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Dial/Scofield Thayer papers

Call Number: YCAL MSS 34

Scope and Contents

The Dial/Scofield Thayer Papers document the life and activities of editor Scofield Thayer and the history of The Dial magazine. The papers span the dates 1879-1982, but the bulk of the material concerns the period 1920-25.

The papers have been arranged in six series. Series I, Office Correspondence, is housed in Boxes 1-8 and contains the correspondence of Dial editors with contributors. This is followed by Series II, Office Files (Boxes 9-18), which includes promotional, financial, and editorial files and scrapbooks, alphabetically arranged. Series III, Dial manuscripts, fills Boxes 19-27 and contains manuscripts, typescripts, galleys and corrected proofs of works submitted to the magazine.

All of Scofield Thayer's own correspondence, whether with family members, friends, Dial associates, or contributors to the magazine, is located in Series IV, Scofield Thayer Correspondence (Boxes 28-46). Series V, Personal Papers, is housed in Boxes 47-68 and contains family and personal papers, notes, photographs, and writings by Thayer. Series VI, Artwork, consists of documentation relating to Thayer's art collection and the publication of Living Art, plate blocks for illustrations, and drawings by E. E. Cummings and Adolf Dehn. This series is followed by Oversize papers arranged in series order. Boxes 77-82 contain papers restricted until 2012, in accordance with the terms of the sale.

Series I, Office Correspondence , contains all correspondence with editors or employees of The Dial magazine except for letters by or to Scofield Thayer, which are found in Series IV. The letters have been filed alphabetically by contributor's name, and then chronologically within each file, so that one author's file may contain letters written to him by several Dial employees. Most of the correspondence dates from between 1924 and 1929, during the tenures of Alyse Gregory and Marianne Moore; there are few letters between contributors and the first managing editor, Gilbert Seldes.

The rule of filing by contributor's name also applies to those contributors who were at one time or another employees of the Dial. Letters by Alyse Gregory as editor to Marianne Moore as contributor, therefore, are found under "Moore, Marianne," while letters by Moore as editor to Gregory as contributor are found under "Gregory, Alyse." Letters between Gilbert Seldes and James Sibley Watson, Jr. are filed under "Watson."

Seldes's own file consists mainly of personal business letters and correspondence with theatrical managers. Watson's correspondence with Seldes is particularly detailed, providing insight into the relations between Watson and his partner Thayer. Letters from late 1921 and 1922, for example, concern the complex negotiations about the publication of Eliot's "Waste Land," while other letters describe the differences in taste between the two editor/publishers.

The contributors' letters are primarily routine business correspondence. Typically, a file will hold submission letters, which are then followed by letters of acceptance or rejection. These provide information on works submitted, rates of payment, date of proposed publication, and suggested editorial changes. Marianne Moore's letters are more detailed than those of the other editors, and often include her opinions of a work or ideas for revision. Contributors represented by five or more folders of letters include Conrad Aiken, Lisle Bell, Kenneth Burke, Malcolm Cowley, Henry McBride, W. K. Magee, Raymond Morand, Ezra Pound, Paul Rosenfeld, George Saintsbury, Charles K. Trueblood, William Carlos Williams, and Cuthbert Wright.

While most of the correspondence is routine, the series contains much information of interest to literary historians and biographers. For example, Box 1, Folder 12 holds the letters between Moore and Sylvia Beach concerning a possible publication of the "Four Watches of Shaun" section of Joyce's Work in Progress (now Book III of Finnegans Wake). The Dial's correspondence with Ezra Pound documents the often difficult relations between that author and the magazine, which declined to support some of his protégés and causes. Ernest Hemingway is represented by two rejection letters for unnamed works. The two folders of Maxwell Bodenheim letters contain much discussion of The Dial's "standards" and Bodenheim's anger over the frequent rejections he received.

Moore's editorial practices sometimes irritated authors. Box 8, folder 300 contains an exchange between the editor and William Butler Yeats, some of whose work Moore had rejected. Her correspondence with Hart Crane (Box 2, folders 49-50) documents her many suggestions for revisions and changes of title. In at least one instance, Crane withdrew a poem ("At Melville's Tomb") rather than accept her emendations. Thayer's fear of literary hoaxes sometimes caused Moore difficulties with authors. A 1925 letter to Witter Bynner by Moore inquires whether he really had submitted the poems she rejected, and if so, had they been intended as a joke? It is accompanied by Bynner's replies.

Series II, Dial Office Files , is housed in Boxes 9-18 and contains documentation of the promotional and financial aspects of the publication. Advertising and Promotion (Box 9, folders 302-12) includes sample advertisements for the magazine, drafts of promotional material, "clip sheets," and posters. The advertising style book, located in folder 312, provides complete information on format, typeface, and suggested contents of advertisements. Editorial Files contains clippings and articles collected by Thayer for possible later use, two copies of the "General Instructions" given by Thayer to his editors, detailing the office procedures exhaustively, and two folders of "Lists of accepted material" from 1922 and 1923. Folders 327-32 hold a variety of financial reports from the first six years of the publication.

It should be noted that lists of accepted material and financial reports are also found in the correspondence of Thayer with Samuel W. Craig and Gilbert Seldes. (Box 30, folders 777-80 and Boxes 40-41, folders 1120-56). Thayer did not relinquish control over editorial matters during his frequent absences from New York; instead, he required that these lists and reports be sent to him for examination. They have been left with the explanatory cover letters.

Boxes 10 and 11 hold the office card files on submissions and book reviews. All accepted submissions are filed alphabetically by name of author and then by title; the cards also include date of publication and price paid. Books reviewed are similarly listed, with the name of the assigned reviewer.

