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Paul Rosenfeld papers

Call Number: YCAL MSS 25

Scope and Contents

The Paul Rosenfeld Papers contain manuscripts of a variety of unpublished works and letters from Rosenfeld to Yale classmate Philip Skinner Platt spanning the dates 1910-63.

Series I, Writings , (Boxes 1-6) is divided into two alphabetically arranged sections; Books and Shorter Works. The Books section contains three volumes of literary criticism, two autobiographical works, and one unpublished novel, while the Shorter Works holds twenty-eight articles, essays, and reviews.

The series begins with four typescript versions of the unpublished novel, "A Concert in Rome," originally titled "Temple of Venus and Rome." Set in fascist Italy, the novel is about the American Martin Newman and attempts to imitate early Joyce in its style. The series also includes multiple typescripts of three critical works, "The Novel in the Journal's Form," "The Pindaric Novel" and "The Spiritual Voyage." Each is devoted to a literary form and they were perhaps intended to be parts of a single work. Among the books discussed in "The Novel in the Journal's Form" are Robinson Crusoe and The Sorrows of Young Werther, while "The Pindaric Novel" concerns such works as Hermann Broch's The Death of Virgil; and "The Spiritual Voyage" analyses The American Scene by Henry James and Etruscan Places by D. H. Lawrence. "The Rites of Spring" is a semi-autobiographical novel set at Yale. Flavian King of Paris, the disguised son of a European ruling house, is the main character. The other autobiographical fragment concerns Rosenfeld's youth.

Paul Rosenfeld's wide ranging interest in art, literature, and music is reflected in the Shorter Works section. Seventeen of the apparently unpublished articles, essays, and reviews are devoted to literary criticism, seven to music, two to art, and two to photography. Each work normally consist of corrected typescripts, and several files include rejection letters. Some of the essays, for example, "The Inventions of Nodier" and "The Perfect Voyage" may be chapters of larger works. Rosenfeld's friendship with Alfred Stieglitz is exemplified by two works, "Salutations on an Eightieth Birthday" and "Alfred Stieglitz," an appreciation of the photographer's life and work written shortly after his death in 1946.

Series II, Correspondence , holds chronologically arranged letters from Paul Rosenfeld to Yale classmate Philip Skinner Platt, plus one photograph of Rosenfeld and a folder of Platt material. This last folder contains copies of a 1963 letter of Platt to Albert E. Godbut, which discusses Rosenfeld, and handwritten lists of the letters donated to Yale. The letters span the years 1910-15. The first two were written in the summer of 1910, when Rosenfeld was vacationing in Europe. The largest number cover the period between June 1912 and February 1914, when the young Yale graduate was attending Columbia and working in New York City. Another dozen describe Rosenfeld's 1914 trip to Europe, and a final group of 1915 letters report on a visit to a resort in Blue Hill, Maine.

The young writer frequently wrote about Yale friends like Louis Connick, William Griffin, Joseph Le Conte (Jake) Bell, William Herman, and Cyril Brown, all graduates of the class of 1912. A number of other Yale men were also mentioned, including William C. Bullitt, Eric Dawson, Waldo Frank, Cole Porter, and Arthur E. Baker. Rosenfeld never belonged to a secret society, a subject discussed in a May 22, 1913 letter, and he hinted at Yale's attitude towards Jews in an April 18, 1913 letter. "At times I feel sore as hell at Yale. I have several little cousins who ... are ordinary well-bred normal boys. They have had trouble getting rooms for their freshman year, because they go to small prep-schools, and it seems that all the rooms in Wright are given to the big prep-schools."

The bulk of the letters are concerned with Rosenfeld's ill-formed career plans and with discussions of friendship between two young men who formed a close bond at Yale. Rosenfeld frequently discussed his hopes for a writing career, his love of classical music, and the books he was reading. As early as June 29, 1912, he mentions doing a free-lance article for the Times, and over the course of the next two years he wrote two novels, "Coronation" and "The Emperor of Trebizond." On January 30, 1913, he reported attending a performance of "Louise" with Mary Garden, adding, "she can't sing." He praised Mahler's Fifth Symphony on December 5, 1913 and described a Cole Porter musical presented at the Yale Club of New York in a May 8, 1913 letter.

Rosenfeld travelled to Europe in the summer of 1914. In letters written from Munich on July 1 and Marienbad on July 27, he discussed the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Austrian expansionist policies, and Balkan politics, and praised Charles Seymour of Yale for his course on European politics. Upon returning to New York City, he shared an apartment for about two years with Platt, and the remaining letters describe life in Blue Hill, Maine in the summer of 1915.


  • 1910-1963 (inclusive)


Conditions Governing Access

Restricted Fragile Papers in Box 8 may only be consulted with permission of the appropriate curator. Preservation photocopies for reference use have been substituted in the main files.

Conditions Governing Use

The Paul Rosenfeld 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

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Bryner-Schwab, 1948. The letters were given by Philip Skinner Platt in 1965.


3 Linear Feet (8 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


The papers consist primarily of drafts of unpublished novels, works on literary criticism, and articles and essays, plus letters to Yale classmate Philip Skinner Platt.

PAUL ROSENFELD (1890-1946)

Paul Leopold Rosenfeld was born in New York City on May 4, 1890, the only son of German-Jewish parents. He attended Riverview Military Academy in Poughkeepsie, New York, and graduated from Yale in 1912. He received a Litt. B. from the Columbia School of Journalism in 1913, worked as a reporter for six months, and traveled to Europe in the spring and summer of 1914. One of the foremost music, art, and literary critics of his day, he published his first essays in the New Republic and Seven Arts. He edited Seven Arts 1916-18, served as music critic for the Dial 1920-27, and was co-editor of The American Caravan 1927-36.

He wrote hundreds of articles for such journals as Vanity Fair, the Nation, and Modern Music. Among his seven published collections of essays were Musical Portraits (1920), Port of New York (1924), and Discoveries of a Music Critic (1936). He also wrote an autobiographical novel, The Boy in the Sun (1928).

Paul Rosenfeld never married and died of a heart attack in New York City on July 21, 1946.

For additional biographical information, see Twentieth CenturyAuthors (1942), page 1201; Dictionary of American Biography SupplementFour 1946-1950 (1974), pages 702-03; and Philip S. Skinner to Albert E. Godbut (Box 7, folder 122).

Guide to the Paul Rosenfeld Papers
Under Revision
by Bruce P. Stark
November 1987
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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