logo of university of south carolina

Archibald Hamilton Rutledge letters

Twenty-nine letters, 1924-1958 and undated, of South Carolina's first poet laureate, Archibald Hamilton Rutledge (1883-1973), are chiefly addressed to his sister, Mary Pinckney Rutledge (Mrs. Paul) Stroman, and relate news of family and friends as well as details of Rutledge's literary efforts and busy lecture schedule. Several refer also to Hampton plantation and Rutledge's efforts to restore the ancestral home. A letter dated 15 September [1937] thanks Mary for her support—"I am greatly aided and comforted by your sympathetic attitude toward my Hampton efforts. The rest of the family never say a word; not even `Welcome home.' It seems strange; but I believe my Colonel and his Lady wish me well." Other letters hint at family differences over the division of heirlooms and document Mrs. Stroman's efforts on her brother's behalf to deter hunting on plantation lands.

Of particular interest from a literary perspective is a letter of 26 January 1924. "Should you hear of my falling out with Herbert Sass," Rutledge wrote, "it will be because he has deliberately stolen my prize story, `The Kings of Curlew Island,' and has rewritten it for `The Saturday Evening Post.' I could make much trouble for him, but shall not do so. I have, however, remonstrated with him (in my usual ferocious manner). A man can do no meaner thing than what he has done to me." Letters from the years during which Rutledge taught at Mercersburg, Pa., allude to his feelings of displacement from his native state. Writing on 12 January 1926, after having returned to Mercersburg from South Carolina, Rutledge confided—"We returned safely; but we are snowbound, and shall be for full two months. I'd rather live at home ten years than here for a century."

As early as 1926, Rutledge reported answering from fifteen to twenty letters per day. And he was kept busy with speaking engagements too. One undated letter relates an anecdotal account of lecture circuit events, including a stop, where "I had to speak to 500 dress-suited people." "I also had one on," Rutledge recounted, "and looked like a mule gazing vacantly over a whitewashed fence." "Left Baltimore at 11 at night, an' hit a rainin'," the letter continues. "While howling toward Washington at an official speed of 85, there came a thunderous crash, with wild screeching of brakes and wimmin. Everybody debunked..We had hit a car full of people. They didn't need no doctor..We lost 3 hours, and never made it up. Due here at 11:30, I didn't get in until nearly 3,—and me birthday dinner a sittin' there shiverin' with cold!"

| 1996 Manuscripts Collections | 1996 USCS Program Menu | South Caroliniana Library |

This page copyright © 1996-97, The Board of Trustees of the University of South Carolina.
URL http://www.sc.edu/library/socar/uscs/1996/rutled96.html