Most of the material in "Office FIles," however, is housed in the eight scrapbooks kept by members of the Dial staff to document advertisements and news items concerning the magazine. The books of "House Ads" hold advertisements for The Dial that appeared in The Dial, while "Paid and Exchange Ads" are those that appeared in other magazines, annotated with the name and issue of the magazine. The materials are in rough chronological order and afford an excellent overview of the promotional tactics used by the Dial staff. Three scrapbooks of newspaper clippings, similarly arranged, contain clippings of reprints of Dial material and published comments from the clip sheets, as well as columns and articles commenting on and reacting to the contents of the magazine. Here are also found some clippings concerning "Living Art." The clippings commenting on the magazine are valuable sources of information on public reaction to the Dial.

Series III, Manuscripts , fills Boxes 19-27 and is alphabetically arranged by author. This series contains what remains of the accepted submissions file kept in the Dial office. Most of the files consist of typescripts, corrected typescripts, and corrected galleys of works. There are autograph manuscripts of some material, including D. H. Lawrence's "Rex," Joyce's "A Memory of the Players in a Mirror at Midnight," all articles by George Santayana, and all prose by Thayer.

The The Dial published most of the "important" writers of the decade, and many of them are represented in this series. There are significant amounts of material for Kenneth Burke, E. E. Cummings, T. S. Eliot, D. H. Lawrence, Marianne Moore, Bertrand Russell, George Saintsbury, George Santayana, Logan Pearsall Smith, Scofield Thayer, James Sibley Watson, Jr., Glenway Wescott, William Carlos Williams, and W. B. Yeats. Cummings' works include a group he called "Eighteen sonnets, sixteen other things (none submitted to other magazines)" which has several uncollected poems, and the 1920 version of Tulips and Chimneys. Box 20, folder 412 holds a typescript of Eliot's "Waste Land." Moore's editorial notes from 1925-29 are well represented, and there are sixteen folders of her book reviews. The Yeats submissions include proof sheets of the Cuala Press Michael Robartes and the Dancer, as well as early versions of "Leda and the Swan" and "Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen."

Boxes 28-46 contain Series IV, Scofield Thayer Correspondence . This series includes correspondence with family, friends, Dial associates, art collectors, and others, and is a rich source of information on all aspects of Thayer's personal life, literary career, and artistic interests. Frequently all of these topics will be treated in the letters of a single correspondent.

There are few family letters in the series, with the exception of Thayer's correspondence with his mother. Elaine Thayer Orr is represented by five folders of letters, all postdating her 1921 divorce from Thayer. Subjects include arrangements for the divorce, life in Vienna, the murderer Hermann Yellin, and Nancy Thayer's health. Several notes by Ernest Thayer contain family news. Ellen Thayer's letters nearly all concern the Dial office and request her cousin Scofield's advice on a variety of editorial matters.

Thayer's correspondence with his mother fills three boxes and is the largest single correspondence in the collection. Early letters discuss his studies at Milton and Harvard, his reading, and his opinions of operas and plays. Most of the letters between 1909 and 1913 were written during his travels in Europe with Jean d'Estray, and these describe historic sites, museums and galleries, his language studies, his tutors, and his need for additional travel funds. These letters are mainly written in French, evidently at his mother's request.

Thayer's letters from Oxford comment on English college life, tutors and the tutorial system, his reading, the Pleiades (a literary club), his poor health, and his friends, who included Raymond Mortimer, T. S. Eliot, Bertrand Russell, and Father Maturin. These letters provide a good picture of Thayer's developing literary and artistic interests. For instance, a letter dated March 1915 describes tea with T. S. Eliot and Bertrand Russell, noting that Eliot is to "read a paper on 'A Relativistic Basis for Morals,'" while on April 2, 1915 Thayer reports that "Tuesday night Eliot had me to dinner in Soho to meet the Ezra Pounds."

The letters from 1918 to 1925 are an excellent source of information on Thayer's involvement with The Dial, his life in Vienna, his art collection, his political and social opinions, family finances, and his health. There are few mentions of Elaine Orr Thayer or Nancy Thayer, particularly since no letters survive from between March 1919 and June 1920. A letter by Florence Thayer written in September 1920 reminds Thayer that he has barely seen his wife all summer and that "a good wife is more precious than many dials," while a November 1921 letter reacts to the news of their divorce.

Thayer and his mother frequently discuss The Dial in their letters, beginning with Thayer's initial involvement in 1918. Subjects include his financial involvement, editorial policies, Florence Thayer's dislike of certain contributions, and Thayer's attempts to recruit European authors for the magazine.

His letters from Vienna describe the cultural life of the city, its political turmoil, and the effects of the 1922 inflation. For example, a letter of December 11, 1921 describes the anti-government riots and how he escaped the crowd, pointing out that "thousands of people are starving and hundreds of thousands are living on the verge of starvation." These letters also contain information on Thayer's art purchases for instance, works by Munch, Chagall, Bonnard, and Derain bought in Berlin in October, 1922.

Letters written after Thayer's return to the United States concern the Dial dinners, Thayer's increasingly poor health, and cultural topics. The last letter by Thayer in the correspondence is dated January 1926, from Vienna. The remaining letters from 1927-31 are all short notes by Florence Thayer to him in various hospitals, apparently unanswered.

Thayer's literary friendships, many of which were to enrich The Dial, began at Harvard and included E. E. Cummings, R. T. Nichols, George Santayana, Allan Seeger, and Cuthbert Wright. A 1913 letter by Santayana thanks Thayer for the issue of the Harvard Monthly that had been dedicated to his work, and praises the "sincerity and unworldliness" of the editors. Other letters by Santayana discuss Oxford life and contributions to the Dial.

