Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  William Maxwell  

Pen Name: None


Audience: Adult; Young Adult; Children; Children;

Born: August 16, 1908 in Lincoln, Illinois

Died: July 31, 2000

-- William Maxwell on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

Maxwell was born in Lincoln and moved to Chicago with his family after high school. He attended University of Illinois in Champaign and after graduate school he returned to the University of Illinois to spend two years on the English faculty.

Biographical and Professional Information

William Keepers Maxwell was an American novelist, short story writer and editor. He explored his Illinois childhood in a series of novels and short story collections, including Bright Center of Heaven (1934), They Came Like Swallows (1937), The Folded Leaf (1945) and So Long, See You Tomorrow (1980). Maxwell is sometimes called a "writer's writer", who has never had extraordinary commercial success but is highly respected by other writers for his craftsmanship and power. He also nurtured other developing writers as a longtime fiction editor for the New Yorker.William Maxwell, throughout a long residence in New York, has continued to explore his Illinois childhood in Lincoln and Chicago in a series of novels and short-story collections. He taught freshman compostion at the University of Illinois and later became an associate editor of the New Yorker magazine. He was the fiction editor of The New Yorker magazine for forty years (1936-1975).

Published Works

  • Bright Center of Heaven, 1934
  • They Came Like Swallows, 1937
  • Time Will Darken It, Harper, 1948
  • Stories, Farrar Straus, 1956
  • The Chateau, Knopf, 1961
  • The Old Man at the Railroad Crossing and Other Tales, Knopf, 1966
  • Ancestors: A Family History, Knopf, 1971
  • Over By the River and Other Stories, Knopf, 1977
  • So Long See You Tomorrow, Knopf, 1980
  • Five Tales Written for His Family on Special Occasions and Printed to Celebrate His Eightieth Birthday, 16 August 1988, Cummington Press, 1988
  • The Outermost Dream Essays and Reviews, Knopf, 1989
  • Billy Dyer and Other Stories, Knopf, 1992
  • All the Days and Nights, Vintage, 1995

Selected Titles At Your Library

Early novels and stories /
ISBN: 159853016X. OCLC Number:

Library of America :. New York :. ©2008.

""The novelist works with what life has given him," wrote William Maxwell. "It was no small gift that I was allowed to lead my boyhood in a small town in Illinois where the elm trees cast a mixture of light and shade over the pavements." The patterns of light, love, and a sorrow in this town, and the domestic particulars of the early 20th century, are at the heart of Maxwell's early fiction. They Came Like Swallows is the story of two boys, their father, and the unbearable loss they suffer in the winter of 1918. The Folded Leaf describes the arc of an obsessive adolescent friendship that ends in near-tragedy. Time Will Darken It paints a portrait of a small, straitlaced community where gossip can ruin even its most blameless member. The achievement of these novels is here complemented by the youthful, comic Bright Center of Heaven - out of print for nearly 70 years - and nine short stories."--Jacket.

Time will darken it :
ISBN: 0879234482. OCLC Number:

D.R. Godine,. Boston, Mass. :. 1983, ©1948.

They came like swallows /
ISBN: 067977257X. OCLC Number:

Vintage International,. New York :. 1997.

To eight-year old Bunny Morison, his mother is an angelic comforter in whose absence nothing is real or alive. To his older brother, Robert, his mother is someone he must protect, especially since the deadly, influenza epidemic of 1918 is ravaging their small Midwestern town. To James Morison, his wife, Elizabeth, is the center of a life that would disintegrate all too suddenly were she to disappear. Through the eyes of these characters, William Maxwell creates a sensitive portrait of an American family and of the complex woman who is its emotional pillar. Beautifully observed, deftly rendering the civilities and constraints of a vanished era, They Came Like Swallows measures the subterranean currents of love and need that run through all our lives. The result confirms Maxwell's reputation as one of the finest writers we have.

The château.
ISBN: 067976156X. OCLC Number:

Knopf,. New York,. 1961.

Novel about a young American couple's summer in France in 1948 and their relationship with an impoverished family of aristocrats.

All the days and nights :
ISBN: 0679761020. OCLC Number:

Vintage International/Vintage Books,. New York :. 1995.

A collection of stories selected from previously published works in addition to eight new stories.


  • Name engraved on the frieze of the Illinois State Library alongside other great Illinois literary figures, 1990