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T. C. Wilson Papers

Call Number: YCAL MSS 36

Scope and Contents

The T. C. Wilson Papers consist mainly of professional and personal correspondence between poet-critic Theodore Carl Wilson (1912-1950) and many prominent writers, critics, and editors in the 1930s and copies of Wilson's poems, essays, and miscellaneous notes. The correspondence dates between 1928 and 1950, with the majority of letters dated between 1934 and 1940. Wilson's own writings are largely undated, but the bulk appear to have been written in the 1930s.

The collection is composed of three series: I. Correspondence, II. Writings, and III. Papers.

Series I, Correspondence (Boxes 1-2), is alphabetically arranged and contains letters from such prominent authors, critics, and editors as Elizabeth Bishop, Henry Seidel Canby, Richard Eberhart, T. S. Eliot, Horace Gregory, Arthur Machen, Harriet Monroe, Marianne Moore, Kenneth Patchen, Ezra Pound, Muriel Rukeyser, Wallace Stevens, Allen Tate, William Carlos Williams, Edmund Wilson, Yvor Winters, and Morton Zabel. Many of these letters offer illuminating comments on works of literature, authors, publishing, and artistic concerns and problems during the Depression years.

Elizabeth Bishop's letters discuss her travels in the United States and abroad, her readings, and her tastes in music, with occasional brief comments on her writing and that of others. Richard Eberhart comments on several of his own early poems and on the stances of various literary journals in the 1930s. His evaluations of poems appearing in a special poetry issue of Bozart-Westminster (1935) reveal his criteria for good poetry. Poet-professor Horace Gregory comments on leftist writing, trends in poetical styles, and prominent critics (especially Malcolm Cowley). Marianne Moore gives advice to a young poet on writing and on life, comments on poetic style and her own readings, and offers brief evaluations of such writers as Stevens, Cummings, Pound, and Bishop.

Letters and notes from Ezra Pound to Wilson reveal Pound's views on style and trends in poetry, politics and economic issues (Roosevelt's New Deal, communism, the political situation in Russia and Italy, etc.), responsibilities of the creative writer in the 1930s, and the relationship of poetry and music. Pound offers his own unreserved evaluations of many literary publications, authors, and editors, among them Eliot, Amy Lowell, William Carlos Williams, and Louis Untermeyer. Many letters reveal Pound's disgust with American writing and politics in the 1930s. A letter of December 4, 1933 gives Pound's definition of "modernist verse."

The letters of Edmund Wilson, Morton Zabel, Marya Zaturenska, and Canadian poet W. W. E. Ross comment on Pound, while Wallace Stevens briefly evaluates the poetry of Marianne Moore, and in a short 1933 letter Yvor Winters compares the merits of Pound, Williams, Stevens, Moore, and Robert Bridges.

Among other topics, William Carlos Williams comments on Blast, the question of emotion in poetry, the lack of quality writing in the United States in the 1930s, and his difficulties in getting his work published. His letter of July 12, 1933 offers an evaluation of Eliot as editor and writer and discusses the necessity of capturing the "New World" American experience in literature. Several letters consider appropriate subject matter for poetry, especially a letter of December 23, 1933, where he mentions his interest in "objects" as poetical subjects.

From various editors of Poetry, The American Scholar, and The Saturday Review come revealing letters on current literary trends as seen from an editor's viewpoint. In addition, numerous minor poets and prose writers comment on their art, the problems of getting published, and the general literary scene in the 1930s. Taken as a whole, the letters reveal much about artistic life during the Depression years.

Included with the correspondence are holograph or typescript poems from many prominent poets: Elizabeth Bishop (3), E. E. Cummings (2), Richard Eberhart (1), Robert Fitzgerald (1), Robert Frost (1), Marianne Moore (4), Kenneth Patchen (7), Muriel Rukeyser (3), and William Carlos Williams (6).

Series II, Writings (Boxes 3-4), is composed of six alphabetically arranged subseries: Essays, Notebooks, Notes, Poems, Poetry Notebooks, and Projected Book of Literary Criticism. The subseries Essays contains Wilson's complete or fragmentary writings on such authors as Eliot, Melville, Marianne Moore, Pound, Rimbaud, and William Carlos Williams. The subseries Poems, arranged alphabetically by title or first line, contains some eighty apparently complete poems and numerous fragments. The poems are either in holograph or typescript, many with several drafts and most containing some authorial corrections. There are also five notebooks of poems and fragments dated between 1934 and 1939. The subseries Notes contains interpretations (taken mainly from other sources) of such writers as Cocteau, Eliot, James, Melville, Pound, Rilke, Rimbaud, and Valery. The notebooks contain Wilson's observations on the works of such writers as Conrad, Rilke, Melville, James, Kafka, Tolstoi, Turgenev, and Marianne Moore.

Series III, Other Papers (Box 5), is divided into typescript submissions to the Spring-Summer, 1935 issue of the Bozart-Westminster anthology, which Wilson coedited with Ezra Pound and four others; other typescripts or printed poems by various authors; three typescript literary essays by Pound, two of which served, in shortened form, as a foreword to the Bozart-Westminster anthology; and miscellaneous papers, which include a photograph of Wilson, transcripts of his academic work at Ohio State and the University of Michigan, and copies of photographs by Walker Evans, Bernice Abbot, and Sylvia Saunders.

The fragile papers in Box 6 consist of originals for which preservation photocopies have been made.


  • (1928-1947)


Conditions Governing Access

Restricted Fragile Papers in box 6 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 T. C. Wilson 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 T. C. Wilson Papers were presented to Yale University in 1951 by Horace Gregory, Wilson's literary executor.


2.25 Linear Feet (6 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


The T. C. Wilson Papers consist of correspondence, writings, and personal papers relating to the life and career of American poet-critic Theodore Carl Wilson.


Theodore Carl Wilson, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Walter E. Wilson, was reared in Columbus, Ohio, where he attended public schools. A voracious reader at an early age, Wilson wrote book reviews for a local newspaper while still in high school and had several juvenile poems published by the time he was sixteen.

Wilson graduated from Ohio State University in 1932 with a major in English. He subsequently enrolled in a Master's program in English at the University of Michigan (1933-1935) and presumably completed this degree. While at Michigan, he won the Hopwood Award for literary merit.

Serving with Ezra Pound, James Laughlin, and several others as editor of the Bozart-Westminster poetry anthology of Oglethorpe College for 1935, Wilson began an exchange of letters with Pound, who greatly influenced his early conception of poetical style and the social obligations of the creative author.

During the 1930s Wilson published poems, reviews, and articles in leading journals such as The Nation, Hound and Horn, Poetry, and The Saturday Review of Literature. His poetry of this period often reflects his interest and involvement in socialism. In 1937 he served as American representative for the British publication Life and Letters Today.

Wilson counted among his friends and advisors such well-known authors as Elizabeth Bishop, Horace Gregory, Marianne Moore, and William Carlos Williams. His poetry and prose won the praise of Pound, T. S. Eliot, Morton Zabel, and other prominent literary figures.

After serving in the U. S. Army in World War II, Wilson found it difficult to pick up his literary career, although he worked on both poetry and a projected book of literary criticism. He died while living at the Marlton Hotel in New York City in 1950 at the age of thirty-eight.

Guide to the T.C. Wilson Papers
Under Revision
by William K. Finley
January 1989
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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