Harold Bell Wright's autobiography (and philosophy of
life), at least those parts
from the first thirty years of his life that he thought it
important to tell. Provides a fascinating story of Wright's amazing
journey to adulthood after the death of his mother. Abandoned by
his alcoholic father, Wright was taken in by relatives before living in
a series of homes where he worked for board and room. By his early
teen years Wright was living under bridges and sleeping in
haystacks. This book provides valuable insight into several of
Wright's stories, especially the early ones.
Anyone interested in the life and work of Harold Bell
Wright should have a copy of this book, even if it is a cheap
print-on-demand reprint. Almost everything that anyone knows about
Wright's early life is available in this book and nowhere else.
Collectors have no trouble identifying first editions of
To My Sons because all copies are first editions, except the modern reprint by Yestermorrow
and the still newer variety being offered currently on eBay. All
first editions were published by Harper & Brothers, who printed only one
edition. Buccaneer once announced a reprint, but never produced it, apparently because they did not get enough
advance orders. The Catalog of Books in Print, 1938-1942,
mentions a Canadian first edition by Musson, but I have never seen or
heard of a copy and do not know if such an edition was ever printed. The
1990s reprints by Yestermorrow,
are usually available from Barbara
Berry's Bookshop. When
night. Rumors have persisted for years that this book is so
rare because Harold Bell Wright's sons (as in To My Sons)
objected to the material being shared openly in the book, and traveled
the country for years buying up every copy they could find. "This is
nonsense," Wright's youngest son, Norman, frequently responded before
his death in July, 2001. "I can't understand how such a silly rumor ever
got started." There is nothing in the book that would embarrass the
sons, and their busy schedules in the movie industry certainly didn't
leave time to invest in such a silly venture. The book is rare because
very few copies were printed, fewer were sold, and even fewer survived.
In any case, the book is the rarest by far of any of Harold Bell
When I created this website in the 1990s I said.
Most collectors will never see a first edition, and
if they are lucky enough to buy one, often keep it in a bank's safe
deposit box. One "good" copy sold on eBay for $1200, and another with an
original dust jacket sold there for $2100. These prices are less than
half what you would pay a knowledgeable dealer who specializes in
Wright's books. I once sold a really bad, smelly, rotten-looking,
ex-library copy to a dealer for resale. The dealer paid me $850. I don't
know how much he sold it for. The bottom line is this title is VERY hard
But that was before eBay. In December, 2010, for
example, there were three copies of To My Sons for sale simultaneously
-- an apparently fine copy with a very good dust jacket that was not
selling for $1400, a good ex-library copy with laser copy dj that was
not selling for $500, and a very good copy without dust jacket that
attracted bids from five people and sold for $341. Clearly these are the
lowest prices for this title in at least 20 years. It will be
interesting to see if the prices climb when the economy improves.
Notes for Owners of "Books
guidebook lists 4 editions and varieties, including the American
first edition, the Canadian first edition (Musson), probably never
printed, and the Yestermorrow
reprint. The fourth edition by Buccaneer was never printed.
Review of Book
by Dr. Joyce Kinkead Copyright
1979 by Joyce Kinkead. Used by
Wright's autobiography, To My Sons (1934), is the final
book which rests primarily on the theme of development of virtuous
character. In covering the
first thirty years of his life, Wright presents the lessons which life
has taught him and which have influenced his moral and spiritual
development. He insists that an individual must work to make his life
significant, which he has done in rising from a poverty stricken
background to become a successful writer. In the autobiography, he often preaches to his sons on how to
develop good character. As
a result, the book is very personal.
In all of these books, Wright focuses on the development of
virtuous character. His
message is subtle in some of the novels such as The Shepherd of the
Hills but in Their Yesterdays, Wright is too blunt.
When he mixes theme with a good story, the result is an
interesting novel which also carries his message to his audience. Their Yesterdays fails because he deletes the story.
To Wright virtuous character is a force on which this country
must depend for its own welfare. The desirable American is, for Wright, well developed
morally, physically, spiritually, and intellectually.
Nature is influential on the development of character, and so the
country provides an atmosphere conducive to a person's growth.
In the earlier novels, the Ozarks provided that quality.
Later, he turned to the West as Eden for the American people.
Copyright 1979 by Joyce
Kinkead. Used by Permission