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Stuart Wright Collection: Fred Chappell Papers, 1966-1984, 2011, undated

Manuscript Collection #1169-017

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

Title: Stuart Wright Collection: Fred Chappell Papers
Creators: Chappell, Fred [Fred Davis], 1936-
Wright, Stuart T., 1948-
Repository: ECU Manuscript Collection
Languages: English
Abstract: Papers (1966-1984, 2011, undated) documenting the life and literary career of Fred Chappell, the noted American educator, short story writer and novelist, consisting of a print of his poem The Collector (2011) written in honor of Stuart Wright; also loose manuscript materials transferred from the Stuart Wright Book Collection including Chappell’s correspondence with George Garrett, Stuart Wright and Wallace Fowlie, and a clipping.
Extent: 0.25 Cubic feet, 1 archival box, 1 oversized folder, 12 items..

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

Accessions Information

21 June 2010, 0.01 cubic feet; 1 archival box & 1 oversized folder; 12 items; 28 p. Papers (1966-1984, 2011, undated) documenting the life and literary career of Fred Chappell, the noted American educator, short story writer and novelist, consisting of a print of his poem The Collector (2011) written in honor of Stuart Wright; also loose manuscript materials transferred from the Stuart Wright Book Collection including Chappell’s correspondence with George Garrett, Stuart Wright and Wallace Fowlie, and a clipping. 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 - Fred Chappell Papers (#1169-017) 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 Saundra Pinkham, & Douglas Tuers, revised 11/19/2010; final inventory revised by Douglas Tuers, 2/14/2011, 4/27/2011; Finding aid by Jonathan Dembo, Trisha Capansky revised, 11/21/2011 & 6/29/2012; Encoded by Jonathan Dembo, 6/29/2012; Encoding revised by Jonathan Dembo, 7/18/2012.


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

Fred Chappell

Fred Davis Chappell was born 28 May 1936, to James Taylor (J.T.) and Anne Davis Chappell in Canton, North Carolina. Chappell’s grandfather built the farmhouse where Fred grew up and his parents made a small living by farming the land surrounding the homestead. Chappell’s parents also worked as schoolteachers and his father eventually operated a furniture retail business. Canton, a small town in the Appalachian Mountains, was home to Champion International Paper factory, the largest employer in Canton at the time which also frequently appeared in Chappell’s later writings exemplifying industrialism’s threat to agrarianism.

In 1954, Chappell was accepted to Duke University where he formed friendships with William Applewhite and Reynolds Price. Chappell returned to Canton for three years during this time, delaying the completion of his BA degree in fiction writing until 1961. In 1964 he received an MA also from Duke, for which he wrote a 1,100-page concordance to the poetry of Samuel Johnson. On 2 August 1959, he married Susan Nicholls. Shortly after graduation, in 1964, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro hired Chappell to teach creative writing and literature; he remained there until retiring in 2004.

Chappell has written more than twenty-five books in several genres, mainly poetry, short stories and novels. The success of his writings has garnered for him the Yale University Library’s Bollingen Prize in Poetry, the Sir Walter Raleigh Prize, North Carolina Award for Literature, France’s Prix de Meilleur des Livres Étrangers for the best foreign novel (Dagon), the Award in Literature from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the T.S. Eliot Award, the Aiken/Taylor Award, the poet laureateship of North Carolina (1997-2002), and in 2005, the Thomas Wolfe prize. In retirement Chappell continues to work and appeared as the featured speaker at The Inaugural Stuart Wright Collection Exhibition on 7 September 2011.

Stuart Wright

The Fred Chappel 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 Fred Chappell Papers are arranged in two series of manuscript materials, which include correspondence with George Garrett, Stuart Wright and Wallace Fowlie, and a clipping. The collection also includes a printed copy of Chappell’s heretofore unpublished poem, The Collector (2011), written in honor of Stuart Wright. It is filed in an oversized folder.

Series 1: Loose Manuscripts Transferred from the Stuart Wright Book Collection consists of loose manuscript and other materials found between the leaves of volumes in the Stuart Wright Book Collection. Perhaps the most significant of these is Chappell’s correspondence with George Garrett relating to Dagon. Series one is contained in Box 1.a-1.f.

Series 2: Oversized Print consists of a print of The Collector (1982) a poem by Fred Chappell about Stuart Wright printed for the inaugural Stuart Wright Collection exhibit opening at Joyner Library 7 September 2011. Series one is contained in Oversized folder 1.f.os.1.

