Stuart Wright Collection: Nancy Hale Papers

Manuscript Collection #1169-075
Hale, Nancy, 1908-1988
Physical description
0.1 Cubic Feet, 1 oversized archival folder, 1 item, 49 p.
Preferred Citation
Stuart Wright Collection: Nancy Hale Papers (#1169-075), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Papers of Nancy [Anna Westcott] Hale (1971) documenting the life and literary career of the noted Boston, Massachusetts-born journalist, novelist, playwright, and artist; consisting of an unbound, oversized, galley proof of her novel Secrets (1971).

Biographical/historical information

Nancy Hale was born Anna Westcott (Nancy) Hale, in Boston, Massachusetts on May 6, 1908. Both her parents were painters. Hale is best-known as a writer of short stories, novels, nonfiction, plays and memoirs. After graduating from preparatory school in 1926, she studied and worked as a painter at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts for two years. She got an early start in her writing career at age 11, when her first piece – The Glorious Key -- was published in the Boston Herald. Hale moved to New York City in 1928 after she married Taylor Scott Hardin, an aspiring writer. There she found a job in the art department at Vogue, a fashion magazine. She soon became an editorial assistant and writer, instead. Over the succeeding ten years in New York City, Hale also worked at the New York Times, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker. Her first son, Mark Hardin, was born in 1930.

While in New York, Hale began to write novels. Her first novel, The Young Die Good (1932) followed the lives of the shallow "flapper" generation in New York. Her story, To The Invader (1933) won the O. Henry Memorial Award. Meanwhile, she worked for six months as the New York Times' first female, straight news reporter. In 1934, Hale and Hardin divorced after living apart for some time. In October 1935, Hale remarried to author and journalist, Charles Christian Wertenbaker.

In 1936, Hale moved to Charlottesville, Virginia with Wertenbaker, and continued to write publishing numerous short stories and novels. By this time, writing was her chief means of livelihood. Her second son, William Wertenbaker, was born in 1938. After several separations, Hale divorced her Wertenbaker, in 1941.

Less than a year later, in 1942, Hale married her third husband, Fredson Thayer Bowers, a University of Virginia English professor who later became chairman of the English Department. This was also the same year that Hale published her most famous book, The Prodigal Women, which examined the psychological pressures of being a woman during that period. Hale still wrote for publications in order to support her writing career and in the year 1961, Hale sold more stories to The New Yorker than any other writer in the magazine's history. Among her later works, her novel, Secrets, was published in 1971.

On 24 September 1988 Hale suffered a stroke and died at the Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Virginia. She was 80 years of age.


"Nancy Hale: A Bibliography", by Nora Lind (September 2008) Accessed 16 November 2016. Smith College.

"Nancy Hale, Fiction Writer, Is Dead at 80, by James Barron". [Obituary] New York (26 September 1988) Accessed 16 November 2016.

"Nancy Hale Papers, 1908 - 1989". Sophia Smith Collection. Smith College, Northampton, MA.

Author: Jonathan Dembo, with the assistance of Dale Wetterhahn & John Leche, 11/18/2016, 3/16/2017.

Stuart Wright collected and compiled the Nancy Hale 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

Stuart Wright Collection: Nancy Hale Papers (#1169-075) is arranged in original order in a single series.

Series 1: Cary Addition #1 to the Stuart Wright Collection, consists of papers (1971) including an unbound galley proof of her novel Secrets. Source: Cary Addition Boxes #099B.002. Series 1 is held in Box 1.a.

Administrative information
Custodial History

27 October 2011, (Cary Addition #1), 0.10 cubic feet; 1 oversized folder; 1 item; 49 p. Papers (1971) documenting the life and literary career of Nancy Hale (1908-1988) the noted Massachusetts-born journalist, novelist, and playwright; consisting of unbound galley proofs of her novel Secrets. Source: Cary Addition Boxes #099B.002. 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, 2/18/2016, 4/29/2016, 8/29/2016; Final inventory by Jonathan Dembo, 8/29/2016; Finding aid by Jonathan Dembo, 9/27/2016, 11/16/2016; Biographical Sketch, by Jonathan Dembo with the assistance of Dale Wetterhahn & John Leche, 11/14/2016, 11/18/2016, rev. 2/15/2017; Encoding revised by Jonathan Dembo, 2/15/2017, 3/16/2017.

Copyright notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

Related material

Nancy Hale Papers, 1908 - 1989, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, MA USA

Container list
Folder os1 Secrets [Novel] by Nancy Hale (Toronto, Canada : Longmans Canada, Ltd., © 1971) Galley Proofs. Unbound. 7.5" x 24" 1 item. 49 p. ; Note : Filed oversized ; Fragile, brittle ; needs conservation ; Source : Cary Addition Box #99B.002