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Stuart Wright Collection: William Styron Papers 1930–1987, undated

Manuscript Collection #1169-011

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

Title: Stuart Wright Collection: William Styron Papers
Creators: Styron, William Clark, Jr., 1925-2006
Wright, Stuart T., 1948-
Repository: ECU Manuscript Collection
Languages: English
Abstract: Papers (1930-1987, undated) documenting the life and literary career of William Styron, the noted American novelist and essayist, including correspondence; manuscripts, photographic prints, proofs of published materials, printed material, loose manuscripts transferred from the Stuart Wright Book Collection and oversized materials, by or about William Styron, Malcom Cowley, James Jones, Eugene Genovese, and others.
Extent: 0.545 Cubic feet, 1 archival box, 3 oversized folders, 31 items.

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

Accessions Information

21 June 2010, 0.545 cubic feet; 1 archival box & 3 oversized folders; 31 items; 805 p. Papers (1930-1987, undated) documenting the life and literary career of William Styron, the noted American novelist and essayist, including correspondence; manuscripts, photographic prints, proofs of published materials, printed material, loose manuscripts from the Stuart Wright Book Collection and oversized materials, by or about William Styron and others. 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 - William Styron Papers (#1169-011) 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, Preliminary inventory & Container list by Jonathan Dembo, with the assistance of Stephanie Biggs & Shelby Sapp, 10/26/2010; revised by Jonathan Dembo, 11/19/2010 & 7/7/2011; Final inventory by Krystal Cook, revised 2/27/2011; Finding aid by Jonathan Dembo, 11/3/2011, revised 1/23/2012; Encoded by Jonathan Dembo, 7/9/2012; Encoding revised by Jonathan Dembo, 7/17/2012.


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

William Styron

The noted American novelist and essayist, William Clark Styron, Jr., was born on 11 June 1925 in Newport News, Virginia. Descended from slave owning grandparents, he received a liberal upbringing from his northern-born mother and progressive father. He attended local public schools and then entered Christchurch School, an Episcopal college preparatory school. Upon graduating high school, Styron enrolled in Davidson College, in North Carolina, but dropped out to serve in the U. S. Marine Corps during World War II, rising to the rank of lieutenant.

When World War II ended, Styron enrolled at Duke University, in Durham, North Carolina, graduating with a B.A. in English in 1947. He then took an editorial position with McGraw-Hill publishers, in New York, but hated the work and provoked the company into firing him. He then started his writing career, publishing his first novel, Lie Down in Darkness, in 1951. He later returned to the Marine Corps to serve during the Korean War but was discharged in 1952 for eye problems.

Styron is known principally as a novelist. The collection contains significant references to his major works, including:

• The Confessions of Nat Turner (1967), narrated by Nat Turner, the leader of an 1831 Virginia slave revolt; and

• Sophie's Choice (1979), a story "told through the eyes of a young aspiring writer from the South, about a Polish Catholic survivor of Auschwitz and her brilliant but troubled Jewish lover in postwar Brooklyn."

Styron died at Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, on 1 November 2006 at age 81.

Stuart Wright

The William Styron 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 bulk of the William Styron Papers consists of proofs of the published works of other authors, including Eugene V. Genovese, James Jones and Lewis J. Blair which Styron reviewed for their publishers. It also contains a significant number of photographic prints and loose manuscripts transferred from the Stuart Wright Book Collection.

The William Styron Papers are arranged in original order in four series.

Series 1: Manuscript Materials and Photographic Prints consists of a news release, letters received and photographic prints relating to William Styron and his family, 1967, 1979. Series one is held in Box 1.a – 1.c

Series 2: Proofs and Printed Materials consists of printed books covers and brochures for William Styron’s publications and proofs of books Styron reviewed for publication, including Roll Jordan Roll: The World the Slaves Made, by Eugene D. Genovese; Whistle, by James Jones; and A Southern Prophesy, by Lewis J. Blair, 1964-1979, undated. Series two is contained in Box 1.d - 1.i.

Series 3: Loose Manuscripts from Stuart Wright Book Collection consists of loose manuscript and other materials found between the leaves of volumes in the Stuart Wright Book Collection. The material consists of notes ca. 1970-1971, relating to William Styron. The loose manuscripts are linked to the book of origin by their Stuart Wright Book Collection Number (e.g. Stuart Wright Book Collection #38.4). Series three is held in Box 1.j – 1.k

Series 4: Oversized Materials consists of three oversized folders of clippings, a proof, and oversized photographs. Series four is held in Folder 1.k.os.1 – 1.m.os.1

Note to Researchers: Series 3: Loose Manuscripts Transferred from the Stuart Wright Book Collection consists of items found laid in works in the Stuart Wright Book Collection by, about, associated with, or owned by William Styron. They include notes and bookmarks inserted by Styron, 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).

