Stark Young 1881-1963
- The Blind Man at the Window
- Guenevere (verse play),
- Six One-Act Plays, 1911;
- Addio, Madretto, and Other Plays,
- Three Plays, 1919;
- The Flower in Drama,
- The Colonnade (play),
- The Three Fountains (sketches),
- The Saint (play), 1925;
- Sweet Times and Blue Policeman,
- Encaustics, 1926;
- Glamour (essay), 1926;
- Heaven Trees (novel),
- Two Plays for Children,
- tr. Mandragola (play),
- The Theatre, 1927;
- The Torches Flare (novel),
- River House (novel),
- The Street of the Islands
(short stories), 1930;
- So Red the Rose (novel),
- Feliciana (short stories),
- A Southern Treasury of Life
and Literature (ed.), 1937;
- The Street of the Islands,
- Immortal Shadows (dramatic
- The Pavilion: Of People and
Times Remembered, of Stories and Places (autobiography),
- tr. Best Plays by Chekhov: The
Sea Gull, Uncle Vanya, The Three Sisters, The Cherry Orchard,
A Biography By Rachel Hicks (SHS)
Updated in 2009
Young was born in Como, Mississippi, on October 11, 1881,
to parents Mary Clark Starks and Alfred Alexander Young.
His mother was the daughter of Caroline Charlotte McGehee (pronounced
McGee) and Stephen Gilbert Starks (Pilkington 484). The
McGehee family of his maternal grandmother was a very old Southern
line and developed great importance to Young as he grew (Maritine
201). According to Pilkington, the McGehee heritage is
prevalent in most of his novels as well as the traditions and
life the family taught him (484).
Young's father was a Civil War veteran and worked as doctor
in his town of Como. In 1890, after the birth of his younger
sister Julia (Pilkington 485), his mother died (Maritine 201).
At that time, the children were separated from their father
and sent to live with Hugh McGehee, an uncle (Pilkington 485).
Then, in 1895, when Young was fourteen, Alfred Young re-married
and moved the family to Oxford, Mississippi. Young entered
the University of Mississippi when he was only fourteen.
That same year, the Young family took a trip to Chicago and
visited the Chicago Art Institute. Afterward Young asked
his father if he could take painting classes. His father
refused (Maritine 201). In
American Novelists, James J. Maritine quotes a
passage Young related much later in his autobiography The
Pavilion: "Only after years did I realize that in our
social scheme, as with country families in England from whom
we drew our standards, your son could be a planter, a lawyer,
a judge, a senator or a doctor--in sum, a man--but a musician,
a painter, a poet were likely to be effeminate, weaklings, certainly
no credit to our class. ...Such is the way it was, and, whatever
its rewards may be, every social system has its price."
This ideology is a theme in several of Young's works.
At the University of Mississippi (at the young age of fourteen),
Stark Young joined a fraternity and edited the school's annual.
He finally graduated with a B.A. in 1901 at twenty years of
age (Haycraft and Kunitz 1566). From there, he transferred
to Columbia University in New York City with funding from two
aunts (Maritine 201). He chose Columbia because it was
considered to have the best English department in the country.
He was highly influenced by one of his teachers, Brander Matthews,
who was then America's leading theatre critic (Pilkington 485).
In 1902, Young received his M.A. in English (Maritine 201).
After graduation he began a career as a newspaper reporter but
soon decided to leave New York in favor of the North Carolina
mountains (Pilkington 485). During the winter of 1902,
he wrote poetry and read great works of literature. In
1903, he accepted a position at Water Valley, a military academy
on the outskirts of Oxford so that he could be in close proximity
to his father (Maritine 201). In April of 1904, Water
Valley closed, so Young joined the English department at the
University of Mississippi
where he stayed until 1907, when he took a job at the University
of Texas (Abbott 785). While at the University of Mississippi,
he published his first two works The Blind Man at the
Window, a poetry book (some of which he wrote in the
mountains in 1902), and Guenevere, a play.
Once at Texas, he remained until 1915. While at Texas, Stark
Young began the Curtain Club (a drama association for which
he wrote Addio, Madretto and Other Plays) and
began the Texas Review (a journal now edited by
Mississippian Paul Ruffin). From 1915 to 1921, Young taught
at Amherst College in Massachusetts (Abbott 785). At Amherst,
he wrote for the New Republic, Nation, North
American Review, and Yale Review.
He took a year off from teaching in 1919 to live and write in
Spain and Italy. Already he was contributing to the Bookman,
the Dial, and Theatre Arts Magazine
in which At the Shrine was printed (Pilkington
485). During his sixteen years of teaching, Young was
highly popular among his students (Maritine 201).
When he was forty,Young decided to move to New York and break
into the field of free-lance writing (Haycraft and Kunitz 1566).
He joined the staff and editorial board at the New Republic
in 1921 and remained in 1924 (Abbott 785). He also became
the associate editor of Theatre Arts Magazine
during this time and had his "The Queen of Sheba" printed in
it. In 1923, The Flower in Drama was published
by Charles Scribner's Sons. Also during this year he directed
The Failures, a play by Henri Lenormand, for the
Theatre Guild. The following year, the Greenwich Village
Theatre presented a production of his play The Saint.
The same year (1924) Scribner's Sons published a volume of Young's
drawings entitled The Three Fountains. In
1925 The Colonnade was performed by the London
Stage Society in London, England (Pilkington 486). In
addition to this, from 1924 to 1925 he worked as a dramatic
critic for the New York
Times. He soon rejoined the editorial staff
at the New Republic where he stayed until 1947.
