Carson McCullers Center

Biography

1917

Born Lula Carson Smith on February 19, in Columbus, Georgia, first child of Lamar and Marguerite Waters Smith.

1919

Brother Lamar Smith, Jr., born May 13.

1921

Begins kindergarten in September at Sixteenth Street School, Columbus, Georgia.

1922

Sister Margarita Gachet Smith, born August 2.

1923

Enters first grade in February. Maternal grandmother and namesake, Lula Caroline Carson Waters, with whom the Smith family lives, dies on November 21.

1925

Lamar Smith, Sr. buys Whippet Coupe in summer and moves family to rented house at 2417 Wynnton Rd., Columbus, Georgia. Lula Carson transfers to third grade at Wynnton School in September. Joins First Baptist Church of Columbus on November 21.

1926

Begins piano lessons with Mrs. Kendrick Kierce. Smith family buys house at 1519 Starke Avenue in January. Baptized at First Baptist Church of Columbus on May 30.

1930

Enters eighth grade at Columbus High School on February 3. Visits uncle and aunt, the Elam Waterses, in Cincinnati in July and drops Lula from name. Colonel Albert S. J. and Mary Tucker (Carson's future piano teacher) transferred to Fort Benning in August. Ends piano study with Mrs. Kierce in fall. Begins piano study with Mary Tucker in October.

1931

Future husband, James Reeves McCullers, Jr., (born August 11, 1913) graduates from Wetumpka High School (Wetumpka, Alabama) in June. Reeves McCullers enlists in army at Fort Benning, Georgia on November 3.

1932

Stricken with rheumatic fever (misdiagnosed and untreated), ill for several weeks during winter. Tells friend Helen Harvey of decisions to write and give up plans for the concert stage.

1933

Reads voraciously, writes plays, and writes first short story, "Sucker." Graduates from Columbus High School in June.

1934

Meets friend Edwin Peacock in spring. Tucker family transferred to Fort Howard, Maryland in June. Tells Mary Tucker of decision to write. At age seventeen, travels by boat from Savannah to New York in September. Reeves McCullers completes three-year enlistment in army on November 2 and re-enlists for three additional years. Edwin Peacock introduces Reeves to Smith family while Carson is in New York.

1935

Enrolls in creative writing courses with Dorothy Scarborough and Helen Rose Hull at Columbia University from February to June. Returns to Columbus by bus in mid-June. Edwin Peacock introduces Carson to Reeves McCullers. Works as reporter for hometown newspaper, Columbus Ledger, during August. Returns to New York in September, enrolls at Washington Square College of New York University and studies writing for two semesters with Sylvia Chatfield Bates. John Vincent Adams, a friend of Reeves and Edwin Peacock, moves to New York in November and urges Reeves to leave army, join him in New York, and dedicate himself to writing.

1936

Reeves inherits Alabama Harbor bonds, purchases discharge from army in January. Carson returns briefly to Columbus in June. Returns to New York in July to study with Whit Burnett at Columbia. Reeves enrolls at Columbia in September and takes courses in journalism and anthropology. Reeves withdraws from Columbia in November and takes seriously ill Carson home to Georgia. Put to bed for the winter, begins story of a deaf mute, titled "The Mute" (later "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter"). "Wunderkind," first published story, appears in Story in December. "Like That" also purchased by Story, remains unpublished during lifetime.

1937

Spends three and a half weeks in March with Reeves in Golden Bridge at Lake Katona, New York, before returning sick to Columbus. Teaches music courses in Columbus during summer. Marries James Reeves McCullers, Jr. on September 30, and moves to apartment at 311 East Boulevard in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Reeves has job with credit agency. Move to 806 Central Avenue in fall.

1938

Moves with Reeves to apartment on Rowan Street in Fayetteville, North Carolina in March. Works on "The Mute." Submits outline of "The Mute" in April to enter Houghton Mifflin fiction contest. Visits family in Columbus, Georgia in July. In fall Carson and Reeves move to 119 North Cool Spring Street, in Fayetteville.

1939

Finishes "The Mute" during spring (now titled "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter") and writes "Army Post" (later published as "Reflections in a Golden Eye"). Returns alone twice to Columbus and unsuccessfully tries to publish "Sucker" and "Court in the West Eighties." Begins to conceive "The Member of the Wedding."

