Pearl S. Buck (1892 - 1973)



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Born: June 26, 1892, Hillsboro, WV
Died: March 6, 1973, Danby, VT
She wrote me a nice letter in the 1950's.
Pearl S. Buck, the author of more than 85 books and winner of the Nobel and Pulitzer Prizes in literature, died yesterday at her home in Denby, Vt., after a long illness.
Mrs. Buck, who was 80 years old; had recently completed a children's book and was at work om two novels, one of which, “The Red Earth,” deals with the modern‐day descendants of the characters in her best‐known novel, “The Good Earth.”
She was able to continue working despite failing health, which caused her to be hospitalized several times in the last year and to undergo surgery for the removal of her gall bladder last September.
Mrs. Buck is survived by a daughter, Carol; nine adopted children, Janice, Richard, John, Edgar, Jean, Henriette, Theresa, Chieko and Johanna; a sister, Mrs. Grace Yaukey, and 12 grandchildren.
According to her wishes, the funeral service will be private.
In a tribute to Mrs. Buck, President Nixon said yesterday that she was “a human bridge between the civilizations of the East and West.”
In a reference to the fact that Mrs. Buck spent almost all of the first 40 years of her life in China and devoted much of her writing to Chinese subjects, Mr. Nixon said:
“It is fitting that Pearl Buck lived to see two peoples she loved so much draw closer together during her last years. ... With simple eloquence she translated her personal love for the people and culture of China into a rich literary heritage, treasured by Asians and Westerners alike. She lived a long, life as artist, wife, mother, and philanthropist.”
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Although Mrs. Buck's love for the Chinese people was enduring, she was persona non grata with that country's current leaders. Recently she was turned down in her efforts to be admitted to China because, Chinese authorities said, her works have “for a long time taken an attitude of distortion, smear and vilification toward the people of China and their leaders.”
Mrs. Buck, who rarely minced words, was once asked by ari interviewer, “Why do you write so many books?”
“Why not?” she replied, with a touch of irritation in her voice. “I'm a writer.”
Wave of Resentment
For the strong‐willed, highly opinionated Mrs. Buck, winner of a Pulitizer Prize and the only American woman Nobel Laureate for literature, the explanation was as simple as that. “When I say I'm a working writer, I accent ‘working,’” she said.
Mrs. Buck was indeed a prolific writer. Her first novel, “East Wind: West Wind,” was not published until 1930, when she was 38 years old, but by her 80th birthday in 1972 she had published more than 85 novels and collections of short stories and essays, and more than 25 volumes still awaited publication. She was the most translated of all American authors.
“Of course, one pays the price for being prolific,” Mrs. Buck said in an interview for this article in 1969. “I sometimes feel quite guilty for being so, and Heaven knows the literary Establishment can't forgive me for it, nor for the fact that my books sell. With some people, that's suspect, you know.”
Mrs. Buck referred, as she was often wont to do throughout her lengthy and profitable career, to the disdain with which many critics looked upon her. Most of them welcomed her second novel, “The Good Earth,” which became one of the most phenomenally popular books of the century, but there was much resentment when it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1931.
Her detractors argued that the Pulitzer is supposed to be given to a distinctly American work, by an American writer, and that “The Good Earth,” about Chinese peasants, was written by a woman who had lived most of her life in China. When Mrs. Buck was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1938, it was fashionable in literary circles to complain that if any American woman was entitled to a Nobel, it was Willa Cather, not Pearl Buck.
“Above all,” Mrs. Buck said, “so many writers and critics nave seemed to be jealous of me not simply because my books are popular, or that the Book‐of‐the‐Month Club has distributed a dozen of them, but because I write them swiftly. It's true, I do. It took me just two months to write ‘The Good Earth.’ But what must not be forgotten is that those agony‐filled two months were devoted to writing words on paper. The novel took shape in my mind over perhaps 10 years.”
While busily turning out an average of two volumes a year, on an almost daily writing regime that began at 8 A.M. and ended at 1 P.M, Mrs. Buck managed to care for her mentally retarded daughter Carol and nine adopted children, while at the same time taking an active interest in projects for the aid of mentally retarded children, the placement for adoption of children of mixed blood, and the betterment of international relations.
Involved as she seemingly was in the lives of other people, Mrs. Buck possessed a certain air of detachment and, as she put it, she was “a solitary person, an intellectual loner.” She said that she actually liked people, “but I prefer their cornpany only in small doses; have expected so much from so many people, and I have been so often disappointed.”
If she viewed others with cool detachment, it was also true that Mrs. Buck believed the feeling was mutual. “Somehow I have always been an object, rather than a person,” she said. “As a child, I was white with yellow hair and blue eyes in a country where everyone knew the proper color of eyes and hair was black, and skin was brown. I can remember my Chinese friends bringing their friends to look at me because I was different. By the time I came to this country I was different again. I was already what people call famous. People came to see me as they would an object, not a person.”
Mrs, Buck was the product of two cultures, which enabled her to become what she called “mentally bifocal.” She loved China and the Chinese and came to be equally devoted to America and Americans although she never hesitated to criticize both cultures

