"… from his old friend, Thornton"

Show of hands: Who here had a role in his high school production of “Our Town”? Thought so.

Thornton Wilder's inscription to Starrett

Thornton Wilder’s chestnut of life in Grover’s Corners helped win him the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1938. Wilder already had a Pulitzer (1928) for The Bridge of San Luis Rey.

Not bad for the son of a newspaper editor from Wisconsin.

For most of the 1930s, Wilder taught at the University of Chicago, which is where he probably first made the acquaintance of Vincent Starrett. The fact that Wilder was already a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist would have been enough to put him on Starrett’s radar screen.

And Wilder’s family history would have built a bridge (so to speak) with Starrett, although it’s worth noting that Wilder gets only passing references in Starrett’s memoir, Born in a Bookshop.

The title page to Vincent Starrett's first edition copy of Thornton Wilder's The Cabala

There must have been some friendship there, as is evidenced by the warm inscription Wilder left in a first edition of Wilder’s first novel, The Cabala.

(The novel is semi-autobiographical, which makes me worry a bit about what Wilder was up to at the American Academy in Rome in the early 1920s. To my mind, it is Innocents Abroad mashed up with a European version of Through the Looking Glass. It's not surprising the Pulitzer folks waited for his next book to consider a prize. In other words, it's a little weird. And not in a good way.)

Here’s the bookplate from the novel, created by Gordon Browne. If the top portion looks a little out of focus, that’s because the originals were all printed this way. In fact, it’s how you can tell they were “first edition” bookplates. To find out more about Starrett’s various plates, go here.

Back to this little volume. While I'm no Sherlock Holmes, it looks like the inscription was done with a fine tipped fountain pen.

The inscription reads:

Vincent —
From his old friend
May 1950

Starrett’s signature is on the same page and one of Starrett’s bookplates is on the front inside cover.

It’s a fun association item. 

I just wish it was a better novel.