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Furioso papers

Call Number: YCAL MSS 75

Scope and Contents

The Furioso papers document the publication of a "little magazine" between its inception in 1939 and its cessation in 1953. The files span the dates 1938-1951, with the bulk of the material dating from 1946-1949.

Housed in twelve boxes, two oversize boxes, and one portfolio, the collection is arranged in three series: I. Contributor Correspondence; II. Submissions; and III. Office Files.

Series I, Contributor Correspondence (Boxes 1-2), is arranged alphabetically by correspondent. Those represented by three or more items have been listed individually. While the correspondence covers the years from 1938 to 1951, it essentially consists of two groups: letters written between 1939 and 1941 concerning the prewar issues of Furioso, and a larger number of letters dating from 1947-50 documenting the magazine as revived by Whittemore. The correspondence includes notes and letters from such figures as W. H. Auden, Cleanth Brooks, Malcolm Cowley, Dudley Fitts, Paul Goodman, Lincoln Kirstein, Dwight Macdonald, Archibald MacLeish, John Crowe Ransom, Wallace Stevens, Alan Tate, Oscar Williams, and Edmund Wilson. The letters are often brief and devoted to routine business matters such as submissions, editorial corrections, and payment arrangements.

The founding of Furioso elicited letters of advice and support from many sources, beginning with Ezra Pound, who wrote from Rapallo in 1939, "to ORGANIZE or make a mag/ the editorial board must do what I did in Little Review/ i.e. assert which authors they respect /can't be an unlimited number/" Further letters throughout 1939 offer lists of authors Pound wanted the editors to contact, direction on the setting of editorial policy, commentary on the sorry state of American letters, and, increasingly, the sorrier state of American politics. A suggestion from Angleton that Pound donate a manuscript to the Yale Libraries was met with the answer, "Does the Yale lib/ expect to BUY any ms/....I am not disposed to shell 'em out at ten fer a penny." Pound also offered the new editors the characteristic advice that they read his own works, particularly Guide to Kulchur.

Other such correspondents include Mary Barnard, John Peale Bishop, E. E. Cummings, Richard Eberhart, William Empson, Charles Henri Ford, Horace Gregory, Archibald MacLeish, and William Carlos Williams. Several, including Empson, Ford and Williams, urged the editors to be open to influences other than Pound, and some submitted not only their own poetry but works by others whom they admired. John Peale Bishop wrote repeatedly to suggest that Furioso increase its payment rates: "I think you can hardly hope to attract the best material unless you are prepared to pay for it" (Box 1, folder 9). Their advice was sometimes unflattering: in October 1940 Eberhart wrote to Angleton, "Don't be so naive; you should NOT have written Eliot."

The letters of Cummings, Eberhart and Williams contain discussion of their own poetry and commentary on that of the editors. Williams, for example, noted in his March 5, 1939 letter that "What you do, to my thinking, and you both do it, is to restate things by trying to be too explicit. All you have to do is touch the meaning, you don't have to hammer it down with a maul...Tell me to go to hell if you want to. I don't care."

The poets also attempted to sell subscriptions for the magazine and to persuade booksellers to carry it, Mary Barnard reporting that "So far, I haven't met anyone in Buffalo who would conceivably be interested." They were all, however, strong in their praise of the first issue, as was Yale professor William Lyon Phelps: "This is a fine undertaking and I'm proud of you for it."

Several early correspondents, particularly Richard Eberhart, Dudley Fitts, and Weldon Kees, continued to contribute to Furioso when the magazine resumed publication in 1946. The magazine also acquired many new contributors, including Joseph Warren Beach, Richard Ellmann, Howard Hugo, Howard Nemerov (who joined the enlarged editorial board), Lawrence Olson, Robert Penn Warren, and Edmund Wilson.

Many of the letters from this period were written in reply to Whittemore's requests for contributions and suggestions of appropriate article topics. Ellmann responded to a November 1947 solicitation of an article on Yeats by asking "give me a few months for I'm up to my ears....I enclose for your consideration a mess or covey or school or what have you of verse." Carbons of Whittemore's letters are often present. Box 1, folder 57, for example, contains his reply to a refusal by Weldon Kees: "All right, don't write about newsreels...Perhaps you'd like to take a smack at Oscar Williams?"

In addition to routine publication matters, several of the correspondences document editorial decisions and controversies. The correspondence with Robert Penn Warren (Box 2, folder 127) concerns Warren's submission of an unnamed verse play (probably a version of All the King's Men) and the editorial board's eventual decision not to publish it in its entirety for financial reasons: "Naturally we're all disappointed. We all liked the play....we thought that we had made up our minds on the matter. would have been a very expensive venture." Correspondence with Paul Goodman and Edmund Wilson concerns Wilson's demand that he be allowed to reply to Goodman's review of Mary McCarthy's The Oasis.

