Paul Kester

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Paul Kester
Paul Kester 01.JPG
The Bookman, 1917-1918
Born (1870-11-02)November 2, 1870
Delaware, Ohio
Died June 21, 1933(1933-06-21) (aged 62)
Lake Mohegan, New York
Occupation Playwright and Novelist

Paul Kester (November 2, 1870 – June 21, 1933) was an American playwright and novelist. He was the younger brother of journalist Vaughan Kester and a cousin of the literary editor and critic William Dean Howells.

Life and career[edit]

Kester was born in 1870 some thirty miles north of Columbus at Delaware, Ohio,[1] He was the younger of two sons raised by Franklin “Frank” Cooley and Harriet (née Watkins) Kester. His father was traveling salesman, and mother an art teacher who in 1882 helped found the Cleveland School of Art. Kester was educated by home tutors and at private schools where he excelled in the dramatic arts.[1][2][3]

His first success came in January, 1892 with Countess Roudine that opened first in Philadelphia at the Chestnut Street Theatre and a week later at the Union Square Theatre in New York City. Countess Roudine was a collaborative effort written with the actress Minnie Maddern Fiske.[1][4][5]

In 1896 his adaptation of Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s Eugene Aram was produced by Walker Whiteside’s company and in 1902 with George Middleton adapted the George W. Cable Southern romance The Cavalier that was staged at the Criterion Theatre with Julia Marlowe. Actress Annie Russell produced and starred in his 1906 Quaker tale Friend Hannah, written with the help of his brother, Vaughan.[1][5]

Kester worked on nearly thirty plays over his career. His most successful Broadway effort was probably The Woman of Bronze that ran for 252 performances between September, 1920 and April, 1921 at Manhattan's Frazee Theatre. He also authored a number of books, with His Own Country (1917) most likely the more popular.[1][5]

Described as shy and diffident,[5] Kester preferred country life to that of the city. In 1902, with his brother, he purchased and renovated Woodlawn Plantation in Northern Virginia.[6] Five years later the two acquired nearby Gunston Hall.[7] where Vaughan Kester died in 1911. A few years later Kester and his mother relocated to Bellmont, an estate near Alexandria, Virginia.[8]

Kester spent his final years at Lake Mohegan, a small community near Peekskill, New York. He died there in 1933 at the age of 62, a victim of thrombosis. At the time his closest surviving family was the mezzo-soprano opera singer, Florence Wickham, a cousin.[1][5]

Home by Paul Kester[edit]

I Want to go home
To the dull old town
With the shaded streets
And the open square
And the hill
And the flats
And the house I love
And the paths I know -
I want to go home.
If I can't go back
To the happy days,
Yet I can live
Where their shadows lie,
Under the trees
And over the grass -
I want to be there
Where the joy was once.
Oh, I want to go home,
I want to go home.

Selected Works[edit]

  • Novels [1]
    • Tales of the Real Gypsy (1897)
    • His Own Country (1917)
    • Conservative Democracy (1919)
    • Diana Dauntless (1929)
    • The Course of True Love (1930)

His Own Country[edit]

When asked recently if he did not fear that the present absorption in the Great World War would diminish public interest in his novel, His Own Country, Mr. Kester expressed a decided opinion to the contrary. He said:

The Race problem is always with us, and as my story deals in a serious way with its more serious aspects, I do not think it can be untimely. New phases of this great problem come up from day to day -- but the problem itself is as old as history -- very likely it will remain a problem to the end of history. Racial differences and the prejudices resulting from them have always confronted practical statesmen. The old method of dealing with them was by conquest, subjugation, or extermination. Such methods are now obsolete. Better ones must be found. Understanding must precede intelligent action along any lines, and my reason -- perhaps I would better say my justification -- for writing His Own Country has been my hope and belief that it would bring some little considered phases of this menacing and mighty problem more clearly before the minds of readers who live remote from it, yet whose consent is necessary, as it should be in a democracy, to any adjustment of settlement of living conditions where the races are existing side by side. The Bookman, 1917-1918[8]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Paul Kester Papers. NYPL accessed September 27, 2012
  2. ^ Frank and Harriet Kester; Mount Vernon, OH. 1870 US Census;
  3. ^ The Cleveland Institute of Art accessed September 27, 2012
  4. ^ Adams, William Davenport - A Dictionary of the Drama: a Guide to the Plays, Play-wrights; Volume 1; 1904; pg. 341 accessed September 26, 2012
  5. ^ a b c d e Paul Kester Dead, Writer of Dramas. The New York Times; June 21, 1933; pg. 17
  6. ^ Mount Vernon, Arlington, Woodlawn, Minnie Kendall Lowther, p.56
  7. ^ Gunston Hall, Paul Kester, Old and Sold Antiques Digest
  8. ^ a b Chronicle and Comment, The Bookman
  9. ^ – Jerome, Barr, Lawrence and Sime - The Idler, Volume 20; 1902; pg.365 accessed September 27, 2012
  10. ^ Paul Kester Internet Broadway Database accessed September 27, 2012

External links[edit]