Allan Seeger and Cuthbert Wright were both assisted in their literary pursuits by Thayer. Many of Wright's letters concern Thayer's work on the publication of Wright's book, One Way of Love. Others discuss Harvard news, Wright's life as a teacher at Kent School, and mutual friends. Seeger's first letter to Thayer urges him to try to publish the "volume of poems" that he left in Bruges. Other letters describe Seeger's reaction to war and life in the trenches, but a November 1915 letter again urges Thayer "to see that this only relic of me does not perish" if Seeger should die in the war. Thayer did indeed arrange for Seeger's poems to be published after his death in 1916.

Both Seeger and Wright were also friends of Robert Taylor Nichols, whose letters to Thayer contain personal and social news, political, literary, and artistic opinions, elaborately lettered quotations from Latin and English poems, and postcards of classical statuary.

Perhaps the most important friend Thayer made at Harvard was the poet E. E. Cummings. Cummings' first letter to Thayer, dated May 11, 1913 and signed "E. Estlin Cummings," expresses admiration for a poem Thayer had published in the Harvard Monthly. Letters from 1914-16 discuss Thayer's forthcoming marriage, sex, Harvard news, and other authors, as well as Cummings' own development as a poet. Several letters are decorated with Cummings' drawings, particularly of elephants and female figures. There are also enclosures of poems. A letter of October 25, 1916 comments that "About the end of Sept., I definitely denied myself all punctuation (Foster Damon's mourning still)" and includes three poems: "the round of gold," "scarlet goes with her," and "between the breasts." Cummings notes that he has found "Something new...The poising of syllables simultaneously in time and space." Later letters continue the discussion of poetry, describe Cummings' war experiences (in French and English), and send messages to Elaine Orr Thayer. There are few letters from Cummings after the Thayers' divorce in 1921; several of these contain brief mentions of Elaine and of his own work.

Thayer's Oxford acquaintances included Valentine Farrar, Raymond Mortimer, and Robert Parr. Both Farrar and Parr were members of the Pleiades, a literary group, and both joined the British army during World War I. Farrar's letters discuss books, religion and philosophy, barracks life in England and France, and his own reflections on being an officer. He was killed France in March, 1916. Politics, the army, and poetry are frequent subjects of Parr's letters as well, which also contain description of life in Salonika and copies of his poetry, including "The Cry of the Young Man." His last letter is dated 1918.

Raymond Mortimer's early letters deal primarily with his experiences as a dresser in a French hospital and his opinions of the "new" poets like Pound and Eliot. Later letters discuss politics, Mortimer's conversion to Roman Catholicism, literature, the theater, and social life in Vienna and London. Much of this correspondence, however, concerns art, particularly painting. Mortimer advised Thayer about the selection of paintings for Living Art and frequently discussed possible purchases, new artists, and recent exhibitions.

While Thayer had been acquainted with T. S. Eliot at Milton, it was not until his move to Oxford that they became friends. After Eliot's marriage to Vivien Heigh-Wood, to whom Thayer introduced him in the spring of 1915, Eliot wrote a letter suggesting that Thayer had been "nettled" by the marriage. The correspondence continued nonetheless: topics include personal news, his work on the Egoist and Criterion, advice on ways to increase English circulation of The Dial, and his "London Letters." Most of the 1922 correspondence concerns the publication of "The Waste Land," first referred to in January 1922 as "a poem of about 450 lines, in 4 parts." Thayer and Eliot disputed the price in several letters.

The series also contains letters by Vivien Eliot to Thayer, several written before her marriage. Those contain character analyses of herself and Thayer, comments on mutual acquaintances, private jokes, and arrangements for social engagements. A letter dated August 1915 comments on Eliot's trip to America without her and their moving in with Bertrand Russell: "Rather unwise perhaps to leave so attractive a wife alone...He is all over me, is Bertie, and I simply love him." Other letters congratulate Thayer on his marriage, ask for news of his cousin Lucy Thayer, and describe Eliot's 1921 breakdown.

Eliot introduced Thayer to Ezra Pound, who was to become one of Thayer's most persistent correspondents. Pound was generous with advice for and criticism of The Dial, and many of these letters concern his role as "agent" for the new magazine. Pound offered many ideas for publicity and circulation, recruited authors, passed on his personal evaluations of every current European author, and critiqued individual issues of The Dial in Thayer's own manner. The letters also contain Pound's suggestions for articles by himself on subjects ranging from Chinese ideograms to the worthlessness of the Ph.D. degree. Pound was involved in the complex negotiations concerning "The Waste Land," and his efforts to help Eliot are detailed in the letters. The Cantos are also often discussed. Thayer was not enthusiastic about them, despite Pound's explanations, and the correspondence apparently ceased when Thayer managed to replace Pound as the author of the "Paris Letters."

While much of the correspondence with friends and family contains information on the magazine, the greatest amount of material concerning The Dial is of course found in Thayer's correspondence with his professional associates. Folders 920-24 hold letters by and to Martyn Johnson, the previous publisher of The Dial, which detail the complex financial arrangements between the two men. There is also an original, long draft of Thayer's December 1918 resignation letter and a carbon of the final version. Thayer and Johnson both offered extensive explanations of the events surrounding Thayer's purchase of the magazine in correspondence with Harold Evans (Box 32, folder 844). The collection contains only one letter by Randolph Bourne, which describes the conflict on the Dial board.

Thayer's partner in the purchase of the magazine was James Sibley Watson, Jr., whose correspondence with Thayer is located in Box 44, folders 1256-64. Topics include editorial policy for the The Dial, subscription figures, efforts to attract new writers, payment rates, news of friends and writers, and Thayer's analysis by Freud. Thayer's perfectionism and literary opinions caused some differences between the two, particularly in regard to the work of Ezra Pound, which Watson admired. In March 1923, for example, Thayer wrote Watson that "I personally abhor Pound's cantos as I abhor his Paris Letters." Their partnership and apparent friendship continued, however. In June 1925 Thayer even wrote Watson of his fears of "enemies" on Nantucket and asked him to purchase a gun for him.

