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James Jones papers

Call Number: YCAL MSS 23

Scope and Contents

The James Jones Papers document the life and career of the author of From Here to Eternity. The papers span the dates 1926-1977, but the bulk of the material covers the years 1945-1977.

The collection has four series. Series I, Writings, Boxes 1-33, is composed of manuscripts of published and unpublished works. Boxes 24-39 hold Series II, Correspondence, and consist of Jones's correspondence with his publishers, literary agents, friends, and family. Series III, Family Papers, located in Box 40, is comprised of personal papers and photographs. The last box contains Series IV, Printed Material.

Series I, Writings , is divided into eight sections. There are no printed copies of Jones's full-length works, but a complete set of his published books is available in the Beinecke Library book collection. The first section, Novels, is devoted to manuscripts. Jones's first book, "They Shall Inherit the Laughter" (Boxes 20-22, folders 198-233a), was never published. Fragments of From Here to Eternity, (1951) are in Box 1, folders 1-18. In 1953 From Here to Eternity was made into a movie and Jones was hired to write the screen treatment. He withdrew from the project because of disagreements with Harry Cohn of Columbia Pictures. The section Screenplays, Box 28, folders 340-43, contains a copy of his preliminary film treatment and notes.

Jones began work on a lengthy third novel, Some Came Running in 1950. Two typescripts, galley corrections, notes, and proofs can be found in Boxes 14-19, folders 121-97c. Like "They Shall Inherit the Laughter," Some Came Running is autobiographical in nature. The book was published in 1958 to less than favorable reviews, but nonetheless earned a place on the bestseller lists. The Pistol followed in 1959 (Box 13, folders 91-120). Much shorter than Some Came Running, The Pistol focuses on the life of a soldier at Schofield Barracks at the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

From 1958 to 1974 Jones lived in Paris with his family, making periodic trips to the United States. During his 1961 trip he made the final revisions of The Thin Red Line (1962), the second book in his "World War II trilogy," the first being From Here to Eternity. It has a Guadalcanal setting and follows the men of an infantry company almost identical to Jones's unit during World War II. Two typescripts, notes, and galley corrections can be found in Boxes 23-24, folders 234-53a. The third book of the trilogy, Whistle, is not in the collection.

By 1964 Jones left Scribner's, having received a lucrative contract from Dell/Delacorte Books for three novels. The first of these was the "Underwater Novel," Go to the Widow-Maker, which reflected his interest in skin diving and sailing and was again autobiographical in nature. In 1971 Jones published The Merry Month of May, (Box 12, folders 86-90). Using Paris as a background, the novel is concerned with the student rebellion of 1968.

Section Two, Poetry, can be found in Box 25, folders 254-316. The poems are arranged alphabetically by title. Much of Jones's writing during the period 1939-41 was confined to poetry and short stories. In his poetry, he frequently expressed his frustration with the Army and with women. Section Three, Notebooks, consists of notebooks and diaries in which Jones recorded descriptions of people and experiences which could be used for novels. Also included in this section are examples of writing exercises assigned by Lowney Handy at the Handy Writing Colony.

Screenplays make up Section Four, (Boxes 28-30, folders 340-64) and are divided into screenplays by Jones and screenplays by others. Screenplays by Jones include an early draft for From Here to Eternity and The Golfer Story. Screenplays by others contain several drafts of Go to the Widow-Maker by Thomas Wiseman, The Sicilians by Auguste LeBreton, Un Mur De Jerusalem by Frederick Rossif, and The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan. Jones acted as a technical advisor for this Darryl Zanuck film.

Section Five, Shorter Works, is made up of essays, plays, and short stories, which are arranged alphabetically by title. The essays appear to have been written while Jones attended the University of Hawaii in 1942. Plays consists of one short work, All God's Chillun Ain't (Box 31, folder 378). Short stories are contained in Boxes 31-33, folders 379-470, and make up the largest part of the Shorter Works section. During the period 1945-47, Jones wrote primarily short stories. "None Sing So Wildly," "The Temper of Steel," and "The Way it is" were to evolve into the full-length unpublished novel, "They Shall Inherit the Laughter". The section also includes four of the five short stories Jones submitted to Edward Weeks of The Atlantic Monthly in 1947, "Just Like the Girl," "The Temper of Steel," "Secondhand Man," and "The Way it is." Weeks accepted "The Temper of Steel" and it appeared in The Atlantic Monthly in 1948. Later that year "The Temper of Steel" earned a nomination in the "Atlantic Monthly/MGM Awards for Atlantic Firsts" competition. These stories were eventually published in The Ice Cream Headache and Other Stories (1968), the second book published under the Dell/Delacorte contract.

