The Newport Historical Society and the Thornton Wilder Family invite you to free readings of Wilder’s novels and letters, panel discussion, and reception to celebrate the reissue of Thornton Wilder’s novel Theophilus North (HarperCollins) at the Colony House, Washington Square, Newport, RI on April 4, 2019 at 5:30pm. All those in attendance will receive a complimentary copy of the novel with an all-new afterword by Thornton Wilder’s nephew and literary executor, Tappan Wilder, who will also take part in the event.
The last of Thornton Wilder’s works published during his lifetime, Theophilus North is part autobiographical and part the imagined adventure of Wilder’s twin brother who died at birth. When he set out to see the world in the summer of 1926, Theophilus North got as far as Newport, Rhode Island, before his car broke down. To support himself, Theophilus took jobs in the elegant mansions along Ocean Drive, just as Wilder himself did in the same decade. Soon the young man found himself playing the roles of tutor, tennis coach, spy, confidant, lover, friend and enemy as he became entangled in adventure and intrigue in Newport’s fabulous addresses, as well as in its local boarding houses, restaurants, dives and army barracks.
Wilder’s deep connection to Newport began when, at the age of 20, he was posted to Ft. Adams as a private in the Coast Artillery section of the National Army, 5th Company, Narragansett Bay Regiment in 1918. Like Theophilus North, Wilder spent the summer of 1922 tutoring in Newport and boarding at the YMCA. Wilder returned in 1926 and finished the last pages of what would be his first Pulitzer Prize-winning work, The Bridge of San Luis Rey. In later years, he visited whenever he could, his literary successes allowing him to stay in favorite hotels like the Viking and the Castle Hill Inn.