1940

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, dedicated to Reeves McCullers and Marguerite and Lamar Smith, published by Houghton Mifflin on June 4. With Reeves leaves Fayetteville in mid-June for New York City and moves into apartment at 321 W. 11th St. in Greenwich Village. Meets Klaus and Erika Mann, W. H. Auden, and Annemarie Clarac-Schwarzenbach in July. Sells "Reflections in a Golden Eye" to Harper's Bazaar in August. Attends Bread Loaf Writers' Conference for two weeks in August where she meets Louis Untermeyer and Eudora Welty. Visits editor Robert Linscott and the Houghton Mifflin offices in Boston in late August. In September separates from Reeves and moves with George Davis and W. H. Auden to 7 Middagh Street in Brooklyn Heights. "Reflections in a Golden Eye" published in October and November Harper's Bazaar. Ill during winter, returns to Columbus to recuperate where she faces negative hometown reactions to Reflections in a Golden Eye. "Look Homeward, Americans" published in December Vogue.

1941

Meets cousin Jordan Massee and his companion Paul Bigelow. "Night Watch Over Freedom" published in January Vogue. In February, stricken with first cerebral stroke, radically impaired vision, and stabbing head pains. Although sight returns, not ambulatory for over a month. Reflections in a Golden Eye, dedicated to Annemarie Clarac-Schwarzenbach, published by Houghton Mifflin on February 14. "Brooklyn Is My Neighborhood" published in March Vogue. Reeves, seeking reconciliation, goes to Columbus in April and returns with Carson to New York City to W. 11th St. apartment. "Books I Remember" published in Harper's Bazaar. Carson and Reeves meet composer David Diamond on May 2, beginning complicated three-way relationship with him. At Yaddo Arts Colony, in Saratoga Springs, New York, from June 14 to August 22, meets Katherine Anne Porter and Newton Arvin, and writes "The Ballad of the Sad Café". Reeves lives with David Diamond in Rochester, New York, and works at Samson United chemical plant from July to mid-November. While in Rochester Reeves forges checks on Carson's account, and she considers divorce. "The Russian Realists and Southern Literature" published in Decision. "We Carried Our Banners--We Were Pacifists Too" published in July 15 Vogue. From August 22 to August 30 accompanies Newton Arvin, Granville Hicks and his family to Quebec. Visits Smith College on return trip with Newton Arvin in Northampton, Massachusetts. "The Jockey" published in August 23 New Yorker. Returns to New York from Yaddo in September and initiates divorce proceedings. Diamond dedicates ballet, The Dream of Audubon, to Carson and Reeves. Returns to Columbus in mid-October. "The Twisted Trinity," First published poem (later set to music my David Diamond), appears in November – December Decision. Critically ill with pleurisy, strep throat, and double pneumonia in December and January. Writes short stories "Madame Zilensky and the King of Finland" and "Correspondence" during winter.

1942

By mid-February recuperated enough to resume work on "The Bride" manuscript. Interrupts work to write short story, "A Tree, A Rock, A Cloud." "Correspondence," short story, published in February 7 New Yorker. Tells David Diamond in March that "Bride" manuscript is finished, but quickly realizes that it must undergo revision before publication. Reeves, now divorced, re-enlists in army on March 19. Carson notified on March 24 of award of a Guggenheim Fellowship. Visits Georgia during spring. Returns to New York from Georgia, then to Yaddo in late June. Works at Yaddo from July 2 to January 17. Completes "The Ballad of the Sad Café" in November. "A Tree, A Rock, A Cloud," published in Harper's Bazaar and selected by Herschel Brickell for annual anthology, O. Henry Memorial Prize Stories of 1942. Moves to Pine Tree studio at Yaddo on November 5. Reeves receives army commission at Camp Upton, New York on November 29.

