James Mandeville Carlisle, Jr.

Dec. 23, 1937, Hartford CT – Sept. 14, 2021, Kennett Square, PA

Those who knew Jim Carlisle have lost a uniquely positive member of their family and community. He passed away very peacefully on September 14, and those he left behind, including family whom he appreciated and loved, and who loved and appreciated Jim, feel a palpable void. He was the son of Deborah Perkins and James Mandeville Carlisle.

Known to those who knew him well as remarkably generous and loyal, he recently characterized himself to a close friend as a “career teacher.” He was a scholar, a student of the English language in its classical sense and of American and British literature of all kinds, who was always striving to learn and enlighten himself in order to equip himself to educate more effectively. He was respected by his faculty peers and his students alike for being both exacting and inspiring. Jim’s late brother Chris, also a career teacher, earned like respect for the same reasons.

His own writings, most notably his poetry, exhibited his determination to veer from conventions and norms, and his commitment to expressing themes he’d developed in his own innovative and individualistic manner. His thoughts, word selection and phrasing were often soft and mellow, but occasionally turned stark and arrestingly bold.

Jim was a member of several high-entry-barrier poetry groups, both in and around Cambridge, where he lived for decades, and elsewhere, including at the Kendal Crosslands Community in Kennett Square where he lived among other retired scholars during his final 9 years. Jim was respected for his critiques as well as for the high literary quality of his own work while associated with such groups.

After completing Yale College (1960), Jim joined the faculty of Suffield Academy in Connecticut (following a last-minute decision not to enroll at Yale Law School, which would have perpetuated a four-generation “run” in his father’s family, a decision never regretted!). After a few years, he moved to the Buckley School in Manhattan for an additional several years. Jim’s final, and longest, tenure as an educator was at The Fenn School in Concord MA, where he served and was honored as English Department Head for an extended term. During many summers, Jim immersed himself at the Bread Loaf Mountain Writers’ Conferences sponsored by Middlebury College, and immensely enjoyed the challenging and stimulating environment characterized by talented writers striving to improve, and to create art through words, in a delightfully peaceful country setting.

Jim strove to develop relationships with others close to him founded on honesty, directness, truth, candor. A truly independent gentleman he was, and he was comfortable with that defining element of his character.

Jim was never married. His closest relatives are his brother Jonathan of Essex, CT (Michele), and nephews, Bruce (Jan) and Ben (Annemarie) both of suburban Boston….sons of Jim’s late brother Christopher, a member of the Hotchkiss school faculty and community; and nephew Jay (Heidi) of Boise ID and niece Salona of Redding CT and also Jim’s brother Alex (Beth) of Williamstown MA, and sister Kate Lemerise (Alton) of Waynesboro NC.

Jim’s generosity was more often expressed privately than publicly, and often in discreet ways we’ll never know about, but which we must be confident provided pleasure for him.

Jim’s final expression of his fully-developed sense of generosity appears in his Will. He was inspired, then decided, many years prior to his passing, to give/leave the clear majority – not merely one-half – of his wherewithal to several charities, which will in turn result in numerous individuals benefiting meaningfully from his gifts over many, many years.

Jim was so very fortunate to have been sensitively supported in his final years, and especially during these last months, by a group of truly caring individuals, members of the professional and para-professional staff at Crosslands, the Quaker-values-based community he selected as his final home, and by many close friends at Crosslands. Jim expressed his keen appreciation to many of them in person or personally, and Jim’s family wishes to strongly and resonantly echo those thanks.

Interment will be private.