The last two sections of the Writings series are very small. The Short Stories by Others consists of an annotated typescript of "Or You Don't See Mama At All" by Lowney Handy. The Speeches section is made up of several drafts of a speech Jones wrote for his friend Sargent Shriver in 1968.

Series II, Correspondence , is alphabetically arranged and is found in Boxes 34-39. The bulk of the letters document his early writing career, spanning the years 1939-59, and are both professional and personal in nature. Fan mail and correspondence of others can be found at the end of the series.

There is only one folder of correspondence between Jones and his first editor, Maxwell Perkins of Charles Scribner's Sons (Box 37, folder 548). Spanning the years 1945-47, the letters deal mainly with "They Shall Inherit the Laughter" and include a report from Scribner's concerning the book.

After Perkins's death in 1947, Jones choose to work with Burroughs "Mitch" Mitchell and they maintained a personal as well as professional relationship for many years. The letters span the years 1949-57 and describe the progress of From Here to Eternity, the production of the film, his trip to New Mexico with Lowney Handy and Willard Lindsay, and plans to create a writers colony with Lowney and Harry Handy in Marshall, Illinois. Two folders of correspondence between Jones and Perkins's colleague John Hall Wheelock can be found in Box 37, folders 370-71. These letters detail Wheelock's response to From Here to Eternity. There are also two folders of correspondence between the author and Charles Scribner's Sons dealing with general business matters.

While writing From Here to Eternity, he attempted to sell his short stories. Correspondence from 1947-49 between Jones and Edward Weeks of The Atlantic Monthly (Box 34, folders 477-78) concerns attempts to place five short stories and Jones's reaction to the publication of "The Temper of Steel" in 1948. The correspondence with Harper's Magazine chronicles the acceptance of "The Way it is" and "Just Like the Girl," and the difficulties that arose when the editors attempted to make corrections in "The Way it is." There are also letters of rejection from Colliers and Esquire from the period 1947-48.

Although Jones did not rely upon literary agents, he did depend upon Ned Brown of MCA Artists Agency Ltd., to handle negotiations with Columbia Pictures concerning From Here to Eternity (Box 36, folders 526-29). Ned Brown arranged for Jones to do a preliminary screen treatment, but the project was later turned over to Dan Taradash. He remained friendly, however, with Brown and discussed the possibility of a dramatization of the stockade scene in From Here to Eternity, the choice of Montgomery Clift to play the part of Prewitt, and provided general news concerning the Handy Writing Colony. When the filming of From Here to Eternity began, Brown arranged for Jones to work on a script for Norma Productions so that he could remain in Hollywood. There are also letters from Harry Cohn of Columbia Pictures detailing character development in the film and possible problems with the Army. In Box 34, folder 488 are two letters from Montgomery Clift.

A good deal can be learned about Jones's early life from his correspondence with family and friends. In Box 35, folders 512-19, are letters to and from brother George "Jeff" Jones. These letters began in 1939 when Jones first entered the Army and are full of details concerning military life, his classes at the University of Hawaii, and his attitude toward women. He would later draw upon these experiences to write From Here to Eternity. Jones began writing both poetry and short stories during his enlistment and frequently discussed his work with Jeff, outlining his plans for a writing career early in 1943. There are no letters from the period between 1945 and 1949, although there are a few letters from 1950-51 in which From Here to Eternity is discussed.

Correspondence with Aunt Mollie Haish dating back to 1926 can be found in Box 35, folders 499-502. Mollie Haish's letters provide a great deal of family news, particularly concerning Jones's younger sister Mary Ann. She also offered encouragement while he was writing From Here to Eternity.

Harry and Lowney Handy played a very important part in Jones's life from 1943 until 1957. Early in 1943, when he was AWOL, Lowney Handy interceded with the Army and helped to arrange an honorable discharge. More importantly, she recognized his potential as a writer. For fourteen years she and her husband supported Jones financially and emotionally. While he wrote "They Shall Inherit the Laughter" and From Here to Eternity, he traveled throughout the country in a jeep and trailer the Handys purchased for him. Harry Handy's correspondence, frequently addressed to both Jones and Lowney Handy, who often joined him in his travels, concerns insurance matters, home improvements, and money. Upon the completion of From Here to Eternity, Jones returned to Illinois and assisted in the formation of the Handy Writing Colony in Marshall, Illinois. The letters from Lowney Handy cover the same subjects as those of her husband, although she also wrote in detail about other colony members such as Willard Lindsay and Don Sackrider. Jones corresponded with both Lindsay and Sackrider.

