Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Jesse Hilton Stuart was one of the more remarkable and original writers in American literature. Amazingly prolific, with more than sixty books in a variety of genres, Stuart produced work that was largely uneven. It has been as much admired by a broad popular audience as it has been maligned, or ignored, by the mainstream of literary opinion. Born in a log cabin in W-Hollow in the hills of eastern Kentucky, Stuart was the first in his family to finish high school. He worked his way through Lincoln Memorial University, a small mountain college in Tennessee, from which he graduated in 1929.
After two years of teaching and administrative experience in his native region, he attended Vanderbilt University, where he pursued but did not complete an M.A. in English. He was particularly drawn to Vanderbilt because of the presence there of the Fugitive-Agrarians, such poets, writers, and teachers as Donald Davidson, John Crowe Ransom, and Robert Penn Warren. Although Stuart sometimes seemed to confuse the moral, aesthetic, and philosophical bases of Nashville Agrarian thought with mere farming, he was certainly influenced profoundly by what he took to be the group’s back-to-the-farm and anti-industrial arguments, as well as by its emphasis on the southern sense of place, family, community, and language. The best record of Stuart’s vision of these years is found...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
A native of Kentucky, Jesse Hilton Stuart was educated at Lincoln Memorial University. Following his graduation, he began a career as a writer and teacher, starting what was, for him, a lifetime concern for educational reform and a lifelong struggle with the educational establishment. During his long career, he served as both teacher and administrator, and, after retiring from teaching to turn to full-time farming, writing, and lecturing, he never lost his passionate belief in the power of knowledge.
In 1939, after a courtship of seventeen years, Stuart married Naomi Deane Norris. They had one child, a daughter, Jessica Jane, born in 1942. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Navy, accepting disability in 1945. During subsequent years, though he traveled extensively, Stuart continued to live on the working farm in W-Hollow, the area where he was born and that he made famous through his poems, novels, and stories, many of which were published in Esquire.
He suffered the first of several heart attacks in 1954 but was able to return to normal activity. After a second stroke in 1982, however, he was unable to recover and remained more or less bedridden until his death two years later.
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Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Jesse Hilton Stuart was born on August 8, 1907, in W-Hollow in Greenup County, a mountainous and, at the time, relatively isolated section of Kentucky that Stuart would use as the locale for most of his writings. He was the first child of Mitchell and Martha Hilton Stuart; six other children followed, but two died in infancy from pneumonia. Stuart’s father’s family had lived in Kentucky for generations. They were a clannish people—“Tall Figures of the Earth,” in Stuart’s own words. His grandfather, Mitchell Stuart, had fought in the American Civil War, and Stuart honored this individualistic and often cantankerous old man in one of his first poems, “Elegy for Mitch Stuart,” published by H. L. Mencken in The American Mercury in 1934. Stuart’s father was a quieter man than “Mitch” Stuart; he worked as a coal miner, railroad man, and farmer, and his influence on his son was immense. Stuart used him as the prototype for some of his most impressive characters, and described his relationship with his father in his autobiographical Beyond Dark Hills and in God’s Oddling, a biography of his father. His mother’s family came to Kentucky from North Carolina and was apparently more “cultured”; it was she who encouraged her son to read and first supported him in his continuing quest for education.
The Stuarts moved from farm to farm throughout W-Hollow when Stuart was a boy, a way of life that gave him a...
(The entire section is 967 words.)