1943

Ill during January and February from an infection due to broken jaw bone (broken accidentally by dentist during molar extraction). In January "The Ballad of the Sad Café" sold to Harper's Bazaar for publication in August. Leaves Yaddo on January 17 and moves back to 7 Middagh Street, Brooklyn Heights. Marguerite Smith travels from Columbus to Middagh Street in February to nurse daughter and accompany her back to Columbus. "Love's Not Time's Fool" published in April Mademoiselle. Learns on April 9 that she will receive a one-thousand-dollar Arts and Letters Grant from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the National Institute of Arts and Letters. Returns to Columbus on April 22. Reunites with Reeves in Atlanta on May 5. A week later he joins her in Columbus for a five-day leave. Carson returns briefly to 7 Middagh Street on June 1. Carson at Yaddo from June 8 to August 12. "The Ballad of the Sad Café" published in August Harper's Bazaar. In mid-August spends a few days in New York City, visits David Diamond, returns to Columbus due to father's illness. Stays with Reeves at Fort Dix from October 21 to October 30. They consider remarriage, but decide against it. In Columbus during winter, begins to refer to manuscript of "The Bride" as "The Member of the Wedding."

1944

Ill with influenza and pleurisy during January and February, suffers severe nervous attack, and fears for Reeves's safety in combat. Learns in February that Reeves has fractured wrist in a motorcycle accident in England. Carson's sister, Rita Smith, moves to New York City in March to write and find a job in publishing. In spring tries to get job as a war correspondent. Rita Smith begins working for George Davis at Mademoiselle in June. On June 6, Reeves wounded in the Normandy invasion. Carson at Yaddo from June 15 to August 2. Carson's father dies in Columbus on August 1. Carson returns to Columbus for funeral. Carson, Rita, and their mother move to Nyack, New York on September 4, and rent apartment at 127 South Broadway (Graycourt Apartments). Briefly visits Yaddo in early November to see Newton Arvin and Elizabeth Ames. During December suffers acute eyestrain and is unable to work. "The Ballad of the Sad Café" included in Martha Foley's The Best American Short Stories of 1944. Carson at Yaddo for Christmas. Returns to Nyack from Yaddo in late December.

1945

Ill with influenza during much of January. Reeves leaves England by ship for the United States on February 10. Marguerite Smith receives money from husband's estate in mid-February and looks for house to buy in Nyack. Carson meets Reeves in New York City on return from England on February 24. Carson and Reeves remarry on March 19 in a civil ceremony in New City, New York. Carson's mother buys house at 131 South Broadway, Nyack, New York on May 15. Reeves recommended for medical discharge from army in mid-July. Continues work at Yaddo on "The Member of the Wedding" from June 26 to August 31. Returns to Nyack from Yaddo on August 31 having completed "The Member of the Wedding." "Our Heads Are Bowed" published in November Mademoiselle. Reeves returns to Nyack at Christmas on terminal leave from temporary assignment at Camp Wheeler, Georgia.

1946

Part 1 of "The Member of the Wedding" published in January Harper's Bazaar. Reeves promoted to Captain in February. Book Basement, bookstore owned by John Zeigler and Edwin Peacock, opens in Charleston on Carson's birthday, February 19. Reeves granted physical disability discharge from army on March 16. The Member of the Wedding, dedicated to Elizabeth Ames, published by Houghton Mifflin on March 19. Returns to Yaddo from March 23 to May 31. Awarded second Guggenheim Fellowship in mid-April. Makes plans with Reeves to live in France. Spends several weeks in June on Nantucket with Tennessee Williams and begins dramatic adaptation of The Member of the Wedding. Returns to Nyack from Nantucket on June 29. Carson and Reeves return to Nantucket on July 4. Reeves stays only a few days, Carson remains until midsummer. Sails with Reeves for Europe on November 22 on the Ile de France.

1947

During April Carson goes on skiing expedition in Italian Tyrol and visits Natalia Danesi Murray in Rome. Stage version of The Member of the Wedding entangled in lawsuit in May; plans trip to Key West with Tennessee Williams. Meets attorney Floria Lasky. Departs for Paris with Reeves in late summer. Suffers severe stroke in August; hospitalized in the American Hospital in Paris. In November has second serious stroke in Paris, which destroys lateral vision in right eye and paralyzes left side; hospitalized for three weeks at the American Hospital in Paris under the care of Dr. Robert Myers. Carson and Reeves flown home on stretchers from Paris on December 1; Reeves suffers from delirium tremens, Carson from paralysis of stroke. Hospitalized at Neurological Institute at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital from December 1 to December 25. Quick magazine names Carson one of the best postwar writers in America on December 17.

