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1916, Eyes

1919, Shepherd
1924, Man
1924, Mine
1925, Son Father 
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1926, Barb W
1928, Shepherd
(1928, Lights)
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1935, When Man
1936,  Matthews
1936, The Mine
1936, Wild Brian
1937, West  Gold
1937, Out West
1937, Secret Vly
1937, Californian
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Harold Bell Wright Papers

Manuscripts Division
Department of Rare Books and Special Collections
Princeton University Library
Selected Records of Harper & Brothers

The Selected Papers of Harper & Brothers consist primarily of editorial and business correspondence, 1909-1960, with the bulk of the material dating from ca. 1939-1955. The collection is arranged alphabetically by author and chronologically within each correspondence. The collection was a gift from Harper & Brothers. For a history of Harper & Brothers see The House of Harper (New York: Harper & Bros., 1967) by Eugene Exman.

Collection 103,  box 33, folders 11 and 12, Harold Bell Wright, 1936-1944


NOTE FROM GERRY CHUDLEIGH: This web page is not affiliated in any way with Princeton University, though it was only through their gracious hospitality that I was able to compile this list of Wright papers. These two folders contain mostly correspondence between Harold Bell Wright and one executive at Harper & Brothers, William Harlowe Briggs. Below is my unofficial list of the material with some descriptions for the purpose of identification. When the old Harper and Brothers files were put up for "adoption" they were divided into three parts. Princeton got the correspondence, another university (some think Columbia University) got the business records--the accounting, numbers of books sold, royalties, etc.--and another university got the original manuscripts and typescripts of published books. 

Box 33, Folder 11 

  • January 15, 1936, Letter from HBW to Mr. Wm. H. Briggs, Harper & Brothers, 49 East 33d Street, New York City.  2 pp, 2 leaves, signed "Hal." On Harold Bell Wright Tucson letterhead. Tells Briggs he would have the farm done by now if he could find good help. Refuses request to write autobiographical information for publicity purposes, saying, "All the biographical sketch I shall ever write for anyone I have written in 'To My Sons.'" Outlines 6-part movie deal, claims Hollywood producers “settled on my terms.” On the second page, "As I have written you before, the concern to whom I sold the silent rights before talkies were invented brought suit against me claiming that they also owned the talking rights to the books which they acquired. The case went against me in the Superior Court in Los Angeles. And when I appealed it the Jews [movie producers] decided to settle rather than let it go to a higher court. They settled at my terms and later made advances to me which resulted in their purchasing the picture rights to three more books and three original story ideas." Says, "I still own the picture rights to 'Ma Cinderella' and am of course still hoping that May Robson will do that picture. She is very anxious to play it and talks about it every time she comes down to the farm which is as often as she can get away."
  • Feb 6, 1936, Copy of letter from Briggs, to HBW. 1 p., l leaf.  “The Uniform Edition should certainly be gone into.”
  • April, 1936, 1 half-sheet letter to Hal from Briggs.
  • April 29, no year, 1 half-sheet yellow paper.  “Wait for Answer: H-B-Wright”  [Nothing else on paper.]
  • No date.  1 quarter-sheet yellow paper – “American Magazine, ‘Why I did not die,’ Harold Bell Wright. [Nothing else on paper.]
  • May 16, 1936, Letter from Hal to Briggs,  2 pp, 2 leaves. Says he has sold house in Tucson and moved things to the Escondido farm. Plans a fishing trip for this summer with his brother and Gilbert. Expresses disappointment that Harpers does not say plainly whether they plan to produce a uniform edition of Wright's books. Wonders why they never mention the subject but only respond to his questions about it.
  • July 30, 1936, Copy of half-sheet letter from Briggs to Hal . "I am going on vacation."
  • January 27, 1937, Copy of letter from Briggs to "Dear Hal." 2pp, 2 leaves. “At various times we have sounded out the trade on the issue which you raised in your last letter. Each time, we have had a negative answer on the question of the Set.
  • February 15, 1937, Letter to My Dear Bill [Briggs] from Hal. 2pp, 2 leaves. Discusses set. "I am glad to be assured by you that it is a general trade condition and does not reflect on my work." HBW discusses the idea of writing a small book on health — how he has survived so much illness. Worries that he is not a doctor so has no credibility on that topic.Says he has resumed work on the novel he put aside so long ago [The Man Who Went Away]. Says, "I have now practically ditched the original plan which bothered me so much and have started in at the beginning with an entirely new structure." Asks about plans for serialization of the story he is working on.
  • March 3, 1937, copy of letter from Briggs to Mr. Wright. 1 p, 1 leaf
  • August 3, 1939,  Empty personal-size envelope with Harper & Brothers return logo, with “For Miss Theresa Ann Solomon” typed on front.  Handwritten, “File, Harold Bell Wright.”
  • August 3, 1939, Letter from above envelope, from Briggs to Miss Theresa Ann Solomon. No recipient address.
  • October, 1939, One tear-sheet from magazine. In pencil is written, “From ‘Electricity on the Farm. The National Magazine of Rural Electrification.'" The article is about HBW, written by Earl Burke. Includes one photo of “Mr. Wright hiking thought the oak grove,” and one of “View from front porch of the Wright home.” [at Escondido]. “Both the Wright home and the farmer’s cottage are completely equipped with all modern electrical appliances and facilities. Electricity cooks the meals, washes the dishes, runs the laundry, irons the clothes, operates the sewing machine, does the housecleaning and a host of other household tasks. An electric hedge trimmer is used to keep the shrubbery in shape. A radio furnishes news and entertainment. Mr. Wright does not play golf, but finds his chief recreation in making useful articles in his workshop. The shop is equipped with many tools, including a drill and a lathe operated by electricity. He does wood carving and artistic metal work. Handsome door hinges and decorative iron grill work to be seen at Quiet Hills are his handiwork.” ###
  • February 20, 1942, copy of letter from Briggs to Hal. 2 pp, 2 leaves. Discusses the December 10, 1931 contract between HBW and Harpers. Says it no longer applies because of changed circumstances. Two books, Briggs says, were printed under the 1931 agreements [Ma Cinderella and To My Sons]. Now they need to make a new contract. Harpers, he says, does not believe there is a market for the uniform set of Wright's books.
  • February 23, 1942, Western Union telegram from HBW to wife. “Escondido, Calif., Feb 23 1942

