Stuart Wright Collection: Jesse Stuart Papers, 1955-1977

Manuscript Collection #1169-084

  • Descriptive Summary
    Title: Stuart Wright Collection: Jesse Stuart Papers
    Creator: Stuart, Jesse, (Jesse Hilton), 1906-1984
    Repository: ECU Manuscript Collection
    Language: English
    Abstract: Papers of Jesse Stuart (1955-1977) documenting the life and literary career of the noted Riverton, Kentucky-born American school teacher, educator, short story writer, novelist, and autobiographer consisting of a typescript of My Health is Better in November (1977) and other poems; and reprints of the poem One Body (1955) and of the short story Two Worlds (1967) by Jesse Stuart.
    Extent: 0.25 Cubic feet, 0.25 Cubic feet, 1 archival box,
  • Description

    Stuart Wright Collection: Jesse Stuart Papers (#1169-084) are arranged in original order in a single series.

    Series 1: Cary Addition #1 to the Stuart Wright Collection, consist of papers (1955-1977) documenting the life and literary career of Jesse [Hilton] Stuart (1906-1984), the noted American school teacher, educator, short story writer, novelist, and autobiographer consisting of a typescript of My Health is Better in November (1977) and other poems; and reprints of the poem One Body (1955) and of the short story Two Worlds (1967) by Jesse Stuart. Source: Cary Addition Box #116.000 & 137.000. Series 1 is held in Box 1.a-1.c.

  • Biographical / Historical Note

    Jesse Stuart was born Jesse Hilton Stuart, on 8 August 1906, in Riverton, Kentucky. His parents were tenant farmers. After graduating from his local high school in 1926 – the first in his family to do so - Stuart attended Lincoln Memorial University, in Harrowgate, KY, graduating in 1929. After college he returned home to Greenup County. He worked for nearly a year in a steel mill become acquiring a teaching position at Warnock High School, in Greenup, KY. Later he became principal of McKell High School, 1929-1930. After only one year as principal, Stuart entered Vanderbilt University graduate school (1931-1932), where Donald Davidson encouraged his writing ambitions. After graduate school he became the superintendent of the Greenup County Schools, His teaching experiences later served as material for his autobiographical book The Thread That Runs True (1949). Just before ending his career returned as a teacher at Portsmouth High School in Portsmouth, Ohio, 1956-1957.

    Stuart wrote his first short story, Nest Egg, in 1923, when he was a sophomore in high school. Like the majority of his later works, it dealt with life among poor rural people in Kentucky and Appalachia. Nest Egg was only published twenty years later in Atlantic Monthly. His first piece of work to be published and critically acclaimed was a collection of sonnets titled Man with a Bull-Tongue Plow (1934). His first novel, Trees of Heaven (1940), was about the life of a farmer and took place in Appalachia; this would be a common theme in many of his writings. During his career, Stuart wrote more than 460 short stories, many of which appeared in many popular, national, publications like Esquire and Atlantic Monthly. Stuart received many honors and awards for his writing, including being named the poet laureate of Kentucky in 1954 and becoming a fellow of the Academy of American Poets in 1961.

    Stuart suffered a major heart attack in 1954. While convalescing, he began to write a journal which later became the basis for his novel, The Year of My Rebirth (1956) which traced his rediscovery of the joy of life. Stuart died in a nursing home in Ironton, Ohio at the age of 76 on 17 February 1984. He was survived by his wife, Naomi Dean (m. 1939), a daughter, and two grandchildren.


    "Jesse Stuart". [Biographical Sketch] Wikipedia. Accessed 7 December 2016.

    "Stuart, Jesse, Papers, 1968-1974 (#MS 57)". Alden Library, Ohio University, Athens, O.H.

    "Maryan Dahmer Jessy Stuart Collection." Downtown Campus Library, West Virginia University, Morgantown, W.V.

    "Jesse Stuart Papers, 1929-1986 (#111)". Special Collections Department, James E. Morrow Library. Marshall University, Huntington, WV.

    "Jesse Stuart Papers, 1935-1983, undated". 7 boxes. Berea College Special Collections & Archives Database, Berea College, Berea, KY.

    Author: Jonathan Dembo, with the assistance of John Leche, 12/8/2016, 3/17/2017.

    Stuart Wright collected and compiled the Jesse Stuart 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; 28 p. Papers (1955-1977) documenting the life and literary career of Jesse [Hilton] Stuart (1906-1984), the noted American school teacher, educator, short story writer, novelist, and autobiographer consisting of a typescript of My Health is Better in November (1977) and other poems; and reprints of the poem One Body (1955) and of the short story Two Worlds (1967) by Jesse Stuart. Source: Cary Addition Box #116.000 & 137.000. 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: Jesse Stuart Papers (#1169-084), 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, 2/19/2016, 4/8/2016, 5/13/2016, 9/30/2016; Final inventory by Jonathan Dembo, 8/30/2016; Finding aid by Jonathan Dembo, 9/30/2016, 12/8/2016; Biographical Sketch, by Jonathan Dembo with the assistance of John Leche, 12/8/2016, rev. 2/21/2017; Encoding revised by Jonathan Dembo, 2/21/2017, 3/17/2017.

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