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

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Series 1:
Manuscript Materials and Photographic Prints
  • Box 1#1169-011.1
    • Folder a#1169-011.1.a
      William Styron Only Living Writer Named In National French Literary Examinations. News from Random House, Inc., New York, NY [News Release] (ca. 1979) Mimeographed Typescripts. 1 item. 1 p.
    • Folder b#1169-011.1.b
      Sophie's Choice [Brochure] (30 Aug. 1979) TLS and Printed. 2 items. 5 p. Note: also includes cover letter from Liz Knights at Jonathan Cape Limited, London, U.K., 30 Aug. 1979
    • Folder c#1169-011.1.c
      William Styron and Family Portraits [Portraits] (ca. 1967) Photographic prints. Black & White. 8" x 10" 12 items. 12 p.
Series 2:
Proofs & Printed Materials
  • Box 1#1169-011.1
    • Folder d#1169-011.1.d
      Auschwitz 1940 - 1945 Guide Book Through the Museum [Book Covers] (undated) Printed. 1 item. 2 p. Note: Text block missing; plans of Camp Auschwitz and Camp Birkenau on inside of covers.
    • Folder e#1169-011.1.e
      Other Side of the Poem, The: A Little Anthology of Responses [Brochure] [1963] Printed. 1 item. 4 p. Note: Gotham Book Mart's advertisement for responses to Ruth Stephan's [Charlotte Ruth Stephan Dart 1910-1974] poems.
    • Folder f#1169-011.1.f
      Major Publishing Event: Sophie's Choice by William Styron, Book of the Month Club News [Periodical] (Midsummer 1979) Printed. 1 item. 16 p. Note: Articles on Styron and Sophie's Choice on pp. 2, 3-6.
    • Folder g#1169-011.1.g
      Roll Jordan Roll: The World the Slaves Made, by Eugene D. Genovese [Proof] (New York, NY: Pantheon Books: A Division of Random House, © 1974) Uncorrected proof. ISBN: 0-394-49131-9. Soft cover bound. 1 item. 402 p. Note: Autographed "p. 115 laboring class" on cover & "Wm. Styron's copy" on title page; some underlining and notes in Book 5; Transferred from Stuart Wright Collection Printed Works #5033 (9/24/2010)
    • Folder h#1169-011.1.h
      Whistle, by James Jones [Proof] (New York, NY: Delacorte Press, © 1978) Uncorrected Proof. ISBNP 0-440-09548-4. Soft cover bound. 1 item. 233 p. Note: Autographed "William Styron" on title page; "Poll - Bed for you is in F is in upstairs - open - Love, Mum. " Transferred from Stuart Wright Collection Printed Works #50.23 (9/24/2010)
    • Folder i#1169-011.1.i
      A Southern Prophecy, by Lewis J. Blair [Proof] (Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Co., [1964]) Uncorrected Advance Proof. Soft cover. Spiral bound. 1 item. 107 p. Note: Annotated on cover on title page & marginalia in William Styron's hand; Transferred from Stuart Wright Collection Printed Works #50.33 (9/24/2010)
Series 3:
Loose Manuscripts Transferred from the Stuart Wright Book Collection
  • Box 1#1169-011.1
    • Folder j#1169-011.1.j
      The Joint, by James Blake [Book] (1971) Printed. 1 item. 1 p. Note: William Styron, Roxbury, Connecticut. Note to "Dear Francine: The enclosed is for Vinnie, Love Bill" (undated) Holograph; Transferred from Stuart Wright Book Collection #50.10.
    • Folder k#1169-011.1.k
      The Norton Anthology of Poetry, Edited by Arthur M. Eastman [Book] (1970) Printed. 1 item. 1 p. Note: Stuart Wright note: "Styron's copy pp. 851-52 (but see p. 854); See Sophie's Choice, p. 512, passim" (undated) Holograph [Styron used this copy to locate a suitable poem for Sophie to memorize]; Transferred from Stuart Wright Book Collection #50.22.
Series 4:
Oversized Materials
Oversize Folder os1#1169-011.os1
"Encouragement and a Kick Made Bill Styron a Writer: Teacher Guided, Publisher Fired Him," by Robert Mason, Norfolk Virginian-Pilot (9 September 1951), p. 5-8; "A Second Flowering: Works and Days of the Lost Generation", by Malcolm Cowley, reviewed by William Styron, New York Times Books Review, (6 May 1973), pp. 8-14; "Confessions of William Styron," by Francine du Plessiz Gray, Washington Post Book World (20 May 1979), p. E1-6; "'Sophie's Choice' Is Filmmaker's Choice Too," by Charles Champlin, Winston-Salem, NC Sentinel (20 May 1982), p. 28 (1951-1982) Oversized Clippings, etc. (1951-1982) 4 items. 10 p. Transferred from 1169-011.1.k.
Oversize Folder os2#1169-011.os2
Commentary, by John Thompson [Review of Confessions of Nat Turner, by William Styron] (27 Sept. 1967) Edited First Proof. 1 item. 8 p. Note: Brittle, torn, pressure sensitive tape; needs conservation. Transferred from 1169-011.1.l.
Oversize Folder os3#1169-011.os3
William Styron Close-up, by Ted Polumbaum, Life Photo (23 August 1967); William Styron with Unknown Elderly Man, by Ted Polumbaum, Life Photo (11 September 1967); William Styron Seated on Porch #79503-2C3-20A-8E by Life Photo, marked "Scratched in Neg" (undated) Oversized Photographic prints. Black & White. Various sizes. 3 items. 3 p. Transferred from 1169-011.1.m.
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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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