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Phelps Putnam papers

 Collection
Call Number: YCAL MSS 429

Scope and Contents

The Phelps Putnam papers contain correspondence, writings, and personal papers documenting the life and work of poet Howard Phelps Putnam. Correspondence in the collection features letters to and from family, Yale college friends, including Russell Cheney, Farwell Knapp, Donald Ogden Stewart, and Charles Walker, and other authors, including Paul Rosenfeld, Allen Tate, and Stark Young. Writings contains drafts for poems and short prose pieces dating from 1914 to the late 1940s. Other materials in the collection include biographical notes, clippings relating to Putnam, a last will, photographs, and a remembrance by his wife Una (Fayerweather) Putnam.

Dates

  • 1914-1951

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Phelps Putnam papers is 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 Charles Walker, 1951. Additional gifts and purchases acquired from 1953 to 1977.

Arrangement

Organized into three series: I. Correspondence, 1915-1951. II. Writings, 1914-1947. III. Personal Papers, 1923-1946.

Extent

5.21 Linear Feet ((13 boxes) + 1 broadside folder)

Language of Materials

English

Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL

http://hdl.handle.net/10079/fa/beinecke.putnamp

Overview

The Phelps Putnam papers contain correspondence, writings, and personal papers documenting the life and work of poet Howard Phelps Putnam. Correspondence in the collection features letters with family, Yale college friends, including Russell Cheney, Farwell Knapp, Donald Ogden Stewart, and Charles Walker, and other authors, including Paul Rosenfeld, Allen Tate, and Stark Young. Writings contains drafts for poems and short prose pieces dating from 1914 to the late 1940s. Other materials in the collection include biographical notes, clippings relating to Putnam, a last will, photographs, and a remembrance by his wife Una (Fayerweather) Putnam.

Howard Phelps Putnam (1894-1948)

Born in Massachusetts in 1894, Putnam attended Philips Exeter Academy before enrolling at Yale. A member of the secret society Skull and Bones, Putnam has been named among the Renaissance generation at Yale, which includes Stephen Vincent Benét, Henry R. Luce, Archibald MacLeish, Cole Porter, and Thornton Wilder. Following graduation, Putnam traveled to Europe and worked a series of jobs, including a period as an assistant editor for The Atlantic Monthly Press and writing advertising copy for an insurance company. Putnam’s first book of poems, Trinc, was published in 1927. Following publication of Trinc, Putnam set to work on an epic, to be titled "The Earthly Comedy," which would recount modern life and feature characters such as Bill Williams and his alter ego Bigelow Hasbrouck. The publication of The Five Seasons (1931) features these characters and marks the beginning of Putnam’s work towards producing "The Earthly Comedy". Putnam never completed the work before his death in 1948, however, thwarted perhaps by ill health (asthma and alcoholism) and the paralyzing ambition of his plans. As F.O. Matthiessen acknowledges in his essay “To the Memory of Phelps Putnam,” “he sketched a poem too vast ever to be able to shoulder the weight of writing it”.

Putnam married twice, to Ruth Peters and Una Fayerweather, and had numerous affairs, including trysts with Katharine Hepburn and painter Russell Cheney.

Summary information on Howard Phelps Putnam taken from an October 2007 description of the Farwell Knapp Papers in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library poetry blog (see http://beineckepoetry.wordpress.com/2007/10/).

Processing Information

Preliminary processing was done to the Phelps Putnam papers at an unknown date. During reprocessing of the collection in 2010, the arrangement of correspondence and writings was largely preserved in Series I and II, and other materials were consolidated in Series III.

Formerly classed as Za Putnam.
Title
Guide to the Phelps Putnam Papers
Author
by Michael L. Forstrom
Date
2010
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

Contact:
P. O. Box 208330
New Haven CT 06520-8330 US
(203) 432-2977

Location

121 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511

Opening Hours

Access Information

The Beinecke Library is open to all Yale University students and faculty, and visiting researchers whose work requires use of its special collections. You will need to bring appropriate photo ID the first time you register. Beinecke is a non-circulating, closed stack library. Paging is done by library staff during business hours. You can request collection material online at least two business days in advance of your visit, using the request links in Archives at Yale. For more information, please see Planning Your Research Visit and consult the Reading Room Policies prior to visiting the library.