MRS HAROLD BELL WRIGHT, CARE OF MISS LULU MAY MATHESON

THE SANHOPE FIFTH AVE AT 81 ST NYK

ASSURE BRIGGS I HAVE NO THOUGHT OF TRYING TO FORCE PUBLICATION OF SET IF IT IS NOT TO MUTUAL PROFIT STOP IF HE WANTS TO READ MANUSCRIPT TO HELP THEIR DECISION AND WILL AGREE I AM NOT DELIVERING IT TO BE PUBLISHED UNDER THE OLD CONTRACT LET HIM HAVE IT STOP HAND HIM THIS TELEGRAM WITH MY KINDEST REGARDS.  LOVE

HAROLD BELL WRIGHT    606P.

  • February 23, 1942, letter from Hal to Bill, 1 p, 1 sheet. Quotes the telegram immediately below and adds, "I hope you like 'The Man Who Went Away.'"
  • February 23, 1942, Western Union Telegram from HBW to Briggs. “THANK YOU FOR YOUR FEBRUARY 20TH LETTER. HAVE WIRED WINNIE TO DELIVER MANUSCRIPT. WILL BE ANXIOUS TO GET YOUR REACTION.  REGARDS TO ALL.  HAROLD BELL WRIGHT
  • March 3, 1942, Copy of half-sheet letter from Briggs to Mrs. Douglas Amann, 53-21 Browvale Lane, Little Neck, L.I. N.Y. “Herewith, THE MAN WHO WENT AWAY by Harold Bell Wright. You may or may not be familiar with his tremendously popular novels a generation or so ago. What I am eager to have is your definite straight-out opinion as to this present novel, which must stand on its own merits, irrespective of the author’s name.. Can you let me have a word in the next few days?”
  • March 3, 1942, letter from HBW to Briggs.1 half-sheet, one page.
  • March 4, 1942, yellow quarter page shipping slip that was in The Man Who Went Away. Addressed to Mr. Douglas M. Amann.
  • April 7, 1942, Copy of letter from Briggs to Hal. 2 pp, 2 leaves. Explains to Wright why they can’t pay more than the standard 10% royalty to him, and will not pay him a royalty [an advance?].
  • April 7, 1942, another copy of same letter from Briggs to HBW.
  • Undated half-sheet paper with Ma Cinderella printing figures in pencil. Total Burt reprints: 11,225. Total first editions printed: 20,200. This note is not entirely clear because under the Burt heading there are seven dates but eight numbers. There is no way to know which dates go with which numbers, though it seems likely the top date goes with the top number, and the bottom date goes with the bottom numbers.