Although Thayer lived in Vienna for close to two years, and was often absent from New York even after his return to America, he still insisted on editorial control of every aspect of the magazine, from the layout of the advertising pages and the choice of color plates to the typeface size in the Dial letterhead. As a result, his correspondence with S. W. Craig, Gilbert Seldes, Kenneth Burke, Alyse Gregory, and Marianne Moore documents many of the day-to-day operations of the Dial in surprising detail. Craig's letters include analyses of subscription sources and rates; budget information; lists of accepted material; circulation information; the 1922 financial report; and a February 1923 letter in which Craig attempted to project the Dial's financial and editorial future. He resigned not long after.

There are fifty-two folders of letters between Thayer and Gilbert Seldes, most dating from between July 1921 and February 1923 and dealing with Dial business. Almost every letter takes up a series of specific questions, criticisms, or editorial decisions which are then treated point by point in the response. Many also contain enclosures, such as lists of accepted submissions, samples of advertisements, budget figures, newspaper clippings, and proof sheets. For example, Seldes's letter of June 21, 1922 contains an explanation for not using the Matisse illustration Thayer had chosen, discussion of payment rates for German and Austrian authors affected by the European inflation, assurances that Robinson and Frost have been asked for poems, problems in setting up Yeats's "More Memories," a defense of the reviews in "Briefer Mention," the possibilities of publishing a volume of Dial stories, and possible nominees for the Dial Award.

Seldes worked to keep Thayer fully informed, but Thayer's often sarcastic criticisms of the Dial staff drew repeated protests from Seldes, who felt "subjected to a more or less constant imputation of willful hostility." A December 1922 letter from Thayer, for instance, is a list of errors, poor location of articles, misprints, and "inelegant" type spacings in the October issue. Other subjects in the Seldes correspondence include Thayer's art collection, encounters with Albert C. Barnes, Seldes's own travel in 1923, and personal news.

Kenneth Burke's business letters are also extremely detailed accounts of Dial procedures and policies. Subjects include an article by Sigmund Freud, Ezra Pound, illustrations for the magazine, publication of Living Art, aesthetics, and literary news.

Thayer's correspondence with the editors who succeeded Seldes is more personal and less highly critical. He was a close friend of Alyse Gregory's, and their letters contain discussion of each other's characters, literary commentary, Gregory's relationship with Llewellyn Powys and her opinion of marriage, psychoanalysis, and social news. They also discuss Dial business, particularly office conflicts. Several letters are devoted to analysis of James Sibley Watson, Jr. and Thayer's dissatisfaction with him. Gregory continued to write to Thayer until 1934, and her later letters contain invitations to visit her, compliments on his poetry, personal news, and hopes for his recovery.

Marianne Moore's first letter to Thayer is dated September 8, 1920, but the bulk of her correspondence dates from 1924-27. Subjects include Moore's own poetry, the tensions at the Dial office involving Elsie DePollier and Eleanor Parker, Thayer's fear of fraudulent submissions, his resignation as editor, and his own verse. There are also letters concerning the publication of Moore's first volume of collected poems by The Dial Press. A September 1924 letter discusses the sources for "Sea Unicorns and Land Unicorns."

Other correspondents whose letters concern The Dial include Conrad Aiken, Maxwell Bodenheim, Malcolm Cowley, John Dewey, S. Foster Damon, Norman Douglas, H.D., Thomas Hardy, Frank Harris, Marsden Hartley, James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, Henry McBride, Thomas Mann, H. L. Mencken, George Moore, Burton Rascoe, Evelyn Scott, Leo Stein, Wallace Stevens, Glenway Wescott, and W. B. Yeats. Usual subjects are appraisals of the magazine, submissions, and personal news. For example, Bodenheim's letters mingle criticism of Dial editorial policy with requests for a loan and applications for work on the magazine's staff, while George Moore's correspondence with Thayer focuses on the Dial's low payment rates and on Moore's Perronik the Fool. Thayer also received letters commenting on Dial from readers, including A. L. Bigler, R. L. Duffus, Ernest Leaverton, Leon Lewandowski, P. Panagopoulos, and William Plumb.

The letters Thayer received from Louise Bryant mention Dial, but they primarily concern Bryant's feelings for Thayer, her impending trip to Moscow, her professional goals, and poetry. The first two letters also contain poems Bryant wrote for Thayer: "Night," "Invitation," "Jealousy," and "Delicacy." Her last letter before her departure notes that she feels "as lonely as Lancelot" and details her travel plans. Later letters describe her voyage, her stay in Riga, and her health.

Other personal correspondents of interest include Walter A. Edwards and Hermann P. Riccius, who handled Thayer's financial and legal business; Dr. Arthur F. Chace, his physician; and the psychotherapists L. Pierce Clark and Sigmund Freud. Freud's letters are mainly brief notes concerning appointments and personal news, although a letter of July 19, 1921 conveys his opinion that Thayer's "having gone through an unsuccessful treatment with another man is surely no advantage."

While Thayer's letters to his mother are perhaps the best source for Thayer's life in Vienna, the correspondence of Adolf Dehn, Amy and Robert von Erdberg, Alyse Gregory, Hugo von Hofsmannthal, Llewellyn Powys, Arthur Schnitzler and Gilbert Seldes contains much relevant information on Thayer's habits and activities. There are also many letters from Gisela Ruff and Marietta de Grisogono, two young dance students in Vienna, describing outings with Thayer, their social lives and relationships, and presents received from Thayer. The letters of Doris Beck are similar in nature.