In the two years following his work at the Times,
both Theatre Practice
Walton-Young home on the campus of Ole Miss.
and The Theatre were published. These books
are now used as authorities in theatre schools across the country
(Pilkington 486). Throughout the 1920's and 1930's, Young
wrote what John Pilkington expressed as "the best drama criticism
since Coleridge and Hazlitt" (486). His most critically-acclaimed
novel, So Red the Rose, was published in 1934.
It was also made into a movie. He also translated several works
during this time including some works by Chekov. His translations
are still the most widely used today (Abbott 785). The
1940's brought some changes, and Young retired. (Maritine 204).
in retirement Young began serious painting. He had occasionally
painted landscapes and flowers before, but in 1943 his new work
received a one man show under the sponsorship of the Friends
of Greece. Reporting the event, Time
called Stark Young
"a discerning critic of art and the theater (in the
New Republic and elsewhere) for
some 20 years. Stark Young is known also as a best-selling
novelist (So Red The Rose), a poet,
a playwright, a translator of plays and a lecturer. Last week
he made a firm bid to be known as a painter, gave his first
exhibition at Manhattan's Friends of Greece, Inc."...In
Italy, which he has visited about 18 times, he used to "go
to the galleries the moment the doors opened and stay there
all day." If his painting matches the quality of his
dramatic criticism, it will be something."
In 1945 the Rehn Galleries held an exhibit devoted to his
work. According to Pilkington, both exhibits received enthusiastic
reviews from New York art critics.
of the three Stark Young paintings above (from the collection
of Ronda Keane) courtesy of Marlene Snyder
Young was friends with many famous people of the time, including
the playwright Edward Sheldon and the actress Doris Keane. His
autobiography, The Pavilion, was published in
1951. In the 1950's Stark Young made many trips to Greece
and Italy (18 times according to Time),
many with his longtime roommate William M. Bowman. He also often
visited his sister during the summers in Austin, Texas.
In May 1959, Stark Young suffered a stroke. He did partially
recover, but his activities were severely curtailed. Stark Young
died a bachelor on January 6, 1963, in a New York nursing home
(Maritine 204) one week after his sister died. Bowman took the
body back to Mississippi where Young was buried in Friendship
Cemetery, Como, Mississippi.
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A Review of So
Red the Rose
by Rachel Hicks (SHS)
Often considered Stark Young's best and most influential novel,
So Red the Rose, published in 1934, was the fourth
of five novels. Unlike his earlier works, this novel was
set in the southern part of Mississippi near Natchez, and its
time frame spanned from 1860 to 1865. The action in the
story primarily takes place on the two plantations of Montrose,
owned by Hugh McGehee (pronounced McGee), and Portobello, owned
by Malcolm Bedford.
The plot itself, while interesting, is not the focus of the
novel; and for that matter, neither is the
time frame of the Civil War. When Stark Young wrote this
book, he intended it to be more of a tapestry of a way of life
rather than a romantic war novel. He intended to show
the continual struggle of the agrarian South and the industrial
North as well as the search for a balance between tradition
and a century old culture and the changing times. He presents
his case for the value of the South's agrarian lifestyle through
varying perspectives. His large, although sometimes cumbersome,
cast of characters allows that. One very unique aspect
of Young's novel is the use of cameos by historical figures
such as Jefferson Davis, William Tecumseh Sherman, and Ulysses
Grant. By incorporating these people into his fictitious
novel, he is given some dramatic license to show us an alternate
view of these figures. It also gives the reader a fuller
picture of the Civil War and leads to a fresh perspective the
reader might not have had otherwise. The mood at the end
of the novel is quite different from the light, careless air
that it opens with. With devastation rampant and lives
lost, the characters' futures are uncertain at best. Young's
depiction of the post-war South leaves no question as to why
the South remained crippled for the next hundred years.
Even today, Young's portrayal of the clashing values of northern
and southern traditional lifestyles
I would recommend this novel for those readers who would like
to understand the idiosyncrasies of the South and its people,
as well as those who would like a new look at Civil War life.
about the Walton-Young house.
info on the movie made from So Red the
provides reviews of So Red the Rose.
(1943) reviews Stark Young's painting exhibit.
of World Biography
life of Stark Young.
about letter written to Stark Young by Henry James.
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Maritine, James J. ed. "Stark Young." American Novelists,
1910-1945: Part 3: Mari Sandoz - Stark Young. Detroit,
Michigan: A Bruccoli Clark Book, 1981. 201-204.
Pilkington, John. "Stark Young." Lives of Mississippi
Authors 1817-1967. Jackson, Mississippi: University
Press of Mississippi, 1985. 541-543.
Howard and Kunitz, Stanley J. eds. "Stark Young." Twentieth
Century Authors: A Biographical Dictionary of Modern Literature.
New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1942. 1566.
Fitzgerald, Edmund. Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
Hart, James D. "Stark Young." The Oxford Companion to
American Literature, Sixth Edition. New York: Oxford
University Press, 1995. 746.
Bradbury, Malcom; Franco, Jean; and Mottram, Eric. eds. "Stark
Young." American Literature. New York: McGraw-Hill
Book Company, 1971. 277.
Cox, James L. "Profiles of Famous and Notable Mississippians:
Stark Young." Mississippi Almanac: 1997-1998.
Yazoo City, Mississippi: Computer Search and Research, 1997.
Abbott, Dorothy. ed. "Stark Young." Mississippi Writers:
Reflections of Childhood and Youth. Jackson, Mississippi:
University Press of Mississippi, 1985. 785.
Stark Young. ed. Southern Treasury of Life and Literature.
New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1937. 680-682.