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Rauner Special Collections Library6065 Webster Hall, Hanover, NH 03755-3519 USATelephone: 603-646-0538, Fax: 603-646-0447Rauner.Reference@dartmouth.edu

Guide to the Papers of Charles R. Jackson, circa 1920 - 1992

Manuscript MS-1070

Biography & History

Biography

Charles Reginald Jackson was born in Summit, New Jersey, on April 6, 1903, the third of five children of Frederick George and Sarah Williams Jackson. His father left home when Jackson was 12 years old, and his only sister and his youngest brother were killed in an automobile accident in 1916. The other younger brother, Frederick Storrier, was born in 1906, and he and Charles Jackson remained close throughout life. Jackson grew up near Rochester in Newark, New York, graduating from Newark High School in 1921. Jackson had no more formal schooling.

After finishing high school, Jackson went to work for the "Newark Courier", becoming local editor and writing much of the copy. In 1924, he left Newark for Chicago, where he worked in a bookstore for eighteen months before moving to New York City and a job in the Doubleday bookstores. It was there that he became seriously ill with tuberculosis, and from 1927 to 1931, he spent most of his time in sanatoriums along with his brother Frederick, who also had the disease. They spent the years 1929-1931 in Davos, Switzerland, and although Jackson was cured, he was left with a drinking habit and only one lung.

Returning to New York City during the worst years of the depression, he was unable to find steady work or to get any of his writing published. He drank more and more, finally becoming his own model for Don Birnham of "The Lost Weekend". At the end of 1936, he stopped drinking and was working as a Columbia Broadcasting scriptwriter. In 1938, he married Rhoda Booth, a researcher for "Fortune", who, along with Frederick, had helped Jackson recover from his alcoholism. His first published work, the story "Palm Sunday" appeared in the "Partisan Review" in 1939. Leaving CBS, Jackson became a free lance writer and continued doing radio scripts, including Benet's "The Devil and Daniel Webster," until "The Lost Weekend" was published in January, 1944.

The publication of the "Lost Weekend" brought Jackson instant recognition and financial success. He worked in Hollywood during the summer of 1944 and then bought a house, Six Chimney Farm, in Orford, NH, where he moved with his wife and two young daughters. For the next ten years the Jackson's lived there, sometimes only for the summer, sometimes all year. During the forties, Jackson wrote many stories and two more novels, "The Fall of Valor" and "The Outer Edge", the first a critical and financial success and the second much less successful. By 1950, Jackson had begun to drink again, and the early fifties found him doing little work and in financial difficulty although two collections of short stories were published.

In 1954, partly to get out of debt, Jackson sold the Orford house and moved with his family to Connecticut. Only a few magazine stories and articles were published during the next twelve years. In 1967, "A Second Hand Life" was published from a novel begun in 1953. It sold well, but Jackson was disappointed by its poor critical reception. He was also discouraged by his debilitating physical health, suffering from chronic lung disease.

Jackson overdosed on barbiturates in his apartment at the Chelsea Hotel on September 18, 1968. He died three days later at St. Vincent's hospital. His death was declared a suicide by the medical examiner.