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The Starwick Episodes

by Thomas Wolfe edited by Richard S. Kennedy

Southern Literary Studies

128 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / no illustrations

Literature - American

  Paperback / 9780807119754 / August 1994

One of the most enduring characters in Thomas Wolfe’s fiction is Francis Starwick, the Midwestern aesthete who befriends Eugene Grant at Harvard in Wolfe’s second autobiographical novel, Of Time and the River. Wolfe created Starwick in order to provide a foil for the artistic development of Eugene: Starwick was the pretentious, narrow-minded dilettante whose response to the arts is all talk and pose, as compared with Eugene, who hopes to express in writing his intensity of feeling about all aspects of life

While writing the novel, however, Wolfe found his manuscript proliferating beyond his control, and he turned to his editor at Scribner’s Maxwell Perkins, for help in shaping the final version of the book. In the process of organizing the massive manuscript for publication, Perkins deleted some of the analyses of Starwick’s behavior and several of the episodes involving Eugene and Starwick. The result was that the relationship between the two young men was not as fully developed as Wolfe had originally planned.

Richard S. Kennedy discovered these excised passages among the Wolfe papers at Harvard University’s Houghton Library. In The Starwick Episodes has arranged them sequentially and indicated their position in the original manuscript. IN one of them Starwick introduces Eugene to Joyce’s Ulysses, and in another he takes him to view the paintings in Boston’ Museum of Fine Arts. Additional scenes find the two exploring the lower depts. Of Paris until at length their true sexual natures are revealed in a visit to a Parisian brothel.

Kennedy’s research also uncovered the story of the life of Kenneth Raisbeck, the young man whom Wolfe used as the starting point for his fictional creation of Starwick. In his Introduction, Kennedy describes Raisbeck’s career, both its brilliant promise and its tragic end, and his similarity to the character in the novel.

The presence of Starwick in Of Time and the River is unforgettable despite the omission of some important scenes that Wolfe wrote for him. With the publication now of the deleted episodes, readers may gain an enriched sense of Wolfe’s fascinating creation and a fuller understanding of what he was trying to convey. 

Lucy Conniff completed her transcription of Thomas Wolfe's autobiographical outline while a college student at the University of Chicago. She lives in New York City.

Richard S. Kennedy (1920-2003) was a professor emeritus of English at Temple University, the biographer of Thomas Wolfe and E. E. Cummings, and the author or editor of numerous other literary works, including Welcome to Our City and The Starwick Episodes, by Thomas Wolfe.

Richard S. Kennedy (1920–2002) was the author of Dreams in the Mirror: A Biography of E. E. Cummings and The Window of Memory: A Literary Biography of Thomas Wolfe. He also edited the collection Literary New Orleans: Essays and Meditations. He was a professor emeritus of English at Temple University in Philadelphia.

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