Inheritance of Night

Early Drafts of Lie Down in Darkness

Inheritance of Night

Book Pages: 158 Illustrations: Published: March 1993

Author: William Styron

Contributor: James L. W. West III

American Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Fiction

From 1947 to 1949, William Styron twice attempted to write a novel under the working title Inheritance of Night. On the third attempt he produced the award-winning Lie Down in Darkness, which when published in September 1951 established him as one of the most promising writers of his generation. Duke University Press is proud to publish, in facsimile form, the long-lost drafts of Styron's earliest versions of Lie Down in Darkness.
Although Styron began the narrative twice, he realized both times that his writing was derivative and his characters not yet fully conceived. These drafts show young Stryon feeling his way into the story with various narrative voices and strategies, and attempting to work out his plot. Influence from William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Robert Penn Warren is apparent in the text, and there is a character present named Marcus Bonner who is an early rendition of Stingo in Sophie's Choice.
The typescript drafts of Inheritance of Night for many years were thought to have been lost, but in 1980 were discovered in the files of one of Styron's former literary agents. These drafts, eventually made their way to the archive of Styron's papers assembled at Duke University Library. This facsimile is published here in two different limited editions for collectors: a lettered, signed, and boxed edition (26 copies) and a numbered, signed edition (250). A general interest trade volume is also available.
With a preface by Styron and an introduction by James L. W. West III, these drafts afford much insight into the creation of Lie Down in Darkness and the writing of a major twentieth-century American writer.


“With its prospectus and two drafts, Inheritance of Night allows us to see [Styron’s] development in progress. While Styron never did rid himself wholly of Faulkner’s influence . . . he did finally write something singular, something striking, something uniquely his own.” — Christopher Metress, Mississippi Quarterly

"It's fascinating for me to read, for the first time in over forty years, the stumbling starts toward the creation of Lie Down in Darkness. These passages show how, in my early twenties, I may have been in possession of a luminous vision for a novel but how it was a luminosity clouded by much indecision and awkwardness. . . . Inheritance of Night, then, is made up of fragments of a beginning, bits of fruitful inspiration mingled with conceits that were stillborn." — William Styron, from the Preface


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

William Styron is the author The Confessions of Nat Turner, Sophie's Choice, and Lie Down in Darkness (winner of the Prix de Rome when published in 1951) and Darkness Visible. The author is a graduate of Duke University (1947), where his papers are housed at the Duke University Library. He currently lives in Roxbury, Connecticut, and Martha's Vineyard.

James L. W. West III is Distinguished Professor of English at The Pennsylvania State University. He is at work on an edition of Theodore Dreiser's Jennie Gerhardt and on the authorized biography of William Styron.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface / William Styron vii

Introduction / James L. W. West III xi

Prospectus (Winter 1947-48) 1

Typescript I: First Beginning (Winter 1947-48) 9

Typescript II: Second Beginning (Fall 1948) 67

Typescript III: Continuation of Second Beginning (Spring 1949) 115

Description of the Documents 138
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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-1310-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-1309-0
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