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Kathryn Hulme papers

Call Number: YCAL MSS 22

Scope and Contents

The Kathryn Hulme Papers document the life and career of the author of The Nun's Story. The papers span the dates 1846-1981, but the bulk of the material dates from the years 1945-81.

The collection has seven series. Series I, Writings, is housed in Boxes 1-6 of the Kathryn Hulme Papers and contains manuscripts of both published and unpublished works, as well as related materials. ProfessionalCorrespondence, Series II, fills nine boxes and is primarily composed of Hulme's correspondence with her publishers and her literary agents. Boxes 16-19 hold Series III, Professional Correspondence, which consists of correspondence with friends and a few relatives. Series IV, Family Papers, contains personal papers of Hulme and several family members, as well as all Oversize materials. Photographs, Series V, is located in Boxes 34-53. The following two boxes of the Hulme Papers contain Series VI, Gurdjieff. The final series, Series VII, (Boxes 56-57) contain restricted fragile materials and, in most cases, photocopies of the original material remain in the files from which they were removed.

Series I, Writings , is divided into two sections, the first devoted to full-length works and the second to brief articles and pamphlets. The papers in each section are arranged alphabetically by title. Material for each work has been placed in the following order: notes and outlines, chronologically arranged drafts, setting typescripts and/or galleys, publicity, and reviews.

The papers contain no significant information on Hulme's early works. How's the Road?, an account of her cross-country motor trip, was privately printed in 1928. The publication was financed by Alice Rohrer, a San Francisco milliner whom Hulme accompanied to Europe and Mexico between 1928 and 1937. Hulme drew on these experiences for her next two books, Arab Interlude (1930), and Desert Night (1932), her only attempt at pure fiction. Her first critical success was the 1938 memoir We LivedAs Children, the story of her San Francisco childhood. The book received generally respectful reviews (Box 5, folder 91).

Despite this success, Hulme did not publish another book for 15 years, although she continued to write travel articles and promotional material for Ask Mr. Foster Travel Service. (See Box 5, folders 100-03.) The round-robin letters she wrote while working as a relief officer for the United Nations Relief and Refugee Agency became the basis for The Wild Place. (See Box 5, folders 92-97.) This work won the 1953 Atlantic Monthly Non-Fiction Award, and received much critical praise, but only 8200 copies were sold.

Hulme's post-war experiences were also the source of her major success. While working for U.N.R.R.A., she befriended Marie-Louise Habets, a Belgian nurse and former nun. The story of her convent life, and her decision to leave her order, became The Nun's Story, published in 1956. The book won critical and popular acclaim. It was featured by the Book-of-the-Month Club and the Catholic Book Club, offered as a Reader's Digest Condensed Book, and translated into more than a dozen languages.

Papers relating to The Nun's Story include notes, revision outlines, and the setting typescript, publicity, and reviews. Many reviews from Catholic publications are included, and illustrate the variety of Catholic response to a potentially controversial book.

The Nun's Story was also made into a 1959 movie for which Hulme and Habets acted as technical advisors. Series I contains a copy of the Robert Anderson screenplay annotated by Hulme, publicity, and reviews. Publicity photographs for the film can be found in Series V, Photographs, Boxes 52-53, folders 726-41.

Hulme's next book was Annie's Captain (1961), the story of her grandparents, John Mansfield and Annie Bolles Cavarly. In addition to typescripts, galley proofs, and reviews, the series contains Hulme's research notes on her grandfather's career with the Pacific Mail Steamship Company. Other papers concerning the Bolles and Cavarly families can be found in Series IV, Family Papers, Box 20, folders 514-17, 520-34, and Box 31, folders 640-41.

In 1966, Hulme published Undiscovered Country, a memoir of her years as a pupil of Gurdjieff. Box 4, folders 65-73 contains a draft of this work corrected by Solita Solano, Hulme's friend and fellow student. Her last book, Look a Lion in the Eye (1974), was a narrative of her 1971 safari. The Books section also includes partial typescripts of two unpublished novels, Someday He'll Sing For You and They Called Her Willikoki.

