Stuart Wright Collection: Erskine Caldwell Papers, 1932-1982

Manuscript Collection #1169-058

  • Descriptive Summary
     
    Title: Stuart Wright Collection: Erskine Caldwell Papers
    Creator: Caldwell, Erskine, (Erskine Preston), 1903-1987
    Cantwell, Robert, (Robert Emmett), (1908-1978)
    Repository: ECU Manuscript Collection
    Language: English
    Abstract: Papers of Erskine Caldwell (1932-1982), documenting the life and literary career of the noted Coweta County, Georgia-born, American novelist of the rural poor in the American South; consisting primarily of his correspondence with Robert Cantwell; also Paul C. Richards, Autographs’ description of the letters and Stuart Wright’s correspondence with Paul C. Richards, Autographs relating to purchase of the letters.
    Extent: 0.25 Cubic feet, 0.25 Cubic feet, 1 archival box, 4 items, 5 p.,
  • Description
     

    The Stuart Wright Collection: Erskine Caldwell Papers is arranged in original order in a single series.

    Series 1: Cary Addition #1 to the Stuart Wright Collection, consist, primarily, of Caldwell's correspondence with novelist, biographer, essayist, editor, Robert Cantwell; also Paul C. Richards, Autographs' description of the letters and Stuart Wright's correspondence with Paul C. Richards, Autographs relating to purchase of the letters. Series 1 is housed in Box 1.a.1-1.a.f

  • Biographical / Historical Note
     

    Erskine Caldwell, born Erskine Preston Caldwell, was born in Coweta County on 17 December 1903. After high school, Caldwell attended Erskine College, a Presbyterian affiliated school, but went on to study at other institutions including the University of Virginia. Erskine Caldwell was born, Erskine Preston Caldwell, in Coweta County, Georgia, on 17 December 1903. After high school, Caldwell attended Erskine College, a Presbyterian affiliated school, but went on to study at other institutions including the University of Virginia. Even though he studied at several institutions, Caldwell never received a degree from any of them. It was while he was attending the University of Virginia; Caldwell created his first published piece of work, an essay titled The Georgia Cracker (1926).

    Over his career, Caldwell wrote over twelve nonfiction books, twenty-five novels, and almost 150 short stories. His dominant theme, especially in his works published in the 1930s, was the plight of black or white poor southerners. He openly showed his contempt for racists. Though he condemned racism he supported Eugenics and evidence of his support for forced sterilization can be found in his early works.

    The 1930's were a productive time for Caldwell, it was in this decade that he wrote two of his most famous books, Tobacco Road (1932) and God's Little Acre (1933). It was also in this decade that Caldwell met and married his second and most famous wife, the photographer Margaret Bourke-White. Their marriage only lasted three years (1929-1942), but resulted in publication of documentary by the couple, entitled You Have Seen Their Faces (1937).

    Later in his career Caldwell's writings turned towards nostalgia for Georgia. His final piece of work, With All My Might (1987), is an autobiography that was published a month before his death on 11 April 1987 from lung cancer.

    Sources:

    "Erskine Caldwell (1903-1987)" [Biographical Sketch]. New Georgia Encyclopedia. Accessed October 31, 2016. http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/arts-culture/erskine-caldwell-1903-1987.

    "Weeding Out the Recessive Gene: Representations of the Evolving Eugenics Movement in Erskine Caldwell's God's Little Acre", by Ashley Craig Lancaster. 2007. Accessed October 31, 2016. https://muse.jhu.edu/article/218198.

    Author: Jonathan Dembo, with the assistance of John Leche, 4/26/2016, 10/31/2016

    Stuart Wright collected and compiled the Erskine Caldwell Papers. He 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, illustrators, composers, 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

  • Administrative Information
     
    Accessions Information

    27 October 2011, (Cary Addition #1), 0.25 cubic feet; 1 archival box; 4 items; 5 p. Papers (1932-1982) consisting of correspondence and dealer's descriptions of the correspondence relating by and about Erskine Caldwell (1903-1987), the noted American novelist of the rural poor in the American South. Source: Cary Addition Box #069. Vendor: Stuart Wright

    Acquisition Information

    Purchased from Stuart Wright, 10/27/2011

    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: Erskine Caldwell Papers (#1169-058), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.

    Processing Information

    Processing, Preliminary inventory & Container List, by Jonathan Dembo, with the assistance of Nathaniel King, 12/8/2015, 2/12/2016; Final inventory by Jonathan Dembo, 2/12/2016; Finding aid by Jonathan Dembo, 9/20/2016, 9/26/2016, 10/31/2016; Biographical Sketch, by Jonathan Dembo with the assistance of Dale Wetterhahn & John Leche, 4/26/2016, 10/31/2016, rev. 2/8/2017; Encoding revised by Jonathan Dembo, 2/8/2017.

