Ben Ames Williams

Major Works

  • The Kenneth Roberts Reader (1945; Williams wrote the introduction)
  • The Happy End (1991)
  • The Unconquered (1953)
  • Owen Glen (1950)
  • Fraternity Village (1949; short stories set in the Searsmont area)
  • The Diary From Dixie (1949; written by Mary Boykin Chesnut, but edited by Ben Ames Williams)
  • House Divided (1947)
  • Leave Her To Heaven (1944; his most well known novel)
  • Amateurs at War:  The American Soldier in Action (1943)
  • Time of Peace:  September 26, 1930 – December 7, 1941 (1942)
  • Come Spring (1940)
  • The Strange Woman (1940)
  • Thread of Sea (1939)
  • The Strumpet Sea (1938)
  • Crucible (1937)
  • It’s A Free Country (1937)
  • Small Town Girl (1935)
  • Hostile Valley (1934)
  • Mischief (1933)
  • Pascal’s Mill (1933)
  • Honeyflow (1932)
  • Money Musk (1932)
  • An End to Mirth (1931)
  • Letters from Fraternity (1931)
  • Pirate’s Purchase (1931)
  • Great Oaks (1930)
  • The Dreadful Night (1928)
  • Immortal Longings (1927)
  • Splendor (1927)
  • The Silver Forest (1926)
  • The Rational Hind (1925)
  • Audacity (1924)
  • Thrifty Shock and Other Stories (1923)
  • Black Pawl (1922)
  • Evered (1921)
  • The Great Accident (1920)
  • All the Brothers Were Valiant (1919)
  • The Sea Bride (1919)

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Ben Ames Williams: A Biography

Ben Ames Williams is an American novelist and short story writer who was born in Macon, Mississippi.  He was born  to Daniel Webster Williams and Sara Marshall (Ames) Williams (a niece of General James Longstreet of the Confederate army) on March 7, 1889.  His parents originally lived in the South, but they moved while he was still a baby to Jackson, Ohio, where he spent his boyhood, and his father served thirty years as editor of the Standard Journal, a weekly newspaper.  Williams took an early interest in literature partly because  his mother read books aloud.

In 1904, Williams left Ohio and went to West Newton, Massachusetts, to attend the Allen School.  The next year he spent in cardiff, Wales, where his father was an American Consul.  In Cardiff, he learned Latin from a tutor.  Returning to America in 1906, Williams entered Dartmouth College.  He received a B. A. in 1910.  In an autobiographical statement for Wilson’s Biographies, he stated:  “I went to work as a reporter on the Boston American in September, 1910, and continued until December, 1916.  By that time I had sold a few short stories and short serials, principally to the All-Story Magazine...Since then I have been a professional writer of fiction, and stories of mine have been published in a long list of magazines….Most of these have appeared in the Saturday Evening Post and Collier’s.

After Williams settled down in 1912, he married Florence Trafton Talpey of York, Maine, (her father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were all sea captains) and together they had two sons and a daughter.  They all left Boston and moved to a little commuter town called Newtonville, Massachusetts, where his new  writing career could expand. They later moved to Chestnut Hill, a suburb of Boston, and vacationed at a summer home, a farm called Hardscrable, near Searmont, Maine, which Williams used as the model for his town called Fraternity in his writings.  The summer home was willed to him by Bert McCorrison, a person who shared Williams love of the outdoors and who appeared in Williams’s works as Chet McAusland, a resident of Fraternity.

His first book, All the Brothers Were Valiant, appeared in 1919 and more than thirty were published during his lifetime. Some, such as Leave Her to Heavenand All the Brothers Were Valiant,  were also made into films.  In all he wrote more than 432 short stories as well.  His subjects included hunting and fishing stories, historical fiction (many about the Revolutionary War and the Civil War),  mysteries, and sea stories.  Many of his stories were set in Maine. He wrote the edited  A Diary from Dixie by Mary Boykin Chesnut.

Ben Ames Williams died on February 4, 1953, at the age of sixty-three from a heart attack.  He was playing one of his favorite outdoor games, curling,  when he collapsed.  To show their appreciation to his life long commitment to the skill of writing, Dartmouth College and Colby College awarded him honorary degrees in American literature for writing over thirty-five novels and over four hundred short stories.   Ben Ames Williams was a prolific and  remarkable writer.   The Miller Library of Colby College has Williams’s papers, and the Dartmouth College Archives contains a large collection of his novels and stories and articles written about him.

His The Strumpet Sea is going to be reissued in July, 2000.

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Timeline

  • 1889–Born in Macon, Mississippi
  • 1906–Went to Allen High School, Maine?
  • 1910–Graduated from Dartmouth University
  • 1919–First novels The Sea Bride and All the Brothers Were Valiant published
  • 1938–The Strumpet Sea first published
  • 1944– Leave Her to Heaven (best known novel) published
  • 1953– All the Brothers Were Valiant made into award-winning film
  • 1953– Died on February 4 of a heart attack.
  • 2000–The Strumpet Sea reissued

Related Websites

Bibliography

  • Lloyd, James B. Lives of Mississippi Authors, 1817-1967.  Jackson, University Press of Mississippi, 1981. 467-469.
  • Williams, Ben Ames.  The Waterboro Public Library. Online at http://www.waterboro.lib.me.us/maineaut/sz.htm#authorw, May, 2000,
  • Williams, Ben Ames. Wilson Biographies on the Web.  The H. W. Wilson Company.  1996 Biography from World Authors 1900-1950.

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