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Glenway Wescott papers

Call Number: YCAL MSS 134
Scope and Contents

The Glenway Wescott Papers consist of correspondence, journals, notebooks, manuscripts, personal and financial papers, research files, photographs, graphic items, clippings, objects, and audiotapes. The material documents Wescott's life, work, and personal relationships with many noted artists, writers, and performers of the 20th century including his long-time companion, Monroe Wheeler, many of whose papers are included here (see processing notes, above). The collection spans the years 1900-1990.

The Papers are housed in 485 boxes and are arranged in 13 series: Correspondence, Journals and Notebooks, Writings, Personal Papers, Financial Papers, Research Files, Photographs, Graphic Items, Clippings, American Academy of Arts and Letters, Objects, Audio-Visual Materials and Additions Transferred from the Monroe Wheeler Papers. Oversize materials are stored in boxes 472-484.

Series I, Correspondence , consists of six subseries: Wescott-Wheeler Correspondence; Wescott Family Correspondence; Wescott Family Third-party Correspondence; Wheeler Family Correspondence; General Correspondence; and Third-party Correspondence. (See description of Series II, Journals, for information about other correspondence.) The first sub-series contains letters between Glenway Wescott and Monroe Wheeler, spanning their entire relationship, from 1919, shortly after they met, to 1986, just before Wescott died. The interfiled letters document much of the private and public lives of these two men. Many of the early letters are accompanied by folded paper enclosures bearing annotation, evidence of Wescott's work to catalog his own archives. The next three subseries contain letters among members of both the Wescott and the Wheeler families. Almost every type of permutation is filed here: Wescott to and from his sisters, Wheeler to and from his own siblings, extensive early runs of letters from Wescott to his parents, as well as nearly daily correspondence between Wheeler and his father, and letters between Wescott, Wheeler and Barbara Harrison Wescott, before and after she became a member of the immediate family through her marriage to Glenway's brother, Lloyd.

The General Correspondence subseries makes up much of the rest of this series. Found here are letters, incoming as well as copies of outgoing, to persons and entities who played roles in the lives of Wescott and Wheeler. The categories and names cover the gamut of 20th century culture, including:

Authors and literary friends: Louise Bogan, Elizabeth Bowen, Kay Boyle, Van Wyck Brooks, Anthony Butts, Mary Butts, Eleanor Clark, R. B. Cunninghame-Graham, Babette Deutsch, Leon Edel, Helen Parker Evans, Bernard Faÿ, Janet Flanner, Charles Henri Ford, Ford Madox Ford, Robert Gathorne-Hardy, August Heckscher, Richard Howard, William Inge, Christopher Isherwood, Charles Jackson, Lincoln Kirstein, Anita Loos, James Lord, W. Somerset Maugham, William Maxwell, Harriet Monroe, Caroline Newton, Robert Phelps, William Plomer, Frederic Prokosch, Frances C. L. Robbins, Elizabeth Madox Roberts, Jerry Rosco, Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant, Edith Sitwell, Osbert Sitwell, Parker Tyler, Thornton Wilder, Donald Windham, Janet Lewis Winters, and Yvor Winters

Artists: Mauricio Aguilar, Don Bachardy, Cecil Beaton, Isabel Bishop, Paul Cadmus, Alexander Calder, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Jean Cocteau, Joseph Cornell, Jared French, Dudley Huppler, Arthur Lee, Loren MacIver, Maria Rosa Oliver, Alfonso Ossorio, Alejandro Otero, Bernard Perlin, François Reichenbach, Ben Shahn, Lenore Tawney, Pavel Tchelitchew, George Tooker, Jan Van Krimpen, and Ignatz Wiemeler

Critics and Wheeler's colleagues from the museum world: Alfred H., Jr. Barr, Kenneth Clark, Réné d'Harnoncourt, Robert M. Frash, Philip Johnson, E. McKnight Kauffer, Russell Lynes, Henry McBride, Nelson Rockefeller, and James Thrall Soby.

