Edward Abbey papers

MS 271
Edward Abbey's Journal

Edward Abbey's journal, with illustrations

Collection area: Literature

Collection dates: 1947-1990

About this collection

The bulk of the collection best documents Abbey's writings and activities during the last two decades of his life, 1969 to 1989. Over half of the collection consist of drafts of his novels, essays, articles, and other works. There are no drafts for his earlier novels, Jonathan Troy, The Brave Cowboy, and Fire on the Mountain, nor for Appalachian Wilderness and The Hidden Canyon.

His personal life and professional career are summarily described in the Biographical Materials. Interviews and recordings of Abbey are available in that series, and in the Audio-visual series. Articles about him as a writer and defender of the environment are located in the Works series.

His frank Outgoing Correspondence and Journals provide a thorough account of his life and thoughts. Especially in the Journals, he chronicles the progress or regression of his writings; his love for family, friends, colleagues, and classical music; his thoughts on contemporary society; notes for his fictional characters; snippets of conversations overheard, jokes told, or gossip exchanged; his observations on daily life and trips taken; rough drafts of letters to be sent to editors or friends; and a other notes worth noting.

See the Series Descriptions below for a fuller narrative of the contents of each.

Historical background

Edward Abbey was born on 29 January 1927 in Home, Pennsylvania, the eldest son of five children born to Mildred and Paul Abbey. At seventeen, he first hitchhiked across the West on a three month journey. From 1945 to 1946, he served in the U.S. Army in Alabama and Italy.

In 1948, while attending the University of New Mexico, Abbey began work on his first novel, Jonathan Troy (1956). In 1951, he earned a BA in English and Philosophy from that university, and published an article, "Some Implications of Anarchy." That same year Abbey received a Fullbright Fellowship to Edinburgh University. In the early 1950s, he worked as a social welfare case worker in New Jersey and New York.

In 1956, he received a MA in Philosophy from the University of New Mexico; his graduate thesis was titled "Anarchism and the Morality of Violence." The following year, he received a Writing Fellowship at Stanford University.

Abbey worked part-time as a park ranger and fire lookout in the national parks and forests of the southwestern United States. He would continue this work until the 1970s. With the publication of The Monkey Wrench Gang, he was able to devote his time more fully to writing. Abbey gave public readings and presentations at many American colleges and universities, and for the environmental causes and groups he supported. In 1974, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship. During this time, Abbey was "Writer in Residence" at the University of Utah and, later, at the University of Arizona. He taught creative writing at the latter from 1981 onwards, and became a full professor there in 1988.

Abbey died 14 March 1989 in Tucson Arizona at the age of 62. Married five times, he was survived by his wife, Clarke Cartwright Abbey, and his five children.

His selected major novels include: The Brave Cowboy (1956), Fire on the Mountain (1962), Black Sun (1971), The Monkey Wrench Gang (1975), Good News (1980), The Fool's Progress (1988), and Hayduke Lives! (1990). His essays and observations are compiled in Desert Solitaire (1968), The Journey Home (1977), Abbey's Road (1979), Desert Images (1981), One Life at a Time, Please (1987), and Vox Clamantis in Deserto (1989). He produced several travel books Appalachian Wilderness (1970), Slickrock (1971), Cactus Country (1972), and The Hidden Canyon (1978). He contributed to divers college anthologies, and wrote numerous articles and reviews for national and regional publications.

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