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Authors: Thornton Wilder

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BOOK: Theophilus North
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Wilder enjoyed acting and played major roles in several of his own plays in summer theater productions. He also possessed a lifelong love of music; reading musical scores was a hobby, and he wrote the librettos for two operas based on his work:
The Long Christmas Dinner
, with composer Paul Hindemith, and
The Alcestiad
, with composer Louise Talma. Both works premiered in Germany.

Teaching was one of Wilder's deepest passions. He began his teaching career in 1921 as an instructor in French at Lawrenceville, a private secondary school in New Jersey. Financial independence after the publication of
The Bridge of San Luis Rey
permitted him to leave the classroom in 1928, but he returned to teaching in the 1930s at the University of Chicago. For six years, on a part-time basis, he taught courses there in classics in translation, comparative literature, and composition. In 1950–1951, he served as the Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard. Wilder's gifts for scholarship and teaching (he treated the classroom as all but a theater) made him a consummate, much-sought-after lecturer in his own country and abroad. After World War II, he held special standing, especially in Germany, as an interpreter of his own country's intellectual traditions and their influence on cultural expression.

During World War I, Wilder had served a three-month stint as an enlisted man in the Coast Artillery section of the army, stationed at Fort Adams, Rhode Island. He volunteered for service in World War II, advancing to the rank of lieutenant colonel in Army Air Force Intelligence. For his service in North Africa and Italy, he was awarded the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, the Chevalier Legion d'Honneur, and honorary officership in the Military Order of the British Empire (M.B.E.).

From royalties received from
The Bridge of San Luis Rey
, Wilder built a house for his family in 1930 in Hamden, Connecticut, just outside New Haven. But he typically spent as many as two hundred days a year away from Hamden, traveling to and settling in a variety of places that provided the stimulation and solitude he needed for his work. Sometimes his destination was the Arizona desert, the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire, or Martha's Vineyard, Newport, Saratoga Springs, Vienna, or Baden-Baden. He wrote aboard ships, and often chose to stay in “spas in off-season.” He needed a certain refuge when he was deeply immersed in writing a novel or play. Wilder explained his habit to a
New Yorker
journalist in 1959: “The walks, the quiet—all the elegance is present, everything is there but the people. That's it! A spa in off-season! I make a practice of it.”

But Wilder always returned to “the house
The Bridge
built,” as it is still known to this day. He died there of a heart attack on December 7, 1975.

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Works by Thornton Wilder



ISBN 0-06-008887-7 (paperback)
Foreword by Russell Banks

The Bridge of San Luis Rey
opens in the aftermath of an inexplicable tragedy—a footbridge in Peru breaks and five people fall to their deaths. For Brother Juniper, a humble monk who witnesses the catastrophe, the question is inescapable: why those five? Through the device of Brother Juniper's drive to understand whether their deaths were caused by fete or divine intervention, Wilder's 1928 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel explores what is important and what is lasting about life and living.

“One of the greatest reading novels in this century's American writing.”

—Edmund Fuller


ISBN 0-06-008892-3 (paperback)
Foreword by Christopher Buckley

An exhausted 29-year-old teacher arrives in Newport, Rhode Island, in the summer of 1926. To support himself, he takes jobs in the great homes of families living along Ocean Drive—playing the roles of tutor, spy, confidante, lover, friend, and enemy in the colorful, tension-filled upstairs-and-downstairs world of Newport in the golden 1920s. Along the way, the novel raises gentle but trenchant questions about what's important, the nature and role of youth, and what wealth does to those who have it and those who do not.

“A testimony to the human race.” —
New York Times Book Review


ISBN 0-06-008889-3 (paperback)
Foreword by J. D. McClatchy

First published in 1934,
Heavens My Destination
contains one of Wilder's most memorable characters: the heroic traveling textbook salesman George Marvin Brush. George's territory is the Midwest and, as a fervent religious convert, he is determined to lead a good Christian life. But his travels take him through smoking cats, bawdy houses, and trailer camps of Depression-era America with often hilarious results.

“A good sardonic etching of this most godless of American ages.” —


ISBN 0-06-051857-X (paperback)
Foreword by Penelope Niven

Two of Wilder's early novels are collected here:
The Cabala
(1926), a fantasy about American expatriates, and
The Woman of Andros
(1930), a novel in which Wilder creates a character that serves as his archetype of the virtue of hope.


ISBN 0-06-008890-7 (paperback)
Foreword by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

First published in 1948,
The Ides of March
is a brilliant epistolary novel of Julius Caesar's Rome. Through imaginary letters and documents, Wilder brings to life a dramatic period of world history and one of its magnetic personalities.

“What distinguishes [
The Ides of March
] is a rich, shrewd, and glowing characterization of Caesar's restless mind.” —
New York Times


ISBN 0-06-008891-5 (paperback)
Foreword by John Updike

First published in 1967, near the end of Wilder's life, this novel moves back and forth through the 20th-century, telling the story of a talented inventor accused of murder.



Our Town, The Skin of Our Teeth
, and
The Matchmaker

ISBN 0-06-051264-4 (paperback)
Foreword by John Guare

This omnibus volume brings together the definitive texts of three outstanding plays.


ISBN 0-06-051263-6 (paperback)
Foreword by Donald Margulies

First produced and published in 1938, this Pulitzer Prize-winning drama of life in the small village of Grover's Corners has become an American classic and is Thornton Wilder's most renowned and most frequently performed play.

“Mr. Wilder has transmuted the simple events of human life into universal reverie. . . . One of the finest achievements of the current stage.” —Brooks Atkinson


ISBN 0-06-008893-1 (paperback)
Foreword by Paula Vogel

Wilder's Pulitzer Prize-winning (1943) madcap comedy of how the Antrobus family and its maid prevail over successive catastrophes.

“It is not easy to think of any other American play with so good a chance of being acted a hundred years from now.” —Alexander Woollcott,
Atlantic Monthly
, 1944

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Also by Thornton Wilder


The Cabala and The Woman of Andros

The Bridge of San Luis Rey

Heaven's My Destination

The Ides of March

The Eighth Day


The Angel That Troubled the Waters

The Long Christmas Dinner & Other Plays in One Act


Our Town

The Merchant of Yonkers

The Skin of Our Teeth

The Matchmaker

The Alcestiad


American Characteristics & Other Essays

The Journals of Thornton Wilder, 1939–1961


A hardcover edition of this book was published in 1973 by Harper & Row, Publishers. It is reprinted here by arrangement with the Wilder Family LLC.

. Copyright © 1973 by Thornton Wilder. Copyright renewed © 2000 by the Wilder Family LLC. Foreword copyright © 2003 by Christopher Buckley. Afterword copyright © 2003 by Tappan Wilder. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the nonexclusive, nontransferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse-engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins e-books.

First Perennial edition published 2003.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Wilder, Thornton.

Theophilus North / Thornton Wilder.—1st Perennial ed.

   p. cm.

ISBN 0-06-008892-3

EPub Edition February 2014 ISBN 9780062232694

1. Newport (R.I.)—Fiction. 2. Rich people—Fiction. 3. Young men—Fiction. 4. Teachers—Fiction. I. Title.

PS3545.I345T5 2003



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BOOK: Theophilus North
6.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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