Fletcher, Inglis Clark
FLETCHER, Inglis Clark
Born 20 October 1879, Alton, Illinois; died 30 May 1969, Charleston, South Carolina
Daughter of Maurice W. and Flora Deane Chapman Clark; married John G. Fletcher, 1909
Inglis Clark Fletcher was widely traveled, but the home of her maternal ancestors—coastal North Carolina—provided the stuff of her successful fiction and the home of her later years. The eldest of three children, Fletcher grew up in Edwardsville, Illinois, a small town populated by many displaced Southerners. As a child she preferred reading, debating, and writing novels to other pastimes, but it was her drawing talent that sent her to study as a teenager at the St. Louis School of Fine Arts at Washington University. Fletcher displayed some aptitude, but frankly said she was more interested in marriage than sculpture.
Her marriage to a mining engineer sent her directly to some of the roughest of the mining camps in California, Nevada, Colorado, and Alaska. Like many pioneer women isolated on male-dominated frontiers, Fletcher turned to writing as a way of coming to terms with experience. She sold film synopses and wrote poetry, articles, and reviews. When the Fletcher family moved to Oakland (1911) and San Francisco (1925-38), Fletcher found she enjoyed running a lecture bureau. In 1944 the Fletchers moved to historic Bandon Plantation, near Edenton, North Carolina. When Bandon burned in 1963, Fletcher retired to Charleston, South Carolina.
In 1928, Fletcher began her much-publicized tours of Africa, which she had wanted to see, she said, since she had been a child of twelve reading about Livingstone and Burton. From those tours came Fletcher's first novels: The White Leopard (1931) and Red Jasmine (1932). Both offer excellent observation of native craft, culture, and ritual.
The documents she found while researching her Tyrrel County ancestors and the Carolina campaigns of British General Cornwallis sparked her interest in the history of eastern North Carolina. Further research in Carolina libraries and extensive reading in public and private records of the period produced Raleigh's Eden (1940). The novel, the first of Fletcher's meticulously researched Carolina series of historical fiction, uncovered long-forgotten cultural facts of coastal Carolina settlement: Moorish architecture and Arabic residents, Oriental settlers and great estates. Many contemporary readers insisted that much of the novel's setting and events was imaginary, when in fact the novel was faithful to history. Each novel of Fletcher's Carolina series studies a specific era, beginning with the first attempted settlement in the 1580s.
The past provided Fletcher with plots, settings, and characters; it was also the inspiration for her themes. Through individual characters, Fletcher articulates her recurring theme: Land represents freedom and life, especially for Americans. Fletcher was intrigued by the possibility for altering identity that settling the colonies offered Europeans; she also studied the complex interaction of person and environment. The process of settlement provided a metaphor for individual experience: to attain knowledge of land is to attain knowledge of self.
This focus on the individual is circumscribed, however, by Fletcher's greater interest in—and skill in using as narrative—historical detail and fact. Thus, her works are most accurately titled historical romances; and melodramatic as some of her stories are, they attract readers decades after first publication, probably because they imaginatively recreate historical events—a form of fictional verisimilitude that comforts the average reader.
Men of Albermarle (1942). Lusty Wind for Carolina (1944). Toil of the Brave (1946). Bennett's Welcome (1950). Queen's Gift (1952). The Scotswoman (1954). The Wind in the Forest (1957). Cormorant's Brood (1959). Pay, Pack, and Follow: The Story of My Life (1959). Wicked Lady (1962).
The papers of Inglis Clark Fletcher are in the manuscript collection of East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina.
Green, J. W., "Inglis Fletcher: A Personal Perspective" (thesis, 1984). Hester, E., ed., Cultural Change in Eastern North Carolina As Reflected in Some of the Novels of I.Fletcher and Ovid Pierce. Platt, H., I. Fletcher of Bandon, Chronicler of North Carolina. Walser, R., I. Fletcher of Bandon Plantation. Wilcox, S. K., "The American Revolutionary War in Fiction: An Evaluation of the Works of Winston Churchill, Inglis Fletcher, and John Jakes" (research paper, 1983). Wooten, S., "Identification of African Ritual in the Writings of I. Fletcher" (thesis, 1976).
CA (1969). CB (1947, July 1969).
North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame (audiovisual, 1995). North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame Proudly Presents Inglis Fletcher, 1879-1969, Novelist, Tyrell County, North Carolina (1996).