THE WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS COLLECTION AT YALE BY DONALD GALLUP
Originally published in The Yale University Library Gazette, Vol. 56, No. 1/2 (October 1981), pp. 50-59
As with some of Yale’s most significant collections, especially in contemporary letters, the prime mover behind the acquisition by the library of the first editions and a substantial portion of the papers of William Carlos Williams was the late Norman Holmes Pearson, Professor of English and American Studies (hereafter NHP). While still a graduate student in English at Yale, he had first written to Dr. Williams in 1937 in connection with the Oxford Anthology of American Literature, which he was then editing with William Rose Benêt. Neither Benêt nor NHP knew Williams’s poetry more than superficially, and eight of the eleven poems eventually printed in the Oxford Anthology were included at the suggestion of the author himself, who, more- over, sent typed copies “to save you the expense of buying my books.”
Nullifying Dr. Williams’s effort to save him money, NHP acquired as many of the books as he could find and quickly remedied his lack of familiarity with Williams’s published work, both poetry and prose. Correspondence between the two flourished, and they met in 1938 at Sarah Lawrence and again in 1940. At that second meeting NHP, who was an active member of the Yale Library Associates, communicated to Dr. Williams his eagerness to build up a complete collection of Williams first editions for Yale; a letter written soon afterward mentions especially the first book, Poems (Rutherford, N.J., 1909). Only a few days later, on November 18, Dr. Williams was “tickled to death” to be able to write NHP that he had located a most desirable copy–that given and inscribed by the author to the printer, Reid Howell, and signed by both. It was not for sale, but Howell, who had just passed his eightieth birthday, would be happy to give it to Yale. If NHP in return wished to make a contribution to Dorothy Parker’s fund for the rescue of Spanish children, Dr. Williams added, “consider that I’ve given you my apostolic blessing–you’ve got it anyway.”
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Beiencke Collections and Resources:
Recent acquisitions can be located in the Beinecke Library’s Uncataloged Acquisitions Database
Detailed descriptions of many related archival collections are available in the Yale Library Finding Aid Database
Esther Murphy was a brilliant New York intellectual who dazzled friends and strangers with an unstoppable flow of conversation. But she never finished the books she was contracted to write—a painful failure and yet a kind of achievement.
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In All We Know, Lisa Cohen describes these women’s glamorous choices, complicated failures, and controversial personal lives with lyricism and empathy. At once a series of intimate portraits and a startling investigation into style, celebrity, sexuality, and the genre of biography itself, All We Know explores a hidden history of modernism and pays tribute to three compelling lives.
More about All We Know: Three Lives by Lisa Cohen
New additions enrich Beinecke’s Pound collection
Recent acquisitions of Ezra Pound letters and manuscripts present new research opportunities in the Beinecke Library’s collection on Modernist literature. Fearless researchers will appreciate Pound’s letters, dense with obscure abbreviations, literary references, and political opinions. The language of his correspondence reflects his erratic, irreverent, and idiosyncratic character.
Beinecke acquires manuscripts relating to all aspects of Pound’s life, though recent acquisitions focus on his time at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. (1945-1958). Tried for treason in 1945 on charges stemming from his broadcasts on Italian radio during the Second World War, Pound was committed to psychiatric care in lieu of prison. Recent acquisitions document his activity during this 12-year confinement, during which he maintained a prolific correspondence.
Pound’s lawyer Robert Furniss advocated for the release of America’s “greatest living poet” who was “mentally incapable of defending himself.” The documents and ephemera in the Furniss collection detail the public controversy surrounding Pound’s incarceration. Correspondence between Furniss and Pound document their legal strategy as Furniss defended “Mental Health No. 31113” (as Pound was identified by the court) from charges of treason.
Reading Pound’s correspondence, researchers can delve in to his relationships with, and influence on, younger poets. Such is the case with Pound’s letters to poet, composer, and performance artist Jackson Mac Low. In addition to discussing literature and politics, Pound defends himself from charges of anti-Semitism with the inflammatory remark that “some kike might manage to pin an antisem lable on me IF he neglected the mass of my writing.”
These new additions complement Beinecke’s vast collection of material relating to Pound and to other figures of the Modernist literary milieu. Beinecke continuously adds to its exciting Modernist collection, which consists not only of the vast and comprehensive literary archives of Pound, H.D., Gertrude Stein, William Carlos Williams, and Mina Loy, but also numerous small collections and individual letters, manuscripts, photographs, works of art, and books.
The recent Pound acquisitions include:
Letters to Rene Taupin, 1928-1932
Letters to Paul-Gustave Van Hecke, 1930
Letters to David Sinclair Nixon, 1937
Letters to Jackson Mac Low, 1946-1955
Letters to Robert Thom, 1949
Letters to Allan Seaton, 1949-1953
Robert Furniss collection of Ezra Pound Papers, 1946-1959
These uncataloged collections are available for research. Researchers may contact the Beinecke Library Reference Staff for further information.
Related collections at the Beinecke include:
Ezra Pound Papers (YCAL MSS 43, YCAL MSS 53)
Ezra Pound Miscellany (YCAL MSS 182)
Olga Rudge Papers (YCAL MSS 54, YCAL MSS 241)
Image: Photograph of Ezra Pound at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, , Olga Rudge Papers (YCAL MSS 54).