Nancy Hale Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111207190-Hale.jpg Nancy Hale Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Nancy Hale’s novels and short stories center on the lives of well-bred women. She commented in 1942, “I specialize in women because they are so mysterious to me. I feel that I know men quite thoroughly. . . . But women puzzle me.” Hale was born in 1908, the daughter of two painters, Lilian Wescott and Philip L. Hale. She graduated from the Winsor School in Boston in 1928 and, planning to be a painter, never attended college. At the age of twenty, she married Taylor Hardin and moved to New York City to work on the editorial staffs at Vogue and Vanity Fair; occasionally, she also modeled while at Vogue. She published her first novel, The Young Die Good, in 1932. The next year, she won an O. Henry Award for “To the Invader,” a short story in which she explores the conflicts of a woman from the northern states who marries a Virginian.

Maxwell Perkins, the renowned editor at Scribner’s, offered Hale strong encouragement for her writing. Despite the birth of her second son, divorce from Hardin, marriage to and divorce from Charles Wertenbaker, and a nervous breakdown, Hale was able to complete and publish her most famous novel, The Prodigal Women, in 1942. That same year, she married Fredson T. Bowers, a professor of English at the University of Virginia. He served in Washington, D.C., as a cryptographer during World War II, after which they lived in Charlottesville, Virginia, and spent summers in New England on Cape Ann.

For the next forty-six years, Hale adapted to the life of the...

(The entire section is 638 words.)


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

The only child of painters Philip L. Hale and Lilian Westcott Hale, Nancy Hale was born in Boston on May 6, 1908. Among her forebears were the patriot Nathan Hale and a number of celebrated writers including Harriet Beecher Stowe, Lucretia Hale (a great aunt), and Edward Everett Hale (her grandfather). Initially she intended to be a painter, like her parents, and, after graduating from the Winsor School in Boston, she studied at the school of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and in her father’s studio. After she married and moved to New York City in 1928, she took a job as an editor first at Vogue, then at Vanity Fair, then as a news reporter for The New York Times. She began writing at night the short stories and novels which immediately established her as a writer of exceptional talent. In 1942 she married Fredson Bowers, professor of English and later chairman of the English Department and Dean of the Faculty at the University of Virginia, and settled in Charlottesville, Virginia. She had two sons, Mark Hardin and William Wertenbaker, by former marriages. She had five grandchildren. In 1933, Hale was awarded the O. Henry Prize for short-short fiction; in 1958, the Benjamin Franklin special citation for the short story. In 1971-1972 she was a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar, and for eight years, from 1957 to 1965, she gave the lectures on short fiction at the Bread Loaf Writers Conference. These lectures form the nucleus of The Realities of Fiction (1962), one of the best books ever written about the process of writing imaginative prose. Hale died on September 24, 1988, in Charlottesville, Virginia.