Series II, Submissions , (Boxes 3-6) contains works sent to the editors of Furioso for possible publication. The majority of these are poems, even though the magazine carried an increasing number of prose pieces during the second phase of its existence. Poets represented include John Ashbery, John Peale Bishop, E. E. Cummings, Richard Eberhart, William Empson, John Gould Fletcher, Horace Gregory, Weldon Kees, Ernest Kroll, Marianne Moore, Howard Nemerov, Theodore Spencer, Wallace Stevens, John Wheelwright, William Carlos Williams, and Edmund Wilson. Box 3, folder 145 contains a signed holograph of W. H. Auden's "Clocks cannot tell our time of day." Weldon Kees is represented by six poems, including "Relating to Robinson" and "Saratoga Ending." John Gould Fletcher's contributions include a signed, corrected typescript of "August 1940," and Archibald Macleish submitted "The Spanish Dead."

In addition to typescripts and setting typescripts of poems, there are typescripts of several essays, including Wayne C. Booth's "Thomas Mann and Eighteenth-Century Comic Fiction"; William Empson's article on Basic English; Irving Howe's "Sherwood Anderson and D. H. Lawrence"; Robert Manson Myers' From Beowulf to Virginia Woolf; and John L. Sweeney's appraisal of Marianne Moore's poetry. Ezra Pound contributed two "statements" for the first issue (Box 9, folder 277), and William Carlos Williams sent Whittemore a statement on the relation of propaganda to poetry (Box 6, folder 331). One contribution that attracted particular notice at the time of publication was William Faulkner's self-parodying "Afternoon of a Cow."

In the late 1940s, the editors gave reviews a new prominence in Furioso, and this trend is represented in Series II by such items as Robert Fitzgerald's review of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men; Francis Golffing's review of the Pisan Cantos; and general review columns by Alan S. Downer, Laurence Olson, Rosemary Paris, C. Shain, John L. Sweeney, Robert Liddell Lowe, and W. B. Scott. Folders 337-41 contain unsigned "Bulletins" for the regular "Department of Culture" column, in which members of the editorial board commented on such topics as publishing trends, the Broadway season, writers' workshops and poetry readings, and relations between the popular press and the "little magazines."

Series III, Office Files (Boxes 7-11), is arranged in four subseries: Advertising and Promotion Files; Editorial Board Files; Printing and Distribution Files; and Subscriptions Files. Most material dates from between 1946 and 1950. A small amount of earlier material includes promotional materials, accounts, and clippings.

The office files document the process of running a little magazine with a limited budget, a geographically separated editorial board, and a diverse pool of contributors and would-be contributors. The "Advertising" files, located in Box 7, folders 345-54, consist of seven folders of correspondence concerning ad exchanges with other magazines (Furioso's principal source of advertisements), and three folders of business correspondence concerning paid advertisements to appear in Furioso. The "Promotion" files contain correspondence about paid advertisements for Furioso; two folders of draft and proof promotional material for the magazine; two folders labeled "Examples and Ideas," which hold promotional material for other publications gathered by Whittemore; a scrapbook containing promotional material and clippings; and an additional folder of clippings.

The "Editorial Board Files" provide especially full information about the decision-making process of the several-member board. As the board met very infrequently, the members usually wrote their opinions of submissions, projected issues, budget decisions, and other such matters and circulated the letters among themselves. The majority of the letters are by Whittemore, Rosemary Mizener, and Howard Nemerov (often signed "Hop" or "Hophead," ) as well as John Pauker and others. Many of them are unsigned and/or carbons.

The board members, particularly Nemerov, expressed themselves about the merits of their contributors quite freely. Upon receiving Robert Penn Warren's verse play in 1947, for example, Nemerov wrote that "the play seemed to me quite bad, the verse especially was bad....we should make clear how much of our individual opinions depend on regard for the play itself, and how much depends on the idea that a play by RPW would be a good thing to have no matter what." (Box 7 folder 365) This prompted much discussion among the editors, and several votes with varying results. Whittemore summarized the results of the final vote on May 16, 1947: "we decided the play was, as you said (or came near saying), not, finally a good play....we could reject it, I think, on these [financial] grounds and stay friends with Warren."

Other topics of the correspondence include the financial state of the magazine, efforts to promote the Poetry Book Club, subscriptions, the state of literature in the United States, and the careers and personal lives of the board members.

"Publishers' correspondence," located in Box 9, folders 375-82, contains alphabetically arranged correspondence between Whittemore and publishers' representatives concerning the Poetry Book Club. The correspondence documents Whittemore's reactions to works suggested by publishers and their opinions of the probability of the club's succeeding.