Section two, Articles, consists of manuscripts and printed copies of magazine articles by Hulme. Included are travel articles written for Ask Mr. Foster, several pieces on Hawaiian subjects, and a few articles on religious topics.

Series II, Professional Correspondence , is housed in Boxes 7-15 of the Hulme Papers and contains correspondence and papers documenting Hulme's writing career. The bulk of the correspondence is with Brandt and Brandt, Hulme's literary agency (Boxes 8-11) and is followed by financial statements and contracts. There are three types of material in the correspondence section: letters between Hulme and various members of Brandt and Brandt; Brandt and Brandt's correspondence with publishers and other agencies concerning Hulme's works; and Brandt and Brandt in-house memoranda. These files document the publishing history of Hulme's last five works.

Hulme corresponded with several members of Brandt and Brandt, including Carl D. Brandt, Carl B. Brandt, and Charles Schlessinger. However, most of Hulme's correspondence is with her personal representatives, Bernice Baumgarten Cozzens (1940-59), and Carol Brandt (1960-77). For Cozzens' correspondence after 1959, see Series III, Personal Correspondence, Box 17, folders 417-23.

Bernice Baumgarten Cozzens became Hulme's agent in 1930. There is little correspondence until 1953, although there are several letters from 1940-45 describing Hulme's war-work in the Kaiser shipyards. The correspondence contains contractual and financial information, Cozzens' reactions to first drafts, subject suggestions, and literary advice. The letters from 1955-59 contain much information concerning The Nun's Story, including advance reader reports, final editing, publicity, and sales.

Cozzens withdrew from Brandt and Brandt by the end of 1959 and was succeeded by Carol Brandt. Since Cozzens continued to act as Hulme's literary advisor, letters between Hulme and Carol Brandt are generally limited to professional matters. One exception is the 1973-74 correspondence concerning Look a Lion in the Eye, a book which Brandt praised and defended to skeptical readers at the Atlantic Monthly Press.

The correspondence between Brandt and Brandt and other organizations is extensive. Topics include contracts, royalty negotiations, publicity schedules, and sales information. Hulme's agents corresponded frequently with Ted Weeks of the Atlantic Monthly Press and with Atlantic Monthly/Little, Brown, and Co. Letters among Carol Brandt, Ben Benjamin, and Henry Blanke in 1956-57 contain information on the sale of movie rights to The Nun's Story.

The collection also provides documentation for foreign editions of Hulme's works, particularly The Nun's Story and Annie's Captain. Foreign agents and publishers represented in Series II include A. M. Heath and Co., Frederick Muller, Hanna-Kristi-Koch, Finn Carlsen, Wolfgang-Krueger-Verlag, Libraire Stock, Livrari Agir, and Seiwa Shoin. Much of this material concerns rights, royalties, and sales figures. August and September 1956 correspondence with Wolfgang-Krueger-Verlag details the German publisher's insistence on changes in the World War II scenes of The Nun's Story.

Brandt and Brandt in-house memoranda are usually either brief reminders of of appointments or cover letters directing action on enclosures. Short cover letters are also included with some of the Brandt and Brandt financial statements, which are located in Boxes 12-13, folders 287-314. These concern Hulme's royalty accounts and are followed by American publication contracts.

Hulme's books were published jointly by Atlantic Monthly Press and Little, Brown, and Company. Atlantic Monthly correspondents include managing editor Nancy E. Reynolds; publisher Dudley H. Cloud; and administrative editor Nancy Greenberg. Topics include publication deadlines, promotion and publicity, contract information, and sales figures.

The major Atlantic Monthly correspondent is Hulme's editor Ted Weeks. His letters contain comments on work in progress, detailed reading notes, and reader's reports on each book. Weeks also suggested subjects for books and articles and functioned as her literary advisor. The letters on The Nun's Story, for example, discuss revisions of several scenes, the possible reactions of Catholic reviewers, publicity efforts, interviews, and Marie-Louise Habet's desire for anonymity.

