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Stuart Wright Collection: James Dickey Papers, 1950-1978

Manuscript Collection #1169-019

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

Title: Stuart Wright Collection: James Dickey Papers
Creators: Dickey, James, 1923-1997
Wright, Stuart T., 1948-
Repository: ECU Manuscript Collection
Languages: English
Abstract: Papers (1950-1978) documenting the life and literary career of James Dickey, the noted American novelist and essayist, including correspondence; manuscripts, photographic prints, reviews of published materials, printed material, loose manuscripts from the Stuart Wright Book Collection and oversized materials, by or about James Dickey, Louis Untermeyer, and others.
Extent: 0.25 Cubic feet, 1 archival box; 15 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; 15 items; 19 p. Papers (1950-1978) documenting the life and literary career of James Dickey, the noted American novelist and essayist, including correspondence; manuscripts, photographic prints, reviews of published materials, printed material, loose manuscripts from the Stuart Wright Book Collection and oversized materials, by or about James Dickey, Louis Untermeyer, 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 - James Dickey Papers (#1169-019) 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

  • Processing, Preliminary inventory & Container List, by Jonathan Dembo, with the assistance of Saundra Pinkham, revised 11/19/2010; revised by Jonathan Dembo, 6/10/2013; Final inventory by Douglas Tuers, revised 1/24/2011; Finding aid by Jonathan Dembo, 11/9/2011; Encoded by Jonathan Dembo, 7/3/2012; Inventory revised 10/9/2013.


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

James Dickey

James Dickey was born in Atlanta, Georgia on 2 February 1923 to Maibelle Swift and Eugene Dickey. He attended Clemson Agricultural College and starred as a tailback on the football team. In 1942, Dickey interrupted his education to enlist in the Army Air Force, serving as a radio intercept officer with the 418th Night Fighter Squadron during World War II. He flew on many combat missions in the Pacific theater and was highly decorated.

After the war, Dickey earned both bachelors and masters degrees from Vanderbilt University. At the start of the Korean War he was recalled to service, and served as a trainer. Dickey began writing poetry in high school but it was during his World War II military service that it became his main professional interest. Dickey ultimately published more than 25 books of poetry, 3 novels, and 2 screen plays, and served as a poetry consultant to the Library of Congress from 1966 to 1968. He taught at several colleges and universities and concluded his teaching career at the University of South Carolina from 1969 until his death in 1997.

Dickey may be best known for his best-selling 1970 novel Deliverance. Deliverance was turned into a successful film that was nominated for 3 Academy Awards in 1973. Dickey even played a featured role in the film as a local sheriff. He died in Columbia, South Carolina on 19 January 1997.

Stuart T. Wright

The James Dickey 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 James Dickey Papers are arranged in original order in one series. The series consists entirely of Loose Manuscript Items Transferred from the Stuart Wright Book Collection. Perhaps the most interesting group of items relates to Dickey’s Poems 1957-1967 (1966). These items, transferred from the copy of the book in the Stuart Wright Book Collection, contains correspondence, biographical sketches, reviews and other items related to the publication of book. Also of significant interest is a letter from Dickey to Louis Untermeyer explaining his literary evolution which was found in Drowning with Others (1966). In Symbol and Image in the Shorter Poems of Herman Melville (1950) were found several early, informal, photographic prints of James Dickey ca. 1950s.

Series 1: Loose Manuscripts from Stuart Wright Book Collection consists of loose manuscripts and other materials found between the leaves of volumes in the Stuart Wright Book Collection. The materials consist of notes, letters, clippings, printed material and ephemera, 1933-1987, relating to James Dickey, and his publications. The loose manuscripts are linked to the book of origin by their Stuart Wright Book Collection Number (e.g. Stuart Wright Book Collection #38.04). Series one is held in Box 1.a – 1.d

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 James Dickey. They include notes and bookmarks inserted by Dickey, 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

Series 1:
Loose Manuscripts Transferred from the Stuart Wright Book Collection
  • Box 1#1169-019.1
    • Folder a#1169-019.1.a
      Poems 1957-1967, by James Dickey [Books] (1966) 9 items. 13 p. Note: James Dickey, Durham, North Carolina, Letter to Mrs. Louis Untermeyer regarding invitation to visit Bridgeport, Connecticut [Correspondence] (12 April 1966) TLS; James Dickey, Leesburg, Virginia, Letter to Louis Untermeyer, regarding inclusion in new edition of Modern American Poetry and enclosing biographical sketch; Two biographical sketch of James Dickey [Correspondence] (April 1967) Mimeographed typescript; "James Dickey Has A New Voice", Wesleyan University Press News Release advertising Poems 1957-1967 [Press Releases] (17 March 1967) Mimeographed typescript; Wesleyan University Press Review copy slip [Press Releases] (24 April 1967) Edited printed form; "Writer Turned Reader: Babel to Byzantium. Poets and Poetry Today by James Dick" reviewed by Thomas Lask, New York Times Book Review [Reviews] (10 May 1968) Clipping; "Sorties: Journals and New Essays, by James Dickey" reviewed by David Kalstone, New York Times Book Review [Reviews] (23 January 1972) Clipping; James Dickey Portrait used to illustrate clipping of 10 May 1968 [Photographs] (ca. 1968) Photographic print; Black & white; 3.5" x 5"; Photographic prints cataloged: #P-1160.019.001.a.1; Transferred from Stuart Wright Book Collection #49.26
    • Folder b#1169-019.1.b
      Drowning With Others, by James Dickey [Books] (1966) Printed. 2 items. 2 p. Note: James Dickey, Madison, Wisconsin, Letter to Louis Untermeyer recalling previous meeting in Washington, DC and discussion of poets and poetry, explaining his "poetic education" during World War II (12 February 1966) TLS; "Rustic and Urbane: James Dickey: Helmets, John Updike: Telephone poles; Blas De Otero: Twenty Poems", reviewed in London Times Literary Supplement (20 August 1967) Clipping; Transferred from Stuart Wright Book Collection #49.27
    • Folder c#1169-019.1.c
      Symbol and Image in the Shorter Poems of Herman Melville, by James Dickey [Books] (1950) Printed. 3 items. 3 p. Note: Scrapbook photos of James Dickey (ca. 1950s) including images of Dickey in his back yard and standing beside his ca. 1948-1950 Pontiac Chieftain sedan; Photographic prints cataloged: #P-1169.019.001.c.2 - c.4; Photographic prints; Black & white; 2.7" x 4.5"; Traces of glue on verso; needs conservation; Transferred from Stuart Wright Book Collection #49.34
    • Folder d#1169-019.1.d
      Review, The, vol. 17, n. 1 [Periodicals] (1978) 1 item. 1 p. Note: "Jay" to "Dear Bob" noting that the issue contains the "Dickey interview" and suggesting he pass it on to Stuart Wright (ca. 1978) ALS; Transferred from Stuart Wright Book Collection #52.39
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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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