Clark's parents were Nancy Douglas Tapscott and William Meade Clark, an Episcopal minister and editor of Southern Churchmen. Though born in Raleigh, North Carolina, Clark's date of birth is a subject of some debate; depending upon the source, it could be anywhere from September 8, 1890, to sometime in 1892. Her gravestone, for instance, lists September 8, 1892; her baptismal record lists September 8, 1890; and a variety of census reports suggest 1891. Clark's mother, Nancy, died in 1894, and in 1896 William Clark moved his family from Fredericksburg to Richmond, where he became rector of St. James's Episcopal Church. In 1899, Reverend Clark married Mary Alice Peirce, with whom Clark remained close, particularly after her father's death in 1914.
Clark graduated from Richmond's Virginia Randolph Ellett School for Girls (now St. Catherine's School) in 1909, but skipped college despite passing the Bryn Mawr College entrance exam. She wrote book reviews for the Richmond Evening-Journal (1919–1920), but when the Evening-Journal's book page was discontinued in 1920, she and three other contributors—Margaret Waller Freeman (who later became the second wife of James Branch Cabell), Hunter Taylor Stagg, and Mary Dallas Street—helped to found The Reviewer, an experimental literary magazine to help fill the void of literary production in the South.
Clark's deliberate lack of editorial policy created an eclectic mix of new and experienced writers with both southern and northern perspectives who produced both ordinary and extraordinary writing. Her commentary in The Reviewer reinforced her editorial perspective: "We did not especially care what our writers said, if they made it worth listening to" (October 1921) and "We are here to discover something—that is our sole excuse for being here at all" (March 1922). Clark's charisma and social connections landed submissions from such well-known writers as Ellen Glasgow, Allen Tate, Gertrude Stein, and DuBose Heyward. With Mencken's assistance, she also helped such new writers as Julia Peterkin, who became the first southern novelist to win a Pulitzer Prize for Scarlet Sister Mary (1928) in 1929.
While traveling in the summer of 1923, Clark met Edwin Balch in Baltimore, Maryland. In letters to her mentor and confidant Joseph Hergesheimer, Clark described Balch as "rather nauseating at times," or as "old Mr. Balch" who sent "fearfully erudite" books to her. Only a few months later, however, in her letter of December 7, 1923, Clark described Balch as "amazingly philanthropic" for doing something "exceedingly nice"—he had financed several issues of The Reviewer and had put $3,000 worth of the magazine's stock in his name.
Edwin Balch died in 1927. That same year, with encouragement from Mencken, Clark finished Stuffed Peacocks. Her 270-page account of The Reviewer and its well-known associates, Innocence Abroad, was published in 1931.
Clark remained a patron of the literary and the visual arts, and from time to time her reviews and other writings appeared in several magazines, including the Virginia Quarterly Review, published by the University of Virginia. She died at her Philadelphia home on July 2, 1953, leaving two-thirds of her estate and some of her letters and manuscripts to the university. Two years later, the Virginia Quarterly Review used Clark's bequest to establish the Emily Clark Balch Prize for short stories and poetry, an annual award that continues today. Clark is buried in Richmond's Hollywood Cemetery.
List of Works
- Stuffed Peacocks (1927)
- Innocence Abroad (1931)
September 8, ca. 1890 - Emily Tapscott Clark is born in Raleigh, North Carolina. (The exact date of her birth remains debatable: her gravestone lists her birth as September 8, 1892, her baptismal records indicate September 8, 1890, while other sources cite September 8, 1891.)
1896 - Emily Tapscott Clark moves with her family from Fredericksburg to Richmond.
February 1921 - The Reviewer, the magazine credited for helping to start the Southern Literary Renaissance, debuts and is sold for fifteen cents a copy.
March 1921 - Emily Tapscott Clark responds to questions about the The Reviewer's direction by stating: "We are here to discover something—that is our sole excuse for being here at all."
August 23, 1924 - Emily Tapscott Clark marries Edwin Balch.
1927 - Emily Tapscott Clark's husband, Edwin Balch, dies.
July 2, 1953 - Emily Tapscott Clark dies at her Philadelphia home.
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Smith, L. E. Emily Tapscott Clark (ca. 1890–1953). (2014, June 14). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Clark_Emily_Tapscott_ca_1890-1953.
- MLA Citation:
Smith, Leanne E. "Emily Tapscott Clark (ca. 1890–1953)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, 14 Jun. 2014. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: October 30, 2008 | Last modified: June 14, 2014
Contributed by Leanne E. Smith, a freelance writer and photographer, English instructor, musician, and member of the Green Grass Cloggers in Greenville, North Carolina. She is the author of miscellaneous articles and the book East Carolina University: Off the Record (2007).