William Faulkner Faulkner, William (Literary Masters)

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(Literary Masters)

William Faulkner

See also William Faulkner Criticism (Volume 1), and Volumes 3, 6, 8, 18.


1897: William Cuthbert Falkner (he added the u to his last name in 1918) is born on 25 September to Murry Cuthbert and Maud Butler Falkner in New Albany, Mississippi, where his father is a freight agent for the family-owned Gulf and Chicago Railroad, a sixty-two-mile-long narrow-gauge line.

1898: Murry Falkner’s promotion to passenger agent and treasurer of the family railroad prompts a move to the company’s operations center in Ripley, Mississippi, where he and his father before him were born. The family lives in Ripley until 1902.

1899: Faulkner’s first brother, Murry Charles “Jack” Falkner, is born.

1901: Faulkner’s second brother, John Wesley Thompson Falkner III, called Johncy as a child, is born.

1902: When Faulkner’s grandfather, John Wesley Thompson Falkner, decides to sell the railroad, Murry Falkner moves his wife and three sons to Oxford, Mississippi, where they live briefly in “The Big Place,” the grandfather’s house.

1904: Murry Falkner’s sister, Holland Falkner Wilkins, is widowed. She returns home with her daughter, Sallie Murry Wilkins, who is two years younger than William, to live with the family in “The Big Place.”

1905: Faulkner enters the first grade in Oxford public school.

1906: Faulkner skips second grade and enters third. Near Christmas, his paternal grandmother, Sallie Murry Falkner, dies at home in “The Big Place.”

1907: On 1 June Faulkner’s maternal grandmother, called Damuddy dies after a lingering illness in their home. Faulkner’s youngest brother is born on 15 August and named Dean Swift Falkner for the recently deceased Damuddy, Leila Dean Swift Butler.

1914: World War I begins in the summer, at about the same time that Faulkner establishes a friendship with Phil Stone, four years older and a recent Yale graduate. Stone begins to direct Faulkner’s reading and his first attempts at writing poetry. Faulkner enters eleventh grade, the last required year of secondary schooling.

1915: Though Faulkner returns to Oxford High School for the optional twelfth year, he does not complete it, dropping out of school for good.

1916: Faulkner works briefly as clerk in his paternal grandfather’s bank, the First National Bank of Oxford, reads widely, and develops a fascination with the exploits of European aviators in the war.

1918: Faulkner’s childhood sweetheart, Estelle Oldham, is engaged to a dashing University of Mississippi law graduate, Cornell Franklin. As the marriage date approaches, Faulkner is increasingly distraught. Weeks before the April wedding Phil Stone invites him to New Haven, Connecticut, where Stone has returned to study law at Yale. With Stone’s help, Faulkner devises a plan to join the Canadian unit of the British Royal Air Force, adding a u to his surname to make it look more British. In July, William “Faulkner” begins training at a Toronto ground school.

Faulkner misses the chance to engage in air combat over Europe when the November Armistice ends World War I. No evidence exists that he flew during his training or, as he later claimed, crashed an airplane. Home in Oxford by Christmas, he nevertheless wears a Royal Air Force officer’s uniform, the wings of a pilot, and the service cap of an overseas veteran. “Lapres-midi d’un faune,” a poem titled after a work by the leader of the French symbolist poets, Stephane Mallarme, becomes Faulkner’s first publication in a nationally distributed periodical,The New Republic.

1919-1920: Faulkner takes classes at the University of Mississippi, “Ole Miss,” where his father now works in the business office. As a member of the student dramatic club, Faulkner participates in productions and writes a play bearing the club’s name, Marionettes. He hand-letters and illustrates six copies of the play as gifts for friends.

1921: Faulkner makes an exploratory fall trip to the art scene in New York City. Except for part-time...

(The entire section is 64,008 words.)