Ma Cinderella

H&B Printing 20,200
A. L. Burt & Co.
    3/1/34 H&B bound 2500
    9/14/34 H&B bound 100
    9/19/34 Printed 2000
  12/4/34 " 1250
  " 2000
  12/27/34 " 2000
 11/30/35 1250
  11/25/36 125
Total [Burt copies] 11,225
  • June 11, 1942, Western Union Telegram from HBW to Briggs, “Galley to you in day or two."
  • June 12, 1942, " MEMORANDUM TO MR. LEWIS:  THE MAN WHO WENT AWAY, Harold Bell Wright. The author asks us to send three sets of galley proofs to the address below. This is to be done at Mr. Wright’s expense and the cost, plus 10% if that is the custom, to be charged to his royalty account. Gerald D. Adams, c/o Paul Reynolds and Son Agency, 8272 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, Calif."
  • June 24, 1942, Western Union Telegram from HBW to Briggs. "IF YOU USE STORY ["]MILL THAT NEVER STARTED["] IN PUBLICITY I INSIST THAT YOU PRINT IN MY BOOK THE STATEMENT THAT THE MAN WHO WENT AWAY IS PURELY FICTION AND SO FORTH. REGARDS HAROLD BELL WRIGHT."
  • June 26, 1942, copy of Western Union Telegram from Briggs to HBW. “Telegram received. Again urge you send exact wording desired. Warmest greetings."
  • July 27, 1942. half-sheet letter from Briggs to Hal. “This morning the plant notified me that complete books will be coming through the bindery day after tomorrow. . . . . . My suggestion that you write an interview, which we might place in important newspapers, indicating some treatment of the wonderful newspaper clipping you sent me, which I returned to you.”
  • July 27, 1942. Canary copy of packing slip from shipment of 6 copies of The Man Who Went Away to the author. “Author’s gratis copies.”

FOLDER TWELVE 

  • August 13, 1942, copy of letter from Harpers, Eugene F. Saxton to HBW. 1 p, 1 leaf. “I have just seen your letter of August 9th to Briggs, who is away on vacation.” Responding to HBW’s refusal to write auto-interview.
  • August 13, 1942.  half-sheet letter to “Dear Jim” [James D. Blake] from Saxton,  1p, 1 leaf.  “Briggs recently wrote to Harold Bell Wright asking him if he could prepare for us two or three interviews or publicity stories about himself and his work. A reply has just come from him, saying that he cannot possibly do it and doesn’t like the idea, although he would not object to being interviewed at home by anyone we chose to send. . . .”
  • Undated, Copy of review of The Man Who Went Away, by J. B. Clark. WDNC, Durham, N.C., to be broadcast: August 19. [a very positive review].  1 p, 1 leaf
  • August 31st, 1942, Copy of printed announcement “Important Notice to Authors.” This copy is to HBW regarding Ma Cinderella. The government has asked that all book plates be contributed to the war effort, unless the authors wish to buy them. This notifies authors that they must either buy the plates quickly or they will be destroyed. 1 p, 1 leaf
  • September 8, 1942, Letter from HBW to Mr. Harry F. Hull, Special Sales Dept. Harper and Brothers. “Answering your letter about selling newspaper rights to 'The Man Who Went Away' . . .” 1 p, 1 leaf. Wright expresses shock and dismay that the publishers are considering selling to a newspaper the rights to print his latest novel. He wonders if this means there is absolutely no market for the book. Complains that neither he nor his friends have been able to buy copies of the book in bookstores. Orders have not been filled.
  • September 8, 1942, Letter from Hal to Briggs. 1 page, 1 leaf. “I hear you are back . . .[from vacation].” Wright thinks he will buy the plates, because they will be useful if there is a uniform set some day. Grumbles that no booksellers have received copies of The Man Who Went Away. On back of letter someone has scribbled the orders so far, evidently to report to Wright.

