Papers of Madison Smartt Bell (1922-1997 [Bulk: 1957-1990], undated) documenting the life and literary career of the Nashville, Tennessee-born American novelist, including manuscript materials, proofs of published works, loose manuscript items transferred from the Stuart Wright Book Collection, and oversized materials, relating primarily to his books Zero db and Other Stories, Barking Man, and The Washington Square Ensemble, and others.
Sources: Madison Smartt Bell [Biographical Sketch] Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madison_Smartt_Bell
Author: Jonathan Dembo, revised by Richard Wolfe & John Leche, 12/15/2011, 6/11/2012, 5/17/2016, 11/1/2016.
The Madison Smartt Bell 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.
Stuart Wright Collection: Madison Smartt Bell Papers (#1169-001) document the life and literary career of Madison Smartt Bell from 1922 - 1990. The Bell Papers are arranged in original order in 6 series consisting of an original acquisition of 4 series and Cary Addition #1 and Ludlow Addition #2. Series 1: Manuscript Materials contains early drafts of novels and short stories such as Waiting for the End of the World, ca. 1977-1990, undated. Series 1 is held in Box 1.a – 3.d
Series 2: Proofs consists of later publisher's proofs of Madison Smartt Bell's novels and short stories, 1980-1990. Series 2 is held in Box 4.a – 10.e
Series 3: Loose Manuscripts from Stuart Wright Book Collection consists of personal notes, cards, correspondence, clippings, receipts, advertising and printed materials, reviews, ephemera, and other items, some used merely as bookmarks, found between the pages of Madison Smartt Bell-related books in the Stuart Wright Book Collection, ca. 1922-1990. The items appear to have been filed in the books by Madison Smartt Bell, or by Stuart Wright. The items usually, but not always, relate the book in which they were found and to Madison Smartt Bell. This series also includes materials related to Randall Jarrell, Allen Tate, Robert Penn Warren, Stuart Wright, and others. Series three material is arranged according to the book in which it was found; descriptions of the loose items may be found in the notes sections of each folder. 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 3 is held in Box 11.a – 11.zv
Series 4: Oversized Materials consists of newspaper clippings used for research during the writing of Waiting for the End of the World, 1981. Series 4 is held in oversized folder 10.f.os.1 Series 5: Cary Addition #1 to the Stuart Wright Collection consists of one sub-series, containing one 97 page uncorrected signed proof of Madison Smartt Bell's Zero db and other stories, 1987. Series 5 is held in Box 11.a
Series 6: Ludlow Addition #2 to the Stuart Wright Collection consists of one sub-series, containing loose manuscript items transferred from books by Madison Smartt Bell in the Stuart Wright Book Collection, including correspondence between Bell and Stuart Wright, 1983-1988, on ideas and proof corrections. Also included in this series are press releases, reviews, and an invitation to celebrate the first issue of The Crescent Review. Series 6 is held in Box 011.b – 11.h
Note to Researchers: Series 3: 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 Madison Smartt Bell. They include notes and bookmarks inserted by Bell, 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).
The Madison Smartt Bell Papers are arranged in original order in four series.
SERIES I: MANUSCRIPT MATERIALS Series one contains early drafts of novels and short stories such as Waiting for the End of the World, ca. 1977-1990, undated. Box 1.a – 3.d
SERIES II: PROOFS Series two consists of later publisher's proofs of Madison Smartt Bell's novels and short stories, 1980-1990. Box 4.a – 10.e
SERIES III: LOOSE MANUSCRIPTS FROM STUART WRIGHT BOOK COLLECTION Series three consists of personal notes, cards, correspondence, clippings, receipts, advertising and printed materials, reviews, ephemera, and other items, some used merely as bookmarks, found between the pages of Madison Smartt Bell-related books in the Stuart Wright Book Collection, ca. 1922-1990. The items appear to have been filed in the books by Madison Smartt Bell, or by Stuart Wright. The items usually, but not always, relate the book in which they were found and to Madison Smartt Bell. This series also includes materials related to Randall Jarrell, Allen Tate, Robert Penn Warren, Stuart Wright, and others. Series three material is arranged according to the book in which it was found; descriptions of the loose items may be found in the notes sections of each folder. 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). Box 11.a – 11.zv
SERIES IV: OVERSIZED MATERIALS Series four consists of newspaper clippings used for research during the writing of Waiting for the End of the World, 1981. Oversized folder 10.f.os.1
Purchased from Stuart Wright, 6/21/2010.
Processing, Preliminary inventory & Container List, by Jonathan Dembo, with the assistance of Krystal Cook, Saundra Pinkham, Nathaniel King, Shelby Sapp & Jay Colin Menees, revised 11/19/2010, 10/20/2015, 4/22/2016; Final inventory revised by Douglas Tuers & Richard Wolfe, 4/20/2011, 1/18/2012; Finding aid by Jonathan Dembo, revised by Richard Wolfe, 12/15/2011, 1/25/2012; revised by Jonathan Dembo, 4/2/2012; with the assistance of Nathaniel King, rev. 10/20/2015 & Jay Colin Menees, 4/22/2016 & 2/21/2018.
Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.