restricted access Noel Polk and the 1977–1996 Eudora Welty Newsletter
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Noel Polk and the 1977–1996 Eudora Welty Newsletter

By the end of 1972, the year of her Pulitzer Prize-winning short novel, The Optimist’s Daughter, Eudora Welty’s published fiction included two other short novels, The Robber Bridegroom (1943) and The Ponder Heart (1954); two longer novels, Delta Wedding (1946) and Losing Battles (1970); and four short story collections: A Curtain of Green and Other Stories (1941), The Wide Net and Other Stories (1943), The Golden Apples (1949), and The Bride of the Innisfallen and Other Stories (1955). There were also some miscellaneous shorter works. By then, Welty’s writings were appearing abroad as well as in the United States. The number of scholars and critics of her works was also growing.

What was not growing was bibliographic study of Welty’s texts. And Noel Polk and I shared a firm conviction that something should be done to alter that situation. After exchanging ideas over several years, we concluded that the solution might be an informal newsletter that would include checklists, bibliographic notes, textual collations, and textual histories. It would be aimed particularly at Welty scholars, book collectors, booksellers, and librarians. And so in 1977 came forth the semi-annual Eudora Welty Newsletter (hereafter EWN).

Noel was involved from issue number 1. In fact, he made three contributions the first year: two checklists—of scholarship on Welty’s works (1.2: 10–15) and of translations and foreign editions (1.2: 3–8) plus a bibliographic note, “An Unknown Printing of A Curtain of Green” (1.1: 2–3). He remained a frequent contributor during EWN’s first decade. An important example was his article “The Text of the Modern Library A Curtain of Green” (3.1A: 6–9). Published in 1954 by Random House in its Selected Stories of Eudora Welty, this text, as Noel pointed out, was not printed from Doubleday Doran’s original first edition of 1941, the only one Welty is known to have read proof for and approved. Rather it was set from the Harcourt Brace edition of 1947, derived from the English edition of 1943 (John Lane, The Bodley Head) with which Welty had no known involvement. Noel stated that his collation of the Doubleday Doran and Modern Library texts revealed many differences which “must be considered [End Page 5] as corruptions,” a fact of “some importance to Welty scholarship since … the Modern Library text … is the only one currently in print and the text most frequently cited by critics.” And he added that his collation “proves once again that the critic, even of modern authors, must be wary of the texts he cites” (6).

Noel also concerned himself with the pre-publication history of some Welty stories, namely their peregrinations from the author in search of a resting place on the pages of a magazine. In three notes, he dealt with works that eventually wound up, respectively, in The Wide Net and Other Stories (9.2: 1–2), The Golden Apples (8.1: 1–3), or The Bride of the Innisfallen and Other Stories (12.1: 6–7). Using the appropriate variant of the title “Sending Schedule for Stories in …,” he listed each story, the magazines it was sent to, and the date returned or sold.

Of the eight stories in The Wide Net collections, only “Livvie” (as “Livvie Is Back”) was sold to the first magazine to which it was sent, the Atlantic. “First Love” (Harper’s Bazaar) and “A Still Moment” (American Prefaces) succeeded on their second attempts, “Asphodel” (Yale Review) and “At the Landing” (Tomorrow) on their fourth, and “The Purple Hat” (Harper’s Bazaar) on its fifth. “The Winds” almost gained initial acceptance by Harper’s Bazaar but was rejected, only to be accepted a month later when re-submitted. “The Wide Net,” the title story, had the longest journey: sent out in September 1941, it was rejected by eight magazines—The Saturday Evening Post, Colliers, Redbook, Country Gentlemen, Ladies’ Home Journal, American (Mercury), Women’s Home Companion, and Atlantic—then, finally sold to Harper’s in February 1942 (9.2: 1–2).

Introducing his note on the stories that would eventually appear...