Papers of Robert Penn Warren (1885-2008 [Bulk: 1940-1989], undated) documenting the life and literary career of the noted Guthrie, Kentucky-born American poet, novelist, playwright, biographer, and educator, who played a major role in the rise of the Fugitive and Agrarian literary movements and in the spread of the New Criticism during the mid-20th century, and who became the first poet laureate of the United States, including correspondence; manuscripts, photographic prints, proofs of published materials, printed material, loose manuscript items from the Stuart Wright Book Collection, audio recordings and oversized materials, by or about Robert Penn Warren, Cleanth Brooks, John Ciardi, Annie Dillard, Fred Chappell, Richard Ghormley Eberhart, Robert Frost, George Garrett, Randall Jarrell, Robert Lowell, Bernard Malamud, Albert J. Montesi, John Crowe Ransom, Theodore Roethke, William Carlos Williams, and others; in English, Dutch, and Latin language.
Warren was an unusually versatile writer who was successful in numerous forms of literature, including poetry, drama, short stories, novels and literary criticism. Writing about his native South, Warren achieved international recognition and distinction in each of these forms but it is as a poet, critic, and novelist that he was most widely known.
Warren produced 10 novels and a collection of short stories, The Circus in the Attic and Other Stories (1948). By far the most successful of his novels was All The King's Men (1946), the story of a southern politician and demagogue named Willie Stark, who was loosely modeled on Huey Long of Louisiana. Warren was one of the most influential of the New Critics, who significantly influenced teaching of literature in American colleges during the late 1940s and 1950s. All The King's Men exemplified New Critical literary ambition -- it had a complicated but highly readable plot reflecting both irony and ambiguity that became a popular pedagogical tool. It won both the Pulitzer Prize and the Southern Authors Award in 1947.
In later years, Warren wrote about dramatic and romantic subjects, such as the interracial relationships in Band of Angels (1955) or the natural disasters of The Cave (1959) and Flood: A Romance of Our Time (1964). Warren's poetry was intellectual, filled with powerful images, and rooted in the pre-Civil War South. He continued to write impressive poetry almost until the time of his death, in 1989.
"Biographical Notes on Robert Penn Warren" [Biographical Note] (undated) Typescripts. 1 item. 1 p. #1169-014.11.t
"Brothers to Dragons," by Robert Penn Warren [Books] (1953) Printed. 3 item. 3 p. #1169.014.16.e
"Robert Penn Warren." [Biographical Sketch] Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Penn_Warren
Author: Jonathan Dembo, 3/29/2012, revised 11/1/2016, 11/11/2016.
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: Robert Penn Warren Papers (#1169-014) document the life and literary career of Robert Penn Warren, 1885-2008, undated [Bulk: 1940-1989]. The Warren Papers consist of 21 archival boxes and 11 oversized folders of manuscript and other materials. It contains approximately 10.88 cubic feet of materials. The collection is arranged in its original order, except as noted below, in 10 series, including an initial acquisition of 8 series plus Cary Addition #1, and Ludlow Addition #2. The collection contains correspondence, typescripts and holographic materials, literary essays and notes, poems, uncorrected and edited proofs, loose manuscript items transferred from the Stuart Wright Book Collection, audio recordings, oversized materials. Almost a third of the collection (6 boxes) consists of typescripts and holographic materials of Warren's published and unpublished works, including 19 versions of Portrait of a Father, his biography of his father written during 1988.
Series 1: Correspondence consists of Robert Penn Warren's correspondence, 1946-1986, with Louis Daniel Brodsky, Fred Chappell, John Ciardi, George Garrett, Bernard Malamud, David Sladen, and George White. It consists primarily of autograph and typed letters signed. Series 1 is held in Box 1.a – 1.k
Series 2: Typescripts and Holograph Materials consists of edited speeches and manuscripts, 1930-1988. It consists primarily of holographs, typescripts and edited typescripts. Most notably it contains 19 versions of Portrait of a Father, Warren's biography of his father written during 1988. Series 2 is held in Box 1.l - 6.t.