Los Angeles

  • JE and FK Brown – 2
  • Broadway – 3 + 3
  • Bullocks – 2
  • California School Dept. – 2
  • Campbells – 3
  • Fowler – 10 – 10 o.s.
  • Fred Harvey – 5
  • May Co. – 2
  • J. W. Robinson – 25
  • Westwood – 2

Pasadena

  • H.K. Brown – 10
  • Vroman  -- 50

San Diego

  • Stationers Corp – 25-25  o.s.

Hollywood

  • Millers – 1
  • ????Ward – 2

*************************************** 

  • May 20, 1942, letter from Hal to Bill. 2 page, two leaves. Wright refused to write anything about himself. Says they can read To My Sons if they want to know anything. "I am enclosing a pamphlet issued some time ago by D. Appleton and Company." [HBW: The Inspired Novelist by Blanche Colton Williams.] "For the facts of my breeding and birth you can do no better than refer to pages 10 to 18 of 'To My Sons . . . .  A few more pages will give you the essential facts of my boyhood and education -- or lack of it.  My Trade -- Painter and Decorator (me and Hitler)." "For ten years, from 1897 to 1907,  I was a preacher in the Christian (Disciples) Church." "PS: 1918 to 1934, home in Tucson, Arizona; cattle ranch seventy-five miles southwest of Tucson. Purchased our present home farm place and began improving it in 1934."
  • Undated.  Pamphlet, HBW The Inspired Novelist by Blanche Colton Williams. 20 pages including covers. On the front mentions God and the Groceryman and Long Ago Told. On the back mentions A Son of His Father and The Mine with the Iron Door.
  • September 11, 1942, quarter sheet note from Harry F. Hull to Briggs. “Will you please come to my rescue and answer this? You might say that the man who spoke of a $200 minimum is now about to withdraw his offer because we have already offered the book to two of the larger papers with whom we have direct dealings. (Don’t tell the author one of them has already turned it down.) You might want to say we always start our second serial efforts soon after book publication, in the case of all books, in order to get ahead of the other book publishers. We set the release date as far ahead as we want to — and no paper has broken a release date.” Handwritten in lower corner: “Monday, Sept. 14, Mr. Briggs just phoned to let you know there is an order this morning from the Cleveland Public Library for 52 copies of the book.”
  • September 15, 1942, letter from Briggs to HBW  2 pages, 1 leaf, both sides. Regarding book plates, serialization, sorry last shipment of 10 additional gratis copies did happen yet. Blames it on draft and war. RE: books not on sale in Los Angeles: “Our records show that the Harper Coast man secured orders in Los Angeles from the following: [Gives same names as in previous note, above, but does not include numbers, and does not include the other nearby cities.
  • September 15, 1942, Another copy of same Sept.15 letter.
  • September 15, 1942, half-sheet letter from Briggs to Mr. Hollister instructing him to obtain the plates to Ma Cinderella and ship them, with the bill, to HBW. Handwritten note says they quoted to HBW $76.50 as the price for the plates.
  • October 27, 1942, Copy of half-sheet letter from Briggs to Hal. Glowing report of orders for The Man Who Went Away. No numbers mentioned.
  • November 1, 1942, holographic letter from HBW on Hotel Adams, Phoenix, stationary. “Go right ahead with newspaper serial publication.” Wright starts by describing his sudden illness in Palm Springs, but says he felt much better after three days in Arizona. Says, "We plan to stay here six months." 2 p, 2leafs
  • November 10, 1942, copy of half-sheet letter from Briggs to Hal. Sales of The Man Who Went Away are good. Have arranged serialization after January 1st. 1 p, 1 leaf.
  • November 17, 1942. Letter from Naomi Burton, of Curtis Brown, Ltd, London, Paris, New York, to Miss Dorothy Fiske of Harper and Bros. “Dear Miss Fiske, Molino wants to see THE MAN WHO WENT AWAY, by Harold Bell Wright. They also want to know the status of other books by this author, for instance THE WINNING OF BARBARA WORTH. Has anything been done with this in South America? Sincerely Yours.
