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Stuart Wright Collection: Wright Morris Papers 1950–1985, undated

(Manuscript Collection #1169-008)

Descriptive Summary Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Title: Stuart Wright Collection: Wright Morris Papers
Creators: Morris, Wright Marion, 1910-1998
Wright, Stuart T., 1948-
Repository: ECU Manuscript Collection
Languages: English
Abstract: Papers (1950-1985, undated) documenting the life and literary career of Wright Morris, the noted American novelist, photographer, and essayist, including correspondence with William Cole, who edited his novel Man and Boy; also uncorrected proofs of the third installment of his autobiography, A Cloak of Light: Writing My Life.
Extent: 0.25 Cubic feet, 1 archival box; 23 items.

Administrative Information Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Accessions Information

21 June 2010, 0.25 cubic feet; 1 archival box; 23 items; 331 p. Papers (1950-1951, 1957, 1984-1985, undated) documenting the life and literary career of Wright Morris, the noted American novelist, photographer, and essayist, including correspondence with William Cole, who edited his novel Man and Boy; also uncorrected proofs of the third installment of his autobiography, A Cloak of Light: Writing My Life. Vendor: Stuart Wright.

Access Restrictions

No restrictions

Copyright Notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

Preferred Citation

Stuart Wright Collection - Wright Morris Papers (#1169-008) East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA

Acquisition Information

  • Purchased from Stuart Wright, 6/21/2010

Processing Information

  • Processed, Container list & Preliminary inventory by Jonathan Dembo, with the assistance of Cynthia Sharp, revised 11/19/2010; Final inventory by Krystal Cook, 1/25/2011; Finding aid by Jonathan Dembo, 11/18/2011, revised by Dick Wolfe, 6/11/2012; Encoded by Jonathan Dembo, 7/6/2012; Encoding revised by Jonathan Dembo, 7/16/2012.


Biographical / Historical Note Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Wright Morris

Wright Marion Morris was born in Central City, Nebraska, on 6 January 1910. His father, William Henry Morris, worked for the Union Pacific Railroad. His mother, Grace Osborn Morris, died six days after Wright’s birth and Morris was raised by a nanny until his father married again. Wright developed a close relationship with his stepmother, Gertrude, who was closer to his own age than his father’s. From 1919 to 1924, the family lived in Omaha, Nebraska, where Morris developed a love of photography. Morris is best known for his portrayals of the people and artifacts of the Great Plains in words and pictures, as well as for experimenting with narrative forms.

In the 1950s and 60's, Morris wrote several major novels, including The Field of Vision (1956) and its sequel Ceremony in Lone Tree (1960), as well as Love Among the Cannibals (1957), a cynical and humorous tale of two Hollywood songwriters who travel to Mexico with recently acquired girlfriends. The manuscript material in the collection provides a glimpse into his personality at this time in his life. From 1963 to 1975, Morris was a professor of English at San Francisco State College. Morris published his memoirs in three volumes, the first Will's Boy in 1981, followed by Solo and A Cloak of Light. The uncorrected proofs in the collection are for the third and final installment of this autobiography, A Cloak of Light, and date from 1984-1985. Wright Morris died 25 April 1998 at the age of 88 years.

Stuart Wright

The Wright Morris Papers were collected and compiled by Stuart T. Wright. Wright was born on 30 March 1948 in Roxboro, North Carolina. He was the son of Frances Critcher Wright (1919-2010) and Wallace Lyndon Wright (1921-1965). An avid reader as a boy, Wright developed a strong interest in the American Civil War and with his father toured many of the war’s battlefields searching for artifacts and studying the history of the era. At the age of 12, he won a statewide “Johnny Reb” essay contest and by the age of 15 had visited every major battlefield of the Civil War. Wright attended Roxboro High School, from which he graduated in 1966. It was during these years that he developed an interest in collecting historical books and manuscripts and began relationships with a number of local collectors and dealers.

In the fall of 1966, Wright enrolled at Wake Forest University as a pre-med, history, German and music student. Wright earned a B.A. in German and music in 1970. As a graduate student at Wake Forest University, Wright focused his studies on Southern history and literature, his ambition being to build an authoritative Southern Studies collection for the university. He received a master's degree in Southern Studies in 1973 and a second master's degree in U.S. History in 1980. Additionally Wright holds a professional degree from England in a medically related field. It was while studying there that he became interested in Thomas Wolfe, the noted North Carolina native and novelist.