Series IV also contains significant information on Thayer's artistic interests. In addition to the correspondence of Raymond Mortimer and Gilbert Seldes, the correspondence of Slater Brown, Thomas Craven, Adolf Dehn, Charles Demuth, Robert von Erdberg, Alfeo Faggi, Alfred Flechtheim, Louis Galantière, Gaston Lachaise, Reinhold Lepsius, Julius Meier-Graefe, and John Quinn documents Thayer's taste and his purchases. Slater Brown's letters concern the purchase of a Picasso painting, for instance, while Adolf Dehn's illustrated letters describe café life in Vienna and the Austrian art scene. The letters of Robert von Erdberg are exceptionally informative about works of art purchased by Thayer and about the design of Living Art, as are those of Julius Meier-Graefe. Gaston's Lachaise's portrait bust of Thayer and Florence Thayer's dissatisfaction with it are the principal subjects of their correspondence. John Quinn's letter is a detailed appreciation of Living Art.

Series V, Personal Papers , is housed in Boxes 47-68 and contains personal papers of Scofield Thayer, including financial papers, estate papers, notes, newspaper clippings, school papers and writings. Biographical information of interest includes papers relating to his French divorce from Elaine Orr Thayer and the adoption of Nancy Thayer by E. E. Cummings (Box 47, folders 1322-24); draft notices and exemptions; and two folders of "YMCA papers" concerning his job as a door-to-door salesman in Chicago in 1916.

Financial Papers fill folders 1331-1469. The majority of these are bills and receipts which were carefully kept and filed by Thayer. There are 113 folders of these, and they provide many insights into Thayer's daily life. The material includes receipts for rent, utilities, and telephone service; doctor and pharmacy bills; hotel and restaurant bills; and bills from bookstores, florists, and jewelers. (Bills for artwork and prints were kept separately by Thayer and will be found in Series VI, Box 69, folders 1856-82). Other financial papers of interest include leases and renovation estimates for Thayer's apartment at 80 Washington Square East, a trust agreement by William B. Scofield, and papers relating to the $100,000 trust set up by Thayer for Nancy Thayer Cummings.

Thayer was an inveterate notetaker, and the collection contains over six boxes of notebooks, notepads, note cards, and other scraps. Notebooks, found in folders 1495-1505, are small address books used by Thayer as daybooks from 1909 to 1921. The notes include appointments, memoranda, "to-do" lists, reflections on literature, art, and society, comments on the personalities of friends, and other apparently random thoughts.

Some of these observations were later added to and typed onto notecards, perhaps while Thayer was hospitalized. They were found wrapped in brown paper and labeled, in Thayer's hand, "Oct. 14 1930." These cards now fill boxes 54-57. For the most part, they contain detached sentences on such topics as Vienna, Arthur Schnitzler, a figure named "M" or "Mercury" who is the subject of anecdotes, Nantucket, poetry, love, and madness. One grouping of cards dealing with psychology and philosophy includes such statements as, "Freud like Captain Ahab (psychically) rakish and mad and hull-down after the Great White Whale;" "The psychoanalysts with their snap judgments and their snap souls," and "As an advocate of Free Love I am a prophet who is honoured, if not in my own country, at least in my own family."

Box 53 contains four writing tablets apparently used by Thayer sometime after 1926 to record impressions, ideas, dreams, and memories. Other dream material can be found in Box 47, folders 1328-30. These papers were labelled "Dreams: Clark" and were apparently drawn up by Thayer during an analysis by L. Pierce Clark. There are also a notebook and other notes which appear to be vocabulary lists and word queries, in some cases prompted by his reading of Marianne Moore's poems.

School Papers fill Boxes 59-65 and have been arranged by name of school and then by type of material. The subseries generally contains report cards, tests, class notes, notebooks, and other material concerning Thayer's education. Perhaps most interesting are the compositions and assignments reflecting Thayer's desire to become a writer and critic. The Bancroft School, for example, includes two examples of childhood attempts at fiction, "Yeko: the Story of a Japanese Boy" and "A young Scottish Knight." In a more mature vein, the Harvard College papers include copies of both his prize-winning class Day essay, "Marlowe's Dr. Faustus," and his published essay for English 5 on "Shelley, or the Poetic Value of Revolutionary Principles." The Oxford Heretics essay on Compton Mackenzie was later revised by Thayer and published in the Chicago Dial.

Thayer's lifelong attempts to write, especially to write poetry. are documented in Boxes 65-67, containing Writings. These have been arranged in three sections: "Juvenile Poetry," in which the material has been left in Thayer's original groupings, usually roughly chronologically by year or by class; "Poetry," arranged alphabetically by title and consisting of about fifty poems in various states; and "Prose." The subseries contains mostly manuscripts and typescripts, although there are some proofs which Thayer corrected and apparently never returned to the magazine's office.

It should be noted that the copies of Thayer's writings which were housed in the Dial office will be found in Series III, folders 620-66. Series V contains manuscripts which remained in Thayer's possession after his withdrawal from The Dial and were discovered in the Worcester Storage Depot papers in 1987.

Juvenile Poetry begins with "Milton Verse et circa," Thayer's own labeling, and extends through his college verse. No effort has been made to sort the material by title or type of verse, a task that would have been made more difficult by Thayer's habit of constantly "re-using" earlier poems as submissions in later writing classes. For instance, a poem beginning: "And dost not thou at times regret? For me, I often do!" appears, with revisions, in "Milton Verse," "Summer 1909," "English 31," and "Submissions to the Harvard Monthly--Rejected."

Many of the Harvard verses carry the comments of Thayer's writing tutor Hermann Hagedorn, who criticized his "dismally artificial verses" and "pretentious sonnets" freely. At one point he cited an unfavorable review of his own poetry by Santayana as encouragement to Thayer "to learn it with me." The submissions to the Harvard Monthly are also filled with editors' (mostly unfavorable) comments, including some signed "GVS" for Gilbert Vivian Seldes.