  • December 15, 1942, another letter from HBW on Hotel Adams letterhead, to Dear Bill. 2 pages, one leaf, on both sides. "I am really better I think --j ust not well enough to do much work. Winnie puts in her time Red Crossing. I visit with old cowboy friends who drop in occasionally." Complains that he can’t find a copy of The Man Who Went Away in any bookstore in Phoenix. Describes his efforts to support the American war effort.
  • December 23, 1942. half-sheet letter from Briggs to Hal. Says Harpers is having great difficulty shipping books, due to war. “I am delighted to read the Drury letter. He is the author of a very excellent history of California which this house published some years ago. I am returning the letter for your files.”
  • Feb 14, 1943, Letter from HBW on Hotel Adams letterhead, to Dear Bill. 1 p, 1 leaf. “This sample of my little one-man campaign against the Black Market may give you a kick.” I am mailing 500 from Escondido to neighbors, friends, and [enemies?]. Says he received his royalty statement from Harpers and feels like the victim of a vicious joke. "But perhaps the joke is on the house, in that you all thought the book worth publishing."  "I am so much better that I was thinking seriously of that next book, but now there doesn't seem to be much point."
  • February 23, 1943, copy of half-sheet letter from Briggs to Hal (at the Adams Hotel). 1 p 1 leaf. “Well I don’t know about the joke, whether it was on you or on us. The royalty figures for THE MAN WHO WENT AWAY probably looked pretty nearly invisible to you. If you could see the sales figures of novels generally last Fall, you would realize into what a low state fiction has fallen. It would probably take your breath away to know that the trade considered the sale of THE MAN WHO WENT AWAY one of the better ones of last fall. It may be that two or three hits each Spring and Fall absorb all the business, or it may be something else, or it may be novels generally are not reaching the public style at the moment. No one seems to know.”
  • June 14, 1943, half-sheet letter from Briggs to Hal. 1 pg, 1 leaf. “A cheerful note was going around the office this morning and I will pass it on to you immediately. The house has just concluded a reprint sale of THE MAN WHO WENT AWAY to Grosset and Dunlap. Their first printing would be 5,000 copies, which may not be large in your eyes, but it indicates a good beginning on which we can build."
  • July 27, 1943, half-sheet letter from Briggs to Mr. Douglas Gilbert, Editorial Rooms, The World Telegram, 125 Barclay Street, New York, N.Y. “I wonder if you have not finished with the Harold Bell Wright book?  Our librarian has been in my hair for some time. Why don’t you drop in when you are in the town and let’s have another talk? 1p 1 leaf.
  • August 14, 1943, RCA Radiogram, to Harpers from Hamish Hamilton, “Wright’s Man Went Away declined by dozen publishers but Andrew Melrose offers fifty pounds outright with option two novels forty pounds advance rising royalties.”
  • August 17, 1943, half-sheet letter from Briggs to “you and Winnie.” 1 p, 1 leaf. Asks Wright how he feels about the fifty-pound offer.
  • August 20, 1943, quarter-page copy of short note from HBW to Briggs. Answering yours of August 17th about the offer of Andrew Melrose — fifty pounds for THE MAN WHO WENT AWAY — it is all right by me, as you advise me to accept. But I positively will not give an option on anything to Melrose or anyone else.” This note appears to be a copy of the first paragraph from the letter below.  Beside these same words in the letter below, is penciled, “copied and given to DBF 8/26.”
  • August 20, 1943 letter from HBW to Briggs on Quiet Hills Farm letterhead. 2 pages, 2 leafs. First paragraph is same as note above, then, “It was good to get back to Quiet Hills Farm after our nine months in Phoenix and the Palm Springs desert. Gilbert’s daughter Barbara, is with us this summer…… "Our beloved cow, Brownie, died last week. I know a number of humans I could bury with less feeling." "How I wish I might sit down with you face to face and talk out some things I can't write. As that cannot be -- Tee'-o-sha tosh moy-kah, Bill, which is my Papago Indian friends' way of saying,: Be with God."
