in the Horn , the only Pulitzer given to a native Oregonian. Later living in California and Texas, he also wrote short stories for magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post .

A novelist is an author or writer of novels, though often novelists also write in other genres of both fiction and non-fiction. Some novelists are professional novelists, thus make a living writing novels and other fiction, while others aspire to support themselves in this way or write as an avocation. Most novelists struggle to get their debut novel published, but once published they often continue to be published, although very few become literary celebrities, thus gaining prestige or a considerable income from their work.

Poet person who writes and publishes poetry

A poet is a person who creates poetry. Poets may describe themselves as such or be described as such by others. A poet may simply be a writer of poetry, or may perform their art to an audience.

Oregon State of the United States of America

Oregon is a state in the Pacific Northwest region on the West Coast of the United States. The Columbia River delineates much of Oregon's northern boundary with Washington, while the Snake River delineates much of its eastern boundary with Idaho. The parallel 42° north delineates the southern boundary with California and Nevada. Oregon is one of only four states of the continental United States to have a coastline on the Pacific Ocean.


Early life

Davis was born in Nonpareil, Douglas County, Oregon, in the Umpqua River Valley, and lived in Roseburg in his early years. [1] His father was a teacher and the family moved frequently as he took up different teaching positions. They moved to Antelope, Oregon in 1906, and two years later they were in The Dalles, where his father was now a principal. [1] In 1912 Davis graduated from high school there. He held various short-term jobs, with the county, with Pacific Power and Light, and in a local bank. He also worked as a railroad timekeeper and with a survey party near Mount Adams.

Nonpareil is an unincorporated historic community in Douglas County, Oregon, United States. It is about 8 miles (13 km) east of Sutherlin, near Calapooya Creek. The population of the area was about 202 in 2000. Nonpareil was the birthplace of novelist H. L. Davis.

Douglas County, Oregon County in the United States

Douglas County is a county in the U.S. state of Oregon. As of the 2010 census, the population was 107,667. The county seat is Roseburg. It is named after Stephen A. Douglas, an American politician who supported Oregon statehood.

Umpqua River river in the United States of America

The Umpqua River on the Pacific coast of Oregon in the United States is approximately 111 miles (179 km) long. One of the principal rivers of the Oregon Coast and known for bass and shad, the river drains an expansive network of valleys in the mountains west of the Cascade Range and south of the Willamette Valley, from which it is separated by the Calapooya Mountains. From its source northeast of Roseburg, the Umpqua flows northwest through the Oregon Coast Range and empties into the Pacific at Winchester Bay. The river and its tributaries flow entirely within Douglas County, which encompasses most of the watershed of the river from the Cascades to the coast. The "Hundred Valleys of the Umpqua" form the heart of the timber industry of southern Oregon, generally centered on Roseburg.

Writing career

His first poems were published in April 1919 in Poetry , edited by Harriet Monroe. These were eleven poems published together under the title Primapara. Later that year they won the magazine's Levinson Prize, worth $200. Davis also received a letter of praise from poet Carl Sandburg. Davis continued to publish poems in the magazine throughout the 1920s, and also sold some poems to H. L. Mencken's The American Mercury . Mencken encouraged him to begin writing prose.

Harriet Monroe American poet and editor

Harriet Monroe was an American editor, scholar, literary critic, poet, and patron of the arts. She is best known as the founding publisher and long-time editor of Poetry magazine, first published in 1912. As a supporter of the poets Wallace Stevens, Ezra Pound, H. D., T. S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, Carl Sandburg, Max Michelson and others, Monroe played an important role in the development of modern poetry. Her correspondence with early twentieth century poets provides a wealth of information on their thoughts and motives.

Carl Sandburg American writer and editor

Carl August Sandburg was an American poet, writer, and editor. He won three Pulitzer Prizes: two for his poetry and one for his biography of Abraham Lincoln. During his lifetime, Sandburg was widely regarded as "a major figure in contemporary literature", especially for volumes of his collected verse, including Chicago Poems (1916), Cornhuskers (1918), and Smoke and Steel (1920). He enjoyed "unrivaled appeal as a poet in his day, perhaps because the breadth of his experiences connected him with so many strands of American life", and at his death in 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson observed that "Carl Sandburg was more than the voice of America, more than the poet of its strength and genius. He was America."

H. L. Mencken American journalist and writer

Henry Louis Mencken was an American journalist, essayist, satirist, cultural critic and scholar of American English. He commented widely on the social scene, literature, music, prominent politicians and contemporary movements. His satirical reporting on the Scopes trial, which he dubbed the "Monkey Trial", also gained him attention.

In 1926, Davis and James Stevens privately published a small booklet, Status Rerum: A Manifesto Upon the Present Condition of Northwest Literature. Although only a few copies were printed, the booklet attracted notice because of its bluntness and invective against the local literary scene of Portland. Robinson Jeffers memorably described the pamphlet as a "rather grimly powerful wheel to break butterflies on." [2]

James Stevens was an American author and composer. Born in Albia, Iowa, he lived in Idaho from a young age, and based much of his later novel Big Jim Turner (1948) on his childhood spent in Pacific Northwest logging camps. After fighting in World War I, he came back to work in the woods and sawmills of Oregon.

