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Hamilton Basso papers

Call Number: YCAL MSS 57
Scope and Contents

The Hamilton Basso Papers consist of letters, manuscripts, photographs, legal and financial documents, and printed material concerning the working and publishing career of the author. The papers span the years 1851-1975, but are concentrated in the period 1929-64.

The collection is housed in 22 boxes and consists of three series: Correspondence, Writings, and Other Papers. Box 21 contains Oversize material. Box 22 contains Restricted Fragile Papers.

Series I, Correspondence , covers the years 1927-73. Included here are letters to and from Hamilton Basso and his family, colleagues, readers and publishing companies. The letters from Hamilton Basso to his wife Etolia discuss his activities while away on a series of trips between 1942 and 1960. Letters from February and March 1942 involve Basso's sojourn in Florida where he met Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Between 1957 and 1960, Basso traveled to Rio de Janeiro, the South Seas, Scandinavia, and Finland to do research for articles. His letters reflect his admiration for foreign settings and his interactions with natives in both urban and rural areas. Basso later corresponded with many people he met during this period, including the Danielsson family and Emmerik Jensen.

Basso's professional correspondence involved a number of publishing companies and fellow authors. Letters from Thomas Wolfe, written from 1935 until his death in 1938, concern Wolfe's growing notoriety and friends such as F. Scott Fitzgerald. A 28-page letter from Wolfe to Maxwell Perkins dated December 15, 1936 discusses Wolfe's personal philosophy, his writing, and his opinion of influential books such as Ulysses. Maxwell Perkins's letters to Hamilton Basso from August and October 1938 concern Thomas Wolfe before and after the author's death.

Jade Snow-Wong, a sculptor from San Francisco, corresponded with Basso in the mid-1950s and sent him copies of letters written during her trip to Japan, Hong Kong, and India in 1953. During this same period, Basso received a number of fan letters from readers of his best-selling novel, The View from Pompey's Head. Many of these can be found in the "Letter" general folders.

Correspondence with publishing companies reveals the often arduous process of negotiation. The Doubleday & Co., Inc. letters from 1955 reflect the success of The View from Pompey's Head, while later letters from 1962 concern the growing incompatibility between author and publisher.

Series II, Writings , covering the years 1878-1964, contains drafts of most of Hamilton Basso's later works and a number of short pieces written early in his career. The first subseries covers books written by or contributed to by Hamilton Basso. The View from Pompey's Head exists in three versions. A draft typescript is followed by a setting typescript, which was made into a final galley proof for the book. These stages are evident for other titles such as A Quota of Seaweed. The Light Infantry Ball also includes an advance proof of the book and several folders of notes, both written and collected by Basso in preparation for this tale of the Civil War period.

A Touch of the Dragon, Basso's final published work, exists in several stages of development. Begun as a short story entitled "Edwina and the Kangaroo," this story went through at least three distinct drafts before being typeset for publication. The pages of the first and second drafts are not in precise numerical order, because numerous additions and duplicate pages which had to be kept in the sequence in which they were received.

An unpublished novel, The Swing of the Compass, also has many variant pages intermingled in its separate drafts. Draft 3 represents the most cohesive text of this book. Included before the drafts are files of notes, typewritten outlines, character sketches, and printed materials which help trace the development of the Basso's idea from a storyline called "Adam's Profession" to the final 378-page manuscript.

Sun in Capricorn, Basso's 1942 novel about southern politics, is present in several forms, exhibiting a different process of revision than that seen with other manuscripts. For a Popular Library edition of the book in 1961, Basso took copies of his original hardcover novel and revised its pages, making additions and deletion by inserting typewritten notes throughout. One copy of the original hardcover novel contains notes for a play based on the book, while another was used as a setting copy for the paperback edition.

Basso contributed the introduction to Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon by William Lewis Herndon in a reprinted edition of this title from 1952. Drafts of his essay and the final galley proofs are included here as is a setting typescript of another work of fiction, The Green Room, from 1949.

The second subseries, Shorter Works, contains many short stories from Basso's early years in New York and New Orleans. Many of these stories center around a character named Quimby. Profiles of writers (Thomas Wolfe, Eugene O'Neill) and notes for various projects (The USA, Cuba, 1952, Letters from America) make up the later works in this subseries.

Series III, Other Papers , contains financial, legal and printed materials, and photographs. Included here are copies of contracts for publishing and filming rights to several of Basso's books and royalty receipts from the 1950s and 1960s. The printed materials contain a variety of items categorized by the work or subject to which they pertain. Found in the folder for The View from Pompey's Head are newspaper clippings of reviews of the novel, a map of the town of Pompey's Head, and advertising flyers and posters for the British edition of the book, which was entitled simply Pompey's Head.

Writings by Others includes a sketchy profile of Thomas Wolfe by Robert Sadow, as well as a typewritten carbon copy of Wolfe's own work, "The Child by Tiger." Two versions of the radio adaptation of Basso's novel The Green Room, retitled "The Great Lady" by Fletcher Markle and Robert Wallstein, are found here, as well.

Box 21 contains Oversize material from the Writings series. The Restricted Fragile Papers in Box 22 consist of the originals for which preservation copies have been made.

Physical Description

Other Storage Formats: Oversize

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Box 22: Restricted fragile material. Reference surrogates have been substituted in the main files. For further information consult the appropriate curator.

Conditions Governing Use

The Hamilton Basso 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 papers were donated to the Yale Collection of American Literature by Mr. Basso and his widow between 1962 and 1984.

1861 - 1975
10.5 Linear Feet (22 boxes)
Related Names
Basso, Hamilton, 1904-1964
Language of Materials