Thayer's mature poetry is found in folders 1760-1821. About twenty of the individual poems were published by the Dial following Thayer's resignation in 1925. Others were set up for the Dial but never actually published. Many were published unsigned. Thayer submitted several poems, including "Leo Arrogans," under pseudonyms at various times; most of these were rejected by the editors. Several poems have autobiographical interest, including "To the Acting Editor of the Dial," the unpublished "To One Who was Betrayed," and "To Fritz Klatt." For example, "On an Old Painting of Portsmouth Harbor...," describes the difficulties and confusions faced by an expatriate: "There is no sense in buying pictures And swimming them across the sea; The sun and moon have laid old strictures On what a continent shall be."

Most of Thayer's preserved prose was written for the Dial, and is located in Series III, Boxes 25-26, folders 620-58. Manuscripts found in Series V includes several versions of his 1926 "Berlin Letter" and a draft of his Dial comment on the McAlmon-Ellermann marriage. Folder 1829 contains the first, long version of Thayer's 1925 letter "To the Editors of The Dial," which goes on to accuse Burke, Watson, and several members of the staff of entering into an unspecified conspiracy against Thayer.

"Writings of Others" contains a corrected, signed typescript of John Jay Chapman's "The Treason and Death of Benedict Arnold," poems by Thayer's Oxford friend Robert Parr, and galleys of Marianne Moore's first collected edition of poems, extensively annotated by Thayer.

Other material of interest in Series V includes several folders of playbills from Austrian and German theaters in the 1920s, newspaper clippings collected by Thayer on such topics as the Fatty Arbuckle case and the suitability of Mother Goose for children's reading, and four folders of inventories of books owned by Thayer.

Series VI, Artwork , is housed in Boxes 69-73 and contains papers documenting Thayer's extensive art collection as well as illustration blocks and drawings by Cummings and Dehn. "Bills and receipts" fill folders 1856-82. These document Thayer's purchases and have been filed as he filed them, alphabetically by dealer's name. While many of these are for prints and etchings, there are also receipts concerning, for example, his purchases of an Assumption of the Virgin by Rubens from Kunstverlag Wulfrum, a Bonnard from the Independent Gallery, and lithographs by Degas, Munch, and Schiele from Max Hevesi.

Further information on Thayer's extensive holdings and acquisitions can be found in folders 1887-93, whose contents include a precise customs declaration filed by Thayer in Austria in 1922 listing works of art, with the date, place and price of purchase, and lists of the contents of his apartment at 80 Washington Square.

Thayer's ambitious Living Art project included both the publication of the lavish folio and a traveling exhibition of these and other modern works. Folder 1897 contains correspondence in which Thayer offered the exhibit to several museums and galleries, nearly all of which refused it. Information on the folio itself includes Thayer's drafts, a publication announcement, and newspaper clippings of reviews, many favorable. There are several versions of the introduction to the folio, which Thayer hoped would contribute to "a richer and more sound national and artistic life," as well as serving "to sharpen our tastes and to heighten our pleasures." These drafts, located in folders 1898-1906, contain perhaps the fullest statement available of Thayer's aesthetic theories.

In the course of his travels and purchases, Thayer gathered illustrations of artworks from many sources, including dealer's catalogs, magazines, and newspapers. Some of these are found in Box 70, folder 1913-33.

Boxes 71-73 hold blocks on which plates for full-color reproductions are mounted, most of works by modern painters, including Picasso, Matisse, and Manet. It is uncertain whether these were intended for use in the Dial.

Oversize material has been placed at the end of the collection in series order. Contents include a 1924 accountant's report for Dial Press, an annotated copy of Pound's "Fourth Canto," a handbill advertising a general strike of the Paper Box Makers Union in 1919, the 1916 want ads from a Chicago newspaper that Thayer used while at the YMCA, and drawings by E. E. Cummings and Adolf Dehn.

Series VII, Formerly Restricted Papers, were restricted until May 24, 2012 under the terms of the sale agreement. Contents include over three boxes of letters from Scofield Thayer to Elaine Orr, dating from 1912 through 1925; an undated E. E. Cummings letter to Thayer; and many notepads recording personal thoughts, similar to those in Box 53.

Restricted Fragile Papers are housed in Box 83.


  • 1879 - 1982
  • Majority of material found within 1920 - 1925


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

The material in Boxes 77-82 was restricted until May 24, 2012.

Boxes 83-94: Restricted fragile material. Reference surrogates have been substituted in the main files. For further information consult the appropriate curator.

Conditions Governing Use

The Dial/Scofield Thayer 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 collection was purchased in 1987 with the assistance of the Beinecke Foundation. Roughly half of the present collection, mostly concerning The Dial magazine, had been on deposit at Yale since 1950. This material has now been reunited with a large quantity of the writings, correspondence, and personal papers of Scofield Thayer which had been housed at the Worcester Storage Company since the late 1930s. (For more information on the history and provenance of the collection, see Christa Sammons, "The Dial File," Yale University Library Gazette, Spring 1987.)

Associated Materials

Dial/Scofield Thayer Papers: Addition YCAL MSS 95. Yale Collection of American Literature. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.


53.55 Linear Feet (100 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


The papers document the life and activities of Scofield Thayer and the history of Dial Magazine under his ownership. They include the surviving Dial office files, with correspondence by Alyse Gregory, Marianne Moore, Gilbert Seldes, Kenneth Burke, and J. Sibley Watson; manuscripts, typescripts and corrected galleys of submissions to the magazine by authors including Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, D. H. Lawrence, George Santayana, William Butler Yeats, and Glenway Wescott; and advertising material. Thayer's own papers include his extensive correspondence with these literary figures and others, including E. E. Cummings, Sigmund Freud, Thomas Mann, and Cuthbert Wright; drafts of poetry and essays; financial papers; and documentation of his art collection.