Other Editorial Board Files include "Issue Files," containing drafts of material written by the Board, notes on acceptance or rejection of submissions, and galley proofs, some with corrections by authors; artwork made for Furioso by Irwin Touster; and miscellaneous expense lists.

"Printing and Distribution Files" hold the billing statements of Furioso's printer, the Columbia Printing Company, and documents relating to the magazine's distribution arrangements with bookstores and with magazine services. "Subscription files" consist of correspondence with individual and institutional subscribers, billing invoices, subscription lists, and two account books listing subscribers, bookstores, distributors, and expenses.


  • 1938-1951


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Boxes 12-13: Restricted fragile material. Reference surrogates have been substituted in the main files. For further information consult the appropriate curator.

Conditions Governing Use

The Furioso 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 Furioso Papers were the gift of James J. Angleton in 1941 and E. Reed Whittemore, Jr. in 1951.


7.01 Linear Feet ((14 boxes) + 1 portfolio)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


The Furioso papers consist of correspondence, manuscripts of submissions, editorial board files, and other office files relating to the publishing history of Furioso; a Magazine of Verse (1939-1953). Correspondents include E. E. Cummings, Richard Eberhart, Weldon Kees, Lawrence Olson, Ezra Pound, Peter Viereck, and William Carlos Williams. Manuscripts are primarily typescripts and setting typescripts of submissions to Furioso. The office files include advertising and publicity material, the correspondence and decisions files of the editorial board, and financial documents.


Furioso was founded by two Yale undergraduates, James Jesus Angleton and E. Reed Whittemore, Jr. Angleton had met Ezra Pound in Italy in the summer of 1938, and by the beginning of 1939 Pound was writing enthusiastic letters of advice as "padre eterno or whatever" of the "mag." With Pound's encouragement, the first issue of Furioso appeared in June of 1939, with contributors including Horace Gregory, E. E. Cummings, Richard Eberhart, John Peale Bishop, James Laughlin, and Pound himself. The issue opened with a letter of encouragement from Archibald MacLeish, and also contained William Carlos Williams' "The Last Words of My English Grandmother."

The magazine appeared twice more in 1940 and once in 1941, publishing more works by the above authors and others including John Wheelwright, Dylan Thomas, Mary Barnard, Theodore Spencer, and Wallace Stevens. Williams' "To Ford Madox Ford in Heaven" appeared in the third issue; the fourth featured John Peale Bishop's "August 1940," Archibald MacLeish's "The Spanish Dead," and several poems by Marianne Moore, including "Spencer's Ireland."

A notice enclosed with the fourth issue informed subscribers that "at least half our editorial board (one of us) is to be drafted. Just how much poetry will be...accepted, rejected in Camp So-and-So is a bitter question with a doubtful question mark." In fact, both editors saw service, and only one issue appeared between 1941 and end of World War II.

Furioso reappeared in the Fall of 1946, with the editorial board of Reed Whittemore, Jr., Howard Nemerov, William R. Johnson, John Pauker, and Ambrose Gordon, Jr. While the board underwent several changes over the next few years, Whittemore remained the principal editor until the final issue in 1953. Until Fall 1949 the magazine continued to be published from New Haven; in that year Whittemore accepted a teaching position at Carleton College, Minnesota, and Furioso moved with him.

The postwar Furioso continued to publish poetry, including works by such authors as Weldon Kees, Peter Viereck, William Meredith, Richard Ellmann, Howard Nemerov, Josephine Miles, Richard Wilbur, Vernon Watkins and W. S. Merwin. It also began a regular series of book reviews, often of new works of criticism; and a "Department of Culture and Civilization," which ran short columns, often satirical. Increasingly, the editors accepted short stories as well, including works by William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Wayne Carver, R. V. Cassill, Paul Goodman, and Robie Macauley, and longer critical essays by Edmund Wilson, Robert Fitzgerald, and Wayne C. Booth.

According to Whittemore, the magazine never had over 600 subscribers, "having two-three contributors for every subscriber," and consistently lost money due to rising publication costs. In 1947 Whittemore and the board attempted to found a Poetry Book Club, which would offer new volumes of verse to members. The club offered three volumes: Weldon Kees' The Fall of the Magicians, Howard Nemerov's The Image and the Law, and William Meredith's Ships and Other Figures. It was soon apparent, however, that the club was a financial failure, and the editors discontinued it. The magazine also experimented with offering joint subscriptions with other little magazines, including Tiger's Eye, but found this to be both unprofitable and time-consuming. The final issue of Furioso appeared in Spring, 1953.

Processing Information

Additional materials were integrated into this collection in 2000, resulting in an expansion of Series III, Office Files. Most of this material consists of additional Issue Files. Other added material includes a scrapbook and two account books containing information on the early history of Furioso.

Guide to the Furioso Papers
Under Revision
by Diane J. Ducharme
February 1996
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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