Pearl S. Buck Biography & Family History

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in Hillsboro, Pocahontas County, West Virginia United States


on in Danby, Rutland County, Vermont United States

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Pearl Buck Famous Author
Pearl Buck (1892-1973) was born in Hillsboro, West Virginia. She grew up in China, where her parents were missionaries, but was educated at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College. After her graduation she returned to China and lived there until 1934 with the exception of a year spent at Cornell University, where she took an M.A. in 1926. Pearl Buck began to write in the twenties; her first novel, East Wind, West Wind, appeared in 1930. It was followed by The Good Earth (1931), Sons (1932), and A House Divided (1935), together forming a trilogy on the saga of the family of Wang. The Good Earth stood on the American list of «best sellers» for a long time and earned her several awards, among them the Pulitzer Prize and the William Dean Howells Medal. She also published The First Wife and Other Stories (1933), All Men are Brothers (a translation of the Chinese novel Shui Hu Chuan) (1933), The Mother (1934), and This Proud Heart (1938). The biographies of her mother and father, The Exile and Fighting Angel, were published in 1936 and later brought out together under the title of The Spirit and the Flesh (1944). The Time Is Now, a fictionalized account of the author’s emotional experiences, although written much earlier, did not appear in print until 1967.
Pearl Buck’s works after 1938 are too many to mention. Her novels have continued to deal with the confrontation of East and West, her interest spreading to such countries as India and Korea. Her novelist’s interest in the interplay of East and West has also led to some activity in political journalism.
Pearl Buck has been active in many welfare organizations; in particular she set up an agency for the adoption of Asian-American children (Welcome House, Inc.) and has taken an active interest in retarded children (The Child Who Never Grew, 1950).
From Nobel Lectures, Literature 1901-1967, Editor Horst Frenz, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1969
This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and first published in the book series Les Prix Nobel. It was later edited and republished in Nobel Lectures. To cite this document, always state the source as shown above.
Pearl Buck died on March 6, 1973.


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1892 - In the year that Pearl S. Buck was born, on October 12th, the "Pledge of Allegiance" was first recited in unison by students in U.S. public schools. Composed the previous August by Francis Bellamy, it was to be recited in 15 seconds and originally read: "I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." "Under God" was added in the 1950's.

1927 - When she was 35 years old, aviator and media darling Charles Lindbergh, age 25, made the first successful solo TransAtlantic flight. "Lucky Lindy" took off from Long Island in New York and flew to Paris, covering  3,600 statute miles and flying for 33 1⁄2-hours. His plane "The Spirit of St. Louis" was a fabric-covered, single-seat, single-engine "Ryan NYP" high-wing monoplane designed by both Lindbergh and the manufacturer's chief engineer.

1928 - She was 36 years old when Mickie Mouse was born! He first appeared in Disney's Steamboat Willie, along with Minnie. Although they were in two previous shorts, this was the first to be distributed. Steamboat Willie took advantage of the new technology and was a "talkie" - music was coordinated with the animation. It became the most popular cartoon of its day.