Scofield Thayer was born on December 12, 1889 in Worcester, Massachusetts, the only child of Edward D. Thayer and Florence Scofield Thayer. Edward Thayer was the owner of several Massachusetts woolen mills, a founding investor in the Crompton and Thayer Loom Co. and a director of the Worcester Trust Company. The Thayers were a locally prominent family; Florence S. Thayer was known in the Worcester area as a hostess, while Edward's brother Ernest Thayer was the author of the well-known poem "Casey at the Bat." The family maintained houses in Worcester, Newton Centre, and Edgartown.

Scofield attended the Bancroft School in Worcester and entered Milton Academy in 1905, where one of his schoolmates was T. S. Eliot. In his last term there he was editor of the Milton Orange and Blue, and took prizes for his Latin translations and cross-country running.

The Thayers had intended to travel in Europe in the summer of 1907, a plan that was abandoned when Edward D. Thayer died following an appendectomy. The following summer Scofield departed for Europe. Accompanied by his tutor, he traveled extensively in France, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy.

He returned to Edgartown in the summer of 1909 and entered Harvard College as a member of the class of 1913. While at Harvard, he made the acquaintance of the poet Alan Seeger, whose posthumous works he would see into publication in 1916, as well as future Dial associates Edward Estlin Cummings, Lincoln MacVeagh, and Gilbert Seldes. His teachers included George Santayana and the poet Hermann Hagedorn, who was Thayer's English Composition tutor. Thayer contributed poems to the Harvard Monthly and became its secretary in 1913. He oversaw the special edition on Santayana's Winds of Doctrine, which included essays by Seldes, MacVeagh, and Cuthbert Wright. His essay "Marlowe's Dr. Faustus" received the 1913 Susan Anthony Potter Prize in Comparative Literature.

Thayer had continued to spend his summers in Germany and Italy, and in the autumn of 1913 he entered Magdalen College, Oxford. Although he disliked the tutorial system and was uncertain about which--if any--degree he should pursue, during his two years there he read extensively, began a collection of drawings and prints, beagled, and read a paper to the Heretics. He also made several new friends, including Ezra Pound, Bertrand Russell, and Raymond Mortimer. He renewed his acquaintance with T. S. Eliot, whom he introduced to Vivien Heigh-Wood early in 1915.

By that date, Thayer had decided to write a thesis in Aesthetics for Sidney Webb on "the conflicting theories of beauty held in the Ancient and in the modern worlds," and including commentary on the work of Santayana and Benedetto Croce. He was afraid that the United States would enter the war, however, and this, coupled with his lack of interest in the B.Sc, led him to return to Edgartown that summer without having taken his degree.

In December he leased a spacious apartment in the Benedick, a bachelors-only luxury building at 80 Washington Square East in New York City. He remodeled and furnished it, filling his drawing room with red lacquer furniture, antique Chinese rugs, and his collection of Aubrey Beardsley drawings, which he hung on the gold-papered walls. During this period he became engaged to Elaine Eliot Orr, a nineteen-year-old who attended Miss Bennett's School.

In the spring of 1916, Thayer suddenly moved to Chicago, where he rented a room at the YMCA under the name "Samuel Taylor" and found a job selling Automobile Blue Books door to door. This seems to have been the result of a bet that he would be unable to support himself, and Thayer was proud of his success as a salesman. The new career was short, however, and Thayer married Elaine Eliot Orr in Troy, New York on June 21, 1916. He had commissioned E. E. Cummings's "Epithalamion" as a wedding present. Thayer and his bride spent the following year honeymooning in Santa Barbara.

The Thayers returned to New York in October 1917. Scofield kept his apartment at the Benedick, while his wife moved into an apartment around the corner at 3 Washington Square North. Elaine became hostess to many of her husband's literary friends, particularly E. E. Cummings, with whom she soon began a more intimate relationship, apparently with Thayer's knowledge and support.

Thayer was also acquiring new friends. Among the most important were James Sibley Watson, Jr., the young millionaire who had married Thayer's friend Hildegarde Lasell; Alyse Gregory; and Gregory's friend Randolph Bourne, whose "genius and character" Thayer admired. Bourne was writing for Martyn Johnson's The Dial, a liberal fortnightly which needed financial backing. Thayer was interested by Bourne's ideas for the magazine, and he was also looking for employment to reduce his chances of being drafted. On June 15th he became a director and vice-president of the new New York Dial Corporation, as well as an associate editor. He disliked what he considered the heavy-handed political propaganda favored by Johnson and John Dewey, however, and early in December he resigned in protest when a pro-Bolshevik manifesto was published over his objections.

Although Thayer scrupulously kept his financial commitment to Johnson, the magazine was bankrupt by the end of 1919. Thayer bought it in partnership with James Sibley Watson, Jr.; the new editors' ambition was to "follow their own tastes." Throughout 1920 Thayer worked unceasingly to find new contributors and organize the magazine.

His personal life, however, was less satisfactory. He had several minor illnesses and in 1919 began analysis with Dr. L. Pierce Clark. On December 20, 1919, Elaine Orr Thayer gave birth to Nancy Thayer, whom all parties believed to be the daughter of E. E. Cummings. By the end of 1920 the Thayers had decided to get a French divorce. In July 1921 he sailed for Europe, where he would remain for over two years.

Thayer established himself in Vienna and began analysis with Sigmund Freud in December 1921. The two years that followed were perhaps the most productive of his life. Although he was in Europe, he continued to direct the Dial, soliciting contributions from German, Austrian, and Italian artists and sending minutely detailed instructions to the office concerning the content and layout of every issue. Thayer was an active participant in the cultural life of post-war Vienna, attending the theater and opera frequently, and meeting Thomas Mann, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Arthur Schnitzler, and other notable figures.

