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William Faulkner was an American writer known for his novels and short stories set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County, based on Lafayette County, Mississippi, where Faulkner spent most of his life. A Nobel laureate, Faulkner is one of the most celebrated writers of American literature and often is considered the greatest writer of Southern literature.

Faulkner was born in New Albany, Mississippi, and his family moved to Oxford, Mississippi, when he was a child. As a teenager in Oxford, Faulkner dated Estelle Oldham (1897–1972), the popular daughter of Major Lemuel and Lida Oldham, and he also believed he would marry her. However, Estelle dated other boys during their romance. and, in 1918, Cornell Franklin (five years Faulkner’s senior) proposed marriage to her before Faulkner did. She accepted. She then moved away and had two children while living in the far east region of the Pacific.

With the outbreak of World War I, Faulkner joined the Royal Canadian Air Force, but did not serve in combat. Returning to Oxford, he attended the University of Mississippi for three semesters before dropping out.
He then moved to New Orleans, where he wrote his first novel Soldiers’ Pay (1925). He came back to Oxford and wrote Sartoris (1927), his first work set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County.

When Estelle divorced her first husband and came back to Oxford, she reunited with Faulkner and married him in 1929.  Also in 1929, Faulkner had published The Sound and the Fury. The following year, he wrote As I Lay Dying. Later that decade, he wrote Light in August, Absalom, Absalom! and The Wild Palms. He also worked as a screenwriter, contributing to Howard Hawks’s To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep adapted from The Big Sleep, a novel by Raymond Chandler; the former film, adapted from a novel by Ernest Hemingway, is the only film with contributions by two Nobel laureates.

Marrying Faulkner put Estelle in a lifestyle that she was not use to. Learnings from Rowan Oak itself have shown that she was okay with the life that was presented to her of being married to a writer who was not yet successful. Until William Faulkner wrote his bestseller, the family did not have much to their name except their house, Rowan Oak.

Having been used to having money growing up and in her first marriage, Estelle’s spendings only increased when Faulkner started to do work in Hollywood and would be gone traveling for long periods of time. Faulkner would give Estelle money in order to take care of the family while he was away. About two years after he was gone was when she started to spend more money than he could afford. At that point, Faulkner had to decided to start giving her a monthly allowance. However, the monthly allowance did not stop Estelle from spending money whenever and wherever she wanted. It became a problem to the point where Faulkner had to publish in the newspaper, alerting store owners and clerks that he would not be paying any accounts under his wife’s name. As for the Neilson’s Department Store, they had a letter from Faulkner himself about the situation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This letter is still hung up in the store where he stated that he is still paying off his account but also that he would not be paying more than his account.

The picture on the left is William and Estelle Faulkner in front of Rowan Oak.

The picture below was taken in the parlor at Rowan Oak on the day of their daughter, Jill’s, wedding.

Faulkner’s renown reached its peak upon the publication of Malcolm Cowley’s The Portable Faulkner and his being awarded the 1949 Nobel Prize in Literature for “his powerful and unique contribution to the modern American novel.” He is the only Mississippi-born Nobel laureate. Two of his works, A Fable (1954) and The Reivers (1962), won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

He wrote Intruder in the Dust in 1948. it was turned into a film of the same name directed by Clarence Brown in 1949 after MGM paid film rights of $50,000 to Faulkner. The film was shot in Oxford and surrounding Lafayette County, Mississippi. Several locals were cast as townspeople in the film and the movie makes use of the Oxford Square and jail.

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On June 17, 1962, Faulkner suffered a serious injury in a fall from his horse, which led to thrombosis. He suffered a fatal heart attack on July 6, 1962, at the age of 64. Faulkner is buried with his family in St. Peter’s Cemetery in Oxford.