Following his graduation from Wake Forest, Wright began to develop his collections more systematically, acquiring many first editions of Southern writers. In 1976 he began teaching at Reynolda House, a Wake Forest University affiliate dedicated to the arts and arts education. Wright taught classes in American music as well as human anatomy for art students. In 1978 Wright became Lecturer in Education at Wake Forest University. During his 10 years teaching at Wake Forest University, Wright authored numerous works of Civil War and North Carolina history, and dozens of articles, bibliographies, essays and reviews on Southern literature and the writers whose papers he collected. In addition, he developed a strong interest in the writings of the English poet Donald Davie and the Minnesota-born poet Richard Eberhart, whose works he also collected.

At the same time, Wright also began a career as a publisher by starting Palaemon Press in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. By 1984, Palaemon Press had produced 316 titles, consisting mainly of broadsides and limited editions, of the poetry and essays of such Southern writers as A. R. Ammons, Fred Chappell, James Dickey, William Goyen, George Garrett, and Eudora Welty. He also built comprehensive collections and compiled book-length descriptive bibliographies of A.R. Ammons, Andrew Lytle, Reynolds Price, James Dickey, William Goyen, Walker Percy, Randall Jarrell, Peter Taylor, George Garrett, Richard Eberhart, and Donald Davie. As well as serving as editor of the contemporary literature section of the Bulletin of Bibliography throughout the 1980s, Wright also contributed pioneering checklists of the writings of Southern poets Henry Taylor, Charles Wright, and Robert Morgan. For Meckler Publishing he served as series editor for a number of book-length bibliographies and checklists. In recognition of these accomplishments, when he was just 32, Wright was elected to membership in New York's prestigious Grolier Club.

All of these works are represented in the Stuart Wright Collection. In his dealings with these various authors Wright made consistent efforts to acquire personal papers, letters and documents, photographs, manuscripts, drafts, proofs, and published materials to supplement his continuing activities as a purchaser of their works. In this way, Wright acquired perhaps a majority of his overall collection. Over the years a number of biographers used Wright’s collection to aid their research. For example, James A. Grimshaw, Jr. used the collection extensively for his Robert Penn Warren: A Descriptive Bibliography, 1922-1979 published by the University Press of Virginia, in 1981 and Craig S. Abbott did so as well for John Crowe Ransom: A Descriptive Bibliography, published by Whitston Publishing Company, Inc. in 1999. Joseph Blotner also used the Wright collection in researching Robert Penn Warren: A Biography, published by Random House in 1997.

Nevertheless, from the mid- to late 1980s, Wright began to look for a permanent home for his collection, which he felt had grown too large and yet had been too little used. Unable to find a repository willing to accept the entire collection under suitable conditions, he sold a number of individual author collections to Vanderbilt University, Duke University, the University of Texas at Austin, and Emory University. It was not until 2010 that he reached agreement to house the remaining, and largest part of his collection at East Carolina University. The Stuart Wright Collection in the East Carolina Manuscript Collection of J.Y. Joyner Library includes 22 sub-collections of the papers of Southern American writers. The related Stuart Wright Book Collection holds several thousand volumes by or about many of the same writers. Many of these volumes contain annotations, inscriptions, and insertions that reveal much about the authors in the collection and their relationships with one another. In 1998 Wright moved to England, and since 2001 he has resided in the medieval market town of Ludlow, in Shropshire.

Description Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

The Wright Morris Papers contain correspondence and uncorrected proofs relating to Wright Morris’s literary career in 1950-1951, 1984-1985, undated, including material compiled and added to the collection by Stuart Wright. The material covers two distinct periods of his career. The manuscript material consists of Morris’s typed letters signed to his editor at Knopf, William Cole during the period 1950-1951, 1957, undated and deal with the publication of Morris’s book Man and Boy. The second group consists of two uncorrected proofs of Morris’ book A Cloak of Light: Writing My Life, the third installment of his autobiography. Each proof contains a typed letter signed by M. S. Wyeth, Jr., Vice President & Executive Editor of Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 11 October 1984, to John Updike and George P. Garrett asking them to review the book which was to be published in January 1985.