Correspondence with Little, Brown is located in Box 13, folders 327-33. Most of the letters concern financial or promotional arrangements; and correspondents include Marion Hunt, Edwin Seaver, and Henry G. Castor.

Box 14 holds fan mail, including copies of some of Hulme's replies. This has been arranged alphabetically by the title of the work, and then chronologically. The Annie's Captain correspondence contains information about other Pacific Mail captains and some genealogical data on the Cavarly family. Undiscovered Country fan mail includes letters from students of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, and from followers of later mystics and gurus.

These are sixteen folders of correspondence on The Nun's Story, most of it dated before 1960. Many letters were written by Catholic readers; about ten were written by former nuns. These letters provide excellent documentation of the diversity of Catholic reactions to the book. In addition to giving their own opinions, writers often quote sermons, reviews in diocesan newspapers, and clerical comments.

Series II concludes with one box of chronologically arranged "Public appearances" and "Invitations" correspondence.

Series III, Personal Correspondence , housed in Boxes 16-19, contains alphabetically arranged correspondence. The letters span the years 1929-81, but nearly all of them date from 1954-81.

The collection provides little documentation on Hulme's life and career prior to 1928.In particular, there is almost no family correspondence. Hulme's mother Julia Cavarly Hulme is mentioned in several early letters to Genia Frost, but there is no correspondence with her. No letters refer to the period of Hulme's marriage. There are two folders of correspondence with her brother Philip Hulme, dating from 1957-62, concerning family finances and Kathryn's move to Kauai. Family news and some genealogical information can be found in the letters of Allen Hulme. The collection contains only one letter by Marie-Louise Habets, although letters to friends contain information on "Malou's" health and activities.

There is more extensive information on Hulme's European travels, which began in the mid-1920's. Letters by Helene Vogt contain brief references to Hulme's North African trips. Fifteen 1929-36 travel letters, written to Genia Frost ("Genie") and Anne Slemons ("Stuffie"), discuss tourist sights, Hulme's reactions to European cities, her literary ambitions, and her new acquaintance. Hulme's negotiations with the little magazine transition, which published her short story "Competition", are described in letters to Frost in September 1929 and April 1930. A January 1932 letter details the Christmas party given by Margaret Anderson at which Hulme met Georgette LeBlanc.

In December 1935, Hulme described to Annie Slemons her first meetings with the Russian mystic Gurdjieff, "the man whose development idea interests me so much." Also present were Margaret Anderson, Solita Solano, Louise Davidson, Elizabeth Gordon, and Alice Rohrer. Anderson had been a student of Gurdjieff's for some time. The others, Hulme included, were organized by him into a study group known as the "the Rope." Gurdjieff gave his pupils "inner animal" names, and they frequently refer to each other by these. Margaret Anderson was "Yakina," Solita Solano "Kanari" or "Canary," Louise Davidson, "Sardine." Alice Rohrer, already called "Nickie" by her friends, was named "Theen" or "Thin One." Hulme was "Krocodeel" or "Crocodile."

With few exceptions, the letters of these friends and fellow students date from later years. Much of this late correspondence is retrospective, however, and it provides valuable information on Hulme's life in Paris. For example, the collection contains only one telegram written by Alice Rohrer, but she is mentioned frequently in the correspondence of Anderson, Solano, and Flanner. After Rohrer's death in March 1958, many letters of condolence contain detailed portraits of her.

The writers Margaret Anderson, Solita Solano, and Janet Flanner were life-long friends and correspondents. Generally, their letters discuss literary topics, personal and professional news, memories, Gurdjieff, and other subjects. Anderson's letters concern her own writings and Gurdjieff. Letters from 1958 and 1959 describe her work on an unpublished autobiographical novel and the reactions of her publishers. Many letters of the early and mid 1960's contain comments on Gurdjieff, as Anderson and Hulme were both writing about him at that time. The letters also provide personal news: a letter of November 2, 1941 describes the death of Anderson's companion Georgette LeBlanc.