1948

In January named one of the ten most deserving women in America for 1947 and receives Mademoiselle Merit Award. Reeves moves from Nyack to New York City in February. Writes February 28 letter to Columbus public library protesting its racial segregation policy. Attempts suicide in March; hospitalized briefly at Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic in Manhattan. From spring through fall hires part-time secretary for dictation and revises play The Member of the Wedding. Audrey Wood becomes Carson's agent in spring, replacing Ann Watkins. Attends national psychiatric convention in Washington, D.C. on May 19, and meets Hervey Cleckley. Reconciles with Reeves in August. Carson's health worsens. "How I Began to Write" published in September Mademoiselle. "The Mortgaged Heart" and "When We Are Lost" (poems) published in the literary journal New Directions. Publicly supports Harry Truman for president.

1949

Spends January with Reeves in apartment at 105 Thompson Street in Manhattan. Returns with mother to Georgia on March 13 for two weeks, first to Columbus, then to Macon on March 17 to visit cousin Jordan Massee. Returns to New York City on March 21 because of controversy regarding Elizabeth Ames (Yaddo Director) and the Communist party. On way to New York City, interviewed in Atlanta by Ralph McGill of the Atlanta Constitution. On May 13, visits with Reeves friends Edwin Peacock and John Zeigler in Charleston, South Carolina, continuing aborted trip south.The Member of the Wedding (play) published by New Directions. "Home for Christmas" published in December Mademoiselle. "Loneliness, an American Malady" published in This Week Magazine of the December 19 Herald Tribune. The Member of the Wedding opens at the Walnut Theatre on December 22 in Philadelphia for its pre-Broadway run.

1950

The Member of the Wedding opens on Broadway on January 5; wins Drama Critics' Circle Award and Donaldson Award. In spring moves with Reeves temporarily into the Dakota building at 72nd St. and Central Park West. "The Vision Shared" published in April Theatre Arts. Reunited with former piano teacher Mary Tucker on April 24. "The Sojourner" published in May Mademoiselle. Sails for Ireland on May 20 to visit Elizabeth Bowen. Reeves flies to meet Carson in London in early June. Returns in July to Bowen Court to visit Elizabeth Bowen. On August 2, returns with Reeves to New York and separate. Reeves takes an apartment and Carson stays with friends in New York City. Carson visits Tucker family in Virginia during fall.

1951

Screen rights to The Member of the Wedding sold to Stanley Kramer. Buys Nyack home from mother in March. The Member of the Wedding closes on March 17 after 501 performances. The Ballad of the Sad Café and Other Works published by Houghton Mifflin on May 24. Carson (and Reeves as stowaway) sail on the Queen Elizabeth for England on June 28. Visits Edith Sitwell in London. Returns to America in October. Begins work in fall on "The Pestle" (part of the novel Clock Without Hands). In December completes poem, "The Dual Angel," and begins work on Clock Without Hands. Travels to New Orleans.

1952

With Reeves sails on the Constitution for Naples, Italy on January 30. Carson and Reeves stay in Rome from early February to early April. Drives to Paris with Reeves in April and buy house at Bachivillers near Paris. Inducted in absentia into the National Institute of Arts and Letters on May 28. The Ballad of the Sad Café and Collected Short Stories published by Houghton Mifflin in mid-summer. During summer returns to Nyack to see Marguerite Smith, who suffered a heart attack and a fall. "The Dual Angel: A Meditation on Origin and Choice," a poem, published in July Mademoiselle. Goes to Rome with Reeves in September; works on film script for David O. Selznik's "Terminal Station." "The Dual Angel" printed in Italian literary journal Botteghe Oscure. Marguerite Smith ill again. Returns to Nyack alone in late summer. Lamar Smith, Jr., moves from Florida to Columbus, Georgia during summer. Marguerite Smith returns to Columbus with son and his family. Nyack house cared for by Reeves's mother and sister. From mid to late October, hospitalized for a week at Salvador Mundi Clinic in Rome. Returns with Reeves to Bachivillers in November. Hosts friends from American Hospital in Paris for Thanksgiving dinner at Bachivillers. Carson and Reeves guests of friends at American Hospital for Christmas.