Robinson Jeffers American poet

John Robinson Jeffers was an American poet, known for his work about the central California coast. Much of Jeffers' poetry was written in narrative and epic form. However, he is also known for his shorter verse and is considered an icon of the environmental movement. Influential and highly regarded in some circles, despite or because of his philosophy of "inhumanism", Jeffers believed that transcending conflict required human concerns to be de-emphasized in favor of the boundless whole. This led him to oppose U.S. participation in World War II, a stance that was controversial after the U.S. entered the war.

Together with his new wife, the former Marion Lay of The Dalles, Davis moved to Seattle in August 1928. There he increased his literary efforts. His first published prose began appearing in The American Mercury in 1929. These were picturesque but hardly complimentary sketches of The Dalles and Eastern Oregon. One of the first was entitled "A Town in Eastern Oregon", a historical sketch of The Dalles. It caused quite a controversy in the region for its irreverence.

Eastern Oregon

Eastern Oregon is the eastern part of the U.S. state of Oregon. It is not an officially recognized geographic entity; thus, the boundaries of the region vary according to context. It is sometimes understood to include only the eight easternmost counties in the state; in other contexts, it includes the entire area east of the Cascade Range. Cities in the basic 8-county definition include Baker City, Burns, Hermiston, Pendleton, John Day, La Grande, and Ontario. Umatilla County is home to the largest population base in Eastern Oregon; accounting for 74% of the region's population in 2016. Hermiston, located in Umatilla County, is the largest city in the region. Major industries include transportation/warehousing, timber, agriculture, and tourism. The main transportation corridors are I-84, U.S. Route 395, U.S. Route 97, U.S. Route 26, U.S. Route 30, and U.S. Route 20.

In 1932, Davis was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. The award allowed him to move to Jalisco, Mexico, where he lived for two years, concentrating on his writing. There he completed the novel Honey in the Horn , about southern Oregon pioneer life. It is a coming-of-age tale set in the early twentieth century. This novel received the Harper Prize for best first novel of 1935, together with a $7,500 cash award. It was well reviewed by writers such as Robert Penn Warren, although New Yorker critic Clifton Fadiman did not like it. The following spring the book won the Pulitzer Prize, and is the only Pulitzer Prize ever awarded to an Oregon born author. [1] Davis did not go to New York to receive the Pulitzer in person, saying he did not want to put himself on exhibit.

Guggenheim Fellowships are grants that have been awarded annually since 1925 by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation to those "who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts". The roll of Fellows includes numerous Nobel Laureates, Pulitzer, and other prize winners.

Jalisco State of Mexico

Jalisco, officially the Free and Sovereign State of Jalisco, is one of the 31 states which, with Mexico City, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is located in Western Mexico and is bordered by six states which are Nayarit, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, Michoacán and Colima. Jalisco is divided into 125 municipalities, and its capital city is Guadalajara. Jalisco is one of the most important states in Mexico because of its natural resources as well as its history. Many of the characteristic traits of Mexican culture, particularly outside Mexico City, are originally from Jalisco, such as mariachi, ranchera music, birria, tequila, jaripeo, etc., hence the state's motto: "Jalisco es México." Economically, it is ranked third in the country, with industries centered in the Guadalajara metropolitan area, the second largest metropolitan area in Mexico. The state is home to two significant indigenous populations, the Huichols and the Nahuas. There is also a significant foreign population, mostly retirees from the United States and Canada, living in the Lake Chapala and Puerto Vallarta areas.

<i>Honey in the Horn</i> novel by Harold L. Davis

Honey in the Horn is a 1935 debut novel by Harold L. Davis. The novel received the Harper Prize for best first novel of 1935 and won the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel in 1936. The title of the book is from a line in a square dancing tune, and is only found in the book in the author's introductory overleaf.

The Davises bought a small ranch near Napa, California. There Davis wrote short stories as his primary source of income, publishing them in such magazines as Collier's and The Saturday Evening Post . He continued to work on novels. His second novel, Harp of a Thousand Strings, appeared in 1941. The long interval from his Pulitzer-winning first novel meant that his second did not receive the notice it would have earlier. In fact, although Davis continued to improve as a writer, none of his later efforts received the attention of Honey in the Horn.

Davis was also undergoing crises in his life. He was divorced in 1943. He also changed publishers, from Harper & Brothers to William Morrow & Company, apparently because of a long-running dispute over royalty payments.

Later life

Over the next ten years, he published three more novels and a collection of earlier short stories. His fourth novel, Winds of Morning, was well received and became a Book of the Month Club selection. In 1953 he remarried, to Elizabeth Martin del Campo. As a result of arteriosclerosis, his left leg was amputated. He suffered chronic pain, but continued to write. In 1960 he died of a heart attack in San Antonio, Texas. [1]


Although often considered a regional novelist, Davis rejected that evaluation. He undoubtedly used regional themes, but contended that he did so in the service of the universal. Influences on his work can be found in a wide range of American and European literature. His prose is considered wry, ironic, and cryptic. His stories are realistic, without the romantic stereotypes expected of "western" fiction. The landscape is a major component of his novels.



  1. 1 2 3 4 Baker, Jeff (December 2, 2009). "Rediscovering H.L. Davis". The Oregonian. Retrieved December 4, 2009.
  2. Quoted in H.L. Davis, Collected Essays and Short Stories (Moscow, Idaho: University of Idaho Press, n.d.), p. 330

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