Musicians: Samuel Barber, Marc Blitzstein, David Diamond, Elly Ney, Ned Rorem, and Virgil Thomson.

Long-time friends: Newton Arvin, Brooke Astor, Jean-Pierre Brasseur, Joseph Campbell, Henri de la Celle, William H. Chandlee, R. L. Cottenet, Eva Goldbeck, William Goyen, Eardley Knollys, Henry McIlhenny, Raymond Mortimer, Marguerite Namara, Agnes Rindge Claflin, Pauline and Philippe de Rothschild, Desmond Shawe-Taylor, Bernardine Szold-Fritz, Diana Vreeland, and Edgar Wind.

Lovers and companions: Mario Amaya, Ivan Ashby, Earl Butler, Jacques Guérin, Nelson Lansdale, David Leavitt, Christian William Miller, N. Mark Pagano, Anatole Pohorilenko, and Ralph Pomeroy.

Publishers and agents: Cass Canfield, Harper & Row, and Alfred A. Knopf.

Among these various figures, however, the most significant correspondences concern friends who had a life-long impact on Wescott and Wheeler. Foremost was the photographer, George Platt Lynes, who lived with Wescott and Wheeler in a true ménage à trois in the 1930s and 1940s. The letters among the three men detail emotional as well as day-to-day concerns. Wescott wrote expressively about his life in France in the late 1920s and Lynes responded with details of his constantly changing outlook as he sought his metier. Letters between Wheeler and Lynes reveal the depth of their relationship, and despite a break in the mid-1940s (involving all three men), the correspondence continues up until Lynes's death in December 1955. (In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Lynes often sent photograph proofs as postcards.)

Wescott and Wheeler's relationships with two of the most influential women writers of the 20th century are also documented in extensive runs of correspondence. Katherine Anne Porter's letters, principally to Glenway, are matched by copies of his own letters. As well, Wescott and Wheeler preserved their own side of their communication with Marianne Moore, Wescott's one-time mentor. In this case, however, the majority of Moore's letters are represented by transcripts made by Wescott.

Another epistolary relationship of note is that between Wescott and Alfred Kinsey, the pioneering sex behavior researcher. Wescott became acquainted with Kinsey in the late 1940s, volunteered to be interviewed for a case history, and continued to provide Kinsey with connections for further histories, especially homosexual friends.

In many cases, copies of outgoing letters by Wescott or Wheeler have been interfiled with incoming letters, as indicated in the finding aid. In cases of voluminous correspondence, however, incoming and outgoing letters have been filed separately and are noted as such in the finding aid.

Third-party Correspondence contains a number of letters between friends of Wescott and Wheeler, including several letters to and from George Platt Lynes, copies of letters from Marianne Moore, letters by Katherine Anne Porter, Bernardine Szold-Fritz, Pavel Tchelitchew, and Lloyd Wescott.

Series II contains Wescott's Journals and Notebooks , an extensive collection of personal records detailing the author's life and thoughts from the late 1930s up to shortly before his death. Wescott's "journals" are not journals in the classic sense of codices filled with diary-like entries. Rather, while the journals were created chronologically, their physical format generally is three-ring binders filled with all types of aide-memoires: notes, incoming letters, drafts and copies of outgoing letters, clippings, and images. It must also be noted that during the preparation of selections from Wescott's journals (eventually published as Continual Lessons in 1990), Wescott and various assistants disassembled many of the journals, made photocopies, and rearranged items, such that many pages were not filed back in their original locations. Consequently, there are a number of folders of "loose pages" which have been sorted down to years and decades; some journals exist purely as photocopied facsimiles of material either disbursed or filed as "loose". Letters found in the journals have not been cross-indexed with Series I. Researchers are urged to consider looking into journals for specific date ranges in order to discover any correspondence not filed or listed in Series I.

The notebooks in Series II are more closely related to Wescott's creative writings, though they do contain a mixture of fictional sketches and notes on current events.