1953

"The Pestle" (Part I of Clock Without Hands) simultaneously published in Mademoiselle and Botteghe Oscure in July. In late summer Reeves tries to convince Carson to commit suicide with him. Carson flees to the United States. Marguerite Smith returns to Nyack from visit to Columbus to care for Carson. Reeves commits suicide in Paris on November 18. Reeves's body found in Paris hotel on November 19. Hears of Reeves's death while visiting author Lillian Smith in Clayton, Georgia. Visits Dr. Hervey Cleckley in Augusta, Georgia from November 21 to November 25. Returns to Nyack on November 25. Reeves's obituary appears in the November 27 New York Times. Returns to the south on December 3. Favorite aunt, Martha Waters Johnson, dies in Columbus on December 15. Returns from south to Nyack to be with mother. "The Invisible Wall," television adaptation of short story "The Sojourner," broadcast December 27 on Ford Foundation program "Omnibus."

1954

From February to May makes lecture appearances with Tennessee Williams. Lectures on fiction writing and drama at Goucher College on February 17. Travels to Charleston to visit friends in late February. During spring Marguerite Smith breaks hip. Carson returns to Nyack from Yaddo. Marguerite admitted to nursing home. Carson travels to Charlotte, North Carolina, to visit friends in late March. Returns to Yaddo from Charlotte on April 19. Lectures at Poetry Center of the Young Men and Young Women's Hebrew Association in New York City on May 8. At Yaddo from April 20 to July 3, completes first draft of "The Square Root of Wonderful." Meets Marilyn Monroe in New York City. Spends time in New York City at the home of Robert and Hilda Marks. Marguerite Smith returns to Nyack home from nursing home. Ida Reeder hired as housekeeper.

1955

Vacations with Tennessee Williams in Key West in April. Works on three manuscripts then in progress: dramatization of The Ballad of the Sad Café, The Square Root of Wonderful,; and Clock Without Hands. With Williams spends weekend in Cuba. "Who Has Seen the Wind?", a short story version of The Square Root of Wonderful, completed in May. Carson's mother, Marguerite Waters Smith, dies in Nyack on June 10. Marguerite Waters Smith's obituary appears in the June 13 New York Times. "The Haunted Boy" published simultaneously in Mademoiselle and Botteghe Oscure in November.

1956

Ill during much of year, paralyzed left arm becomes increasingly painful and drawn. Works with Saint Subber on the revision of play The Square Root of Wonderful. "Who Has Seen the Wind?" published in September Mademoiselle.

1957

"Mick" published in February Literary Cavalcade. The Member of the Wedding opens at the Royal Court Theatre, London on February 16. Poem, "Stone Is Not Stone," published in July Mademoiselle. The Square Root of Wonderful goes into rehearsal on September 2. Ten-day pre-Broadway run at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey, begins on October 10. "Playwright Tells of Pangs" published on October 13 in the Philadelphia Inquirer. George Keathley called in on October 23 to replace director Jose Quintero for production of The Square Root of Wonderful. The Square Root of Wonderful opens at the National Theatre on Broadway on October 30. The Square Root of Wonderful closes on December 7 after forty-five performances.

1958

Suffers depression after The Square Root of Wonderful closes. Begins therapy with Dr. Mary Mercer and undergoes a series of operations on left arm during February. Makes sound recording in May with Jean Stein vanden Heuvel entitled "Carson McCullers Reads from The Member of the Wedding and Other Works." Lectures at Columbia University in July and writes "A Personal Preface" to The Square Root of Wonderful. Participates in a panel discussion on drama in the television production of "Lamp Unto My Feet" on August 19. In December, The Member of the Wedding, translated by Andre Bay and William Hope, produced in French at the Alliance Francaise in Paris.

1959

Undergoes two operations on left arm and wrist. Two more operations scheduled for the following year. Unable to work on manuscripts, writes children's verse. Attends dinner meeting of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the National Institute of Arts and Letters on January 21 and meets Isak Dinesen. Later gives luncheon for Dinesen, Arthur Miller, and Marilyn Monroe. "The Flowering Dream: Notes on Writing" appears in December Esquire.

