Stuart Wright Collection: Carson McCullers Papers

1941-1985 (Bulk: 1941-1945); 1941-1945
Manuscript Collection #1169-038
McCullers, Carson, 1917-1967
Physical description
0.25 Cubic Feet, 1 archival box, 73 items, 110 p.
Preferred Citation
Stuart Wright Collection: Carson McCullers Papers (#1169-038), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Papers of Carson McCullers (1941-1985 [Bulk: 1941-1945]) documenting the life and literary career of the noted Columbia, Georgia-born American author of Southern Gothic novels and short stories, consisting of her correspondence with noted American composer David Diamond (1915-2005), 1941-1945, and a letter from McCullers' biographer, Virginia Spencer Carr, to Stuart Wright, regarding publication of the McCullers – Diamond correspondence, 1985.

Biographical/historical information

Carson McCullers was born Lula Carson Smith on February 19, 1917 in Columbus, Georgia. At the age of 17, McCullers boarded a steam ship leaving Savannah, bound for New York City. While in New York studying music at Juilliard, McCullers fell ill with a rheumatic fever. As a result of her illness, she had to give up her dreams of a future in music performance. While recovering, at home, she began work on her first book, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. After returning to New York, McCullers decided to pursue a carrier in writing. She attended Columbia University and the Washington Square College of New York University to study writing.

In 1937, McCullers married James Reeves McCullers, Jr., from Savannah. Their tumultuous, decades long, relationship was filled with breakups, divorce and reconciliation. At one point the couple had an open relationship, and they shared their bed with the American composer, David Diamond. Sometime in the early 1950's, while they lived in Paris, James tried to talk Carson into committing suicide with him. Because of this she left him to return to the United States; shortly after her departure James killed himself. In her early twenties and thirties McCullers suffered a series of strokes that greatly affected her health and left her in a wheelchair. McCullers wrote four novels in total and several short stories as well as a play and a collection of poems for children.

Carson died in Nyack, New York on September 29, 1967, after a brain hemorrhage. Sources:

"Carson McCullers". New Georgia Encyclopedia.

"Carson McCullers Profile". Turner Classic Movies.

"Carson McCullers". Wikipedia. Diamond. Wikipedia.

Author: Jonathan Dembo, with the assistance of John Leche, 10/7/2016

Stuart Wright collected and compiled the Mark Strand Papers. Wright was born Stuart Thurman Wright, 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 106 sub-collections of the papers of Southern American writers, composers, illustrators, and publishers. 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.

Author: Jonathan Dembo, 11/2/2016

Scope and arrangement

The Stuart Wright Collection: Carson McCullers Papers document the life and literary career of American writer Carson McCullers (1917-1967). The materials are arranged, in original order, in a single series.

Series 1: Ludlow Addition #2 Papers (1941-1985 [Bulk: 1941-1945]) documenting the life and literary career of Carson McCullers (1917-1967), the noted American author of Southern gothic novels, consisting of her correspondence, with noted American composer David Diamond (1915-2005), 1941-1945, and with Stuart Wright, 1985. 0.25 cubic feet; 1 archival box; 73 items; 110 p. Series 1 is held in Box 1.a-1.b

Administrative information
Custodial History

20 July 2012, (Ludlow Addition #2), 0.25 cubic feet; 1 archival box; 73 items; 110 p. Papers (1941-1985 [Bulk: 1941-1945]) documenting the life and literary career of Carson McCullers (1917-1967), the noted American author of Southern gothic novels, consisting of her correspondence, with noted American composer David Diamond (1915-2005), 1941-1945, and with Stuart Wright, 1985. Vendor: Stuart Wright

Source of acquisition

Purchased from Stuart WRight, 7/20/2012.

Processing information

Processing, Preliminary inventory & Container List, by Jonathan Dembo, with the assistance of Nathaniel King, 3/14/2014, 12/10/2015, 2/17/2016; Final inventory by Jonathan Dembo, 9/19/2016; Finding aid by Jonathan Dembo, 12/9/2015, 9/19/2016; Biographical Sketch, by John Leche, 10/7/2016; Encoded by Jonathan Dembo, 01/13/2017.

Copyright notice

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

Language of material


Key terms
Personal Names
Carr, Virginia Spencer--Correspondence
Diamond, David, 1915-2005
McCullers, Carson, 1917-1967
Gay composers--United States
Jewish composers--United States
Triangles (Interpersonal relations)
Women authors, American--20th century

Container list
Box 1 Folder a McCullers, Carson, Yaddo, NY. Letters to David Diamond (ca. 1941 - 1945, 1952, 1961) Photocopied ALS. 71 items. 105 p. ; Note : David Diamond was one of the most prominent composers of his generation, he was involved in a ménage a trois with Carson McCullers and her suicidal husband, Reeves McCullers ; Source : Ludlow Addition Box #178.021
Box 1 Folder b Carr, Virginia Spencer, Athens, GA. Letter to Stuart Wright, Winston-Salem, NC ; Checklist of Carson McCullers "Books and Stuff" by Stuart Wright (19 Dec. 1985) Photocopy ALS ; Photocopy typescripts. 2 items. 5 p. ; Note : Carr was a biographer of Carson McCullers ; Wright consulted her concerning obtaining permission to publish the McCullers - Diamond letters the Checklist discusses McCullers - Diamond relationship & the significance of the letters & quotes from a letter from David Diamond regarding the letters ; Source : Ludlow Addition Box #178.021