1952 - At the age of 60 years old, Pearl was alive when on February 6th, George VI of England died from a coronary thrombosis and complications due to lung cancer. His eldest daughter, age 25, immediately ascended the throne as Elizabeth II and her coronation was on June 2 1953.

1973 - In the year of Pearl S. Buck's passing, in October, Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned - President Nixon nominated Gerald Ford for Vice President. Nixon's tax returns came under investigation. Nixon offered the recently discovered Oval Office tapes be heard by one person and summarized - his offer was rejected by the Special Prosecutor. Nixon ordered the Attorney General, then the assistant Attorney General, to fire the Special Prosecutor. Both refused and were fired. The Solicitor General became the acting Attorney General and fired the Special Prosecutor (the Saturday Night Massacre). Nixon releases some of the tapes, under extreme pressure because of the firings.

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Pearl Comfort Sydenstricker was born June 26, 1892, in Hillsboro, W. Va., the daughter of Absalom Andrew and Caroline Stulting Sydenstricker. Her Presbyterian missionary parents had been in China for 12 years, during which three of their four children had died in infancy of tropical diseases.Pearl Comfort was born during the Sydenstrickers' one‐year home leave. When she was three months old, the family set out for home—Chinkiang, a city about 200 miles west off the mouth of the Yangtze River.
The Rev. Mr. Sydenstricker believed that in order to convert the Chinese to Christianity, he should live among them and gain their trust. For some years he wore Chinese garb and even grew a queue, and, against the wishes of his superiors on the Presbyterian Board of Missions, insisted that his family be billeted in the Chinese community instead of the comfortably isolated compound set aside for foreigners.
Pearl was taught her lessons by her mother in the morning, and was tutored by a Confucian scholar afternoons. “I learned to speak Chinese before I could speak English,” she said. “I seldom saw white children. I played with the Chinese, visited in their homes, ate their food. I did not consider myself, as a child, different from the Chinese, a people I grew to love and have continued to love all my life.”
But when she was 8 years old, Pearl Sydenstricker learned that she was indeed different from her darker-skinned playmates. The Empress Dowager Tzu Hsi, who had come under the influence of the Boxers, a fanatic secret society, decreed the death of every white man, woman and child in China. Following the slaughter of several missionary families in Shantung, Mr. Sydenstricker decided to send his wife and daughters, Pearl and Caroline, to Shanghai, which was considered safer. They did not return to Chinkiang until a year later, after the Boxer Rebellion had been put down by an international force. (Pearl's older brother, Clyde, was in school in the United States at the time.)
When she was 16, Pearl Sydenstricker returned to the United States to attend Randolph‐Macon Women's College at Lynchburg, Va., where her brother lived. She was president of her graduating class in 1914, a Phi Beta Kappa, and winner of two literary prizes in her senior year. Invited to teach psychology at the college, she stayed on a semester but had to return to China to care for her mother, who had contracted sprue, a debilitating tropical disease.
Moved to Nanking
In 1917, Pearl Sydenstricker met and married John Lossing Buck, an agricultural missionary of whom her parents did not approve. “I had to live on my own,” she said years later, “and I married a man I saw alone only four times before the ceremony. My parents were right and I was wrong. I married a handsome face, and who wants to live with just a handsome face?”
She, nevertheless, remained the wife of John Lossing Buck for 18 years. The Bucks spent five years in a small town in north China, where their daughter, Carol, was born in 1921. The following year they moved to Nanking, where Mrs. Buck taught English literature at the University of Nanking, Southeastern University and Chung Yang University. (During this period, she said many years later, she took a half-Chinese lover. She never revealed his name.)
In 1924 the Bucks came to the United States with their daughter to spend a year at Cornell University. While her husband studied agriculture, Mrs. Buck pursued a master's degree in English, which she received in 1926, along with the Laura Messenger Prize in history for an essay, “China and the West.” The Bucks adopted an infant daughter, Janice, before returning to China.