Series III, Writings , is divided into five subseries: General Writings; Writings about People; Lectures, Broadcasts and Speeches; Writings about Glenway Wescott; and Writings of Others. They represent only a portion of Wescott's original works. In descriptions of physical formats of manuscripts, the term "copied" is used to distinguish later copies from original manuscripts. (These copies were made most likely by Wescott and Robert Phelps in the 1960s and 1970s in preparation of a volume of collected works.)

General Writings contains drafts of many works not published in Wescott's lifetime, such as: Children of this World; The Dream of Mrs. Cleveland; A Fortune in Jewels; The Little Ocean Liner; The Stallions; A Windfall (a compilation of short works); and A Year of Love. Although the bulk of manuscripts for Wescott's published works are can be found in the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library, General Writings also contains related items, such as: an outline of Apartment in Athens, proofs for a 1977 reissue of A Calendar of Saints for Unbelievers; draft pages of Images of Truth; and fan letters about The Pilgrim Hawk.

The most extensive material in this subseries is Wescott's series of autobiographical sketches, grouped under the title "The Odor of Rosemary". This work is divided into notebooks and pages for the general work, followed by distinct sections, many of which were published under separate titles. The drafts here illustrate the nature of much of the material in the Writings series. Wescott often used notebooks to contain various notes and background information, eventually filling them with draft holograph pages, which he tended to correct as he wrote, creating a shifting stream of narrative.

For purposes of clarity, Wescott's Writings about People have been put into their own subseries. Wescott wrote repeatedly about the same individuals (many of his friends, in fact), reusing notes and draft sections For example, several different works on Somerset Maugham have been filed together, since they were all born from a group of related notes. Besides extensive drafts for a biography of Maugham, other subjects of Wescott's recurring focus include: Colette; F. Scott Fitzgerald; E. M. Forster; Ernest Hemingway; George Platt Lynes; Marianne Moore; Katherine Anne Porter; Edith Sitwell; Pavel Tchelitchew; and Thornton Wilder.

Lectures, Broadcasts and Speeches are divided into: Academic Presentations (which includes "The Monday Class", given at the home of Josephine Crane); Art Subjects; "Invitation to Learning" (a radio program of which Wescott was a frequent guest during the 1940s), "The Open Mind" (television program); Social presentations (many to women's civic groups); Success magazine (another radio program); and War Bond Rallies.

A section of Writings about Glenway Wescott includes profiles and criticism of the writer. Among Writings of Others is a collection of poems by Mary Butts, a typescript of a play, "Paul et Virginie" by Jean Cocteau and Raymond Radiguet, a biography of Pauline de Rothschild by G. Y. Dryansky, a long narrative by Pauline de Rothschild, "The Irrational Journey", and a draft of "The Early Tchelitchew" by Allen Tanner.

Series IV, Personal Papers , contains a range of material documenting the lives of Wescott and Wheeler. Among the 18 subseries are: interview transcripts, notebooks (for such things as household expenses, as distinct from literary notebooks in Series II.), notecards, documentation of various projects, scrapbooks created by Wescott, materials pertaining to symposia in which Wescott participated, and papers related to the Wescott family. Smaller groups of materials are classified under "General Items". These include: address books; appointment books (for almost every year between 1929-1985); death and estate materials for Wescott; health documents; juvenilia from Waukesha High School; and wills,

Series V, Financial Papers , gathers together material in a chronological run, from 1925 through 1986. The material has been subdivided into the following categories: royalties; cancelled checks; and tax documents. A small group of material from Glenway's mother, Josephine Wescott, is also in this series.

Series VI, Research Files contains Wescott's own working files on various subjects, most of them people, such as T. S. Eliot, Ford Madox Ford, Richard Hughes, Marianne Moore, and Pavel Tchelitchew.