While in the service, James Jones maintained steady correspondence with several young women, including Margaret "Peggy" Carson, Barbara Van Dusen, and Virginia Moore. These letters are frequently romantic in nature but also chronicle military life and his thoughts on male and female relationships. While attending the University of Hawaii, he became acquainted with professors Laura Schwartz and Carl Stroven. They recognized his talent and encouraged him to write. He corresponded with both for some years after he left Hawaii.

Other correspondence of interest includes two letters from Upton Sinclair, correspondence from John P. Marquand, a letter from Norman Mailer concerning a deck of tarot cards, a postcard from William Styron, and correspondence from Darryl Zanuck. Three folders of fan mail give reader responses to From Here to Eternity. Correspondence of others consists mainly of letters from Harry to Lowney Handy and letters from Lowney Handy to such individuals as Ruth and Maxwell Aley and Mary Ann Jones.

Series III, Family Papers , contains aqualung data, the contract for the English edition of From Here to Eternity, memorabilia, newspaper clippings, and a voice recording made by Jones at the Empire State Building in 1939. Photographs make up the largest segment of the series. Included are photographs of Jones, his wife, and parents, Ramon and Ada Jones. There are also many photographs of Jones on vacation and photographs of unidentified people.

Series IV, Printed Works , consists of magazines and pamphlets collected by James and Gloria Jones.

Box 42 consists of oversize material arranged in series order, including photographs of James and Gloria Jones and a copy of The Re-Enlistment Blues.


  • 1926-1977


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Box 43: Restricted fragile material. Reference surrogates have been substituted in the main files. For further information consult the appropriate curator.

Conditions Governing Use

The James Jones 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

The material was put on deposit in 1966 by James Jones and was donated to The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library by his widow, Gloria Jones, in 1984.


18.75 Linear Feet (43 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 writings, correspondence, family papers, photographs, and printed works documenting the life and writing career of James Jones. Included among the writings are drafts of six published novels and one unpublished one, poetry, screenplays and short stories. The papers also provide documentation on his personal life, particularly during World War II, his early efforts to find a publisher for his works, and his long association with Harry and Lowney Handy.


James Ramon Jones was born in Robinson, Illinois, on November 6, 1921. After graduating from high school in 1939, he enlisted in the Army and was stationed in Hawaii, first at Hickham Field and then at Schofield Barracks. He was on guard duty when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Jones attended the University of Hawaii part-time, but his education was interrupted when his division was transferred to Guadalcanal in 1943. After being wounded he was shipped back to the United States and was discharged in 1944.

Jones lived with Harry and Lowney Handy in Robinson, Illinois, until 1945, when he moved to New York. He attended New York University for a semester. He met Maxwell Perkins and submitted the first draft of "They Shall Inherit the Laughter" to Charles Scribner's Sons. While Scribner's did not accept the manuscript, they did offer Jones an advance of $500.00 for a second novel, From Here to Eternity. He returned to Illinois to live with the Handys while he wrote From Here to Eternity. In 1948 The Atlantic accepted Jones's short story "The Temper of Steel," his first published work. From Here to Eternity was published in 1951 to much critical acclaim, receiving the National Book Award in 1952. In 1953, the film From Here to Eternity was released and it too was a commercial success, winning six Academy awards.

Jones continued to live near the Handys in Marshall, Illinois, until 1957, when he married Gloria Patricia Mosolino. Some Came Running was published in 1958. In that same year he sailed for Europe, settling in Paris where his daughter, Kaylie Ann, was born on August 5, 1960. He returned to the United States to make final revisions of The Thin Red Line (1962) and to work as a consultant and writer for the film The Longest Day. While vacationing in Jamaica in 1963, he began work on Go to the Widow-Maker (1967). The publication of Go to the Widow-Maker was followed by The Ice Cream Headache and other Stories (1968), The Merry Month of May (1971), A Touch of Danger (1973), Viet Journal (1974), and WWII (1975).

Jones left Paris in 1974 to accept a position as visiting professor and writer in residence at Florida International University. He remained in Florida until 1975 when he moved to Sagaponack, Long Island. Despite failing health, he began work on his final book, Whistle (1978), which was left incomplete at his death on May 9, 1977.

Guide to the James Jones Papers
by Tina Evans
April 1986
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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