In addition, Thayer was building his collection of modern art, purchasing works by Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, Schiele, Munch, Derain, Demuth, and Klimt, some of which appeared as illustrations in his magazine. Thayer had long been interested in spreading appreciation of modern art as well as literature, and while in Vienna he planned and oversaw the publication of Living Art, a portfolio of reproductions of works in his collection.

Thayer returned to New York in October 1923. Perhaps in an effort to provide himself with the type of social life to which he had grown accustomed in Vienna, he instituted the "Dial dinners," weekly events at which he would entertain staff, contributors, and other guests. Many people were profoundly impressed by their host, and have left detailed descriptions of his "magnetic looks and personality," and the "frightening intensity" of his conversation. Alyse Gregory noted that he "was ice on the surface and boiling lava underneath," and reported Freud's comment that "he had a most gentle heart."

1924 was a year of increasing difficulties for Thayer. He was treated in several sanatoria for colitis, dizziness and minor infections, and a trip to Bermuda early in the year only increased his agitation and sleeplessness. Living Art had appeared and received largely favorable reviews, but sales of the $60.00 portfolio were poor. Only three galleries and museums accepted Thayer's offer to loan them the Dial Collection, a source of considerable disappointment. Always suspicious of the motives of others, Thayer began to be convinced that some members of the Dial staff were plotting to insult him and to undermine the magazine. He was also depressed by Alyse Gregory's resignation as managing editor in April 1925, although he admired her replacement, Marianne Moore, greatly.

He returned to Bermuda in the spring of 1925, and then to Edgartown, but he had become convinced that his "enemies," particularly Dr. Albert C. Barnes, (who had written him threatening letters), were surrounding him and he feared for his life. Moreover, the Benedick had been sold to New York University, and there were plans to tear it down. In July of that year he decided to go abroad quite abruptly, hoping to be accepted once again as a patient of Freud.

In February 1926 he seems to have suffered a severe breakdown, sending agitated telegrams to friends and relatives and pleading with Alyse Gregory to come to him in Prerow, which she did. He returned to America with his mother in the spring and was hospitalized in MacLean Hospital for several months. In June 1926 The Dial printed the announcement of his resignation as Editor. Friends who saw him in the fall of that year reported that he was his "old self," but early in 1927 he was re-hospitalized. During the mid-20s he continued to take some interest in the magazine, which published several of his poems.

The rest of Thayer's long life was spent with caretakers and guardians in homes in Edgartown, Worcester, and Florida, and punctuated by stays in sanatoria. He never answered, so far as is known, any of his friends' letters after February 1926. The Dial Collection remained on deposit at the Worcester Art Museum, and after his mother's death in 1938, his papers were housed at the Worcester Storage Company. Thayer died in May 1982 at the age of 93. His last valid will left his art collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art; all other heirs named in the document had predeceased him.


1916 August. Chicago Dial bought by Martyn Johnson. Editorial staff includes Randolph Bourne, John Dewey, Harold Stearn, and Thorstein Veblen.

1918 April. Scofield Thayer purchases $ 600.00 worth of stock in Dial.

1918 July. Dial moves to New York offices.

1918 October. Scofield Thayer becomes Associate Editor and Secretary-Treasurer of the magazine.

1918 December 11. Thayer, angered by Johnson's editorial policy, resigns from all his offices with the magazine, although he keeps his financial agreement with Johnson.

1919 autumn. Johnson unable to meet notes for $10,000 worth of paper stock.

1919 November. Dial purchased by James Sibley Watson, Jr. and Scofield Thayer.

1920 January. first issue of Thayer/Watson Dial. James Sibley Watson, Jr. listed as President; Thayer as Editor; Stewart Mitchell as Managing Editor; W. B. Marsh as Secretary-Treasurer.

1920 February. Gilbert Seldes becomes Associate Editor.

1920 autumn. Samuel W. Craig named Business Manager (Secretary-Treasurer).

1920 December. Stewart Mitchell resigns as Managing Editor.

1921 April. Gilbert Seldes becomes Managing Editor.

1921 June. Scofield Thayer leaves New York for Vienna.

1921 Dial Award to Sherwood Anderson.

1922 Dial Award to T. S. Eliot.

1923 January. Gilbert Seldes takes extended trip; Kenneth Burke assumes many of his editorial duties.

1923 (November?). Lincoln MacVeagh replaces Craig as business manager of Dial Publishing Company (Secretary-Treasurer).

1923 December. Living Art published.

1923 Dial Award to Van Wyck Brooks.

1924 January. Dial Collection exhibition opens at the Montross Gallery, New York City.

1924 February. Alyse Gregory named Managing Editor.

1924 Dial Award to Marianne Moore.

1925 April. Alyse Gregory announces her intentions of resigning; Marianne Moore begins work at the Dial office.

1925 June. Scofield Thayer resigns as Editor; Alyse Gregory resigns as Managing Editor. Marianne Moore named Acting Editor.

1925 autumn. Ellen Thayer replaces Sophia Wittenberg as Assistant Editor.

1925 Dial Award to E. E. Cummings.

1926 June. Dial prints announcement of Thayer's resignation and Marianne Moore's appointment as Editor.

1926 Dial Award to William Carlos Williams.

1927 January. Marianne Moore appears on the masthead as Editor; Scofield Thayer listed as Advisor.

1927 Dial Award to Ezra Pound.

1928 Dial Award to Kenneth Burke.

1929 July. final issue of the Dial.

Guide to the Dial/Scofield Thayer Papers
by Diane J. Ducharme
December 1988
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

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