Solita Solano's letters are located in Box 19, folders 484-93. Solano read and commented on every book written by Hulme for over thirty-five years. Her correspondence contains extremely detailed discussions of drafts of Hulme's works. Solano's comments on the versions and revisions of Undiscovered Country, and her own reminiscences about Gurdjieff, can be found in the letters of 1961-67. These letters also contain news of Solano and Elizabeth Clark, with whom she lived in Orgeval, and other subjects, including Solano's 1962 visits with Isak Dinesen.

Unlike Anderson and Solano, Janet Flanner was not a student of Gurdjieff, and most of her letters to Hulme are appreciations of Hulme's works or brief personal notes. Her September 14, 1944 letter to Solano, however, describes a visit with Gurdjieff, whom she called "a very wise old man sitting in his rich pantry of foods and thoughts."

Other correspondents who were connected to the "Orgeval" circle of friends, and whose letters contain information about them, include Djuna Barnes, Angele Levesque, Barbara Ligon, Hildegarde Flanner, Mathilda Hills, and Dorothy Troxel.

Hulme's literary correspondence was not entirely limited to this circle, however. She met Kay Boyle while working in occupied Germany. Boyle's letters discuss literary projects and husband Joseph Franckenstein's 1953 dismissal from the Foreign Service as a security risk. Hulme's correspondence with Bernice Baumgarten Cozzens contains personal news, literary discussion, and editorial advice. An April 1961 letter to Cozzens describes Hulme's ambition to write a memoir concerning "a half-century of a woman's life, in a century when women like me, childless, husbandless, outside the conforming norm, might, just might, be news of a sort." Other literary correspondents include Mary Ellen Chase, John Howard Griffin, and Agnes Newton Keith.

The volume of correspondence rises increases after the publication of The Nun's Story. Hulme corresponded with priests and nuns who wrote of their reactions to her work. Some like Sister Beatrice, were concerned that "young persons would be frightened away" from convents by the story. Others, including the influential editor of America, Father Harold Gardiner, praised the book's "spiritual values" but warned about a possibly "sensationalized" movie version.

The movie version is the focus of another group of correspondents, among them screenwriter Robert Anderson, producer Henry Blanke, director Fred Zinnemann, and actors Mel Ferrer and Audrey Hepburn. Topics include description of the filming, requests for technical advice, and background information on convent life and manners.

Other subjects mentioned in the correspondence include gardening, pets, the history of Pacific steamships, politics and finances. The Hulme correspondence provides insights into Hulme's writing and life, and is also of considerable interest to students of literary history, the expatriate writers, the teachings and influence of Gurdjieff, and the modern American Catholic Church.

Series IV, Family Papers , is housed in Boxes 20-33 and consists of a variety of materials about or collected by Kathryn Hulme. Material concerning Hulme can be found in Boxes 21-26. These papers include two folders of speeches given by Hulme, personal financial papers, twenty folders of printed material related to Hulme's activities on Kauai, memorabilia, and newspaper clippings. The collection also contains documentation of Hulme's work for the United Nations Relief and Refugee Agency and the International Relief Organization, including employment records, reports on repatriation efforts, transcripts of radio broadcasts based on material supplied by Hulme, and notes and papers detailing conditions at the Wildflecken Displaced Persons Camp. (See Box 5, folders 92-97, for Hulme's "round-robin" letters from occupied Germany.)

Information on several of Hulme's relatives and forebears can also be found in Series IV. Much of the Cavarly material was collected by Hulme while researching Annie's Captain. Included are photocopies of correspondence and other papers of Hulme's grandfather, John Mansfield Cavarly, scrapbooks and clippings kept by Frank B. Cavarly, and the 1889-90 diary of Julia Cavarly Hulme, Kathryn's mother. The series also contains a folder of letters from Benjamin Franklin Bolles to Annie Bolles Cavarly, the "Annie" of Annie's Captain.

Hulme's friends are mostly represented by single items, such as the typescript of Solita Solano's contribution to Nancy Cunard: Brave PoetIndomitable Rebel, and the illustrations done by Helene Vogt for ArabInterlude. There are eight folders of papers concerning Marie-Louise Habets, which include her report on repatriation from Wildeflecken to Poland, letters of recommendation, nursing certificates, and identification cards.