The letters and clipping were among the Loose Manuscript Items found in books in the Stuart Wright Book Collection. Several of these items were found in copies of his novels, including The Inkling (1965) and Dagon (1968), Moments of Light (1980), A Pact with Faustus (1984). Interestingly, Dagon (1968) was found to contain Chappell’s correspondence with George Garrett relating to First and Last Words (1989). Moments of Light was Chappell’s first collection of short stories.

In these books Chappell explored his intellectual passion for understanding man’s place in the universal order of things by exploring such concepts as justice, morality, and destiny. The stories often have biblical overtones in that they are told in parables and describe man’s fall from God’s grace. In A Pact with Faustus (1984), Chappell revisits his early works by explaining the loosely drawn thematic method he used to write his first four novels. For example, he describes The Inkling as “a story about a boy who represents pure Will and his sister who is Appetite.” The brother and sister live in a small town in western North Carolina, which like Canton, has a paper mill as its leading employer, symbolic of Chappell’s also continued interests in the impact of industrialization.

The loose manuscripts transferred from the Stuart Wright Book Collection are a heterogeneous mix of items found in the pages of Chappell-related books collected by Stuart Wright from various sources. These items include correspondence, clippings, and printed materials. 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)

Note to Researchers: Series 1: 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 Fred Chappell. They include notes and bookmarks inserted by Chappell, 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).

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Series 1:
Loose Manuscripts Transferred from Stuart Wright Book Collection
  • Box 1#1169-017.1
    • Folder a#1169-017.1.a
      Zirconia Poems, by Robert Morgan [Books] (1981) 1 item. 2 p. Note: Fred Chappell, Department of English, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Letter to Stuart Wright accompanying copy of Zirconia Poems (16 September 1981) ALS; Transferred from Stuart Wright Book Collection #52.15
    • Folder b#1169-017.1.b
      Dagon, by Fred Chappell [Books] (1972) 2 items. 2 p. Note: "Students Featured: Writer to Read Works at UNC-A Poetry Show", by UNC-A News Bureau about Fred Chappell reading, annotated "GDN" (7 October 1972) Clipping; "C. Duffy, Harcourt, Brace & World" address (undated) Holograph; Transferred from Stuart Wright Book Collection #52.16
    • Folder c#1169-017.1.c
      Dagon, by Fred Chappell [Books] (1972) 5 items. 11 p. Note: Stuart Wright note: "A 'Dedication' copy, sent by publisher to George, Fred signed it form me (Peter's copy was also uninscribed" (ca. 1989) Holograph; George Garrett, Creative Writing Program, University of Virginia, Letter to Fred Chappell on receipt of First and Last Words (18 February 1989) ALS; Fred Chappell, Department of English, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Letter to George Garrett (14 October 1968) TLS; Compliments of the Author card (ca. 1989) Printed; "The Garrett Cottage, New Smyrna Beach, Florida, by A. McClelland [Sketch] (undated) Printed card; Transferred from Stuart Wright Book Collection #52.22.
    • Folder d#1169-017.1.d
      Inkling, The, by Fred Chappell [Books] (1966) 1 item. 1 p. Note: Fred Chappell, Department of English, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Letter to George Garrett asking Garrett to comment on his students' literary magazine (14 April 1966) ALS; Transferred from Stuart Wright Book Collection #52.35
    • Folder e#1169-017.1.e
      Moments of Light, by Fred Chappell [Books] (1980) 1 item. 9 p. Note: George Garrett, Creative Writing Program, University of Virginia, Letter to Fred & Susan Chappell regarding a recent meeting and commenting on various literary subject (ca. 1980) ALS; Transferred from Stuart Wright Book Collection #52.36
    • Folder f#1169-017.1.f
      Pact with Faustus, A, by Fred Chappell [Books] (1984) 1 item. 2 p. Note: Fred Chappell, Department of English, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Letter to Mr. [Wallace] Fowlie, regarding his book, Aubade: A Teacher's Notebook (30 November 1984) TLS; Transferred from Stuart Wright Book Collection #52.46
Series 2:
Oversized Materials
Oversize Folder 1#1169-017.1
Collector, The, by Fred Chappell [Broadsides] (2011) Printed. 1 item. 1 p. 15.5" x 23" Note: Poem about Stuart Wright printed for Stuart Wright Collection exhibit opening at Joyner Library 9/7/2011.
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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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