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Thornton Niven Wilder (April 17, 1897 – December 7, 1975) was an American playwright and novelist. He won three Pulitzer Prizes—for the novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey, and for the plays Our Town and The Skin of Our Teeth — and a U.S. National Book Award for the novel The Eighth Day.
Although Wilder never discussed being homosexual publicly or in his writings, his close friend Samuel Steward acknowledged having sexual relations with him. Wilder was introduced to Steward by Gertrude Stein, who at the time regularly corresponded with both of them. The third act of Our Town was allegedly drafted after a long walk, during a brief affair with Steward in Zürich, Switzerland.
In Penelope Niven's biography, Thornton Wilder: A Life,, she provides considerable epistolary evidence that the third act of "Our Town" was not written in response to any walk, conversation or affair with Samuel Steward but was begun before Wilder ever met Steward and was not finished until several months afterward. Niven also raises doubts about Steward's uncorroborated and unsubstantiated claims of having been Wilder's lover.
Wilder had a wide circle of friends and enjoyed mingling with other famous people, including Ernest Hemingway, Russel Wright, Willa Cather and Montgomery Clift.
From the earnings of The Bridge of San Luis Rey,, in 1930 Wilder built a house for his family in Hamden, Connecticut. His sister Isabel lived there for the rest of her life. This became his home base, although he traveled extensively and lived away for significant periods. He died in that house on 7 December 1975, of heart failure. He was interred at Mount Carmel Cemetery, Hamden, Connecticut.
Yale University, New Haven, CT
Princeton University, NJ
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