Series VII, Photographs , is organized into ten subseries. The first two focus on individual images of Glenway Wescott and Monroe Wheeler: photographic portraits; photographs of artists' portraits; Wescott & Wheeler with other people, and candids. The third subseries includes images of Wescott & Wheeler together. Photographs of Other People make up the next subseries, which includes such notables as: Mary Butts; Jean Cocteau; Ford Madox Ford; Jean Genet; Christopher Isherwood; George Platt Lynes; Somerset Maugham; Marianne Moore; Katherine Anne Porter; Edith Sitwell; and Pavel Tchelitchew. The following group, Photographs in Series, contains serial images (entire rolls of film taken at one time), documenting social events and gatherings, as well as Wescott and Wheeler's travel in the United States and to foreign countries. These images have been kept together to preserve their contextual value. Art Photography houses works by artistic photographers and includes over 70 images by George Platt Lynes. (Other images by Lynes can be found in Box 69, in the form of proofs sent as postcards to Monroe Wheeler.) These are followed by Photographs of Artists' Works and several Albums, for which the contents have been listed. The subseries documenting activities of the Museum of Modern Art covers exhibition openings, meetings of the International Council, Monroe Wheeler's travels, and visitors to MOMA. The series ends with several miscellaneous subjects such as Buildings and Interiors.

The many original negatives received with this archive have been stored apart from the papers. Separation sheets have been placed in folders indicating the number of negatives, the number of existing prints.

Series VIII, Graphic Items , consists of various non-photographic image materials. Among the artwork originals are an etching by Andre Denoyer de Segonzac, and a lithograph by Henri Matisse.

Series IX, Clippings , covers a wide range of subjects, with a focus on art, book reviews, current events, essays and articles, and people. Coverage of activities of Wescott, Wheeler, and the Wescott family is included here.

The materials in Series X, American Academy of Arts and Letters , concern Glenway Wescott's membership in this organization, including the years of his presidency, 1959-62. This section includes Wescott's office files, as well as a number of related pieces such as manuscripts written by Wescott for various presentations and events, correspondence, and printed items.

Series XI, Objects , consists of pieces of memorabilia received with the archive. Included are personal effects such as cufflinks, eyeglasses, Wescott's New York Public Library medal, and such curiosities as the jawbone of a rat "out of the sea: Fire Island".

Series XII, Audio-Visual Materials , consists of sound recordings and a single videotape. The audiotape recordings were made during the 1970s and 1980s and feature principally Glenway Wescott either being interviewed by journalists and friends, or talking by himself about his memories. A few of these tapes have transcripts which are stored in Series IV, Personal Papers. Several tapes from the late 1980s feature Monroe Wheeler recounting tales of his own life. Among the audiodiscs are a radio interview done by Wescott in 1956, what appears to be a recording of Wheeler ca. 1958, and a section of "The Grandmothers" read as a book for the blind. The videotape is labeled: "Monroe Wheeler and MOMA, 1986 May 10".

Series XIII, Additions transferred from the Monroe Wheeler Papers , contains items relating to Wescott which came to light during the processing of the Monroe Wheeler Papers and which could not be easily integrated into the existing archival arrangement.

Oversize contains materials from Series II, III, IV, VII, VII, and IX.

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Restricted Fragile material in box 485 may only be consulted with permission of the appropriate curator. Preservation photocopies, photographic prints, or digital surrogates for reference use have been substituted in the main files.

Boxes 460-466 (audiovisual material): Restricted fragile. Reference copies may be requested. Consult Access Services for further informatiion.

Conditions Governing Use

The Glenway Wescott Papers are the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchase from Monroe Wheeler, 1988, with later purchase and gift from Anatole Pohorilenko, 1998 and 2003. Donation from Bruch Hotchkiss, 2004.

Associated Materials

Monroe Wheeler Papers, YCAL MSS 136

Glenway Wescott Papers, Berg Collection, New York Public Library.

1900 - 1990
216 Linear Feet ((490 boxes) + art storage)
Related Names
Wescott, Glenway, 1901-1987
Language of Materials