Perry H. Knowlton
Perry H. Knowlton was born at Miss Lippincott's Lying-In Hospital in New York City on March 25, 1927, to Gladys B. Perry and Henry Randolph Knowlton. He had one brother Henry and a sister Betty. In Rye his family lived at 14 Mendota Avenue and were members of Christ Church. Among his childhood cohort was a young Barbara Pierce, later Barbara Bush. Upon graduating from Phillips Exeter Academy, he served in the army from 1945 to 1946.
Adventurous from a young age, at 19 Knowlton and a friend crossed the Atlantic from New York to England in a 21-foot sailboat. He returned to the United States to a comparatively more settled existence as a member of Princeton's class of 1949, but his continued peripatetic nature is apparent from his roundabout journey to the center of the New York literary world. After a stint as an English teacher at the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey, he took a job in regional sales for the college textbook division of Charles Scribner's Publishers, initially in Cincinnati and then in Tucson.
Knowlton married Louisa C. Tripp in 1954 and finally reached Gotham in 1956. He took a job as an editor at Scribner's, where he stayed for several years before moving into the world of agenting in 1959, when he was hired by Alan Collins, the president of Curtis Brown, Ltd. Knowlton ran the agency's book department and in 1968, following Collins's death, became President and owner of the firm.
He personally represented dozens of authors and their estates, a veritable Who's-Who of 20th Century literature, including W.H. Auden, Daphne DuMaurier, Robertson Davies, Ogden Nash, Ayn Rand, Diana Gabaldon, Tony Hillerman, Frank Robinson, Jean Craighead George, Betty Friedan, Nicholas Monsarrat, Samuel Eliot Morison, A.A. Milne, Frederik Pohl, Harrison Salisbury, Frederick Forsythe, Brian Moore, Pauline Kael, Louis Auchincloss, John Knowles, C. S. Lewis, and Alvin and Heidi Toffler. He also represented Svetlana Alliluyeva, the daughter of Joseph Stalin, after her defection in 1967.
He worked fiercely to protect author's rights and interests, and served on the executive board of the Society of Authors' Representatives for more than 20 years. He was one of the principal engineers in bringing about the merger of the SAR with the Independent Literary Agents Association to form the Association of Author's Representatives in 1991 and served as its President from 1993 to 1995.
Perry Knowlton was known for his keen intellect, courtly manners, and good looks. He was a handsome man-more than a man of letters ever needed to be. As a sideline in the late 1950's and early 1960's, while still practicing as an agent, he modeled for print and TV advertising for Xerox and Budweiser, among others. Most notably, he was one of the original ''Marlboro Men''. He was also one of the founding members of the Friends of the Earth in 1969, along with former Sierra Club president David Brower.
In 1995, several years before fully retiring from his agency practice at Curtis Brown, he returned to his boyhood interest in falconry, describing himself, at the age of 68, as ''the world's oldest apprentice to a falconer.'' After becoming a fully-licensed falconer he also became a wildlife rehabilitator, and eventually provided a home to 28 birds of prey. In addition to literary agent, teacher, falconer, editor, actor and model, his other occupations and hobbies included life - long sailor, horseman, athlete, licensed airplane pilot, navigator, certified scuba diver, beekeeper, farmer and chef.
Perry H. Knowlton -Renowned literary agent and the former Chairman and CEO of Curtis Brown, Ltd., one of the world's oldest literary agencies, died on July 6, 2007 at the New York State Veterans' Home at Montrose in Westchester County, after a long and valiant battle with Alzheimer's disease. He was 80 years old.
Divorced in 1961, he is survived by his three children, Timothy Knowlton, Elizabeth Knowlton McNamara and Virginia Knowlton Canfield, along with three grandchildren, Heather, Perry and Alexis, many nieces and nephews, and innumerable friends, clients and colleagues who will miss him forever. A memorial service will be held in the fall.