Stuart Wright Collection: Gore Vidal Papers

Manuscript Collection #1169-055
Vidal, Gore, 1925-2012
Physical description
0.25 Cubic Feet, 1 archival box, 2 items, 336 p.
Preferred Citation
Stuart Wright Collection: Gore Vidal Papers (#1169-055), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Papers of Gore Vidal (1984) documenting the life and literary career of the noted West Point, New York-born American novelist, playwright, and essayist consisting of bound uncorrected proofs for Lincoln: A Novel (1984), by Gore Vidal; also a publisher's newsletter advertising the publication.

Biographical/historical information

Gore Vidal born Eugene Luther [Louis] Gore Vidal, Jr. was born on 3 October 1925 at the cadet hospital in West Point, New York, into a prominent political family. His father was the first aeronautical instructor at the US Military Academy. His mother came from a socially prominent family and became a successful actress. His grandfather, Thomas Pryor Gore, served as US Senator from Oklahoma, 1907-21 and 1931-37. Vidal attended several exclusive preparatory schools and then served for three years as a junior officer in the US Army during World War II.

Vidal's literary career spanned several genres and industries. For most of his career he was a writer of fiction and non-fiction, focusing on history; he also was a screenwriter and political commentator. Two of his plays were made into movies, The Best Man: A Play about Politics (1960) and Visit to a Small Planet. His novel, Myra Breckinridge (1968) was also made into a movie (1970). Among his most successful novels were Washington, DC (1967), Burr (1973) and Lincoln (1984). Vidal also attempted a political career, but failed to get elected to Congress in New York's 29th district in 1960. He also lost a gubernatorial election in California in 1982. He also appeared as an actor in several movies.

Gore's early novels focused on the protagonists' homosexuality. He held the controversial belief that all people are bi-sexual and that society pressures us into picking just one, homosexual or heterosexual. Because of his openness about sexuality, early in his career, Vidal was blackballed and had to use pseudonyms like "Edgar Box" and "Cameron Kay" to get his works published. Because of his matter-of-fact treatment of same sex relations in his writings, Vidal is considered an early champion of sexual liberation.

In 1950 Vidal met Howard Austen, who became his life partner for over 53 years. Vidal died of pneumonia in his house in Hollywood, California on 31 July 2012.


"Gore Vidal Papers (1875-2008 (Bulk: 1936-2000) (#MS Am 2350)" 367 lin. ft. Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

"Gore Vidal." [Biographical Sketch] Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Accessed 26 April 2016.

"Gore Vidal". [Biographical Sketch] Wikipedia. Accessed 28 October 2016.

Author: Jonathan Dembo, with the assistance of John Leche, 10/28/2016, rev. 2/7/2017

Stuart Wright collected and compiled the Gore Vidal 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

Scope and arrangement

The Stuart Wright Collection: Gore Vidal Papers are arranged in original order in a single series.

Series 1: Cary Addition #1 to the Stuart Wright Collection consists of papers (1984) documenting the life and literary career of Gore Vidal [Eugene Luther Gore Vidal, Jr.] (1925-2012) the noted West Point, New York-born American novelist, playwright, and essayist, including a bound uncorrected proof of Lincoln: A Novel (1984), by Gore Vidal; also a publisher's newsletter advertising the publication. Source: Cary Addition Box #066.003. Series 1 is held in Box 1.a.

Administrative information
Custodial History

27 October 2011, (Cary Addition #1), 0.25 cubic feet; 1 archival box; 2 items; 336 p. Papers (1984) documenting the life and literary career of Gore Vidal [Eugene Luther Gore Vidal, Jr.] (1925-2012) the noted West Point, New York-born American novelist, playwright, and essayist consisting of a bound uncorrected proof of Lincoln: A Novel (1984) by Gore Vidal; also a publisher's newsletter advertising the publication. Source: Cary Addition Box #066.003. Vendor: Stuart Wright

Source of acquisition

Purchased from Stuart Wright, 10/27/2011

Processing information

Processing, Preliminary inventory & Container List, by Jonathan Dembo, with the assistance of Nathaniel King, 12/8/2015, 2/10/2016; Final inventory by Jonathan Dembo, 9/20/2016; Finding aid by Jonathan Dembo, 9/20/2016; Biographical Sketch, by Jonathan Dembo with the assistance of Dale Wetterhahn & John Leche, 10/28/2016, rev. 2/6/2017; Encoding revised by Jonathan Dembo, 2/6/2017.

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


Related material

Gore Vidal Papers (1875-2008 (Bulk: 1936-2000) (#MS Am 2350) 367 lin. ft., Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA USA

Key terms
Personal Names
Vidal, Gore, 1925-2012
Authors, American--20th century
Gay authors--United States--20th century

Container list
Box 1 Folder a Lincoln : A Novel, by Gore Vidal (New York, NY : Random House, © 1984) Uncorrected Proof. 1 item. 335 p. ; Note : Pressure sensitive tape on front cover ; needs conservation ; Source : Cary Addition Box #066.003
Box 1 Folder b News From Random House, New York, NY. Lincoln : A Novel, by Gore Vidal (ca. 22 June 1984) Broadside. 1 item. 1 p. ; Note : Release advertising forthcoming publication of "Lincoln" ; found inside front cover of proof ; Source : Cary Addition Box #066.003