Container List

  • Cary Addition to Stuart Wright Collection
     

    • Manuscript Materials : Correspondence
       

      • Box 1
         
        • Folder a
           
          Erskine Caldwell, Mt. Vernon, ME. Letter to Robert Cantwell thanking him for his comments on Cantwell's recently published pamphlet & informing Sam Goldberg that he has copies of "The Bastard" and of the typescript of "Tobacco Road" to sell (31 Dec. 1932) TLS. 1 item. 1 p. ; Note : Purchased as part of a set from Paul C. Richards, Autographs, High Acres, Templeton, MA for $150.00 (ca. 1982) ; Dealer's note in upper left hand corner reads : "150 - 82" ; Brittle, fragile ; needs conservation ; Source : Cary Addition Box #069.000 (item 1)
          Robert Cantwell. Letter to Sam Goldberg enclosing letter from Erskine Caldwell because it "mentions" Goldberg and saying that he and his family are well, that he is "swamped" with work for The New Outlook, The New Republic, and for a new magazine called Modern Youth which will discuss three sons of famous parents : Nelson Rockefeller, Corliss Lamont, and Alfred Bingham (5 Jan. 1933) TLS. 1 item. 1 p. ; Note : Purchased as part of a set from Paul C. Richards, Autographs, High Acres, Templeton, MA (ca. 1982) ; Brittle, fragile ; needs conservation ; Source : Cary Addition Box #069.000 (item 2)
          Paul C. Richards, Autographs. Catalog description of the Erskine Caldwell letters Lot #20 described as "Fine, early Typed Letter Signed "Erskine", including text of letter. "Accompanied by a rather tattered TLS of Robert Cantwell to Sam [Goldberg] sending him Caldwell's letter. Choice literary association!" ; Priced at $150.00 (ca. 1982) Photocopy typescript. 1 item. 1 p. ; Note : Purchased by Stuart Wright as part of a set from Paul C. Richards, Autographs, High Acres, Templeton, MA (ca. 1982) ; Source : Cary Addition Box #069.000 (item 3)
          Paul C. Richards, Autographs, High Acres, Templeton, MA. Display Folder : Autograph Letters Manuscripts Documents / Financial Americana Obsolete Securities containing Lot #20 (ca. 1982) Printed form. 1 item. 2 p. ; Note : Purchased by Stuart Wright as part of a set from Paul C. Richards, Autographs, High Acres, Templeton, MA (ca. 1982) ; Source : Cary Addition Box #069.000 (item 4)

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Container List

  • Cary Addition to Stuart Wright Collection
     

    • Manuscript Materials : Correspondence
       

      • Box 1
         
        • Folder a
           
          Erskine Caldwell, Mt. Vernon, ME. Letter to Robert Cantwell thanking him for his comments on Cantwell's recently published pamphlet & informing Sam Goldberg that he has copies of "The Bastard" and of the typescript of "Tobacco Road" to sell (31 Dec. 1932) TLS. 1 item. 1 p. ; Note : Purchased as part of a set from Paul C. Richards, Autographs, High Acres, Templeton, MA for $150.00 (ca. 1982) ; Dealer's note in upper left hand corner reads : "150 - 82" ; Brittle, fragile ; needs conservation ; Source : Cary Addition Box #069.000 (item 1)
          Robert Cantwell. Letter to Sam Goldberg enclosing letter from Erskine Caldwell because it "mentions" Goldberg and saying that he and his family are well, that he is "swamped" with work for The New Outlook, The New Republic, and for a new magazine called Modern Youth which will discuss three sons of famous parents : Nelson Rockefeller, Corliss Lamont, and Alfred Bingham (5 Jan. 1933) TLS. 1 item. 1 p. ; Note : Purchased as part of a set from Paul C. Richards, Autographs, High Acres, Templeton, MA (ca. 1982) ; Brittle, fragile ; needs conservation ; Source : Cary Addition Box #069.000 (item 2)
          Paul C. Richards, Autographs. Catalog description of the Erskine Caldwell letters Lot #20 described as "Fine, early Typed Letter Signed "Erskine", including text of letter. "Accompanied by a rather tattered TLS of Robert Cantwell to Sam [Goldberg] sending him Caldwell's letter. Choice literary association!" ; Priced at $150.00 (ca. 1982) Photocopy typescript. 1 item. 1 p. ; Note : Purchased by Stuart Wright as part of a set from Paul C. Richards, Autographs, High Acres, Templeton, MA (ca. 1982) ; Source : Cary Addition Box #069.000 (item 3)
          Paul C. Richards, Autographs, High Acres, Templeton, MA. Display Folder : Autograph Letters Manuscripts Documents / Financial Americana Obsolete Securities containing Lot #20 (ca. 1982) Printed form. 1 item. 2 p. ; Note : Purchased by Stuart Wright as part of a set from Paul C. Richards, Autographs, High Acres, Templeton, MA (ca. 1982) ; Source : Cary Addition Box #069.000 (item 4)


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