The Wright Morris Papers are arranged in original order in a single series.

Series 1: Manuscript Materials and Uncorrected Proofs contains typed letters and postcards signed from Morris, in Wayne, Pennsylvania, to William Cole, who edited Man and Boy for Knopf, 1950-1951, 1957, undated. He signed these letters and postcards generally as “Wright” but occasionally as “Uncle Dudley”. The letters and postcards are written in humorous dialect and include references to Cole and his family – Lee, Lucy, and Peggy Cole – an author named Kaplan, Robert Gorham Davis, John Crowe Ransom, Philip Blair Rice, Kenyon Review, Truman Capote, James Agee, Harper’s Bazaar, Virginia Kirkus, Mark Schorer, and Nathanial West, and other literary and public figures. He illustrated several of these cards and letters with little, humorous, pen and ink drawings in the margins.

Series one also includes two copies of the uncorrected proof of A Cloak of Light: Writing My Life, by Wright Morris New York, NY: Harper & Row, Publishers, to be published in January 1985.156 p. The first is autographed by John Updike above the title on the cover; the second is autographed by George P. Garrett above the title on the cover. The first contains a TLS dated 11 October 1984 from M. S. Wyeth, Jr., Vice President & Executive Editor, Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., to John Updike, asking him to review the book; the second contains an identical letter to George P. Garrett. Series one is contained in Box 1.a-1.c

Note to Researchers: Series 1: Manuscript Materials & Uncorrected Proofs contains two folders of Loose Manuscript Items Transferred from the Stuart Wright Book Collection, which consists of items by, about, associated with, or owned by Merrill Moore. They include notes and bookmarks inserted by Moore, Stuart Wright, and others; also notes, cards, correspondence, clippings, advertising, reviews, ephemera, etc. relating to his published works. The loose manuscripts are linked to the books from which they came by their Stuart Wright Book Collection Number (e.g. Stuart Wright Book Collection #40.15). These items may be found in folders 1.a and 1.b.

Related Collections Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Container List Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Series 1:
Manuscript Materials & Uncorrected Proofs
  • Box 1#1169-008.1
    • Folder a#1169-008.1.a
      Morris, Wright. Letters sent to William Cole, the Knopf editor for Morris's work Man and Boy. [Correspondence] (1950 - 1951, 1957, undated) TLS. 19 items. 19 p. Note: Many of the letters are written in humorous dialect and are signed "Wright" or "Uncle Dudley"; some contain marginal pen and ink sketches; on Morris letterhead postcards (10) and papers (8); also Stuard Wright typed note (1) on postcard: "Correspondence with William Cole, Morris's Knopf editor for Man and Boy" (undated) TLS.
    • Folder b#1169-008.1.b
      A Cloak of Light: Writing My Life [Book] by Wright Morris (New York, NY: Harper & Row, Publishers, January 1985) Uncorrected Proof. ISBN: 0-06-015399-7. 2 items. 156 p. Note: Condition: Good; uncorrected proof; Signed by John Updike; Laid in M. S. Wyeth, Jr. , Vice President & Executive Editor, Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., New York, Letter to John Updike laid in with advance copy of A Cloak of Light (11 October 1984) TLS; transferred from Stuart Wright Book collection 9.24.2010 Item #58-35
    • Folder c#1169-008.1.c
      A Cloak of Light: Writing My Life [Book] by Wright Morris (New York, NY: Harper & Row, Publishers, January 1985) Uncorrected Proof. ISBN: 0-06-015399-7. 2 items. 156 p. Note: Condition: Good; uncorrected proof; Signed by George Garrett; Laid in M. S. Wyeth, Jr. , Vice President & Executive Editor, Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., New York, Letter to George P. Garrett laid in with advance copy of A Cloak of Light (11 October 1984) TLS; transferred from Stuart Wright Book collection 9.24.2010 Item #58-36
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This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Special Collections Division, J.Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University. The materials described here are physically available in our reading room. None of the original documents in this collection are digitally available online at this time.
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