Oversize material, located in Boxes 27-33, includes scrapbooks of reviews and publicity for Hulme's last five books, the Kokee CabinLog-Book, Kauai scrapbooks, and a photograph album of Wildfeekan.

Series V, Photographs , is contained in Boxes 34-53 and has been divided into four sections: Albums, People, Places, and Publicity Photographs. Albums, located in Boxes 34-50, includes an 1873 album of Cavarly family portraits and several vacation and tour albums assembled by Hulme and Marie-Louise Habets. In addition, there are six albums which document the women's work with the displaced persons in occupied Germany. Three of these (Boxes 43-45), have covers made by displaced persons, and contain many pictures of residents and conditions at the Aschaffenberg and Wildflecken camps. Two others (Boxes 45-46) were labeled "UNNRA and IRO work" by Hulme. These contain camp photographs with her annotations. Box 47 holds an album of pictures taken by Marie-Louise Habets while escorting a resettlement group to Australia.

Photographs of People, mostly of friends, can be found in Boxes 51-52; of Places, in Box 52, folders 716-25. Folders 726-42 contain publicity stills from the filming of The Nun's Story.

Series VI, Gurdjieff , is housed in Boxes 54-55. It contains correspondence, "lecture notes," memorabilia, and photographs.


  • 1846 - 1981
  • Majority of material found within 1945 - 1981


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research. Boxes 56-57 : Restricted fragile material. Reference copies may be requested. Consult Access Services for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

The Kathryn Hulme 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

Approximately half of the material in the present collection was purchased from Hulme in 1978 on the Library Associates fund. The rest of the papers were donated by Marie-Louise Habets, Hulme's companion of many years, in 1981.


22.75 Linear Feet (61 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The papers contain drafts, typescripts and reviews of writings, correspondence, family papers, photographs and other materials documenting the life and career of Kathryn Hulme. There is extensive material on Hulme's literary career, including correspondence on such subjects as Catholic reaction to The Nun's Story and the teachings of Gurdjieff. Major correspondents include Margaret Anderson, Kay Boyle, Bernice Baumgarten Cozzens, Janet Flanner, Solita Solano, and Dorothy Troxel.


Kathryn Cavarly Hulme was born in San Francisco on July 6, 1900, the daughter of Edwin Page and Julia Cavarly Hulme. After her graduation from high school in 1918, Hulme attended the University of California at Berkeley for three years. In 1922 she moved to New York City, where she studied journalism, wrote freelance articles, and worked as publicity director for the Ask Mr. Foster Travel Service. Hulme spent much time in Europe during the 1930's, and her early books reflect her interest in travel. Her first critical success, however, was her 1938 memoir We Lived As Children.

Hulme worked as an electric arc welder at the Kaiser ship yards during World War II. After the war, she spent six years in Germany as deputy director of United Nations Relief and Refugee Association field teams. The Wild Place, which won the 1952 Atlantic non-fiction prize, describes conditions at the refugee camp of Wildflecken. While there, Hulme met and befriended Marie-Louise Habets, a Belgian nurse and former nun. Her experiences were the basis for Hulme's best-seller, The Nun's Story (1956), which was both a critical and a popular success. Hulme followed this with Annie's Captain (1961), a fictionalized account of her grandparents' lives. Her final works were both non-fiction. Undiscovered Country (1966) is a memoir centered on her years as a pupil of Gurdjieff. Look a Lion in the Eye (1973) describes Hulme's 1971 safari in East Africa.

From 1960 until her death, Hulme resided on the island of Kauai with Marie-Louise Habets. She hoped to write a novel with a Hawaiian background, but never accomplished this goal, perhaps because of increasing ill-health in her late years.

Kathryn Hulme married Leonard D. Geldert in New York City on August 25, 1925. The couple were divorced in 1928; there were no children. Hulme died in Lihue, Kauai, on August 25, 1981.

Guide to the Kathryn Hulme Papers
Under Revision
by Diane J. Ducharme
April 1986
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

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