Mrs. Buck had, since her childhood, when she began contributing short pieces to the children's page of The Shanghai Mercury, wanted to be a writer. She sold an article detailing life in China to The Atlantic in 1923 and in 1924 Forum Magazine published her essay, “Beauty in China.” Her first work of fiction, “A Chinese Woman Speaks,” was published by Asia Magazine in 1926.
She had completed the manuscript of a novel and a biography of her mother when, in March, 1927, the Bucks had to flee Nanking because it had been invaded by Communist revolutionary soldiers. After a year spent in Japan, the family returned, and Mrs. Buck found that the manuscript of “The Exile,” her mother's biography (not published until 1936) was safe, but the novel had disappeared in the looting of her home. With her customary detachment, Mrs. Buck later said, “the novel probably wasn't good.”
By 1928, Mrs. Buck had become tragically aware of a new reason why she must sell any writing that she could; she knew by then that Per daughter, Carol, was hopelessly retarded, and would need special costly care.
She was unsophisticated in literary ways then, and having no agent, she wrote to two she found listed in an old copy of The Writer's Guide picked up in a bookshop in Shanghai. One declined to represent her on the ground that “no one wants to read stories about China.” The other, David Lloyd, cautiously asked to see a sample of her work. She sent him “East Wind: West Wind,” which was turned down by more than a dozen publishers, before the John Day Company bought it for publication in 1930.
Meanwhile, in 1929, Mrs. Buck brought Carol to The Training School, in Vineland, N.J. (where she still lives). But it cost $1,000 a year for Carol to remain there, and Mrs. Buck desperately wanted two years free of teaching to write the novel that was already formed mentally, “The Good Earth.” A doctor in New York spoke of her plight to Mrs. John H. Finley, wife of the former editor in chief of The New York Times, and Mrs. Finley anonymously lent her the needed $2,000. (The two women later became close friends.)
“The Good Earth” was an instant success, both critically and fihancially. It was on the best‐seller lists for 21 months, was translated into more than 30 languages, received the 1931 Pulitzer Prize, was dramatized for Broadway and became a hit motion picture starring Paul Muni as Wang Lung the Chinese peasant whose rise from pov erty and ignorance reflected the main currents of the development of modern China. Luise Rainer, who portrayed Wang's wife, O‐lan, received an Academy Award for her performance in the film.
Money began to pour in. Mrs. Buck paid off her $2,000 debt, established two trust funds to ensure care for Carol for the rest of her life, and had a bathhouse built for the women in her Nanking neighborhood.
“Sons,” published in 1932, and “A House Divided,” (1935) completed the trilogy begun with “The Good Earth.” (The trilogy was later published as one volume, “House of Earth.”) In 1933, John Day published “All Men Are Brothers,” Mrs. Buck's translation of the classic Chinese novel “Shui H Chuan,” and in 1936, the biographies of her mother (“The Exile”) and her father (“Fighting Angel”).
In 1932, the Bucks returned to the United States and to Ithaca, N.Y., where her husband undertook further study at Cornell. Mrs. Buck, suddenly famous, was launched on a whirl of cocktail parties, luncheons, dinners and speaking engagements. She often lunched in New York with Richard J. Walsh, president of the John Day Company, “and slowly we fell in love,” she said years later. He followed her to China in 1933 to try to persuade her to marry him. In 1934 she left her husband and sailed for the United States with her adopted daughter.
Both Mr. Walsh, who had children of his own, and Mrs. Buck secured divorces in Reno, Nev., on June 11, 1935, and were married there the same day. The publisher and his prize author moved into a Park Avenue apartment in New York, but spent their weekends on the 400‐acre estate, Green Hills Farm, in Bucks County, Pa., which Mrs. Buck had bought shortly after she left China for the last time.
“My husband wanted children,” Mrs. Buck said in 1969,” but I really don't think I wanted to produce another child—even if I could have—because, we have to face it, I am not a maternal woman. I love children as human beings and respect them from the moment they are born, but I am not primarily a mother.”
The Walshes adopted two infant boys in 1936 and in the years to follow, six more children, among them three Americans and a girl whose mother was German and whose father was a black G.I. Caring for the children, maintaining an apartment, the place in Bucks County, and, later, a summer home in Vermont, took money. And, as Mrs. Buck was to say with her usual self‐containment and candor: “I married two men in my lifetime who were unable to support me; I have always supported myself and my family, and it's been a large family.”

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