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Rowan Oak: Home of Author William Faulkner in Oxford, Mississippi

I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).

Rowan Oak (William Faulkner House) in Oxford, Mississippi

Rowan Oak (William Faulkner House) in Oxford, Mississippi

Town of Oxford, Mississippi

Oxford, Mississippi, is the home to the University of Mississippi and hosts the site of the famous published author William Faulkner's residence—Rowan Oak.

My mother, niece, and I made that discovery many years ago while traveling. We had stopped in Oxford for a few days to visit my mother's dear friend dating back to their high school days. As husbands and then children were added to each family, each honorary "aunt and uncle" had even become godparents to one child from each family. My youngest brother (my niece's father) had been the godchild to Aunt Lois and Uncle Jim.

Thus we had a few fun days of visiting, sightseeing, and much laughter, which was always a component of getting together with these dear folks.

Rowan Oak

While touring the town my aunt thought we might like to see Rowan Oak. It is a gorgeous place! In 1968 Rowan Oak became a U.S. National Historic Landmark. It is also on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

William Faulkner purchased this sprawling plantation-type home built in the primitive Greek Revival style in the 1930s. It was not in the best of shape and necessitated renovations over the years, much of it he did himself. Some of them included brick terraces. An office adhering to William Faulkner's specifications after being awarded the Pulitzer Prize was a vital one. Gardens and a privacy wall were another addition made to their home after becoming better known as a recognized author, and as the money for his efforts increased.

The 32 acres of land afforded this famous author much space and privacy to craft his art...that of authoring novels, short stories, and even screenplays for the movies. Faulkner lived there until he died in 1962.

William Faulkner named his home after a mythical rowan oak tree, which supposedly would ward off malicious spirits, also providing safety, protection, peace, and refuge to occupants. It is a charming legend.

The four acres of landscaped grounds and the remaining ones left in a natural wooded state are magnificent! Originally called Bailey's Woods, William Faulkner played in this wooded area as a boy and had come to love it.

The Rowan Oak grounds are open from dawn to dusk daily and are well worth a stroll. The home is available to view from 10 AM to 4 PM Tuesday through Saturday and from 1 PM to 4 PM on Sundays. In addition to Mondays, a few other holidays will also find the home closed to the public. Call this number to arrange special tours: (662) 234-3284.

William Faulkner

William Faulkner married Estelle, his long-time love after she was divorced. She brought a daughter Victoria and a son Malcolm into the marriage. Estelle and William had two children. Sadly one daughter survived only a few days. Their other child Jill got married in the parlor inside of Rowan Oak and became Mrs. Jill Faulkner Summers.

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The funeral service for William Faulkner was in that same parlor, according to written accounts. The Faulkner family lived in their beloved home for over 40 years. In 1973 the University of Mississippi acquired the property of Rowan Oak from Mrs. Summers, and many of the original belongings are still inside the house.

“Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it.

Then write. If it's good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out of the window.”

— William Faulkner

Faulkner Books and Short Stories

Inside William Faulkner's study written in graphite and red on the plastered walls is an outline of one of his Pulitzer prize-winning novels titled A Fable. This novel was completed in 1954, and the Pulitzer prize awarded in 1955. He received another Pulitzer prize posthumously in 1963 for The Reivers (1962).

The old Underwood typewriter still sits on top of Faulkner's desk, where he usually typed his novels and short stories after composing them with notations made on paper. However, it makes for a fascinating and unique eye-catching artistic touch to the study's walls and, indeed, a conversation piece! Did he run out of paper that particular day? Using the walls is not a usual writing practice for most authors.

Some other stories written by William Faulkner are the following to give the reader a sampling of his works: The Sound and the Fury published in 1929, Absalom, Absalom published in 1936, As I Lay Dying published in 1930, and Light in August published in 1932.

Much of what William Faulkner chose to make as subject matter for his books relate to the "real" south as he saw it from history and in his mind. Just as the homestead of Rowan Oak predated the Civil War, literature created by Faulkner bears a stamp by a specific time frame of reference.

Faulkner also wrote short stories, and here is a sampling by no means inclusive of some of those titles: A Rose for Emily, Red Leaves, That Evening Sun, and Dry September.

Accomplishments

  • Hollywood Career: Many artists and writers struggle for money. William Faulkner got a few breaks along the way. Being awarded a Pulitzer Prize helped. When he was contacted to start writing some screenplays for Hollywood this greatly helped his finances.
  • Writer in Residence: Faulkner was a writer in residence at the University of Virginia from 1957 to 1962. Because of that relationship, most of his manuscripts reside now at that institution of higher learning.
  • Nobel Prize Winner: William Faulkner was honored for his writing and picked up his Nobel prize in Stockholm in 1950 when he was 52 years old. He would only live another 10 years.
  • Postage Stamp Honoree: The U.S. Post Office issued a 22 cent stamp on August 3, 1987, in William Faulkner's honor.

Located just south of the main square in Oxford, one can walk through the woods to enjoy the University museums and Rowan Oak if one allots enough time. The University of Mississippi campus is also a lovely spot to visit. Thanks to my Aunt Lois and her daughter Julie who accompanied my mother, niece, and me on this visit to Oxford, we came away from that vacation with a feeling of the place's scenic beauty history of one of its famous past residents.

Rowan Oak has about 23,000 visitors annually. I would heartily recommend a visit to the home of the well-known author William Faulkner if your travels ever take you to this lovely Mississippi town.

“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world...would do this, it would change the earth.”

— William Faulkner

Location of Rowan Oak in Oxford, Mississippi

Sources:

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2010 Peggy Woods

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