Series 3: Literary Essays and Notes consists of essays and notes written by Robert Penn Warren on literary subjects and the works of notable American and British authors, 1942-1986. It contains holograph, typescript, and photocopied materials. Series 3 is held in Box 7.a – 10.y
Series 4: Poems consists of typescripts, photocopies, and clippings of poems by Robert Penn Warren. 1940-1989. Series 4 also contains one uncorrected proof of a broadside of the poem The Flower: A Poem (1981). Series 4 is held in Box 11.a – 12.u
Series 5: Uncorrected and Edited Proofs consists of manuscripts of essays written by Robert Penn Warren and others that publishers sent to him for his comments, 1950-1987. A number of these were transferred from the Stuart Wright Book Collection. These items are linked to the book of origin by their Stuart Wright Book Collection Number (e.g. Stuart Wright Book Collection #38.04). Series 5 is held in Box 12.y – 16.c
Series 6: Loose Manuscripts Transferred from Stuart Wright Book Collection consists of loose letters, contracts, and annotated poems by, to, or about Robert Penn Warren, 1885-1986, transferred from books in the Stuart Wright Book Collection. 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 6 is held in Box 16.d – 17.zzk
Series 7: Audio Recordings consists of three, reel-to-reel, audio recordings by or about Robert Penn Warren, ca. 1961, including Conversations on the Craft of Poetry with Cleanth Brooks, Robert Frost, John Crowe Ransom, Robert Lowell, Theodore Roethke; it also contains a recording by Yale University of Warren reading his poetry. Also available in each folder are digital copies of each audio recording on compact disc made by J. Y. Joyner Library, 3/28/2012. Series 7 is held in Box 18.a – 18.c
Series 8: Oversized Materials consists of three oversized folders. The first contains the photocopied edited proof of New and Selected Poems, 1923-1985 by Robert Penn Warren; the second contains a broadside of Warren's unpublished poem Whip-Poor-Will (2011) Number 41 of 150 "printed with permission of the literary estate of Robert Penn Warren at Somnambulist Tango Press for the opening of 'Stuart Wright: A Life in Collecting,' the inaugural exhibit from the Stuart Wright Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, September 7, 2011." See also: #1169-014.11.h; the third folder contains three black & white photographic portraits of Robert Penn Warren. Folder 11.h.os.1 – 17.q.os.2.
Series 9: Cary Addition #1 to the Stuart Wright Collection contains a proof, broadsides, and a loose manuscript item taken from the Stuart Wright Book Collection, 1968-1985. Series 9 is held in Box 19.a - 19.f, os.4 - os.5
Series 10: Ludlow Addition #2 to the Stuart Wright Collection contains correspondence, photographs, audio recordings, oversized materials, ephemera, and loose manuscript material items taken from the Stuart Wright Book Collection, 1929-2008. Series 10 is held in Box 20.a - 20.zw, 21.a - 21.d, os.6 - os.11
Note to Researchers: Series 6: Loose Manuscripts Transferred from Stuart Wright Book Collection are an heterogeneous mix of items found in the pages of Warren-related books collected by Stuart Wright from various sources. These items include correspondence, clippings, ephemera, photographic prints, printed materials, among a wide variety of other materials. Among the items are letters, contracts, and annotated poems by, to, or about Robert Penn Warren, 1885-1986. 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).
Purchased from Stuart Wright, 6/21/2010
Processing, Preliminary inventory & Container List, by Jonathan Dembo, with the assistance of Krystal Cook, Nathaniel King, rev. 10/27/2015 & Jay Colin Menees, Saundra Pinkham, & Dick Wolfe, 7/12/2010, 4/22/2016; 12/13/2016; revised 11/19/2010; Final inventory by Krystal Cook, revised 2/16/2011; revised by Douglas Tuers, 4/27/2011; Finding aid by Jonathan Dembo, 3/29/2012, revised 2/21/2018; Encoded by Jonathan Dembo, 7/9/2012; Encoding revised by Jonathan Dembo, 7/18/2012, 6/4/2013, 10/11/2013, 2/21/2018.
Descriptions updated by Jennifer Overstreet, July 2020
Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.