  • August 24, 1943.  Letter to Briggs from HBW.  1 p, 1 leaf. “Before September 15th I must declare for Federal Income Tax my gross estimated income from all sources for the entire year of 1943. Will you please give me the figures of any money that will be due me from Harpers before December 31, 1943. I, of course, have the record of money already received this year.” Below is penciled: “Due Nov 1, 1943 -- $164.26.”
  • August 26, 1943. Western Union Cablegram. “Hamish Hamilton, 90 Great Russell Street, London (England) ACCEPT MELROSE OFFER WRIGHTS MAN WHO WENT AWAY UNDERSTANDING FIFTY POUNDS OUTRIGHT MEANS IN LIEU ROYALTIES  STOP  AUTHOR REFUSES OPTIONS BUT PROBABLY WILL NEVER WRITE OTHER NOVELS  STOP”
  • September 1, 1943, half-sheet letter from Briggs to Mr. Wright. Informs Wright of $164.26 royalty due November 1, 1943.
  • September 16, 1943, half-sheet letter from Briggs to HBW. 1 p, 1 leaf. “Too bad about Brownie. You must have a particular satisfaction in watching Gilbert’s growing interest in writing. I hope, with you, that he will carry on the Wright name in the book world.
  • October 6, 1943, half-page note from D.B.F. to Briggs. “On September 17th the London office wrote: ‘Andrew Melrose are not willing to sign a contract for Harold Bell Wright’s THE MAN WHO WENT AWAY without an option on his next novels. As you said he is unlikely to write any more fiction, and as most publishers would be likely to do THE MAN WHO WENT AWAY only if they could have an option, Miss O’Hea (Curtis Brown) is putting the book on one side.” Penciled below is “Yes, I agree. W.H.B.”
  • (No date)  A quarter-page printed, slick, paper advertising Exit. “Here is a novel of good cheer and hopefulness…..”
  • April 27, 1944, copy of half-sheet letter from Briggs to Hal. 1 page, 1 leaf, friendly note, promises to send two copies of Grosset and Dunlap reprint of THE MAN WHO WENT AWAY.          
  • May 25, 1944, copy of half-sheet letter from Briggs to Winnie. “The newspapers this morning brought us your sad news [of Harold Bell Wright's death]. I am immediately sending this line to you, at Escondido, trusting that it will be forwarded to you wherever you are. The years that you and Hal had together will be some compensation, I know, for his absence. Those years must have been rich and full, to which you both contributed in great measure. You know my feelings for him, and how I respected his great qualities of heart and soul.
  • June 8, 1944, letter on greenish stationary, with envelope, from Winnie to Briggs. 2 pages, 1 leaf,  both sides. Holographic. “It was good to have your letter — it does help a lot to know our friends are thinking of us when we need them most. Everything happened so suddenly I am still dazed — selling the farm, moving into this apartment, finding a house here in San Diego — and with dental work going on all the time it was just too much for Bungy — he caught a slight cold and, as Dr. Sherrill said, he didn’t have any reserve strength to fight it with. I am going ahead as we planned, moving into the house and am thankful to be so occupied. I will get busy with the Red Cross or whatever. Thanking you again for your sympathy. Sincerely, Winifred Wright.” On the back of the envelope is engraved, “Mrs. Harold Bell Wright, Escondido, California.” But the "Escondido" is crossed out and replaced with the hand-written, “2416 Pamo Ave, San Diego.”  ["Bungy" was a nickname for Harold Bell Wright]
  • June 14, 1944, half-sheet memorandum from Z. Kalchinian (Briggs’ secretary) to the Royalty Department. “Please note the following address which is to be used in sending out royalty statements, etc., in the future: Mrs. Harold Bell Wright, 2416 Pamo Avenue, San Diego, Calif.

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This Harold Bell Wright web site is written and produced by Gerry Chudleigh with the help of many friends.
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Last updated 05/26/11