Alvice Whitehurst Yeats earned a PhD in English from the University of Texas in 1961. He also earned a BA and MA degree at Texas. Between the masters and doctorate he spent four years in the U.S. Navy during World War II. His MA thesis was a survey of Kipling’s poetic themes. He claimed to have no early interest in Kipling or book collecting, though in his adolescence he did read widely among the major English authors, Kipling among them.
His emphasis on Kipling in graduate school was due more to “accident” than “design.” (note 1) He settled on his thesis only after the “problem of a master’s essay could no longer be delayed” and only at the suggestion of his committee chair. (note 2) But what Yeats lacked in decisiveness he made up for in loyalty. When he returned to the University of Texas after the war, a dissertation on Kipling was all but inevitable, and thereafter he maintained a lifelong interest in and commitment to Rudyard Kipling.
Yeats would play a key role in building the Kipling collection at Texas, though the University’s efforts in this area began before he returned from military service. In 1946, the DeGolyer family donated thirteen hundred volumes of post-Victorian and contemporary authors to Texas, including sixty-eight Kipling items. Prior to this donation, the University’s holdings consisted of a sampling of trade editions in the general collection. The DeGolyer gift substantially improved the collection and provided a foundation for Yeats to build on. |
In 1950, Yeats was awarded a Graduate English Fellowship with “the suggestion from the committee that the funds be spent in building a professional library.” (note 3) In the meantime he had also been invited to help assemble a Kipling collection of research proportions for the University, first working under the direction of Fannie Ratchford, Director of the Rare Book collections, and later for Harry Ransom in the establishment of the Humanities Research Center.