Write Again…Thomas was a mama’s boy

Published 4:51 pm Wednesday, March 27, 2024

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He grew up in Asheville; went to and graduated from the University of North Carolina, then did post-graduate work at Harvard. He also lived for a while in New York City.

In all of his academic endeavors he did extremely well. His biggest struggles related to his inability to manage money, of which he never had a sufficiency, even though he lived within his means, to a point.

His main support in the financial realm was his mother. She was a very savvy lady, in diverse ways. As you, some of you, perhaps, may recall she owned and managed a boarding house. Named, oddly, the “Old Kentucky Home.” It was in Asheville.

Julia Wolfe loved all of her progeny; and loved Tom unconditionally. She felt, knew, that he would accomplish great things in his life.

At one time he studied, and labored at, being a playwright, and not without some success.
The larger world, however, would come to know Thomas Wolfe as an author, one whose books became a very prominent part of literary lore for a long time.

His name, his reputation, lived far longer than did he, unfortunately.

Thomas was born in 1900 and died in 1938.But, oh my, what he accomplished.

In order of publication, here are his books: Look Homeward, Angel; Of Time and the River; From Death to Morning; The Story of a Novel; The Face of a Nation; The Web and the Rock; You Can’t Go Home Again; and The Hills Beyond.

Have I read each of these books? Ina word, “no.” Have I read some of them? Yes. The most popular ones.
Would I recommend that you read Thomas Wolfe? Not really. That is, unless you understand that it will be a bit of a slog. Yet should you elect to do so, I believe you will feel it was definitely not time wasted. However, as I often say, “What do I know?”

So. What in the world led me to come up with today’s column? I’ll tell you. I came into a copy of “Thomas Wolfe’s Letters to His Mother,” published in 1943. Of interest, stamped on one of the blank pages at the very beginning is “Washington Public Library, Washington North Carolina.”That, friends, predates the Brown Library.

Some years ago (1965) the Raleigh “News & Observer” did an excellent feature about Thomas Wolfe. You know, North Carolina’s own.

Well, now. Let me pass along here just a smidgen of Wolfe esoterica you most likely didn’t know.

Like any lad, Tom had an eye for the girls, even though he never married. His one “true” love, for whom he was totally smitten, was Clara Paul.

A school teacher from Pamlico County, Clara went to Asheville one summer to escape the oppressive eastern Carolina heat.
She took a room at -I’ll bet you are ahead of me now -the “Old Kentucky Home” boarding house. Tom’s love light was lit. While there was no reciprocity on Clara’s part, Tom never completely “got her out of his system” as the saying goes. Only when he learned she later married, he went to eastern Virginia where she lived so as to verify her status, did he accept the reality of the hopelessness of his affection for her.

Oh. Clara Paul was related to my Incomparable First Wife, Sarah (Sally) PAUL Cox Houston, whose mother was a Paul, whose . . . so it went.

True story.