1960

Application for a third Guggenheim fellowship denied in April. In July Edward Albee approaches Carson with the idea to adapt "The Ballad of the Sad Café" for the stage. Finishes Clock Without Hands on December 1, almost twenty years after beginning the novel.

1961

Screen rights to The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter bought by Thomas Ryan in January. Corrects galley proofs of Clock Without Hands in February. Kermit Bloomgarden acquires theater rights to Clock Without Hands in May. In June has surgery on left hand at Harkness Pavilion in New York. "To Bear the Truth Alone" (Part II of Clock Without Hands) published in July Harper's Bazaar. Clock Without Hands, dedicated to Dr. Mary Mercer, published by Houghton Mifflin on September 18. "A Child's View of Christmas" published in December Redbook.

1962

Visits Mary Tucker in Virginia with Edward Albee during summer. With Mary Mercer visits Edward Albee on Fire Island. Meets William Faulkner with Major Simeon Smith at West Point during late summer. Has breast and hand operations at Harkness Pavilion in September. Attends Cheltenham Festival and Edith Sitwell's 75th birthday celebration in England during October.

1963

"The Dark Brilliance of Edward Albee" published in January Harper's Bazaar. Travels with Mary Mercer to Charleston on April 12. Meets and begins friendship with Gordon Langely Hall in Charleston. "Sucker," short story, published in September Saturday Evening Post. Edward Albee's adaptation of The Ballad of the Sad Café opens on Broadway at the Martin Beck Theatre on October 30.

1964

The Ballad of the Sad Café closes on February 15 after 123 performances. In spring breaks right hip and shatters left elbow in fall. Dramatization of short story, "The Sojourner," presented by NBC television on May 25. Sweet as a Pickle, Clean as a Pig, a collection of children's verse, published by Houghton Mifflin on November 1. Signs last will and testament on November 8. Selections from Sweet as a Pickle, Clean as a Pig published in Redbook on December 1.

1965

Carson McCullers: Her Life and Work, first book-length study of McCullers's work, written by Oliver Evans, published in London by Peter Owen. Undergoes exploratory surgery and has broken hip reset on July 14. Remains in hospital three months. Has leg operation in September. Awarded the Prize of the Younger Generation by Die Welt, a newspaper published in Hamburg, Germany on December 18.

1966

Works with Mary Rodgers on musical adaptation of The Member of the Wedding and works on manuscript of her autobiography, "Illumination and Night Glare." Filming begins in October on Reflections in a Golden Eye at Mitchell Field on Long Island. In November awarded University of Mississippi Grant for the Humanities.

1967

Celebrates fiftieth birthday on February 19 with a stay at the Plaza Hotel in New York. Interviewed by Rex Reed. "The March," a short story, appears in March Redbook. Departs on April 1 with Ida Reeder to visit John Huston in Ireland. Interview with Rex Reed, "Frankie Addams at 50," Carson's final interview, appears in April 16 New York Times. Returns from Ireland on April 18. Continues dictating autobiography. On April 30, named winner of the 1966 Henry Bellamann Award, a $1,000 grant, in recognition of "outstanding contribution to literature." Writes final letter to John Huston on July 31. Suffers final stroke, a massive brain hemorrhage on August 15; comatose for forty-seven days. Undergoes tracheotomy at Nyack Hospital on August 19. Tennessee Williams visits Carson in hospital on September 8. An advanced screening of film adaptation of Reflections in a Golden Eye presented on September 27. Dies in the Nyack Hospital on September 29. Obituary appears in the September 30 New York Times. Shooting begins on the film adaptation of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter on October 2. Buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, overlooking the Hudson River in Nyack on October 3. Details of funeral reported in October 4 New York Times. Reflections in a Golden Eye film adaptation released on October 11. "A Hospital Christmas Eve" published in December McCall's.

1968

Film version of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter released.

1971

The Mortgaged Heart, collection of stories, essays, articles, and poetry, edited by Margarita G. Smith, published by Houghton Mifflin.

1999

Autobiography, Illumination and Night Glare, edited by Carlos L. Dews, published by University of Wisconsin Press.